Phil the Fire
 Cleveland, Ohio     Date of Visit:  11/12/11 

After the tremendous disappointment of our last adventure we were itching to get back on the horse and put a tally in the renewed faith column. Our companion in the recent misadventure had mentioned a place we had not heard about before but after seeing the menu it wasn’t long before we were sitting at a table for five. Phil the Fire is located in the Fairfield Marriot in Beachwood…Uh-oh. Let’s recount the number of great meals we have had in hotel restaurants…Schula’s in NYC was pretty good…and that’s it. The place is well put together, appears clean, and is hoppin on a Saturday night. There was no point where they lobby wasn’t filled with grumbling bellies.



Unbelievably Masterful Maters

The menu promises comfort food for the soul and our souls were longing. To start we tried the fried green tomatoes with greens and fried corn and the soul roll, a tortilla stuffed with collard greens, red beans, cheese, tomatoes and onions. Following the apps we had a shrimp poboy, fried chicken, catfish and waffles and two orders of chicken and waffles. We also added mac and cheese, collard greens, cheddar cheesy grits, and red beans and rice.  Soul-riffic, I hope it’s good. With a couple of minor misses, it really is. It’s far from the deal you might find at many soul food places but it might very well be good enough to hook you regardless of price.

The soul roll was delivered with a reservoir each of sour cream and salsa but I felt it was actually better without the additions. A rich combination that was well seasoned and tasty. Still, it couldn’t hope to compete with the fried green tomatoes. Simply outstanding! Thin corny crust, hot tangy (tastes nothing like a beefsteak) delicious center which was coupled with corn and the best greens I have had north of the Mason Dixon line…better than most below.

The Soul Roll, Pretty Good But Get Something Fried and Green!

Great Chicken and Mediocre Grits

Killer Shrimp on PoBoy

Good Chicken Waffle Combo
  The greens are über tender without being mushy and are treated with a vinegary tang and layer of spices that highlight why soul food is what it is and how seldom you can find so lowly an ingredient transformed into something so special in the North. We need more of this around here.

The fried chicken is unique and very well done. The breading is frightfully thin and crisp but still manages to add substantial texture and flavor to moist yard bird. The shrimp were in the same boat. Different thin crust but still deliciously clinging to the best fried shrimp I have had in years. While the bread and toppings might not live up to the Louisianan versions, the shrimp are spectacular. The place is known for its waffle pairings. Chicken following the originator Roscoe’s and fish. Well, that’s new. We tried both and I have to imagine this is an excellent example of the genre. The waffles are perfect with a strong dose of cinnamon and a paper thin crunchy layer encasing a pillowy interior. The chicken and catfish were fried just as well as the other dishes and the whole thing came with butter, syrup, hot sauce for the chicken and tartar sauce for the fish. They’re different. The combination is not as strange as it sounds, even with the syrup and tartar sauce together. For me personally they are better on separate plates than together. The novelty seemed to get in the way of enjoying just the waffle or chicken or fish or etc.

The sides were pretty good overall lead by those sensational greens. The red beans and rice were nearly as good with a healthy dose of heat to bring them to life. The three cheese mac had great flavor and the noodle had maintained some texture but the cheese had a slightly unpleasant graininess. The grits were well done but seriously lacked the salty cheesiness expected, the one really weak moment.


Catfish and Tartar Sauce with Waffle, Butter, and Syrup!?!

I Would Go Just for Tomatoes and Greens...Seriously, That Good

Red Beans and Rice with A Perfect Kick

Mac and Cheese Pretty Darn Good

Now the only real disappointment of the night. When we arrived the service was great. Our server was personable, laid back, fun. Both the owner and the GM stopped by our table and held energetic and entertaining conversations. They honestly set a family atmosphere which really fits the menu. The problem is the service was heavily front loaded, much like dating in junior high, you can’t exist apart for a week and then the passion begins to wane. After our appetizers arrived we were all out of love. All three made the cardinal mistake of promising things unasked for and then failing to follow through. If they hadn’t promised we never would have noticed, but they did and so did we. The worst of the lot was after we first sat down our server told us we had better save room because we wouldn’t believe the dessert tray. After our table was cleared we didn’t get the tray, just the checks. We were breaking up before the final course. I would like to tell you about how Mom's Famous Double Butter Peach Or Apple Cobbler tastes, but all I can tell you is its on the menu. Bummer.







Cobbler and Service after Food Arrives




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