Heather Doeberling realized she had a love for smoked meats while she worked as a young chef in the ’90s in various Texas border towns. “There’s a lot of barbecue influence there, and you really learn a lot about how to treat meat and respect the ingredients,” says Doeberling. That love for simple ingredients followed her to Northeast Ohio when she opened Tex-Mex hot spot Boca Loca Burrito Factory in 2012, followed by Boss Chick N Beer six years later in Berea. At Boss Chick N Beer, she’s become known for her chicken wings, which use two secret spice blends and a unique cooking technique. The results are so delicious and flavorful the crisp wings never need sauce. “I get my biggest inspiration from keeping it so simple and seasoning things in such a way that it can almost not be recreated,” she says. Since coming to Cleveland, Doeberling has found inspiration in other chef’s kitchen menus. She shares some of her favorite restaurants including where to find the best brisket, what’s on her late-night snack list and notable chefs to watch in the future.
Q: Who has the best brisket?
A: Proper Pig Smokehouse is doing phenomenal work. They really study their craft and they understand that the No. 1 ingredient that we could ever have is time. They never, ever rush it. If they’re out, they’re out. They won’t serve something that hasn’t had the time that it needs to develop that flavor. They’re very particular about the wood pellets that they use, and they don’t compromise in having wood as an ingredient. It’s really about the respect for the time that it takes to go through the process.
Q: What restaurant have you frequented the most lately?
A: I eat pizza at least once a week. If I’m on the West Side, I go to JoJo Carloni’s and if I’m on the East Side I go to Rascal House. There’s one thing I never knew existed that Rascal House opened my eyes to this year and that’s beef pepperoni. On the West Side, we don’t have beef pepperoni. It’s just not a thing over here. Now, I have this new obsession. I was getting JoJo Carloni’s once a week, and now I find myself heading out to the East Side more often for this beef pepperoni. It’s a little dense and a little more flavorful, but it has a little less fat and it’s a little crispier. It’s a really clean flavor.
Q: Where do you go for a late-night snack?
A: My late-night thing is the pepperoni rolls at West Park Station. They’re so addictive. You could probably eat one or two there and take the rest home, but I’ll tell you this: I have children. They’re in middle school. If I bring home pepperoni pizza rolls from West Park Station, and they are in the to-go box in the refrigerator, they won’t last the night. The bread is just there holding the cheese in. It’s gooey, delicious, the sauces are on the side. You don’t even need the sauce.
Q: Do you have any favorite spots to shop?
A: In Olmsted Falls and even in Middleburg Heights, there are a couple of local farmers on the side of the road who sell homegrown produce. Willie’s Farm Market is so random because you’re just driving down a main road in Middleburg Heights and it’s right there. It’s so odd but they have everything you could want. The Stand is on Bagley Road in Olmsted Falls. I never go to a produce stand with a list. I just let the produce talk to me and I really talk to the people.
Q: Who’s killing it at the takeout game right now?
A: I am a gigantic fan of Eric Williams from Momocho and El Carnicero. Through this whole thing, he has done takeout in such a respectful and very safe, very high-quality level. His food has always been outstanding, but in this kind of scenario, for an operator that had to switch gears and get themselves aligned into the takeout model, Eric Williams hasn’t sacrificed anything in what he does and who he is. He kills the guacamole game. There are a million places that do guacamole now, but El Carnicero’s goat cheese guacamole is life to me. When you’ve had a really rough day, what’s going to make it better than a blood orange margarita and some goat cheese guacamole?
Q: Who do you think is the one chef worth watching right now in Cleveland?
A: I could go both ways on it because I can think of two women. I think Jill Vedaa at Salt does amazing food. If I’m going to take somebody from out of town to dinner, for a truly special unique experience, I’m going with Jill Vedaa all day long. Salt has and deserves a lot more attention than it gets. And I think the one to watch for the future is Saucisson. I don’t know if they’ve been a little more quiet lately or maybe things are just changing a little, but [Melissa Khoury and Penny Barend] at Saucisson are really trying to revitalize Fleet Avenue. That community over there has really gone through a massive renovation. Things are really starting to change over there. That’s the neighborhood to pay attention to.