Our Favorite Cleveland Eats

It should be obvious that, being one of my favorite places in the world, Cleveland would have some excellent food.  From cafeteria-style Polish food to haute cuisine, there’s a little something for everyone.  Hell, even if you like shitty fast food (and who doesn’t?) there is a wonderful local option.  Be sure to check out some of these spots when you head in to the Best Location in the Nation.

Jonathon Sawyer

While Michael Symon put Cleveland on the culinary map, while he’s off in Hollywood being a celebrity chef, Jonathon Sawyer is holding down the position of best chef in Cleveland.  He has the Greenhouse Tavern on the pedestrian-friendly East 4th Street downtown, where you can order a whole pig’s head (and Symon name-checked their gravy frites on The Best Thing I Ever Ate).  Among his other restaurants is personal favorite Noodlecat, a fast-casual ramen spot that originated in the West Side Market, moved downtown, and has finally (and unfortunately) ended up in the suburb of Westlake. This seems to be poised to be franchised, though, so there may be more in the near future.  The ramen is great, but awesome sides like their grilled ramen and cheese and fried kimchi balls are must-orders.

Michael Symon

Symon does still loom large in the city, with plenty of outposts around town.  Near Noodlecat is his B-Spot (burgers, brats, and beers), which features the Fat Doug—a burger with coleslaw, pastrami, stadium mustard (more on this later) and Swiss cheese, and is well worth the trip to any of the Cleveland suburb locations. There are also some awesome shakes; the vanilla bean apple pie and bacon shake with the added shot of bourbon is just what you need after a stomach-busting burger.  On the aforementioned East 4th Street, you’ll also find Lola Bistro and Mabel’s BBQ, Symon’s “Cleveland-style” barbecue joint.

West Side Market

While the market is packed with butchers, cheese sellers, pierogi makers, and other take away and make at home style places, there are a few great stops for food.  Steve’s Gyros is probably chief among them, and always has a line.  This is a line you’ll want to wait in, and it goes pretty quickly because you can either order a gyro, or a gyro with extra meat—though, after eating the regular one, I’m not sure how extra meat is physically possible.  Though, if you want, you can cut to the front of the line to just buy a bag of pita.  There is also Maha’s Falafil, which has a pretty extensive menu for a small falafel stand, though the falafel is still the best.  I take umbrage with their “Philly” sandwiches, but I can ignore that for their other delicious food.  Finally, don’t pass a stop at Czuchraj Meats, which has all manner of cured meats for you to snack on, chief among them their variety of house-made jerky.  It’s thick, chewy, and slathered with sauce—definitely a requirement if you stop by the market.

Beer

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There is a lot of great beer in Cleveland, and if you’re in Ohio City (where West Side Market is), you’re in a good stop. Directly across from the market are Cleveland’s craft beer kings, Great Lakes Brewing Co. Swing in and get some swag, have some beer, and taste some of their ice cream creations they’ve partnered with local Mitchell’s Homemade Ice Cream to create (like the Edmund Fitzgerald porter chocolate chunk). Right next to the market is Market Garden Brewery, another local favorite with an extensive taplist.  On our last visit, their Nano OG Lager became a quick favorite, and Kaitie fell for their Hella Mango.  Do pop in for some refreshments after a long day of wandering the market.  Also, if you’re downtown, head over to Noble Beast, the open, garage-like brewpub with excellent beer and good food.  It’s a few blocks from the middle of downtown, but a great way to get away from the traffic if the Browns are playing, and a nice stop if you enjoy drinking quality beer.

Mr. Hero

Yes, of all the places on the list, the shitty fast food joint gets its own heading.  This is because everywhere in Cleveland is optional when I visit except Mr. Hero.  And the crazy thing is, I’ve only ever had one item there.  My entire life has been spent either living in the city, the suburbs, or visiting regularly, and the one constant has always been the Mr. Hero Romanburger.  It doesn’t look like much—and my description won’t improve upon that—but I’ll be goddamned if it isn’t one of my favorite sandwiches in the world.  Greyish hamburger patties with fried salami, onions, mayo, cheese, tomato, and lettuce that is wilted and soggy from the sheer amount of grease in the sandwich, it is a fatty, salty overload of joy.  Since I don’t get there as often as I would like, I can usually justify the gut-busting 14” version, but it also comes in 10” and, for the faint of heart, 7”.  Throw on an order of waffle fries with warm cheese sauce, and my trip is complete.

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Greasy, fatty, salty, perfect Romanburger

Odds & Ends

Sokolowski’s University Inn is a Polish cafeteria-style mecca for all your pierogi and stuffed cabbage needs, among other things. Hot Sauce Williams, which has two locations, is the place for barbecue in Cleveland.  Big Al’s Diner is great for breakfast, and their corned beef hash is unrivaled.  If you want to get out of the city a bit Corky and Lenny’s is a great Jewish deli with massive sandwiches and pickles on the table. Finally, if you want to take home some souvenirs, swing by the local Malley’s Chocolates to grab some sweets, or any grocery store to get the famous Bertman’s Original Ballpark Mustard served at Indians games.

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Picking up some Ballpark Mustard…among other things

As you may have noticed, I can go on and on about Cleveland, whether it’s things to do, places to eat, or just dumb facts about the city.  I love it there with my entire being, and am already looking forward to going back—as I always do, just after I leave.

While you’re eating in Cleveland, you might as well check out some things to do.  Here are a few of our favorites.

Flee to the Cleve: Things to do in Cleveland

IMG_4579Of all the places I’ve been, there are few I love visiting more than Cleveland.  It could be the family I have there, or just the fact that it’s where I was born, but I look forward to every trip.  I am immensely proud of my home city, and boast of it whenever I can (which I’m sure people get tired of real quick).  I can rattle off “interesting” facts about Cleveland all day long.  Did you know Cleveland had the first black mayor of a major American city? Or that Superman was invented there? And Tom Hanks credits Cleveland’s Great Lakes Theater Festival with jumpstarting his acting career?

But I digress.  If you’re going to Cleveland, you don’t need fun facts—you need things to do and places to go.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Ohio City

This neighborhood is one of the best in the city.  While traffic and parking can be a bit of a pain (especially on weekends), you’ve got the Great Lakes brewery (swing in for a flight of beer and some Edmund Fitzgerald chocolate chunk ice cream), along with Market Garden and Nano Brew breweries across the street. There are a ton of places to eat—Flying Fig is nice, and TownHall is a great place for brunch. However, if you’re heading down there for food, you’re going to want to stop at

West Side Market

Open since 1912, this is the oldest indoor/outdoor marketplace in Cleveland.  While it mostly specializes in various cuts of meat (you wouldn’t think so many meat purveyors could flourish in such a small space), if you’re not planning on cooking anything there are still plenty of prepared foods and other market items to check out.  Urban Herbs is a great place to pick up any spices you need.  Czuchraj Meats was namechecked by Michael Symon on The Best Thing I Ever Ate for their out of this world beef jerky.  Man vs Food alumn Steve’s Gyros always has a line, and it’s always worth standing in (but get the regular gyro—there’s one with more meat for $2 extra, but I’m not sure how it’s physically possible to fit any more than they already give you). Side note: get as many napkins from Steve’s as you can. Maha’s Falafil is excellent, too.  Be sure to take your food up to the balcony to eat and overlook the entire market.

Downtown

To the unexperienced, there aren’t a lot of phrases less exciting than “downtown Cleveland,” but the place has its charm—unless you’re trying to drive around down there when there’s a Browns game.  Right on the waterfront is the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Center, as well as the Browns’ stadium.  Head over to East 4th Street for a small pedestrian-only road of shops and restaurants (where you’ll find Michael Symon’s Lola and Mabel’s BBQ, as well as Jonathon Sawyer’s Greenhouse Tavern)—including Cleveland Clothing Company.  Go there and get a shirt; you’ll probably notice it seems like a requirement for Clevelanders to wear some kind of clothing denoting this.  It’s also a few blocks away from Quicken Loans Arena, where you can see the Cavs or the Rockers play, and Progressive Field.  Go to an Indians game, and get the famous stadium mustard (also available in stores).  You’ll also be near the Arcade, America’s first indoor shopping center (est. 1890), partially funded by John D Rockefeller.

Metroparks

If you enjoy nature, the Cleveland Metroparks is the place for you.  Spanning over 23,000 acres in 18 separate reservations, you can do pretty much everything.  There are miles and miles of bike paths, over 100 hiking trails, water activities—you name it.  Often dubbed the Emerald Necklace because of the way it wraps around Cleveland, you’re never far from a trail or a wooded area, which is extremely refreshing for a big city.  You can also swing by the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo if you’re into that sort of thing.

Odds & Ends

There are endless things to do in Cleveland and the surrounding area, and I love it so much I could go on forever.  If you like Christmas, head to the Tremont neighborhood to see the actual house A Christmas Story was filmed in, which now functions as a museum for the movie.  You can head to Lake View Cemetery to see John D Rockefeller’s grave, or check out the spooky Weeping Angel.  If you want to get out of the city, the nation’s best amusement park, Cedar Point, is a little over an hour away (but we’ll talk about that later).

Don’t let the old jokes or stories about a burning river (though true) deter you.  Cleveland has made plenty of must-visit lists in recent years, and as the city moves past its steel mill history, it will only continue to get better.  Like any big city, it’s got something for everyone, but only in a slightly smaller package, with a more friendly Midwest wrapping.  There’s got to be a reason Randy Newman, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and Scott Weiland all have songs about Cleveland.   Right?

Now that you’re in Cleveland, check out some of our favorite places to eat.