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Aug 6, 2007 08:14 PM

Cleveland - vegetarian recs near South Euclid/Mayfield?

An Indian friend just moved to Cleveland from Berkeley and is going through painful culture shock. I'm sure there must be some great places in Cleveland, but since I'm not there, it's hard to help him explore.

Do you have any recommendations for Indian-Thai-Chinese-noodle house-Burmese-Indonesian-Cambodian-etc. restaurants that would have clear vegetarian options and be good enough to convince him that he hasn't made a mistake in moving there? He's near the Cleveland Clinic, so anything in that neighborhood is a big plus, but if there are good neighborhoods for him to visit on the weekend, that works too. He is a strict vegetarian and tends to prefer rice-noodle-couscous cuisines over European ones.

Thanks for your advice!!

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  1. tell him dewd chill. however, im a bit confused as south euclid and mayfield are suburbs but then you said he's near the clinic??? or do u mean the clevo city streets? i'll go w/ clinic.

    first thing to know there is a chinatown just east of downtown and west of the clinic campus w/ many options. people like siam cafe, it has thai but also pan-asian. #1 pho and pho hoa are there too for viet. i realize pho is not veg, but of course they have more than that.

    tea house noodles downtown.

    cafe limbo on larchmere for upscale veg only.

    cafe udupi for indian. my bro liked it.

    tommy's for hippy cali collegiate veg options he's used to from berkeley in coventry. speaking of that nabe i used to like hunan coventry too, but havent been in ages. karma on coventry is another there he'll appreciate, but i dk it.

    phnom phen for cambodian on w25th in the ohio city nabe, next to the historic west side market, which will be a shopping staple for home cooking. nates for middle eastern is near there too.

    johnny mangos also in the oc for smoothies and lots of veg chow.

    cafe mint at cedar-lee for thai.

    that should get you started until others chime in. good luck to your friend.

    1. Tommy's on Coventry is the only thing I miss about living in Cleveland Heights. It is just up the hill from the Cleveland Clinic a few miles.

      1. Sorry for whatever confusion -- I was told the office was there to be close to the clinic, but that may be why they're headquartered in Cleveland, not why they're in a particular neighborhood. Downtown recs are great (and a Trader Joe's checkout person told him, completely unsolicited, that he needed to go to Coventry), but it sounds like he's actually in the suburbs.

        Out here, Chinatown is a bad place to go for veg unless you have someone with you who speaks Chinese, as the waitstaff tend to consider a dish vegetarian even if it's cooked with meat broth. Is that going to be true in Cleveland, or are the restaurants more Americanized?

        1. i believe that mint (mentioned above) is actually the thai place in coventry. lemon grass and - at least a year ago before i moved away - mekong river are both thai places at cedar lee. both are very close to where your friend lives. pacific east - also in coventry had veggie sushi one of my vegan friends loved and was doing malaysian dishes for a while. cafe tandoor at taylor in cleveland heights and saffron patch in shaker heights aren't far for indian. i liked cafe tandoor better but it is definitely a matter of taste. have heard from indian friends that udipi is the best and is totally vegetarian but it isn't as close (still nothing is THAT far in cleveland).
          sun luck garden (i believe it's called) gets GREAT reviews and is also on taylor but i never got there while i lived in cleveland.
          if he does middle eastern - cedarlands at the main cleveland clinic is supposedly very good and anatola cafe (turkish) which is across from the whole foods right in south euclid where he is is great.
          Although Tommy's and Cafe Limbo aren't asian since they're close to him and vegetarian he should check them out - if nothing else folks there could probably help him with other recs. People in cleveland are really nice. Oh and it's a bit of a trek but Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders is opening a veggie place in Akron in September that sounds VERY cool!
          Cleveland's fun and has great food - not certain that vegetarian asian is it's absolute best but I'm certain he'll find some things! He's very close to whole foods and i bet some of the staff there could help him as well. Was there for 4 years myself because of the hospitals and came to love the city!

          1 Reply
          1. re: AMFM

            sun luck garden is indeed great, and the original poster's friend should give it a try. they have a big menu of vegetarian/vegan dishes, many quite inventive. while googling for recent reviews of the place, i found this link which might be helpful:


          2. I ended up flying out to Cleveland for a few days, so here’s my report back on your suggestions, followed by a few other places that we visited that don’t fit the Asian side of my original request. In general, I was surprised by how large the restaurants were – real estate is definitely cheaper than on the West Coast!

            Tommy’s – The spinach/mushroom/cheese pie (IRS, I think) was good, but I would have appreciated some herbs to perk up the flavor. The McKenna seitan fajita wrap was improved by the addition of ketchup. The mocha milkshake, however, made us very happy – just enough of a milkshake to justify the straw, but definitely spoon-worthy, and I managed to distract him with the extras in the blender cup and keep the whole glass to myself. Joy!

            Lemon Grass – We ordered pad thai (my default for comparing with other restaurants) and the mango fried rice. When the waiter brought our meals, we realized they were both beyond mild and asked for some hot sauce. Most Thai restaurants I’ve been in have little pots of chili peppers in vinegar (generally a clear plastic pot with a red lid), but here the waiter disappeared for four or five minutes, then brought a small bowl of a smooth, mildly hot sauce. The pad thai was very peanut heavy, but once I mixed some of that sauce into the pad thai, it tasted just like mild pad thai should. The fried rice was fine, but a stronger hot sauce would have done wonders.

            Mekong River – Better than Lemon Grass and very good about checking for spice levels and producing accordingly. We had a cabbage fried rice with tofu (2 on their spice scale) and a Cambodian tofu curry with pineapple and coconut milk (3.5 out of 5 and still the hottest thing my friend had eaten since leaving California). The latter was tangy, with perfectly fried tofu pieces and fresh-tasting green beans. The fresh rolls were a disappointment, though – bland, with almost no herbs in them.

            Café Tandoor – A sad lunch, although the bhaingan bharta (eggplant) was okay. The dal was described with lentils, but was actually a Madras style dal and my Madras-educated companion didn’t recognize the flavor. We asked for medium and both dishes were extremely mild.

            Aladdin’s was a pleasant surprise and their generous servings of well-seasoned soups made an excellent lunch. Their lentil soup was spicier than the medium dal at Tandoor, although I wouldn't call it spicy.

            One of the best meals we had was at Balaton, on Shaker Square, were we had cabbage noodles and lecso, a spicy pepper stew served over egg dumplings. The portions were huge and both dishes were richly flavored, which seemed unusual for the vegetarian options I had overall. This was one of the few places where the vegetarian dishes didn’t feel like meat dishes with the meat subtracted or side dishes.

            We had drinks and appetizers on the patio at Sarava. The Sao Paulo salad was delightful and crisp and the artichoke fritters were excellent. The “crisp Spanish cheese with Kalamata olive and caper-spiced tomato sauce” was your old friend the mozzarella stick, but I can forgive a world of such masquerades if you bring me drinks with muddled limes in them.

            The Algebra Tea House had a charming earnest air and great choice of teas, but I would have preferred practical mugs. I have yet to see a Berkeley restaurant that went as heavy on hippy décor (check out the sink in the restroom!), but the guy behind the counter was genuinely welcoming, the people at the tables outside were friendly, the ice cream was good, and it felt like a place that would quickly become a neighborhood hangout if I lived in the neighborhood.

            The West Side Market was very disappointing and, for the record, a disastrous place to take a vegetarian. The Mediterranean store in the corner had a great selection of cheeses and the produce row had some good vegetables (although most stalls had exactly the same offerings), but the main building was awful. Some of the individual counters looked tempting – spices, cakes, cheese – but they were sandwiched between counters housing giant slabs of oozing flesh so that the whole place was blanketed in a humid fug of blood. Personally, I eat meat, can gut my own dinner without a qualm, and have never pretended that beef comes on little styrofoam trays. (Where I normally shop, it doesn't.) Still, I found it disgusting to shop for German chocolate cake or apple streudel with the taste of stale blood in my mouth. I can’t imagine actually eating at the market! Of the things we bought, the German chocolate cake was the highlight, but it was hours and a shower before I felt like trying it… It wasn’t a true German chocolate cake, but a darker cake with the pecan and coconut frosting, and perhaps for that reason, the leftovers stayed moist until the next day. Bring it home for a vegetarian, perhaps, but do not take your vegetarian to the West Side Market unless s/he is an animal rights prosthelytizer whose moral high ground will feel more solid when surrounded by a bog of meat. Otherwise, it's just cruel.

            Thanks for the recs!

            6 Replies
            1. re: kds

              thanks for the report. i always liked mekong better than lemon grass - unless i wanted to eat outside. my thai friend did mention though that NOTHING was hot enough in cleveland food. i used to be into spicy food but since i now share everything with a 4 and 1 year old i only order mild maybe medium now. have heard Mint is actually the best of the three but i haven't been there.

              tommy's is definitely best for milkshakes. i never loved much there but breakfasts aren't bad.

              sorry about tandoor. haven't been in years but it once was okay. will probably find saffron patch more to his liking. it's still not great (but udipi supposedly really is). it always seems expensive to me but it's much nicer to eat in. we didn't do that as much after we had kids and i didn't love their takeout.

              there are GREAT local farmer's markets if you look around but West Side Market isn't it. People have the misconception that it's a farmer's market but it's not. It is a great market though. Good bread/bakeries - awesome fresh roasted coffee at City Roast and homemade pasta from Ohio City pasta - and if you want it actually very good meat! but i'd agree it could be a hard place to go.

              Aladdin's is okay. Better middle eastern at the other two.

              1. re: AMFM

                Sorry about the Indian food experience at Cafe Tandoor. I am sorry to say that is a typical experience (the only reason I went back so much is I used to live down the street) Saffron Patch is terrific. I am not vegitarian, but throughly love their meatless dishes (typically have ordered a veggie special of the evening). It is the only place in CLeveland that was my match for spiciness. Alladins is not the best middle eastern place either. IN my opinion Cedarland at the Clinic is-hands down. Anatolia is outstanding, although have not eaten meatless there.

                Getting spiciness here in Cleveland is a major issue. I have been living here a few years now and it amazes how weak the paletes are begin to wonder if people just maw on meatloaf, corn and potatoes. Then people brush it off by saying that they like to taste their food and not the heat. Well every chili head knows heat has flavor and many dimensions when well prepared. It is a serious issue IMO. Even at the ethnic places it is hard to convince them to make something hot. and even when they do make it "hot", I end up having to add what ever spicy sauce is available (ie chili oil). your friend might like Phenom Phen the w.25th location is just west of downtown down the street from the westside market. they can do spicy when pushed. hard. and again with the chil oil. to compare with Lemon Grass, I think Phenom Phen is better.

                1. re: AMFM

                  Oh, forgot to include the farmers market at Shaker Square... Delicious melon, steel band, interesting baked goods!

                2. re: kds

                  The Market is an old ethnic institution set up to cater to many business serving many different customer desires; it just wasn't designed to be set up like a grocery store w/ neat little aisles. The produce stands get their goods from the Ohio Food Terminal like everyone else, they don't import or grow their own so most stands have similar offerings. I'm sorry that your expectations were otherwise.

                  1. re: gourmanda

                    that's what i was going to say too!

                    also, the op only said the friend "tends to prefer rice-noodle-couscous cuisines" and made no mention of spiciness requirements or i am sure we would have adjusted accordingly.

                    for the record its exactly the same in nyc, you really have to push and cajol to get anywhere near authentic heat in otherwise traditionally spicy foods (thee only exception to that is one famous thai place in queens). in fact most places only have a siracha sauce bottle, which aint spicy at all if you ask me.

                    1. re: mrnyc

                      Sorry -- outside of middle America, rice-noodle-couscous cuisines are at least mildly spicy, so it didn't occur to me to spell that out. In fact, until I visited, I didn't realize that was an issue. In Berkeley, we almost always ordered mild! I have very little tolerance for heat, but I found several of the dishes bland without even the warmth that comes from enough ginger or garlic. I've eaten a lot in NYC and while you do have to reassure them that you can handle fire, the dishes are much more flavorful.

                      As for the West Side Market, several people in Cleveland (not on this list, admittedly) recommended it and more than one compared it to Reading Terminal in Philly, which is an excellent place to get lunch. I wasn't expecting a grocery store, but I've never been to a market like that which didn't segregate the raw meat. Outdoor market in Hong Kong, yes, but indoor halls like that, no.