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Columbus vs Cleveland, a stomach's point of view

Ok, while my stomach isn't exactly the biggest priority (if not the biggest part of my body) I am considering a new job that would relocate me back to my beloved roots in Ohio. I'm trying to choose between Columbus and Cleveland, and food and cooking are a big priority to me.

I'd love to hear arguments from Chowhounders in each city as to why I should move there. Are there great market places? Fresh farm produce? Ethnic diversity? Top Notch resturants? Culinary festivals? Please try to persuade me!

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  1. How timely! I just posted an answer in another thread (looking for good "2nd tier cities") that I am C&P here as I have your answer.

    Don't overlook Cleveland if you are compiling a list. Naturally, there has been increased attention to Michael Symon's two local restaurant, Lola and Lolita, since he recently won the Next Iron Chef America competition, but there is SO much more here food-wise, and on a much more affordable scale than just about any of the towns listed above.

    Having lived here most of my adult life (I also lived in LA for a time) and having done a fair amount of travel for work to cities large and HUGE, Cleveland represents the best in terms of variety of cusines available for a city it's size and at a variety of price points given our population. Outside of the big, big cities, I haven't found anywhere that offers the variety that we have here, and at such affordable price points.

    We have a huge ethnic mix of people in Cleveland thus are blessed with a variety of authentic/traditional cusines from just about every corner of the globe. Due to our size, there may only be 1 or 2 of a particular cuisine (or, to clarify, 1 or 2 very good ones) but living in Cleveland, I could get great food every night if I had the money to dine out that frequently, and there are new restaurants opening seemingly every week. We have wonderful ethnic and neighborhood festivals of many varieties throughout the summer months that provide a great opportunity to sample a variety of cuisines from local restaurants. Due to our extreme promixity to some of the best farming country around, we have great access to locally raised, locally processed, high quality meats (all year) and produce (most of the year) that others pay huge premiums for. We have places like the Sausage Shoppe, which makes sausages and hot dogs so lean and tasty you would never go back to another product again. Sausage where there is a much higher percentage of meat instead of just fat and by-products.

    We have unique dining gems like Carrie Cerino's, where the ambience is just the way your grandma remembered it and an unbelievable mix of traditional Italian for the long time "regulars" juxtaposed with unique and changing specials from Norcia lentils, "blue" egg ravioli, berkshire pork, organic chicken and meat balls made from an ohio beef producer, not Sysco. We even have several local wineries producing some excellent table wines, not just the overly sweet stuff often associated with Ohio wines. Firelands makes a great cab, Viking has two really strong reds, etc. And Great Lakes Brewery produces some very, very good beers. We have fantastic farmers markets and our state's maple syrup products are awesome.

    Hungarian, authentic Chinese, German, Italian, Irish, Ethiopian, great bar food, pizzas, some of the best corned beef I've ever had, the best steaks I've eaten, high end dining to great greasy bar cheeseburgers, you can get just about anything you want here in terms of cuisine and it's usually at a much lower price than what you'd pay in a larger city.

    3 Replies
    1. re: rockandroller1

      Wow! that's what I'm talking about! I lived in North Royalton for two years many years ago in high School, and remember Carrie Cerinos. Thanks for the Cleveland "Vote"!

      1. re: rockandroller1

        I am only an occasional visitor to both cities, but I've found good food of many types, and good food neighborhoods, in both cities. However, I am not all *that* familiar with either city, and suggest that you rely on the locals for their opinions about their own city, in this topic as well as by perusing the many topics here about both cities.

        I wouldn't even be posting to this topic, except I want to mention one thing rockandroller1 omitted in his/her post about Cleveland, and that is the West Side Market, a terrific public market with stalls selling extremely fresh produce, meats, and other food products. www.westsidemarket.com

        1. re: nsxtasy

          I absolutely love the WSM and would definitely recommend it to a foodie who is also a decent to excellent home cook, and/or someone who tries hard to buy fresh and local as often as possible. But nsxtasy has one thing wrong about it; their produce is about equal to and often a little bit worse (older) than that in the regular mega grocery stores in the area. The WSM and the stores all buy from the same "clearinghouse" and the groceries often get first pick. This is why you hear so many people complain that they bought a bag of X produce at the WSM and brought it home and a day later, half were bad. I do not buy any produce there unless there is no option for me to go elsewhere for it.

          That being said, I get nearly all my meats there, and my fresh bread, locally made pasta (and when in a cheating mood, sauce as well), locally raised and processed pork, beef, buffalo, locally roasted coffee (several organic and free trade varieties as well), authentic greek cheeses and olives, and myriad other things. A trip to the WSM is also a good companion to the Sausage Shoppe, which was featured on this year's "No Reservations" Cleveland episode (and, outside Lola, was about the only other place featured worth visiting). Norm and his family have been hand-making their sausages and other products by hand for a long time, and it is some of the leanest and tastiest you will find, whether it is little smokies to snack on, fresh bacon, very lean hot dogs, Italian sausage, specialty sausages/bratwurst, liverwurst, bologna, ham, etc. They are only about a 5-7 minute drive from each other and I usually shop at both weekly if not every other week. Diagonally across the street from the WSM is the Athens grocery, where I buy all our olive oils imported from Greece, as well as some decent greek wines, which aren't widely available.

          For the E siders, Miles Rd Market is a haven for foodies, and we have Trader Joe's on both the W and E side now, as well as a Whole Foods on the E side.

          There are a plethora of cuisines and restaurants I didn't name in the above post, and a similar number of Cleveland foodies willing to help you out with recommendations for their favorite locations. We have our own local slow food convivium which organizes dinners and visits to farms, we have a Viking store which does cooking classes, we just had a bar open up that is doing a specialty kids night where people can bring in their children to have them learn to make pizza along the chef (Jonathan Sawyer, at Bar Cento). We have a great bar scene - from the TONS of comfy, neighborhood watering holes to great wine bars to the piece de resistance of the Velvet Tango Room, we really have everything you could want as a foodie.

          What can I tell you. I've been back from LA for 10 years now and have gained as many pounds as years I've been back. We love to eat, and it shows!

      2. Isnt Columbus one big suburb? Don't they use it for market research for "typical americana" ie the newest Applebess offerings? Chain city.

        Cleveland has great Eastern European influence intertwined with Asian (great Chinese, Korean, Japanese,Vietnamese, Thai, Cambodian), Middle Eastern, Latino (mostly
        Puerto Rican and Mexican) and of course Greek and Irish influences. We have a Turkish place that people drive from out of State to get to-Anatolia Cafe.The Westside Market (not actually a farmers market, but small stands of everything you would ever need), Asia Town (asian supplies and restuarants) the North Union Farmers Markets thoughout the area have organic and local foods. That are also multiple specialty food suppliers.

        Culinary Festivals: the best I have been to is a Greek one in Tremont neighborhood, and a Polish one in Slavic Village. Taste of Tremont (home to some of our best restos) is great. Truth be told, there are some lame ones though...might actually have chain food. I would say where we are lacking is BBQ, and Cuban (I lived in an region previously that had better options) and Sichuan Chinese.
        Searching these threads for specific interests in resturants is a good idea as I have tastes all over the place and don't know what you like. Cleveland supports indep. resturants more than many places I have been or lived. When I go to Columbus all I see are chains. That said the further you get from the city in Cleveland the worse it gets chain wise. Flee to the Cleve!

        10 Replies
        1. re: lyn

          No one has yet spoken for Columbus, and although I'm not a local, I am within a 90 minute drive and visit frequently. The 2nd best Thai restaurant I've ever eaten in is in a suburb of Cols, the Bangkok (for comparison, the best to me so far has been Lotus of Siam in LV). The downtown area called the Short North has the fabulous North Market, home of Jeni's Ice cream as well as numerous ethnic eats and great seafood, meat, and local produce. That same area has many great indie places, including Rigsby's, the Happy Greek, the Burgundy Room, and others. German Village has several really good indie places as well, including Schmidt's Sausage House. And of course, there's a brick-and-mortar Penzey's Spice store a bit northwest of town. On the northeast side is Carfagna's Italian Market; a regular road trip for their wonderful sausages, great raviolis, and the best Italian wine selection I've seen in the entire state (and I'm a wine geek, so I always look!)

          Now, that said, although I was born in Cleveland, I haven't spent much time there since my grandma passed away 10 years ago, and since it's a lot longer drive, we don't get there as often. My sense is that Cleveland probably does have it over Columbus if one's criteria is solely a vibrant foodie scene, but Columbus is not chain city by any means. I think we here in Dayton may be able to claim that title ;-)

          1. re: lyn

            While Columbus certainly has its share of chains (so does Cleveland, BTW), it's definitely a haven for foodies. As someone mentioned, we have the North Market, which has a bit of everything: artisan baked goods, chocolates, fresh produce, meat, poultry and fish, the best ice cream anywhere (Jeni's) and much more. I love the West Side Market in Cleveland too, but the North Market is much more accessible and easy to find parking for. We have every kind of food you could ask for, with the one exception that Cleveland is famous for - Polish and/or Slavic food. But you want Indian, Puerto Rican, German, Vietnamese, Ethiopian or any other kind of cuisine? We have it. There are several independent restaurants that really rock - you can see a partial list at http://www.dineoriginalscolumbus.com/.

            And I don't know if this is something you're taking into consideration, but Columbus is a thriving city with plenty of employment available, where as Cleveland is experiencing a lot of people moving away after graduating, a "brain drain" if you will. And I think it just got named as 10th most dangerous city or something like that. Columbus is fairly safe (there are only a few real "bad" areas), and definitely pretty clean for the size city it is.

            We considered moving to Cleveland, but decided against it because of the reasons I mentioned above. Just about every reason people have given for Cleveland being better - we have an equivalent option here. I say you spend some time in both cities, as they both have an entirely different "feel" to them, and go with the one you're most comfortable in.

            1. re: columbusfoodie

              I know this is just a fun debate, so I'm glad I'm getting to hear opinions from both cities. Thank you everyone for sharing your thoughts. I've lived in Dayton, Cincy, and Cleveland at various times in my life, prior to being a devoted Foodie, and I know a few things about Columbus and Cleveland. Apart from my culinary interests, there are good and bad things about both cities that I'll obviously need to consider.......But I'm glad to know that I would enjoy exploring cuisine in both cities no matter which way I decide to go.

              1. re: columbusfoodie

                Niki and columbus have both posted about food in Columbus. (Thanks!) One thing they did not describe much is that Columbus has a thriving fine dining scene, which is what I tend to gravitate towards when visiting other cities. I've dined at L'Antibes in the Short North and several times at the Worthington Inn on the north side; both are excellent, comparable to the best places in Cleveland (and I know there are plenty of others in both cities). Columbus does not strike me as a "chain city" any more than any other city (but let's face it, you can find chain restaurants in *any* city, particularly in the newly developed outer suburbs).

                Every year, the Columbus Dispatch does an article on the top 20 restaurants in town; you can read this year's article at www.dispatch.com/live/content/weekend...

                As a food-lover (aren't we all, here?), based on my visits to both, I would be very happy living in either city. If I had to choose one over the other, it would probably be based on non-food factors (i.e. whatever reasons I had for moving).

                1. re: columbusfoodie

                  I think comparing the North Market and the West Side Market is an apple-and-oranges kind of thing. The WSM is a much more old-school ethnic establishment, with its abundance of sausages, "variety" meats and such -- very much in line with Cleveland's general blue-collar vibe. The North Market, to me, has much more of a newfangled upscale feel to it, especially considering it's trendy surroundings, and the relatively young age of its building versus the WSM. That's not to say the WSM hasn't kept up with the times -- there's wonderful cheese, artisan bread, fantastic herbs and spices and of course that Ohio City Pasta to be had, but the whole FEEL between the two is just different.

                  And as for parking, I disagree with columbusfoodie entirely. There is a HUGE parking lot behind the WSM (though it does get crowded during peak Saturday hours), and unlike the one at the North Market, it's free. As far as his/her (?) contentions about accessibility, I'm not sure what the meaning is. Both markets are located close to freeway exits, and both are in equally busy, heavily-trafficked areas, though the Short North has more one-way streets. They seem even in that category.

                  1. re: LeslieB

                    Oh, I agree completely with you - both the WSM and the North Market each have a lot to offer their respective areas (which is why I hit the WSM any time that I have the opportunity to drive up to Cleveland), but I have had problems with parking in that area, on every day but the optional vendor days late in the afternoon - I've never had that problem at the North Market, even on peak Saturday hours. I don't mind paying for parking - it's affordable and a bit more convenient since there's not as long a walk from the parking lot/meters to the actual market. As far as accessibility, I meant from a handicapped perspective, with the availability of handicapped parking spaces/ways to get in the building. The last time I went to the WSM, I ended up parking far enough away that it was a bit of a hike to get there, which is murder on my knees. I'm not saying that the lack of parking in the downtown area isn't a problem in Columbus too (especially now, when half the meters aren't even available to be used), just that it seems to be a constant issue whenever I head to downtown Cleveland. On the other hand, I've never had a single problem parking in Lakewood - same as I've never had problems parking here in Columbus anywhere other than the downtown/campus/Easton areas.

                    There are tons of things to love about Cleveland - I love that you can get just about any ethnic food there - and I love the character of the houses in the urban areas, especially Lakewood and the areas west of 117th St. I love that there is more than one place that I can find bridies and Cornish pasties. I love that there are restaurants that appeal to both the blue-collar crowd and those that like fine dining. I was just pointing out that Columbus has these things too, and isn't the chain hell that people make it out to be. Just as you wouldn't want people to judge Cleveland by North Royalton, I don't want people to judge Columbus based on Easton or Polaris.

                    1. re: columbusfoodie

                      Sorry about your bad parking luck. And please don't get me wrong. I'm certainly not dissing Columbus at large nor the North Market itself. I like both. In fact, it bothers me that Cleveland doesn't have more of its good offerings concentrated centrally they way Columbus does along High Street from downtown all the way up to OSU. Everything here in Cleveland is scattered, which means you have to look harder/spend more on gas to find the cool stuff. And I certainly would never judge the city based on Easton or Polaris any more than I (a Lakewood native, incidentally) would want people to judge Cleveland by my parents' North Royalton surroundings.

                  2. re: columbusfoodie

                    OK, OK--after having lived in Columbus for 22 LONG years, I am happy to say that both my husband and I found gainful employment (and a 30% pay increase) in big, bad Cleveland.......And I have also gained 10 pounds after my first 2 years in Cleveland, because it has lots of good restaurants. I must admit that I NEVER found decent pizza, or a deli, in Cowtown. It's really like Disneyland, in terms of food--lots of chain restaurants and everything else theme-based owned by Cameron Mitchell. The two cities are very different--Columbus is very suburban and loaded with college-aged kids and openly gay residents, and Cleveland is gritty and old and has really cold winters, but really good ethnic food. Cleveland is very much an industrial-type sports-town.

                    So, Columbusfoodie, do not fear The Cleve. And as long as you are not working in the auto industry, there are probably plenty of jobs here for you in Cleveland, as well.

                  3. re: lyn

                    One big suburb? Puh-leeese! Why then, did the New York Times Style section just run an article calling Columbus the Midwest Capital of Style? And why Nat. Geographic Trvlr just run an article talking aout the lack of chain stores and restaurants? I challenge you to come to Columbus for a weekend or more (that's what it will take to check out the best places). Not suburbs -- neighborhoods. Sorry, I get a little defensive of my beloved town. An amazing foodie city. Getting LOTS of press lately for it. Check out German Village. Cool historic neighborhood with awesome shops (a 32-room bookstore!!) and great eats. Don't miss Barcelona (awesome patio, tappas, sangria, etc.) for dinner. Have lunch at Katzinger's Deli -- amazing sandiwches bigger than your head. My fave? #23 Mark's Chartbuster: hot, tender pastrami piled high on their amazing pumpernickel bread with scallion cream cheese and leaf lettuce. Also in GV, splurge on an upscale dinner at Handke's Cuisine. Hartmut Handke is the only American chef EVER to win Bocuse d'Or AND he holds more culinary Olympic medals than any US chef. He does amazing things with Midwest produce -- his corn risotto is divine. DO NOT miss Pistacia Vera in German Vil. Pastries made in the finest old-world by a brother-sister duo of darling hipsters. Day two: The Short North is a tres hip arts district with miles of galleries and ultra-funky shops. There you must have dinner at Rosendales. Rich Rosendale is easily one of America's best chefs -- a real rising star. It aint cheap, but oh-so-worth it. He's a technician like no other. Ask your waiter for a kitchen tour and to meet him -- they'll nearly always oblige and he's a charmer, in addition to being a master in the kitchen. Fab wine list, sommelier & tasting menu, though I'm partial to the fun of the reg menu. Have the spinich salad -- tender baby spinich with pine nuts & perfect vinaigrett topped with a dehydrated apple slice filled with a warm goat cheese ravioli and a tiny scoop of granny smith sorbet.Your mouth won't believe what's happening inside! Also in Short North Surly Girl Saloon and Betty's bar are a hoot with a funky twist on diner food. OF course you must have Jeni's Fresh Ice Cream. Wildly creative and wonderful flavors like wildberry lavender, Ashland OH honey & toaste almond, rose petals, etc. Good old chocolate too (Belgian, of course), but all are incredible. Be sure to venture east onto Mt. Vernon Ave. In Mt. Vernon Plaza there's an old guy from Layfayette, LA -- chef Henry Butcher -- he has a little hole-in-the-wall joint called Creole Cafe. GREAT breakfast! Eggs Basin St. is two poached served atop tiny rice cakes (with a just hint of cinnamon) over a bed of red beans and andoule sausage. Tops it with hollandaise spiked with vinegar for the most incredible b-fast. Great lunch & dinner too. Poboys, jambalaya -- you name it. Nothing on the menu over $6. The menu is hand written on the wall in sharpie & crayon. OK, I will stop now, but those are a few hightlights. I could go on for miles. Visit www.experiencecolumbus.com

                    1. re: boyomom

                      Oh, no....I lived in Columbus for 22 years and could never find good "ethnic" food. It is very much a chain restaurant city. The majority of the restaurants are owned by one person (Cameron Mitchell)--and each one has a Disney-like theme to it. Cleveland does not have one area with "everything" in it, like Columbus' Short North or the god-awful Easton, but overall I'd have to give the foodie award to The Cleve. I like Fat Cats in Tremont, Fire at Shaker Square, Maxi's in Little Italy, and some of the downtown restaurants. Sokolowski's is Total Cleveland--homemade pierogies, cabbage rolls, etc. served cafeteria-style. Can't find that kind of stuff in Cowtown.

                  4. Some Columbus highlights:

                    Columus' historic North Market www.northmarket.com, includes Jeni's Ice Creams
                    www.jenisicecreams.com and 35+ other vendors. Open 7 days.

                    Dining: Basi Italia, Rigsby's, G. Michael's, Burgundy Room, Alana's, Rosendale's, Refectory.

                    Casual Dining: North Star Cafe http://www.thenorthstarcafe.com and the new Tasi

                    Ethnic: Cuco's Mexican, ad some taco trucks on the westside. Lac Viet, great Pho for breakfast lunch and dinner.

                    Great Columbus Food blogs for more information

                    RestaurantWidow http://www.restaurantwidow.com
                    CMH Gourmand http://cmhgourmand.wordpress.com/
                    Columbus Foodie http://www.columbusfoodie.com/

                    Happy Deciding!

                    1. I love the social aspects of Columbus and the intellectual opportunities of the universities , but the food is is far too chain-oriented outside of a few small enclaves. Columbus has a great deli, decent BBQ (City BBQ) and Jeni's ice cream, plus the Short North area, and German village, but the majority of the city is overly homogeneous planned developments

                      I have worked in Cleveland and love the diversity that is has to offer, warts and all.

                      1. I never realized there was such bitterness between the two cities! It might be better for the tenor of the discussion if those living in each city could concentrate their posts on what they like (and don't like) about the food opportunities in their own city, rather than posting slams against the city where they don't live.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: nsxtasy

                          I agree with this. Carrot, not (celery) stick. (trying to keep it food-related here, ha ha)

                          1. re: rockandroller1

                            Yeah, as an occasional visitor to both places, my impression is that they are different without one or the other being better. Columbus is a boomtown with vibrant inner-city neighborhoods where you can walk and pick from a big selection of new restaurants, aided by the presence of a huge university. Cleveland has the edge in ethnic cuisines, neighborhood places, and maybe the high end (I have limited experience with that).

                        2. I have never lived in Columbus but have lived in Toledo, Cincy and Cleveland before moving to Virginia so I can offer a decent Ohio perspective! If you can deal with the weather (the summers are awesome the winters long if you are a giant wuss like me), Cleveland is a fabulous city. The cultural and neighborhood vibes are great.
                          From a foodie perspective there is great fine dining. Great!!! I really miss it here. There is really good ethnic food and the specialty markets to buy meats, bread, pastries are a truly amazing resource. I didn't know how good I had it!
                          There are also a lot of farmer's markets and a huge push toward local and organic produce not only in restaurants but for the home as well as an active slow food USA chapter. It's a great foodie place to live - and I found otherwise as well. And I admit, growing up in Cincy I never expected to say that!

                          1. I grew-up in Cleveland and should you move there - you MUST visit Your's Truly. It isn't a reason to move there, but is a small diner that has the best loaded cheese fries I have ever had - their hamburgers are second best only to Swenson's (in Akron about a 30 minutes drive). But at least you know the staples are there!

                            1. I currently live in Columbus and have grown to like it a lot, but I grew up in Cleveland and
                              still have family up there so I get to experience both cities on a regular basis. I won't join the trash talking of either city since I think they are both great (both have their flaws, usually along the lines of mass transport...) I think I would definitely have to give the edge of dining to Cleveland, but thats only because it really is a great food city (Tremont, Little Italy, all the Eastern European fare and some really great Asian places and thats just the begining, places like Tommy's, Hot Sauce Williams, corned beef sandwiches).

                              Yet Columbus can really hold its own as well, there are tons of great Asian places here (they are really spread out though and there aren't many near the downtown) and my biggest knock on Columbus dining is I haven't had truly good pizza (not knocking Hound Dogs) but I'd say that Cleveland pizza is generally much better than places in Cbus.

                              I'd agree a bit that Columbus can have a 'chain vibe', but there is really much more then that but you have to go looking for it. I haven't found many great breakfast places here (people seem to love First Watch, which I think is alright, but I'd love more local places)
                              That said Columbus is growing, its economy is looking up and the downtown is looking upbeat and local owners such as the ones behind Betty's, Surly Girl and Tip Top are help the change the scene along w/ the folks at 185 & the Rossi. Oh and the Northmarket is definitely not to be taken for granted. So my verdict? You really can't go wrong, both have great options.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: ejolsz

                                Pizza in Cols? Try Tommy's on Lane, if you like thin, great flavor and wonderfuly crackery crust. For thicker with gobs of gooey cheese, hit Rotolo's in Grandview or Linworth. Mama MiMi's has really great take 'n bake with anything you want on it. For breakfast, Nancy's Home Cookin (High St., Clintonville, Wildflower Cafe (also Clintonville-Indianola) Creole Kitchen (Mt Vernon Ave) and even La Chatelane (Lane Ave or High in old Worthington)

                              2. i'm from the cleve and i lived in columbus many years out of college prior to moving to ny. i am seriously out of date tho.

                                both have there charms. generally speaking, if you prefer a clean, more youthful, conservative suburban vibe columbus is for you (columbus is like 400+sq mi and still annexing). if you prefer a more overall gritty, urban vibe w/ an interesting "look" and topography then its cleveland (cleveland is a long penned-in 75sq mi).

                                if you are a seattle pike place market fan you'll prefer the northmarket, if you like philly's market or say essex market on ny's lower east side you'll like the westside market.

                                for asian cleveland has a great hardcore old chinatown. columbus has mighty osu and the marysville honda plant and japanese.

                                again, i am generalizing, but the cities are apples and oranges.

                                obviously, even many clevelanders prefer the former because columbus is full of cleveland ex-pats!

                                personally, again generally speaking, i found columbus very caucasian and chain oriented, but i know both of those "issues" have changed a lot since i have moved away. for example, since my time there is a new somali population and mexican folks are taking to the city, which certainly ups the food choices.

                                that said, even tho yes columbus and central ohio are slowly growing, i'd still give the ne ohio area the nod foodwise at the moment as its a much bigger metro to draw from (even if rather stagnant) and the foodie scene is very lively.

                                in the end good news is whatever you pick, its pretty easy to visit the other city.

                                good luck with your decision, really it's pretty much win-win.

                                1. One thing no one else has mentioned about Columbus is the great festivals, which all have great food. We've got the Latina Fest, Greek Fest, Jazz and Rib fest, Asian fest, Italian Fest, Irish Fest (one of the largest in the country), and of course Oktoberfest, to name the biggest ones.

                                  And I will also agree that we have our share of chains, but that's more in the suburbs. Our Downtown and surrounding areas may not be as big as Cleveland or other cities, but there is rarely a chain to be found (other than Cameron Mitchell places) in the Downtown, Short North, and German Village areas. The arena district near downtown is mostly chains, but at least they're ones a little better than Applebee's - Ted's, Bucca, Max and Erma's (one with ambiance - not the stamped-out ones they have now.)

                                  I really think, from a foodie prespective, you can't go wrong in either city. You can find great food in both, from the low-end to the high.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Ditdah

                                    ditdah is right (and nice moniker, does anyone even use Morse anymore?), you really can make it work in either city. Cleveland suburbs definitely have plenty of chains and I'm sure outside of certain aspects, the cities are in fact largely the same in a lot of respects. One thing I thought I'd mention is that I do get the feeling that OSU is more of a very big "college town" than Cleveland. That can be a negative or positive depending on what you're looking for. Many people graduate from college and stay in Columbus and I think the median age there might be a little lower. People come to Cleveland more because the housing is inexpensive and it's a great place to raise a family because of things like that, not so much because of the 20something scene, so it depends on what you're looking for. The OSU fans rival the local Cleveland Browns fans in their enthusiasm, both are big sports towns, but in Cleveland the focus is spread throughout the year to the Cavs and the baseball team as well.

                                    To keep this post food-focused, what I'm trying to say is I think you could find great food options in either city and that's what the posts in this thread echo. So I would figure out what else is important to you in a place to live and try to weigh those options as well. It's likely, again, that you may come up pretty even steven with both cities edging the other in certain categories, so in the end, you'll need to visit both places and make up your mind from your travels. The CHers of course will be more than happy to help you construct food-related itineraries :)

                                  2. We just moved to Cleveland from Columbus. All I have to say is this.....if you LIKE the proverbial Chain Food Restaurant....Columbus is your place... If you like a variety of choices, diversity of cuisines...come to Cleveland with ME! Columbus is a big college campus, (hmmm...OSU?) and if you love football, hockey, soccer...in addition to chain food....that's your place. My husband and I did not like the way Columbus was going...it's building in all directions...the traffic flow SUCKS, forget their idea of public transportation--it's a joke...and the job market is ROUGH. That's why we moved to Cleveland. I had been out of work for over 7 months...must have posted close to a hundred applications...not one interview...came to Cleveland...posted about 6 apps in one week...and I got an interview under my belt Jan 2nd! It amazed me! Hope I helped with your decision...(also, Lake Erie has been cleaned up...Cleveland is cleaning up...)...
                                    See you in Cleveland?

                                    1. Consider the following:
                                      Which city in Ohio has an Iron Chef?
                                      Which city in Ohio has the most Zagat listings?
                                      Which city in Ohio has the largest diversity of ethnic restaurants as well as the largest number of restaurants in each category?
                                      Which city in Ohio has the largest number of Chowhound references?
                                      Which city in Ohio has a famous produce market?

                                      Answer: Not even a close call. Keep in mind that Cleveland was a long history as major urban center and that prior to the decline of the industrial midwest, was a very wealthy city. Consider Severance Hall, the world class art museum the mansions in Cleveland Heights, and the planned community of Shaker Heights. No other city in Ohio compares.

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: atievsky

                                        Which city in Ohio has the Bocuse d’Or gold medalist?

                                        1. re: kura kura

                                          none in america.

                                          chef helmut handke in columbus won 'best of' in one category (meat). he did not win the competition. these were the winners that year:


                                          Gold – Charles Tjessem, Norway

                                          Silver – Franck Putelat, France

                                          Bronze – Klaus Weitbrecht, Germany

                                          however, handke was the first u.s. chef to ever win anything at all in this contest. and the only one far as i know.

                                          1. re: mrnyc

                                            On Handke's website he says this:

                                            "In May 2000, Chef Handke won the final competition at the Bocuse d'Or USA Concours and the honor of representing the United States in Lyon, France, in 2003. In the competition, Chef Handke won the very first Gold Medal ever for the United States!"

                                            On the Bocuse d’Or website it says:

                                            "Meat Prize: Hartmut HANDKE, United States"

                                            So did they give medals in the categories as well as overall? Is it like gymnastics in the Olympics where they award medals in individual events like rings or pommel horse, but the medal everyone really cares about is for the all around?

                                            1. re: kura kura


                                              first, every country forms an organization and picks a single chef to represent them in the competition. bocuse d'or usa is ours. so handke won and was our guy in 2003 to represent the usa in france.

                                              at the bocuse itself, again yes they give out awards in the categories. so that award says you can certainly trust that handke can handle the preparation of meat in fine french style.

                                              however, i would agree that to medal in the all-around would be the most impressive outcome of that competition.

                                            2. re: mrnyc

                                              As a contented Clevelander - I'll see your Bocuse and raise you an Iron Chef! (Said with tongue firmly planted in cheek.)

                                              1. re: NancyH

                                                mmm. cow's tongue. beef cheek.


                                        2. Lived in Columbus for several years and am also very familiar with the Cleveland restaurant scene from multiple trips up there on wine business. Here are my general thoughts.

                                          Overall, I'd give Cleveland the edge, but it's not the clear slam dunk that the Cleveland brigade would like to believe.

                                          The best of Cleveland and the best of Columbus are, in my opinion, roughly equal. That is to say a step down from what you're going to find in a 1st tier city like Chicago, NY or SF.

                                          Cleveland, however, has a little more breadth of intersting, independent restaurants than Columbus. Unfortunately, Cameron Mitchell's temples to mediocrity have sucked a noticeable degree of life out of Columbus' scene.

                                          That being said, the ultimate best restaurant in either city is in Columbus--Kihachi. This is a very authentic Japanese restaurant (owned, managed, chef and 98% of the clientele). During my years in Columbus, I took numerous winemakers from California and importers from New York there, and the wow-factor was universal. This is the only restaurant in Cleveland or Columbus that would be a big deal were it in NY-Chicago-SF.

                                          Cleveland has better first wave ethnic food (East European, Italian etc) Columbus has better second wave ethnic food (SE Asian, African, Middle Eastern).

                                          Both have public markets. To stereotype, Clevelands is skewed more towards old school--think sausage. Columbus is more Pike Place like (though nowhere near that league) in more esoteric, organic suppliers.

                                          Overall, retail shopping is about equivalent. You can find quality ingredients if you're willing to work at it.

                                          As to the future? Only the most biased Cleveland partisan could not but look at nearly every demographic trend and realize that Columbus' scene is only going to improve (even more so were they able to make Cameron Mitchell Restaurants disappear) at a faster clip than Cleveland's.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Sam Harmon

                                            relooking over the thread, i would not say anyone seriously said anything was a clear slam dunk in either direction.

                                            i am on board with most of what you said, but a couple nits.

                                            first, i would rate cleveland and ne ohio's middle eastern food options above those of columbus and cen ohio. cuy co has 35k arabic descent, which is more than a quarter of the state's arabic population (vs franklin county's 10% despite being 100 sq mi larger). anectdotally, it's quite noticable. even foodwise, for one thing the cleve spawned a popular regional lebanese fastfood-type chain (ALADDINS).

                                            also, given i have been in the opposite position a lot, the big wow factor you got from KIHACHI was from surprize. it would fit in, but would not stand out in the big japanese foodie cities of nyc/sf/la (chicago it might, i dk). as i recall distinctly it was kind of quirky, but they had real fresh wasabi sometimes and i am always on the prowl for that.

                                          2. Well, I know the question was about food, but there is one thing that Cleveland has that Columbus does not. The Velvet Tango Room. This has become a destination in itself for anyone who is serious about their cocktails. I don't need to go into detail here as one search on google will bring up hundreds of posts more eloquent than anything I could ever say. This place alone is worth relocating to Cleveland.

                                            1. So bluesuede, give us YOUR feedback. Which city did you choose?

                                              8 Replies
                                              1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                                Ha....I was just updating my profile today. I'm in Columbus now. The job offer was too good to pass up, so I made my committment based on that. I've only been in town for a couple of weeks, most of which has been spent looking for a house, so I haven't really started checking out the food scene yet. Aside from my fun cross state debate, I will say this about Columbus already. It's a huge step up from what I have grown accustomed to in small town PA for the past few years. I do appreciate all of the great feedback on this thread, because I'm taking all kinds of notes on places to try. I even started a google map so I can locate places I've tried and consider things in relation to houses we are looking at buying. I know I have an entirely new city to enjoy exploring, so I'll be checking in with more and more questions, as well as feedback on things that I find.

                                                Right now I'm in a temp apartment in Dublin, close to my office. Nice area. I noticed someone mentioned the Aladdins chain. Love that place, close to work.

                                                My first assignment will be to find a nice resturant in Dublin to take the wife out for her Birthday. She wants to find a place in Dublin that is close by before we start branching out across the city. I hear the Burgundy Room is good. Anyone else have a suggestion for a nice place to celebrate?

                                                1. re: egbluesuede

                                                  Don't know a whole lot about Dublin, we are East Siders. Here is a list to the Columbus Dispatch list of 20 best restos in Columbus: www.dispatch.com/live/content/weekend. La Tavola is sort of bordering Dublin on Riverside Drive. The Refectory is very romantic and the food is very good. To me The Burgundy Room (in the Short North, not been to one in Dublin) would not be a Sat night place, not special enough for a celebration. Rosendale's is supposed to be THE place to go, but can't personally recommend. Another good web site is by Lisa the Waitress, http://www.restaurantwidow.com/. She updates restaurant reviews, is very big in to the local produce scene and local happenings.

                                                  1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                                    That link (to the Columbus Dispatch list of the 20 best restaurants in Columbus) doesn't work. (Maybe it was copied from a post here on Chowhound, where the software sometimes truncates the website address for display purposes but uses the complete website address if you click on it.) Click on this link instead:

                                                  2. re: egbluesuede

                                                    Sadly, the Burgundy Room in Dublin closed its doors a couple of weeks ago. A shame, too - because I really liked the place.

                                                    While it is not technically in Dublin (it's on the Northwest side, down Bethel Rd a decent ways), I would heartily recommend the Bistro Menu over at The Refectory - three wonderful courses for $22 per person - excellent service, and definitely a celebration place. Here's the link to their bistro menu:

                                                    I'm sure you'll enjoy Columbus. As a city, we have a great food scene that hasn't let me down yet. :) Welcome!

                                                    1. re: egbluesuede

                                                      I have found www.dineoriginalscolumbus.com has a lot of great original columbus places -- and they are all over town --

                                                      1. re: egbluesuede

                                                        hi EG, my husband moved to columbus (dublin) a year ago for a job that he could not pass up. I still work and we have a house in pittsburgh (and rent a condo in dublin for him) and we commute between the two cities...

                                                        Places in dublin we like:
                                                        1. Yoshi's - E Frantz road (lots of great sushi in dublin)
                                                        2. Kihachi - Federated
                                                        3. Thai Orchid - Thai food on Sawmill blvd
                                                        4. Anna's - Sawmill (greek, brunch was pretty good)
                                                        5. Tucci's - we went in the summer and had a great app dish and it has a fabulous outside seating area
                                                        6. La Tavola - pretty good italian, although we went there 2 weeks after coming back from Rome/Florence so it dulled in comparison
                                                        7. Amuls - olde sawmill plaza as well, cheap and satisfying indian buffet
                                                        8. City bbq - down sawmill, in powell. hit the spot BBQ.
                                                        9. Bonefish grille - yes, it's a chain...and I really don't like or recommend them...but I really love their seared ahi tuna. it's a really generous portion for a great price (like $18 I think).

                                                        For "Nicer" places, we've been driving to german village/short north for dinner out and have tried a few places (Alana's, Basi Italia, Barcelona, refectory). So far, Alana's is my favorite...but I really enjoy the ambience of Barcelona.

                                                        for places that we drive that we love (under 15 minutes):
                                                        1. starliner dinner - brunch
                                                        2. mi mi cafe - vietnamese, went this weekend and loved
                                                        3. gahanna grill - we really like their burgers
                                                        4. north market downtown - lots of goodies

                                                        Enjoy exploring columbus. While i'm not in columbus super often, i've enjoyed getting to know the city and I find the people super friendly!

                                                        1. re: yammers

                                                          Wow....we're coming from PA also. I can't believe how hard that commute must be. Thanks for the great tips!

                                                        2. re: egbluesuede

                                                          dont know if you have found your footing in Dublin yet - I visit my elderly parents in Worthington occasionally - they took us to Oscars of Dublin last year and it was really very good and reasonably priced - I thought the walleye I had was delicious. There are lots of interesting looking asian/middle eastern/hispanic places in the strip malls along bethel rd etc - thats the kind of area I would be exploring if I lived in Cols.-instead of NYC. I sort of envy you the possibilities.

                                                      2. I was born in Columbus, raised in Cleveland and spent most of my adult life moving around the country living in various cities large and small. I LOVE Cleveland and am very pleased to be calling it "home" again.

                                                        I travel a lot and check out the food scene where ever I go both in terms of dining and markets. I have always maintained that Cleveland is a great food city both for its quality ethnic options and for its independent scene.

                                                        In addition to the indie and ethnic dining options, we in Cleveland are very lucky to have GREAT produce markets that focus on organic and locally grown produce and locally raised meats. Most notable are the two North Union Farmer's Markets: one at Crocker Park on the west side of town and the second at Shaker Square on Cleveland's east side. The Shaker square market is open almost year round. You can get beautiful locally grown lettuces in the middle of winter! In addition to the two NUFMs there are many other smaller markets throught greater Cleveland in the summer months. We are VERY fortunate in Cleveland when it comes to options for locally grown/raised meats and produce.

                                                        It seems to me that there is more of a food community in Cleveland vs. Columbus. I participate in many dining and cooking groups in Cleveland and have never felt that there is such a rich food community in other cities where I've lived except for San Francisco.

                                                        Living on the lake is another selling point to Cleveland. In addition to offering us local fish, Lake Erie gives our city a greatly different feel from the land locked Columbus.

                                                        I don't dislike Columbus but Cleveland and Columbus it definatley have very different vibes. Cleveland is also an older city with more to offer culturaly (IMO).

                                                        Oh, and Cleveland has The Velvet Tango Room. Hand crafted cocktails in a cocktail lounge, not bar, setting, oh my.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: luckygirl

                                                          Just to clarify, North Union Farmer's Market also has locations (albeit not year round) in Lakewod, Chagrin, Bath, Cleveland Clinic, Parma. There is also the non-NUFM year round 75 year old Coit Road market. And many CSA's available as well.

                                                          VTR- one of these days!!