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Apr 23, 2011 07:31 PM

Specialities of Cleveland?

We (4 couples) are planning a road trip to Cleveland from Upstate NY this summer (R&R Hall of Fame, maybe a ball game, etc.. Will be staying in the general downtown area, will have cars available). While any suggestions on good chow are welcome, we are especially interested in those things that are unique (or nearly so) to Cleveland. Like Cincy has its chili on spaghetti and Chicago has its hot dog with the neon green relish (and Rochester in Upstate NY has its Garbage Plate ... details available upon request); we'd like to sample those things that scream, "Hey, buddy, you just ate REAL Cleveland food."

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  1. These are some pretty common recommendations for a tourist hitting Cleveland:

    1) Sokolowski's University Inn - There are some who may disagree but I love this old school Polish cafeteria. Good pirogies, stuffed cabbage, salisbury steak etc. Open for lunch m-f and dinner fri, sat.

    2) lunch at the West Side Market. This place is an old market that has some fantastic fresh butcher stalls, specialty stands, and a large(but only so-so) fresh fruit and vegetable areas. There is a great fresh bratwurst sandwich stand that I absolutely love. Plus the market is a great place to get a feel for the real Cleveland.

    3) I'd a hit a Michael Symon place if I were visiting from out of town, just to say you did. The food is damn good at both Lola and Lolita. I prefer Lolita because the price point is lower and the atmosphere is more casual, but you can't go wrong at Lola if you feel like throwing out a few more bucks.

    4) Crop Bistro is my favorite bang for the buck place in town. Creative, fun, quality food in a nice atmosphere. If you can sit at the chef's table and do the tour de crop, it's a blast. Price is about what you'd expect for higher end dining with most entrees in the $20's. You can also do the tour de crop at a regular table to.

    Overall the is food scene in Cleveland is pretty good for a city our size. Tons of ethnic places and a bunch of chefs turning out great food in many great little restaurants. These were just places near downtown that I like. I do feel the West Side Market is a must see as a tourist. I hoped this helped.

    Sokolowski's University Inn
    1201 University Rd, Cleveland, OH 44113

    West Side Market
    1979 W 25th St, Cleveland, OH

    Crop Bistro & Bar
    1400 W. 6th Street, Cleveland, OH 44113

    5 Replies
    1. re: panzerschlep

      But FYI that Crop is closing next week and relocating to Ohio City. The OP didn't say when they were coming, but Crop won't be open until at least August and possibly Sept (sad - did the Tour De Crop last night and will miss it!).

      1. re: NancyH

        Nancy you just bummed me out. The wife was gonna take me there for my birthday next month. Well at least there are about another dozen or so great places to go to.

        1. re: panzerschlep

          Panzer - Steve Schimoler will be operating Cropicana on Whiskey Island starting on Cinco De Mayo (May 5) and through the summer. More info here:

      2. re: panzerschlep

        If you're going to be at the West Side Market might as well walk across the street to Great Lakes Brewery. Not the best food in Cleveland, but go for the beer!

        West Side Market
        1979 W 25th St, Cleveland, OH

        1. re: gbcwilliams

          Not sure how I forgot about Great Lakes. You're right, the food is kinda of blah, but the beers are world class. My all time favorite beer is their Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. Budgewick, do yourself a favor and have a beer or 3 at Great Lakes Brewery.

      3. The OP chiming in: Thanks for the many comments. (And Panzer - I'm more than willing to do myself the favor you suggest. A beer or 3, coming up!)

        Good ethnic food is cited, and Polish is specifically mentioned (which is great for me, as Polish immigrant-heavy coal-country Pennsylvania is my original home). Are there any other cuisine notable ethnic concentrations in Cleveland?

        We'll probably be there in July (which sounds bad for Crop), but might that get us a chance to sample festival street foods or church bazaar dinners. Any such things of note that can be recommended?

        Thanks again, Cleveland Hounds!

        1 Reply
        1. re: budgetrick

          RE ethnic food: Little Italy is on the eastern edge of the city, quite close to the art museum and botanical gardens. It's a fun place to walk around-- there are art galleries and a few antique shops-- and you can get gelato and pastries at Presti's or Corbo's (I vote Presti's but you really can't go wrong). Maybe there will be an art walk when you're there:

          There are, of course, a ton of Italian restaurants in this neighborhood. Michaelangelo's is high end and I've heard it's very good. I like Trattoria for loud Italian family atmosphere and pretty good food. Mama Santa's and Valentino's are casual and have very good pizza (Val's is my favorite but this is one of those things that people get into arguments about). Avoid La Dolce Vita as the food is mediocre at best. Washington Place Bistro is NOT Italian, but they source much of their food locally and I've had several excellent meals there.

          Cleveland also has Asiatown ( which is not in the best neighborhood and is not a tourist attraction like Chinatowns can be in bigger cities. However I think it's worth mentioning on CHOW because you can get authentic Korean, Vietnamese, and Chinese food here (Korea House, #1 Pho, and Li Wah are favorites of my Asian friends & coworkers). As out-of-town visitors, I'd only recommend you go here if you are really enthusiastic about Asian food, since there is really no other reason to visit that part of town.

          RE festival street food: this isn't exactly what you're talking about, but you should keep an eye on the C-Town Chow Down Facebook page ( The local food trucks recently started this event-- they all set up shop in a park and you go and try food from all of the trucks. I think they've only done this twice so far, and I haven't been able to make it either time, but based on the positive feedback it sounds like they'll keep doing it. This would be a perfect way for an out-of-town visitor to try all of our food trucks at once!

          I have written way too much but I can't let you go before I mention Maha's Falafel in West Side Market. It's back in the corner behind the place with the apple fritters. Best falafel I've ever had.

          Li Wah Restaurant
          2999 Payne Ave Ste 102, Cleveland, OH 44114

          2198 Murray Hill Road, Cleveland, OH 44106

        2. Definitely recommend a trip to Slyman's. Very unique atmosphere, out of this world corned beef.

          Slyman's Restaurant
          3106 Saint Clair Ave NE, Cleveland, OH 44114

          1. I occasionally come to Cleveland on buying trips and definitely go to Sokolowski's University Inn. The owner is a Neil Young fan and his daughter is very sweet and the food is tasty and very satisfying. I'll be back east of Cleveland in a month and am trying to schedule a visit there myself. It is very close to the HOF.

            RR Hall of Fame is possibly the most personal of all museums for baby boomers. My 1st visit I met the woman who was most popular disc jockey in San Francisco during the Summer of Love. Word of warning, eat before you go to the museum. There is nothing worth eating inside. Also check their schedule, they sometimes have live shows in the lobby.

            Sokolowski's University Inn
            1201 University Rd, Cleveland, OH 44113

            1. Not a local, but just finishing up a long weekend trip to Cleveland (our first). I was eating with my husband, who hates fancy plating and loves good beer, and my 2-year old. Hands down the best food we had while here was Lucky's Cafe. They source local and have a kitchen garden right next to the tables. The food was all excellent, we had biscuits and gravy, mac and cheese, and a skillet dish. The homemade bread is amazing, the servers were friendly and even though they were packed we were seated quickly.

              My second recommendation is right down the street at the chocolate shop... Lilly? I feel bad for so quickly forgetting the name. It is pink and chocolatey and they had an amazing beer selection. the chocolates are expensive and I wish I had about 30 more right now. They were amazingly delicious. I don't know if they are Cleveland but they are made local and the owner came out and gave my daughter a cup of chocolate chips to eat.

              We also did Sokolowski's. We got there when it opened and there was a massive line. We didn't know what to do, what to order, or exactly what happened. When you go in read the chalk board and pick out a meal. Also pick out a back-up meal. The people taking the orders did not speak English, were not patient, and would not explain anything. I wanted cod. I ordered cod. She looked at me like I was crazy, kind of yelled at me, and under pressure to do something I ordered pierogies. I'd recommend the walleye. We didn't get that, but people by us did and we were jealous. The food was so-so. The pierogies had too much raw onion sauce for me, but were good. The mac and cheese was awful, the sauerkraut soggy, the rolls hard and stale, and the salad bar was so-so. My husband got fried fish of some sort - he also got yelled at and ended up just pointing and we ate what he got! But the atmosphere is neat and I think with a better idea of what to do we might have enjoyed it more.

              We ate at Lola just to say we did. It was good. I loved the 6 am special dessert. We had the cod, scallops, and salmon dishes. All were excellent. Not mind blowing, but good. Nice atmosphere and they were amazing with my 2 year old, which on a busy Saturday night service was impressive.

              We ate at Momocho per lots of recommendations from this site and it was my least favorite of the entire trip. None of the food was something I couldn't make at home. The service was s.l.o.w. and nothing was so good I'd ever want it again or try to recreate it at home.

              The best food experience of the trip was our Saturday morning trip to the West Side Market. Brats & Sauerkraut, Chorizo Empanada, Cream Horns, Apple Fritters, Chile Popcorn, pretzel rolls....... I could go on and on. It made me super sad we don't have a market every Saturday morning at home.

              West Side Market
              1979 W 25th St, Cleveland, OH

              1835 Fulton Rd, Cleveland, OH 44113