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Quintessential Cleveland restaurant for Saturday lunch or dinner

Due to a change in travel plans, I will have a whole day in Cleveland proper. I may go antiquing or to the Rock HOF. I plan to have one meal at Sokolowski's, lunch if they are open.

Where else should I go for a typical, quintessential Cleveland meal?

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  1. Sokolowski's will leave you with terrible heartburn and a lot of grease, not my choice but many people like it. They are only open for weekday lunch and friday dinner. If you're here on a weekday breakfast or lunch, I would suggest Slyman's as quintessential cleveland. Suits rubbing shoulders with maintenance men, fantastic corned beef.

    Any michael symon restaurant is also the essence of cleveland. Lola, Lolita, B-spot for burgers.

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

    1 Reply
    1. re: rockandroller1

      Dude, my body is largely immune to heartburn and grease and my metabolism immune to gaining too much weight. Point me to a food experience that I can't have in San Francisco or New York.

    2. I'm not sure what I'd nominate as truly representative of Cleveland. Besides, when I think of the best local restaurants, I don't think that they're cooking Cleveland food. They're Clevelanders and they're usually cooking locally sourced products, but they're cooking contemporary American cuisine.

      That said, there are some things that I associate with Cleveland. Polish boys are sandwiches with hot dogs topped with french fries, cole slaw, bbq sauce and sometimes pulled pork shoulder. Hot Sauce Williams does a great Polish Boy. That's really the only Cleveland-style restaurant experience that I can think of. I wish I knew more about Cleveland's Slovenian restaurants and markets. That's pretty unique to Cleveland. I'm not sure whether any of them are really good or if people just go there for nostalgia and atmosphere, like Sokolowski's. Hopefully someone can help fill in this gap in my knowledge. The only Eastern European restaurant that I can recommend is Hungarian. Maybe it's because I grew up in Cleveland, but I don't know whether Hungarian food is something that outsiders would consider unusual. In any case, Balaton is a really good restaurant.

      I like the pierogis at Pierogi Palace in the wonderful West Side Market. I can't think of a place to get good walleye. Russian Tea Biscuits (not Mexican wedding cookies) are tasty and people from the rest of the country seem oblivious. But these are more markets/takeaway than sitting and eating.

      New York and Los Angeles may be more closely associated with corned beef, but Clevelanders certainly eat than their fare share, too. I'd recommend Vienna over Slyman's. It's not a Cleveland institution. In fact, it's a Chicago institution, but their corned beef and pastrami are easily the most consistent in Cleveland. Only the corned beef comes hot and they don't sell sandwiches. But I'd recommend getting a quarter loaf of rye, a half pound of corned beef and eating off the hood of your car.

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

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

      Hot Sauce Williams
      12310 Superior Ave, Cleveland, OH 44106

      Pierogi Palace
      1979 W 25th St Ste E5, Cleveland, OH 44113

      4 Replies
      1. re: stuart

        Thanks Stuart. These suggestions are in line with what I am looking for. I plan to have dinner at Sokolowski's. I liked it a lot on my last trip and spent a pleasant hour out on the patio talking to the owner about Neil Young.

        Not really considering "good" restaurants. There are plenty of those in San Francisco. Chez Panisse used to be my neighborhood restaurant. I'm really looking for meals uniquely Cleveland. I will be near Mentor for a couple days beforehand and I plan to go to Kuhar's and Angelo's Pizzeria, both of which I've enjoyed in the past.

        Is there a Skyline Chili in Cleveland? I grew addicted when I was in Cincinnati twice on business. Part of Saturday, I may be at a bookstore in Shaker Heights. All day I will likely be antiquing, so takeaway is definitely OK. Where do I get the Russian Tea Biscuits?

        1. re: chocolatetartguy

          Yes, there is Skyline Chili in the Cleveland area, just not downtown. There's one south of the city by a bit, in a shopping area called Ridge Park Square. It's along Ridge Rd. near I-480 (just north of Brookpark Rd). I think there's still one in Lyndhurst, on Mayfield Rd., too (east side).

          FWIW, I like Antonio's PIzza in Parma. The original at the Parmatown Plaza is the best, IMO. Italian bread-y crust, flavorful and abundant sauce, a mix of cheeses. It's the standard to which I hold all other pizza joints. :)

          1. re: jroach

            I thought there was one in Lyndhurst. I'll be driving but don't want to stray too far from Cleveland itself. On the otherhand, I will be going wherever the antique leads take me. Is Lyndhurst closer to Willoughby or to Cleveland?

            Antonios's sounds promising, but I will be spending my 1st 2 days in Ohio right across the road from Angelo's Pizzeria, so eating there twice. I really like their vinaigrette and they sell a mean frozen custard.

            1. re: chocolatetartguy

              I am a Cincinnati native, Cleveland transplant, so your desire for Skyline warms my heart. :) Skyline in Lyndhurst is quite good. Lyndhurst is closer to Cleveland than to Willoughby, but you have to take local (35mph, with speed traps) roads into Cleveland, but can get on the highway to Willoughby, so the travel times are probably similar.

      2. If you're willing to consider good restaurants whether or not they're quintessentially Cleveland, then I can make more suggestions with more confidence. Cleveland doesn't really have its own cheesesteak/deep dish pizza/whatever...

        The best contemporary American restaurants in Cleveland are Bar Cento, the Flying Fig and fire food and drink.

        Fire's menu changes four times a year and I have limited experience with the newest menu. The change was recent. I do recommend the mortadella appetizer. I'm sure the pork chop is good even if I haven't tried this particular presentation. I spent years going to fire and just ordering fish. They do fish well. They have the best desserts in the area.

        Bar Cento's menu changed recently, too. The food is simple. The quality comes from meticulously sourced ingredients. I wish their duck breast was still on the menu. Best duck I've ever had. Their french fries are great. The truffled potato side is great. Their salads are fantastic. Again, it's the quality of the greens. They have several pizzas. I recommend either the one with egg and pancetta or the one with potato and pancetta. if they have hanger steak or flank steak on the menu, you should get that. They get great beef. I was there last night and had an excellent soft shell crab. The asparagus side was delicious, too.

        Fire Food & Drink
        13220 Shaker Square, Cleveland, OH 44120

        Flying Fig
        2523 Market Ave., Cleveland, OH 44113

        Bar Cento
        1948 West 25th Street, Cleveland, OH 44113

        1. If you are in town on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday, consider going to the West Side Market (at W25th and Lorain). I echo stuart in not wanting to point you toward one singular Cleveland meal, but the Market is certainly a quintessential Cleveland food-related experience. You can get ready-to-eat "portable" food like falafel, bratwurst, and gyro there (the falafel in particular is outstanding), check out the pig heads & feet in the butcher cases, and soak in the market ambiance (especially on a Saturday).

          I like everyone else's suggestions for you too.

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

          9 Replies
          1. re: haveapeach

            West Side Market it is for lunch. Stuart recommended Pierogi Palace there. There are a lot of vendors listed on their site? Can you recommend specific ones.

            Is haveapeach different from eatapeach?

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

            Pierogi Palace
            1979 W 25th St Ste E5, Cleveland, OH 44113

            1. re: chocolatetartguy

              Pierogi Palace is great but I'm not sure if they sell hot pierogis on-site-- I have only purchased them in bags, and if I remember correctly they might come frozen. (Maybe Stuart could help with this one?)

              My favorite lunch is falafel from Maha's Falafil, which is tucked away in one corner by a fish stand (if you look on the <a href="http://www.westsidemarket.org/wsimage...> from the vendor list on the website, it is labeled "grocery" in the upper right hand corner). Frank's Bratwurst is also good for getting food to eat on the spot. Steve's Gyros are great, although I can never finish a whole one. Sometimes I just get a small loaf of pepperoni bread (from Michelle's Bakery, I think?) and tear into that... yum.

              There's also the West Side Market Cafe-- I have never eaten there myself, but my perception is that it is better for breakfast. Crepes De Luxe usually has quite a long line and so I haven't tried them either, but come on... crepes... has to be good, right?

              If you want to do any shopping while you're there, City Roast Coffee and Tea sells a variety beans and loose-leaf tea. The tea prices in particular are very reasonable. The Mediterranean grocery store is cramped but fun to browse for imported dry and canned goods. Also, I recommend sampling some of the Costa Rican coffee from Volio, located at the far end of the produce arcade-- good stuff.

              Are you going to be there on a Saturday? If you are driving, parking can be a bear, especially around lunchtime.

              Pierogi Palace
              1979 W 25th St Ste E5, Cleveland, OH 44113

              1. re: haveapeach

                I strongly 2nd the rec for Maha's falafil (that's how they spell it), it's the best falafel sandwich I have ever, ever had. And coffee from CityRoast. The bratwurst sandwich stand is also very popular, and there's a fresh juice stand where you can get a fresh squeezed OJ or combination type juice that's divine. There's a creperie next door to city roast but I find them very hard to eat.

                The cafe in the market does a good breakfast, I agree, but it's often very crowded and service is usually lacking IMO.

                I don't think the pierogi place has hot/ready to eat either, for what it's worth.

                1. re: haveapeach

                  Thanks you two. I plan to be in Cleveland on Saturday no later than mid-morning. Will I skate through if I get to WSM by 11?

                  I'm thining a gyro and a falafel. I'm curious to see how the latter compares to my weekly falafel lunch in Berkeley.

                  No time for food shopping, but plan to carry a pepperoni loaf on with me to Indianapolis the next day.

                  How big is this market? Is it like a city block like the Reading Terminal Market in Philly?

                  1. re: chocolatetartguy

                    Maha's is definitely one of the better falafels in Cleveland. I'd say it's the best, but there are a few Lebanese places where I've had some delicious food lately. And a Turkish place, too. I wouldn't be surprised if their falafel were as good as or better than Maha's. And there've been some Israeli style falafel places that were better and which are now sadly closed. I guess that's not much help for your trip but my point is that Maha's isn't the sort of thing that I'd use as a benchmark for all past and future falafel sandwiches. Maha's is also pretty limited in terms of customization. It's a nice lunch option if you're at the market and you're hungry.

                    The gyro place is a mystery to me. I saw that it was featured on Food TV and I was really excited to try it. When I actually saw the stand, I changed my mind. The produce looked wilted. The Turkish place I mentioned above has really good doner. They make it themselves instead of using the commodity meat boulder that 99.9% of all gyro places use. Their pita isn't remarkable but the sandwich as a whole is terrific. The pita is definitely better than the Kronos wraps that gyro places use, too. It's not at the market, though.

                    As far as I know, the pierogi place does not have any ready to eat food, but the Mexican food vendor will warm stuff up for you. He does it in a microwave, so I've always opted to warm it up myself at home. When I do that, it's delicious. I've mostly eaten his enchiladas.

                    I don't shop there enough to have a good sense of the market's rhythms but I think it's safe to say that it will be very busy at 11am on Saturday.

                    1. re: chocolatetartguy

                      >> How big is this market? Is it like a city block like the Reading Terminal Market in Philly?

                      Yes, it's big - a full city block. Check out the photos at www.westsidemarket.org/about.html

                      1. re: chocolatetartguy

                        11am isn't as bad as the 12-1pm timeframe. Just have some patience if you're parking. Let us know what you think of it! It's one of my favorite places in the city.

                        1. re: haveapeach

                          >> Just have some patience if you're parking.

                          Just to clarify - the WSM does have a substantial amount of parking in the two large parking lots across the street (to view them, click on "Contact" on their website and then click on "Sat" on the Google map). It's just that there will be a lot of traffic, cars going in and out to contend with, especially if you don't want to park in the far end of the bigger lot.

                          1. re: haveapeach

                            I really appreciated you all's suggestions. Unfortunately, I got off to a late start that day and spent most of my time at Loganberry Books in Larchmere buying German movie photos.

                            By the time I left Larchmere, WSM was closed and there was some sort of street fair/blues festival going on which made parking even more difficult than usual. All I had to eat in Cleveland proper was a cheap Italian combo sandwich from a little deli on Larchmere. None of the other restaurants there interested me, although Felice was recommended to me by Loganberry.

                            By the time I got to Rock HOF, I had a choice between it and Sokolowski's. I opted for the former.

                            Most of my time in the environs was spent in Willoughby, Mentor, Kirtland and I did enjoy what I ate there: a slaw dog, excellent skinny french fries and great not-to-tart, not-to-sweet wild berry pie at Patterson Fruit Farm; good beef goulash at Kuhars; flavorful but smallish antipasto salad from Zeppe's (a chain pizza place); 4 way from Skyline; freshly made corndogs from the Kirtland Berry Festival; an excellent chef's salad from Angelo's with their flavorful Italian dressing full of red pepper flakes; some very good bagged potato chips made by Shearers?.

                            I should be back in a year or two and will try WSM then.

                            9107 State Route 14, Streetsboro, OH 44241

                  2. Understood. I would then recommend the Little Polish Diner in Parma and Steve's Hot Dogs in the detroit-shoreway neighborhood. I really like the XYZ Tavern in Detroit-Shoreway as well. They have one of the best whiskey selections (and a growing rye section) in town and very good food. At the other end of the spectrum, I think Zack Bruell's Chinato has out of this world food and unique twist on Italian, at least for Cleveland.

                    Also, the burgers at the Little Bar and Grill are fab. Not much there but burgers and a small bar, but there is pool and darts upstairs.

                    Little Polish Diner
                    5772 Ridge Rd, Cleveland, OH 44129

                    E 4th St, Cleveland, OH

                    1. IMHO - no one is doing food more creatively in Cleveland than Jon Sawyer at The Greenhouse Tavern or Steve Schimoler at the soon-to-be-re-opened Crop (some of Steve's fare is now available on Whiskey Island at Cropicana). Jon's dish at the last Dinner in the Dark was a rustic housemade pasta with pork tongue ragu- simple food, perfectly executed, local ingredients in a unique space. When was the last time you sampled pork tongue? The Pig Face entree is not to be missed, if you fancy such things.

                      Symon's places have been mentioned, and you are either a fan or you're not - but two of his B Spot Burger creations have taken "People's Choice" in the South Beach Burger Bash. Again, the use of a proprietary meat blend from Pat LaFrieda and the house-made accompaniments are the key.

                      Both Lolita (Symon's) and Restaurant Dante make their own charcuterie; that is not something you will find just anyplace. Dante's food is delightful - can't say it's "Cleveland" so much as "Dante" - but it's all made from scratch and it's all good.

                      For Eastern European fare, I've always been partial to Sterle's Slovenian Country House, but I haven't been there in a long time.

                      Sterle's Slovenian Country House
                      1401 E 55th St, Cleveland, OH 44103

                      900 Literary Rd, Cleveland, OH 44113

                      The Greenhouse Tavern
                      2038 E 4th Street, Cleveland, OH 44115

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

                      B Spot
                      28699 Chagrin Blvd, Woodmere, OH 44122

                      Restaurant Dante
                      2247 Professor Ave, Cleveland, OH 44113

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: NancyH

                        went to Sterle's for lunch with a friend a couple of months ago. It was really not good at all. Neither of our dishes. We both left them largely untouched.

                        1. re: NancyH

                          Can you tell me what Slovenian cuisine is like? I'm intrigued.