Tag Archives: Cleveland

Yours Truly (Cleveland, OH)

For our actual “Death March” in Cleveland, we started out at Shaker Square on the far East end of town on the border with Shaker Heights. Both the area and Shaker Square itself are pretty interesting: it was one of the United States’ first “Shopping Centers”, designed to mimic Europe’s town squares while integrating some relatively high density housing, transit (trains at the time, now buses), and provide a gateway to the suburbs, and a bit of an open space that serves nicely for the weekend farmers market. Built in a Colonial style, it’s definitely a little dated, but does provide a nice insight into what early 20th century urban planning looked like, and there’s now a theater and a bunch of smaller shops and restaurants around the square. One of these is a joint with a reputation for a good breakfast, Yours Truly, which also served as a nice gathering spot for our hiking crowd.

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Sokolowski’s University Inn (Cleveland, OH)

My regular readers know that once a year, I gather with several of my friends and we do a “Death March” in which we spend an extended weekend at a different metropolitan area exploring the food, drink, and cultural scene, culminating in a ~20 mile walk through the city to explore all the neighborhoods. We’ve done a lot of cities, New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Montreal, London… this year was Cleveland. Okay, I can hear a lot of you already asking, “Wait, what? Cleveland?!” But you heard me right. Yeah, Cleveland had some rough years of post-industrialism, burning rivers, and general rust belt blight, but as I learned with many business trips to the area in the ’90s through recent years, Cleveland is actually one of the country’s most underrated cities, having cleaned themselves up quite nicely, and the city has a plethora of great attractions, ranging from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to some great parks, some great breweries, and excellent restaurants both old and new. While much of the culinary coverage of Cleveland focuses on the newer places, we started our visit in the city with a trip to one of the old stalwarts of Cleveland ethnic dining: Sokolowski’s.

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Happy Dog (Cleveland, OH)

After we did the Cleveland Museum of Art, it was time for a late lunch. We wanted something interesting, but not something that was going to be heavy enough that we wouldn’t be hungry come dinner. After a little bit of discussion, we decided that it was time to check out Happy Dog on the West Side, known known for their wide variety of hot dog toppings. Okay, I can already feel the skeptical vibe coming from some of my readers. The world has a lot of hot dog places, what makes a place like Happy Dog worth some of your precious stomach sapce? And I’ll be the first to admit, hot dogs as a menu item are often a high-risk item: while there are a lot of really great hot dog places out there (Indeed, I’ve reviewed about 20 on this site), there are a lot of dubious ones as well, and for every lovingly-assembled Gold Coast Chicago Dog, or pepper-relished-covered Blackie’s hot dog I’ve had, I’ve also been served up more than my share of Oscar Mayer 10 per lb hot dogs slapped onto a stale bun with ketchup and mustard to know that hot dogs generally aren’t the sort of thing I get without doing some research first. But I’ll tell you that from my visit, Happy Dog isn’t one of those places, instead, they are a great dive-ish joint that’s serving up some really great hot dogs with some good toppings.

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Becker’s Donuts (Fairview Park, OH)

On our last full day in Cleveland, we wanted to get some breakfast before doing our daily exploring, and, quite frankly, we wanted donuts. The problem is, it’s rather hard to find good donuts these days… sure, there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts on damn near ever corner, but those aren’t really good donuts (especially since the vast majority of DD locations don’t bake on-site anymore, just truck in their donuts from a regional bakery). I actually remember a time when there were a lot of independent donut shops selling donuts and coffee, but these days you usually have to do a little bit of research to find the few remaining ones. One of those is Becker’s Donuts.

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The Black Pig (Cleveland, OH)

One of the reasons that we decided to stop over in Cleveland on the way home is that it’s a surprisingly good food destination in itself. In addition to one of the better public markets in the US (their famous West Side Market) and a surprisingly vibrant Asian community, Cleveland has a rather impressive assortment of top-notch dining establishments (including such places as AMP 150, Greenhouse Tavern, and Lola). But one chef I’ve been particularly interested in following is Mike Nowak. I first met Mike via a mutual friend when he was a chef at Bar Cento, and more recently enjoyed some of his work at Market Garden, and continue to enjoy both of those establishments (indeed, I visited both on this trip). So when I heard earlier this year that he was opening up his own restaurant, Black Pig, down the block (in the spot previously occupied by Dragonfly, which I had been to in the past), I was intrigued and made it a point to visit next time I was in town.

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Bogtrotter’s Doorstep (Cleveland, OH)

After our trip to Michigan, on the way back home we again stopped in Cleveland, primarily so that I could introduce Carol to some of my Cleveland favorites (Greenhouse Tavern and Bar Cento/Bier Markt, primarily), as well as check out a new place (Black Pig). All-in-all, however, we spent a rather substantial part of our time exploring Ohio City, the Cleveland neighborhood west of the Hope Memorial Bridge, and home of Great Lakes Brewery. But while walking alking through Ohio City, we came across this interesting little place attached to the back of the Old Angle Bar: Bogtrotter’s Doorstep, which specializes in Au Jus Sandwiches, and it looked like the exact sort of place we should stop in for lunch.

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Emperor’s Palace (Cleveland, OH)

Our US-based route from New Hampshire to Detroit also had us passing through Cleveland at lunchtime. While we were coming back to Cleveland for three days later in the trip, I figured this would be a good opportunity to check out someplace towards the East side of town, perhaps towards China Town. In fact, we had both been craving dim sum for a while, and Cleveland has more than a few dim sum joints, so I figured I’d give one a try. However, from past experience, I know that they vary greatly in quantity, price, and authenticity, so I decided to check out my friend Nancy’s blog, Fun Playing With Food, and see if she had any recommendations. And upon reading her recent review of Emperor’s Palace, it sounded like it was worth checking out.

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Greenhouse Tavern Revisited (Cleveland, OH)

Every once in a while, I find myself needing to revisit a restaurant I’ve already reviewed. Sometimes it’s because I’ve found, after my visit, that I missed a particularly notable dish. Sometimes, I feel that a visit I has wasn’t representative for some reason. And, quite frankly, a successful restaurant is an evolving entity, and restaurants can, and should, change over time. You can read my original review of Greenhouse Tavern here. While I came away from that visit thoroughly wowed by Greenhouse, I had only basically sampled a few items off of the late night bar menu. Since then, I’ve had almost half a dozen visits, and had a chance to really work through the overall menu, so it was time for a re-review. Also, that first visit, as you can read from the review, involved more than a little direct interaction with the kitchen (they kept bringing out cool things for me to photograph and sample), and I figured another review in which I was just a random customer was in order as well (I wasn’t completely successful in this, one of the staff recognized me this time). And finally, it’s been 2 years since that review, and that’s a long time in the restaurant world. The Greenhouse is still mostly the same, but it’s had a lot of little changes. In 2009 it was only about six months old. Now it’s a seasoned veteran restaurant with a passel of awards, some new paint, and a lot of tinkering with the menu (as an aside, do they still have the bar menu? I’ve always had coworkers in tow the last few visits, so I haven’t actually sat at the bar…) Well, last month’s trip to Cleveland left a free evening, and I decided to revisit Greenhouse Tavern for several of these reasons. I also had two coworkers in tow (one who I had previously brought in 2010, and one that hadn’t been before), and we all agreed that it was worth trying for dinner. And like my previous handful of visits, it took us all only a few seconds to decide that the $44 tasting menu was where the action was at…

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Market Garden (Cleveland, OH)

Most every trip to Cleveland I try to make it to the West Side to see what’s going on. Well, this time, there was actually some major news: a new brewpub has opened. Market Garden is now open, across the street from one of my other West Side favorites, Bar Cento/Bier Markt. So I decided to walk across the street and give it a try. Market Garden is the latest venture from Sam McNulty, who opened the above-mentioned Bar Cento an Bier Markt across the street. Earlier this year, he teamed up with former Dogfish Head brewer Andy Tveekrem (I’ve since learned that in Cleveland beer circles he’s got quite the following) to open up a new beer garden-styled establishment, focusing on beer and distilled spirits, but also offering a decent menu of, well, upscale pub grub. Bringing on experienced chef Mike Nowak from across the street, they’ve got a decent menu of appetizers, sandwiches, burgers, and lighter dinners…

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AMP 150 (Cleveland, OH)

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m often having to travel to Cleveland to meet with clients at NASA Glenn Research Center. As a result, I’ve ended up having a number of Cleveland restaurants that I get to semi-regularly visit and enjoy. I always get a hearty welcome from the folks at Greenhouse Tavern and Bar Cento, both of which I’ve written up in the past (and I visited both this trip as well, I’ll do an update post on Greenhouse Tavern later). But one place I’ve frequented several times, but haven’t yet written up is AMP 150. The AMP in AMP 150 stands for “America’s Modern Palate”, and that’s basically what AMP 150 is about, modern American food. Nestled into the Cleveland Airport Marriott, it’s the sort of place that you’d probably drive by several times wondering “Is that place good?” but never going inside, especially since the Cleveland Airport Marriott isn’t exactly the area’s most photogenic hotel. But inside, they’ve done a great job renovating the restaurant space, making for a ~200 seat restaurant with a nice lively decor. I should mention that I’m always a bit skeptical of restaurants in hotels, since the manager of the restaurant has to play to several crowds: the hotel bar crowd, the people coming for a good dinner, and the people staying at the hotel for which the restaurant is primarily a convenient option (or, if they don’t have a car, probably their only option). So this makes the restauranteur have to cater from everything from bar snacks, to modest dinners, to fancy entrees and tasting menus. And a lot of places can do some of these well, but not all of them. Luckily, AMP 150 seems to pull off the whole menu well…

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