2nd & High (Cleveland, OH)

(Update: Unfortunately, 2nd & High closed in late 2018)

While my Death March trip to Cleveland mostly involved revisiting (and taking friends to) old favorite hangouts, we did get to explore a bit. And we discovered a few little hidden gems. Like just two blocks away from Cleveland’s Public Square, tucked in just behind a parking garage around the corner from Quicken Loans Arena, there’s a small bar with some not-too-obvious signage: 2nd & High (which is also it’s location). But behind the subtle signage on a quiet back alley that many have probably walked right by, lies a bit of a secret: a surprisingly good Poke Bar.

Yup, you heard that right, a poke bar. Chunks of raw, marinated fish, tossed over rice and topped with seaweed, vegetables, and various spicy sauces, it’s basically sushi deconstructed, and it’s one of my favorites, even though the continental US isn’t exactly known for a plethora of poke bars (my last poke review was in Seattle, two Death Marches previously). But 2nd & High has a pretty good operation going: their menu has over a half dozen poke bowl combinations available, like their signature 2nd (tuna, shoyu, ginger, kimchi, edamame, scallion, avocado & tobiko)… but to me, the real attraction is that it’s trivial to grab an order sheet and a stubby pencil and just go to town on their custom bowls. Pick a protein, or even a few (tuna, salmon, chicken, shrimp, tofu, or a few other specials), a base (rice, brown rice, squash noodles), up to five veggies, and a choice of several sauces and “crispies” (wonton strips, sesame seeds, furikake, etc). The result is that it’s pretty easy to get a combination exactly to your tastes, and it’s only around $11-$12 if you don’t go crazy with extras. I ended up with a custom bowl of white rice, tuna, salmon, edamame, ginger, mango, cucumber, black sesame, seaweed salad, and edamame, and couldn’t be more pleased: the tuna and salmon were both fresh and flavorful, with a light touch of vinegar. The topping were all fresh and flavorful, and the combination of mango and ginger gave it both a bit of kick and some sweetness. I’d love to play around with some other combinations.

Carol opted for a similar bowl, with brown rice, edamame, kimchi, roe, tuna, avocado, and scallions, and this was a similar success, with some decently ripe avocado and kimchi adding some nice flavors and textures.

Another pleasant surprise: Spam musubi. Yup, the Hawaiian gas station favorite, done up in a slightly fancy style with some aioli and scallion, they’ve also got a kimchi musubi I’ll try sometime as well.

Add in a pleasant bar staff who were friendly and attentive, and a reasonable cocktail menu, and we rather enjoyed 2nd & High, it will definitely be another nice option if I’m staying in downtown Cleveland.

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