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Perched on the edge of the Great Lakes, Cleveland is an ethnically diverse city that boasted of thriving Hungarian, Slovene and Polish populations who settled in the city alongside Irish, Italian, German, Slovak, Ukrainian, African American and Asian immigrants. This diversity is reflected in the wealth of dining options on offer in the city.
The brainchild of chef Jonathon Sawyer, Noodlecat is defiantly non-authentic in the American style, serving up steaming bowls of fusion ramen, steamed buns with a choice of meats ranging from Japanese Fried Chicken to Tempura Lake Erie fish. Noodles at Noodlecat are served in three styles: Traditional, Modern and Mash-Up; the ramen options are likewise decidedly non-traditional, ‘Roscoe’s’ Fried Chicken & Ramen comes with fried chicken, butter, hot sauce, maple syrup, greens & fried chicken broth. For a basic broth full of flavor, the Pork Miso Ramen and Crispy Beef Short Rib Ramen come highly recommended. The menu also includes hearty items for vegetarians and vegan ramen lovers.
Melt Bar & Grilled featured on Man vs. Food for its massive Melt Challenge: finish a monster grilled cheese sandwich featuring 13 different cheeses, three slices of grilled bread and a pile of hand-cut fries & slaw, all of which come to over 2.2 kg of greasy spoon food. Outrageous food challenges asides, there’s little better than having an all-American grilled cheese sandwich as a late-night snack. Melt Bar & Grilled takes the humble grilled cheese to another level with its ‘comfort food dressed up’ concept. Melt Bar’s gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches are paired with a selection of beer, the restaurant houses some 150 beers at any given time. Arguably its most unusual menu item is the sweet-and-savoury Peanut Butter & Banana, which combines two comfort foods into one, whilst Wake & Bacon is Melt Bar’s homage to simple all-day breakfast with farm fresh eggs, crisp streaky bacon and American cheese. Melt’s menu changes seasonally, so be sure to check out their monthly specials.
Address: #1 Lakewood: 14718 Detroit Avenue, Lakewood, OH 44107; #2 Independence: 6700 Rockside Road, Independence, OH 44131; #3 Cleveland Heights: 13463 Cedar Road, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118; #4 Mentor: 7289 Mentor Ave, Mentor, OH 44060
Momocho Mod Mex is Cleveland’s hottest spot for ‘mod mex’, a contemporary take on Mexican cuisine that infuses it with a modern flair. The dishes at Momocho are decidedly non-Tex Mex; chef Eric Williams tweaks traditional Mexican ingredients and flavour profiles through experimental ingredient combinations. Take guacamole, for instance. A staple menu item on Tex Mex and Mexican restaurants, at Momocho, comes in no less than six varieties, from traditional to guac served with smoked trout, bacon and chile poblano. Another interesting tweak is on chilaquiles, a traditional Mexican tortilla dish with simmered salsa or mole sauce, which is served with smoked trout and crab.
Naming your restaurant ‘Superior Pho’ may seem like a rather bombastic claim (it’s actually named in the Vietnamese tradition after the street on which it’s located, Superior Ave), but Superior Pho lives up to it with its delightful broth which is clear, not cloudy, yet brimming with flavour. Saigon-native Manh Nguyen opened up his pho restaurant in a former warehouse in 2002; since then, Superior Pho has attracted pho-lovers from around Cleveland and even further afield. According to Nguyen himself, his favourite pho is No. 1, Pho Chin, a noodle soup with well-done brisket. Superior Pho’s drinks menu includes bubble tea, freshly made soya milk and Cà phê sữa đá, Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk. More recently, Superior Pho has added banh mi sandwiches to the menu, which are excellent to take on the go.
A chocolate tofutti milkshake may sound revolting, but Tommy’s is a master of milkshakes of all varieties. Made with local ice cream from Pierre’s (or tofu or yoghurt), Tommy’s milkshakes are thick and hefty; flavours include the traditional (vanilla, chocolate and strawberry) as well as the adventurous and seasonal, including black cherry, cookie dough and pumpkin pie. Having opened its doors in 1972 as a small diner, Tommy’s has become the go-to place in Coventry (and across Cleveland) for vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters alike. Tommy’s menu is massive and is particularly known for its hummus and falafel served with pita bread.
Chef Chris Hodge is a star of Cleveland’s foodie scene, and he and his team starred on the second season of popular American food show The Great Food Truck Race. Having launched Cleveland’s food truck culture in 2010 with his Dim and Den Sum truck, Chef Hodge launched the Hodge Podge truck in 2011. The Truck serves healthy gourmet food with an eye on locally sourced, sustainable ingredients; as a result, the menu changes regularly based on seasonal availability. Some local favourites include truffle tater tots, truffle mac-n-cheese and the lobster roll.
A hometown favourite, Sokolowski’s University Inn is dubs itself: ‘Cleveland’s Oldest Family Owned Restaurant’. Since its establishment in 1923 in the Tremont neighbourhood of Cleveland, Sokolowski’s has specialised in Polish and Eastern European cuisine that reflects the city’s rich history of immigration. Simple comfort food is the hallmark of this Cleveland landmark, and the serving style is stripped down cafeteria. Pick up your own tray then wander through the food queue. Polish classics include pierogies (giant stuffed dumplings), stuffed cabbage, kielbasa and chicken paprikash. A great spot for a hearty lunch.
The Happy Dog is a happy place to be any evening of the week. Setting itself up as a neighborhood corner bar, The Happy Dog has a vibrant, hip vibe and features a regular program of live music performances. Housed in a 1940s building that was once ‘Mom Socotch’s Restaurant’, The Happy Dog has a revamped menu designed by Momocho chef Eric Williams that keeps it simple with all-American food: hot dogs, tons of topping options, tots and fries. The menu starts simply enough: choose between a Hot Dog or a Vegan Sausage. Next comes the hard part: choose any combination of toppings out of a whopping list of 50 choices ranging from traditional (house made ketchup, traditional yellow mustard) to the increasingly out of the ordinary (Oaxacan red chile and chocolate mole, chorizo chile, pimento mac-n-cheese). Tots and fries also come with your choice of toppings.
Lola Bistro is the restaurant of Cleveland’s own celebrity chef Michael Symon of Iron Chef fame, though it’s actually the second Cleveland Lola. Opened in 1997 in trendy Tremont neighborhood, in 2005 Symon renamed Lola as Lolita, and opened a new Lola in downtown Cleveland. Lola’s menu features unusual items that reward the adventurous: bone marrow served with 25 accompaniments, pig ear and beef cheek pierogi are appetizer highlights. Meat of all varieties is the centerpiece of Lola’s entrées, which is unsurprising given that Michael Symon’s cooking style has been described as ‘meat-centric’. To that end, Lola certainly doesn’t disappoint.