Cleveland has become quite the culinary scene in recent years. Sometimes it seems like you can’t throw a chopping knife without hitting a celebrity chef.
It doesn’t hurt that preeminent Chef Michael Symon, owner of Lola Bistro (2058 East 4th Street; 216-621-5652), appears as one of the four culinary hosts weekdays on ABC’s popular The Chew touts the gastronomic charms of Cleveland whenever he can.
We can’t blame him. Who knew Cleveland had such a hopping culinary scene that is en fuego right now? We did after we visited this charming Midwestern city on the crescent of Lake Erie that is evolving into quite an amazing cultural hotbed.
Courting culture, of course culinary artistry is to follow. Hipsters to the cultural elite need to eat, and they are a quite discerning and educated crowd, and Cleveland delivers with mouthwatering menus and rapidly growing restaurant districts.
So, hitting the town for dinner in Cleveland? Here are three of our top picks:
Located off the beaten path in Cleveland’s Northeast Shores neighborhood, the Grovewood Tavern and Wine Bar (17105 Grovewood Avenue; 216-531-4900) is well worth the hike.
The menu offers of an impressive mouthwatering variety of options that make it either difficult to choose just one entree or gives you a reason to return. Skipping directly to the main dishes for just a sampling of what you will find Polenta Bolognese, Blackberry Salmon, Zinfandel Short Ribs, and Bee-Bop Ravioli. The names don’t smack exotic or anything unexpected out of a fine dining experience until you read the descriptions.
For example, the Bee-Bop Ravioli is not your average ravioli. This ravioli is a twist on a Korean dish bibimbap. You don’t necessarily need to know what bibimbap is. All you need to know is that this pillow of deliciousness is stuffed with braised shortrib and then tossed into kimchi butter and topped with an over easy fried egg and garnished with fresh cilantro. That’s if you want your taste buds to step outside of the box.
You could easily choose the Polenta Bolognese, Zinfandel Short Ribs, which need no explanation, and are equally delicious.
The restaurant also provides an intimate atmosphere to enjoy a lovely evening out with a special someone or a small group of good friends.
Located on Cleveland’s celebrity restaurant district on East 4th Street, The Greenhouse Tavern (2038 East 4th Street; 216-443-0511) serves up creative starters, such as the Devils on Horseback and Crunchy Kale Salad, with dressed up pub grub, such as the Grilled Ohio Lamb Burger.
Just for a sample of what is offered, the Devils on Horseback is a bacon wrapped date stuffed with almond, bitter chocolate and roasted fresno pepper that is hot sweetness. The Crunchy Kale Salad is anything but boring. This salad packs a bite with smoked avocado and jalapeno drizzled with preserve lemon and topped with fat kid bread crumbs.
The Grilled Ohio Lamb Burger is dressed with a stinky cheese fondue and champagne shallot. It comes with a side of olive-dusted pommes frites and tangy yogurt.
The Greenhouse Tavern offers up more than meat and potatoes, it is also a vegan- and vegetarian-friendly.
Located in Cleveland’s Playhouse Square, near the famed East 4th Street restaurant row, Hodge’s (668 Euclid Avenue; 216-771-4000) the award-winning Chef Chris Hodgson gets creative with his savory dishes.
The starters aren’t as thrilling as the main dishes, but isn’t that the way it should be?
Skipping over the appetizers to the main dishes, you quickly find yourself on a savory adventure. The seared scallops aren’t just seared scallops; they are served on a bed of sweet corn risotto with queso cotija, lime crème fraiche garnished with cilantro, for that perfect tangy salty sweetness. The Bay of Fundy Salmon is a sweet and savory adventure served on a bed of fried rice with asparagus, mushrooms, and sugar snap peas the fish is dressed with a pineapple habanero salsa for a sweet and spicy finish.
Just saying, don’t expect the usual Midwestern fare in Cleveland. This is a city that has an experimental bent in so many ways.