Cleveland is a foodie town!

by | Nov 6, 2013 | Dining, Nightlife, Shopping

Edited June, 2017.…..Sometimes our clients have to remind us of how fortunate we are to live in a place with the resources available to us… last week while we were introducing Cleveland to a couple from Boston (via Barcelona and Philadelphia) and the wife turned to our Guides and said: “Cleveland is so lucky to have the Westside Market. There just aren’t many indoor year-round food markets left in America anymore”, and we couldn’t agree more. We call our 100 year old market Cleveland’s Cathedral of Food and its clock tower is the iconic symbol of Clevelander’s love affair with food.  And it’s not just us saying we are a great food town. Here is a 2015 article in Travel & Leisure Magazine that puts Cleveland at #7 out of the 20 best foodie towns in America!.  Why do we brag that Cleveland is a foodie town? Here’s why:

photo courtesy Michael Symon

photo courtesy Michael Symon

Cleveland’s own Michael Symon, who was the winner of the very first season of The Food Network’s, “The Next Iron Chef” and put Cleveland on the national map by showing his ability to marry midwestern comfort food with high cuisine (that his highly contagious giggle won over millions of fans). Michael is a hometown favorite and now owns about a dozen restaurants in Cleveland and Detroit, has numerous shows & appearances on the Food Network and Cooking Channel (including be a co-host of the talk show, The Chew), has written 1/2 dozen cook books. His first restaurant, Lola Bistro, propelled the Tremont neighborhood into the foodie scene (it has since relocated to E. 4th Street in downtown Cleveland (original spot is to come Sherla’s Chicken & Oysters). He also has multiple B-Spot locations (burgers galore) including one inside Quicken Loans Arena and FirstEnergy Stadium.
Other local chefs we brag about in NE Ohio (and who have the high end service and attention to detail that we admire and as a result we patronize their restaurants a lot when showing off NE Ohio to newcomers):
Doug Katz, Fire Food & Drink, Katz Club Diner, Provenance at the art museum
Zack Bruell, Parallax, Chinato, Cowell & Hubbard, L’Albatros, Dynomite Burger Shack, etc.
Rocco Whalen, Fahrenheit, Rocco & Rosie’s
Eric Williams, Momocho, Happy Dog, El Carnicerio, Jack Flaps
Jonathan Sawyer, Greenhouse Tavern, Trentina, Noodlecat
Paul Minillo, Flour
Dante Boccuzzi, Dante’s, Next Door, DBA (Dante Bocuzzi Akron)
Jonathan Bennett, Moxie, Red the Steakhouse
Ben Bebenroth, Spice Kitchen & Bar
Chris Hodgeson, part of the Driftwood Group overseeing Hodges, Cibreo, Washington Place Bistro, etc.
Karen Small, The Flying Fig
Heather Haviland, Lucky’s Cafe
And, it doesn’t hurt that NE Ohio’s population is the result of 200 years of migration from dozens of countries around teh world, and has more than 100 different ethnic groups in its mix. Each group brought flavors from home as they moved to NE Ohio and added to the melting pot and as a result there are dozens of ethnic restaurants that celebrate their roots. So, if you have a hankering for Korean kimchee, Russian borscht, Ethiopian dorowat, German wiener schnitzel, Mexican enchilladas, Polish perogies, Indian tandori or potato latkes, there is a restaurant in Cleveland, Akron or Canton serving them! The diversity of our restaurants, markets and food festivals is the envy of many midwestern cities. Laura Taxel does a great job of listing the best of each world cuisine in NE Ohio in her book Cleveland Ethnic Eats. She updates this paperback very year or two and it’s a great investment if you want to explore a different ethnic restaurant every week – you’ll be 100 before you run out! And the Polish Boy, is a food unique to our region we have discovered. It’s typically a smoked kielbasa in a warm bun and can be garnished with sauerkraut, brown mustard, coleslaw or french fries. Greasy, yummy and so not good for you that you just have to love it.
food trucks - courtesy Downtown Cleveland Alliance

food trucks – courtesy Downtown Cleveland Alliance

And you can find  creative food that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg in NE Ohio as well. Cleveland has more than 80 vehicles registered as mobile restaurants. While most of those offer the standard hot dogs, Polish boys & pizza slices, the gourmet food trucks have arrived in our region and more than 30 rove the city serving office workers out on lunch break, weekend festivals and events. To see where they are at any given time, check their Roaming Hunger website. And Akron food trucks are popping up as well.  Chris Hodgson’s food truck, Hodge Podge, earned him the spot of 1st runner up on Food Networks season 2 of The Great Food Truck Race, and he helped propel food trucks in NE Ohio before jumping into his brick & mortar restaurants.
And while there are plenty of good chain restaurants, most residents first choice when dining out would be to support locally owned and operated restaurants. A great list of these independent restaurants is on Cleveland Independents, website, which provide the 50+ restaurants with marketing support and organized Restaurant Week  (which offers very affordable fixed price 3 course dinners to encourage locals to explore new restaurants every spring & fall).
Chagrin Falls farmer's market - photo courtesy Your HomeTown Chagrin Falls

Chagrin Falls farmer’s market – photo courtesy Your HomeTown Chagrin Falls

Farmer’s markets are in EVERY neighborhood and in the winter months, many find an indoor space to use so they can continue to sell winter root veggies, canned & bottled foods, locally made bread, cheese, desserts and handicrafts. A few of the best are: North Union Farmer’s Market (original site is on Shaker Square but they organize more than a dozen of them around the region) and the Countryside Farmer’s Market held in Howe Meadow in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Peninsula (Summit County). And our National Park is one of the few in the country that leases land to farmers, who then sell their produce, meat, eggs, honey, etc. to the general public (here is a list of all the farmers on National Park land). Most even provide tours of their farms! And in 2014, Night Markets (popularized in Asian countries) are making an appearance, featuring local foods and crafters sell their wares, flea market style, in unique locations in the early evening hours.
Culinary Launch Kitchen shot

photo courtesy Cleveland Culinary Launch & Kitchen

And the Cleveland Culinary Launch Kitchen is an incubator space that provides those in the food industry with a state of art licensed kitchen space for prep and cooking and connects entrepreneurs to help grow their food businesses. One example (picture left) is Squeeze n’ Easy, two sisters who have launched a line of old fashioned custard frosting and fillings using their grandmother’s recipe.
And, in the highly competitive world of supermarkets, Cleveland still has a locally owned grocery store, Heinens, with almost 20 locations in CLE and Chicago, and Tom & Jeff Heinen just stepped up to commit to the first full sized supermarket in downtown CLE in the former AmeriTrust Bank rotrunda (opening early 2015) to provide the growing population the same fresh foods suburbanites have in their local grocery! This is a true tipping point and many predict downtown will grow from 15,000 current residents to 20,000+ quickly due to just this one addition to the amenities in the city. Thanks Heinens!
Although Cleveland and Akron are fairly big cities, they are surrounded by farmland less than an hour’s drive on all sides, making the region easy for the dozens of local CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) that connect farmers to consumers. For a seasonal subscription, you receive a bag every week filled with whatever is freshest and in season to augment your pantry. One of the most popular CSA’s in NE Ohio is Fresh Fork, which sources items from more than 100 different farmers and artisan food makers, all within a 75 mile radius of CLE and has pickup points in more than a dozen locations scattered throughout the city & suburbs so you can eat healthily all year long.
And it’s not just us….others are noticing. Anthony Bourdain is tough to please and Cleveland’s mix of a midwest blue collar flair combined with creative restaurants caught his attention; and the Chicago Tribune “Cleveland?!?“, 2008 raved as well. Here are Guy Fieri’s thoughts on Cleveland’s food scene. And for our size city, we have an unusually large number of James Beard award winners and finalists! Look at the 2013 list here.
And although great Ohio wines are not typically words included in the same sentence, Ohio has more than 100 wineries, most
clustered along the shores of Lake Erie that make decent Cabernet Franc, Riesling and Chardonnay. Many local wineries have tours, provide weekend entertainment and light menus offering a fun weekend excursion within an hour of Cleveland For more info:
The Ohio Wine Producer’s Association
Vintage Ohio Wine Festival
Heinen’s World Series of Wine

And Pairings, the wine & cultinary center in Geneva Ohio is helping to bring attention to Ohio wineries with tastings, wine dinners, etc.
Breweries in NE Ohio – we love our craft beer and production has exploded in the last few years as interest nationwide for unique beers brewed in small batches. Here are some of our favorites:
Foods invented in NE Ohio:

Menches Brothers– invented the hamburger – legend attributes the birth of the hamburger to two brothers from Akron. Vendors at the Erie County Fair in the late 1800’s, they ran out of sausage for sandwiches and used beef instead and the hamburger was born. To celebrate this history, Akron hosts the National Hamburger Festival every summer with vendors competing for the title of best hamburger in the nation.

Life Saver’s candies – invented in Garrettsville, just east of Cleveland, by the candy manufacturer Clarence Crane in 1912.

Some additional resources to explore the foodie scene in NE Ohio:

Here’s a final word on the guy who is one of the best food columnist in the region: Doug Trattner, who writes for a lot of places including our alternative free, weekly newspaper Scene Magazine.
For more information on how Executive Arrangements can help your company attract & retain top talent by matching your candidate’s interests to the lifestyle & amenities in the region, call us at 216.231.9311. Each family is supplied with a customized relocation packet that includes detailed info on the quality of life in NE Ohio, including our own staff member’s favorite restaurants, chefs, food tours, markets, ethnic food districts and more.