no reservations

Whenever I see the name of the show, I can’t help but hear Anthony Bourdain in my head saying, ‘Noooooooooooo Resssservationnnns.’

There are so many mixed reviews on Monday night’s No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain. People either thought it was his best show yet or that it was an injustice to our beloved city. I’m inclined to agree with the first group – best show ever. I really enjoyed this episode. It was absolutely hilarious, introduced me to some things I wasn’t familiar with like the bookstore and sausage shoppe, and at the very top of my list was an hour on national TV dedicated to Cleveland. Yes, there were shots of abandon buildings, sewage in the lake, an interesting guy with a colorful jacket (to say the least) talking about the Free Stamp, and Skyline Chili (I’m disappointed they did pick that place – it’s not even a Cleveland thing). Yes, in a perfect world they would have shot the episode in June and visited University Circle, Little Italy and more of Tremont and Ohio City. But it’s not a perfect world and this show is about the point of view as seen through Bourdain, not the Cleveland visitor’s bureau. And we are what we are so let’s embrace it. We’re not a chic LA and will never be. Why would we? I enjoyed Michael Symon, surfers in January, Sokolowski’s, Harvey Pekar (loved him) and cooking in Michael Ruhlman’s kitchen (I want that kitchen).

Maybe it didn’t portray Cleveland in the best possible light, but my sheer giddiness that Cleveland was the feature of this show outweighs that thought. Our city has issues; we all know what they are. The show didn’t say or include anything that wasn’t true. But instead of everyone bashing Bourdain and Ruhlman, how about do your part, whatever it may be, and pitch in to improve things. We have made a lot of progress, but still have a long way to go. We’re not LA or NYC and frankly, I wouldn’t want to be. I chose to live here for a reason. Not because I settled for less but because I want to continue calling Cleveland home. And I’m not alone. Whatever your viewpoint was on the show, the bottom line is they filmed here. We could have easily been passed up for another city. And that is due to Michael Ruhlman. Bottom line, Cleveland has received a lot of national attention lately: CEO of Cleveland Schools on Today, NBA championships, numerous mentions in Food & Wine and more to come in the November issue, LeBron is hosting the season opener of SNL and plenty of other great things that have happened this year. We’re not perfect, but I think that’s part of our charm.


  1. rockandroller
    Posted August 29, 2007 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    I really liked some of the episode but why is complaining about the skewed portrait of Cleveland, which is not ALL gritty, shit-surfers (a fringe, minority group if ever there was one) and abandoned factories with broken windows “bashing” Cleveland? I’m not saying those things don’t exist, but there is so much MORE to the city, it’s too bad some of the better places to go weren’t featured. I mean, outside of Lola, there isn’t any restaurant they went to that I would take a friend or visitor to – Skyline chili? Nobody here even GOES there, never mind that it’s from Cincy. Sokolowski’s? Have you eaten there lately? It’s really bad, overcooked steam table food and it’s not even tasty, let alone high quality. I’ve never had a good meal there. There are so many other places they could have gone and things they could have shown, it’s a shame it was portrayed the way it actually is, that’s all. That’s not being unrealistic or not facing Cleveland’s “gritty” nature, it’s the facts.

    Slymans, 3 Birds, Baricelli, Momocho, Johnny Mango, Little Bar & Grill, Borderline Cafe, Que Tal, Mint, Melt, Capri, Lucky’s, Fat Cats, Lava Lounge, Velvet Tango Room, Nuevo Acapulco, Red the Steakhouse, Siam Cafe, Aladdin’s, Anatolia Cafe, Carrie Cerino’s, there are SO MANY other great places they could have taken him. I don’t expect the show to be an advertisement for the location, but the TRUE Cleveland is not only the gritty side and bad winters, but great food and as many ethnic choices as you could imagine.

    Zubal’s isn’t even open to the public (I think they take a limited number of in-person visits but it’s by appointment only).

    The one thing I am very glad they showed was the Sausage Shoppe. I’ve been a patron of theirs for quite awhile and though I think they could have better showcased the variety of items they have, I am really glad their profile will raise because of the episode.

    Also, it “looked” like they got the pig from the west side market, but they didn’t. I actually have a great pork vendor there who could have gotten them a whole pig, but they bought it elsewhere, which is disappointing since they made it look like it was from the WSM. And they showed tons of produce at the WSM, when everyone knows that’s the last thing you want to purchase there. There are so many great food stands there and great people working them, I’d have rather they skipped Skyline and Sokolowski’s and shown a real tour of the market. They were drinking Great Lakes beer at the beach but never even mentioned it!

    We’re not trying to be LA. I just wish we had been portrayed more accurately. We’re not a bunch of free stamp loving half wits who surf in the shit.

    Secondly, I have to say, Michelle, that I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog so far but I bristle when people suggest that others need to get off their ass and “do something” to effect change in Cleveland.

    Between my membership and activities in the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, NRDC,, working assets, going to rallies, writing TONS of letters to my sentors and congresspeople, I *am* off my ass and working very hard at making things change here. So are a LOT of other people, I’ve met them, I know them. What are you doing to “pitch in and improve things?”

  2. michelle v
    Posted August 29, 2007 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the comment. I’ve enjoyed them on many of the posts. This is my opinion of the show. Just like you have an opinion. Neither of us are right or wrong. Everyone has different viewpoints and that’s ok. I’ve listed to other viewpoints for a few days and wanted to share mine. I’ve heard a lot of negativity and wanted to address it. I mean, they could NOT have filmed here afterall. Yes, like I said, they did show some unfavorable things – I agree with you. And Skyline Chile – gross! I’m with you on that, too. And about the WSM. Although I do love the pierogies ad Sokolowski’s. We don’t have to agree, but we can disagree in a friendly matter.

    As for my comments about people to stop complaining and do soemthing, it’s a broad statement. I’m in no way saying I’m perfect and every other citizen of this city needs to do something – I was speaking in general terms. And that’s great you do so much – really great in fact. What I was getting at is that it can be as small as supporting downtown restaurants, stores, etc. Spend more time at independents and less chains. Things along those lines. It doesn’t have to be drastic. I don’t know what coame first, the chicken or the egg, but I feel if more people went downtown, more thinsg would come and the city would improve faster. Again – just my opinions. And I do know so many people that are heavily involved in the city and are true evangelists for Cleveland. i also know so many that are not. Again – I was speaking in broad terms. And as far as my LA and NYC comment, I’ve heard a lot of people say they wouldn’t show that in those cities, and we’re just as good as they are, and why can’t we be more like them, etc. Again, not saying everyone feels that way. Thank you, though, for sharing your comments. You made some good points but again, I’m just giddy we were on and I thought it was a really funny and enjoyable hour.

  3. rockandroller
    Posted August 29, 2007 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Good enough, thanks for responding. I would love to see you become more active in working to change this area though. Shopping for local food is a start but 100 trips to the sausage shop doesn’t have the impact of 1 call or email or letter to a senator or congressman.

    I guess I have mixed feelings about the episode, let me see if I can describe it right – it would be like becoming famous because you did something really disgusting and it was captured on video and put all over the internet and/or TV. Would you rather have the fame and at the same time the shame? Or is it better to keep one’s dignity and forego the exposure. My point is it shouldn’t have had to be one or the other. We could have gotten the additional exposure of the show AND had it portrayed in a more pleasant manner. I too am excited they did the show. My husband and I were SO EXCITED to sit down and watch this episode, I think it’s the only thing I haven’t watched via Tivo in 2 years. It was just disappointing to see it so grimly portrayed.

  4. michelle v
    Posted August 29, 2007 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    I can absolutely see where you are coming from, you made some good points. And I’d be lying if I said my husband and I didn’t comment on the abandonded buildings and sewage and say, oh god, couldn’t they show something else? But I know it was shown threw his POV and that’s his style.

    And don’t worry, my pen has seen plenty of action over the past few years.

  5. rockandroller
    Posted August 29, 2007 at 11:53 am | Permalink


  6. Michael Walsh
    Posted August 29, 2007 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    I’ve had my own mixed feeling about the show in and of itself. Right after i watched it i was rather unimpressed, definatly didn’t dislike it, and totally missed the point of giving Pekar so much camera time.

    Alot of what i’ve read so far i also can’t disagree with, nor can i embrace any wholesome critacism of the show. I think if you look at some of the other episodes you will realize that the show covers alot of ground in a short hour of programing, and aside form Bourdine’s personal friends he usually choses not to promote specific establishments which is a rule he broke in the cleveland episode.

    For instance think quickly about the Norway episode where he is stuck in a snow storm, and is surrounded by offal, and bodybuilders. We are all smart enough to understand that there is more to Norway than what NOReso presented, but people are going nuts as if the whole rest of the world will think cleveland is nothing but broken windows and unshoveled sidewalks because it was on NoReso for 96 seconds.

    The man said more times than needed that he liked cleveland to start with. I think the presentation was a very general observation, and a correct one. Sure they could have filmed the ONE DAY EVENT of Parade the Circle, rather they filmed the broken windows which are there everyday, and probably look now exactly like they did when filmed…’s ok, it’s cleveland.

  7. Anonymous
    Posted August 29, 2007 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    Sewage surfing on the lake? Hang loose, brah! As an island transplant, I was delighted to see surfers braving the cold (and whatevah else) for the greatest sport on earth right here in Cleveland. (And for the record, Waikiki and a lot of tourist-clogged shores ain’t that clean, mkay? Just don’t swallow.)

    The NoRes episode filled me with pride for my husband’s city – it is, after all, the place I call my home these days. Was delighted to discover the bookstore and the sausage shoppe via this week’s episode – my hubby’s Slovenian roots rejoiced at the sign of so much compressed pork as our party of four toasted many caipirinhas to Cleveland’s 23 minutes of fame (sans commercials, if my teevee experience allows, is about the average span of a show, give or take the commercial pee breaks.).

    Now, see, Bourdain’s just going to have to come back and do another one. The general complaint is that we really wanted to see MORE. Can anyone really capture a city’s true flavors in a teevee hour? Only ongoing coverage, ongoing attention, ongoing exposure can do that. They haven’t gotten the full Honolulu flavah fo’sho yet, brah.

  8. Robert J. Nebel
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    I’m a former Clevelander and I thought the program was excellent. It captured so much of what I forgot about. Indeed, I have no idea why Skyline was included. Isn’t that more of a Cincinnati institution?

  9. Tim Ferris
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    our two girls, expatriates in Knoxville and Savannah, seemed positive on the show, too

    they still watch cable TV

    we’ll have to see if we can get a reprise of the show somehow–we haven’t had cable for years and don’t watch TV except for Boston Legal. (we do chew through a lot of movies, though)

    good post

  10. Mike
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    i thought the show was good…it should be obvious one can’t capture everything about a city in an hour, and he did a great job capturing the aspects of the city he did…

    he seemed to show genuine affection for us “salt of the earth” midwesterners… as opposed to the condescension, patronizing and sarcasm which i feared from the often caustic bourdain…

    i love bourdain’s show – prolly his only vegetarian fan!

  11. hot coffee girl
    Posted September 2, 2007 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    I know that we talked about this briefly the other day…and I knew then that you and I weren’t of the same opinion. Yes, I loved the fact that they featured Cleveland at all. Very cool. But I hated the overall feeling I had afterward. I have to agree with Michael W on this one…that Pekar’s face time was a little over done. And by a little over done, I mean if I didn’t know Cleveland and watched that show I would never come here in a billion years based on the half-wits and Free stamp and shit surfers, like RockandRoller pointed out.

    I think that there are so many great things about this city, and so much potential for things to be better. Although we certainly have our issues, I really thought this show did Cleveland an injustice.

    The best part about it? The visit to Lola’s. I think that Michael Symon’s food characterizes the city better than this episode came close to. He emphasizes local ingredients, gives a nod to the city’s heritage, and brings a modern flair and twist to it that is in harmony-not opposition-to the city around it. I think that this-above all else-is a metaphor for what Cleveland should be striving for not just in it’s food, but in it’s outlook overall.

  12. michelle v
    Posted September 3, 2007 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    I was waiting for you to comment! We never really had the chance to talk, but I could tell where you were going. And like I said, people either loved it or hated it. And I can appreciate everyone’s POV against it. But, if you watch the show regularly, I think it was perfect. And he is a huge Harvey fan so I thought it was great and pretty respectful they they included him. And in the beginning, Bourdain made it very clear that if anyone has a problem with this show, blame Ruhlman b/c this is his direction – except for Skyline Chili. I know he has been answering questions on his blog, so maybe share your feedback there and see what he says? But I have to say again, I loved the show – but I also wasn’t expecting the ideal postcard version of Cleveland – NR just doesn’t do that.

  13. Dianne
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Yes I realize that this comment is coming a little late, but I just found your (most excellent) blog and feel compelled to weigh in on the Bourdain show.

    I've lived in the area my whole life and have always taken great pride in Cleveland for exactly what it is. Cleveland is not a big glamorous city, nor would I want it to be. It is honest, and real, and working-class, and ethnic, and no-nonsense. It also happens to be home to an interesting, engaged creative class. Often, great art (which includes great food) is inspired by hardship, by struggle, by things not always being easy. By making do with what you have, by using your skill to make the space around you better.

    The "No Reservations" episode did an excellent job of demonstrating just that. It showed Cleveland as the gritty, troubled city that it is — with the vibrant, interesting, creative stalwart residents that call it home.

    I'm not saying Cleveland wouldn't be better without some significant improvements. What I am saying is that Cleveland is a beautiful, post-industrial town trying to find its way on the backs of its stubborn and committed citizens. Bourdain celebrated that, and I give him credit for it.

    (Meanwhile, love the blog! Love that you are standing up for Cleveland food in such a big, big way.)

  14. michelle v
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 12:08 pm | Permalink


    LOVED your comment and agree with everything you said about Cleveland! Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and I look forward to checking out your blog, too.

  15. Dianne
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Michelle!

  16. John K.
    Posted July 24, 2010 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    This was one of my favorite episodes when I first saw it. They recently replayed it after Harvey P. passed away. Tony said that this was one of his favorite episodes and one he was most proud of. Seeing it again…I loved it. Sure, there are MANY other places they could have shown. But all in all I think it was wonderful. And I’d love to have Michale’s kitchen too!!

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