nyc foodie visits cleveland

I received an e-mail a few weeks ago from a guy coming to Cleveland for work and looking for recommendations and feedback on his itinerary. I was impressed – not only did he do his homework on our city but he was genuinely excited to explore.

Here is the e-mail I received from him this morning offering his reviews (I wish I knew about the museum and Sergio’s, I could have given him a heads-up):

On Thursday evening, a colleague and I went to Lolita following a beer at Great Lakes Brewery – Tremont is not easy to find. In any event, we finally got there, and shared a garlic almond dip with flatbread that was pretty decent — a little reminiscent of savory almond butter. My colleague got a chicken dish that she liked quite a lot; I got scallops that were served with a fennel and red onion salad. The dish was very decent, though nothing remarkable. The scallops were a little over-salted and perhaps a little over-cooked (or just a little old). The wine pairing was nice though (a glass of Californian “Caja”, which is their house white, I believe), and was the highlight of the meal. Strange scene though — a few couples, but lots of really drunk and rowdy 40- and 50-something year-olds. I liked it, but wasn’t amazed. Service was a little chilly and disinterested, but very competent. And the waiter did a good job on the wine pairing. $59 for two seems like a good price for this meal.

On Friday evening I went to Sergio’s and to the Art Museum, which, I hadn’t realized, is 95% closed for construction. What a bummer, though the photography exhibit that’s open was nice. Sergio’s, I also didn’t realize, is no longer Brazilian. Instead it’s “Mediterranean”, which meant pasta, some Spanish dishes, etc When I asked about Brazilian on the menu, the waiter suggested I try paella, which was the most “South American” dish on the menu. I got a chilled melon soup to start, that was very sweet, but refreshing on a warm, muggy day. I followed with a pork tenderloin salad with a fruit compote. The salad was fine (endive, greens, etc.), the pork was dry, but was probably supposed to be aided by the compote. Unfortunately, the compote was like a bit helping of Smuckers — it was so sweet and jammy. Overall, I found the dinner to be okay, but a tad disappointing. Guess I was expecting Brazilian instead of Chioppino and the like. Priced at $53 for one seemed a little high, but my guess is that this is high rent district for Cleveland.

On Saturday, I went low-brow. Breakfast/lunch was at the West Side Market: crepe, caffe latte, bratwurst, fresh juice. I can see why everyone at the market was eating a brat — they are darned good! West Side Market’s pretty interesting — like a Reading Terminal (of Philly) without any tourists. I think I was the only one! A nice institution and something I wish every city had several of.

In late afternoon, I explored the east side and ended up eating at Dewey’s Pizza on Lee. I was interested in pizza since Chowhounders from Cleveland who are in New York complain that they can’t get good pizza in New York. If Dewey’s is representative, it was interesting. I think the attraction must be the crust, which seems to be made with garlic bread dough. Certainly not the crisp, burnt pizza crust you get in the best New York places, which is trying to mimic Neapolitan pizza. The ingredients were fine. Overall, I enjoyed it for $20, including salad and soda. I wonder if Dewey’s is considered good Cleveland pizza?

On Sunday, I had lunch at Lucky’s in Tremont. They had stopped their brunch service so I got a sandwich. Nice comfy place to hang out and read a newspaper. Tremont reminds me of West Chicago or North Minneapolis. On Starkweather up from Lucky’s, I saw a condo for sale in the old Tremont Bath House. I grabbed the little tear sheet outside — $234,000! Holy Moses, that’s cheap. Very pleasant setting and close to some good eats.

For dinner, I went to Lola, to give that chef another chance, and because I was tired of driving to the west side. I got the hangar steak that comes with pickled vegetables and a glass of Syrah from Ojai. It was a very, very nice meal. The steak was juicy, especially for hanger steak. The vegetables and sauce complimented the steak and I lucked out on the wine pairing — it’s peppery flavor complemented the veggies. I’m happy I gave the Symon-Empire another chance, and they came through. It was the best meal I had in Cleveland, and I’d go back. Price $48 and well worth it. The room was very attractive as well, so I enjoyed it, and it was a quick walk back to my hotel.


  1. rockandroller
    Posted September 11, 2007 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Interesting report, thanks for sharing. I knew about the art museum but not about the change at Sergio’s, which doesn’t sound like it’s for the better.

  2. Michael Walsh
    Posted September 13, 2007 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    interesting that someone from out of town who is staying downtown would venture into those small neighborhoods. We should relate this to the previous post about why people aren’t going to those neighborhoods? very interesting.

  3. August
    Posted September 14, 2007 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    Cleveland Chophouse is doing their brunch tomorrow morning (Sat Sept 15th) FYI. I’ll be there post Race for the Cure. I’m so gonna not eat until then. I have yet to find a better brunch! You gotta try it!