great lakes brewing company

There are places I just want to love by default. Places that are synonymous with Cleveland and breed local through and through. I want these places to thrive and become a successful part of our make-up. But no matter how much I want to like something, unfortunately that doesn’t mean I will. Case in point, Great Lakes Brewing Company.

First, let’s start off with what I do like: the beer, but that’s a given. We all know the history here and that Great Lakes does brew some really great and nationally recognized beer. And I am by no means a beer enthusiast, not even close. But I enjoy their offering and whenever I need to send a thank you of sorts to out-of-towners, it’s usually a case of Great Lakes (Gina Batali at Salume in Seattle said her whole family really enjoyed the beer we sent and are now fans).

I also like the building itself, the buidling’s history and the fairly new patio. It’s a smart addition on their part and well-done. I’d happily go back and sit on the patio for drinks, either before a game or just because. You can tell they put a lot of thought, time and money into this and I’m sure it is paying off. And I like that it’s eco-friendly. If only that same effort was evident throughout all aspects of the restaurant, primarily the menu, which leads me to what I don’t like: the food.

We found ourselves at Great Lakes on Monday with our good friends before the Tribe game by way of Flying Fig (forgot this place was closed on Mondays). Jamie and I got there a bit early and since we were starved, we started off with the cheese and meat board and an order of hot wings. I didn’t try the wings, mostly because after a few bites Jamie, a self-proclaimed wing aficionado, declared they were some of the worst he’s sampled. As for the cheese/meat sampler, I can’t say it was much better. The sopressata and cured sausage was incredibly tough and just tasted old and weathered. The cheese was ok, particularly the blue.

For dinner, we both had the tomato bisque and I had the spinach salad with shrimp and balsamic; Jamie had the same but with steak. Again, nothing positive to say here about two dishes that in theory, should be incredibly simple to execute and tasty based on this type of establishment. The rather small shrimp were over cooked and over salted and the steak was tough. Even the dressing was bitter. By the way, I wanted the chef’s salad but our server quickly told me to order something else. She honestly shared with us (which I always appreciate) that it’s simply not good and in fact, would be coming off the menu the very next day. As for the soup, I will say that wasn’t bad and was easily the best dish of the night.

I will continue to support this place because of what it is, but primarily through beer purchases at Heinen’s. If we’re in the area and it makes sense, I’ll stop back in – but not for the food. For that, I’ll head over to one of several other places in the area where I know I’ll leave happy and satisfied. Cleveland connection or not, at the core you still have to offer a good product because people are paying good money for it.

On a side note, I can’t believe how many Yankee fans were at the game. At times it felt like I was at an away game!

16 Comments

  1. Lynn
    Posted June 4, 2009 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Their pretzels are pretty good, but otherwise I agree. I always TRY to like it – and my husband insists on going there at Christmas time for Christmas Ale on tap (aka liquid gold in his mind)…but the food is always a disappointment.

  2. Bite Buff
    Posted June 4, 2009 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately, I agree. I keep trying to like it just because of the history and my love for Ohio City, but it's just not cutting it. By how good the beer is, you expect much more from the chef! With too many excellent restaurants in Cleveland, this one is not worth it. The only dish that I have ever heard anyone rave about is the signature bread pudding. So if you're ever there for drinks on the patio, maybe try dessert as well.

  3. lisa anne
    Posted June 4, 2009 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    I have to say I agree as well, but not about the beer. I really don't even like their beer. I will drink a Blackout Stout or two, because I am on the label, and when presented with no other options I will sip on a Burning River. Everyone likes Christmas Ale, but the rest? The rest taste of flowers to me, like drinking malty gin or cologne. I have never been a fan of the food. I consider it dull and lacking in any sense of adventure. It is sad, really. I want so badly to adore GLBC. I adore The Beer Engine, so maybe Buckeye Brewing should be the beer flagship of Cleveland instead?

  4. Urban Cowgirl
    Posted June 4, 2009 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    I wish I didn't agree but I do. I am not a beer drinker – I just tag along to GLBC with my beer drinking friends – and we never order the food. We've given it several tries but everything we've ever eaten there has, quite simply, been terrible. Especially considering the price they ask you to pay. We recommend the beer to our out of town friends but then direct them to other nearby places to eat.

  5. Joe
    Posted June 4, 2009 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    I have to agree as well. The food used to be great but has really gone downhill over the years. The staff even admit it is not as good anymore. And I have to say they are doing the same with some of the beers. I don't understand why they have to change a good thing. At least it is still nice to sit outside and people watch.

  6. Candis
    Posted June 4, 2009 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    I never know what to order when we go there. I love going for the beer and the atmosphere but after all these years I've yet to find something I really enjoy from their menu.

    However, I do really like the beer cheese soup but it's not enough for a meal usually.

  7. Christopher
    Posted June 5, 2009 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    Wow guess Ill join the masses and add a check in the "I agree the food is lacking but I still want to be a fan because you're local" box.

    Being a cabbie I express to beer loving visitors that we have a brewery here and they often insist that I take them to this wonderful place I describe, only to have them call me later when they are ready to call it the night from somewhere in Tremont! All because they got a visual of what was being served and had no interest in ordering. Is the presentation as bad as the food? I had to try myself, went with the pretzel as an app and being a fish lover I tried the perch and wow. Crispy(?) edges and an overall tough eat. But I smiled all the way through figuring the middle might be moist…

    However, I still remain a fan of their beer brands and support them via a local grocer otherwise as stated I agree overall the food quality is lacking. I dig the ambiance though.

    Hey foodie you should send this link to GLBC maybe it'll force some encouraging change mainly in a city where even tapas (sexy way of saying finger food) have great quality.

  8. Ben
    Posted June 6, 2009 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    I guess I'll be the first dissenting voice. While there are some middling items on the menu, there are a lot of very good ones as well. The key is to order typical brewpub food. We've been very happy with the pretzels, beer-cheese soup, sausages, pizzas, pierogies, fish, sandwiches, pretzel chicken and kids' items. GLBC seems to try to offer all things to all people, though. I've been the sort who will order the one Asian entree at a steakhouse and be surprised that it doesn't taste good; ordering a shrimp salad at GLBC seems like a similar situation. That said, they really shine when seasonal produce comes in: my wife got a great fiddlehead fern salad for lunch last summer, and we had the best fresh berry shortcake ever there last year as well.

    One final issue might be that you were planning to go the Flying Fig. GLBC is totally out of their league, but it's also a lot cheaper.

  9. michelle v
    Posted June 6, 2009 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    One time or another I've tried the items mentioned above – I'll give you the soup and pretzels, but that's it. The salad I ordered was just a house salad – I picked to add shrimp while Jamie added the steak to the same spinach salad. I don't care what type of restaurant it is, a salad should be easy to execute and the dressing, which they always seem to boast about, was bitter. And cooking shrimp, I would assume, should be easy for a chef. It's not like they were packed or anything. Yes, I was hoping to go across the street, but was only dissapointed for a minute. Like I said, I want to like this place and I want to support it, but after numerous visits through the years I'm done with the food – unless there are major changes. You're right FF is out of their league – but cheaper, not necessarily. Our bill, for just the two of us and only 1 drink, was $75. I've walked out of FF for less than that several times – and much happier. Like I said, there are things I really like about this place and truly want them to succeed, but in terms of where I'll choose to throw my support for dinner it definitely won't be there again anytime soon.

  10. Alison
    Posted June 8, 2009 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    I have to agree the food is lacking, but I am a big fan of the bread pudding!

  11. APS
    Posted June 8, 2009 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    I've eaten there about 4 times and liked what I've had. I think I've had the ribs, hamburger, breaded chicken and sausage platter and liked them all. I ordered them because they seemed to be things that would go well with beer. I'll go back and I'll probably get one of those things. The pretzels were good as well.

    I haven't eaten outside, but find that the ambiance of the place can be hit or miss. I've gotten stuck in a back table and not been happy with the location. The booths are good and the high top tables in the bar area are good as well. I think the last 2 times I've been there, I've eaten at the bar. No complaints there.

  12. Anonymous
    Posted June 8, 2009 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    I love GLBC because of their high standards for sustainability… and I'm a fan of the beer too! I wish they could raise their standards for the food.

  13. Ben
    Posted June 11, 2009 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    Michelle, I can better understand your dissatisfaction now. Inconsistent food is irritating on its own, but completely unacceptable if you're paying good money for it. And while I don't dislike GLBC, I do wish they would raise their standards for their food. I don't think I'd eat there if it weren't for the beer.

  14. Anonymous
    Posted June 19, 2009 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    I'm new to CLE and have been to Great Lakes several times. The food disappoints, but the potential is huge. Someone who knows the ownership should point the opportunity they're missing. They can keep it low-key and casual and just make the food waaaay better.

  15. Marissa DeSantis
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    GLBC beers are wonderful, and I consider myself to be very knowledgeable when it comes to craft beer. But being knowledgeable about craft beer means that I spend a lot of time in brewpubs/gastropubs, and I can definitely say that when it comes to food, GLBC is seriously lacking.

    Their "pub fare" is well done. The beer cheddar soup, pretzels, and sausage are tasty treats. But they're boring and safe. Any brewpub that you go to can offer these same dishes and prepare them just as well, if not better. When I eat meals at the Cornerstone Brewing Company in Berea, at the Chop House downtown, at Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh (rattlesnake pierogies!), at the Beer Engine, I am always wowed by the diversity of the menu and the expertise and care with which their food is prepared. I don't get this feeling at GLBC. I love going to the pub for the atmosphere and the delicious draughts, but if I bring out-of-towners, we're just grabbing a pint there and then heading to eat at Flying Fig or Bar Cento.

    I really hope GLBC starts to up the ante with their menu.

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