Why Cleveland is One of America’s Best Food Cities

Travel + Leisure magazine’s ranking of Cleveland as #7 among America’s Best Food Cities was no surprise to us. We know all about our food icons (pierogies, anyone?), wine bar boom, and everything Cleveland’s biggest food champion, celebrity chef Michael Symon, has contributed to our cuisine scene.

But in case you still aren’t familiar with the tempting tastes of Cleveland, here are a few reasons why we’ve earned this latest distinction.

We Know Comfort Food

You wouldn’t think a cafeteria-style restaurant, famous for its super-rich mac-n-cheese, would be a James Beard American Classic award winner. But in 2014, Sokolowski’s University Inn in the historic Tremont neighborhood won that esteemed honor. The place is anything but snooty, though – President Bill Clinton indulged his carb craving here before he decided to slim down. Need some protein with your macaroni? Try their famous chicken paprikash or stuffed cabbage.

Another Cleveland classic is Slyman’s Restaurant on the city’s near-east side, famous for their massive corned beef sandwiches. Slyman’s has seen its share of luminaries, too, including President George W. Bush and Food Network chef Rachael Ray.

Our premier food symbol, though, is the West Side Market, one of the largest and busiest markets in the country. Operating in the same landmark building since 1912, you can shop for produce, poultry, Amish-churned butter, spices, pies, flowers, hand-fashioned candies and hundreds of other items, then devour one of the best breakfasts in the Midwest at the West Side Market Café.

Healthy Here Means Hearty

 If you enjoy kale salad, you can find a delicious one here: stop into The Greenhouse Tavern on East 4th Street downtown. For something more substantial, order a grass-fed burger at TownHall in Ohio City, or a build-your-own taco at Barrio downtown.

But for a big appetite, a first-rate healthy choice can be found at Urban Farmer Cleveland’s Steakhouse, around the corner from our new Convention Center. If you can’t make up your mind which steak to order, a “steak tasting” will let you sample several. Or go for a corn-fed, grass-fed or grain-finished steak – and if you don’t know the difference, your waiter will fill you in.

If You’re Feeling Trendy…

Sometimes, “trendy” means what’s old is new again, and a perfect example of that is the Happy Dog, in Gordon Square on the west side and the Happy Dog Euclid Tavern in University Circle the east side. The old/new menu consists entirely of big, juicy hot dogs, with your choice of toppings from bourbon pork-n-beans to a sunny-side-up fried egg. These dogs are not for kids only! We recommend a side of tater tots.

Speaking of trendy – you can’t get much trendier than wine bars…with scrumptious eats, of course – and we’ve seen a surge in the last few years. They’re popular spots in every community; some of our favorites are Stone Mad Pub in Gordon Square, whose stone-boulder patio consistently takes the prize for “best outdoor dining;” Press Wine Bar in Tremont, where wine is poured from a tap; and the Market Avenue Wine Bar across from the West Side Market.

…or in a more Elegant Mood

Cleveland is no stranger to fine dining, and one of the most exciting examples is Pier W located on Lake Erie’s Gold Coast. This Cleveland legend’s views of Lake Erie are  unmatched – inspiring their impressive seafood menu, which features masterfully prepared lobster, walleye, and cedar planked salmon dishes.

But no exploration of Cleveland food is complete without mention of our favorite (culinary) son, celebrity chef and The Chew host Michael Symon. This Iron Chef promotes the city wherever he goes, and his collection of restaurants – including Lola Bistro, Lolita, B Spot Burgers, Mabel’s BBQ and Symon’s Burger Joint – has expanded to airports and ballparks throughout Greater Cleveland and beyond.

The Best Part: Great Food is Down the Street

You don’t have to drive downtown to eat well, though the core city also has terrific restaurants. Every neighborhood now claims fabulous eateries, including those in Shaker Square, University Circle, Gordon Square, East 4th Street, The Flats and Ohio City.

So, what makes Cleveland a top-ranked food city? It’s the diversity of our cuisines, easy-access neighborhood locations (most with free parking, by the way), the affordability of dining out, and the mix of creativity and personalities in the kitchen. Cleveland is a gourmet salad of food options – it’s no wonder the national media has finally caught on.


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