Finally, the world is paying some positive attention to Cleveland! This summer, it made it into national rankings as one of the best cities in the country for food, & the LA Times even saw fit to name it a "hot new dining city." Cleveland may be an unassuming Rustbelt city with an abysmal football record, but it is indeed also bursting at the seams with incredible restaurants & local brands that make it a delicious joy for locals & the occasional tourist like (yeah, we do get them sometimes - see you soon, RNC!)
This list isn't exactly the crème de la crème of fancy local hotspots, but it's my top-rated list, at least for right now. These are the CLE meals & snacks that I keep going back for.
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- BBQ Beef Jerky
Sebastian's Meats, West Side Market (Ohio City)
There's a sign at another kiosk at the West Side Market that advertises the fact that Michael Symon once called their jerky "the best thing I ever ate" on the TV show of the same name; they even have a video clip playing at the counter. I'm curious, but their jerky just looks too, well... meaty for me. Instead, I like to give my hard-earned dollars to Sebastian's, whose long, thin strips of jerky are everything I believe jerky ought to be: flat, smooth, tender, juicy, & impossible to stop eating.
- The Curd Ferguson
Barrio (Tremont, Lakewood, & Downtown)
If I ordered this taco any more often, the folks at Barrio might start to know me by name. I'm a sucker for anything made with Thai chili sauce, & this vegetarian taco concoction is one of the most innovative uses of it I've yet tried: both a soft flour tortilla & hard corn shell, filled with Thai chili tofu, slaw, queso fresco, pineapple salsa, & salsa roja. It's only $4, &
unfortunately, the Tremont location is all of two blocks from my apartment, so...
- Sea Salt Bagels
CLE Bagel Co. (no location)
It's probably a good thing these bagels are so damn difficult to track down because if I had easy access to them, I'd surely be eating at least one a day. As it stands, I've only eaten them at the Cleveland Flea, but now that winter has arrived, I've got to find my fix someplace else (though maybe it's better if I don't). CLE Bagel Co. also makes incredible flavors of schmear (that's cream cheese, for all you unfamiliar with Yiddish!). Brie, honey, & toasted walnut, anyone?
- Wake-Up Call Empanadas
Prosperity Social Club (Tremont)
This wonderful, not-nearly-as-fancy-as-it-sounds bar is just steps away from my apartment, which means I'm forever trying to convince folks that we should meet there for happy hour or weekend drinks or, my favorite, brunch. I suppose I wouldn't expect such a pierogi-heavy spot to also excel at empanadas, but theirs are the best damn breakfast food in town - stuffed with andouille sausage, pepper medley, onions, cheddar and egg, topped with jalapeño-smoked cheddar sauce and tequila-lime salsa. Is it Sunday yet?!
- The Local and Fresh Plate
Great Lakes Brewing Co. (Ohio City)
Who says a meat & cheese tray isn't a complete meal? We're adults, man. GLBC's is the ultimate charcuterie plate, loaded with locally sourced meat, cheese, & produce (gimme all yer pickled onions!), plus seasonal jams & bread from a nearby bakery. The first time I had it was on a sunny summer day, & it was perfectly light fare for patio-sitting; last time I had it was indoors on a cold, rainy night, & it somehow seemed perfectly cozy. Basically: You cannot go wrong with meats & cheeses, ever.
- Sassy Pineapple Salsa
Blaze Gourmet (no location)
The bad news is that this salsa is maybe making me sick because think I have some sort of intolerance to raw tomatoes? But the good news is that if raw tomatoes are OK by your digestive system, this salsa is basically the most delicious salsa to ever exist. It's sold at a few local grocery stores & at farmers' markets, where Cowboy George, the salsa-maker extraordinaire himself, will chat you up about where you're from & what kind of salsa you're looking for.
- Butternut Squash and Sage Ravioli
Ohio City Pasta, West Side Market (Ohio City)
You think you've had pasta. I thought I'd had pasta. I mean, I've eaten a lot of pasta in my life... & then I had Ohio City Pasta. Homemade & fresh in a bazillion different flavor combinations, their pasta is restaurant-level delicious... made in my own kitchen on a whim for lunch. Mike & I have been eating this particular variety with pesto, walnuts, & parmesan cheese. I never want to be without a package of Ohio City Pasta in my freezer to make sure that even my "there's no food in the house" meals taste gourmet.
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