Restaurants Served With Passion

September 21, 2014

Served with Passion

Cleveland's got the best food scene on Planet Earth.

Okay, okay. That was a little brash.  And, we know that you need more than our unscientific, unresearched opinion of Cleveland's culinary scene to believe us.

First of all, we're not going to sit here and tell you that big, tourist-favorite cities (ahem...New York City, Las Vegas) don't have great culinary offerings. They do.

But, the thing is, those places are missing out on some key ingredients that make Cleveland's food scene unparalleled and, frankly, awesome.

Besides the fact that you won't have to pay out the wazoo to eat at our nationally recognized restaurants or wait three weeks to get reservations at restaurants owned by celeb chefs, Cleveland's got one very important thing working for it: Passion.

Yes, passion. That one little word is really the basis behind what makes our restaurants so unmistakably Cleveland.

From restaurant owners who work collaboratively with their competitors for the greater good to chefs who are putting aside self interests to make a difference in the community, Cleveland's just different than anywhere else.

Admittedly, passion is not a digestible foodstuff (unless, of course, you print this webpage and then eat the paper - which we don't recommend).

But it is translated through the gorgeous, delicate, bold and innovative flavors created by our culinary talent.

And, that could certainly be said for some of Cleveland's newest restaurants that are, of course, a part of the best food scene on Planet Earth.


Chef, sommelier, fromager and CEO Brandon Chrostowski made a series of big mistakes that landed him in prison. The soul shattering experience was one that's stayed with him his entire life and has shaped the direction of his now successful career.

In 2014, Brandon founded EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute. Located in the bustling neighborhood of Shaker Square, EDWINS is a restaurant serving classically prepared French cuisine infused with the bold flavors of the Midwest.

But, it's a lot more than meets the eye.

Chrostowski's restaurant and leadership institute are giving formerly incarcerated individuals the training and expertise to break the cycle of incarceration and allow these locals to follow their dreams.

As Chrostowski wrote in a editorial to The Plain Dealer, "Having been brushed by confinement, I choose now to teach the previously confined all about hospitality, literacy, self-respect, hygiene, housing and the uncommon satisfaction of filling both the appetites of bodies and souls. At EDWINS, these individuals are not relegated to busboys and dishwashers: They are sous-chefs, cheese experts and maître-d's. I got a second chance, so they should as well."

The results, so far, have been incredible with 35 of 40 graduated students now working successfully in Cleveland's culinary scene. That's not even mentioning the amazingness of the food served at EDWINS.

And, it's all for the greater good of the Cleveland community. That's what we call "passion."

Mabel's BBQ

Chef Michael Symon (yes, THE Michael Symon) is opening a new restaurant called Mabel's BBQ in late 2014. It's named after his childhood dog. Those of us who are dog lovers are swooning right now. Everyone else is just a little confused. So, let us share more.

Symon's a big fan of good barbeque - all kinds (Texas, Kansas City, Memphis), but has always been a bit dismayed by the lack of barbeque in his beloved hometown of Cleveland.

That's all about to change with his new 100-person eatery on East Fourth Street. The restaurant is named after his favorite bullmastiff who, like the way good barbeque is meant to be cooked, was a little slow.

Beyond that, Symon (who could open any kind of restaurant anywhere in the world) is committed to creating a barbeque style that is uniquely Cleveland. Think of it: Cleveland-style barbeque. We suspect stadium mustard and maple syrup might be involved.

Sounds tasty and passionate, too.

Toast Cleveland

When you're the new chef/owners of a restaurant, you know that your "schedule" is...umm...every minute of every day.

So, when chef/owners and newlyweds (then fiancés) Jennifer Plank and Joe Horvath were off to get married, they found themselves in quite the pickle: Who to watch over their evolving menu at their new eatery in the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood during their honeymoon.

But it was no surprise to us Clevelanders when a large chunk of the culinary community stepped up and put their self-interests aside to make sure this happy couple had the opportunity to properly celebrate their marriage.

Plank and Horvath were able to leave town knowing that big-time local chefs like Karen Small from Flying Fig and Chris Hodgson from Hodge's would step in - each for a day - to operate a "pop up" menu at Toast.

You see, collaboration within our culinary community is something we're known for here in Cleveland. It's something that sets us apart. And, it's driven by something called "passion."


Chef Jonathon Sawyer is Cleveland. Seriously, this guy embodies everything we absolutely adore about this whole darn place. And, his newest restaurant, Trentina, exemplifies that embodiment at its core.

The restaurant is focused on the foods coming out of the Trento province of Italy, a region that boasts significant influences from places like Austria, Germany and Italy. The valleys of Trentino and the valleys of the Cleveland area are quite similar in product and personality - shaped by many different Eastern European countries.

Sawyer didn't just select Trento out of thin air, though. The family of Amelia Sawyer (the chef's wife and partner) hails from this Italian region. So, it's pretty personal for them.

Even better, the duo received funding for this University Circle restaurant through a Kickstarter campaign, which was largely funded by Clevelanders themselves.

Good move on the part of Clevelanders, too. Because Trentina is the perfect addition to their already successful restaurant lineup including places like The Greenhouse Tavern and Noodlecat (to name just a few). Trentina's been so successful, in fact, that it was recently given a spot on Conde Nast Traveler's "15 Best New Restaurants in the Midwest."

Check out the Sawyers' poignant video about the restaurant here. We think "passionate" would be the perfect way to describe this oh-so-Cleveland couple.  

Other New (or soon to open) CLE Restaurants with Great Stories

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