What's Good Around Here?
Must-Eat Cleveland Dishes
By Lexi Hotchkiss, Image by Janey Schafer
Any self-described foodie knows that the secret to travel is through one’s stomach. And, every city in every country around the globe boasts its own authentic flavors – influenced by local ingredients, unique artisanal products, a strong cultural backbone, geographic location, the region’s history or the personality of its locals.
In Cleveland, we’ve got a taste all our own. Planning a trip? Better come hungry. Here’s why:
The Polish Boy
You’ll only find Polish Boys – of the sandwich variety – right here in Cleveland, OH.
These monstrosities start with a grilled Polish kielbasa laid in a thick, white sausage roll. Next, the sandwich is topped with piping hot French fries and crunchy coleslaw. The whole thing is then crowned with a generous coating of barbeque sauce or, in some cases, hot sauce. It’s a ridiculous creation of savory satisfaction. And – oh boy – is it tasty.
Much like that of Italian ravioli, pierogi are thick semi-circle dumplings with crimped edges. But unlike its Italian counterpart, pierogi are typically stuffed with whipped potatoes and cheese. Then, the dumplings are boiled, fried, grilled or baked and slathered with copious amounts of butter.
Thanks to turn-of-the-century immigration combined with a manufacturing boom along Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River, Cleveland has a reputation for being a true melting pot of ethnicities. In fact, at one point during Cleveland’s history, the city was home to more Hungarians outside of Hungary than any other city in the world.
The result of such diversity means fantastic food. Specifically? Hungarian sausage. And, while there are dozens and dozens of different types of Hungarian links, most are smoked and spiced with lots of paprika.
Want to find the most authentic in The Land? Check out the various sausage vendors at the West Side Market.
Ice wine is the product of allowing wine grapes to freeze while still on the vine so as to concentrate the natural sugars in the juice. The climate around Lake Erie is ideal for making ice wine as the warm lake protects the vines until the first hard frost. The grapes are then harvested and pressed immediately, while still frozen. The result: an incredibly sweet wine with high acidity.
Who makes the best? Who are we to judge? Head on over to one of these local producers: Ferrante Winery, Debonne Vineyards, Firelands Winery, John Christ Winery, Old Firehouse Winery, St. Joseph Vineyard, Grand River Cellars, Laurello Vineyards and Mon Ami Winery.
Lake Erie Perch
Lake Erie, a hub for even the most experienced fishing enthusiasts, is the 12th largest lake in the world and the shallowest, warmest and most biologically productive of all the Great Lakes. What does that mean? Lake Erie’s got more fish for human consumption than all the other Great Lakes combined. And, while CLE boasts an abundance of freshwater fish, yellow perch stands out as the most popular.
Stadium Mustard or Bertman’s Ballpark Mustard
While Cleveland certainly can’t claim to be the birthplace of baseball, it is the place where the brown, spicy mustard topping the hotdogs at those baseball games was first created.
Joe Bertman developed a smooth, old-world style brown mustard product specifically for League Park, a baseball field in Cleveland in 1938. When the Cleveland Indians baseball team moved to its various homes Bertman’s Original Ball Park Mustard moved with them.
Meanwhile, Authentic Stadium Mustard, also a Cleveland-based mustard company has been busy perfecting its recipe for years. . This Cleveland-based company perfected its recipe and preparation so that its mustard is now available in more than 150 stadiums and arenas through the country.
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!
This list could seriously take up our server’s entire bandwidth. So, instead of risking a total technical meltdown, we’ve briefly listed 20 unique, drool-worthy foods we think you’ve just got to try while visiting:
• Animal frites from The Greenhouse Tavern
• Balsamic popcorn salad from Crop
• Beef cheek pierogi from Lola Bistro
• Bread pudding from Great Lakes Brewing Company
• Cannoli from Presti’s Bakery
• Cassata cake from Corbo’s Bakery
• Cleveland Nachos from Fahrenheit
• Corned beef from Slyman’s
• Dichotomy Corn from Campbell’s Sweets Factory
• Goat cheese guacamole from Momocho
• Heckburger from Heck’s Café
• Hush puppies from the Nauti Mermaid
• Lemon ricotta pancakes from the Inn on Coventry
• Maple bacon bourbon ale donut from Brewnuts
• Milkshakes from Tommy’s Restaurant
• Paczki from Seven Roses Deli
• Parmageddon from Melt Bar + Grilled
• Pho from Superior Pho
• Pork buns from Koko Bakery
• Smokies from the West Side Market
• Sunnyside pizza from Bar Cento