David Kamp’s book, The United States of Arugula, describes early American eating habits as “joyless” and “gluttonous,” consisting mainly of low-grade beef and over-boiled veggies “pitchfork[ed]” down one’s gullet. In the years since then, we were slow to develop: pickles and garlic (brought over by the same immigrants who once strengthened our vineyards and breweries) were regarded with grave suspicion. Common household meals were frankensteined together from canned, sodium-dense ingredients. We had bland meals, and, to wash them down, bland beers.
As America’s taste buds slowly but surely awoke in the '90s and aughts (thank you, immigrant chefs, Julia Child, and Food Network), its alcohol preferences did too. It happened in Northeast Ohio: Lola opened in ‘97, Parallax in 2004, to name a mere couple restaurants (from leading local restaurateurs Michael Symon and Zack Bruell, respectively) that brought Cleveland’s food scene national recognition early on. It took a few years, but with best-in-the-US bars like Velvet Tango Room and Porco, Cleveland’s cocktail culture has caught up too.