But it truly is impossible to understand Cleveland’s food scene solely by examining the top end, and so we must travel to below the mulchy surface, to the city’s Eastern European roots. Sokolowski’s University Inn, the old-style, family-owned, classic Polish fixture, has all the things your grandmother would have made if you called her babcia: gołąbki (stuffed cabbage rolls), pierogi, and kielbasa, both fresh and smoked. Slyman’s Restaurant is the kind of deli that highlights that what we think of as a Jewish deli has broader Eastern European roots. That overstuffed corned beef sandwich is the stuff of legend.
Eastern European cuisine is not the only ethnic food Cleveland offers, however embedded it may be. In recent years, a burgeoning Asian scene has taken root around Superior Avenue just east of 90. Superior Pho may be named for the road, but it might as well be named for the beef noodle soup too. It is as good a bowl as any I’ve sampled anywhere. Miega Korean Barbeque, on the second floor of an Asian food mall, features top quality meats, a smokeless table barbeque system, and creative banchan. Sichuan Gourmet is just the sort of regional Chinese place one might not expect to find in Cleveland, or the Midwest at all.