What Is Cleveland-Style Barbecue?


No, it doesn't involve ribs marinated in the tears of downtrodden sports fans. But if chef Michael Symon has his way, Cleveland-style barbecue will be the next distinct variation on America's greatest contribution to gastronomy -- well, behind Taco Bell, of course.

The Cleveland native told Playboy magazine he's not just opening Mabel's BBQ in C-Town soon... but inventing an entirely Midwestern take on BBQ. Along with the traditional ribs, pulled pork, and other delightful animals cooked slow and low, Symon will serve kielbasa and fermented kraut as an homage to Cleveland's Eastern European roots. And the restaurant will smoke its food over applewood, given the Buckeye State's proliferation of apple trees. But that's not all.

Mabel's grub will pass Dawg Pound inspection -- and not because the restaurant's named after the chef's pup. Symon embraced the city's blood rivalry with Pittsburgh (Browns-Steelers, duh), eschewing ketchup and the Pittsburgh-based Heinz empire for Cleveland's famous Stadium Mustard as a base for sauces. From Playboy:

Because ketchup is made in Pittsburgh, we would never serve a tomato-based sauce in Cleveland. Cleveland’s known for its mustard, and I wanted to use that as the base of our sauce.

And it's not just any old mustard. It's Bertman’s Stadium Mustard, which, as Symon points out, you'll see on hot dogs at every Indians, Browns, or Cavs game. And it's delicious stuff.

The Catch, The Drive, and The Shot -- all infamous in Cleveland lore. But now, hopefully, Symon is bringing an indelibly positive culinary moment to the city: The Sauce.

Ryan Craggs is Thrillist's Senior News Editor. He grew up near Cleveland, but his father made him a Steelers fan. His Cleveland friends hate him. Follow him @ryanrcraggs.