Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Slyman’s Restaurant

3106 Saint Clair Ave NE
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 621-3760

Bite: This is the best of Cleveland in every way.

By Beau Cadiyo

After Ed and I had waited on the sidewalk for fifteen minutes we found out that there are two lines at Slyman’s: one for takeout and one for sit-down. The siren-song of waiting and smoking outside had caught us; we had been in the former. A little embarrassed, we walked in and took seats at the counter, where a woman large in both body and personality shoved menus, drinks and utensils at us.

Slymans, busy, is a feast for the eyes. The other waiting patrons represented a cross-section of Cleveland, all colors, shapes, ages and economic levels. Ed noted that it seemed like they were united in their search for excellent food. The mechanical corned-beef slicer becomes hypnotic if you stare at it for long enough: slabs of meat are thrown on and gravity pulls them into the blade, resulting in a pile which is constantly diminished and replenished. I’m sure there is a Greek myth to which I could compare it. The “everything Three Stooges” décor is carefully, lovingly arranged – it’s overwhelming but not tacky. Finally, watching the staff cooking and arranging and serving and charging as a unit is like watching world-class choreography. They looked so busy producing greatness that they didn’t even stop to exhibit justifiable pride in their work. I wish I’d had a camera.

When our sandwiches arrived, a token slice of Swiss cheese and two slices of rye bread garnished the massive, warm, leaning twin towers of corned beef on my plate. We’d earlier agreed to split our sandwiches; I here forgo describing the corned beef as I don't believe I could do such an exquisite experience justice. I inhaled my half and started in on half of Ed’s BBQ Beef sandwich. It was a little too vinegary, and Ed had made the near-fatal mistake of ordering white bread, but otherwise it was tastier than most. The fries were excellent – they’d been frozen, but they’d also been cooked perfectly, or as well as I’ve ever had. We mixed them first with ketchup, then with an unidentifiable pink sauce which tasted like mayonnaise mixed with relish for texture. It, like everything, was amazing.

At 2:00 p.m. we stood in line to pay, then squeezed through the door past patrons, lined up to the sidewalk, waiting for take-out. When we got to Chester and 105th, we both felt like we’d been on an odyssey longer than an hour and a half. At 4:30, halfway through my swim, I burped mid-stroke and realized that mere hours earlier I had truly tasted excellence.

Slyman in Cleveland


Das Schnitzel Haus

5728 Pearl Rd.
Parma, OH 44129

By Edward Sandwichhands

Cleveland is a smelly place – a smelly, smelly place. When I moved here I blamed the smell on the lake. But the stench isn’t localized, it follows you. It’s in your dresser when you go to put on your morning clothes – and it crawls into bed with you each night.

Every year Cleveland has this wonderful event called “Taste of Cleveland.” It costs five dollars to get in, the food is overpriced, and it’s located right by the smelly lake. About thirty local restaurants attend this event and serve some of the finest sandwiches this side of Akron.

I attended “Taste of Cleveland” with several close friends. My friends and I were filling our time with comfort food until Nathan arrived on the 9:30 pm Greyhound from Toledo. The Greyhound station is possibly one of the smelliest places in America, especially when the unique smell is compounded with Cleveland’s own. If I was going to make it through a night of horrifying smells and another morning of crippling loneliness, I would have to eat.

I knew that only a hearty sandwich of massive proportions could ease my worries and satiate my hunger. The Germans are a hearty people, who consume all of their traditional foods with mustard and sauerkraut. When the fine employees of ‘Das Schnitzel Haus’ asked me if I would like sauerkraut and mustard on my Schnitzel sandwich I could hardly refuse. Wiener schnitzel is the type of Schnitzel most commonly served in Austria. It consists of thin veal coated in bread crumbs and deep fried. Americans tend to think of Wiener schnitzel as being some type of extravagant hot dog, but really it’s very similar to veal parmesan – minus the parmesan. The schnitzel was delicious. Served on a thick roll and covered in whole grain mustard and sauerkraut - a simple, but filling sandwich. In one bite I felt happy, German, and a little smelly. Despite my predisposition toward taking pleasure in the little things, no sandwich could help me cope with the fact that I would soon be scouring a Greyhound station for my friend in hopes that he hadn’t been murdered or urinated on.

Das Schnitzel Haus in Parma


Monday, September 24, 2007

Organic Energy Restaurant and Power Juice Cafe

28500 Miles Rd, Suite J
Solon, Ohio 44139
P: 440.349.1500

By Hammond T. Amato

Organic Energy was the only thing keeping the boxy strip mall on Miles road from seeming dark and looming as we drove up after dusk. The high ceilings and straight walls of new plazas typically turn me off, but inside, the store managed a welcoming atmosphere with a few big comfortable couches, a wall lined with two-seater square tables, and a coffee table covered with cooking magazines and books about farming and food politics.

Beau and I started off with shots of wheatgrass. Never having had one before, it tickled me to have a shooter of lawn juice put in front of me like tequila, my chaser a slice of orange. Warned otherwise, I didn’t find the taste repulsive, though I wouldn’t substitute it for my morning cereal. I read the extensive list of juices, food and smoothies on the menu board behind the counter, getting caught up in the names (the Ninja noodle bowl, for example, and the salad simply called "Big"). Picky veggie eaters such as me will appreciate house-made veggie burgers, tempeh, and hummus, options that avoid the ubiquitous cheesy alternative to meat.

I thought very seriously about having a simple almond-butter sandwich, but opted for something more complex. I had the #4 on ciabatta bread. Over the low counter, I chatted with one of the two workers as he spread pesto sauce and hummus and arranged sun-dried tomatoes, slices of tempeh and strips of marinated mushrooms. Beau and I settled on a long couch while our dinners toasted, and in a moment we received both of our sandwiches in little plastic baskets, accented by a pickle spear and, to my delight, a little container of quinoa salad. What other restaurants think to serve such a quirky grain?

The best thing about my meal was the fact that it managed to be crisp despite the spreads lining the bread. It's all too easy to create a soggy panini, and I'd like to thank OE for toasting my supper without soaking it. The pleasure of crunchy food added to the evening, although ultimately my meal only simply satisfied. I certainly enjoyed it, as I tend to enjoy the flavors of hummus and tempeh no matter what, but I wish that the pesto had been spicier.

Even though prices exceeded moderation- seven dollars for a sandwich, not counting bottled water and wheatgrass- I’ll go back. I liked the store, lit by charming hanging lamps, and I liked the menu, peppered with interesting ingredients and lots of build-it-yourself options. The people manning the operation that night weren't pushy about us leaving as they began to close around us; we were treated with a smile right up to our exit. Despite its home in a rather common shopping complex, Organic Energy has some good vibes (and good sandwiches) to share.

Organic Energy Restaurant & Power Juice Cafe in Solon


Sunday, September 23, 2007


14718 Detroit Ave
Lakewood, Ohio

By K. Sediya

Only a few tables were open on Saturday afternoon at Melt, and only one on the patio. Of course, choosing the patio meant sacrificing the ambiance including random cartoons on various televisions, Cleveland memorabilia- particularly related to the Tribe- and the glowing plastic Dracula statute statue above the bar. The patio, in contrast, lacked décor and the tables were strangely and sparsely arranged, producing a slightly sterile and empty feeling. The waitress was almost cartoonish because of her stature (at least 6’2”) and un-worldly large breasts. Still, neither she, nor the sing-along oldies music, nor the stunning weather, came close to matching all of the stimuli inside of the restaurant.

We started with fried tofu. As a 16-year vegetarian I consider myself a tofu connoisseur and “fried” is one of my favorite presentations. The crunchy outside pleasantly contrasted to the soft, but not gelatinous, inside. The tofu entirely absorbed the flavor of the BBQ sauce, which was tasty- thick and slightly sweet with a very mild zing- though would not win any awards for creativity. Still, the appetizer was a satisfying “tide-me-over” after a long day of photographing on the West Side.

When the gargantuan sandwiches arrived, accompanied by a generous portion of French fries and coleslaw, it became apparent that the tide-me-over was unnecessary. First, my family believes that cooking French fries is an art. The fries at Melt were crispy on the outside without being burnt and would have more than passed muster at our dinner table in their generous portions. Second, the flavors of the Mushroom Melt blended flawlessly. The sweetness of the caramelized onion nicely complemented the provolone and portabellas. However, the Spinach Pie sandwich was less satisfying. The feta did not melt very well, so the sandwich, including spinach, roasted red peppers and grilled onions, fell apart and the flavors and textures seemed like separate entities rather than cohesive parts of a whole.

Though I would happily return and re-order the Mushroom Melt, the appeal of this typically Lakewood joint- chock-full of hipsters, heavily tattooed punk rockers, middle class families (probably of Irish-American descent), and the occasional neighborhood jock- is not the gourmet food. Rather, it’s the nostalgia that the restaurant evokes from the grilled cheese sandwiches, a favorite food from childhood, to the retro album cover menus and the historical Cleveland Decor. The past often seems better in hindsight, doesn’t it?

Melt Bar & Grilled in Lakewood