3106 Saint Clair Ave NE
Cleveland, OH 44114
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.