230 W. Huron Rd.
Cleveland, OH, 44113 - USA
Bite: Massive, tasty, satisfying.
by Beau Cadiyo
Tower City has always seemed crowded, dark and oppressive. I wandered through the food court looking at options and people. The former were plentiful and the latter were motley – some looked homeless, some like bankers. I spied Dan in his suit and bumped into him aggressively while chewing on a sample that the immigrant woman had called “Chicken Buffalo.” I was sure she’d misspoke, but it didn’t take like a Buffalo Chicken Wing sandwich. Dan had ordered the Chicken Philly sandwich, and when I looked at the menu, the immigrant woman was vindicated – Chicken Buffalo. Almost immediately his sandwich was ready, and my eyes bulged at how huge it was. I immediately ordered one.
The story of Charley’s is inspiring. A junior at OSU borrowed his mom’s life savings and opened his first restaurant, and twenty years later there are 200 or something around the world. Inspiring and stupid – I would never gamble like that, either as a son or mother.
The sandwiches are prepared quickly. The fries were soggy and unimpressive, almost cardboardlike. The first bite of my sandwich was not too good, but as I kept eating it kept getting better. The chicken was a bit tough, but the lettuce was fresh and the tomatoes were some of the best I’ve ever had in restaurant food, much less fast food – very red and unusually tasty. The server had slathered mayonnaise on it, which made it fatty-tasting.
Eating it while overlooking the crooked river, I thought of Woody Allen’s “Love and Death.” There's a scene where Napoleon has his chefs create a pastry good enough to bear his name and compete with the freshly-emerged “Beef Wellington.” In our world there are Philly cheesesteaks, California rolls, boston beans, New England clam chowder, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Maryland Fried Chicken, Chicago and New York pizza and probably dozens more I can’t think of. Will we ever have anything besides the Steamer? We need something to bear our name. Cleveland Brownies, for example, or a “Burning River” shot of cinnamon liqueur and tequila, lit or unlit. Instead of having a contest to determine what it is, though, it has to emerge organically. Every independently owned restaurant in Cleveland should produce a “Cleveland” food and, in twenty years, something will emerge as the Cleveland food.
I finished in two portions. The sandwich, at the end was phenomenal, and weighed in my stomach for the rest of the day. Cleveland food, though – I’m still thinking about what it can be. I'm pretty sure, thought, that I will not be borrowing my mom's life savings to start my own restaurant.