One of my very good friends lives in Cleveland. Over the weekend, I road tripped up to #CLE to visit her and her boyfriend!

#FIRSTTIMEINCLEVELAND !

My friend has been telling me about all the amazing #CLE food, and the week prior to me coming, she even sent me an awesome link to a garlic festival. Garlic rules. We did drive by it, and not only was there a HUGE blow up garlic in the park, there was a guy dressed up in a garlic costume walking around.

In preps of visiting this dear city of Cleveland, who loves The Drew Carey Show? Me!

In my head I cue this song (which I played via my phone in my friends apartment Sunday to figure out what buildings I recognized this weekend):

There is SO much energy and pride for this city going on in #cle. Huge crowds headed to Indians games, people of all ages bustling around all of the cool neighborhoods, people grabbing drinks with their friends at the cute outdoor beer garden restaurants. Just a gorgeous place.

Here are some of the foodie places my friend took me to:

1) Tommys Restaurant

1824 Coventry Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
216-321-7757

Hours:   Sunday – Thursday:  9am – 9pm
Friday:                       9am – 10pm
Saturday:                  7:30am-10pm

What I ate: Veggie Burger with cheese:  Brown rice, scallions, carrots, garlic, parsley, onions, adzuki beans, shaped like patties and fried. Served on a wheat bun. $8.75.

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My thoughts: Now THIS, my friends, is what I call a burger. By first glance, would you think this is all veggie? Me, no (well, maybe the sprouts would make me think it, but really, no). This burger is HUGE, and it will fill you up. The patty itself did taste very “meaty,” and had great a great flavor combination. I normally don’t like sprouts, but all the veggies piled together, along with the big wheat bun, made for a fantastic sandwich. It’s one of those stretch-your-jaw ones. What brought it over the top for me was the brown mustard sauce that came on the side, giving it the extra kick. The sandwich as a whole was not dry by no means: it was moist and juicy.

Why you should go: Now yes, I ate a veggie burger, but Tommy’s isn’t just a vegetarian place. There are lots of meat options. For breakfast, you can get items such as omelets or breakfast egg sandwiches (including the Elsie Combo, which has two fried eggs, two strips of bacon, Mayo, American cheese and peanut butter made into a triple decker sandwich (choice of toast). My friend told me the breakfast at Tommy’s is really, really good, but if you want to get that, you will have to come at the right time (we unfortunately missed it by 15 minutes). For lunch and dinner, there are plenty of beef-filled burgers, tuna sandwiches (such as the A.D. which has tuna, mushrooms, falafel, tomato and cheese), falafel sandwiches (such as the D.C. my friend got which has falafel, veggies, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, sesame sauce, cheese, pictured below), hummus, etc. Tommy’s is also known for its milkshakes, with flavors of Vanilla, Chocolate, Cherry, Peach, Strawberry, Coffee, Mocha, Mint Chocolate Chip, Root Beer, Black Cherry, Cookies & Cream, Cookie Dough, Moosetracks and Black Raspberry Chip. Pumpkin Pie & Peppermint Stick are its seasonal flavors. Tommy’s has also had visit from the likes of famous celebs such as Al Roker, Drew Carey, Heather Graham, Molly Shannon and Sheryl Crow’s band (yes, her band. One of our favorite parts of reading this on its menu). You can check out all of the celebs that have been to Tommy’s here.

2) Melt Bar and Grilled (several locations, I went to Lakewood)

14718 Detroit Ave.
Lakewood, OH 44107
216.226.3699

Monday-Thursday: 11:00am – 11:00pm
Friday-Saturday: 11:00am – 12:00 midnight
Sunday: 11:00am – 11:00pm
Bar open till 2:00am every night.

What I ate: Monte Cristo: honey ham, smoked turkey, Swiss, American, crispy battered & deep fried, mixed berry preserves $11.50 .

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My thoughts: One of the best grilled cheese sandwiches EVER. HANDS DOWN. I’ve had a Monte Cristo at Bennigan’s before, but this blows Bennigan’s sandwich wayyy out of the water.I wasn’t sure which sandwich to choose at first. All of the grilled cheeses (the restaurants specialty) on its menu were mouthwatering. I narrowed it down between that one, The Dude Abides (homemade meatballs, fried mozzarella wedges, rich marinara, provolone & romano) and the Parmageddon (potato & onion pierogi, fresh napa vodka kraut, sautéed onions, sharp cheddar). I originally didn’t want the Monte Cristo, but when I saw the guy next to me get it, AND the waitress said its the restaurant’s signature sandwich, and with my friend saying I should try it, I got it, and woah. This is a balanced nirvana sandwich: there’s the savory of the honey ham, smoked turkey and two cheeses, then with the sandwich being battered and deep fried, AND with the sweet powdered sugar on top, AND having the tangy mixed berry sauce to dip in on the side, it was like this beautiful fried dough cheesy goodness. I was hungry, and devoured the entire plate. The hand cut fries were great too. A great bang for your buck too.

Why you should go: The experience itself is even more reason to go. There will be a bit of a wait depending on the time you head there, but instead of being given the standard beeper or just name calling when your table’s ready, this restaurant steps it up a notch with labels. But not just any name labels. Mine said something along the lines of “Garfield 1232-3”. My friend and I had absolutely no idea what that meant, but that’s okay. It’s all part of the awesome fun. And hey while you’re waiting, check out all of the cool decor around the room, as well as throughout the restaurant.  As you head to your table, the host will explain the label’s meaning to you. Apparently the one I wore was a phrase from a jingle from a roofing company commercial. Tons more funky phrases like that on the labels. The #1 reason: its grilled cheeses are to die for. And if you’re vegetarian, there are plenty of options too (even though the menu has a lot of meat filled ones). Just check the menu for V (vegetarian), VA (vegetarian option available), and VG (vegan available). Truthfully, as it’s a grilled cheese place, I’m not really sure why people would get anything else on the menu, but I will say, the other stuff on the menu, such as burgers, desserts and appetizers, look great too. But yes, when you go to Cleveland, you need to head to Melt. ASAP.

3) Big Al’s Diner

12600 Larchmere Blvd Cleveland OH 44120

What I ate: The dish that landed this mom & pop dining spot on Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” show, its corned beef hash, along with some scrambled eggs and wheat toast.

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My thoughts: Chef Michael Symon named the corned beef hash the “best thing he ever ate,” on that show, also saying it “magic on a plate.” I definitely thought it was delicious: I liked how the corned beef was salty with the mix of the green peppers and the potatoes that were cut up and looked like unfried French fries. The eggs were fluffy and moist. I just felt like it needed a sauce on top. Just to make it a little more moist, and to add a creamy texture to the mix. I’ll admit, I added hot sauce and pepper on top to give it that extra oomph. So while Michael, I do not agree with you this time, you definitely have a contender.

Why you should go: It’s definitely that hole-in-the-wall diner in the neighborhood that people flock to, and I could see why. Prices are pretty cheap, the food is good, and you can get breakfast, lunch or dinner. A small forewarning though, something we learned while there: you have to seat yourself. We waited for a little bit and then noticed how people were seating themselves in tables as soon as a party upped and left, so we followed suit. Also, be prepared to wait a little while for your food, as they say they cook each dish to order. We did wait a little while for the food. But overall, we thought it was a decent place.

Now something I also learned from my friend while in Cleveland is that this city is full of amazing BEERS! Some places we checked out/walked by that I recommend: Market Garden, Nano Brew, Great Lakes Brewery, and Tremont Taphouse.

At several of these places we witnessed outdoor beer garden seating (I LOVED the outdoor seating at Market Garden at Tremont Taphouse: both had places to sit outdoors with beautiful hanging bulb lights).

I personally love the fruity beers myself, so here’s my list of what to find in #CLE that’s fruity and delicious:

IMG_4773ACE Pear Cider (pictured left): Got this at Melt Bar and Grilled. Essentially tasted like a cold sparkling glass of pear juice. It wasn’t overly sweet, but it wasn’t too bitter either. My friend agreed, saying she thought it tasted like pear juice.

Southern Tier Pumking (pictured right): My friend had this at Melt Bar and Grilled. A spice-filled, warm, cozy tasting beer.

ACE Pumpkin Cider (not pictured): Got that at Market Garden. My friend and I both agreed it tasted like Pumpkin Pie in a glass.

 

There are so many neighborhoods, so many foodie places to check out in Cleveland. The next time I visit, I want to venture into its Little Italy neighborhood, and check out the bar devoted to chocolate.

Next time you head to Cleveland, or if you are from there, please let me know where you go to eat/drink, or please let me know where I should go next!

Enjoy.

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