Surprise! Cleveland Food Rocks

Maybe it’s a jaded New York attitude, but eating well seemed a remote possibility in Cleveland. I mean, I’ve gone to Cincinnati many times and although the food scene there is growing, it’s still Ohio.

The delicious truly wild mushroom gyro at Larder

One of the main attractions in Cleveland is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. We made our pilgrimage there. And it’s fantastic. But man does not live by guitar licks alone. We needed sustenance.

First up, Larder Delicatessen and Bakery

This James Beard semi finalist (for best chef AND best new restaurant) updates classics like pastrami and matzo ball soup, and has house made pickles, sauerkraut and rye bread. When we were at Larder, one of the owners, chef Jeremy Umansky, had just foraged maitake mushrooms and his “truly wild mushroom gyro” made me swoon.

The overstuffed gyro burst with mushrooms and might have been the best sandwich of my life. I shared it (somewhat reluctantly) with my husband. We also had a fried cheese and tomato sandwich and a side of cauliflower salad. There are several pickled and fermented sides daily, and the cauliflower had pickled carrots, sweet potatoes and some red pepper for crunch.

Tomato and cheese sandwich with cauliflower side

We had to sample the sweet baked goods and got a chocolate chip cookie the size of a dinner plate. It was the pinnacle of chocolate chip cookies.

For now, Larder is to go only. While we waited for our lunch, we had fantastic espresso from Rising Star, next door. The businesses share an old firehouse in Hingetown.

West Side Market

The West Side Market’s gorgeous ceiling

This historic indoor market has a remarkable array of local food, produce and imported specialties. West Side Market opened in 1912 and has over 100 vendors.

I was remarking to my daughter that I wanted to see if Narrin’s Spices and Sauce had Kala namak, the black salt used to make vegan food ‘eggy.” The owner heard me through my mask and plopped a container of the very product in front of me. She also had smoked salt which I’ve been using in Old Fashioneds (try it).

We bought turmeric hummus, buffalo cheddar stuffed olives, (awesome!) fresh bread and brownies for a feast after a hike.

Flying Fig

The woman owned Flying Fig, also a semifinalist for a James Beard award, specializes in plant based small plates (there is also meat). The restaurant, a block from West Side Market, has a nice outdoor seating area, but no heat lamps. But indoor tables were well spaced.

Beets with arugula, pickled onions and labneh

Four of us shared several small plates and three large. The tofu bahn mi bowl was delicious and the ricotta gnocchi, with squash, mushrooms and kale, was an ideal fall dish. Complex cocktails are the perfect complement, though we were sad that the one with bourbon, nocino and orgeat was not available. Next time.

Rood Food and Pie

Vegan sloppy Joe

The focus here is on pie but bunch and cocktails are also yummy. The Damn Fine Vegan Joe, smokey meatless crumbles on a homemade curry roll, was a filling way to start the day. The biscuits are also flaky and not to be missed.


Another woman owned restaurant with a small plates menu, Salt+ was twice a James Beard semifinalist, Salt+ has vegetable, fish and meat sections. The menu changes seasonally.

Eating here was our first time since March eating indoors. We had reservations for the patio, but there was only one heat lamp and it was quite cold. Tables were well spaced and everyone was mask compliant.


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