Road Trippin' with Hungry Outlaw: Cleveland Chefs Rock when put in the spotlight
The summer of 2016 has been an incredible one for the city of Cleveland. Starting the summer out with the cities first championship in 52 years, bringing in 1.3 million people to attend the parade downtown, the city has been electric. Everyone came home from all over the world, and the city came together to celebrate an incredible win from our beloved Cavaliers in Game 7 over the Golden State Warriors. Follow that with the RNC, & a crazy world on edge, Cleveland once again did not disappoint. This has been the city of Cleveland's time to shine, and they stepped up & hit it out of the park. Nobody shined more than Cleveland's top chefs & restaurants. We saw the foods of Cleveland & our chef's being featured nationally, appearing on the things like the Today show, and chefs talking titles on ESPN. Its been a blast, & I was lucky to be a part of it.
During my visit, I had several people tell me about how much the city has changed, in just over a year. They kept telling me about new places I needed to try. And let me tell you, I was blown away from the transformation my hometown has made. Cleveland is a booming and thriving town with a new found sense of being on top. Superstar chefs like Chef Jonathon Sawyer & Michael Symon, local hot spots like Crop Rocks & Townhall. The East Bank of the Flats is mind blowing in & of itself. Very proud of where my hometown has come.
East Bank of the Flats
The night I arrived in town, I had several friends tell me I need to get to Crop Rocks, & see the new Flats. It was a gorgeous night & I was picking up my son Ren to take him for a good dinner, and Crop Rocks seemed the perfect spot. To begin, as you get into the valet area, you immediately stumble onto 3 great new spots in town: Punchbowl Social, Alley Cat, & Crop Rocks.
We started by grabbing a delicous cocktail at Punchbowl Social, than head to Crop Rocks for dinner. Being a native Clevelander, I have been wanting some good walleye, and Crop Rocks was on point with their Walleye Fish & Chips. Started out with a beautiful crabcake sitting on a bed of ginger dressed cabbage. Is there a better way to start off a vacation? Great place, fun atmosphere, and just a really awesome vibe.
Gordon Square Neighborhood (W. 58th & Detroit)
Easily my favorite place in town, & for a great reason. I played a role in helping to spring the Happy Dog onto the scene in the late 90's with my good friend, Bill Scanlon. He decided to open the Happy Dog in 1997, and quickly the Happy Dog gained a cult like following with its Sunday Phish Tapers clubs held every Sunday night, way back in the day. It was a spot that music loving souls gravitated towards. There was nothing like jamming with guitar genious, Tim Askins in the basement of the Dog late on a Sunday evening.
Now while my bond is strong with the Dog, the explosion they encountered came after Bill sold the Happy Dog to a couple of his high school pals, one being famous Clevelander, Chef Eric Williams, owner of Momocho. They quickly revamped a traditional bar menu, with a simple $6 hot dog, customer made by a local butcher, and housemade tater tots. The kicker is that the customers can choose up to 50 housemade toppings. My hot dog in the picture has Carribean slaw, Jerk Chili, Fried Egg, Jalapenos. But the crazy customers go for the Peanut Butter, Alien Relish, & Fruit Loops. They also have a custom made vegetarian dog that has people going crazy. Its always been one of my favorite late night spots to end up at and just hang out, eat delicous food, & listen to incredible live music. The Happy Dog has blown up so much that they now have 2 locations, with the latest being in the legendary Euclid Tavern out near Case Western Reserve University. They served their famous hot dog's to the Today Show crew live on the air & were featured in a segment's on ESPN prior to the Cavs game 7 victory. Even long time chef & great friend, Jeff Hall got to live his dream out as ESPN interviewed him about his deliciously grilled treasures and what it would mean to the city of Cleveland if the Cavs won the title. And of course, they did win.
Ohio City W.25th
Fathers Day fell on a great day this year, and since I am home visiting my son Ren, he tells me about this spot called Townhall, over near the West Side Market. He tells me that this is the spot I need to try for a killer Sunday brunch. The kid knows me all to well, and he was on point.
Brunch at Townhall is a great way
to kick off Fathers Day & Game 7. As we walked in, the first
thing I see is this incredible handmade crepe station, with everything you can think of to create a sweet or a savory crepe. I immediately knew where I would find Ren, because that kid loves his crepes. The menu was awesome, and we ordered a variety of items, such as the sausage gravy & biscuits, avacado toast, seasonal pancakes, while washing them down with some of the houses special fresh juice creations. Being a Texas guy, I went the El Greengo w/ pineapple, jalapeno & cilantro. The vibe was fun & exciting, with excellent music in the background, sliding garage door style open air flow, and the smell of their incredible crepe station filling the crowded hot spot. A definate must hit Sunday Funday Brunch spot when you are visiting Cleveland. Have breakfast, then walk over to the West Side Market and enjoy a great day in the CLE.
Grumpys has been around Tremont for about as long as I can remember. He moved from a tiny hidden spot, to this beautiful, somewhat Victorian looking cafe in a much busier part of the neighborhood. I have always loved coming to Grumpys, because I always know that I will get some of the best corned beef hash in town. Corn beef hash is one of those delicious
Cleveland breakfasts that just feed your soul when its done right. Grumpy is making his own housemade corned beef, and its his attention to detail that makes it consistently perfect. Always perfectly seasoned, topped with two yolky eggs, and I like mine with a side of rye toast.
If you know much about Tremont, you would know that this is the neighborhood that Ralphie grew up in the holiday classic, A Christmas Story. At Grumpys, you will notice the glow of the infamous leg lamp, commemorating Tremont's place in film history. But instead of having some dogs steal your turkey, just head to Grumpy's and get a tasty, hearty breakfast to help you start your day.
Hot Sauce Williams
No website, they do not need one...
Just drive down Carnegie, you'll know where to go
So this is the Hungry Outlaw's primary Cleveland guilty pleasure. The fried chicken smothered in warm housemade BBQ sauce, and a side of the worlds best mac-n-cheese. Yes, I said world's best. This stuff is truly incredible. Rich & creamy, and a solid punch of sharp cheddar. I am so glad my son attends Case, because that requires me to drive past this spot when I go visit him. And when I tell you the mac-n-cheese, I promise this is the real deal. For $30, you can bring a full pan to a Browns tailgate party, and be the hero. It makes for a great topping on hot dogs & burgers, it mixes with any other great tailgate foods, like fried turkeys. But to have it with the best fried chicken in Ohio, you have a winning combination. Come get some amazing soul food, BBQ, and Clevelands famous Polish Boy sandwiches. Hot Sauce Williams is a game changer.
If you have never been to Cleveland, there is no better time than now. The city is buzzing, and the crowds are rockin'. WIth new green space downtown around Public Square, neighborhoods revamped with incredible local restaurants, there is a real resurgence going on that would make any Clevelander proud. Its awesome to see the CLE gain strength and prosperity through becoming a destination location that people around the world are starting to realize is a great place to be.