In re: No Reservations Cleveland Edition

As I mentioned earlier the TV show No Reservations had filmed last January an episode in Cleveland (also has a link to book travel to Cleveland – how exiciting!) and I was under the impression that it was going to premier in September.  I was thus pleasantly surprised to see it at the top of the list on my Tivo yesterday.  I quickly set about to watch it (and avoid unpacking from my recent trip out to Nevada/Utah).  The locales for the episode were of course already known for the most part.  The show surprisingly started with Skyline Chili, which isn’t from Cleveland, isn’t very prevalent around town (Michael Ruhlman who invited Tony to come had never been)  Tony Bourdain had already known and had the famous Cincy chili (if you’ve never had its not like the chili you may be thinking of, this chili has no beans, no tomatoes (brown colored sauce, hint of cinnamon). 

 While Ruhlman railed against the strange dish (most commonly served as a 3 way (on spaghetti with cheese) although I get a five way with beans and onions, Bourdain was quite happy with himself and would use future meals at the place as a threat to Ruhlman.  The Skyline that they went to is out in Lyndhurt on Mayfield road and Rulhman correctly points out that Tony had brought him to one of the more soulless places in Cleveland (actually Mayfield road reminds me of the current development style as seen in much of Las Vegas, Orlando, generic suburbs around the country.  The difference is that Mayfield reflects ‘bands’ of ethnic arrival and age, as Mayfield in Cleveland Heights is quite different then Mayfield and S.O.M. )

 Anyway, putting Skyline behind them, Tony gets to meet Harvey Pekar, Tobby (who you know if you’ve seen American Splendor) who take him on a brief tour of Cleveland, ending for lunch at Sokolowski’s for some Eastern European fare.  As I mentioned before Tony gets an indepth taste of the creations of the Sausage Shop, and then a tour of the Rock Hall with Marky Ramone (Bourdain is correct that there is something strange about a museum to Rock and Roll, especially one with no bar and no smoking). 

 Ramone and Bourdain then dine at Lola, downtown, and is treated to an abundance of heavy food that Ramone has no problem polishing off.  One of the more interesting dishes I hadn’t known of (all were referencing Cleveland) was a foie gras bratwurst that came with a Great Lakes beer cheese soup and some stadium mustard.  A famous dish of Lola that they also enjoyed was a beef cheek pierogi.   Later, with chef Michael Symon (of Lola) Tony visits Hot Sauce Williams, where they order up all kinds of stuff and experience what happens when Southern Soul Food, mixes with a city full of Eastern Europeans.

The final meal on the show is one made by Bourdain and Ruhlman, who get to show off their respective skills (Ruhlman from his Charcuterie publishing fame, and Tony making cassoulet) both featuring a high pork that they butchered. 

Overall verdict of all this?  Well, I love to see anything on Cleveland and applaud Ruhlman for getting some attention on the city that he loves.  As the show points out Cleveland is authentic and has a treasure trove of things that even big cities would be jealous of (as Tony points out on their trip to the West Side Market).  Still the episode has some flaws (its not a film and I don’t mean to dissect it so much) but the faux feud between Ruhlman and Bourdain isn’t that entertaining and the fake drag racing scene (yeah you heard me right) also is pretty stupid and didn’t add much, could have snuck in something more interesting in that time.  Minor complaints, recommend you check it out on one of its inevitable replays.

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2 Responses

  1. I liked the episode a lot; it reminded me of the Jersey episode with the stupid subplots and the like, although I did like the sweet camero in the drag racing scene.

    The beef cheek pierogie at Lola and the cassoulet at the end had both Husband and I swooning, and the sausage tour reminded me of our own Thurn’s, a place probably not enough people know about.

    How funny was it when they went to the bookstore in the old Twinkie factory and it still had the fructose syrup in the pipes?! And not even the rats would eat it!

    Okay, and lastly, I loved Harvey, and I thought it was perfect that they visited when it was all cold, dark and snowy. The true Ohio experience.

  2. I am going to Cleveland for the first time this weekend. I know for sure that I am visiting the West Side Market (any opinions on particularly stellar vendors to visit?) – are there any other foodie destinations to see? Thanks!

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