Doan Goes Back To Cleveland.

I’m pretty sure that 95%+ of the contributors to this site have some sort of affiliation with the grey skied wonder that is Cleveland, Ohio. I would say that I grew up there (my family moved there was I was 8 from Dallas) and I still call it home. I don’t get back there as much as I used to, and I definitely haven’t had many chances to go out and explore the ever expanding gastronic community that Cleveland has to offer as I’m often eating dinner at home with the folks (which I should stress is not a bad thing). So a couple of weeks ago I went back for my 10 year high school reunion (yeah), and I made it a point to go out and get some food. Here’s how it went down.

My mom picked me up from the airport and we went to Pho Hoa, formerly known as Superior Pho. My parents usually opt for #1 Pho (that’s where my mom initially wanted to go) and I think it’s mainly because it’s nicer. However, in the few times in the past that I’ve managed to get Superior, I always found it to be, well, superior. The broth just seems better and for me thats the deciding factor. This homecoming bowl was no exception as it was as good as I had remembered and definitely a great post-airplane meal.

It’s still got nothing on my mom’s though.
(sidenote: I notice that a lot of pho places use the thinner more vermicelli-esque noodles as opposed to the flat ones. What’s with that?)

I went to my high schooll reunion and they had pretty mediocre “barbecue”. I did get pretty drunk though.


dad, mom, popeyes.
I had Popeyes with my parents. As my brother would tell you, my parents love Popeyes. The nearest Popeyes is by Randall Park Mall (RIP) and that’s like 20 minutes away, yet they make the drive every other week. When asked why, they cited the spicy chicken and just the overall quality. Recently when my mom was on her maiden trip to New York, I took her to Egg where reportedly one of the girls from Pies N’ Thighs makes the fried chicken. She ordered it, and when my brother asked her if it was as good as Popeyes, my mom said “No…but they’re different.”
I for one have always loved Popeyes because of their mashed potatoes, which has chunks of chicken and skin in it.
When explaining my parents’ love of Popeyes to my girlfriend, she said “Now I see where you get it from.”

We ate at this pseudo-fancy seafood place at Beachwood mall. My parents and brother had eaten there before and said it was okay, and at first glance it was. I even ordered oysters and they were fine. But my entree, some Ahi Tuna dish, was an honest to goodness disaster. It was “Cajun spiced” and cooked rare, but it was served like sashimi, with the traditional sushi ecoutrements and some nori wrapped rice. Instinctively deciding to eat it like sushi I dunked a piece of tuna in my soy sauce, only I discovered that “Cajun spiced” meant “salty as F” and that combining that with the soy sauce was salt overload. And the rice rolls were too few to really matter for anything. Why would you Cajun spice a dish you’re serving and presenting like it’s Japanese? All in all it was a horriblely conceived dish and enough to not make me care enough to look up the name of the place.
There’s better seafood in Cleveland.

After a year or two of good intentions, I finally went to Melt in Lakewood. Original plans to go were often maligned by “There’s an hour wait” or “Mom’s making steak”, but this time I made it a point to designate one lunch for Melt, and I was not disappointed. I had long studied the menu in my off time to prepare myself for the day that I actually went, so I knew what I was in for food wise. However I was a little surprised to see that the place was a legitimate bar/restaurant, with decor not too far off from The Winking Lizard (only a little more focused on rock & roll and retro kitsch like a 1978 Cleveland Browns team photo in the bathroom). I always just pictured it as a greasy little place with some stools and a counter.

Accompanied by my pal Jim “Lil Shakespeare” Zadd, we sat at the bar and were promptly attended to by the bartender. We ordered our food and drink, I a Municipal Stadium (bratwurst, sauerkraut, american cheese, I asked for no peppers) with lemonade and Jim an El Diablo Burger con Budweiser. After a bit of a wait, our food came out and here’s what I got:
Municipal Stadium Magic
Each dish came with a side of handcut fries and slaw, both of which were pretty good (only I don’t really like sweet slaw). The sandwich however was obviously the real star, as it is the namesake, and it didn’t disappoint. I was a little skeptical prior to my Melt experience as I have had poor grilled cheese sandwich concepts before, but this was pretty much right on the money. They split the sausage so that it didnt slide all over the place, and they put just enough kraut so that it didnt squirt out when you took a bite. Honestly every bite had every ingredient in it, no joke, and I think that’s a pretty big plus in my book. The sausage was flavorful, as was the kraut, and the cheese being American did it’s job (I really like American cheese). My only minor complaint was that the bread was a little too thick, but it’s honestly negligible. Best of all, this pile of food that I did not finish (fries will always be my downfall) was only $9.
All in all, it was a great sandwich well worth the money, and I would definitely go back and try another. And if you haven’t been there yet, you should. Just check out the menu.

So that’s it. Tuesday I went back to New York with my mom and brother because my brother had this reading he was doing at Le Poussin Rouge. There are many more places in Cleveland I need to hit up, some new, most old, and I hope to check some more off the list when I’m back for the 4th of July. If you’ve got any suggestions, feel free to comment away.



  1. dude i was at that grilled cheese place, last week, when i visited cleve land, and was very suprized how yummy it was, I got the “municipal stadium magic” I recommend it .

    Danny B

  2. That first photo of Jacq (?) is incredible.

    I also love the photo of your parents at popeye’s!!!!!!!

    If you ever find yourself on the westside for pho or vietnamese, go to Minh Anh or Khiem’s Restaurant!!!

  3. i have to be honest, that first photo is not of jacq, i found it via google image search.
    and thats not my parents at popeyes, thats popeyes at my parents house. dont let the molding and wallpaper fool you.

  4. Everytime I go back to Cleveland, my first stop is for a RomanBurger at Mr. Hero’s. I’m not the only one, since this is a first meal upon return of many of my friends who no longer live near Cleveland. The owner of the Mr. Hero’s in Berea (where I’m from) told me a story about a guy who came in straight from the airport who said he was from Columbia (the country, not the university nor Maryland enclave), used to go to Baldwin-Wallace College (which is in Berea) and this was his first trip back to the U.S. The first thing he wanted upon landing was a RomanBurger.

    And I also have to make sure I have one or two Cleveland Mochas. With global food culture bringing many regional cuisines to many urban sites far from the region of origin, it’s still nice to have somethings be available only where they originated. Cleveland Mochas are basically Mocha Breves, meaning they use half-n-half instead of milk (and perhaps partly explains the girth of the average Clevelander), but they’re so good (at Phoenix coffee, the few remaining Arabicas, or independent spots like Book n Bean in Berea) that I do not have mochas any other time than when I’m in Berea.

    Other required stops while in Cleveland are Aladdin’s (the Lebanese chain) and Goodman’s Sandwich Inn on Pearl Road near where Peaches Records used to be. (Is it still there? I’m too focused on my corned beef sandwich to recall.) What’s great about Goodman’s is that most people get it to go, so I can always find a spot in a booth when I’m there. And for desert, I’m a big fan of the apple strudel at Mertie’s Hungarian Strudel shop on Smith Rd (where Parma meets BrookPark, I think), Dick’s Bakery chocolate chip cookies in downtown Berea (like Cleveland Mochas, I don’t have any other chocolate chip cookies other than Dick’s Bakery’s), and Superman ice cream that all good Cleveland creameries are required to have on scoop!

  5. yeah i definitely need to get back to sokolowkis and the michael symon stable next time im home. never been to bar cento.
    adam, thanks for all the berea suggestions. ill have to make a special trip.
    and nice call on the romanburger. i concluded a little while ago that the romanburger might be cleveland’s only original regional food.

  6. I don’t know if I’ve seen this in any other city either, but I still love deep fried canned biscuits rolled in cinnamon and sugar at Chinese buffets!!!!! Chowing down on them RIGHT NOW!!!!

  7. I have heard nothing but good things about Melt. I live here and still need to make it there.

    Also, Popeye’s is tremendous and I go there all the time. It is in Maple Hts. though, not Randall. Big difference. Maple Hts., the beloved city I grew up in and still live in is an ever increasing hell hole. Where North Randall is the equivalent of Afghanistan.

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