Michael Symon’s Top 5 Places to Eat in Cleveland

by in Food Network Chef, Food Network Magazine, May 15th, 2012

michael symon
Iron Chef Michael Symon — the unofficial mayor of Cleveland — tells Food Network Magazine what to eat in his hometown.

roasted pig headRoasted Pig Head from The Greenhouse Tavern
Michael is known for his love of unusual cuts of meat, so it’s no surprise that he digs into half a pig’s head at least once a week. “It’s a lot of pig face,” he admits. The pig is seasoned with a spicy Southeast Asian style barbecue sauce and served with lettuce cups. Michael often stops at this spot after work: It’s next to his restaurant Lola, and the chef, Jonathon Sawyer, is an old friend. $31; 2038 East 4th St.; thegreenhousetavern.com

ribe-eye steakRib-Eye Steak from Red, the Steakhouse
For Michael, a guys’ night out means a rib-eye steak at Red. About once a month, he and his buddies gather at this clubby steakhouse and Michael always orders the same thing. “It’s just a perfect, delicious, prime, dry-aged piece of meat.” He orders his medium rare, with potatoes au gratin and a big glass of red wine. $37; 3355 Richmond Rd., Beachwood, OH; redthesteakhouse.com

beef summer rollBeef Summer Roll from Fahrenheit
Michael’s go-to after-hours snack is Fahrenheit’s beef summer roll with ginger-ponzu dipping sauce. “It’s great late at night because it has a fattiness, but it’s also very light,” he says. The place serves other late-night fare, too, like pizza and nachos — and it’s just a short walk from Michael’s restaurant Lolita. $10; 2417 Professor Ave.; fahrenheittremont.com

guacamole samplerGuacamole Sampler from Momocho
Here’s a recipe for a happy chef: a table on Momocho’s outdoor patio, a “killer” margarita and the guacamole sampler. Momocho keeps at least six different guacamoles on the menu at any given time (three come in the sampler), and Michael likes them all, especially the smoked trout bacon and the goat cheese poblano. $20; 1835 Fulton Rd.; momocho.com

phoPho from Superior Pho
If you see a bald guy carrying 15 banh mi sandwiches out the door here, it’s probably Michael picking up lunch for his Lola crew. “The best [sandwich] is stuffed with pâté, Vietnamese ham, jalapeños, cilantro and pickled carrots,” he says. But his favorite is the pho, an aromatic beef and rice-noodle soup. He spikes it with Thai basil, lime juice and jalapeños. “It’s the perfect lunch,” he says. $7 to $8; 3030 Superior Ave. East; superiorpho.com

(Photographs by Michael F. McElroy)

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Comments (23)

  1. Y.D.Jordan says:

    eating pigs' head?? you're disgusting

  2. I am going to Cleveland next month to visit some friends and will give this restaurant a try. Not really into eating pigs head, but my family is from Spain and they ate many weird things and just love to visit a great restaurant. I am sure I will write all about it on my site. Love the Food Network.

    • Brittany says:

      Be sure to get a side of the Animal Fries and make sure you have friends you can share with! They're amazing, but so filling, it takes several people to get through them.

    • JBDonnigan says:

      Pigs head isn't a regular item at GHT. They once had it as a special and called it "face bacon" IIRC. Call ahead if that's what you're looking for. Sometimes Bar Cento uses a whole pig and also makes dishes with the head meat too, but I think they do that even less than GHT.

      • faceof says:

        the head is actually on the menu all the time has been for a while and i believe its $40 its even on the website

  3. JenMae says:

    I absolutely loved Greenhouse tavern when I was in Cleveland on business, especially their Devils on Horseback. I hope I get to travel there again do I can try some of the other places on this list. (BTW- Lola had the best banana dessert I could ever imagine. Tastes the way a banana should!)

  4. Kayla Johnson says:

    Being from and living in Cleveland my entire life I have to say that we have some amazing restaurants and we eat some pretty crazy stuff!!!!! But I will have to check out these places that he mentioned!!!! “) mr. Simon, your restraruants are amazing!!!!! We sent my grandparents to Lolita for their 50th wedding anniversary a couple years ago and they said it was amazing! “)

  5. Joey says:

    I've ate ate the Greenhouse, didn't have the pigs head, but the restaurant is amazing and reasonably priced. Sawyer is a rockstar.

  6. Joey says:

    And yes, Lola is phenomenal also.

  7. Jillymo says:

    I wonder how long ago this article was written. I can't imagine Michael Symon having a lot of time "after work at Lola" or a "guy's night out" … between the time he's in NY and with all the balls he keeps in the air. Though I don't doubt for a sec how great all of these places are! I'm commited to trying GHT for apps before my next visit to Lola!

  8. Ken says:

    Superior Pho is an excellent choice. Cleveland is extremely lucky to have the best pho between Chicago and NYC. Also worth trying is the duck pho with bamboo that you order in the back of the grocery store in that new Asian Center. Delicious.

  9. karen says:

    what about fire? their food is awesome! everything is so yummy and consistent.

  10. JBDonnigan says:

    There's so much good food in Cleveland I wouldn't recommend anyone stick to just this list. Dante's in the Tremont neighborhood has incredible chef-driven Italian food all made from scratch and most of the menu is available in tasting portions, The Viaduct is a new spot that has great views and some solid food, L'Albatros is absolutely amazing, skillfully cooked French-inspired food, Le Petit Triangle serves some great rustic French dishes… the list is huge. Just skip over fries, hanger steaks, and mussels. Everyone has it on the their menus and there's a lot more to try.

    • JBDonnigan says:

      Also, if you're in Cleveland, make the 45 minute drive to Vermillion and eat at Chez Francois. It's high class. Make reservations, dress up (jacket and tie) and expect to pay a few extra dollars. This is by far one of the best restaurants in the country. It's easily the best restaurant in Ohio. Zagat gave it the highest rating for Ohio: "If you’re a serious foodie or if romance is calling, sail on up – Literally – to this “French gem” on the Vermilion River, where the “sumptuous” menu and “professional but friendly” staff earn it the top rating for Food and Services in the Cleveland area; “Well worth the drive west of downtown, this ‘ethereal experience’ (the perfect place to propose) also includes a ‘phenomenal wine list, charming dining room’ and ‘relaxing’ waterside patio – the only letdown is it’s closed for the winter.”

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