Ethnic Eats in Cleveland
I’m a Cleveland guy at heart, and I always will be. Besides my family, the thing that keeps me coming back to Cleveland month after month is the food! Cleveland grew as a city of ethnic enclaves as waves of immigration have come in over the decades, and you’ll see a diversity of culture and flavor around every corner.
If you really want to understand what makes Cleveland special, start your foodie getaway with a trip to the West Side Market. With more than 180 vendors, you’ll see a vivid cross section of Cleveland’s ethnic groups. This is a place to jump head first into the city’s culinary bounty – you’ll want to bring a cooler to take some of your finds back home. From Polish pierogis to Middle Eastern pomegranate molasses to Cambodian spring rolls – if you leave hungry or didn’t find something new, you did it wrong.
Cleveland’s most easily identifiable ethinic neighborhood is Little Italy. There’s no shortage of dining options – from spots for a quick, casual bite to eat while taking a passegiatta to white tablecloth restaurants where you can dine while an opera singer seranades you with Puccini arias. Presti’s is my favorite, and as soon as you walk in, you’ll see why. I have a major sweet tooth, and Presti’s bakes up a storm of Italian-American cookies, cakes and tarts. Oh, and the fluffy-crusted artichoke pizza isn’t anything to sneeze at, either!
Empress Taytu, an Ethiopian restaurant, just east of Downtown, is an experience of a whole different sort. If you’re with a group, choose the traditional seating – you’ll sit on low stools around a shared round table, and you won’t see silverware unless you ask for it. A large tray is covered with a round of pancake-like injera, and you break off pieces as you sample the different dishes. The doro wat (a chicken dish) is excellent, and there are tons of flavorful vegetarian options too.
A little further east, you’ll find Shaker Square, where an amalgam of cultures come together. My favorite spot out this way is Balaton, which specializes in Hungarian food. The Cleveland-area has more people of Hungarian descent than anywhere outside Eastern Europe (including me.) Balaton’s chicken paprikash is almost as good as my grandma’s! Make sure you save room for dessert – I recommend the palacsinta (crepes) with apricot filling. (Theirs actually are better than my grandma’s.)
Cleveland has a huge variety of crave-worthy restaurants that will keep you coming back time after time! What ethnic restaurant should I try on my next trip?