Thursday, 7 May 2015

Cleveland food and drink briefly appraised...

As the votes continue to come in back home in the UK, I'm here in Cleveland having just returned from dinner and almost ready to hit the sack. However, it's probably worth saying a few words about the food and drink here in the city.
Cleveland at night – not threatening

American beer
It used to be that American beer was almost just a choice of one brand: Budweiser. Everyone who likes beer probably can't stand Bud, I know I don't like it; I'd put it up there with Fosters as a horrible drink, but then again, I've never been a fan of 'lager'. So the Americans have been developing microbreweries and everyone with an interest in beer seems to rave about them...but not this writer. Look, I've enjoyed many, many different beers over the years, but my favourite TYPE of beer is good, old fashioned real ale. I've been drinking it since I was a teenager – and my favourite brand is Young's Ordinary Bitter because it has a low ABV and is generally regarded as a 'session beer' meaning you can drink around four pints of it without falling over and swearing at innocent bystanders. Fine. So the Americans have their microbreweries and they're all over the country but I can't say I'm impressed. Everytime I find myself drinking an 'artisanal' American beer I find it thick and syrupy. In fact I'd rather have a Bud.
Marks out of 10 (for American beer): 3.

Restaurants explored

Bar Louie, West 6th Street – not impressed. There's a lot of 'sports bars' over here, you know the sort of place: noisy, serves burgers, fries and beer and is peppered with flatscreen televisions. Well, this is that place and we went there twice. First time round I had a beer and thought no, not very pleasant, too thick and syrupy. As for the food, well, middle-of-the-road, burger-in-bun grub with fries thrown in. On our second visit, my colleague's burger was cold. Marks out of 10: 4.

Taza ll, West 6th Street – this was good and we visited twice. Or rather we went there once together and then I went back for dinner alone. Both times it was good. In fact, the second time round was best as there was a band playing a couple of doors down and they were good. I sat outside and enjoyed this westerned version of Lebanese food. Good service on both visits and decent, fairly light food. I will definitely return to this place if ever I find myself in Cleveland again.
Marks out of 10: 9.

Urban Farmer, East 6th Street – really not impressed, not least because we were ripped off and didn't realise until we'd left. First, this place is billed as a 'legendary' steakhouse – nothing could be further from the truth – but only has ONE burger. ONE BURGER! When we mentioned this to the waitress she bristled and was clearly upset. We didn't eat here because it was pricey for what it was – very pricey – we didn't like the attitude either and the small dark beer we ordered was just like the American beer we'd sampled at Bar Louie – meaning it was thick and syrupy and not pleasant. Marks out of 10: 0.

The Marriott Hotel – West St. Clair Avenue. We'd nipped in here for a beer and decided to return to try out the food. In a word, nice. My colleague ordered a pizza while I ordered a fish dish, don't ask me what kind of fish because I can't remember. The bottom line? Good food and service. My food was light, the pizza a little heavier, but I had a couple of slices and it did the job. I chose wine, my colleague had a beer, the service was friendly and we'd definitely return. Marks of out 10: 7.

Blue Point Grille – West St. Clair Avenue. In a word, unnecessarily poncy but not quite living up to its own poncyness. I had a potato and leek soup starter that arrived in a cup rather than a bowl – not a good start and a little too thick – more porridge than soup in fact. My main course was swordfish steak, which was fine but there was paste-like mashed potato (could have been sweet potato) and a few vegetables on top. Not the best food in the world and a little on the minimalist side. My colleague had a steak followed by S'mores for dessert and cappuccino. I won't return in a hurry, but the service was good. Marks out of 10: 5.

Brasa Grill Brazilian Steakhouse – West 9th Street at St.Clair. No, no, no, no, no! In fact we didn't eat here. There was a strange system in place involving a beer mat that was red on one side and green on the other. If green you get bombarded by waiters with skewered meat that they offer to carve at the table. If red, they leave you alone. There's a huge serve-yourself salad bar too. In fact, I had a cous cous salad with a couple of asparagus spears and a glass of wine and that was my lot. My colleague didn't even have that because he'd been stuffing his face on crap back at the hotel. We had a side of fries and deep-fried banana croquettes, which I ate, and that was it. We didn't fancy the meat at all so we flipped the beermat to red and asked for the bill. Top marks to the waiter who didn't charge us for anything but the beer and the glass of wine – a top man, in other words.  
Marks out of 10: 6.

Stadium 3 Bar & Grille, Hilton Doubletree Hotel Restaurant and Bar – 1111 Lakeside. A nice and friendly hotel with good staff and a pleasant, homely atmosphere. I had breakfast here most days (porridge, French toast, fresh fruit, yoghurt and tea) and on one occasion dined in the restaurant which was also fine, although I fell asleep at the table. I ordered Atlantic salmon with mashed potatoes and vegetables, a good, homely dish and not over-the-top pricey either. I also had lunch in the sports bar, which was also very good. Marks out of 10: 7.

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