Every so often we find a friend who has a way with words. Maybe they've got a blog of their own, or perhaps they're a closeted comedian. Who would we be if we didn't give them a shot to stretch their wings and write? So, in that supportive way we know so well, please give a warm welcome to our guest blogger, Cleveland's own Tony Winn!
All photos by Julianna Arendash Photography.
As the fire of my raging heart chars my soul black, I can’t help but find myself praying for the heavens to open up and rain down droplets of pepto bismol to cool the burn. What I’m really saying is holy shit this heartburn is unreal, get me some tums ASAP.
You see, earlier today I completed the top-secret mission of being The Cleveland Flea’s secret food critique at the #Mayflea; and might I add, what a treat this was indeed. I laughed. I cried (I didn’t cry). I got drunk, I spilled BBQ sauce on my shirt, it was great. As I sit here contemplating life I’m starting to think that the heartburn must be my participation award on this red-letter day.
For those that may be living under a rock (which if you were you probably wouldn’t be reading this) you would know that the Cleveland Flea is part urban treasure hunt, part culinary adventure, and part maker center. It’s really what you ought to be attending on certain days of the year, trust me! Cleveland is America’s new culinary sweetheart and The Cleveland Flea is bringing the excitement straight to your mouth. My day started without breakfast and ended with me needing a wheelchair to roll home with a fat smile on my face; scroll with me on my journey as I review of some of our favorite spots.
The Proper Pig
Everyone and their spatula thinks they know good BBQ in this town. Well, I’m your cold shower nick-named the hard truth; and the truth is that The Proper Pig is currently dishing out some of the finest BBQ this side of the Cuyahoga! I sank my fangs into the proper slopper. This was a pulled pork sandwich, with sauce, slaw and topped with a thick-ass piece of bacon serving as its own carnivorous lightning rod. I’m sold; I’ll take ten.
Happy Camper Bar Car
Three words: Homemade. Chipotle. Salt.
The Blood Orange Margarita is perhaps the new king of brunch drinks. It tastes like a light, spicy, fruity, Saturday morning. I ordered four of these during my time here but don’t judge me. Seriously, next time you’re thinking about grabbing a drink, order the blood orange margarita, your taste buds will thank you.
Xinji Noodle Bar
Who doesn’t love a good Yakitori spot? (Think Japanese shish Kabob) I mean come on – it’s food on a stick people – that’s cat nip for humans! I ordered the mushroom with garlic and was surprised at the meaty flavor that I don’t usually associate with mushrooms. This treat was good enough to get this grown kid to want to eat his vegetables.
Do you know what I need after a long day of hard drinking and even harder eating? A nice fresh pressed juice to detox my bloodied & battered body. The Daily Press has become a favorite spot of the health-conscious. With a focus on fresh ingredients that yield real results, you owe it to yourself to try a juice from the press to give your body the good fuel it craves. Thank me later.
Fork Fuel Truck
Hot kicken’ chicken + cool coleslaw = Yin & Yang in and around my mouth. The breading of their chicken has become my personal crack. I might need some help, people...do you know anybody? The batter reminds me of elephant ears, yet it doesn’t take away from the quality taste of the chicken. Two thumbs way up, I will be back for more.
What you don’t know about me is that I’m pretty particular about my donuts. You see my Dad was a cop and did the whole cop and donut thing right down to the stereotypical image currently floating in your head. What I’m saying is I can’t escape donuts and donuts can’t escape me, our destinies are intertwined. So when I say this was one the best donuts I’ve ever had in my life, please know that this is coming from a person that will likely have diabetes one day from the pounds of donuts I’ve consumed over the years. Donut lab makes the donuts right in front of you, what more can you ask for?
Betty’s Bomb Ass Burgers
This was without a doubt my favorite surprise of the day. I loved everything about Betty’s Bomb Ass Burgers – starting with the name, moving over to the subtle detail saying *No Special Orders* (Yeah I’m looking at you princess) and finishing with the quality of their food. Betty has got attitude maaaan, the confident kind. I highly recommend trying their boeing fortress burger which is essentially a PB&J burger. This is the definition of the savory and sweet combo. I’m telling you, this place completely changed my view on burgers for the better! My only concern is that Hamburglar doesn’t team up with Wimpy for the heist of a lifetime...
From farm to front porch Molly’s crafted brings the attention to detail you want in a shrub / cocktail mix. Drawing inspiration from the colonial era, each sip of her shrubs shines light onto the forgotten art of shrub making. If you are looking to impress your family and friends at the next BBQ, bring over a jar of Molly’s blueberry lemon grass, a bottle of tequila, sit back and watch yourself become the most interesting man at the party.
I like to think I know a thing or two about corn. Hell, I like to think we all know a thing or two about corn. (We’re in Ohio after all) Well, It turns out I didn’t know *poop emoji* when it comes to corn. I tried their Mexican street corn and I’m happy to say that I may never have a standard corn on the cob again! Wholly Frijoles focus on bringing you fresh Mexican influenced street food with a flavor that will keep you coming back for more. This food truck very well may become your new favorite Mexican place.
Step aside Chipotle, your reign is coming to an end.
The Pierogi Lady
If you ever find yourself red-eyed, slightly under the influence, and hungry may the wind blow you the way of The Pierogi Lady. My personal favorite was the jalapeno cheddar pierogis; they tasted exactly how they sound: amazing. It’s no secret that Cleveland is a pierogi town, so earn your stripes and try a pierogi–or twenty–today!
Everyone and their brother enjoys being a coffee snob. However, not every coffee deserves the snobbery; this coffee does. Pour Cleveland scourers the earth for the best beans and serves them here right in our very own forest city. Next time you need a pick-me-up, pick yourself up a cup of Pour Cleveland coffee.
The Square Scullery
The Square Scullery is a classy name only to be exceeded by classier food. The 2016 Akron Canton Hotlist winner for Best Food Truck has the menu to defend their title. Honestly the preparation of their meals can be considered art in some minds. I sampled their confit chicken leg glazed in raspberry redux and my lips are still smiling. (Is this normal?) Simply put, this is championship food for our championship town.
Manna Food Truck
As it turns out, we we’re doing the whole “Gyro” thing wrong. Manna is unique in the fact that their gyro meat is homemade lamb meatballs opposed to the standard shaved lamb. This slight pivot changes the gyro eating experience for the better. Not only do you get more meat, but it’s also an easier sandwich to eat if you are messy slob much like myself. What I like most about Manna is that they employ the needy; they’re good people that change lives every day and have a strong presence in the community.
What a name, what a name indeed! The Cleveland Kraut will likely become your go-to for all things sauerkraut. They make sauerkraut just like Grandma did in the old country, only better and in mass quantities conveniently for sale. Cleveland is a sauerkraut town so show your pride and try a jar. Hint – this goes great on hot dogs.
Kids often start their entrepreneurial dreams by opening up their very own lemonade stand at the end of their driveway. Well kids, pack it in because the lemonade bar is open for business. This is simply summer in a cup, everything you’ve ever wanted in a glass of lemonade. (Minus the alcohol)
The Beachcomber Truck
Frankly, you can’t have a name like The Beachcomber without having some solid seafood on your menu to defend your namesake. Well, to nobodies’ surprise, the Beachcomber provided exceptional seafood at an affordable price. I had the Ahi tuna tacos. They were a simple yet effective combo; light but filling. I’ll say this, I’ll definitely be coming back for more. The Beachcomber has the seafood food-truck market cornered. All you need to do is bump some Beach Boys tunes to completely set the vibe. Cowabunga, dude.
Bomba Tacks & Rum
One of my personal favorite brunch spots in all the land, Bomba specializes in flavors from Cuba, Central and Southern Amercia, (pretty much the area of the world where all my favorite foods come from) Today I enjoyed their pastor pork. Picture this: pineapple jicama slaw, pickled jalapeños, pineapple aioli… is your mouth drooling yet? Yeah it is, yeah it is.
Picture this: It’s 60 degrees outside, the sun is shining, people are starting to wear their summer clothes and I’m eating hot soup in the sunlight... and loving it! One of the secrets to living a happy life is finding a place that serves great homemade soup. Well, Nine Spoons fits that my criteria for the happy life. Do yourself a favor and try their Italian wedding soup and be sure to thank me later.
As great of a culinary city that Cleveland is, I will admit that is difficult to find quality Spanish cuisine. Well look in the sky, here comes the Croqueteria to the rescue. Picture a little deep fried ball served piping hot, oozing with unique fillings made out of fresh ingredients. Essentially what I’m describing is the perfect appetizer. 10/10 I will be back for more.
It’s about damn time someone took on the pickle world and let me tell you, Randy’s Pickles is putting out the best pickles in the whole damn pickle patch! (Say that sentence aloud five times!) This is the only place in the state where you can find grilled pickles, and if you haven’t tried a grilled pickle before, well frankly you haven’t lived. I bought jar and took it home for Mother’s Day and left home with a homework assignment to buy more jars because they were so good. Thanks Randy. Randy’s Pickles, you make the best pickles in all the land, no question, no doubt.