We have returned from out vacation trip to Chicago, a drive that we thought best to split into two days each way. On the westbound leg we decided to stop in Cleveland for the evening, knowing the next day would begin with a visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I also viewed the stopover as an opportunity to have dinner at Lola, chef Michael Symon’s restaurant in the heart of the city. I had heard good things about it and there didn’t seem to be a better option.
Before I get to the food, I should mention the zany antics that ensued as we tried to park near the restaurant. As we drew closer to our destination, I noticed that the streets were crowded with people in Indians shirts and young girls in cowboy boots. Not knowing anything about the city, I assumed c’est normale. After plowing through both of those herds, we were informed that no parking was available near the restaurant. Just as we were about to give up, She Who Must Be Obeyed noticed that our supposedly full garage was next to the Cleveland Hyatt. It turned out that the garage also provided valet service for the hotel, so She Who slipped the attendant – an appreciative Red Sox fan – 20 bucks and told him we were dining in the hotel.
Once through the hotel doors, we were informed that a wedding was underway and that pedestrian access through the Victorian arcade was blocked. We slipped into an elevator with some other guests, made our way across the wedding celebration, and exited out the other side to Lola. The hostess there informed us that in addition to the wedding there was an Indians game and a Taylor Swift concert, which explained the fans and the cowgirls.
On to dinner, and some less than ideal low-light photos that I corrected as best as I could:
Pork “Frito Misto”: belly, ear, crackling, cilantro, chilies.
Shown in the photo above, this was He Who Will Not Be Ignored’s choice, a plate of crispy pig’s ears, rinds, and pork belly. I was lucky to get a taste of the ear before he wolfed the rest down.
Fois Gras: strawberry, thyme, poppy seed cracker
The foie gras was served like a parfait, with the requisite fruit component layered on top. The poppy seed crackers were a welcome change from the usual brioche.
Today’s Charcuterie: pickled vegetables, crostini, mustard
Terrible photo, but delicious sampler of pork and duck rillettes, lamb bresaola, Barolo salami – all made on-site – and prosciutto from La Quercia.
Smoked Berkshire Pork Chop: chilies, cheesy polenta, BBQ onions
This is Symon’s signature dish, always on the menu. The chop was sliced, but the double-cut meaty bone was also served, which made Hw Who very happy. After ordering this, our waitress remarked “I already know what he’ll have for dessert.”
Quail & Pork Belly: sweet and sour bean salad, cornbread
Some meaty quail legs and breasts, a few cubes of belly, and cornbread croutons; just enough for She Who.
Rib Eye: smoked garlic bone marrow butter, preserved lemon, arugula
There was no question that I’d order this dish. Say it with me: smoked garlic bone marrow butter.
Roasted Peach: almond cake, yogurt, monbazillac syrup, micro cilantro
Chocolate: chocolate ganache, chocolate gelato, lavender salt
The 6 a.m. Special: brioche french toast, maple-bacon ice cream, caramelized apple
The dessert predicted by our waitress, breakfast on a dessert plate. Much to our surprise, He Who declared the ice cream to be “too bacon-y,” as if there was such a thing. Clearly, more education is in order for the boy.
It was a fine dinner, worth fighting through a wedding to eat. On our return trip trough the hotel we were in time for the bouquet toss, which I urged She Who to crash. She refused, so I’m still on the hook.
There is undoubtedly other food to be had in Cleveland, but we hit the prime dining spot and were rewarded with a meat-centric meal that was perfect for a group of starving travelers. But it was time to move on to Chicago and its culinary delights, the subjects of the next few posts.