Dining options on a Sunday evening in a quiet Midwest downtown can be quite limited. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised to find Ontario Street Cafe in Cleveland stashed in the ground floor of a parking garage. Open late, and reviews claim it to be one of the best sandwiches in Cleveland; why not give it a whirl?. $2.50 for a bottle of Bud ($1.50 for the generic on tap) and a $7 hot pastrami. Top-shelf Jonnie Walker Black at $4.50. Hard to argue with those prices. Not everything needs to be haute cuisine.
A dark wood interior makes this place a clear watering hole with locals. This is the kind of cash-only place where regulars have tabs pinned up over the register. Late on a Sunday night, patrons filter out chatting with the bartenders about what days or shifts they’ll see them next. Everyone’s decked out in Cleveland Cavaliers gear and discussing the game.
Smoked pastrami piled high on fall-apart-rye with tomatoes, lettuce, sourkraut, grilled onions, and smothered with melted Swiss and a hint of mustard.
The pastrami is nice and peppery, with a great smokey char and piping hot. The grilled onions greatly enhance the savory. The lettuce and tomato add a simple freshness that make this sandwich simultaneously rich and light.
This sandwich is so good, I’ll forgive the beer. And that’s saying a lot for an admitted beer snob.
I quizzed the local coworkers on the best dining options in downtown Cleveland, and second after Lola was The Greenhouse, a modern-eclectic gastropub. It has two floors of drinking, generous patio seating for nice warm summer nights, and a dark interior decked out with reclaimed wood and stacks of HVS tapes, and a fleet of hipster bicycles hanging from the ceiling.
After an extravagant culinary orgy of bacon two weeks ago, I’m still wary of pork, but I’m glad I ventured into the territory. I started with “Devils on Horseback”: Soft bacon-wrapped dates are lusciously stuffed with bittersweet chocolate. Salty and sweet and rich all at the same time. As if it could get more interesting, it’s served with a rich light onion sauce and a smokey red pepper paste. Overall it paired amazingly well with my single-malt.
For the main course, a small, but thick cut ribeye steak. Perfectly brined and cooked, it has a rich pan-drippings sauce am served on a bed of the most amazing creamy smooth mash potatoes that taste exactly like pirogues, which are a polish potato dumpling commonly found in the area. This being the land of meat and potatoes, there’s also a generous helping of fries and a tangy house-made mayo. With a mayo like this, I can actually enjoy it on frites without feeling disgusted, which I don’t think I have ever enjoyed before.
For desert, a luxurious corn-flavored custard, topped with a light fresh caramel and just a sprinkle of sea salt to enhance the flavors.
So if you ever find yourself in Cleveland, check out The Greenhouse for a popular bar scene and great food.