Q. Except for your four years as a student at the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, NY, you’ve always lived in Cleveland. Why?
A. Cleveland is my home, and it will always be where I am most comfortable. In all my travels, Clevelanders are the friendliest people I have ever encountered.
Q. Let’s role play: I’m a hotel visitor who’s never been to Cleveland, and I have three days for exploring the city. You’re my hotel concierge. What are you going to suggest as my itinerary?
A. I would suggest you spend a day at the Cleveland Museum of Art followed by dinner nearby at Trentina (a Northern Italian-inspired restaurant). The morning of Day 2 could be spent at the West Side Market and the Rock Hall in the afternoon, followed by an early dinner at Lola (a Michael Symon establishment and one of Cleveland’s most decorated restaurants) and then a comedy show across the street at Pickwick and Frolic. And I would suggest you spend a day in the Metro Parks riding a bike or a horse. I’d also suggest packing a great lunch, or you could have one packed for you at the Flying Fig Market in the Ohio City neighborhood, where you could return after a day in the park to have craft beers and dinner at the Great Lakes Brewery.
Q: That sounds amazing. Now, back to reality. You’re a TV personality, an award-winning chef, and you’re about to open your 12th restaurant (Mabel’s Cleveland-style BBQ East 4th Street). So, what’s next?
A. I really don’t know. I take life one day at a time and make most of my decisions based on gut feelings. So far, it’s working. (Scroll down for a complete list of Michael Symon’s Cleveland restaurants.
Q. You spend a lot of time in New York, how does Cleveland’s food scene stack up against theirs?
A. New York has tremendous depth when it comes to every style of cuisine. But when it comes to the food scene, Cleveland can hang with any city, including New York. That includes fancy upscale and unusual ethnic fare, as well as diners and delis.
Q. If you hadn’t become a chef, what do you think you would’ve been?
A. Either a farmer because I love fresh food, or a wrestling coach because I love the sport. I wrestled in high school and wanted to turn professional, but broke my arm. Then I started working in a restaurant. From there, things worked out. (Agreed!)
Check out one (better yet, all) of these Michael Symon locations:
Lola, 2058 E. 4th Street, Downtown Cleveland; 216.297.4838
Lolita, 900 Literary Rd., Cleveland (Tremont); 216.621.5652
Mabel’s (opening soon), E. 4th Street (next to Lola), Downtown
- 18066 Royalton Road, Strongsville; 440.572.9600
- Crocker Park – 20 Main Street, Westlake; 440.471.8270
- Eton Place - Chagrin Boulevard, Suite 28699 C, Woodmere; 216.292.5567
- First Energy Stadium (home of the Browns)
- The “Q” Arena (home of the Cavaliers)