Mailbag: Scene’s food critic tells an out-of-towner exactly where to go


1 comment
As Scene’s expert on all things delish, restaurant critic Elaine Cicora gets a lot of email, and she tries to answer all of it. Occasionally, it’s worth sharing: I was born in Cleveland and have not been there for over 40 years. My older sister, me, and my younger sister are coming back home next month. I have done A LOT of research and have found I still will be able to get an Indian's T-Shirt, walk around the old Polish neighborhood, and visit what is left of Euclid Beach. But okay, Elaine: While in Cleveland, what one (1) thing MUST we do? And where is the best place to eat an (ole timey) Polish meal? Judy Columbia, South Carolina *** Judy: Things have certainly changed here in the past four decades, and not always for the better. ... But for a look at one of downtown’s most notable improvements, I would certainly make a stop along East Fourth Street. Formerly home to wig stores and pawnshops, the transformation to a vibrant “entertainment district” has been spectacular, with the addition of bars, restaurants, the House of Blues, Pickwick and Frolic (a locally owned and operated restaurant, bar, and comedy club) and The Corner Alley, a youthful, energetic bowling alley-slash-martini bar. If you enjoy the contemporary dining scene -- and your budget and schedule allow -- try to snag a table at Lola Chef-owner Michael Symon is not only a James Beard Award nominee, but has recently joined the ranks of Iron Chef, on the Food Network show of the same name. Trendy, bustling, and just a little edgy, it’s definitely not what you might think of as "Cleveland." If that’s not exactly your cup of tea, then at least drop by for a cocktail. Other worthwhile options could include catching a comedy show at Pickwick & Frolic, or having cocktails at the Wonder Bar Or check out the House of Blues for the rousing Sunday Gospel Brunch. (There’s valet parking at the Prospect end of the street.) As for an old-style Polish meal, I would travel south about 20 miles to Northfield Center, to Babushka's Kitchen The freshly made food is both good and inexpensive (love, love, love the kolachke), and the vibe is extremely homey. The restaurant was featured recently in Food & Wine magazine. If you have time, you can travel there and back by way of Canal Road (get off/on I-77 at the Brecksville Road/Route 21 exit) and go through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. We have a nesting pair of bald eagles in the park, and I see them rather often -- so keep your eyes open. Got a question on the local dining scene? Ask Elaine at [email protected]. --- Elaine T. Cicora Read Elaine Cicora's restaurant reviews, food news, and comprehensive dining guide on the restaurant page at


We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.