Steve Schimoler is an ambitious fellow. In addition to his successful downtown restaurant, Crop Bistro, and his online farmer’s market, Local Crop, Schimoler is the mastermind behind the non-profit Cleveland Food Rocks, a group of restaurants, chefs and musicians who share a love for our city’s food and music. Schimoler’s inaugural event for the group occurred during this past April’s Rock Hall inductions, and on Sunday it held the first ever Rock and Roll BBQ at the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern. And by all accounts, it will not be the last.
With two large tents set up in the parking lot, and a couple dozen local restaurants dotting the edges serving signature dishes, the decidedly casual BBQ successfully brought foodies and hipsters together for an afternoon. Some of the more memorable dishes included Johnny’s Downtown’s veal marsala on a toasted crostini, Moxie’s BBQ shortribs, and Crop’s watermelon with fresh basil and balsamic syrup. But the dish of the day had to be Melange’s mini clam bake including mussels, clams, crawfish and chowder.
Schimoler was spotted making the rounds, kibbutizing with fellow chefs and guests, but was in his element behind his drum kit, leading his band through a set of classic rock hits. The rock element was a little lacking, and while Schimoler’s band is capable and played well, the highlight was special guest Bootsy Collins, who provided some vocals and flamboyant flare, and was gracious enough to stop and talk to fans. Hopefully next year the event adds a few more marquee acts, even if they are local.
As the BBQ hit its mid-point a few of the most popular dishes were already gone, and those that were just arriving were deprived of the full menu. But Schimoler should be proud of the work his group did bringing the Cleveland food and music communities together for a tasty and satisfying inaugural BBQ. — Aaron Mendelsohn