Local Chef Upset With Our 25 Essential Restaurants List, Plus Praise and Criticism From Readers


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I have the greatest job in the world, or so I'm told on a regular basis. And for the most part, I do. I get to write and, more importantly, be read, on a consistent basis about a compelling subject. Over the course of almost 10 years on the food beat I have met an incredible cast of dedicated, passionate, and inspirational folks. And I get to eat. A lot. Much of it good.

Penning the recent Scene cover story "25 Restaurants Cleveland Can't Live Without" was fun, but not without its consequences. While 25 may sound like a nice, plump figure, it barely scratches the surface of the Cleveland dining scene. Naturally, there was bound to be some hurt feelings along with the praise.

First, some praise.

"All I can say is WOW!" wrote one Facebook: Friend. "I know what we have here in Cleveland but to see them listed out. Hard to believe there are that many great places."

Also from Facebook: "Hit the nail on the head with the selections. Running through that list makes me even more proud to be a part of the Cleveland culinary scene."

This note was emailed from a chef-owner who was included in the story: "Dear Doug, Just picked up the latest copy of Scene, and read your article: 'The 25 restaurants Cleveland can't live without.' I was impressed by your wide range of selections, and of course I appreciate very much that you included us!"

Received this text from a chef-owner of a very popular place: "Thanks for adding X to the 25 restaurants list. I am truly honored to be included. Thank you."

And another: "Thanks for the amazing Scene article! I really appreciate your support."

Naturally, readers had their own opinions of what restaurant to include and omit. "Great list but you did not include Deagan's in Lakewood!! They use many local ingredients," wrote one commenter on the Scene website.

Another played the sympathy card for his or her favorite restaurant. "For shame, Doug, that you did not recognize Valerio's in this list. There are many people in Cleveland and beyond that would say they could not live without Valerio's cooking." Well, here's one who manages to.

Another commenter said, "I think you forgot to include Angelo's Pizza in Lakewood to the list!! " Nope, didn't forget.

And one decided to fashion a list of their own: "If we could add 5 more to the list, Corky and Lenny's, Mama Santos, Marotta's, Le Petite Triangle Cafe and ... you pretty much nailed the rest :-)" Yes, that was only four.

I certainly don't do this for thanks, and I don't expect to receive it, but it is still nice to hear. Especially in light of the other emails I receive.

"So my question to you is this: What the hell do I have to do to get some respect from you?" wrote one chef and owner, who I'm assuming was upset. Harsh words, no? But that's not all, folks. "I watched over the years while you have praised every label licker chef and restaurant that has come your way whether because you knew them personally or because they got a tremendous amount of propaganda bullshit hype."


For proof that no amount of "propaganda bullshit" managed to sway my choices, this letter comes straight from one of those high-paid PR companies on behalf of its client.

"I’m really surprised that X is not among your top 25," she writes, though mistaking the title and purpose of the piece. "It is an institution in Cleveland. We do receive accolades in many Cleveland “best of” lists, but yours is an important listing. I hope you will consider them next time."

And then there's this — concise but to the point: "No love."

No love indeed.

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