Cleveland Chefs and Foodies Dish on Their Favorite Meals

Chef Vishawatej at Bombay Chaat
Chef Vishawatej at Bombay Chaat Photo by Barney Taxel

Vishwatej Nath, Executive Chef, Urban Farmer

When he's on the hunt for a little comfort food, Vishwatej Nath heads over to Bombay Chaat, an excellent Indian spot near the Cleveland State University campus. If he's there at midday, he can't pass up the expansive buffet. "For lunch they have a delicious buffet that touches both South and North Indian dishes," he says. "It's simply divine." But if it's closer to dinnertime, Nath is all over the masala dosa. "It's a thin, crispy rice and lentil pancake served with spiced potatoes, sambar, coconut chutney and tamarin chutney. It reminds me of my grandma cooking it for me on Sunday mornings. It's so close to how she made it for me growing up."

Jill Vedaa Chef-Owner, Salt

When she's not preparing small plates with huge flavors at Salt in Lakewood, Jill Vedaa is out seeking new and interesting dishes all over town. One that convinces her to drive clear across town is the feijoada at Batuqui on Larchmere. "If you could imagine listening to some of the coolest, most down-to-earth, soul satisfying blues tracks – and then eating it, that's what this dish is like," she says of the savory meat and bean stew. "It wraps you up and pleases all the senses completely. It makes my soul sing!"

Tricia McCune, CLEfoodies

Over at her IG account, @clefoodies, McCune tempts her legion of followers with snaps of some of the most tantalizing bites in town. One restaurant that keeps her coming back for more is Tay Do Vietnamese Restaurant in Parma. "I've been a decade-long loyal customer because of the incredible lemongrass chicken," she says. "Tender chunks of chicken coated in a garlicky lemongrass marinade that's been caramelized and slightly charred on the tips mixed with sweet onions softened and soaked in sauce. I've searched the nation far and wide for something to rival it and nothing's come even close. Cleveland doesn't know how lucky they are to have a gem like Tay Do."

Andy Himmel, Founder & CEO, Paladar Restaurant Group

When Himmel isn't taking care of business at one of his many Paladar and Bomba eateries, he's likely sleeping. But on the rare occasion that he and the missus can sneak away, they grab stools at the bar of Crumb & Spigot in Bainbridge. "The sweet pea falafel is one of my favorite dishes in Cleveland," he says. "The falafel, which has a rustic look, is formed into large, flat patties, which allows more surface area to get crispy. It's served atop well-seasoned, filling cauliflower tabbouleh, roasted zucchini and a creamy lemon-yogurt dressing. If I lived closer, I would order this every day – and I'm not even a vegetarian!"

Bac Nguyen, Chef-Owner, Ninja City

Nguyen knows a thing or two about sandwiches: The banh mi that he makes and sold over at the old Bac in Tremont is one of the best of the bunch. So when he recommends a sandwich, we should pay heed. "The Italian sandwich at Herb'n Twine is my favorite sandwich of all time," he claims. "Their fresh-baked bread is the perfect sandwich bread – not too thick, but sturdy enough to handle a lot of filling – and the sandwich has the perfect ratio of salty Italian meats, LTO, spicy pickled peppers, Italian herbs, and creamy mayo. I could eat one every day."

Mike Nowak, Chef-Owner, Black Pig

Like most chefs, Nowak regularly scours Cleveland's Asiatown neighborhood in search of compelling markets, restaurants and ingredients. One of his earliest discoveries remains one of his most visited. "I really love the different baked buns at Koko Bakery on Payne Avenue," he says of the decade-old business. "While both the savory and sweet buns are great, the one I get most often is the almond and coconut bun. You really can't go wrong."

Cindy Barber, Owner of Beachland Ballroom

Not only has Barber anchored the Collinwood neighborhood with her iconic live music venue, she's been an unwavering supporter of other businesses in the area. So it comes as no surprise that her lunch and dinner needs are often met close to home. "Usually once a week I find my way to Bistro 185, not far from the Beachland, for their Field Greens salad (mixed greens, bleu cheese, dried cherries, and candied walnuts) and I always add grilled salmon to the top," she says. "Their salmon is always wild caught and perfectly cooked – a little crispy outside but moist and juicy inside. I can feel the Vitamin B-12 helping recharge my system right away!"

About The Author

Douglas Trattner

For 20 years, Douglas Trattner has worked as a full-time freelance writer, editor and author. His work on Michael Symon's "Carnivore," "5 in 5" and “Fix it With Food” have earned him three New York Times Best-Selling Author honors, while his longstanding role as Scene dining editor garnered the award of “Best...
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