St. Clair Superior & Asiatown

Asiatown's Night Market
Asiatown's Night Market

Of all Cleveland's industrial areas, there are none that so freely mix factories and warehouses with housing as St. Clair Superior. These remnants of industry present one of the neighborhood's major challenges to finding its footing in the 21st century. Slovenians settled in the neighborhood in the 1880s; the post-World War II years saw a new influx of Slavic peoples fleeing communist regimes. Though plenty have since moved to the suburbs, the Eastern Europeans who first peopled the neighborhood have left their mark in buildings like the gorgeous, Byzantine-style St. Vitus Church. Oppressive regimes also brought settlers from China, Korea, and Vietnam. That district, now known as Asiatown, is a hub for Asian groceries and restaurants. While St. Clair Superior is still seeking the same success as its west side counterparts, promising projects like Tyler Village and Hub 55 show that interest and pride in the neighborhood remains.

Must Eat

When Superior Pho owner Manh Nguyen migrated to Cleveland from Vietnam in the '70s, he had to drive up to six hours to find a good bowl of pho. So he opened his own restaurant. Named for the street it's on as well as the quality of its product, Superior Pho was one of the first pho places in Northeast Ohio. It is also one of the best. Notoriously difficult to find — customers are likely to end up in rival shop #1 Pho by mistake — the steaming, complexly flavored broth of Superior makes it well worth the search. Do yourself the favor of patronizing this Asiatown treasure. And once you've slurped down your bowl, maybe you'll have room for their explosively flavorful (and eminently affordable) banh mi.

Must Drink

With its proximity to the lake, St. Clair Superior was the brewing hub of Cleveland before Prohibition and the national giants shut local brewing down. The neighborhood had been sadly bereft of breweries until Goldhorn Brewery opened its doors in 2016. Occupying the intersection of 55th and St. Clair, Goldhorn is part of Rick Semersky's Hub 55 project, which strives to reinvigorate neighborhood commerce through good food and beer. Goldhorn delivers on both those fronts. A mix of Old-World ethos with new-brewery cool, Goldhorn embodies the best qualities of the Contemporary Cleveland Bar: a wide open, formerly industrial space with floor-to-ceiling windows for natural light. Even the name, a reference to a Slovenian folk tale, pays homage to the neighborhood's roots.

Must Visit

It's a safe bet that many Clevelanders weren't aware we had an Asiatown (formerly called Chinatown) until a few years back, when Night Market Cleveland began. Now, for one night each of the warmer months, the usually quiet neighborhood explodes to life on Rockwell Avenue. Inspired by various Asian celebrations, Night Marker draws Clevelanders from all sides of town to enjoy the food, live music, and vendors. With its Asian youth rock bands, Chinese dragons on stilts, and small eats from all over the Asian continent, Night Market celebrates not just Asian culture, but also the resilience of the neighborhood. It's easy to draw comparisons to the Cleveland Flea, St. Clair Superior's other monthly open-air event. But you can't order squid on a stick at the Flea, so we know where our recommendation stands. To take in Asiatown on non-market days, we encourage you to buy something unfamiliar in the fragrant aisles of Tink Holl, one of several bustling indoor Asian markets in the neighborhood.

Must Eat

Before Cleveland's resurgence as a "Hot New Food Town," Slyman's was carving out a national niche of dining respectability. Slyman's is as old-school Cleveland as its gets. Founded in 1963 by Lebanese immigrants Joe and Mae Slyman, it's stayed a family business for over 50 years. Subscribing to America's "bigger is better" philosophy, they piled their ruby-colored corn beef as high as they could manage. Clevelanders have been running to them ever since. "Bernie Kosar jerseys outnumber the business suits," begins Esquire's Best Sandwiches in America write-up. But while the contempt is barely disguised, it works as a portrayal of the deli's egalitarian atmosphere. Slyman's draws a truly diverse crowd, which can't be said for many of our city's much-hyped newer restaurants. Accept no suburban offshoot substitutes for the original: Take a seat at the counter and bite into Cleveland history.

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