The Cleveland Dining Trends we Love, Hate, and Wish Would Finally Arrive Already

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Felt letter-board signage: it’s a Hold.
Felt letter-board signage: it’s a Hold. Photo by Karin McKenna

Remember, like, way back in 2016 when every single restaurant gave diners the option to "put an egg on it"? Well, you can thank this very column for slamming the brakes on that crazy train before things really went off the rails.

As 2018 grinds to a halt, we take a few minutes out of our regularly scheduled griping to consider the trends — good, bad and questionable — that have caught our attention and debate what the heck to do about them.

Sell: Misogynistic Facebook Comments

We shouldn't even have to mention this here, but if you think it's a smart play to insult a majority of the people in your neighborhood before you even open the doors to your new restaurant, maybe pick a different profession, like politics. Social media can be a powerful tool to get your brand, product and message out to the community at large. But if your message is one of hate, hostility and division, delete your accounts like yesterday.

Buy: Italian Beef Sandwiches

We were promised Italian beef sandwiches. Save for a few passable versions scattered about town, it's nearly impossible to track down authentic versions of this gloriously untidy Chicago classic. Truly a meal for the ages, these drippy, two-fisted flavor bombs consist of tender, thin-sliced beef piled into a sub bun that is dipped into salty cooking broth. Cap it off with hot, crunchy, pickled giardiniera peppers and you have yourselves one of the best sandwiches in the country.

Hold: Gas-Station Hummus

We get it, a few plucky gas station owners are very good at making hummus. If we happened to live around the corner from said gas stations and fancied ourselves a taste, we might even pop in for a tub or three. But the way some folks are talking about the stuff you might overlook the fact that hummus is ground-up chickpeas. Seriously, do we not have any more pressing matters than to drive clear across town for a small plastic container of GAS-STATION HUMMUS?

Sell: Plastic Straws

Congratulations. If you can read this, you're likely an adult who's old enough to not require binkies, bibs, bottles, sippy cups and straws. Save for poorly hospital patients and legitimately disabled diners, what grownup person requires a straw to consume beverages? Restaurants, please stop planting plastic straws in every glass, and diners, please remind your server that you're a very big boy. And while we're at it, for the love of gobstoppers stop using Solo cups in restaurants.

Hold: Felt Letter-Board Signs

Look how adorbs you are with your Wes Anderson-like quirkiness. Chalkboards are so 2016. The real hipster action these days is the felt letter-board sign, those delightfully anachronistic and uber-analog announcement doodads. Why drag sticks of calcium sulfate across smooth slabs of slate when you can sink plastic capital letters deep into felty grooves? Long associated with police station mugshots and middle-school cafeterias, these fanciful placards now announce the soup of the day, the draft beer selection, and the happy hour deals.

Sell: Third-Party Delivery Services

The appeal of being able to summon any dish from any restaurant to be delivered to your door while you play Fortnite in your jammies is undeniable, we get it. But know going in that the restaurant is lucky to break even on the transaction thanks to hefty cuts demanded by third-party services like Uber Eats, Grubhub and DoorDash. What's more, the servers and bartenders who rely on tips to pay their rent or mortgage lose out entirely. So maybe next time take a seat in the dining room, order a drink and spend some dough before your favorite Thai place goes the way of the dodo.

Hold: Instagram Walls

Oh, you magnificent angel wings! Who knew a simple coat of paint could prove to be so life-affirming, especially when employed as the backdrop to an infinite stream of selfies. We're not sure when designers started painting walls — interior and exterior — specifically for #influencers, but there are just about enough of them. If public art truly is a reflection of who we are as a community, should the message be one of love or self-love?

Buy: Filipino Food

In cities like Seattle, Chicago, New York, Manila... restaurants that serve Filipino cuisine are enjoying brisk business. That's because the food is as exciting as it is delicious. Crispy filled lumpia, electric adobos, sour sinigang soup, sizzling skillets of sisig, savory suckling pig and the ubiquitous noodle dishes called pancit are just a few of the unbridled delights that Clevelanders are missing out on because of our unjust lack of Filipino purveyors. Build it and we will come.

Hold: Fried Chicken and Waffles

We are living in the golden-brown age of fried chicken and waffles. Can I get a hallelujah? What once was a curious but delicious oddity with Harlem roots has so penetrated the mainstream that the dish now resides on the menu of KFC (Dickie Wells is doubtless spinning in his grave). While we adore the crunchy-sweet-pillowy-savory riot of contrasts, the dish begins to lose some of its appeal when it's as common as a taco.

Buy: Natural Wines

If you're a wine lover who pays attention to trends, then you've noticed natural wines continue to make inroads on store shelves and restaurant wine lists. This movement arose as a response to heavily manipulated wines in the era of Robert Parker. In contrast, grapes are grown sustainably, fermented spontaneously, aged in neutral vessels like stainless or concrete, and bottled unfiltered with no or little sulfites, all of which leads to exciting, highly drinkable wines with effusive range and personality.

Hold: Guardians of Traffic Logomarks

Those ruggedly handsome pylons that welcome commuters on the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge are so identifiable and adored that they have been used to sell beer, coffee, T-shirts, glassware, underwear and dozens of other grassroots products. You don't need us to remind you that a symbol loses its identifiable uniqueness the more it appears. For something truly distinctive, might we suggest a guitar or the Rock Hall?

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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