Newcomers and longtimers alike have shuttered their doors, and though the arrival of vaccines has signaled that the end of this and the return of something approximating normalcy might be just around the corner, there will be more closings before that reality arrives.
We lost more than 40 restaurants in Cleveland over the course of 2020, most of them directly due to the pandemic. And among the casualties were legendary, historic places like Sokolowski's. Every closing hurts; some hurt more than others.
In that vein, Esquire enlisted its contributors to put together a list of 100 restaurants America can't afford to lose.
"What if those places were to vanish?" Esquire asked. "What if you were to wake tomorrow morning and learn that that remnant of your life—and that portion of your community’s lingua franca—had been erased?... We hope you’ll raise a toast to these spots around the country—old and new, scruffy and spiffy—that we consider restaurants that America can’t afford to lose. Because if we lose them, we lose who we are."
There are, we'd submit, more than 100 in Cleveland alone, but the mag settled on two to include in the feature, repping the new and old of the Cleveland deli scene.
Here's what they had to offer:
Larder (Cleveland, OH): America can’t afford to lose the old but it also can’t afford to lose the new. Larder is both. Jeremy Umansky and his fermentation-mad merry pranksters make pickles and pastrami good enough to rival your favorite ancient Jewish deli, but they do so while amping up the kind of panoramic innovation you find at spots like Noma in Copenhagen. Everything tastes familiar, yet better than what you remember. That’s progress.
Slyman's Deli (Cleveland, OH): Clevelanders tend to hold tight to ornery beliefs: Our skyline is impressive, our weather is great, this is finally the year of a sports championship. Nonsense like that. So Slyman's, home of a beloved Reuben sandwich piled too high with what I swear is the best corned beef, has us pridefully saying stuff like, we have the best corned beef in America. But we do. And you can't take that away from us, unless of course you take away Slyman's. Sadly, its namesake, Joseph Slyman, died at 83 last week.Don't forget to get some takeout from your favorite local spot this week.