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Monday, March 24, 2008

Mailbag: Scene’s food critic tells an out-of-towner exactly where to go

Posted By on Mon, Mar 24, 2008 at 7:00 AM

As Scene’s expert on all things delish, restaurant critic Elaine Cicora gets a lot of email, and she tries to answer all of it. Occasionally, it’s worth sharing: I was born in Cleveland and have not been there for over 40 years. My older sister, me, and my younger sister are coming back home next month. I have done A LOT of research and have found I still will be able to get an Indian's T-Shirt, walk around the old Polish neighborhood, and visit what is left of Euclid Beach. But okay, Elaine: While in Cleveland, what one (1) thing MUST we do? And where is the best place to eat an (ole timey) Polish meal? Judy Columbia, South Carolina *** Judy: Things have certainly changed here in the past four decades, and not always for the better. ... But for a look at one of downtown’s most notable improvements, I would certainly make a stop along East Fourth Street. Formerly home to wig stores and pawnshops, the transformation to a vibrant “entertainment district” has been spectacular, with the addition of bars, restaurants, the House of Blues, Pickwick and Frolic (a locally owned and operated restaurant, bar, and comedy club) and The Corner Alley, a youthful, energetic bowling alley-slash-martini bar. If you enjoy the contemporary dining scene -- and your budget and schedule allow -- try to snag a table at Lola www.lolabistro.com Chef-owner Michael Symon is not only a James Beard Award nominee, but has recently joined the ranks of Iron Chef, on the Food Network show of the same name. Trendy, bustling, and just a little edgy, it’s definitely not what you might think of as "Cleveland." If that’s not exactly your cup of tea, then at least drop by for a cocktail. Other worthwhile options could include catching a comedy show at Pickwick & Frolic, or having cocktails at the Wonder Bar www.wonderbarcleveland.com. Or check out the House of Blues for the rousing Sunday Gospel Brunch. (There’s valet parking at the Prospect end of the street.) As for an old-style Polish meal, I would travel south about 20 miles to Northfield Center, to Babushka's Kitchen www.babushkasfoods.com. The freshly made food is both good and inexpensive (love, love, love the kolachke), and the vibe is extremely homey. The restaurant was featured recently in Food & Wine magazine. If you have time, you can travel there and back by way of Canal Road (get off/on I-77 at the Brecksville Road/Route 21 exit) and go through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. We have a nesting pair of bald eagles in the park, and I see them rather often -- so keep your eyes open. Got a question on the local dining scene? Ask Elaine at elaine.cicora@clevescene.com. --- Elaine T. Cicora Read Elaine Cicora's restaurant reviews, food news, and comprehensive dining guide on the restaurant page at clevescene.com.

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