It can be all too easy to fall into a restaurant rut: You find a place you love and you keep going back, over and over—not only because you love it, but because it can seem like a lot of work to figure out which other spots to try.
Enter Cleveland Restaurant Week, a twice-yearly opportunity for diners to step outside their culinary comfort zones and discover new favorite spots. The next Restaurant Week—which is actually almost two weeks long—is November 4-16, when more than three dozen Northeast Ohio restaurants will offer three-course, prix-fixe meals, mostly priced at $33.
All participating restaurants are independently owned and affiliated with the organization Cleveland Independents, entering its 15th year of operation.
In 2005, Chef Brad Friedlander—owner of Red, the Steakhouse and his newest venture, Blu—co-founded Cleveland Independents (then called Cleveland Originals) with fellow chefs Douglas Katz of Fire Food and Drink and the late Sergio Abramof, who operated popular restaurants Sergio’s and Sarava on the east side. Their goal was to help independent restaurants help each other and, ultimately, to help diners fall in love with all of them.
“We put together the fixed price menu [for Restaurant Week] to bring people into these restaurants who wouldn’t ordinarily have gone into them because of the pricing,” Friedlander explains. “Now, maybe on special occasions, they’ll come again.”
Friedlander says restaurants sometimes choose to feature their most popular menu items during Restaurant Week, while others experiment with creative dishes not otherwise available—and some do a little bit of both.
At Lakewood’s Salt+ for example, James Beard-nominated chef Jill Vedaa changes nearly the entire menu every 10 weeks. During a previous Restaurant Week, Salt+ offered a citrusy pork belly, pairing it with one of the only items that stays on its menu all year—a white bean and fennel salad—to give diners a feel for the restaurant’s year-round style.
Matt Harper, owner of Creekside Restaurant and Bar in Brecksville, says his eatery has benefitted greatly from Restaurant Week, which compels city diners to make the short drive south to eat at his place.
“It gives people the opportunity to travel and try some places they usually don’t get to,” Harper says. “Most people, when they think of the food scene in Cleveland, think of downtown or The Flats or Ohio City, but this gives us a chance to get our name and our menus right up there with everybody else’s.” And Harper reminds diners that eating local is good for the entire city. “When you dine at an independent restaurant or shop at any local business, a big chunk of that dollar comes right back into the community,” he says.
So which spots can you expect to enjoy during November’s two whirlwind weeks? Cleveland Restaurant Week will feature hotspots close to the city center as well as further-out favorites well worth the drive. With two weeks of special deals, there’s plenty of time to try more than one.
You can find a list of participating restaurants, menus, and pricing on Cleveland Independents website, beginning in October. For more information, visit ClevelandIndependents.com.