Cleveland is currently hosting the Republican National Convention, and while delegates may not know what to expect, they can rest assured that eating and drinking well will not be a problem. Unlike some politicians, the city doesn’t take itself too seriously.
L’Albatros may sound like a foreboding name, but chef/owner Zack Bruell is an avid golfer and the restaurant is named after the term for a rare three-under-par score on a hole. Set in a former carriage house with a brick patio, this French bistro is casual yet elegant—suitable for both special occasions and weekday evenings. Expect traditional classics like escargot, duck confit and cassoulet, but don’t miss its unique dishes. Examples include French toast with a creamy mushroom ragout, or the Pork Two-Ways: braised pork shank and pork belly with a whole-grain mustard sauce.
The wide-ranging wine list is strong in Bordeaux. Republicans will want to toast with a Right Bank stalwart like Château Canon 2008 St-Émilion Grand Cru Classe. If things don’t go your way, try the Art of Choke cocktail, made with Cynar, artichoke tea, vodka and limoncello.
This cafeteria-style restaurant has served Polish and Eastern European favorites since 1923 and has been family owned for three generations. Best known for its pierogi smothered in butter and onions, Sokolowski’s is well-suited to politicians looking for friendly conversation with voters in a relaxed atmosphere. Lech Walesa, the former president of Poland, visited here, as did a pre-vegan Bill Clinton.
Grab a tray and belly up to the steam trays for veal schnitzel, smoked kielbasa and chicken paprikash. Thirsty? Sokolowski’s serves Polish beers, including Okocim and Stawski Premium Lager. Not surprisingly, the James Beard Foundation declared Sokolowski’s an “American Classic” in 2014.
This elegant spot serves French cuisine and is staffed almost entirely by ex-convicts. The nonprofit eatery gives former prisoners a second chance, and was started by Brandon Chrostowski, who earned his culinary bona fides at top spots in Chicago, New York and Paris. Chrostowski trains staff to work both the front and the back of the house to provide workers the experience necessary to find future employment.
All this would be noble even if the food wasn’t first rate, but it is. There’s an emphasis on tableside preparation, evident in dishes like the Caneton de Rouen à la Presse—pressed duck in a butter-brandy sauce. The burger is served with a sauce Diane and goose-fat fries. When it comes to dessert, go for Bananas Foster. Don’t miss the rolling cheese cart—Chrostowski honed his skills at Picholine, a former legendary New York City restaurant renowned for its cheese service.
The GOP would like to turn Ohio red, and where better to start than this popular steakhouse right around the corner from Quicken Loans Arena, home of the convention? Start with steak tartare, a combination of hand-cut prime tenderloin with shallots and capers, or go for a classic wedge salad topped with crispy pancetta, blue cheese and a peppered ranch dressing. But here, steak commands the podium, minimally seasoned and offered with a variety of sauces to choose from, like classic Béarnaise, green peppercorn or garlic-chili.
For sides, expect the usual suspects (creamed spinach, seared mushrooms and whipped potatoes) as well as unique options like Szechuan snap peas, parmesan tater tots and a cauliflower gratin with prosciutto.
Doug Katz serves American cuisine out of his open-kitchen restaurant with a relaxed vibe. Start with the claybread, topped with red pepper/garlic aioli and parmesan reggiano, or try Dr. Katz’s peppery pickles, made using Doug’s father’s recipe. The grass-fed burger with cheddar, tomato relish and mustard aioli is simplicity at its best, while the tandoor pork chop shows off some culinary flair.
Other tandoor specialties include whole trout with soft-boiled egg, and a rib-eye that comes with cauliflower fritters, goat cheese and braised leeks. Thirsty yet? Try the Razz Wheat raspberry pale ale from local brewery Jackie O’s. For dessert, don’t miss the all-American popcorn ice-cream sundae with caramel sauce and candied pecans.