This past weekend my husband and I introduced my brother and sister-in-law to the Cleveland food scene. Everybody loves to poo-poo this city, and sure, it has many, many problems, but name me a place that doesn't. I have a soft spot for rusty cities; there is a haunting beauty to the graveyard of crumbling buildings and worn-out neighborhoods. Traveling through Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, my imagination is captivated as I try to imagine what once was, what history and lore are contained in the hulking carcasses of abandoned industry.
There is another reason these cities captivate me. Largely left to fend for themselves, I hear and see a fierce pride among the working citizenry, as they try to pick up the pieces and form a new history, accepting and even embracing the fact that what once was will never be again.
What is being done in the food scene in Cleveland is, well, great. Scoff at its sports teams, curse its terrible roads, people are doing some beautiful, tasty, and innovative things on the food scene. From rooftop gardens, to farmer's markets, to restaurants, Cleveland has so much to offer when it comes to eating.
So we headed up to Cleveland on Friday evening, planning to meet up with my brother and sister-in-law the next day. Having never officially been to NoodleCat (I had been there for a "pop-up" last year) and having a love for noodle bowls of all types, we decided to check it out for dinner.
The whole evening was kind of odd; I felt displaced and not quite settled, I believe as a result of our strange by-the-front-door seating, our very eccentric server, and the relative emptiness of the other tables. Don't get me wrong, there were other people eating, but it being a Friday night I expected a larger crowd. Of course, the location of the restaurant lends itself to a downtown business lunch crowd, and I'm sure that's where they do most of their business.
Anyway, the food was good. We started with an assortment of Japanese pickles and kimchi (which didn't really impress me), and we each tried a steamed bun. I had Japanese fried chicken and Gary had green curry chicken sausage. They were quite tasty, and I could have easily eaten several.
For our main meal we each had noodles. Gary had miso pork with ramen noodles and I chose the spicy baby octopus with thick egg noodles. Both were delicious, though I favored mine. It was bright with spice and plenty of fresh cilantro, and the noodles were perfectly chewy. Very satisfying.
All in all, I think I would go back, though I think this spot definitely feels more like a lunch destination.
Spicy baby octopus with carrot, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, jalapenos, and chile paste with udon noodles.
Pork miso ramen with dashi, garlic, scallion, and six-minute egg