Seeing Cleveland the Rachael Ray Way

I hope you didn't miss me too much while I was gone. Just know that the entire time, I was writing this post in my head. Maybe that's why it took me so long to actually post it. Tee hee. So I went to Ohio and Pennsylvania for 9 days and spent two of those days in Cleveland. Rachael featured Cleveland on both $40 a Day and Tasty Travels, but I only visited her $40 a day picks (I am cheap, okay?).

Now, I am pretty sure that Rachael must have a friend there or was "hosted" by the Cleveland Tourism Board, because (please don't yell at me) I was not very impressed by Cleveland. I guess I should be more specific and say I was not impressed by Downtown Cleveland. I understand that it is a city in transition and I read that it has improved a ton in recent years, but many stores on major streets in the downtown area were abandoned and boarded up. And the streets themselves were a disaster. They were either in disrepair or under construction. The place just was not very visitor-friendly.

But, that being said, I loved Rachael's picks for Cleveland. They inspired us to venture out into areas we otherwise might not have visited. And the outlying areas were much nicer than Downtown Cleveland. So, here goes:

Our first Rachael Ray stop was in the Little Italy area of town, to the East of Downtown Cleveland. It was about a 15 minute drive (construction delays) that leads you past the lovely University Circle neighborhood (at least the parts I saw were lovely). We went to lunch at the Trattoria on the Hill (or Trattoria Roman Gardens, depending on which sign you read). The place was outstanding! The interior felt like San Francisco to me, with dim lighting and a sort of blast from the past feel. And the food was to die for. Husband ordered linguine with white clam sauce and I ordered three cheese and spinach ravioli. We just don't get Italian food this good at home, so we savored every single bite. The total cost, including a soda (I guess they would call it pop) and tax was $25.99 for two.

Next, we went to dinner at the Great Lakes Brewing Company in the Ohio City neighborhood, located across the Cuyahoga River from Downtown. It was a very cute revitalized neighborhood.

Is it just me, or do you find that breweries with great beer usually have crappy food? Such is not the case with this restaurant/brewery. We sat down next to a group of people playing Irish music around a table. Nice way to start, huh? There were a confusing number of options for places to sit: in the bar, in the pub, in the beer garden and in the dining room. I just looked at the server and said I wanted to eat outside. She said that was the Beer Garden. I smiled and nodded.

Rachael only had a beer sampler at Great Lakes and she missed out! Although, the beer was fabulous, too. My favorite was the Holy Moses and Husband liked the IPA best. I had the dish pictured above, Pretzel Crusted Chicken. Dear Lord, was it ever good! The dark sauce was mustardy and spicy and the pretzels made the skin just a bit crispy. It was simply amazing. Husband had Bratwurst and Pierogi. Even though mine was soooo good, his was better. Luckily, he was willing to share. Our total bill was around 50 bucks, but that included three beers and the entrees. I would definitely go back.

After all that heavy food (and a stop at White Castle) we decided to end our trip in Cleveland at Tommy's. Located in the Coventry neighborhood even further East of Downtown than Little Italy, this was our favorite of all of Rachael's picks.

We loved Tommy's in part because we NEVER would have found it but for Rachael's recommendation. And they had darn good food that was healthy and cheap. That is a tough combination to find while traveling. I ordered the Zeke (only after resisting the temptation to order the Rachael omelet). It was like a toasted pita bread sammy, with scrambled eggs, green bell peppers and onions inside. Husband got the Tee-Jay, which was the same except it had ham and cheese instead of peppers and onions. They give you two individual pitas on each plate, so we traded and were able to sample both. With our pita sammies and two coffees, the total was only $13.18 with tax and before tip.

So, despite my disappointment in Downtown Cleveland, I had no disappointment regarding Rachael's picks. They allowed us to really get a feel for the whole City rather than just the Downtown area. One of these days I am sure one of her picks won't work out for me - but it hasn't happened yet!


  1. The brewery food looks delicious! Our favorite brew pub is Bethlehem Brew Works in Bethlehem, PA. They have the BEST Cheddar Beer Soup. I've begged for the recipe (or even just the ingredients!) to no avail, but I came up with something close for the time being.

  2. I don't know why we love breweries so much, but we end up visiting one in every city we go to.

  3. I'm should do that for Sac of SF one day, just for the hell of it.

  4. You should! Sam of Becks and Posh organized a world tour for Rachael Ray and her $40. She had a ton of participants and did a fun write up on it. Check it out here.


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