With family and friends scattered up and down the East Coast, I love any excuse for them to travel west and pay a visit to Cleveland.
Whether they come to check out the local sights so they can shut me up or just because they miss Scott and me, I will never pass on an opportunity to show guests around the city I love.
And although I enjoy picking out the perfect places to show off, it makes me even happier when someone visits with their own ideas on what they want to see.
Our friends Lish, Matt and Amy drove out from Philly last month to spend a day at Cedar Point. And I’m glad to say the 12+ hour marathon of roller-coasters and Halloweekend haunts exceeded their expectations.
However, every good ride warrior needs some fuel before their journey and Lish had only one spot in mind for where she wanted to go for dinner: Sokolowski’s.
When Lish told me she had read about the renowned Tremont establishment, she asked if I had ever been. I was ashamed to admit I hadn’t gotten around to it yet even though it was on my to-do list of Cleveland must-eats.
So I killed 2 birds with one stone by taking them there after they arrived on Friday night.
Walking up to Sokolowski’s, I enjoyed taking in the nostalgic feel of the building. Even though the city has changed around it, it’s a neighborhood watering hole and supper club that hasn’t after perfecting their formula long ago.
When I saw the patio, I wished it wasn’t mid-Fall so we could enjoy eating outdoors; however when we got inside the warm decor welcomed us in. It was like walking into a grandparents’ house with pieces of Polish heritage and Cleveland pride in abundance.
As a first-timer, I wasn’t sure which of their many doors to enter but after finding the one along the right side, we got in line. Sokolowski’s doesn’t hide the fact that they’re cafeteria style, so be prepared to stand for a little bit waiting to place your order and get your food.
Now, I know that because of ‘The Best Thing I Ever Ate’ and ‘No Reservations,’ Sokolowski’s is one of Cleveland’s well-heralded treasures when it comes to foodie tourism and that over the years that attention has added to the crowds.
However, the fact that it’s also frequented by locals and repeat guests is a testament to the fact that the reason people flock here — and stay — is because it’s damn good.
Honestly, the line we stood in – although long – flew pretty quickly. Surrounded by polka cds to browse and polka music playing throughout the restaurant, we had all the entertainment we needed while we waited. And as we made it closer to the front of the line, the staff behind the counter were very helpful and efficient in getting our food ready.
Considering in most other restaurants I’d be sitting as long at my seat waiting for dinner, this wasn’t so bad. Plus you can’t knock a wait when at the end of it you get a delicious and filling meal.
I wanted to try a few Sokolowski classics so I selected their meatloaf, along with cabbage and noodles and greenbeans (I had to have at least one healthy dish). And because I couldn’t help myself, I added on an order of pierogies. All this with a large bottle of Weihenstephaner and salad – I was in heaven with so much food.
While the cabbage and noodles and butter-laden pierogies were fairly popular all around, I think we all agreed that the meatloaf was the best.
When it comes to meatloaf, I’m not a fan of recipes that call for brown sauce. A sweet, tomato-based sauce is what I want – just like my mother made when I was a kid.
With just one bite, Sokolowski’s transported me to Mom’s kitchen. The large juicy chunks of tomatoes in the sweet sauce soaked into the meat – I enjoyed every bite of this savory, delicious dish. And there were a lot of bites – with Sokolowski’s offering up one of the most ample plates of food I’ve had the joy of ordering and eating.
I think that’s the thing behind Sokolowski’s success – between the decor and the food, it felt like we were at home. It was the perfect Cleveland welcome for our friends who had just finished an 8 hour drive. Plus, I got to cross off another item on my Cleveland bucket list.
Since 1923, Sokolowski’s University Inn has been serving Cleveland as one of the area’s oldest family owned restaurants specializing in Polish and Eastern European cuisine.
Besides their usual fare, Sokolowski’s is currently running a clam bake special every Saturday this October. From 4-9pm, they’re offering a choice of chicken or steak plus clams, clam chowder, candied yams, potatoes, corn, and a slice of pumpkin or apple pie. My mouth is watering as I write this.
From Sokolowski’s to Greenhouse Taverm, I love my Cleveland food. Fortunately, I and all CLE food lovers are in luck this week as Cleveland’s a Plum is celebrating her 1,000th blog post – congratulations! And to celebrate she’s partnered with some of her favorite Cleveland restaurants and giving away over $1,250 in food and drink – woot! You can enter here.