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LivingSocial's Cleveland Restaurant Survey and My New Resolution

Not surprisingly, in the LivingSocial survey, Clevelanders lead the nation in Food Truck popularity.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I don’t like to cook. The fact that I’m not good at it, I’m a perfectionist, and I love great food is a horrible combination because I fear my time spent in the kitchen is going to result in a horrible meal.  While I’m working on getting over this completely irrational fear (thanks to my 30×30 list), I have Cleveland’s restaurants to keep my tastebuds happy.

From E4th to Shaker Square to Gordon Square (and pretty much every other Cleveland neighborhood), I am never wanting for a good place to eat.  And even in the suburbs (which in other cities may be a desert for non-chain restaurants), you can usually find a handful of locally owned restaurants that offer an appetizing menu and good prices. Even the Cleveland Airport Marriott has an amazing, creative restaurant for both locals and out-of-towners in AMP 150

One of my favorite Cleveland restaurants: Happy Dog in Gordon Square

That was why I was interested in a recent LivingSocial survey which said Cleveland dines out less often than any U.S. city but one (Minneapolis-St. Paul). 

The online survey was conducted in the top 20 media markets by Mandala Research, LLC among LivingSocial users 18+.  With Cleveland respondents saying they ate an average of 3.89 meals out per week (including breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner), we ranked #19 compared to the other markets (the national average was 4.78).  Interestingly, we were in the top ten for listing dinner date as the reason we most frequently dine out. 

Pizza ranked #4 both locally and nationally as the most popular food. Edisons in Tremont loads their pizzas with amazing toppings.

Cleveland respondents also rated Mexican as the new type of food they most recently tried out. This compares to the national average which was Thai (Thai didn’t rank for any Cleveland respondents).  Additionally, Spanish food, Cuban and Brazilian which were popular “experimental food” categories in other cities didn’t rank in Cleveland results.

Not surprisingly, though, Cleveland led the nation in the popularity of Food Trucks. And we were above average for respondents who self-described themselves as locavores and meat lovers (ranked #7 and #6, respectively).

Fat Heads in North Olmstead doesn't just have huge, delicious sandwiches, but also award-winning beer brewed on premises.

As with any survey, you’re looking at just a slice of the community. Nationally, more than 4400 people took the survey, with 200 of them being from Cleveland’s DMA. Geographically, the DMA is more than just Cleveland proper; it also includes Ashland, Ashtabula, Carroll, Cuyahoga, Erie, Geauga, Holmes, Huron, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage, Richland, Stark, Summit, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties. 

Additionally, a recent Nielsen survey showed that LivingSocial’s typical user is in a high income bracket (almost 50 percent likely to earn $150,000 or more a year), young (one third fall into the 21 to 34 age bracket), and female.  So you could make the argument that any survey doesn’t necessarily reflect all of Cleveland and that we may eat out more often than that.   

Regardless though, it made me reflect on my dining habits and the fact that I still have the tendency to stick to my favorite restaurants.

Why haven't I been to Deagan's Kitchen yet? Hoping to change that soon with my new resolution.

Because of this, I’ve added one last item to my list of 30 things to do by 30 (this is replacing #30 which was “finish all of the items on the list” – lame).  I’ve identified 10 restaurants that I always say “Oh, I really want to try that” but haven’t yet.  So by the end of next August, I can cross this to-do off my list if I’ve visited each one at least once.

And which restaurants are these?

    1. Dante
    2. Deagan’s
    3. Sokolowskis
    4. Flying Fig
    5. Ty Fun Thai Bistro
    6. Nighttown
    7. L’Albatros
    8. Lolita
    9. Pier W
    10. Brasa

Culinary events featuring a variety of food and chefs is my favorite way to find a new restaurant to try.

If you also think you’d like to get out there more and experiment with what Cleveland has to offer, here are a few things I always find helpful:

  • Not sure where to start? I’m a huge fan of  the Plain Dealer A-List and Doug Trattner’s 25 Restaurants Cleveland Can’t Live Without. There are a variety of dining experiences on these lists, but the one thing they all have in common is their quality. Each listed restaurant also comes with a short blurb so you get an idea why they’re so good.
  • Too many choices? Sample what’s out there at a dining or tasting event. From NEO Food Tours, Dinner in the Dark and Emerging Chefs to Taste of the Browns and the Silver Spoon Dinner, there are a lot of unique opportunities in the city to sample a few chefs in one sitting.  If you enjoyed what you tasted (which you likely will), check out that chef’s restaurant to see what else they have to offer.
  • Don’t want to hurt your wallet? I get this. I’m always looking for a way to save a penny. Deal sites like LivingSocial frequently offer discounts at local restaurants. In fact, restaurants and spas are their two most popular category. You can also keep an eye out for things like the Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s Restaurant Week where a selection of restaurants offer a fixed price menu.

When you go out to eat in Cleveland, what motivates you?  And do you have another restaurant you’d add to the above list?

Thanks, by the way, to Maire Griffin from LivingSocial for discussing the Cleveland-specific results. You can learn more about the national survey results here.