The Silver Grille

Hused inside Higbee’s, the Silver Grille was a holiday-season dining destination that grew into a Cleveland icon.
Today, nearly two decades after closing its doors, former patrons still talk about the Welsh rarebit on its menu.
Welsh Rarebit
originally served at The Silver Grille
[makes five cups of rarebit]
8 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 teaspoon paprika
8 tablespoons flour
4 cups hot milk
16 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
Thinly sliced white bread, toasted
Whole almonds to garnish

Melt butter or margarine until hot, and then add the flour, stirring constantly about five minutes or until the mixture bubbles.

Pour in the hot milk in small amounts, stirring constantly until the sauce is smooth.

Add the Worcestershire sauce and seasonings. Remove from the stove, and stir in the grated cheese, mixing until cheese is melted. Keep hot.

Serve the rarebit over triangles of thinly sliced, toasted white bread. Garnish each serving with whole almonds. (Note: In the 1933 version, beet fat was used in this recipe.)
* Adapted recipe, courtesy of Cleveland Landmarks Press
If you were a lady who lunched downtown during Cleveland’s shopping heyday, you most likely dined at Higbee’s Silver Grille.

Richard E. Karberg, author ofThe Silver Grille: Memories and Recipes, explains that while Higbee’s itself was considered a moderately priced store, patrons of its eatery were considered the social equals of those who frequented the more exclusive Halle Bros. And shoppers of every socioeconomic status queued up for a table at the Silver Grille during the busy holiday season.

“From Thanksgiving through the end of the year,” Karberg recalls, “it wasmobbed.”

One of the most-ordered menu items in the decades following The Silver Grille’s 1931 opening was the Welsh rarebit, a hearty cheese sauce served over toast that originated in 18th-century England. (“Rarebit,” according to the olumbia Guide to Standard American English, is a variation of the word “rabbit” — the name was presumably an insult to the Welsh, “who were said to eat it instead of the rabbit meat they lacked.”)

Like other favorites such as creamed chicken and chicken pie, part of the dish’s appeal was in what Karberg calls its sheer “WASP-ishness.”

“Cleveland during this period of time was an ethnic melting pot,” he explains. “These dishes would have not been found in the ordinary ethnic home.”

And then there was the presentation: The Welsh rarebit was garnished with exactly seven whole almonds, plated on china designed under the famed Guy Cowan’s supervision and served by efficient yet gracious waitresses in understated Art Deco elegance. Until the day the Silver Grille served its last meal in 1989, Karberg says, it was “a class act.”
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