Best Restaurants 2011: The Whole Damn Thing

Forget the filet. Chefs prove no part of the animal is off limits.

Anybody can throw a T-bone on the grill and end up with something delicious. The real talent lies in turning organ meats and unfamiliar parts into appealing dishes diners crave. "This shows respect for the animal and the farmer that raised it," says chef Jonathon Sawyer. "[It] is part of living sustainably." There's nothing to be squeamish about. In skilled hands, these odd anatomical tidbits go from eww to wow.

The Greenhouse Tavern

Dish: Roasted pig's head ($29)

Details: Half heads are brined in molasses, brown sugar, salt and spices; braised in red wine and cola; and cooked to order.

Why Try It: Arriving smiling on a huge silver platter, the head has crisp skin with incredibly moist meat underneath. "If you like barbecue and pork belly," Sawyer says, "you'll love our pig face." And don't worry about an accusing stare. "We remove the eyes because they freak some people out."
2038 E. Fourth St., Cleveland, 216-443-0511,

L'Albatros Brasserie & Bar

Dish: Oxtail ravioli ($20)

Details: Ragout of braised, pulled meat is served between pasta squares topped with creme fraiche

Why Try It: Reminiscent of short ribs, it's more tender than stew with a rich, beefy taste. "For many who grew up eating these less expensive cuts, it evokes memories of childhood meals," says chef and owner Zack Bruell.
11401 Bellflower Road, Cleveland, 216-791-7880,

Fire Food and Drink

Dish: Crispy chicken livers ($20)

Details: After a buttermilk soak, flour-dusted livers are deep-fried then plated with cherry compote, sauteed spinach and house-made bacon.

Why Try It: Think crunchy, soft, sweet and salty. "Each bite is a perfect mix of textures and flavor," says chef and owner Doug Katz. "This is a signature dish with its own fan base."
13220 Shaker Square, Cleveland, 216-921-3473,


Dish: Beef tongue ($17)

Details: Meat is slow-cooked in red wine and veal stock, sliced thin and seared in olive oil.

Why Try It: It looks like brisket and has a tender, melt-in-your-mouth texture and a surprisingly familiar flavor. "If you didn't know what you were eating," says chef Andy Dombrowski, "you'd swear it was a forkful of your grandma's pot roast."
2079 E. Fourth St., Cleveland, 216-298-9080,

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