Cleveland has been called the corned beef capital of America. Much of that reputation can be credited to Slyman’s Restaurant, which has been stacking its signature sandwiches for the past 55 years. Founders Rafic and Joseph Slyman’s original St. Clair Avenue location remains the hub of the family business, with Joseph’s son Freddie now overseeing operations including Slyman’s Tavern locations in Independence, Orange Village and Mentor.
Dedication from our family has continued the legacy my father started. My brother Moe and I take this seriously — he gets up at 2:30 a.m. every morning to get to the store and we have two cousins who are cooks. We have the same hands doing the same work every day. My brother and I took the baton from our dad and added our own flair. I memorized every sandwich for every customer. I never wrote anything down. It takes 20 years to be an overnight success. We had some lean years in the 1970s and 1980s. The restaurant business is very stressful and there were times we wanted to throw in the towel. God kept us together. You get excited when you think of Slyman’s.
George W. Bush and Joe Biden have been here. We’ve had people here getting food for Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. We’re unique to Cleveland, a diamond in the rough. Tastes have stayed the same over the years. The big seller is corned beef, followed by pastrami. We’ve never varied from our brined recipes for briskets. I was downtown for more than 30 years behind that slicer and it beat me up pretty good.
The fact that we’ve been able to expand has re-inspired me. I’m able to teach people what I’ve learned. Generosity has been our credo. Having people come back day after day is more important than gouging them. Goodwill goes a long way. — as told to Barry Goodrich
When You Go: Slyman’s Restaurant, 3106 St. Clair Ave., Cleveland, 216-621-3760, slymans.com