I’ve only recently grown out of it, which I attribute to trying new dishes at restaurants. It’s so tempting to order nothing but a perfectly seared, mediumrare filet when you go out to eat — let’s be honest, there are few things on earth as scrumptious. But with just a little more adventure in our ordering, there are troves of undiscovered food to love. “People aren’t daring enough,” says Randal Johnson of Molinari’s in Mentor. “There’s pockets of real foodies out there, but Cleveland is still meat and potatoes.”
Jonathan Bennett of Moxie says that customers fear things they haven’t seen before: “They just order something they are familiar with.” So that makes paupiettes of sole (fish stuffed and rolled) or fondant potatoes (barrel-shaped and browned potatoes) a tough sell.
Rob Records of Johnny’s Downtown even tries to meet beef-lovin’ Clevelanders halfway, serving a prime strip steak with brulléed Humboldt Fog goat cheese and a fried egg on top. “I don’t know why people are afraid to try it,” he says. “That’s like my signature dish, I try to get everyone to try it.”
And forget about most folks giving birds beyond chicken a chance. Game birds such as quail or squab (even rabbit) are a tough sell, says Karen Small of The Flying Fig. “It takes a lot to get people to buy it.”
Cleveland’s chefs also wish you would try their duck breast, fois gras, charcuterie plate, pasta Bolognese and prosciutto pizza.
As my parents told me, “try it, you might just like it.” Though I’m still not budging on Brussels sprouts.