I too have been caught up in the buzz of what’s new: rushing to try the hottest new restaurant (including the forthcoming review of Blu, the Restaurant) or ordering up a round of trendy vegan nachos.
That’s what years of working as a dining editor will do to you — make you chase the foodie fads and report on the hottest chefs in town opening up new restaurants.
But it’s also taught me that in the mix of mocktails, tacos and brunch, there’s room on my plate to return to those classic spots in town that have been serving customers for more than 40 years.
It’s quite an accomplishment in this fast-paced world, with changing tastes and endless options (thanks, Postmates) that iconic restaurants such as Sokolowski’s University Inn, which originally opened as a small candy store in 1923 and later became a cafeteria-style spot in the 1950s, have stood the test of time.
“You have to evolve, and you have to keep up and not be afraid to make changes,” says co-owner Mike Sokolowski. “You have to grow. And if you don’t, you’re going to die.”
The 18 spots featured in “Classic Eats” have been able to navigate the oft-times unsteady world of the restaurant industry. Many of these establishments have been passed down from generation to generation.
What makes all of them unique is their ability to pay homage to their humble beginnings, cultivate a loyal customer base and change with the times when needed.
Take Tommy’s in Cleveland Heights. Owner Tommy Fello bought the restaurant, which was called Fine Arts Confectionary, in 1972. He was just 19 years old. After 48 years, a few fires and several locations later, he’s learned a lot about running a successful business.
“You have to be a hard worker to make it because it’s not an easy job,” he says. “We have 58 people who work here. I try to set an example of how you treat people and they mirror that. We have people who have been here for 40 years and with their help, we’ve been able to become an institution. That’s not something I could have done on my own.”
It’s a timeless recipe for success.
Read More: Click here to read the full list of 18 Classic Cleveland Restaurants.