15 Famous Cleveland Foods: Top Dishes And Foods Of Cleveland

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With a deep presence in arts and music, especially the history of Rock and Roll, music enthusiasts often pass through Cleveland. Sports fans also head to Cleveland to check out the Cavaliers or the Browns. What you might not know is that the foods of Cleveland are also worth exploring!

With a diverse immigrant background and plenty of local seafood, the Cleveland food scene has some unique culinary characteristics. You should definitely get a taste while you’re in town! 

What’s Special About Cleveland Foods? 

Cleveland boasts a rich immigrant history, which has contributed to a variety of traditional dishes from various ethnic backgrounds, including Polish, Ukrainian, Italian, and more. Additionally, its location on Lake Erie offers access to fresh seafood, especially Lake Erie perch, which has become a famous Cleveland food. 

The city’s love for sports and tailgating also comes out in the food, with unique dishes like the Polish Boy Sandwich and Cleveland-style barbecue becoming iconic in the area. Overall, the Cleveland food scene is a melting pot of flavors, showcasing the city’s history, innovation, and passion for hearty and comforting dishes. 

One of the best ways to explore the tasty dishes and excellent restaurants on offer is through a Cleveland Food Tour. Experience the diverse and eclectic culinary scene that reflects the city’s cultural heritage. You might even find some hidden gems that are not widely known.

Most Famous Food Of Cleveland

Perogies

What food is Cleveland known for if not perogies? Cleveland has a significant population of Eastern European immigrants, particularly from Polish and Ukrainian communities. Perogies, also known as pierogi, are delicious dumplings of Polish, Ukrainian, and Russian origins. 

These versatile dumplings are made from unleavened dough, typically filled with various ingredients. Traditional fillings include mashed potatoes, cheese, sauerkraut, mushrooms, or meat. The dough is rolled thin and then filled with the chosen filling, sealed, and formed into a half-moon shape or a smaller pocket. 

People first boil the perogies, then pan-fry them in butter or oil to create a crispy exterior while maintaining a soft and tender center. They are usually served with sour cream, onions, or other toppings, enhancing their flavors and textures. Perogies have gained popularity worldwide, but they are certainly popular among food in Cleveland. 

Famous Sausage Dishes And Foods From Cleveland

Polish Boy Sandwich

If there is a food Cleveland is known for, generally it’s something involving sausage, and the Polish Boy sandwich is no exception. The Polish Boy sandwich is an iconic specialty in Cleveland, consisting of a kielbasa sausage (smoked or grilled) in a fluffy bun. The sandwich also carried a layer of tangy barbecue sauce, which is often tomato-based with a touch of sweetness and spices. 

A mound of creamy coleslaw comes on top of the sausage, adding a cool and crunchy contrast to the smoky flavors. The sandwich is typically paired with a generous serving of crispy French fries, adding a satisfying texture and making an indulgent meal. The combination of flavors and textures in the Polish Boy Sandwich has made it a beloved local favorite and a must-try for anyone visiting Cleveland! 

Kielbasa And Cabbage

This hearty and comforting food in Cleveland features kielbasa sausage and cabbage as its main ingredients. Kielbasa, a type of Polish sausage, is typically made from pork, beef, or a combination of both, seasoned with garlic, marjoram, and other spices. The sausage is sliced and then pan-fried or sautéed until it’s cooked through and slightly crispy. 

Cabbage is often shredded or chopped and cooked together with the kielbasa, allowing the flavors to meld and the cabbage to become tender. The dish is seasoned with salt, pepper, and other spices to enhance its taste. Kielbasa and Cabbage is a popular and budget-friendly meal, appreciated for its simple yet satisfying flavors. 

Bratwurst

You’ve probably heard of this one before, but bratwurst is a type of German sausage known for its delicious flavor and versatility. It is made from finely minced pork, beef, or veal, and is seasoned with a blend of spices, such as salt, pepper, nutmeg, and ginger. The sausage mixture is traditionally stuffed into natural casings, giving it its distinctive shape and appearance. 

Bratwurst is often grilled, pan-fried, or boiled before being served. It is a popular dish during German festivals, barbecues, and outdoor gatherings. Since there is lots of German heritage in Cleveland, we can definitely count Bratwurst among Cleveland foods. 

Foods Of Cleveland: Meat & Fish Dishes

Corned Beef Sandwich

A corned beef sandwich is a classic deli sandwich that features thinly sliced, tender corned beef piled high on rye bread. The corned beef is typically slow-cooked and cured with spices, giving it a flavorful and slightly sweet taste. The sandwich is often served with tangy mustard and sometimes complemented with coleslaw or pickles for added texture and taste. 

Corned beef sandwiches are a popular lunchtime favorite in many delis and restaurants. People cherish this iconic sandwich for its rich taste. This is a famous food in Cleveland that’s certainly worth a try!

City Chicken

City chicken is a unique dish that has a long history in the Midwest, particularly among Cleveland food and Pittsburgh food. Despite its name, city chicken does not actually contain chicken. Instead, it is made with cubes of pork or veal skewered on a stick to resemble a drumstick. 

The skewered meat is then breaded and sometimes seasoned before being baked or fried to golden perfection. City chicken is a popular comfort food, often served with various side dishes like mashed potatoes and vegetables. This dish is a nostalgic favorite for many who grew up enjoying its flavorful and tender meat!

Cleveland-Style Barbecue

Cleveland-style barbecue is a regional barbecue style that is unique to the Cleveland area in Ohio. It is characterized by its tangy and tomato-based barbecue sauce, which sets it apart from other barbecue styles that may be more commonly associated with the South. It is a famous Cleveland food owing to the sauce, which balances sweetness and vinegar-based tang that offers a distinctive flavor profile. 

Meats such as pulled pork, brisket, and chicken are typically cooked low and slow, allowing the flavors to develop and the meat to become tender and juicy. Cleveland-style barbecue has gained popularity in the city and is celebrated by locals and visitors alike for its delicious taste. If you’re a barbecue fan, you have to try this dish! 

Lake Erie Perch

Among the famous landmarks of Cleveland, you’ll find Lake Erie, where the Lake Erie perch comes from. Lake Erie perch is an extremely popular food in Cleveland and in the Great Lakes region. It is a species of yellow perch known for its sweet and mild flavor. 

The fish typically has a tender and flaky white flesh, making it perfect for various cooking methods, like frying, baking, or grilling. Lake Erie perch is often served as a popular dish in local restaurants and seafood eateries, particularly as a classic fish fry option. Its popularity stems from its delicate taste, making it a favorite catch for anglers and a beloved seafood choice for many in the area. 

Snackable Cleveland Foods

Pizza Bagel

This is perhaps one of the most iconic foods from Cleveland, the pizza bagel! One famous stop in Cleveland, Frickaccio’s, was one of the first places to sell the pizza bagel. A pizza bagel is a delicious and convenient snack or light meal that combines the flavors of pizza with the convenience of a bagel. 

The dish starts with a half bagel, which serves as the pizza crust, topped with pizza sauce and herbs and spices. Generous amounts of shredded mozzarella cheese cover the sauce, providing the gooey and melty pizza texture. They can come with all sorts of toppings, making them popular with both kids and adults! 

Sauerkraut Balls

Sauerkraut balls are a unique and delicious appetizer that combines sauerkraut and savory ingredients into crispy fried balls. The dish typically starts with sauerkraut, which is fermented cabbage that provides a tangy and slightly sour flavor. 

The sauerkraut is mixed with ingredients like ground meat, breadcrumbs, or batter, and deep-fried until they turn golden brown. 

Sauerkraut balls are a popular treat in the Midwest, especially during Oktoberfest and other festive occasions. You can most often see these delicious treats as appetizers. Don’t miss out on this famous Cleveland food! 

Iconi Pastries In Cleveland Foods

Slovenian Potica 

Cleveland actually has a large community of Slovenians, which have brought their delicious pastries to the area. Slovenian Potica is a traditional sweet bread or pastry hailing from Slovenia and is widely enjoyed in Slovenian communities around the world. The dish features a rolled yeast dough that is spread thinly and then generously filled with various fillings such as walnuts, poppy seeds, hazelnuts, or tarragon. 

The dough is carefully rolled up with the filling inside, creating a spiral pattern when sliced. It is then baked to perfection, resulting in a golden-brown crust with a tender, flavorful interior. Slovenian Potica has become beloved among Cleveland foods and is often served during holidays and special occasions. 

Paczki

This Polish treat has risen into the ranks of unmissable foods in Cleveland! These delicious treats, generally referred to as Polish donuts, are deep-fried and typically filled with sweet fillings such as fruit preserves, custard, or even chocolate. The dough is rich, dense, and slightly sweet, resulting in a soft and pillowy texture. 

Traditionally, paczki were made to use up ingredients like eggs and sugar before the fasting period of Lent, and they are often enjoyed on Fat Tuesday in Polish communities. While paczki have gained popularity in many parts of the world, they’re certainly a favorite in Cleveland. Don’t miss out on this one! 

Drinks & Other Interesting Foods Of Cleveland

Cuyahoga Sunrise

A Cuyahoga Sunrise is a delightful cocktail inspired by the Cuyahoga River, which Cleveland is famous for. The drink features a beautiful blend of vibrant colors to mimic the picturesque sunrise over the river. Typically, it is made with a base of vodka, which provides a neutral spirit to let the other flavors shine. 

Orange juice is then added to bring a tangy sweetness, reminiscent of the morning sun. Lastly, a touch of grenadine is drizzled into the cocktail, creating a striking red hue that represents the warm glow of the rising sun. Served over ice, the Cuyahoga Sunrise offers a refreshing and visually captivating beverage, perfect for enjoying the spirit of Cleveland. Grab one and enjoy it with your favorite Cleveland foods! 

Bertman Ball Park Mustard

Bertman Ball Park Mustard is a renowned Cleveland-based brand of mustard with a rich history dating back to 1925. It is an iconic condiment, particularly associated with Cleveland’s sports venues, especially Progressive Field (formerly known as Jacobs Field), where the Cleveland Guardians baseball team plays. The mustard is known for its distinct tangy flavor, made from a blend of high-quality ingredients, including brown mustard seeds and a secret spice mix. 

Its versatility makes it a favorite topping for hot dogs, sausages, sandwiches, and other dishes, adding a unique zing that sets it apart from regular mustard varieties. Bertman Ball Park Mustard continues to be a beloved and essential part of Cleveland cuisine, celebrated by locals and visitors alike. Give it a try on a sausage or pick up a bottle for home! 

Lemon Rice Soup

Lemon rice soup is a comforting and flavorful dish with Greek origins, commonly enjoyed in various cuisines. The soup typically starts with a base of chicken broth, providing a savory foundation for the flavors to meld. White rice is added to the broth, creating a hearty and satisfying texture. 

Fresh lemon juice is then stirred in, infusing the soup with a bright and tangy citrus taste. To complete the dish, beaten eggs are slowly drizzled into the hot broth, creating delicate ribbons of cooked egg that add a silky richness to the soup. Lemon rice soup is a beloved classic, cherished for its simplicity and comforting qualities. Make sure you get a taste of this famous Cleveland food! 

Sampling Famous Foods In Cleveland

With a diverse range of immigrant cuisine and fresh ingredients, the culinary scene is one of the most exciting facts about Cleveland. Whether you want some seafood, sausages, or perogies, you can get some delicious dishes in Ohio.

When you’re visiting, make sure to keep this list handy. Before you know it, you’ll be telling all your friends about the wonders of Cleveland food!


PIN THESE FOODS OF CLEVELAND FOR LATER!

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Welcome To NomadsUnveiled
This is Rax. For over a decade, I have traveled to over 60 countries - from a budget backpacker to a business traveler, expat and then a digital nomad. You can find insights and perspectives from myself and other world travelers that will inspire your journey of discovery.

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