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Last night, CLEguy and I had the pleasure of attending one of the NEO Food Tours signature tours. This tour was of the Gordon Square area, which is one of my favorite neighborhoods in CLE. Gordon Square is an awesome example of residents, businesses, and community leaders coming together to revitalize an area, while still preserving its history and culture.
Our tour started at the Cleveland Public Theater.
NEO Food Tours isn’t just about the food, it’s also about learning about the neighborhood where you’re eating. The Cleveland Public Theater provides a haven for local artists to express themselves through avant garde theater, expressive dance, music, and more. Of the seven world premiere shows that CPT is running this season, five of the shows are from local artists. Beyond that, CPT provides community-based arts programs targeted toward at-risk youth.
CPT is also undergoing a major renovation to make it’s theaters more accessible. The Gordon Square theater is the oldest theater still being used as a theater in CLE. It was built in 1912 as a vaudeville house!
After our tour, we were treated to a pop-up restaurant from Battery Park Wine Bar. Battery Park’s Y.O.L.O. (“you only live once”) theme was born of the owner deciding, after 20 years in the wine-selling business, to take a leap of faith and open his own wine bar. Battery Park Wine Bar will be celebrating it’s one-year anniversary in November. The food was delicious and won CLEguy’s “favorite of the night” award. It was certainly the most generous portion we received all night, too.
We were treated to two flatbreads. The first had pumpkin seed pesto, pumpkin goat cheese spread, seared chicken, apples, and spicy tomato simple syrup. Sweet without being too sweet, this flatbread brought the flavors of fall together perfectly. The second flatbread had roasted spaghetti squash, bucheron cheese, baby spinach, raisins, and candied pecans, finished with a maple sriracha syrup. The sriracha added a nice heat to counteract the sweetness of the maple and pecans. I could have used a bit more texture on this flatbread, but both were quite delicious. Our flatbreads were paired with The Wait Reserve Malbec, a delightful Argentinian wine.
Next, we strolled down West 65th Street, learning more about the Capitol Theater and the neighborhoods Romanian churches.
The Capitol Theater originally opened to show silent movies and has a rich history as one of CLE’s movie theaters. The inside of the Capitol Theater has been completely refurbished and everything is historically accurate – except for the digital screens. The Capitol shows art-house and independent films, in keeping with the spirit of the Gordon Square neighborhood.
There are two historic Romanian churches in the Gordon Square neighborhood. One was the first Romanian Orthodox church in the U.S. and is now owned by Cleveland Public Theater. The other is a Romanian Byzantine church that is still operating as a church on West 65th Street.
We arrived at our second stop: Stone Mad Irish Pub.
The patio at Stone Mad is entirely made of, well, stone. From stone benches to an impressive stone fireplace and beautiful fountain, this is a pretty amazing spot to relax and enjoy a pint of Guinness, which we did. The inside of the pub is just as impressive, with gorgeous handblown glass light fixtures, amazing mosaic tiles in the restrooms, and Ohio’s only indoor bocce court.
At Stone Mad, we sipped Guinness and enjoyed a mini beef brisket sandwich with horseradish sauce.
The beef brisket was amazing: tender, juicy, and flavorful. The brisket, along with all the other food at Stone Mad, is made fresh and never frozen. The other impressive thing about this sandwich was the bun: lightly toasted and really tasty, it held up to the moist quality of the brisket, while still being somewhat soft.
From Stone Mad, we headed back up to Detroit Road for a walk through the Gordon Square arcade.
The arcade is home to the Gordon Square Arts District and the Detroit Shoreway, two community-based organizations working to make the area bigger and better all the time. One thing that piqued my interest: November 17 is the kick-off to Gordon Square’s holiday shopping season!
We crossed the street (with dubious traffic controllers) to Luxe Kitchen and Lounge.
We heard about Luxe’s desire to be in the Gordon Square neighborhood and it’s commitment to the arts, as well as a “reuse, recycle” focus. Other fun facts about Luxe: their wine list is a treasure trove of delicious, yet still affordable wines, found by focusing on less expensive but still high quality wine regions. Also, Luxe welcomes your pups on their patio for Sunday brunch and will even cook them up some chicken and rice! CLEpups can’t wait to go!
Now, onto the food…
Luxe’s dish featured duck and goat cheese and handily won my “favorite of the night.” Seared duck breast was served over lentils, which had duck confit mixed in. The dish was topped with goat cheese, almonds, and a blackberry compote. The flavors of the duck and lentils paired perfectly and the almonds added a nice crunchy texture. Our tasting was paired with a de-classified Brunello wine that was smooth and absolutely incredible.
Our final stop of the night: XYZ the Tavern. XYZ was the newest kid on the block of the restaurants we visited, having opened in February. The vibe is relaxed, the beer and whiskey lists are outstanding, and the food is described as “pub grub, with a twist.” Well, this was like no pub grub I’ve ever had…
Applewood-smoked pork tenderloin was topped with apples and carmelized onions and served with a butternut squash and chevre napoleon with pecan brown butter. When you figure out what’s wrong with any of that, let me know…I’m pretty sure there’s nothing. The dish was amazing. You could truly taste the applewood flavor on the pork and the butternut squash napoleon was crisp and fresh. These seasonal ingredients all came together perfectly. We were given a choice of wine or beer and CLEguy and I both chose the Southern Tier Harvest Ale, a hoppy autumn brew.
The evening capped off with a “Rye Not” cocktail (rye whiskey, bitters, maraschino liquor) and a gift bag.
In our gift bag: coffee and a muffin from Gypsy Beans and Baking, chocolates from Sweet Moses, a pass to see a show at Cleveland Public Theater, and more. What a great end to a fantastic night of food and fun.
I can’t recommend a tour enough: the food is spaced out enough that you’re not stuffed at the end, you get to learn a ton of great facts about the neighborhood you’re in and meet chefs and owners of the restaurants, and you get to mingle with other great CLE folks who love this town as much as you do. The next signature tour is October 19 and will take on Public Square and all it’s history. It’s sure to be a great time!
***Disclosure: I was invited to attend the NEO Food Tours Gordon Square Tour with a media pass for myself and a guest. Much thanks to Todd, Melissa, Elizabeth, and Amanda for a great tour and being gracious hosts. As always, all opinions in this post are 100% my own.***