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Ask most Clevelanders if they like autumn, and I would venture to say that most would say they do. Many of the people would probably say it’s their favorite time of year. If we could figure out a way to go from the falling leaves straight into spring (which around here is “winter jr.), the city’s population would probably double.
With the onslaught of winter headed straight at us in the next month, what’s a Clevelander to do?
When I think of cold and snow, I think comfort food. Is there anything more Cleveland than sweater clad patrons with heavy coats slung over the back of their chairs, on a perpetually wet floor covered in a mixture of melted slush and salt, drinking beer and feasting on a plate of steak and mashed potatoes? If we really want to capture the mental picture, this scene takes place in one of the many old narrow bar spaces that exist in the old neighborhoods around our city.
While, thankfully, the brisk winter wind hasn’t arrived yet, the pall of grey is still attempting to overtake the sun, and the snow is still a little ways off, our scene fits Bistro 185 like a well worn glove.
We made the mistake of winding our way north through the back streets to get this small east side restaurant. Just a word of advice: unless you live in South Euclid or nearby, just take the highway. Traffic lights absolutely kick your ass the whole way there.
With sleek neon signage glowing in the dwindling daylight, we passed up the outdoor patio and headed into the cozy interior. The first thing that strikes you at the door is the hominess of the setting. The attire is casual and the crowd is diverse. The acoustics are such that there’s a privacy of conversation, but not so loud that you have to shout.
Since we had been here before, we pretty much knew what to expect. The menu is largely on the heavier side (we are after all, Clevelanders). Heavy doesn’t bother me, but Regina wanted the only thing they were out of – Yellowtail Snapper. For those of you keeping score, they get a gold star for offering sustainable fish. She finally settled on the Roasted Figs stuffed with Goat Cheese (monstrous portions), and the Smoked Duck Breast on Potato Pancakes with Raspberry Chipotle Drizzle. She liked the duck a lot, the figs she wasn’t as thrilled with. I think she was expecting smaller figs with less cheese. The duck breast which was her quasi-entrée was spot on.
Since I had behaved myself (dietarly speaking) during the week; I opted to reward myself with a 16 ounce Pepper Crusted Steak. Like everything else I’ve ever had here, it was a good solid dish of food.
Bistro 185 gets it. If you had to draw up a restaurant to fit the neighborhood this would be it. The menu is a continuous beat of Cleveland favorites from Chicken Paprikash to Lamb Shanks to Pan Roasted Walleye. The portions are big enough to satisfy most appetites. This is a restaurant your kids, parents, and grandparents would feel comfortable while finding something on the menu that they love. In terms of price it may well be the best value on the east side, if not the entire city. We had a $50 gift certificate and struggled to make the minimum. One more piece of advice: make reservations especially on the weekends (it is beloved after all).
If there’s a restaurant that captures the essence of what it means to eat in Cleveland, I think Bistro 185 is it.
991 East 185th St.
Cleveland, OH 44119