Like a Polish Grandmother

Comfort food is made for Cleveland winters.  We love our hearty foods here, sticking to our ribs and creating a buffer against the sharp lake wind.  And if we have family that’s been here a few generations, chances are we’re part Eastern European.  So Sokolowski’s University Inn in Tremont is a no brainer for a winter’s lunch…

Even if it’s sixty and sunny.

Sokolowski’s is a Cleveland institution.  Most everybody in Northeast Ohio knows of it, even if they’ve never eaten there.  Thanks to Anthony Bourdain and Michael Symon, much of the country knows of it too.

This could give the place an opportunity to cash-in on fame, ride the current of good publicity, and turn into a tourist trap more than a solid local restaurant.  But they don’t do that.  And it hasn’t become that.

For one, the people that own the place, the aptly named Sokolowski family, still actually run the place.  They can be seen in the kitchen or behind the cafeteria-style serving counter, talking with customers about local issues or sports or families.  Just like that, you see the place as a central part of the neighborhood, and Cleveland, community.

And the place doesn’t try to be something glitzy or fancy.  Perhaps the restaurant’s best quality…its simplicity.  The inside is cozy; it feels like a hunting lodge decorated with a mix of stuffed quails and Cleveland bobble-heads along the shelves.  Grimm fairy tale cabin meets Grandma’s chotchkie cabinet.  Photos of Cleveland personalities and localities balance the pictures of big-name celebrities who have eaten here.

The food is simple, Eastern European comfort food.  Pierogis, brats and kielbasa, Salisbury steak that is a far cry from your old grade school lunchroom, cabbage and noodles…etc. etc.

Most important in blue-collar Cleveland, the portions are big for the price.  Around $10 gets you your main with two sides.  Enough food to share, if you really want, or to take home for dinner if you’re selfish.

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