Michael Symon’s plans to make Cleveland a barbecue destination

 lamb ribs

Several US regions are known for their particular barbecue styles: Texas beef brisket, Eastern North Carolina’s vinegar and pepper sauced whole hog, Western North Carolina’s pork shoulder with a tomato-vinegar sauce, and Memphis’ dry-rub ribs, to name just a few. Now former Iron Chef Michael Symon aims to add a new city to the list. Symon recently opened a restaurant called Mabel’s BBQ, which features what he calls “Cleveland-style” barbecue. “From the sides all the way through the meats, we made a very conscious effort to make it feel like the hometown that I grew up in, and the hometown that I grew up eating food in,” says Symon, who has established himself as a local restaurateur as well as a cookbook author.

The chef aims to imbue both the meats and the side dishes with a Cleveland flavor. You won’t find coleslaw or mac-n-cheese as the sides here. Instead, expect items that draw on the Eastern European and German influences long part of the city’s own rich culinary tradition, like sauerkraut, spaetzle, and cabbage. Symon uses spices like celery seed and coriander, and a sauce made with a local brown mustard. The menu also features Ohio’s garlicky kielbasa. The chef also relies heavily on local ingredients, like wood from the area’s many fruit trees, which he uses to fire his offset smokers. 

Symon isn’t abandoning already established traditions, however. He uses brisket supplied by the same company that services the Austin’s Franklin Barbeque, and his beef ribs also echo the Central Texas style. Says editor and cookbook author Douglas Trattner, “Of course he didn’t invent brisket. Of course he didn’t invent the beef rib. He’s standing on the shoulders of giants, but he’s putting it through his Cleveland lens.”

Photo of Grilled lamb ribs with quick preserved lemons from Food and Wine Magazine by Michael Symon

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