My last trip to Cleveland lasted 8 days. It was full of bar food, sandwiches, buffets, top notch American cuisine, and everything in between. On the last night, I was definitely tired from work, but I wasn’t about to miss an opportunity to try another place in Cleveland. So I put on a pair of jeans, loaded up the laptop, and headed out the front door of the Renaissance in downtown and turned left toward the warehouse district. I made a couple of laps, looking at the various restaurants, trying to decide where to go. I never realized how “up-scale” the Warehouse District was, and I actually felt like there were some places that I couldn’t walk into wearing jeans and pull out my computer. But, I finally made my way back to Crop Bistro and Bar, and headed in.
I was happy with my choice right away. The vibe coming out of Crop was just perfect. It maintained some of the feel of so many of the buildings in that area with the wood paneling and the high ceilings and bronze chandeliers. But it also had a modern vibe with the dark wood bar and tables, and hardwood floors. Add to that the Cavs game on the flat screen TV, and just a general relaxed feeling coming out. So I took up a spot in the corner where I could see the TV and have some space for my computer, ordered a beer and started flipping through the menu. I almost went for the 3 course tasting menu (turned out it was some kind of Cleveland dining week), but decided to pass since I wasn’t really in a dessert mode. I kept searching the menu, but my eyes kept drifting back to the cherry chipotle ribs. So, I went with it.
While I was waiting for my dinner, and typing away furiously on my computer, a little basket arrived. Expecting your standard fare sourdough or other similar style bread, I was pleasantly surprised to find some “mini-buscuits”. They were like a small, round buttermilk biscuit bite with rosemary, and served with a honey butter (my apologies to the chef for not taking down the notes and writing this a couple weeks after the fact…I’m totally not doing them justice at all). And they were fantastic. Nice and moist, with a bit of sweetness from the butter, and enough hint of the rosemary to not overpower the whole thing, but to let you know that it was there.
I’d only put down a couple of the biscuits when the ribs arrived. The presentation was actually quite nice with the bright and vibrant colors coming from the cole slaw and the glazed ribs with a drizzle of the sauce on the plate. It definitely didn’t look like your “typical” ribs, and they definitely didn’t taste like your typical ribs either. They weren’t a smoked rib, but rather one that had been slow cooked (most likely braised). They were incredibly tender in the way you want ribs; you can bite them off the bone, but they don’t just fall off. The sauce was more delicate than I had anticipated, more on the sweet side than the spicy side. And the cole slaw was an excellent cool and acidic balance. The meal was topped off by a cup of homemade macaroni and cheese. That is where the smokiness was; just a hint, but it was definitely there. If I had a critique, as minor as it is, I’d have liked to see maybe a little crunch (i.e. bread crumbs or bacon) in the macaroni, and just a little more dressing on the slaw.
Crop actually epitomized to me the current age of food. By this I mean it’s a more laid back and fun environment serving the type of food that you would expect to find in a white tablecloth, four star restaurant at much more reasonable prices. It’s exactly the type of places that I look for and enjoy in Seattle, and it’s the type of places that I never knew existed in Cleveland until recently. And it’s exactly why I headed back out instead of staying in my room. The meal had so many compliments and hit all of the little things that I tend to miss; a little crunch, a balance between sweet and savory, and a little bit of acidity. Crop is an absolute must visit in this area, and I actually hope I have the opportunity to go back when it is warm and enjoy the large outdoor patio and the crowds that are sure to be making their way by.