Early Look: Michael Symon is Serving Brilliant Cleveland Barbecue

© Sunny Day Photography CLE

By Kate Krader Posted April 11, 2016

What's really great about Mabel's BBQ is its Cleveland-boosting menu. "Eastern European butchers are the original BBQ masters," says Symon. Instead of hot links, he's serving kielbasa; in fact, there's a ton of excellent local kielbasa on the menu.

Michael Symon says it's the most important restaurant he's ever done.

Food & Wine: Mabel's BBQ

© Sunny Day Photography CLE

Mabel's BBQ, which opens today on East 4th Street in Cleveland—next door to Symon's flagship Lola Bistro, where he won F&W Best New Chef in 1998—is a barbecue spot. But it's not just any barbecue spot: At Mabel's, Symon is making a claim on Cleveland-styled barbecue. The Chew's beloved co-host was born and raised in Cleveland; he's one of the city's biggest boosters. He's also an avid barbecue fan and a big meat guy (he shouts out the sustainably raised kind). In the vast brick-walled space, Symon has installed two beautiful, custom-built J&R smokers, 100 seats, and a neon sign that says Eat More Meat.

But what's really great about Mabel's BBQ is the Cleveland-boosting menu. "Eastern European butchers are the original BBQ masters," says Symon. Instead of hot links, he's serving kielbasa; in fact, there's a ton of excellent local kielbasa on the menu. Meats by the half pound list brisket, pork belly and J& J Kielbasa (hot with cheese or classic); sandwiches include the chopped pork Big Pig, the chopped brisket Mr. Beef and the Polish Girl—kielbasa or chopped pork and coleslaw on a roll. He's making barbecue sauce with local favorite Stadium mustard.

Food & Wine: Mabel's BBQ

© Sunny Day Photography CLE

This might be the only barbecue restaurant where you have the option of spaetzle as the side for Giant House-Smoked Beef Rib. And if you really want to get the feel for Symon and his city, order the This is Cleveland special. It's a plate of classic kielbasa, spare ribs and pork belly with spicy cabbage and a little sauerkraut broth. The dish is inspired by his grandfather, Preston, who helped promote Symon's love of smoked meat by taking him to the best butcher counters when the chef was a kid in Cleveland.

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