Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fun Playing with Comfort Food at Bar Symon

Our EGullet friend Kris is on her annual visit to her hometown of Cleveland (she lives in Japan). So, we will indulge in some Cleveland-area restaurant food fun over the next couple of weeks, notwithstanding that our garden is finally busting open with summer goodness.

Last night, we enjoyed a meal at Michael Symon's latest venture, Bar Symon. It was great to see former Lolita stalwarts "Chaty" Matt Harlan and FOH Manager Nolan Cleary and to taste a bit of Cory Barrett's dessert magic. We East-Siders so miss them - and it is a 50 minute drive to Bar Symon from my home, so I don't suppose we'll be going too often. Our loss.

Bar Symon screams "comfort" from the moment you enter. From the 40-plus beers on tap to the comfort food on the menu - comfort is the operative word. Though there is an upscale element in the layout and lighting, jeans and t-shirts feel perfectly appropriate. If this place was in my neighborhood, I'd be living at the bar - which, as noted, features over 40 varieties of beer on tap, and more varieties in bottles (and $1 Pabst Blue Ribbon cans). Prices for the other beers start at $4 and the pours are generous (and the selection of barware extensive, to compliment the various beer styles). I enjoyed the Ayinger Celebrator Doppel Bock and the Aventinus Weizenbock - I've had both before from the bottle, but never on tap - and tap does make a difference. Wow!

The Tap Handles - 40+ on Tap and More in Bottles

The Secret Room Behind the Tap Handles

A most cool piece of beer technology.

The place was pretty darn crowded for a Tuesday night and beware - reservations are not accepted. Our friend Edsel arrived early, though, and got us on the list, so we didn't have to wait for a table once we got there from the East Side.

One of the first things we noticed was the staging area for the delicious butter - I can't stand being served beautiful bread in a restaurant only to tear it apart with rock hard butter. That will not happen at Bar Symon.

Bar Symon sources its bread from a newly opened bakery, Blackbird Baking Company in Lakewood (which opened the same day Bar Symon did). Tom Clark is the owner, with his wife ,and he formerly worked at On the Rise Bakery on the east side. They are located on Detroit right before the Rocky River Bridge (thanks Matt for the info update!). The sourdough is simply extraordinary.

Bread Service

We decided to split some appetizers before ordering mains. Like its sister Lolita, Bar Symon has a tasting-friendly menu. We started with the "Big Board" of three house-made sausages with pickles, mustard, and the most amazingly tasty grilled bread:

Smoked Kielbasa, Spicy Lamb & Mint and Pork & Fennel Sausages Big Board

Highlighting the 3 Mustards and Pickled Vegetables

The pickled ramps were especially savory! Ramp season may be over in Northeast Ohio - but not at Bar Symon! Kris ate all of my share of the mushrooms and pronounced them delicious.


I do NOT go to Michael Symon's restaurant to eat vegetables or fish - we know what the stars will be!

My plate of sausage tastes.

How could I leave that amazing grilled bread off! Seasoned simply with salt and pepper - the secret is the toasting over wood chips and not just the grill! We all marveled at how magnificent it tasted.

Goat Tacos

Every night, Bar Symon offers a special - Tuesday is Goat Taco night. The four of us split these two lovelies - succulent and moist, and accented by fabulously zingy chiles and house-made salsa.

PEI Oysters, Symon Cocktail Sauce, and Lambic Mignonette

The oysters were pristine - and the mignonette was simply amazing - a light wash of lovely flavors that didn't overwhelm or drown any of the oyster flavor. The Symon Cocktail Sauce was tasty - but the Lambic Mignonette divine!

I didn't think we'd have the wherewithall for entrees (which each come with a side) after this - but we did. And I'm so glad that we did!

Grilled Meatloaf, Pickled Banana Peppers, Lola Ketchup

My entree. This was NOT my mom's meatloaf. And I love my mom's meatloaf. But I loved this too. I realized it wasn't beef (which was the only meat in my mom's meatloaf) - Nolan revealed it was a mix of veal and pork - which made it very light, yet richly tasty. And my mom never crusted her meatloaf - but the crust, and the grill treatment, gave this slab of goodness wonderful mouthfeel and depth of flavor. And those peppers - yum! I even enjoyed the ketchup - though Chef Michael revealed to me that it contains quite a bit of coffee - I swear, it is so well balanced in flavor and texture that I wouldn't know that if he hadn't told me (and coffee usually makes me gag).

My Side - Bacon Creamed Corn

This side is one of the Bar Symon dishes that hails from Lolita - and is executed wonderfully at Bar Symon! After all - it has Chef Symon's favorite vegetable - Pork!

Mussels - White Ale, Chilies, Garlic & Parsley

This was Kris's entree. Truthfully, I'm not that crazy about mussels. Had I not gotten partially full on appetizers, I would have probably tasted one anyway - but it just didn't appeal. Apparently, according to my dining companions, it was my loss.

Mussel Sauce

Kris raved about this - I really should have tried it. Next time!

Fried Brussels Sprouts

Given the Symon treatment of pork fat and more pork fat - even an ambivalent brussels sprouts eater like Kris was won over!

Smoked & Braised Pork Butt, Pickled Cabbage Slaw

Bob's entree - simply perfect pork-smoke-and-sour flavors. He actually finished all the slaw - and left over some of his meat - and that never happens.

Garlic Greens (Escarole)

This was the only dish we didn't relish - but none of us is a big escarole fan. Nothing bad or wrong - just much less sexy than some of the other food.

Crispy Fried Organic Chicken, Truffle Honey & Rosemary

This was Edsel's entree. Anyone who has ever complained about portion sizes at a Michael Symon restaurant needs to visit Bar Symon and order this - a full half of a chicken, battered and fried to perfection! For $15! Plump, juicy, succulent - these adjectives all came to mind as I tasted.

Soft Polenta

Another item channeling Lolita - and the perfect side to the exquisitely tasty fried chicken - corny, savory and creamy (ah- the power of cheese!).

Our companions did an amazing job cleaning their plates - Bob and I needed boxes. And it was our companions who ordered desserts (though I confess to asking for the extra spoons - but more than a bite or two was out of the question).

This sundae featured house-made Edmund Fitzgerald Porter Ice Cream, house-made caramel (my weakness) and pretzels. Cory - you did it again!

Kris opted for the Coconut Sorbet - delightfully refreshing!

And so - the East Side Contingent sadly departed Bar Symon - sated with fabulous flavors, but sad with the knowledge that the restaurant seems, at least, so far away. The Westsider, of course, was extremely happy to have such a fabulous food outpost so close to his home.

The prices top out at $17 for the most expensive entrees, and the burger is less than $10! Bar Symon is designed to accomodate anyone who enjoys delicious food, at a tasty price in a comfortable atmosphere. And the patio looked simply lovely - no wonder the kitchen was still hopping at 9pm on a Tuesday! We most enjoyed playing with our food (and the fabulous tap beer selection) and hope to get back before too long from the far reaches of the East Side.

Bar Symon on Urbanspoon


  1. Great pictures, Nancy. That was a fantastic meal.

    The bread comes from Blackbird in Lakewood. I think Nolan said the baker there used to be with On The Rise.

    Here's their Facebook page

  2. Thanks to Edsel and Matt for updating and correcting the bread info:

    The bread is sourced from Blackbird Baking Company in Lakewood (which opened the same day Bar Symon did). Tom Clark is the owner, with his wife ,and he formerly worked at On the Rise Bakery on the east side. They are located on Detroit right before the Rocky River Bridge.

  3. Everything looks absolutely delicious. . .thank you for documenting your experience :) I almost feel like I was there*