Culinary Destinations

I've been seeing a lot of Tweets lately about Adam Richman's comments on the Today Show proclaiming Cleveland as a best-kept foodie secret. I also think Richman get it right in his explanation of why it's a hidden gem.
[Cleveland] has gotten a bad rap because of its history — going into default, the [Cuyahoga] River fire, bad sports teams — but it is the heartland, it’s near great farmland, there’s the historic West Side Market, and you get more bang for your buck there.
From my perspective, the fact that out-of-towners aren't flocking to Cleveland and its restaurants is one of the key reasons that they are able to maintain a high level of quality.

(from Through my windshield on Flickr)

As restaurants become popular, and eventually 'destinations', something's gotta give. To keep up with the pace, many destination restaurants raise prices, others sacrifice quality for efficiency, or both.

One classic example is Pat's and Geno's in Philadelphia. These are the "go-to" tourist destinations for cheesesteak; but they've fallen out of favor with locals. From my experience, they're good, but in catering to the masses, they lost the sense of being great.

Cleveland has a few things going for it that other cities don't. Even though the economy is weak and unemployment is high, people who do have jobs have incredible purchasing power because the cost of living is so low. Plus, the low cost of commercial spaces makes the cost of opening a new business very low, which also allows restaurants to keep prices low for the quality of what you get.

So yeah, I'm really not surprised that people consider Cleveland to be a best-kept secret. I believe that every city has great restaurants. You don't have to be in New York to eat good food. Cleveland might not have as many of them as bigger cities, but that's OK. Just because the expectations are low doesn't mean that's the reality.