A friend recently told me that “I’m always writing about Cleveland.” This is partly true. I do have a bias toward Rust Belt cities generally and Ohio specifically. I went to school at Ohio University—Go Bobcats!—and lived in Cleveland for three (wonderful, glorious, unforgettable, insert-positive-adjective-here) years, and I’m writing about Ohio (Columbus and Cleveland) for our Under the Radar feature in HD‘s upcoming January/February issue.
It’s not just personal bias, I promise—the area is booming.
And the people who live there are often the ones driving the Midwest Revolution(™). Local developers are pouring money into the economy, taking notice of historic and underutilized buildings and transforming them into offices, housing, and hotels, all rather inexpensively.
Jonathon Sawyer, chef and owner of some of Cleveland’s most prestigious restaurants including Greenhouse Tavern, Noodlecat, and Trentina, lived in New York before he moved back home to Cleveland. It just made sense. His talent could flourish in Cleveland. Why not build a restaurant empire in the Rust Belt?
“Our mindset defines our environment,” he says of Ohioans. Now, he’s easily recruiting people to move to the area, which is also known for culinary powerhouses including Michael Symon and Zack Bruell. Culinary tourism in Cleveland, Sawyer says, is something “no one anticipated.”
Ohio has “always had cultural set of people, especially considering where we are in America. The chefs are just coming around in the past decade. The farmers are growing, and we have great stories. All these stories of growth are correlating to” a thriving local food scene and local economy, Sawyer says.
In Columbus, too, there’s a sense of local pride. Often referred to as a “young city,” Columbus has a great dynamic because of the young consumers that come into the market every year from Ohio State University, explains David Miller, executive vice president of Columbus-based Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, which has 23 units and 12 different concepts with locations in 10 states.
“Columbus and Cleveland have gone through a resurgence in urban and downtown markets, and residential is booming. There’s affordable living; you have everything from the young Millennial to empty-nesters who are moving downtown,” he says.
I’m convinced. See you all in the Buckeye State.