We had a gift certificate to Crop Bistro burning a hole in our pockets from the last Cleveland Independent's gift certificate sale, so we had decided to dine there on Friday night after a downtown work function that I was dragging "R" to. Imagine our surprise when we walked up to the door and saw a sign stating "Closed for Private Party". Really?!? A Friday night?!? I don't even want to think about how much it would cost to shut down this downtown hot spot on a Friday night, or who you had to be to make this happen.
It was creeping up on 10:30PM at this point, so our dining options were quickly becoming limited. We began discussing other West 6th Street options, and then we happened to glance across the parking lot to John Q's Steakhouse. "R" hadn't been there in many years, and I had only sampled tastings at local fundraising events. So we headed in their direction with the hopes that they were still serving. Luckily, they were and we stumbled through their door eager to eat. When you enter the restaurant you are guided down a short hall of almost floor-to-ceiling glass trophy cases, all filled with Cleveland sports memorabilia. Then you arrive at the hostess station and are transported to what I would call an "old boys' club" atmosphere. The ornate, carved, dark wood and dim lighting begged for tables full of businessmen puffing on their cigars and discussing the ways of the world. It was quite different than the many other "new" and "trendy" restaurants that have popped up in this neighborhood since the Cleveland restaurant scene has started to bloom. I found it fun, and surprising, to feel almost taken back in time. This restaurant is clearly a Cleveland institution and has a history behind it.
Now, on to the food...we started out that evening thinking that we were dining off of a pre-paid gift certificate. In other words- not spending additional $$. On the walk over, we agreed to just order two entrees- no appetizers or drinks to help keep the cost reasonable. As we started to peruse the menu, "R" suddenly says "Let's order their stuffed mushrooms. I remember them being good.". Then comes "What are you ordering? You can order the filet if you want to." Then the final statement came out of his mouth. "They have a surf n' turf dish, why don't you get that, I know how much you love lobster." Umm, hands off ladies- he's all mine! So our "cheap" date night suddenly turned into a $45 entree, but I wasn't complaining. The cheese-stuffed mushrooms were tasty, and we happily shared the plate of 5 caps. "R" ordered their burger. While it was a good burger, it was so over-stuffed that there was no way he could fit it into his mouth to easily bite into it. He actually had to remove some of the toppings in order to squish the burger enough to handle it. I appreciate generous portions and the impressive presentation of a tower of ingredients, but when any sandwich or burger becomes hard to eat because it is so big then I end up feeling frustrated and dissatisfied with the meal. Luckily his mouth is bigger than mine and he was able to handle it once a few things were removed. I didn't dare try to take a bite of it, but he was pleased with the flavor.
My surf n' turf included a Cesar salad and choice of potato. The salad was fresh and light with plenty for us to share. I opted for the garlic mashed potatoes, and I was glad that I did. The garlic was prominent without overpowering, and the chunks of potato throughout proved that they were house-made. The 8 oz. lobster tail was huge and succulent- some of the best meat that I've had! I ordered the filet prepared medium, which can be hard to achieve on a small 4 oz. steak, but it was perfectly pink and warm throughout. I am a firm believer that a good steak shines on its own and does not need toppings or sauces, so I did not choose to add on any of these items that were offered on the menu. Sadly, I think this dish may have been a little better with something added. The steak was cooked very well, but the flavor was lacking slightly. It was still a good cut of meat, but overall I was not wowed. I think I expected more from a steakhouse. Next time, I would try one of their sauces or extra toppings for a few dollars more. Some of them certainly sounded tasty!
So, it wasn't the night that we were prepared to have, but it ended up being quite fun and interesting to explore such a unique and historic downtown restaurant. The restaurant clearly has a following. One couple at the table next to us refused menus when seated- they knew what they wanted and it sounded like they dined there frequently! It might not have the hype around it like several of the newer and more "fashionable" restaurants in that area, but if you are looking for something different and traditional then I'd recommend stopping in. I can't say that it was so good that we will be running back for more too soon, but I did enjoy the experience and it was nice to support an independent restaurant that has been such an icon in that area.
John Q's Steakhouse
55 Public Square
Cleveland, OH 44113