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Big Maxie’s Bites: Slyman’s Tavern at Pinecrest

In His Third Installment, Big Maxie Checks Out the New Eastside Franchise of Cleveland's Classic Deli

 Slyman’s, a breakfast and lunch- only joint, provides diners with an in-and-out gargantuan sandwich, and a damn fine one at that.

Slyman’s Tavern, which both the Independence and Orange locations are named, is a dining experience. You sit down, enjoy your company and grab a bite. Image source: Slymanstavern.com

Slyman’s, a breakfast and lunch- only joint, provides diners with an in-and-out gargantuan sandwich, and a damn fine one at that. Slyman’s Tavern, which both the Independence and Orange locations are named, is a dining experience. You sit down, enjoy your company and grab a bite. Image source: Slymanstavern.com

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In 1966, Ralph Abdallah purchased Larry’s Ham and Eggs on St. Clair in downtown Cleveland and founded Slyman’s restaurant, named after his grandfather.

In 2015, after 49 years serving serving the largest deli sandwiches in Cleveland, current owner Freddie Slyman opened Slyman’s Tavern in Independence. This was the first time in the restaurant’s prestigious history that anyone could grab a bite of the world-famous corned beef sandwiches without traveling downtown, and Cleveland foodies were ecstatic.

This July, Orange was also graced with the opening of a new Slyman’s Tavern at the site of the forthcoming Pinecrest shopping center. Like most East-side food-lovers, I impatiently waited for the doors to open. Yes, Beachwood is blessed with proximity to Corky & Lenny’s and Jack’s Deli, but there’s always been something special about Slyman’s.

My dad took me to Slyman’s for the first time when I was about seven years old. He’d been hyping the size of the sandwiches, and, with my young, undeveloped mind, I pictured a literal mountain of corned beef.

For once, my imagination did not let me down. The sandwich I received was the largest corned beef sandwich I had ever enjoyed, and, when I heard about Slyman’s expanding close by, I couldn’t wait to recreate that experience.

My dad took me to Slyman’s for the first time when I was about seven years old. He’d been hyping the size of the sandwiches, and, with my young, undeveloped mind, I pictured a literal mountain of corned beef.”

This past month, my father and I took the trip to Slyman’s Tavern. As soon as we walked in, I could see that this would be a different dining experience.

Rather than the sparse diner-delicatessen of the downtown Slyman’s, the countless flatscreen televisions and expansive seating at Slyman’s Tavern reminded me of a sports bar, more like The Winking Lizard.

Nevertheless, we proceeded to our table and glanced over the menu. While presented and organized in a different fashion, the contents of the menu appeared quite similar to the original menu. This prompted an exhale of relief; my hope revived that I would get the same sandwich that I had been craving for years.

Our waiter came over and we gave our orders: a corned beef Reuben and a turkey Reuben. We turned our attention to SportsCenter and waited a reasonable amount of time for our food.

Unfortunately, the sandwiches were not nearly as big as I remembered. Call it nostalgia or a bad memory, but something was wrong.

This was a solid sandwich, but the wow factor was missing: the minimalist focus on the mountain of deli meat that distinguished the original Slyman’s from authentic local establishments like Corky and Lenny’s or Jack’s. This was the cause of my disappointment.”

Do not misunderstand: this was a solid sandwich. The corned beef was chewy and flavorful, and the turkey was well-complimented by the melted swiss cheese. The white bread wasn’t anything special, but it wasn’t bad, either. However, the wow factor was missing: the minimalist focus on the mountain of deli meat that distinguished the original Slyman’s from authentic local establishments like Corky and Lenny’s or Jack’s. This was the cause of my disappointment.

We paid our bill and left, but I wasn’t quite satisfied with my experience. Not because of the food, service, or environment, but just because it wasn’t the Slyman’s I’d remembered.

Turns out, that’s because it wasn’t.

Slyman’s and Slyman’s Tavern have two separate websites. Slyman’s, a breakfast and lunch- only joint, provides diners with an in-and-out gargantuan sandwich, and a damn fine one at that.

Slyman’s Tavern, which both the Independence and Orange locations are named, is a dining experience. You sit down, enjoy your company and grab a bite.

Slyman’s has an average Yelp rating of 4.5/5 stars, whereas Slyman’s Tavern averages a 3.25.

I attribute my disappointment to the fact that I expected a genuine Slyman’s experience. Had I been expecting a typical dining experience, my hopes would have been met. The Slyman’s namesake threw me off, as it just was not the same.

Will I go back? Likely. The meal is high quality, nearby and provides a variety of choice deli options.

Will it be my first choice? Not necessarily.  

At the very least, though, I’m happy I was able to enjoy a good sandwich.

 

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