CLEGourmand: Slyman’s, The Biggest Corned Beef in Cleveland
Posted by cmh gourmand on November 8, 2010
Slyman’s sign says they serve the biggest and best corned beef in Cleveland. There may be one or two corned beef sandwiches in the city of cleved meats that are more brined or quintessentially something or another but there are none that are bigger or served with as much pride. To date no cured meat stacker has tried to dispute the title. I opine that Slyman’s has the best corned beef in town under the mindset of the whole is infinitely greater than the sum of the parts. There are a lot of parts involved in a Slyman’s sandwich. Let’s break the elements of excellence down.
Size does matter. Sylman’s delivers stacks of thinly sliced corned beef piled to colossal proportions. My field notes read as follows: The meat to bread ratio of a Slyman’s Corned Beef Sandwich is about 13:1. In retrospect, I believe I underestimated the bulk. A normal eater could eat a quarter of this sandwich and feel satiated. I ate a full half of my corned beef. I tried to offer the other half to the maid at my hotel. She just shook her head and said “that much meat might kill me, sir.” Indeed, but it would be a good way to go.
A good sandwich needs good bread, fresh ingredients, a pickle on the side, a big serving of love and etc. Slyman’s delivers on all of that. They top off the experience with lingo. Over several decades a vocabulary has developed to shorten the process of ordering a big ass sandwich. This is how one orders a corned beef sandwich at Slyman’s. Some translation will ensue with a few examples: Smurf – Swiss and Mustard; Zinger – horseradish only; Sumo – Swiss, mayonnaise and horseradish; and Blaster – Swiss, American cheese, mayonnaise and mustard.
The grill cooks and servers have been here for decades serving the working class people of the community. “Whaddaya have honey“, never sounded nicer or more authentic than when in comes from a seasoned waitress taking my order at the table. She made sure I didn’t forget anything on my sandwich, checked to make sure I picked the right side dishes to fill me up and wanted to make sure I had enough pickles. Some terms come to mind: old school, earnest and proud.
The story of Slyman’s is the same as many tales in Cleveland. People get up, go to work, work hard and keep plugging on in good times and bad for their family, friends and neighbors. Good, honest work is a reward in itself and pride is served with a kind word and a can of pop. Slyman’s opened in the 1960’s. An immigrant family decided to make a go in the restaurant business knowing they would not get rich, but they would always have something to eat. Freddie Sylman tells the story of his father, who was asked “Mr Slyman, why do you make your sandwiches so big?” The reply, “To thank America for my freedom.” My response, WOW!
Hundreds of celebrities have supped on sandwiches at Slyman’s over the years, surrounded by a growing collection of Three Stooges decor (no one is sure how this started, they just know it started with a customer bringing something in) and hard working people of both sides of the counter, getting through the day with a smile and some serious hustle. A Slyman’s corned beef sandwich is a greater equalizer and a great thing to share.
Slymans is a landmark and an icon. It is a taste of Cleveland, not just the food, but the character of the city and the people. Slyman’s is the real Cleveland and serves the simple food that keeps things moving along. Sylman’s does have the biggest corned beef in Cleveland served with a lot of heart.
3106 St.Clair Avenue
Open Monday to Friday
6:00 am to 2:30 pm