Best New Restaurant - 2012
You can't go home again? Nonsense. Bethalto, Illinois, native Jennifer Cleveland returned to the metro east last year from the oft-extolled climes of California, and the restaurant that she and her partner, Eric Heath, opened in downtown Edwardsville has had mouths watering on both sides of the Mississippi River since day one. Cleveland-Heath's out-of-the-gate success shouldn't have come as a surprise. Between them, its namesake duo had already amassed serious culinary cred: Heath at the acclaimed St. Helena, California, farm-to-table establishment Farmstead; Cleveland at two of the great Thomas Keller's restaurants, the French Laundry and ad hoc. At Cleveland-Heath they bring their experience and considerable skill to bear on what you might call "comfort" foods, or what Cleveland, in an interview with this publication, called "favorite" foods. Which is what makes the Cleveland-Heath experience especially remarkable: Yes, your entrée is a pork chop, but it just so happens to be the best freakin' pork chop you've ever eaten — thick and juicy, topped with a sunny-side-up egg and served with jalapeño-cheddar bread pudding that just so happens to be the best freakin' bread pudding you've ever eaten. Such exclamations are commonplace here, uttered between mouthfuls of seasonal dishes like this past summer's smoked onion barley risotto, or sandwiches (a pulled-pork sandwich and a cheeseburger, both dynamite) or even sides (the deep-fried Brussels sprouts are the best freakin'...well, you know). Thanks to Cleveland and Heath for bringing their restaurant to the area. The town oughta give 'em a parade.