Sokolowskis University Inn, a Cleveland eatery that wowed Bourdain

Recently, when I was relishing my meatloaf with a side order of pierogis and sauerkraut in between bites of my daughter’s stuffed cabbage rolls and my husband’s coconut cake, I didn’t know that I was having an Anthony Bourdain experience in Cleveland–kind of. I didn’t eat the head cheese or the chicken paprikash, two of the dishes Bourdain also ate when he made his Sokolwski’s University Inn stop with Harvey Pekar and Pekar’s friend, Toby.

The third generation of the Sokolowski family serves up Polish comfort food in a manner that draws crowds of all ages. Part of the restaurant’s appeal is its looks. The walls are a Cleveland memorabilia museum with plenty to keep a person’s eyes busy. Here’s a place to see what has made Clevelanders tick. Browns football, Indians baseball and the auto industry, for example.

I was there to take in the ambiance of a favorite family-owned Cleveland establishment that has been around since 1923 and to eat those pierogies. Bourdain’s purpose was to film a segment for No Reservations. (see segment after the jump). Although our paths didn’t physically cross, his experience was almost identical to mine–except for our dining companions.

What I enjoyed, which this video clip alludes to, is the camaraderie while waiting in line. Because it’s a cafeteria-style restaurant, there’s much chatting between customers while they wait their turn to make their way past the choices.

Even though we arrived on a Saturday at 4:45 pm., what I consider before dinner time crowds gather in full force, the line was substantial. Finding a table wasn’t a problem, however, and waiting wasn’t bad.

If you’re in Cleveland, here’s a place that offers authenticity and city history for everyone, no matter the age or the size of the customer.

The above photo was taken from the front of the restaurant. Along with great Polish fare, eating here offers an unusual angle of Cleveland’s skyline.