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Liza Grossman conducts the Cleveland Youth Orchestra and Chorus in a program of Jefferson Starship music during rehearsal at Cleveland State University on Tuesday, May 31, 2011. (Lynn Ischay, The Plain Dealer)

Grossman is a pescatarian ("the only animal protein I will eat is fish") but said that she is "never at a shortage of good food when I am out."

Liza Grossman is all about community. Building it, becoming it, defining it.

The founding Music Director of the Contemporary Youth Orchestra (aka "CYO, " established in 1995) holds degrees in music performance and music education from Cleveland State University and her grassroots orchestra maintains residence there.

Members of the CYO hail from 64 communities in the region.

Along the way, Grossmman has tapped into the spirit Cleveland's rock and roll legacy—conducting world premiere orchestral rock performances with the likes of Graham Nash, Ray Manzarek of The Doors, Pat Benatar, STYX, Jon Anderson of Yes, and Jefferson Starship.

In June, Grossman and the CYO will team up with rock pianist Ben Folds.

The orchestra's next performance on March 15 is a part of the CYO "Music and its Industry" series, which celebrates "The Sound of Imagination: Music of Pixar, Disney, and Marvel."

And the odds are good that after the show is over, the appetite for tackling pop culture will translate into a whole other hunger—for fresh local food in the community. Grossman told that after a CYO performance, the whole orchestra and their families will pack one of her favorite local eateries.


Where do chefs and foodies and others go when they want some good chow, or to shop, uncover some cool gadgets or hard-to-find ingredients, or maybe just kick back and grab a drink? Welcome to Five for Friday - a weekly look at where Northeast Ohioans find their favorite indulgences, and the treats they like the most.

"It's Siam Café, " the Cleveland Heights native said in an interview last week. "We basically give them a heads-up that we're coming ahead of time, and they close down just for us!"

Grossman has a soft spot for Siam, and not just because the Hong family that owns it includes two of Grossman's violin students.

"The food there is fresh, inviting—and they know my palate and will surprise me with a tofu dish, " Grossman said. "It's delicious, clean, and easy, and there's a lot of pride and presentation there."

Grossman is a pescatarian ("the only animal protein I will eat is fish") but said that she is "never at a shortage of good food when I am out."

She does, however, have her favorite spots and she shared them with us—in her own words:

. Love the owners Michael and May Hong owners, an absolute family-run business! They have four boys, the two oldest studied violin with me privately. This is where all of the CYO after-parties are held, so I bring the whole CYO and family and friends there and take over! (laughs) Grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles are the wait- and kitchen staff; isn't that great?!? Incredible food, everything from scratch, made to order. I love it.

. Best sushi in town, affordable, family-owned. When I go in with friends, I usually sit at the same booth. If that booth is open, they just walk us to it! Family-owned places have a heart-and-soul, grassroots thing to them that I really appreciate as an artist and educator—after all, the CYO really emerged as a grassroots organization. My favorite thing to order is the Boat, because I like the variety. I love that the owner is always behind the counter preparing.

. Oh, my. Soooo good! (laughs) It's obviously authentic Ethiopian food, not Americanized. I have so much respect for that. That means a lot. I love the way you sit to dine, music, décor, the whole way you experience a meal there is amazing. One of my favorite things to get there is the Vegetarian Combination [comprised of yellow split pea, red lentils, collards and cabbage] and you pick it all up with spongy bread, no utensils, seated around a community dish—I love and respect that tradition. I also like the [Inguday Tibs] mushrooms sautéed with spiced butter, onions and garlic. Affordable, delicious. I appreciate the hands-on approach. I'm just not into chain or corporate restaurants.

. One of my absolute favorites. I will always go there with a group of friends or out-of-town guests. It's always so good. I like to take them right in, sit them down, order a funky platter of falafel, a bowl of hummus and the fattoush salad, with the pickled turnips, steaming pita bread—the whole thing! When the same waitress has been there for 30 years, you know that's really saying something.

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