News Home
Quick Bites
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
On AirNewsClassical
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Northeast Ohio Medical University


Akron General

For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )

Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Social Issues

It's like mama used to make at Sterle's Slovenian Country House in Cleveland
Sterle's hasn't changed its recipes in 60 years
This story is part of a special series.

Vivian Goodman
Courtesy of Ed Duvall
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:
Heaping helpings of authentic Eastern European cuisine are still served in many Northeast Ohio homes.  But only a handful of restaurants still make it like mama used to. For today’s Quick Bite, WKSU’s Vivian Goodman takes us to midtown Cleveland for a hefty portion of tradition and a few new twists on the side.
like Mama used to make

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (5:32)

(Click image for larger view.)

Restaurants come and go, but Sterle’s Slovenian Country House has remained at the corner of East 55th Street and Bona Avenue for 60 years.

“Sterle’s really is what defines Cleveland. It makes Cleveland, Cleveland,” says new owner Rick Semerski. He also owns the construction business next door and grew up in the neighborhood.

 “And now I thankfully get to own a piece of not only Cleveland tradition but also my family’s, as well. I do remember plenty of times running around in this place and my grandmother telling me to sit down and eat my food.”

The kitchen staff has been in place for years.  Kathy Medwith, who's worked at Sterle’s for more than 32 years, lifts a few lids for us.

"We have here stuffed cabbage, and we have in here stroganoff, which we are serving with the noodles, and we have here paprikash. We got dumplings.”

 It all smells wonderful.

“We have gravy, brown gravy for roast pork or sides for schnitzel. Mashed potato is ready and vegetable is ready. Our oil is almost ready for schnitzel.”

So is the Executive Chef, T. J. Lombardi, with wooden mallet in hand. He tells us the secret of the perfect schnitzel.

“A lot of love. What you put into it is from the heart.”

He does a lot of pounding.

“Then we bread it after we pound it for a little bit.  Flour, eggwash, bread crumbs and then we fry it after that.”  

The heavy plates might be wheeled on a cart to your table by a waitress who speaks several languages. Josie Peric is a native of Sarajevo.

"I escaped the civil war that we had in '90s with my husband and ended up in Germany for seven years and then came here to states in 2000. This was my first job and as you see, 12 years after, I’m still here. I’m proud I’m an American now. Just recently got my American passport.”

There’s a dance floor at Sterle’s, and a fully-stocked bar. It looks like a cross between a German beer hall and a Swiss ski chalet, with giant murals of the Slovenian countryside and colorful family crests lining the walls. There’s a banquet room for 125, and a main dining room that seats 250.

All this from humble beginnings, Frank Sterle’s corner tavern.

Semerski took it over in March and kept everything in place including the original recipes. "Being consistent with what we serve and how we serve it helped us survive these last 60 years.”

The neighborhood has changed, but Semerski says Slovenians keep coming back.

“That’s the nice thing about the clientele we have. Even though they may not be walking in the door from their houses anymore, they’re happy to get in their cars. One of the things we talk about all the time is how often I meet people here on Friday and Saturday nights who continue to drive 45 to 50 minutes to come back because they were here as children. Now they bring their kids and their grandkids back."

His property next door was the site of one of the first public beer gardens in Cleveland. And now his restaurant's dance floor is once again a meeting place.

“There is plenty of polka dancing here, people like my daughter at 14 months all the way up to we have one woman who comes on Saturday nights who’s in her early 90s.”  

Semerski says to honor tradition at Sterle’s he'll keep family-style servings of meat loaf, Slovenian sausage, and liver and onions on the menu.
But on Thursday nights, you’ll find dance bands, 12 craft beers on tap, and a special menu item that comes in a basket called, “Not Your Grandma’s Schnitzel.”

"When we bought the place and wanted to introduce it to a new crowd, we thought: 'What else could we schnitzel?' We’ve actually come up with some different things between burgers, and chicken and fish and eggplant. I’ve told people before I think I could figure out how to schnitzel anything.”  

Guy Fieri of the Food Network’s 'Diners, Drive-ins and Dives' visited Sterle’s in 2009, and stuffed himself.

Semerski’s advice is don’t try to keep your diet at Sterle’s.

"We tell people they should polka more so they can burn the calories off. ...  Although from a lunch standpoint, and I would tell you I don’t know how Frank Sterle would feel about this, but one of our biggest sellers ... is a very large salad. We’ll actually cut up a piece of wiener schnitzel and put it on top of it for you. So it’s about as healthy as we’re going to get around here.” 

Rick Semerski, owner of Sterle’s Slovenian Country House. It’s open for lunch Monday through Friday, and dinner Thursday through Sunday with music most weekends.

And that’s this week’s Quick Bite.  Next Friday: all about garlic.

Related Links & Resources
Sterle's website

Add Your Comment


E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook

Stories with Recent Comments

Ohio Rep. John Boccieri sworn into office and hopes to look for 'middle ground' with colleagues
Welcome back to the Statehouse, John. You are a terrific representative in the truest sense always representing the people's voice in teh district you serve. ...

Lawmakers call for indefinite freeze on Green Energy standards
It's a shame the Hudson Rep. Chooses to mimic the words of the extreme right senator on his way out to join ALEC when we know the Pope was just here because of...

Youngstown Schools file suit against the Ohio Department of Education to stop the implementation of an academic distress commission
Voters should ask WHY this plan was rushed into law under the cover of darkness. What clues point to the beneficiaries of this plan? Both Patrick O'Donnell of...

Great Lakes conference considers a range of threats
Your article states "Studies discovered over half of all PAHs found in the Great Lakes region come from a single source: Coal tar sealants.". I'm curious to whi...

ODOT awards Kent-based Davey Research Group nearly $50,000 to improve highway landscapes
This is an outrageous waste of taxpayer's money. Good for only Davey Tree and their cronies in the State government. It takes $50k to figure out the way to save...

Canton: another Northeast Ohio city is planning its comeback
Historic Ridgewood and the Stark Metropolitan Housing Authority have no seats at the table. Very flawed right out of the gate. Ridgewood pays a huge percentage...

Property owners oppose a wind farm in Northern Ohio
Here is a link, exposing the connivance of the fossil fuel industry, in trying to prevent us from moving away from their outdated, filthy, and expensive forms o...

A new industry in Ohio aims to repurpose river sediment
and where do those PCB's end up??the story never says

A safe space: How Northeast Ohio colleges try to fight sexual assault
Very good and thorough job on a very sensitive topic!

Akron police shoot and kill a man following a North Hill robbery
Was on scene when they was trying to bring him back to life he looked dead there before he ever got into ambulance

Copyright © 2015 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University