At the freshly anointed Marion’s Mediterranean Restaurant and Tapas Bar, Chef Marion Smith flexes his creative culinary muscle

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Chef Marion Smith’s Marion’s Mediterranean Restaurant and Tapas Bar is already garnering rave reviews. Located inside the Mentor Holiday Inn, every dish is prepared with his signature culinary flair. (Photography by Benjamin Margalit/Margalit Studios)

By Mary Malik

If you ask Marion Smith what he does for a living, he’ll probably tell you he’s a dishwasher. And that would be fine, if it were true. This humble guy is, in fact, head chef of Marion’s Mediterranean Restaurant and Tapas Bar located at the Holiday Inn Cleveland Northeast in Mentor.

“It’s been quite a journey to this point,” says Marion. “After studying classic French cuisine at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), I began my career at Geraci’s in Cleveland Heights, was the chef at Classics in downtown Cleveland for over 11 years, chef at Waters in Hudson and now here at Marion’s.”

Sounds simple enough, but, after some prodding, I got Marion to tell me the real story. The one about how all of his past experiences in some of Cleveland’s most iconic restaurants have honed his skills and helped him to become the award-winning, Mediterranean-style chef he is today. And how his experiences at some of the most iconic restaurants in the area, led Marion to the opportunity to take over the Mentor Holiday Inn’s restaurant kitchen, revamping  everything about it and giving the project all that he has, including his name. 

“I don’t like to talk about myself,” says Marion. “But I guess no matter what career you choose, the ultimate dream is to have something to call your own. This venture was that opportunity for me and I am using all I’ve learned to give people a unique dining experience.”

Marion may not like to talk about himself, but Kelley Brooks, director of sales and catering, has no problem telling his story. Kelley wants everyone to know how accomplished chef Marion is and how Marion’s Restaurant gives him the opportunity to showcase his diverse talents and share them with this community. 

Rack of Lamb

“Marion was like a dream come true for us,” says Kelley. “After that fortuitous weekend when he came here as a favor to the hotel ownership, his food was a huge success and we realized what we had in Marion.”

At that time, the hotel ownership was interested in revamping the original restaurant. It was Kelley who encouraged Marion to throw his hat in the ring and offer them a tasting of all he could do. Management was sold and the real work of planning the menu began.

“I knew if I ever had my own place I’d offer people a variety of authentic Mediterranean selections,” says Marion. “Whether you enjoy Italian, Greek or French foods, often it’s just a matter of how something is prepared that gives it the flavor of a particular region.”

Marion’s Fruitti di Mar

Marion drew from all of his experiences when creating the menu. Pastas are all handmade and include the Fruitti di Mar that combines squid and tarragon red pepper linguini pastas with clams, lobster, scallops, carrots and turnips in a fresh, herb-smoked jalapeno lobster sauce. Other entrees include chicken, pork, salmon, filet and veal prepared in unique Mediterranean styles. The star of the menu is the highly decorated herb crusted Rack of Lamb. For an appetizer, don’t miss Marion’s signature French Onion Soup served in a hollowed-out onion shell branded with the restaurant’s logo.  

“In the six months Marion’s has been open, the rack of lamb has already won several awards including best entree and a judges’ choice,” says Kelley. “These competitions included the top restaurants in the area.”

Pan-seared Salmon with Shrimp Mousse served over gazpacho sauce

Along with the main menu choices, Marion flexed his creative muscle with the more casual tapas bar menu. The small bites include a taste of Greece with the saganaki cheese, a flaming cheese presented tableside. Italy is represented in the grilled polenta triangles served with a gorgonzola Florentine sauce and prosciutto.

“The Tapas Bar offers live music and a more relaxed vibe,” says Kelley. “Between our catering services and banquet rooms, Marion’s dining room and the tapas bar, there are many opportunities for people to experience the talents of chef Marion.”

The hotel itself recently underwent a major renovation where all guest rooms and common areas were beautifully upgraded along with the restaurant changes. 

“We are a full-service hotel able to handle large and small groups for weddings, corporate functions, reunions or just a weekend staycation,” says Kelley. “And Marion works with you to create the perfect menu for your special occasion.”

Marion’s signature French Onion Soup

The ingredients at Marion’s are locally sourced whenever possible, and Marion works with many local suppliers. 

“I like to support the community and partner with local vendors,” says Marion. “These are our neighbors. It’s important to cultivate those connections so we can all be successful and thrive.”

Marion’s Mediterranean Restaurant and Tapas Bar is located at 7701 Reynolds Road in Mentor. Hours are Monday-Saturday, 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.; closed on Sunday. Reservations are available through or by calling 440-951-7100. The website is MarionsMediterranean.comFind them on Facebook at Marion’s Mediterranean Restaurant & Tapas Barand check out the five-star reviews.

Categories: Eastside Food & Dining