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Greek Village Grille
Tommy Karakostas' ethnic pride runs as deep as the menu of traditional Greek fare he cooks up daily at his gyro shop in Lakewood. Among the homemade dishes, you can dig into rich moussaka, crunchy spanokopita, or charcoal-grilled pork souvlaki. But the stars of the show are the gyros — not least of all the authentic Greek version made with thinly sliced pork.
14019 Madison Ave.,
Staff Pick: Greek Village Grille
Best Sushi & Best Japanese
When Clevelanders want a raw deal, they know where to go: this Coventry Road restaurant has been dishing it out for more than a decade. Pacific East's sushi is a hit for many reasons, including its freshness and outstanding variety. But it's attention to the details that sets this sushi apart, including the use of premium short-grain rice, top-grade wasabi, and flavorful blue-fin or fatty tuna that's never been frozen. The same care comes through in kitchen faves like tempura, tonkatsu, and teriyaki.
Various locations including
1763 Coventry Rd., Cleveland Heights, 216-320-2302,
Staff Picks: Best Sushi: Ginko; Best Japanese: Sasa
You can read it in the name: Cleveland's opinion of this tiny restaurant tucked inside Golden Plaza remains without peer. That includes the rice paper rolls, the stir-fried vermicelli, and the French-inflected bahn mi, a Vietnamese sandwich of pâté, roasted pork, cucumbers, herbs, and mayonnaise on a chewy French bun. And then there's the namesake pho: more than a dozen varieties of meat-and-noodle soups (plus one vegetarian), boosted tableside with a host of zesty garnishes. Can you say "pho-king awesome"?
3030 Superior Ave. East,
Staff Pick: Superior Pho
Ramesh and Sanjeev Sharma have been dishing out the goods at this West Side restaurant since 2006 — and the line still sometimes stretches out the door! Must be because of the freshness, flavor, and attention to detail: things like roasting aromatic spices daily, so they are always at their peak. The variety doesn't hurt either: The large menu of Northern Indian cuisine caters to vegetarians and carnivores alike, with plenty of faves like samosas, tandoori chicken, and luscious meat-free saag paneer.
18405 Detroit Ave., Lakewood,
Staff Pick: India Garden
There was a time, dear Cleveland, when Olive Garden would have found a place on your list of top Italian restaurants. My, how your palate has matured — thanks in no small part to Chinato on happenin' East Fourth Street. Chef-restaurateur Zack Bruell's menu is awash with contemporary flavors, of-the-moment ingredients, and deft preparations that respect and enhance classic dishes like Venetian-style calves' liver with dried figs or burrata with cold tomato-basil soup. Try getting that in a strip-mall parking lot restaurant.
2079 East Fourth St., 216-298-9080,
Staff Pick: Chinato
Best Restaurant & Best Sandwich Shop
Melt Bar & Grilled
It's been six years since Matt Fish opened his first Melt Bar & Grilled in Lakewood. Two more locations have followed since. Yet the charms of Melt's ginormous grilled-cheese sammies — 20 or so varieties — haven't dimmed a bit. Sure, the constant barrage of national media attention hasn't hurt. And the friendly, kitschy, rock & roll vibe is nothing but a plus. But at its heart, Melt wins Clevelanders over in tried and true fashion: one towering, gooey sandwich at a time.
14718 Detroit Ave., Lakewood,
13463 Cedar Rd., Cleveland Heights, 216-965-0988;
6700 Rockside Rd., Independence, 216-520-1415; and
Staff Picks: Best Restaurant: Dante; Best Sandwich Shop: Dave's Cosmic Subs
Having a robust Asian community bestows upon a town certain benefits, not least of which is the delightful experience of Li Wah. Although the 300-seat restaurant sits in the heart of Cleveland's Asiatown, its appeal extends to seemingly all cultures. As for dim sum, Li Wah feels like the epicenter of Cleveland come Sunday noon, when families of every demographic sip tea and snack on Asian delicacies: spring rolls, barbecue pork buns, and turnip cakes, among countless others. If there is a more enjoyable, diverse, or affordable way to spend a Sunday, we have yet to find it.
2999 Payne Ave., 216-696-6556,
Staff Pick: Li Wah