Need a great place to eat? Don't ask AOL.

Best of the Dead 

Need a great place to eat? Don't ask AOL.

The Watermark is a winner with AOL, though it served - its last meal in '03. - WALTER  NOVAK
  • Walter Novak
  • The Watermark is a winner with AOL, though it served its last meal in '03.
If the big brains at America Online's City Guide can be trusted, finding a fresh meal in Cleveland may be harder than ever these days. The website revealed the winners of its annual "City's Best" restaurant survey on January 20, and the results were oddly mixed: Many of the top spots no longer exist -- and at least one of them has been gone for more than a year.

Among the posthumous honorees, the Watermark scored twice -- No. 3 for Best Outdoor Dining and No. 9 for Best Seafood -- despite being shuttered since October 2003. More freshly dead are Westlake's Affamato (No. 10 for Best Italian), which has been closed since October; Grumpy's in Tremont (No. 7 for Best Late Night), which was ravaged by fire in November; and Amir's of South Euclid (No. 10 for Best Brunch), which went dark December 11. Lakewood's Pier W -- your No. 1 stop for romance -- stopped business for remodeling last fall and won't reopen until late spring.

This year's big winner was the infamous Chuck's Diner in Cleveland Heights, widely regarded for its medieval-fusion approach to cleanliness. Closed for business since October, Chuck's nevertheless finished No. 6 among Best Late Night hangouts, No. 9 for Best Breakfast, No. 7 for Best Comfort Food, and No. 10 for Best Takeout.

Nominees were determined by City Guide's out-of-town editorial staff, with the help of "local correspondents." AOL users voted on the winners in November and December.

"I don't know what to say," says former Amir's owner Butch Rassi, whose Amir Foods manufacturing facility continues to thrive. "Maybe they don't have any editors?"

Could be. An e-mail to City Guide seeking comment was greeted with only an automated response.

Reason to smile . . . Speaking of Grumpy's (801 Literary Road), owner Kathy Owad sounded pretty cheerful when we caught up with her the other day. Although there had been talk of relocating her friendly, funky little restaurant to alternate digs in the wake of that November fire, Owad has decided to stay put. "We need a new roof, of course, and the interior was completely destroyed," she says, "but the building itself is brick, and it's still sound and can be salvaged." Renovations are about to begin; Owad hopes to reopen in the spring.

Pole workers . . . Northern Summit County's Northfield Center is no Slavic Village. So who would have guessed that the sleepy little township would shape up as a hotbed of pierogi production?

While we've long been devoted to the pillowy pockets made at Stan's Northfield Bakery (9395 Olde Eight Road, 330-467-8655), pierogi meister Dave Srodek has some serious competition from Dave and Nancy Abramowski, owners of the new Babushka's Kitchen (9199 Olde Eight Road, 330-468-0402). Pierogi pros themselves, the Abramowskis create an ever-changing assortment of fully cooked pierogies and sell them to eat (like Stan's) at home or (unlike Stan's) in Babushka's tiny dining area. The menu also includes stuffed cabbage rolls, kielbasa with sauerkraut, and roasted pork loin, as well as sandwiches and freshly baked kolachke.

After digging into a platter of Babushka's assorted pierogies (including Swiss cheese and mushroom, potato and cheddar, and sauerkraut, fried in butter and topped with onions and sour cream), we still give the edge to Stan's -- but not by much. Judge them for yourself from 3-7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 1-7 p.m. Saturday. Visit for a list of daily varieties.

More by Elaine T. Cicora

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