With the Cavs season underway, East 4th St. is a prime spot to pre- and post-game. But the price of a ticket, parking, and beer at the Q is steep, so we've scoured the neighborhood for dining bargains that won't put a full-court press on your wallet. With all the money you'll save, a season ticket package is right around the corner!
The Greenhouse Tavern
Gravy Frites ($10)
Chef Jonathon Sawyer has been dazzling us with his many versions of the fancy French term for fried potatoes since his days at Bar Cento. The secret to a great frite starts with the oil. Unlike fast-food places, Greenhouse Tavern uses a combination of beef, chicken, and duck fat. This fat trifecta produces a piping-hot serving of frites. Once fried to golden perfection, they are tossed with raw garlic, rosemary and aïoli, which is absorbed by the hot oil. The frites are then topped with a housemade mozzarella cheese curd and hearty brown gravy. This dish is designed for three things — forks, sharing, and lots of napkins.
2038 East 4th St., thegreenhousetavern.com
Korean Fried Chicken Wings ($8)
This trendy, energetic restaurant is a reflection of its chef-owner, Chris Hodgson. His passion for quality food and service comes alive in Hodges' chic rustic design, fire-engine red seats and comfortable barstools, and transcends into the menu. At $8, his Korean Fried Chicken Wings are a steal — and definitely not your run-of-the-mill wings. They can only be described as teriyaki-style wings, version 2.0. They are accompanied by Kimchi Blue Cheese sauce. A Korean staple, kimchi mixes nicely with the blue cheese to put a creamy finish on the wings.
668 Euclid Ave., hodgescleveland.com
Two Steam Buns ($5.50)
Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bun ($4)
Inspired by the culinary meccas of New York and Tokyo, Noodlecat is a cool spot, but the coolest thing is the quality of food for the price — dinner and dessert for less than $10. Start with two Steam Buns, Japanese white bread stuffed and served sandwich-style. Choose your stuffing from nine specialty fillings. I recommend a Tonkatsu Crispy Fried Pork Bun and the Tempura Walleye Steam Bun. Once your plate is clean, order a Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bun. You will dream about this dessert.
234 Euclid Ave., noodlecat.com
Chicken Cabbage Salad ($9)
Situated in the middle of East 4th, Saigon is my nominee for the "hidden gem of the street" award. This Vietnamese-style restaurant and bar has menu offerings influenced by China, Thailand, and France. There are many items under $10, but my favorite is Chicken Cabbage Salad, which starts with shredded cabbage lightly tossed with olive oil, secret spices, and vinegar. A delicious combination of shredded chicken breast, onions, cilantro, and scallions is mixed in, and crushed peanuts are sprinkled throughout. For those who wouldn't normally choose a salad as an entrée: Saigon will make you a believer. The portion size is ample enough to satisfy the heartiest eaters. And the explosion of flavor creates a very authentic Asian dish.
2061 East 4th St., saigoncleveland.com
The Chocolate Bar
Chocolate Pasta Bar ($8.59)
Chocolate and pasta? The Chocolate Bar has taken the plunge of mixing these two contradictory flavors. The sweet-and-savory combo is the most daring item on this list, and a challenge to your senses. Fresh linguine is tossed and sautéed with white pepper, white wine, and a white chocolate cream sauce, finished with fresh basil. If this seems too risky, you can order either a piece of cheesecake or a Chocolate Martini for less than $10. But for my money, life is too short to pass up pasta and chocolate.
347 Euclid Ave., originalchocolatebar.com
— Jason Beaudert