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It’s tough to do downtown justice in a few short words. Along with plenty of fine dining, there are fashionable lunch spots and notable dives. Cleveland has earned a reputation as a progressive food town, thanks in no small part to the diversity and quality that's available to downtown diners.
If it's lunch time, pop into the bright and sophisticated Pura Vida (170 Euclid Ave., 216-987-0100, puravidabybrandt.com), where chef Brant Evans serves up the World's Best Cobb Salad. That might sound hyperbolic, but dive into this mélange of crisp greens, house-roasted turkey, warm and crisp bacon, hard-cooked eggs, sharp cheddar, roasted tomatoes and shaved red onion and taste for yourself.
No dining trip through downtown would be complete without a visit to Lola (2058 E. 4th St., 216-621-5652, lolabistro.com), Michael Symon’s flagship restaurant. Symon manages to improve lobster by pairing it with crème fraiche, citrus, mint and almond. It's an appetizer for the ages.
Swing by the eco-friendly Greenhouse Tavern (2038 E. 4th St., 216-339-4302, thegreenhousetavern.com), where chef Jonathon Sawyer has elevated the humble chicken wing to a thing of gastronomic beauty. Thanks to some multi-step machinations, the wings are like none other. They're garnished – not sauced – with roasted jalapeno, lemon juice, scallion and garlic.
Chicken liver fans know where to find every great liver dish in town. Cowell & Hubbard (1305 Euclid Ave., 216-479-0555, cowellhubbard.com) is on that list thanks to its liver entree, which pairs the richly flavored meat with pickled cabbage, crisp fingerling potatoes, Dijon mustard sauce, and pomegranate gastrique.
There's no shortage of great duck confit dishes out there, but when we dug into the goose confit at District (1350 Euclid Ave., 216-858-1000, districtcleveland.com), we knew it would be difficult to go back. American goose is cooked low and slow before being blasted in a hot oven to crisp up the skin. It is served with a red wine cranberry reduction to cut the richness.
A new restaurant seems to sprout up in Ohio City every other week. But while there’s no shortage of tasty options in this effervescent 'hood, there are some stand-outs.
Chef Karen Small was on the bleeding edge of the farm-to-table movement, making Flying Fig (2523 Market Ave., 216-241-4243, theflyingfig.com) necessary eating for all locavores. The beet salad has made more converts out of beet-averse diners with its pairing of baby pickled beets, whipped farmstead cheese, soft-cooked egg and honey vinaigrette.
Cozy up to the bar at the big, beautiful Crop Bistro (2537 Lorain Ave., 216-696-2767, cropbistro.com), where snacks like the deviled eggs, Cherry Bombs and crispy pork belly with griddle corn cakes pair perfectly with a fall themed cocktail. SOHO Kitchen (1889 W. 25th St., 216-298-0909, sohocleveland.com) brought a modern taste of the South to the shores of Ohio City. To taste how delicious that cuisine can be, order up a bowl of the shrimp and grits, and soul-satisfying dish that puts all other comfort food to shame.
If it's brunch time, you must fight your way into Le Petit Triangle Café (1881 Fulton Rd., 216-281-1881, lepetittrianglecafe.com) for a smoked salmon and cream cheese omelet or a savory ham and brie crepe.
Late night eats in Ohio City got a huge boost when Bogtrotters Doorstep (1848 W. 25th St., 216-861-5515) opened by Old Angle Tavern. Open til 3 a.m. on weekends, tis joint does a brisk business in meaty Philly sandwiches ladled with jus, topped with crushed chips, and dripping with flavor.