We'll be the first to admit that a solid majority of our editorial attention is focused on the new, hip and buzzy bistros that have been popping up with mechanical consistency in urban neighborhoods like downtown, Ohio City, Tremont, Detroit Shoreway and University Circle, among others. As the old adage goes: We don't make the news; we just report it.
That said, there are plenty of independent, quality-minded places like these making sure suburbia is more than a string of chain restaurants.
It can be argued that this perennially bouncy Beachwood bistro helped usher in the progressive chef-driven dining scene that we are enjoying today. Over the past two decades, Moxie has maintained a matchless level of quality, service and stability in a crowded, fickle field while seeding the market with talented chefs who made their way through its kitchen. A recent menu overhaul now puts that same next-level fare within reach of a broader audience, thanks to more affordably priced options.
We'd drive well past Moreland Hills to dig into a bowl of housemade tagliatelle with Bolognese or that Sunday brunch staple eggs Benedict with lush mortadella, poached eggs and hollandaise. This sleek and polished suburban bistro manages to showcase all of the things we love about Italian food (charcuterie, silky pasta sauces, crispy flatbreads, grilled meats, wine) while sidestepping those we don't (kitschy interiors, rubber calamari, oceans of red sauce, gut-busting lasagna). Cin cin, Flour.
Cork and Cleaver
This modest eatery in a nondescript suburban strip mall is proof that great food and creativity does not diminish with each passing mile from town. The talented crew at this strip mall bistro pack every plate with flavor, from sharable platters of charcuterie and roasted bone marrow to pork shoulder paprikash with smoked paprika and spaetzle. In between are fun foods like fries with sausage gravy and Reuben ribs, corned beef-style pork ribs.
Chef-owner Tim Bando's work history started alongside Michael Symon in Cleveland and includes chapters in Manhattan, the Hamptons and Tremont. These days, he's plowing the back 40 of Chagrin Falls, where he brought the old Raintree spot into the modern era thanks to bold and edgy American fare. Raw oysters, grilled octopus salad and spicy lamb meatballs lead into sweet potato gnocchi, braised lamb shanks and thick grilled pork chops. The setting is convivial, contemporary and as informal as Thursday night poker.
Warren's Spirited Kitchen
There have always been great reasons to visit Burton, but contemporary dining historically hasn't been one of them. Times are changing, and this cozy saloon is proof. Proximity to small family farms does not go wasted in dishes like fried Brussels sprouts with local maple syrup, Burton chicken with country ham, and Ohio strip steak frites. The owners did a swell job transforming a former ice cream shop into a stylish American pub with a hunt club theme.
Blue Door Cafe
Just out of reach for everyday dining, Blue Door is on our short list whenever we find ourselves in the Greater Akron area. What began life as a top-of-the-line bakery has evolved into a from-scratch bakery and cafe serving breakfast, lunch, weekend brunch and weekend dinners. Diners go out of their way for the superlative brunches, where they come to life over cups of french-press coffee and plates of eggs Benedict on house-made muffins, and bacon and egg sammies on fresh-baked croissants.
Given all the development that's taken place in this far-west suburb of late, the Cabin Club feels like a welcome blast from the past. While the current restaurant is "only" 25 years old, the log cabin setting is from the 1950s, making it stand out like an artifact next to all the shiny new construction. Once inside, the world melts away, replaced by stiff cocktails, wedge salads, thick steaks and friendly service.
Le Bistro du Beaujolais
Years ago, this French restaurant relocated from a strip in Westlake to an 1830s farmhouse in Olmsted Falls. And while the move was an absolute win for owner Georges D' Arras, it made it just a bit harder to reach on a consistent basis. We pine for wife Claudie's provincial French food and Georges' warm and classy comportment, opening bottles of wine and delivering plates of Alsatian onion tart or snails in garlic butter and parsley. If pan-seared skate wing is on the menu, get it. If not, the coq au vin will more than do.
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