From A to Z, North, South, East, and West

Your Complete Northeast Ohio Dining Guide 

From A to Z, North, South, East, and West

Downtown


4th Street Bar & Grill 402 Euclid Ave., 216-298-4070. Noisy and fun-loving, this 100-seat restaurant is part of the Corner Alley complex, a high-energy hangout featuring 16 lanes of bowling and a fashionable martini bar. With cheese here, bacon there, and deep-fried goodness nearly everywhere, spa cuisine this is not. But thanks to zesty flavors and often-imaginative preparation, the offerings still beat the standard bowling-alley lineup by a long shot. $$-$$$

Bo Loong Chinese Restaurant 3922 St. Clair Ave., 216-391-3113. Come to Bo Loong to sample some of the city's most authentic dim sum -- tiny sweet-and-savory dumplings, buns, and tarts whose name translates as "dot the heart." If you order from the menu, consider the golden, pan-fried noodles, topped with seafood, meats or vegetables. Dim sum is served daily, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Bo Loong is open until 2 a.m. on weekdays and 3 a.m. on weekends. $$-$$$

1890 420 Superior Ave. (in the Hyatt Regency Cleveland at the Arcade), 216-776-4576. This sleekly outfitted restaurant and bar has a view like no other, overlooking the promenades of the elaborate, historic, and exquisitely restored Arcade. The glam setting, in combination with well-prepared breakfast and lunch fare, makes it a fine choice for travelers and downtown workers alike. For a heathy alternative, the cuisine naturelle menu includes five healthy entrées, each with 430 or fewer calories, and features several vegetarian options. $$-$$$

Fat Fish Blue 21 Prospect Ave., 216-875-6000. This rollicking southern-style restaurant and music venue has always been about blues, booze, fun, and food; and if that final element has traditionally come in last, today it's catching up fast, with well-balanced versions of jambalaya, gumbo, shrimp and grits and sweet potatoe pecan pie. $$-$$$

Ginza Sushi & Steak House 1105 Carnegie Ave., 216-589-8503. One of the city's first sushi houses, Ginza remains a mostly hidden treasure, catering to a loyal crowd of white-collar regulars, who stop by to enjoy the serene decor, the low-key vibe, and the big menu of sushi, sashimi, and hibachi faves. $$-$$$

Hard Rock Café 230 W. Huron Rd., 216-830-7625. If you like your burger and fries with a big helping of loud rock and roll, this is the place for you. Menu items have cute names like "B.B. Wings" and the "Pig Sandwich" (hickory-smoked pork with a tangy vinegar-based barbecue sauce). Portions are large, and service is casual. $$$

Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse -- Downtown 123 W. Prospect Ave., 216-344-2444. This Tower City location is elegant without being stuffy, and the menu is a meat-eater's delight, with a wide selection of steaks and chops. Service is attentive and efficient. The restaurant maintains an impressive wine cellar. $$$-$$$$

Jac's 1303 W. 6th St., 216-298-4125. Not just another pretty face in the Warehouse District, Jac's backs up its urbane vibe with a solid menu of contemporary Italian fare, featuring everything from dainty "small plates" to robust entrées, bursting with big flavors. $$-$$$

Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwich Shop 240 Euclid Ave., 216-589-5540. Part of a no-frills Illinois chain, the region's first Jimmy John's specializes in plump, fresh, and remarkably inexpensive subs and giant club sandwiches, including several options for vegetarians. And in a tip o' the hat to downtown's remaining workers, JJ's delivers. $

John Q's Steakhouse 55 Public Square, 216-861-0900. About as fancy as it gets at John Q's is a 16-ounce strip steak with a coating of cognac mustard and cracked black peppercorns. Other beef entrées -- porterhouse, filet mignon, rib steak, and prime rib -- are presented unadorned, all the better for you to enjoy their grilled flavor. The sprawling restaurant includes several romantic, curtained booths for private tete a tetes-- ask for one when you make reservations. $$$-$$$$

Johnny's Downtown 1406 W. 6th St., 216-623-0055. How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people? Go to this opulent Warehouse District restaurant and find out. The kitchen's heady creations are nearly as grand as the room itself, with bold flavors, savory ingredients, and a pleasantly upscale Italian accent. Hey, at least our dreams of the good life are free. $$$-$$$$

Just Like Mom's Restaurant 3030 Superior Ave., 216-685-5555. Asia Town may seem like an odd setting for soul food, but it works out just fine for Robert Cade and his southern-style restaurant. Freshly made offerings run the gamut from fried chicken, Polish Boys, and perch to pizza, stir-fries, and pasta Alfredo; homemade desserts like Red Velvet cake, buttery peach cobbler, and banana pudding are the real deal. Mostly carryout, but a few tables accommodate those who can't wait to dig in. $$-$$$

Karl's Inn of the Barristers 1264 W. 3rd St., 216-241-4141. Cops, lawyers, secretaries, hipsters, football fans, and neighborhood residents . . . sooner or later, everyone ends up at Karl's, for the good food, well-stocked bar, and unpretentious vibe. A one-pound corned-beef sandwich is the house specialty; other good bets include the Friday-night fish fry and the well-dressed Snuggery Burger. $$-$$$

Kevin's Martini Bar 2035 E. 4th St. (inside Pickwick & Frolic), 216-241-7425. A little bit glam, a little bit retro, and entirely fun-loving, this handsome, possibly haunted martini bar brings plenty of flair to downtown's burgeoning entertainment district. Besides the usual assortment of sweet and savory cocktails, consider the house specialty, the Boz, a blend of vodkas, liqueurs, and an assortment of secret ingredients. Order one, and watch it pour itself into your glass without the slightest help from the gregarious bartenders. Now that's what we call spirits! Full dinner menu, from upscale noshes to desserts, is also available. $$-$$$

The Little Bar and Grille 614 Frankfort Ave., 216-861-2166. Yup, it's a little bar all right: dim and a tad dingy. But that said, it's worth seeking out for its first-rate burgers, juicy ribs, freshly cut French fries, and a daily "comfort food" special like chicken Parmesan over penne pasta. Lunch (served from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.) is the big deal here; later in the evening, food choices are usually limited. $$

Mardi Gras Lounge and Grill 1423 E. 21st St., 216-566-9094. If this town is an ethnic melting pot, Mardi Gras, sitting on the edge of Chinatown and dishing up Greek and Creole fare against a backdrop of live, late-night jazz and blues, is probably the quintessential Cleveland restaurant. $$-$$$

Metropolitan Café 1352 W. 6th St., 216-241-1300. Sleek, sophisticated, and urbane, this downtown dining room not only offers well-prepared steaks, seafood, pastas, and hearth-baked pizzas; it also serves up tasty views of both the downtown skyline and the Warehouse District bustle. The result is a spot that is as appropriate for impressing out-of-towners as it is for romantic tete-a-tetes. Interesting wine list. $$$-$$$$

Muse 1515 W. 3rd St., 216-902-5255. This snug, upscale restaurant inside the Ritz-Carlton isn't inexpensive. But with its good looks and inventive, seasonal fare, it is a favored destination for celebratory lunches plucked from a lineup of out-of-the-ordinary soups, salads and sandwiches -- or, better still, for indulgent dinners assembled from the evening's luxurious "small plate" offerings. $$$-$$$$

Otto Moser's Restaurant 1425 Euclid Ave., 216-771-3831. Cleveland's version of a theater-district deli, this Playhouse Square staple has been entertaining arts lovers and downtown lunchers for more than 100 years, with a cast of soups, salads, steaks, chicken, and stacked-up sandwiches, many -- like the W.C. Fields and Fanny Brice -- named in honor of old-time stage stars. Dinner hours vary with the theaters' schedules; calling ahead is always a smart move. $-$$$

Phoenix Superior Cafe 2155 Superior Ave., 216-523-6140. This unpretentious little coffeehouse is a popular lunch stop for downtown office workers, with a relatively large menu of sandwiches, soups, and salads, as well as freshly brewed coffee from locally roasted beans. Other enticements? Bubble tea, free WiFi, and the "Speedball," a rich, supercharged version of café mocha, rife with chocolate and vibrating with caffeine. $-$$

Star at Playhouse Square 1515 Euclid Ave., 216-621-8777. The servers sing, the decor sparkles, and the kitchen often shines at Star, where restaurateur Gary Lucarelli produces a reasonably priced menu of favorites like pistachio-crusted lamb chops, salmon and crab roulade, and grilled beef tenderloin. As a result, Star is fun whether or not the Playhouse Square marquees are lit. Full bar. $$$

Sunset Lounge 1382 W. 9th St., 216-535-0001. Aimed at the 25-plus crowd, this urbane cocktail lounge is the perfect spot for unwinding with the girls over Pink Squirrels or bonding with the boys over cigars and Dirty 'Tinis. Order some sushi, or order a full dinner from Mallorca next door. Frequent live entertainment. $$-$$$

Sushi Rock 1276 W. 6th St., 216-623-1212. Sushi and sashimi are the main hook for this hip little Warehouse District hideaway, although non-sushi items such as salmon-lobster bisque and filet mignon also merit attention. To drink, there's an interesting wine list, as well as sake, beer, and martinis. $$-$$$

Sweetwater's Café Sausalito 1301 E. 9th St. (in the Galleria), 216-696-2233. A smartly appointed alternative to the food court that sits below, this handsome downtown restaurant serves a solid assortment of salads, sandwiches, seafood, and pasta, with speedy service designed to get you back to your desk, or into your theater seat, with time to spare. $$

Tea House Noodles 1900 E. 6th St., 216-623-9131. A welcome alternative to fast-food lunches, this funky downtown noodle house and juice bar combines fresh flavors and speedy counter service with a casual college-town vibe, for a dining "experience" as unique as it is inexpensive. That's probably why the lines are sometimes out the door. Go, and feel good. $-$$

Vincenza's Pizza & Pasta 603 Prospect Ave., 216-241-8382. Vincenza's serves what we'll wager is downtown's best pizza: massive wedges of savory goodness, fragrant with tasty ingredients. We are especially partial to the veggie-stuffed pizza, with mushrooms, broccoli, tomato, and essence of garlic; for a change of pace, try the to-die-for hot and crusty veggie sub. Counter service and plenty of tables in a clean, efficiently operated space that opens onto the Colonial Arcade. $-$$


East Side



Abuelo's Mexican Food Embassy 26100 Harvard Rd., Warrensville Hts., 216-360-9030. Part of a Texas-based chain, this "casual upscale" eatery does a good job with everything from burritos to bacon-wrapped shrimp. But it's the handsome bar -- with its big collection of sippin' tequilas, margaritas, and icy micheladas -- that stamps our passport; add a basketful of warm, translucent chips, the muy picante salsa, and an order of guacamole, and we might have to apply for a visa. $$-$$$

Aladdin's Eatery - Cleveland Hts. 12447 Cedar Rd., Cleveland Hts., 216-932-4333. Aladdin's serves a variety of simply prepared, Middle Eastern-inspired foods, including homemade soups, salads, pita wraps, steamed veggie plates, and pita "pizzas." Choices for vegetarians abound, and freshly squeezed juices, fruit smoothies, and a small selection of beer and wine are available. $$

Arabica Coffeehouse (University Circle) 11300 Juniper Rd., 216-791-0300. Snuggled into a vintage mansion just off the Case campus, this spot offers everything you could hope for in a collegiate coffeehouse, including free WiFi, a fireplace, study space, live music, a terraced patio, free parking, and an ATM. To eat, there's a solid selection of wraps, soups, salads, and deli sandwiches, as well as elegant-looking pastries; wash it all down with any of Arabica's many coffees. $-$$

Arrabiata's 6169 Mayfield Rd., Mayfield Hts., 440-442-2600. Sleek decor and friendly service distinguish this little Italian restaurant in a suburban strip plaza. Lots of chicken, veal, seafood, and pasta dishes brighten the menu, some of them with the restaurant's namesake sauce -- a spicy blend of tomatoes and cayenne pepper. Well-thought-out list of American and Italian wines. $$$

Balaton 13133 Shaker Square, 216-921-9691. Hungarian food at its finest, in an attractive and inviting setting, has made Balaton a welcome addition to Shaker Square. The menu features Eastern European standards like stuffed cabbage, veal or chicken paprikash, pork or beef goulash, and breaded, sautéed chicken livers. For dessert, slices of warm strudel can't be beat. $$-$$$

Bar Louie 24337 Cedar Rd. (Inside Legacy Village), Lyndhurst, 216-325-1120. Don't be distracted by the wide-ranging menu of burgers, sandwiches, and assorted noshes: The youthful, upscale bar scene -- replete with boutique beers and fruity, high-octane cocktails -- is the real reason to visit this svelte branch of a Chicago-based watering hole. Weeknight happy hours attract a good-looking crowd, and with the kitchen open late, there's never any reason to go home hungry. $$

Battiste & Dupree Cajun Grill 1992 Warrensville Center Rd., S. Euclid, 216-381-3341. Owner, chef, host, server, bartender, and busser: Junior Battiste really does it all. As a result, dining in this teensy Cajun restaurant can be an adventure, marked by warmth, whimsy, and occasionally slow service. Still, those who value style and substance over speed won't be disappointed: Junior's made-from-scratch cookin' is some of the best in town. $$

Bistro 185
Neighbors have thanked owners Marc and Ruth Levine for "not being another wing-and-beer joint," while others appreciate them for not being too upscale. Bistro 185 takes the glorious middle road, offering hearty made-from-scratch comfort dishes at blue-collar prices. 991 E. 185th St., 216-481-9635, bistro185.com. $-$$

The Cabin (Willowick) 28810 Lake Shore Blvd., Willowick, 440-943-5195. The Cabin is a lakeshore landmark, perched as it is on the site of a mid-1800s hunting lodge. In its current incarnation, it's also a pleasant, friendly steakhouse-and-more, with a large menu of cooked-to-order dishes that includes pasta, seafood, and homemade desserts. $$$

Cedarland at the Clinic 9491 Euclid Ave., 216-791-6606. A clean, casual Lebanese-American eatery across from the Cleveland Clinic, Cedarland has a large menu of Middle Eastern standards, including shishtawook, baked fish, and falafel. Lots of choices for vegetarians. There's a small imported-foods market too. $$

Cohen's Corned Beef & Deli 9167 Mentor Ave., Mentor, 440-255-3354. This tidy little sandwich shop and deli hits all the high points, dishing up lean corned beef, all-beef hot dogs, and homemade potato pancakes, among the other simple noshes. Mostly takeout, but a few tables can accommodate those who can't control their hankerings. $

Corky & Lenny's 27091 Chagrin Blvd., Woodmere, 216-464-3838. Despite its bright new decor, Corky & Lenny's remains that most venerable of urban eating establishments: a good Jewish deli. From garlicky dills waiting at each table to the fizzy chocolate phosphates, all the traditional noshes are on hand. Corned beef is lean and flavorful, latkes are fat and tender, and the creamy cheesecake may be the best in town. $$-$$$

Dave's Cosmic Subs -- Chagrin Falls 9 River St., Chagrin Falls, 440-247-9117. This is the spot where Dave Lombardy -- actor, playwright, and hungry guy -- launched his Cosmic Sub empire way back in 1997. Now he has branches all around the region, where he and his crew create nearly three dozen types of mouthwatering subs, stuffed with the finest ingredients (including vegetarian options), bundled up in the region's best buns, and served in a space as colorful as your favorite tie-dyed T-shirt. $-$$

The Diner on 55th 1328 E. 55th St., 216-361-0550. A visit to Jim Anagnostos's shiny silver diner is a nostalgic trip back through time, to the days of all-American meals like meatloaf and gravy, liver and onions, and classic chili. $-$$

Fisher's Tavern 718 SOM Center Rd., Mayfield, 440-473-4414. Except for the Saturday-only prime rib dinner, there is nothing fancy about this comfy little restaurant and bar. But Fisher's is still immensely popular with area workers for its big sandwiches and salads, as well as homemade soups and desserts. After 5 p.m., entrées like ribs, New York strip steak, and fettuccine Alfredo are also available. If you can, get a table on the charming enclosed sunporch. Or, in warm weather, eat on the shaded deck. $$-$$$

Freshly's 34500 Euclid Ave., Willoughby, 440-946-4100. If you crave it, chances are that Freshly's serves it, from a big menu of tasty international noshes including corned beef, pastrami, gyros, pizza, salads, pasta, and wings. Service is mostly carryout, but a few tables accommodate those who just hafta have it now. $-$$

Gavi's 38257 Glenn Ave., Willoughby, 440-942-8008. A bustling bar scene, polished service, and a rustic setting inside a circa-1896 power plant have made this handsome Willoughby Italian a cornerstone of the city's dining scene. While homemade pastas anchor the menu, there are enough steak and seafood alternatives to float any diner's boat, along with homemade desserts (try the cannoli) and a long, intriguing wine list featuring plenty of Italian imports. $$$-$$$$

Grovewood Tavern & Wine Bar 17105 Grovewood Ave., 216-531-4900. Over the years, this vintage tavern has gone from a shabby little shot-and-a-beer joint to a welcoming destination, with a long, eclectic menu ranging from spicy noodle yakitori; to burgers and fries, an impressive beer collection, and one of the best-priced wine lists in the region. $$-$$$$

Il Bacio 2181 Murray Hill Rd., 216-231-5977. If you doubt that polished service is the foundation of a fine meal, you haven't been to Il Bacio, the cozy ristorante in Little Italy, where mellifluously accented host and owner Antonino Calandra heads up one of the most gracious teams in town. That, plus Calandra's voluptuous take on tiramisu, go far toward making Il Bacio as sweet as its name's translation: The Kiss. $$$-$$$$

J. Alexander's Restaurant 5845 Landerbrook Circle, Lyndhurst, 440-449-9131. Yes, it's part of a national group of Nashville-based restaurants. But J. Alexander's still gets the nod for intelligently conceived and well-prepared food, served in a gimmick-free atmosphere. Prices are right, portions are huge, and the slowly roasted prime rib is probably Cleveland's finest. Lunch, dinner. $$-$$$

La Fiesta 5115 Wilson Mills Rd., Richmond Hts., 440-442-1445. This colorful Mexican restaurant produces what may be the city's best mole, that thick, mahogany-colored sauce of tomatoes, peppers, chocolate, ground nuts, raisins, and spices. The rest of the kitchen's output isn't bad either, with virtually everything made from scratch. $$-$$$

Lopez Southwestern Food Club 2196 Lee Rd., Cleveland Hts., 216-932-9000. Colorful, quirky, yet sophisticated, Lopez's urbane charms present the perfect backdrop to its creative menu of "gourmet Tex-Mex" fare, ranging from lobster empanadas to mahi-mahi tacos and blue-cheese-piqued guacamole. There's also a solid selection of homemade desserts and an impressive array of top-shelf anejo tequilas. $$$

Luchita's Mexican Restaurant 8870 Mentor Ave., Mentor, 440-205-5966. This East Side location is one of several family-owned and -operated Luchita's restaurants in Northeast Ohio, all serving the same menu of well-prepared regional Mexican cuisine. The no-nonsense cooking is matched by the restaurant's sensible, serviceable decor, happily free of sombreros, serapes, and talking Chihuahuas. $$-$$$

Maharaja Madras Cafe 5156 Wilson Mills Rd., Richmond Hts., 440-461-3737. The Madras Café's menu is a well-integrated chorus of northern and southern Indian faves, everything from tandoori chicken to chana bhatura, an enormous, puffy fried bread sided with vegetarian chickpea stew. An inexpensive lunchtime buffet offers a tasty opportunity to explore the alternatives, both familiar and exotic. Indian beers. $-$$

Marotta's 2289 Lee Rd., Cleveland Hts., 216-932-9264. We've seen hallways bigger than this tiny Italian restaurant, but the intimate ambience and robust food are ample compensation for the lack of elbow room. The small menu has the usual pasta, chicken, and veal dishes, all well-prepared and flavorful. And the hand-tossed, stone-baked pizzas are notable for their crisp, almost wafer-thin crusts. Impressive all-Italian wine list. $$-$$$

Marta's Czech & American Restaurant 800 E. 222nd St., Euclid, 216-731-9596. Owner, namesake, and painstaking chef Marta Runza works magic on her Eastern-European repertoire, turning out succulent, slow-cooked sauerbraten, ephemeral Czech dumplings, and the best roast duck Ð of any nationality Ð in town. And while the tiny dining room and bar are no more glam than Granny's rec room, the friendly Old World charm is priceless. Try the bar's unusual Czech specialties. $$

Mi Pueblo 11611 Euclid Ave., 216-791-8226. Friendly, informal and authentic, this tidy tacqueria near the CWRU campus serves bountiful portions of flavorful Mexican fare. Beyond the big burritos and saucy enchiladas, liquid options extend from creamy horchata to a fine assortment of top-shelf tequilas; now that's what we call family-friendly! $$

Mick's Pub & Grill 36200 Euclid Ave., Willoughby, 440-946-2400. This friendly, family-owned pub features a big menu of nibbles, noshes, soups, salads, sandwiches, and traditional entrées (think corned beef and cabbage), along with a solid selection of draft beers and Irish whiskeys. Don't miss the well-endowed Reuben and freshly cut fries. $-$$

Molinari's 8900 Mentor Ave., Mentor, 440-974-2750. Strip-plaza setting notwithstanding, this handsome bistro has grown into Mentor's "go-to" spot for casually upscale dining, with an eclectic menu that ranges from Kobe burgers and signature crab cakes to pastas and parmigianas. For those who like grazing, an imaginative "Snax" menu offers contemporary small plates; for those who like drinking, the on-site wine shop provides 700 or so choices by the bottle, priced at retail plus a $5 corking fee. $$$-$$$$

Moxie 3355 Richmond Rd., Beachwood, 216-831-5599. Svelte and sophisticated, Moxie is where you take your business partners to impress them with your good taste. The seasonal American foods, including grilled fish, savory meats, and bountiful salads, are artfully presented by professional servers. $$$-$$$$

Olivor Twist 4061 Erie St., Willoughby, 440-946-0900. An extensive collection of well-priced cocktails and wine is the major draw at this good-looking martini bar. But when the kitchen's on its game, the concise menu of modern American and Mediterranean fare earns its props too. $$-$$$

P.F. Chang's China Bistro 26001 Chagrin Blvd., Beachwood, 216-292-1411. The tastefully exotic decor at this national chain is almost more interesting than the food, an array of generally well-prepared Chinese cuisine with a Californian accent. Portions are large, prices are reasonable, and service is remarkably attentive. Further hooks are the sophisticated list of mostly West Coast wines (priced at a premium) and an assortment of good ol' American desserts (think cheesecake and chocolate). $$-$$$

Pearl of the Orient -- Shaker Hts. 20121 Van Aken Blvd., Beachwood, 216-751-8181. A large menu of reliably well-prepared Asian standards has made Pearl of the Orient one of the area's most popular and enduring Chinese restaurants. Special touches include a compact but thoughtfully chosen beer and wine list, and homemade desserts including wonderfully crunchy Vietnamese sesame balls. $$-$$$

Potpourri Fondue Gallery 8885 Mentor Ave., Mentor, 440-255-4334. Do you fondue? You can inside this cozy little dining room, where each table is topped with a hot plate, and the scents of sizzling foodstuffs fill the air. Whether you choose cheese, meat, seafood, or chocolate fondue (or all of the above), it's a relaxing, leisurely style of dining -- and a good value to boot. The menu includes traditional dinner entrées for the fonduephobe; the sophisticated wine list is full of real bargains. $$$

Presti's Café and Deli 12101 Mayfield Rd., 216-421-3060. Presti's is bright, contemporary, and inviting, and, with two walls of tall windows, it offers some of the best people-watching in Little Italy. Fresh foods include bruschetta, stromboli, pepperoni bread, and frittatas, as well as sweets like cannoli, pignoli, biscotti, and strudel. After your meal, pick up a loaf of warm Italian bread to take home. $-$$

Sara's Place 1501 Chagrin River Rd., Gates Mills, 440-423-1000. As cozy as a colonial tavern, this well-appointed dining room in the middle of secluded Gates Mills features an eclectic lineup of Italian standards -- pastas, parmigianas, and some very good pizzas -- along with an assortment of sandwiches, burgers, chops, and a popular chicken pot pie. While not every dish is as magical as the setting, Sara's makes a convenient, non-chain-linked alternative for suburban East Siders. $$$-$$$$

The Stone Oven Bakery and Café 2267 Lee Rd., Cleveland Hts., 216-932-3003. Besides providing breads for some of Cleveland's top restaurants, the Stone Oven sells a variety of European artisanal loaves for at-home enjoyment. If the sight of all those golden-crusted beauties leaves you famished, treat yourself to a fat sandwich (on your choice of fresh-baked bread, of course), a colorful salad, homemade soup, or a giant piece of fragrant Sicilian-style veggie pizza. Counter service, with plenty of tables. $-$$

Sumo Japanese Restaurant 3365 Richmond Rd., Beachwood, 216-591-0888. Serene and artfully appointed, this lovely Japanese restaurant offers fresh, flavorful sushi, eager-to-please service, and lunch-and-dinner menus filled with well-prepared standards like teriyaki, sukiyaki, and tempura. $$-$$$

Sutter's 10655 Kinsman Rd., Newbury, 440-564-9656. John and Stephanie Sutter's casual country restaurant is the veal deal, with nearly every imaginable permutation on breaded and sautéed schnitzel, served with white bread, salads, and wickedly greasy homemade potato pancakes. If you ever crave a well-executed little taste of home, this is the spot for you. $$-$$$

Taza 28601 Chagrin Blvd. (at Eton-Chagrin), Woodmere, 216-464-4000. A sort of grown-up version of the health-conscious, vegetarian-friendly Aladdin's Eateries, Taza is all that -- and a full bar too. Despite the handsome decor and upscale appointments, the casual attitude and big menu of Lebanese standards will strike a familiar note with Aladdin's fans. Other upgrades include freshly baked pita, kebabs taken straight off the charcoal grill, and a big assortment of traditional Middle Eastern meze, just right for sharing around the table. $$-$$$

Thai Orchid 7329 Mentor Ave., Mentor, 440-942-6752. The delicate scents of cilantro, lime, basil, and coconut milk waft up from the food at Thai Orchid like fine gastronomic perfume. Nothing is too spicy, but almost everything is delightfully aromatic and attentively prepared, from a pleasant pad Thai to a can't-wait-to-get-more homemade coconut ice cream. $$-$$$

Tomaydo, Tomahhdo 3429 W. Brainard, Woodmere, 216-591-9191. Too tired to cook, but too cool for McBurgers? Family-friendly, quick-service Tom-Tom is just the ticket. The large menu includes lots of salads, soups, sandwiches, and "build your own" pizza options, freshly prepared in an open kitchen. Order at the counter, and before you know it, your meal is delivered to your table by cheerful staffers, no tipping required. $-$$

Tommy's 1824 Coventry Rd., Cleveland Hts., 216-321-7757. Hippie or hipster, young or old, meathead or vegan, Clevelanders have been flocking to this culinary landmark since 1972, hungry for the big assortment of creative and unusual sandwiches, soups and salads. After a healthy hummus-stuffed ripe tomato or a grilled-cheese sandwich with veggies, sunflower seeds, and sesame sauce, be sure to splurge on a creamy, old-fashioned malt or milkshake. $$

Trattoria on the Hill (Roman Gardens) 12207 Mayfield Rd., 216-421-2700. Comfortable and casual, the Trattoria dishes up big helpings of tasty Italian food at reasonable prices. Savory nine-inch specialty pizzas include one topped with sautéed spinach, prosciutto, black olives, feta cheese, and mozzarella. Dense homemade potato gnocchi are served with butter, Romano cheese, and a rich tomato-basil sauce. $$-$$$

Uptowne Grille 11312 Euclid Ave., 216-229-9711. The Uptowne Grille serves up a solid selection of tasty Moroccan and northern Mediterranean dishes in this pleasantly nondescript restaurant and bar near University Circle. Don't miss the delicious Chicken Tajine, a Moroccan stew of tender chicken, roasted onions and potatoes, sliced lemons, and kalamata olives in a rich, flavorful ginger-saffron sauce. $$$

Willoughby Brewing Company 4057 Erie St., Willoughby, 440-975-0202. Good, handcrafted beer and deftly prepared food, in a handsome, historic building . . . What more do you need to know? $$-$$$

Yours Truly -- Beachwood 25300 Chagrin Blvd., Beachwood, 216-464-4848. The same burgers, sandwiches & omelets as other YT locations, in a pretty little pocket-handkerchief of a restaurant. The few tables and counter stools are usually full during peak hours; carryout is a reasonable alternative. $$


West Side


Agave 20 Main St. (inside Crocker Park), Westlake, 440-892-4283. A trendy Nuevo Latino touch jazzes up the mostly Mexican menu at this smartly decorated Crocker Park "cocina and tequileria," where the freshly made offerings range from the usual tacos and burritos to ceviche, crab cakes, and mini Cubano sliders. To go with, the bar features a big assortment of rums and the namesake agaves. And as for the smooth, spicy table salsa, allow us to say, "Olé!" $$-$$$

Aladdin's Eatery - Lakewood 14536 Detroit Rd., Lakewood, 216-521-4005. Aladdin's serves a variety of simply prepared, Middle Eastern-inspired foods, including homemade soups, salads, pita wraps, steamed veggie plates, and pita "pizzas." Choices for vegetarians abound, and freshly squeezed juices, fruit smoothies, and a small selection of beers and wines are available. $$

Angelo's Pizza II -- Avon 37190 Colorado Ave., Avon, 440-934-4128. It's worth the ride to try one of Theresa Bryant's imaginative gourmet pizzas -- especially her award-winning barbecued chicken creation, topped with breaded breast meat, bacon, pineapple, cheese, and barbecue sauce. Carry out or dine in the kitschy little Hound Dog Café, where 1950s art and artifacts pay homage to the King and Marilyn Monroe. Sandwiches, salads, and pastas round out the menu. $-$$

Bubba's Q 820 Center Rd., Avon, 440-937-7859. Former Browns player Al "Bubba" Baker has discovered life beyond the gridiron Ð and it's dry-rubbed, slow-smoked, and slathered with homemade BBQ sauce. While Bubba's St. Louis-style ribs are meaty monsters, his boneless baby-back rib "steak" is one for the record books, deboned by a secret process and tender enough to cut with a fork. $$-$$$

Buca di Beppo -- Westlake 23575 Detroit Rd., Westlake, 440-356-2276. 16677 SouthPark Center, Strongsville, 440-846-6262. Part of a national chain of restaurants attempting to recreate the experience of a boisterous Italian wedding circa 1950, Buca di Beppo is crowded, noisy, and fun. The wall-posted menu includes gargantuan appetizers, salads, pizza, pasta, veal, and chicken dishes made for sharing. The food is good, even if it is overshadowed by sheer portion size. $$-$$$

Buckeye Beer Engine 15315 Madison Ave., Lakewood, 216-226-2337. The beer's the thing at this hip-yet-homey Lakewood pub -- more than two dozen choices on draft, including what owner and Buckeye Brewing Company beer-boss Garin Wright calls "breakouts, hot stuff, and things you've never seen before in your life." Still, the food is catching up fast, with a satisfying assortment of burgers (including some meat-free variations) as well as salads, soups, and assorted noshes. $$

Cabin Club Steakhouse 30651 Detroit Rd., Westlake, 440-899-7111. Big, juicy steaks, an annotated wine list, and friendly waitresses make this the place for expense-account types to unwind after work or to entertain on the weekends. Excellent choices include the Cabin Club strip steak, the center-cut rib-eye, a behemoth porterhouse, and a buttery filet mignon. A few seafood and poultry items are also available. $$$-$$$$

Caffé Roma 13000 Lorain Ave., 216-889-9999. The menu's nothing fancy, composed mostly of pasta, a few sandwiches, a simple pizza, and some pastries, and there's no beer or wine list. And while the surroundings are clean and comfy, the amenities are homey at best. But when you and a bud each can snare an ample portion of spaghetti with homemade meatballs and share a freshly stuffed cannoli, and still take home change from a $20, that's what we call a bargain. $-$$

Civilization 2366 W. 11th St., 216-621-3838. Comfy, cozy, and rich with vintage architectural detail, Civilization makes an ideal spot for reading, web-surfing, or just lingering with agreeable companions over a smooth cappuccino, a fresh muffin, or lunchtime soups and sandwiches. $ The Diner on Clifton 11637 Clifton Blvd., 216-521-5003. This groovy little diner has grown into a neighborhood magnet, as well-loved for its dinner vibe as for its big portions and reasonable prices. Despite the impressive menu size, the kitchen rarely loses its way, turning out homey faves -- everything from fluffy omelets to juicy burgers and tender pork chops -- with reliable craftsmanship. $$

Fat Cats 2061 W. 10th St., 216-579-0200. The eclectic, contemporary menu at this Tremont fixture is a good match for its shabby-chic decor; and somehow, dishes like bouillabaisse, seared duck breast, and sausage-and-goat-cheese rigatoni taste better when devoured 'neath the light of candles and lava lamps. Friendly staffers and a full bar are other reasons to pad on into this neighborhood gem. $$-$$$

Ferris Steak House 8700 Detroit Ave., 216-281-1437. Cozy little Ferris Steak House is a landmark in its West Side neighborhood, and for good reason: Steaks are tender, flavorful, and well prepared; service is friendly and attentive; and the ambience, while not elegant, is homey. On Friday and Saturday nights, a piano player tickles the ivories. $$$

Gypsy Beans & Baking Co. 6425 Detroit Ave., 216-939-9009. Globetrotter, baker, and neighborhood booster, Niki Gillota offers a tempting array of edibles, including soups, sandwiches, and freshly made muffins, scones and pastries. Oven-baked chili is a mild-mannered crowd-pleaser, and rich lattes -- like the cinnamon-scented "Mexico City" -- have earned a following. $-$$

The Harp 4408 Detroit Ave., 216-939-0200. The warm decor here sets the mood for an inclusive menu of Irish and American fare, ranging from boxty and shepherd's pie to lobster pierogi. Throw in a good selection of Irish brews and spirits, along with live traditional music, and you've got yourself one top-notch pub. $$-$$$

Herb's Tavern 19925 Detroit Rd., Rocky River, 440-331-9870. Friendly, clean, and cozy, Herb's Tavern is home to some of the West Side's favorite burgers (such as the mushroom-and-grilled-onion-topped Herb Burger), along with good homemade soups and chili. To wash them down, the bar stocks plenty of draft beers, as well as a wide selection of spirits and wine. $-$$ Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse -- Westlake 21 Main St. (inside Crocker Park), Westlake, 440-892-4933. Shop, then drop into this high-end, high-priced steakhouse for giant slabs of U.S.D.A. prime beef, oversized side dishes, and freshly made desserts. Or simply enjoy a drink and some apps (lobster bisque, oysters on the half-shell, or crab cakes, perhaps?) in the handsome bar or on the seasonal sidewalk patio. $$$$

India Garden 18405 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, 216-221-0676. Small, friendly, and featuring the usual lineup of Northern Indian curries, biryanis, and tandoori preparations, this nicely appointed eatery has plenty to offer vegetarians and carnivores alike. And for those seeking the unusual, a handful of Indo-Chinese dishes (check out the "Manchurian-style" stir-fried cauliflower) adds a global twist. Daily lunch buffet. $$-$$$

Johnny Mango 3120 Bridge Ave., 216-575-1919. You've got to love a place that makes a corner of Ohio City feel like a beach shack in Cozumel, and Johnny Mango -- a "world café" and juice bar -- does just that. The kitchen serves up a blend of Asian, Mexican, and Caribbean flavors, ranging from burritos to pad Thai to Jamaican jerk chicken. Juice bar libations include soy-milk drinks, frozen yogurt shakes, and a sparkling carrot-and-orange-juice sun drop; spike your juice with tequila, or chase it with margaritas or beer. Service is speedy, portions are hearty, and there are plenty of choices for vegetarians. $$-$$$

Johnny's Bar 3164 Fulton Rd., 216-281-0055. Dark, intimate, and timelessly elegant, this manly little jewel box of a restaurant is the sort of place you suggest when you want to impress the boss, wow a date, or just remind yourself why you work so damn hard. The menu is crammed with upscale Italian specialties, including some stunning risottos and one of the city's finest long-boned veal chops; at lunch, though -- pssst -- the char-grilled burger is out of this world. $$$-$$$$

Lago 2221 Professor Ave., 216-344-0547. "Northern Italian with a contemporary American twist." If you think that description is a mouthful, just wait till you dig into Lago's well-crafted cuisine, with its soaring flavors and luxurious ingredients. The dining room is sometimes crowded, but this is a worthwhile destination for any diner who digs her lobster, veal, and housemade pasta sided with a slice of cool. Mostly-Italian wine list. $$$-$$$$

Lelolai Bakery and Café 1889 W. 25th St., 216-771-9956. This tidy Hispanic bakery and café serves what is likely the city's largest assortment of flan and cheesecake, as well as delicious pastries, breads, and guava bread-- buttery sweet rolls at their best when freshly toasted, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and paired with a steaming mug of Puerto Rican coffee. For more hearty fare, enjoy a warm pressed sandwich, washed down with freshly brewed espresso or cappuccino. Breakfast, lunch, and early dinner. $-$$

Liquid Planet 224 Crocker Park Blvd., Westlake, 440-835-8006. Bright, airy, and contemporary, this good-looking, locally owned juice bar and sandwich shop is a popular stop for Crocker Park devotees seeking light, wholesome fare. The long menu offers dozens of smoothies and freshly squeezed juices (with or without nutritional additives); salads, soups, stuffed pita

sandwiches, and rice bowls round out the good-tasting possibilities. $-$$

Luchita's -- Cleveland 3456 W. 117th St., 216-252-1169. From the outside, Luchita's looks like nothing more than a corner bar in a working-class neighborhood. But inside, some of the city's best Mexican cooking is taking shape. It is in the authentic Mexican specialties that the kitchen really shines. Dishes are delicious, well prepared, and unlike any fast-food fare. $$-$$$

Malley's Chocolates 14822 Madison Ave., Lakewood, 216-529-6262. This little gem of an ice-cream parlor and candy store couldn't be sweeter. Done up in cotton-candy colors, with an Alice in Wonderland tea-party theme, Malley's makes jumbo sundaes, ice cream sodas, milkshakes, parfaits, and special treats like strawberry shortcakes with generous scoops of ice cream, real whipped cream, and homemade sauces. Long hours ensure you can always get your daily ice-cream fix. $

McNulty's Bier Markt 1948 W. 25th St., 216-344-9944. Euro-techno charm and nearly 100 different beers (along with martinis and a small wine list) make this the destination of choice for savvy suds fans; and for those who aren't so savvy, the annotated beer list is as educational as it is intoxicating. To go with, try Italian fare from next door's Bar Cento. $-$$
$

Mitchell Bros. Ice Cream -- Westlake 26161 Detroit Rd., Westlake, 440-250-0952. Madagascar vanilla, Holland cocoa, and berries from the great Northwest all find their way into brothers Mike and Pete Mitchell's stupendous homemade ice cream. Besides scoops of candy-crammed Double-Chocolate Chunk and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup, the colorful and contemporary year-round ice-cream parlor serves big specialty sundaes, malts, shakes, and fat-free fresh fruit smoothies. $

Nate's Deli and Restaurant 1923 W. 25th St., 216-696-7529. When it comes to freshly made Middle Eastern foods, Nate's is great. Especially beloved for its thick, smooth hummus with a texture like whipped butter, Nate's also makes smoky baba ghannouj, crisp fried kibbeh, and tender, plump meat or spinach pies. If your tastes run to more traditional deli fare, try a king-sized corned-beef or pastrami sandwich. Service is casual and friendly, and the place has the feel of a neighborhood cornerstone. $-$$

Nuevo Acapulco 24409 Lorain Rd., N. Olmsted, 440-734-3100. This colorful Mexican restaurant offers a large menu of well-prepared standards like burritos and enchiladas, and a few traditional dishes like shrimp in garlic and chicken in mole. $$

Papa Nick's 11534 Clifton Blvd., 216-281-9191. A pleasant corner pizza-and-pasta place, Papa Nick's covers all bases by providing carryout and delivery service as well as a bustling little dining area. Nick's homemade sauce is mild and slightly sweet, and equally good on spaghetti, pizza, or calzones. Generously topped, cheesy, and relatively thick-crusted pizzas are popular, as are the substantial hoagies and meatball subs. $$

Pearl of the Orient -- Rocky River 19300 Detroit Rd. (Beachcliff Market Square), Rocky River, 440-333-9902. With a handsome lounge, a shady porch, and a pan-Asian menu that includes Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai standards, as well as sushi and even some gently handled fusion fare, the Pearl is a gem for casual dining. Small but thoughtful wine list. $$-$$$

Phnom Penh -- Ohio City 1929 W. 25th St., 216-357-2951. A second outpost for the West Side's favorite Cambodian restaurant, this Phnom Penh offers the same giant, slightly perplexing menu as the original, along with convenient parking and urbane decor. Plenty of choices for vegetarians. Cash only. $$

Phnom Penh Restaurant 13124 Lorain Ave., 216-251-0210. This no-frills eatery serves authentic Cambodian and Vietnamese dishes, flavored with ingredients like fresh Asian basil, lemongrass, and coconut milk. Much of the menu is devoted to noodle dishes, including an assortment of pad thai. Tropical fruit drinks, like coconut soda and mango juice, and several varieties of French coffee are available to wash it all down. $-$$

Players on Madison 14523 Madison Ave., Lakewood, 216-226-5200. Sleek and stylish yet pleasantly casual, Players offers a sophisticated Italian menu of pasta, chops, chicken, and seafood entrées, along with tasty specialty pizzas just right for sharing. Small but well-conceived wine list. $$-$$$

Presto Sandwiches 21984 Lorain Rd., Fairview Park, 440-356-6320. Tucked inside a former gas station, this charming little pit stop offers friendly service, retro-style decor, and a long list of out-of-the-ordinary soups and panini-style sandwiches. Current faves include the zesty Big Mensch, with hot pastrami, spicy coleslaw, and chipotle mayo; and the spicy tomato-blue cheese bisque, guaranteed to bring sweat to your brow and a smile to your lips. $-$$

Prosperity Social Club 1109 Starkweather Ave., 216-937-1938. This retro-style tavern is a time machine, where visitors can soak up another era along with their libations. But while the surroundings say 1938, the vibe is up-to-date, with au courant cocktails, a trendy beer list, and a retinue of well-priced sandwiches, salads, and entrées -- including the house specialty, fried oysters. $-$$

'Stino da Napoli 19070 Old Detroit Rd., Rocky River, 440-331-3944. "Delicate," "precise," and "beautifully balanced" are just a few of the terms that spring to mind when we recall the preparations at this little gem of an Italian restaurant. While nearly every dish is as close to perfection as any kitchen is likely to come, the ephemeral gnocchi, the fork-tender veal, and the homemade desserts are so exactly right, they nearly make us weep. $$-$$$

Touch Supper Club 2710 Lorain Ave., 216-631-5200. Big flavors and small prices distinguish the menu at this Ohio City restaurant, bar, and dance club, where the menu glides easily between contemporary comfort fare (think short ribs or macaroni & cheese) and upscale bar noshes (don't miss the egg-topped burger). Adding to the sense of value, count tasteful amenities, a trendy vibe, and friendly, attentive servers. Afterward, burn off the calories in the downstairs dance club. $$

Web of Life Natural Foods Market 25923 Detroit Rd., Westlake, 440-899-2882. The vegan deli inside this tidy, independently owned and operated natural foods store offers well-prepared items ranging from meatless meatballs to Moroccan rice salad to delicious cheesecakes that no one would guess are dairy-free. To wash it all down, grab a freshly squeezed organic juice or a refreshing smoothie from the adjacent juice bar. $-$$


South


Café Toscano 215 W. Garfield Rd., Aurora, 330-995-2333. The newest project from veteran Cleveland restaurateur Carl Quagliata, this snug, suburban oasis features a casually upscale vibe, a gregarious Roman chef, and an expansive, entrancing menu of Italian eats, with options ranging from savory antipasti platters, seafood, and strip steaks to gnocchi, lasagna, and homemade pappardelle with wild-boar Bolognese. $$$-$$$$

Café Tandoor -- Aurora 96 Barrington Town Center, Aurora, 330-562-5334. A suburban outpost of the Cleveland Heights original, Aurora's Café Tandoor serves precisely prepared Northern Indian food in an attractive setting. Among our favorites are the restaurant's unusual cashew-and-pistachio-crusted naan, warm from the tandoori oven, and the unusually good kheer. $$-$$$

Carrie Cerino's Ristorante 8922 Ridge Rd., N. Royalton, 440-237-3434. Recent menu updates at this venerable Italian restaurant are ample cause for celebration, as third-generation owners add heritage pork, organic chicken, and artisanal salumi to the menu of made-from-scratch pastas, sauces, breads, and desserts. $$-$$$

The Courtyard Café 7600 Chippewa Rd., Brecksville, 440-526-9292. At 25, this neighborhood eatery and tavern may be far removed from the cutting edge; still, it draws big crowds, hungry for ample helpings of well-prepared ribs, chicken, salads, sandwiches, and chops. In season, a pretty outdoor patio in the namesake courtyard makes a popular lunch and dinner retreat. $$-$$$

Crave 57 E. Market St., Akron, 330-253-1234. An earthy swirl of brick, glass, and polished wood, Crave provides a warm backdrop for chefs DeAnna Akers and Aaron Hervey's long, inventive menu of high-octane treats, featuring everything from Black Angus burgers to porcini-dusted scallops. To go with, the bar offers an enticing roundup of imported and craft-brewed beers, along with well-priced wines and savory martinis. $$-$$$$

Dave's Cosmic Subs -- Hudson 186 N. Main St., Hudson, 330-342-5666. The architecture of downtown Hudson may be the epitome of preppy, but tripping through the doorway into Dave's is like waking up back at Kent State circa 1969. Yet even without the psychedelic decor, we would gladly stage a love-in here, just to savor Dave's oversized subs, stuffed with fresh ingredients and wrapped in the best crisp-crusted rolls in the region. The sandwiches come in nearly three dozen varieties, including several vegetarian options; salads, chips, and Cosmic Cookies round out the menu. $-$$

Emilio's Restaurant & Lounge 180 W. Streetsboro St., Hudson, 330-655-9200. Gracious service, a handsome setting, and big portions of well-priced food are the hallmarks of this Spanish-inflected restaurant. Fish and seafood are house specialties, often piqued with inventive sauces, and all entrées come with salad or soup and a full complement of sides. It's a versatile spot, as suitable for families as for special-occasion dining. $$-$$$

Fedeli 218 Court Ave. NW, Canton, 330-489-9777. Nestled inside a historic office building in downtown Canton, this handsomely appointed restaurant features a lengthy seasonal menu of Italian American favorites, from calamari and Caesar salads to veal, seafood, and pastas tossed in fragrant homemade sauces. $$$-$$$$

Great Lakes Baking Company 85 S. Main St., Hudson, 330-342-5878. Baker and proprietor John MacMillan left a corporate job to open this bakery. Now he's up to his elbows in dough and couldn't be happier. Crisp baguettes, dense loaves made with organic flours, tender sweet rolls, berry-filled muffins, and old-fashioned cookies come rolling out of John's ovens. Enjoy them at an indoor table with a cup of coffee or tea; better yet, in summer, eat your snack on the breezy porch. $

Grotto Seafood and Steakhouse on Merriman 1841 Merriman Rd., Akron, 330-869-4981. A modern, slightly upscale interpretation of the friendly neighborhood tavern, the Grotto combines a relaxed setting, a jammin' jukebox, and a busy bar scene with an expansive menu of steaks, chops, and seafood, along with several possibilities for the meat-free crowd. $$-$$$

Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse -- Akron 4073 Medina Rd., Fairlawn, 330-670-6303. While the atmosphere at this Hyde Park location may be a smidgen less elegant than at its Cleveland-area counterparts, the Prime dry-aged steaks here are second to none. For unforgettable flavor, pick the thick Kansas City bone-in strip. At 20 ounces, this juicy hunk of beef will almost certainly require a doggy bag, but any inconvenience is worth it for a chance to sample what is simply one of the best steaks around. $$$$

Jaipur Junction 9377 Sprague Rd., N. Royalton, 440-842-3555. Located inside a small strip plaza, this colorful Indian "fast food" operation offers a far-ranging selection of fragrant, traditional dishes Ð everything from northern faves like palak paneer to southern standards like masala dosa. Carry out or dine in at one of the handful of tables. $$

Le Peep 6080 Brecksville Rd., Independence, 216-642-4341. Le Peep is one of the only breakfast spots we know of to feature a full bar. But even if we couldn't score a Bud with our banana pancakes, we'd dig this casual breakfast-and-lunch spot for its well-prepared food and laid-back vibe. Don't miss Mom's Sassy Apples and the tender pecan pancakes. $-$$

Mavis Winkle's Irish Pub -- Twinsburg 8870 Darrow Rd., Twinsburg, 330-405-3663. Although it has the sleek brass, glass, and polished-wood look of a chain restaurant, this charming pub is locally owned and operated. The large menu goes well beyond colcannon and boxty to embrace quiche, gyros, and even burgers; no matter what you pick, the warm, custardy bread pudding makes a sweet ending. Irish brews on draft. $$-$$$

Mike's Place 1700 S. Water St., Kent, 330-673-6501. Probably the only restaurant in the region to have an X-Wing fighter stationed in the parking lot, Mike's Place is full of weird decor and wacky humor. Nonetheless, the inexpensive food -- huge portions of casual fare thrown together with wild abandon -- is seriously tasty, ranging from tall homemade biscuits to Mike's award-winning barbecue. Large beer list. $-$$

Otani Japanese Restaurant 180 W. Streetsboro Street, Hudson, (330) 656-0012. See East Side listing. $$

Rav's Creekside Tap & Grill 9224 Darrow Rd., Twinsburg, 330-425-3435. Pool tables, late hours, and more than a dozen beers on tap make this suburban bar and grill a popular watering hole. For noshing, the lengthy bill of fare includes the usual pizzas, burgers, subs, salads, and tangy barbecued ribs; but Rav's best feature may well be its handsome deck overlooking the wooded banks of Tinkers Creek. Full bar. $$-$$$

Simon's Restaurant and Deli 7770 Chippewa Rd., Brecksville, 440-526-6880. Part family restaurant, part community meeting place, this locally owned-and-operated eatery has been dishing it out for nearly three decades, to the delight of a devoted clientele. The enormous menu rambles from Reubens and blintzes to quesadillas, pork chops, and chicken Marsala with varying degrees of success. But the hot pastrami? That has never, ever let us down. $-$$

Stan's Northfield Bakery 9395 Olde Eight Rd., Northfield, 330-467-8655. Stan's son, Dave Srodek, still makes everything from scratch, using his dad's 100-year-old recipes for his Polish specialties. Holiday stollen, kuchen, and sweet breads; marshmallow-cream-filled lady locks; and more than a dozen varieties of fat, flavorful, handmade pierogi (including apple, prune, and seasonal meats) are among Dave's claims to fame. Deli sandwiches, doughnuts, and cookies are also available. Carryout only. $

Tay Do 11725 Snow Rd., Parma, 440-842-0392. The fragrance and flavor of Tay Do's authentic Vietnamese cuisine, full of ginger, lime, cilantro, and mint, is enough to transport diners from the bare-bones dining room into a full-blown floral fantasy. Favorites include ephemeral Vietnamese crpes, strong French coffee with condensed milk, and some of the best tofu dishes in town. Small beer list -- try the Tsing Tao. $-$$$

Vaccaro's Trattoria 1000 Ghent Rd., Akron, 330-666-6158. Cozy and urbane, this contemporary Italian American restaurant and wine bar offers everything from pizza and pasta to fresh seafood and steak. Good bets include pan-roasted mussels, zesty grilled salmon, and the savoriest version of Italian wedding soup this side of Nonna's kitchen. $$$-$$$$

Whitey's Booze N' Burgers 3600 Brecksville Rd., Richfield, 330-659-3600. Established in 1953 as a rural roadhouse, Whitey's present-day specialties are booze, burgers, and superlative chili. The cozy atmosphere is friendly and relaxed, although on weekends, long waits for a table are to be expected. $$

Zoup! 6901 Rockside Rd., Independence, 216-328-9300. Part of a small Michigan chain, this little soup, salad, and sandwich shop offers good-tasting fare at reasonable prices. A dozen soups du jour provide plenty of variety, and while none of them are made onsite (they come fresh from a central commissary), the result is still brimming with homey comfort. Dine in, carry out, or order online. $-$$

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