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Best Place to Get a Classy Drink
Velvet Tango Room
For years, this elegant cocktail lounge was scarcely more than a legend, it's location a carefully guarded secret among the food-and-drink elite. For proof those times are over, just try snagging a nearby parking spot at 8 on a Saturday night! Owner Paulius Nasvytis continues to hold high the torch of spirituous tradition: in the expansive menu of classic cocktails, the painstaking craftsmanship that goes into every Lime Fizz and Manhattan, and the staff of crack mixologists who want nothing more than to rock your world with drink.
2095 Columbus Rd., 216-241-8869,
Staff Pick: Velvet Tango Room
Flaming Ice Cube
The downtown outpost of a Boardman café, the Flaming Ice Cube serves up a big menu of vegan-friendly foods in a tidy space across from Public Square. Anchoring the all-day menu are whole fruit smoothies, freshly squeezed veggie juices, salads, soups, and a half-dozen versions of a homemade vegan burger. For dessert, the made-from-scratch sweeties (Molten Lava Triple Chocolate Bundt Cake, maybe?) are wildly popular among vegans and omnivores alike.
140 Public Square, 216-263-1111,
Staff Pick: Flaming Ice Cube
Red the Steakhouse
Even as many of us rethink our diets, Cleveland still goes gaga for a great steak. As it happens, this is exactly what restaurateur Brad Friedlander serves up: dry-aged beef (both Certified Angus and U.S.D.A. Prime), cut thick and marbled to perfection. Seasoned with kosher salt and Tellicherry pepper, seared to order over unimaginably high heat, and served sizzling hot on a plain white plate for maximum impact, this is one big slab of juicy savor.
3355 Richmond Rd., Beachwood,
Staff Pick: Red the Steakhouse
Former Browns player Al "Bubba" Baker has found life beyond the gridiron, and it's slathered in barbecue sauce. At Bubba's Avon restaurant, the pork, smoked turkey, and signature ribs are bad to the bone, but in a very good way. Dry-rubbed, marinated overnight, then slow-smoked over Ohio-grown applewood, the meats arrive at the table smoky, saucy, and laced with savory char. Pair 'em with freshly baked cornmeal muffins, dense mac 'n' cheese, and sweet iced tea, and dig into what can only be called a "dawg-gone good" feast.
820 Center Rd., Avon,
Staff Pick: Bubba's Q
Best Patio Dining
Luxe Kitchen & Lounge
Tucked into secluded space behind the restaurant, the landscaped patio at Luxe Kitchen is a shaded, urbane oasis within the bustle of Gordon Square. Umbrella-topped tables make the perfect perch for imbibing seasonal cocktails, well-chosen wines, and craft beers; or share crab cakes, mussels, and a gourmet pizza with a group of friends. Speaking of friends: The patio is also pooch-friendly, the ultimate sign of a great outdoor space.
6605 Detroit Ave., 216-920-0600,
Staff Pick: Flying Cranes Café
With B Spots in Woodmere, Strongsville, Crocker Park, and the Q (and another slated for downtown's new casino), this irreverent gourmet burger joint from Michael "Iron Chef" Symon has foodies and fans awash in naturally raised beef. Of course, it's what Symon does with that meat that has found B Spot snagging Best Burger in America awards from the SoBe Wine & Food Fest for three consecutive years.
Multiple locations including
28699 Chagrin Blvd., Woodmere,
Staff Pick: Johnny's Little Bar
The legend continues at Bar Cento, where the Belgian-style pommes frites once again dominate the competition. Made by a classically painstaking process that includes frying, chilling, and frying again in ultra-luscious duck fat, these little golden batons are crisp outside, creamy within, and perfectly seasoned with rosemary and garlic. Served up in the Belgian tradition with four flavored mayos for dipping, these are truly fries to die for.
1948 West 25th St., 216-274-1010,
Staff Pick: Heck's Café
Angelo's of Lakewood has been the region's go-to pizza for nearly three decades. And why not? Crafted from homemade dough, fresh sauces, and scores of toppings, with combinations and specialties ranging from Stouffer's macaroni and cheese to fresh basil and buffalo mozzarella, Angelo's pies have earned their place in Cleveland's heart.
13715 Madison Ave., Lakewood,
Staff Pick: Vincenza's
Best Pierogi & Best Polish
Sokolowski's University Inn
Oh, Sokolowski's! Do we love you because of your plump and buttery pierogi? Do we love you because, like mother's milk, your bratwurst and stuffed cabbage are part of our communal DNA? Or do we love you for the fact that nearly everything waiting in your giant steam tables goes great with beer? Yes, yes, and yes again.
1201 University Rd., 216-771-9236,
Staff Picks: Best Pierogi: Stan's Northfield Bakery Best Polish: Sokolowski's University Inn