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As if to prove that not all great Asian food comes from the original 'hood, King Wah has been wowing suburbanites with its quality, consistency, and service since 1973. Classics like General Tso chicken and shrimp chow mein are duly represented, along with a few delicious rarities like pressed duck.
20668 Center Ridge Rd., Rocky River; 440-331-0330; kingwahrestaurant.biz
While "Der Brau" has been around only since 1983, a German restaurant has occupied this West Side location for more than 80 years. Probably that explains the profoundly European vibe: Eight decades' worth of sauerbrauten, wiener schnitzel, and smoked sausages is bound to leave a mark. Besides the restaurant, an on-site market and deli is stocked with traditional meats, cheeses, and condiments; and in warm weather, the sidewalk biergarten is the spot to enjoy an array of German imports on tap.
13046 Lorain Ave.; 216-671-6220; derbraumeister.com
Well-loved for its impressive collection of Irish beers and spirits, the Harp also offers homey-yet-stylish surroundings (including a great view of Loch Erie) and a kitchen that treats its Irish-themed menu with the deepest respect. That includes everything from the signature soda bread (baked daily from a family recipe) and superlative boxty to the Guinness ice cream sundae, chosen by none other than The Wall Street Journal as one of the best "beer desserts" in the nation. Factor in the frequent live music and welcoming vibe, and you've got yourself a winner.
4408 Detroit Ave.; 216-939-0200;
What started out as a bakery and modest coffee shop has turned into one of the region's best-loved brunch spots, as chef-owner Heather Haviland helps Cleveland launch its weekends with a big, ol' biscuit-stuffed smile. Filled with free-range eggs, locally grown produce, and Haviland's own handmade breads, Lucky's brunch is a celebration of everything that is good, true, and delicious about our hometown — with a side of local bacon.
777 Starkweather Ave.; 216-622-7773; luckyscafe.com
The Energizer Bunny of local chefs, Zack Bruell has spent much of the past decade dashing around town, leaving one fine restaurant after another in his wake. Chinato, on happenin' East Fourth Street, is the Italian one, with a big, Bruell-like menu loaded with contemporary flavors, of-the-moment ingredients, and deft preparations that respect and enhance classic dishes like Bistecca ala Florentina and burrata with grilled toast. Suck it, Olive Garden.
2079 East Fourth St.; 216-298-9080;
The French connection in chef-restaurateur Zack Bruell's mini-chain of upscale restaurants, this contemporary brasserie and bar perfectly combines historic ambiance, polished service, and a big, enticing menu of French classics — cassoulet, confit, and choucroute garni included. Taken in combination with an extensive wine list, the city's best cheese service, and a stunning, secluded patio, it's no wonder this is where Cleveland goes when it craves a French kiss.
11401 Bellflower Rd.; 216-791-7880;
This Warehouse District bastion of Spanish and Portuguese cuisine may be best known for its cadre of polished waiters who glide through the dining room like tuxedoed ninjas. But it is best remembered for its authentic Mediterranean menu: a compilation of gazpacho, paella, and lots and lots of fish and seafood, brought forth in jaw-dropping abundance in an ambiance both refined and fun.
1390 West Ninth St.; 216-687-9494;
Best Middle Eastern
A smart spin on the fast-casual concept, Aladdin's combines well-prepared Middle Eastern standards with a sharp focus on health and nutrition, making its many fans feel both virtuous and well fed. And should that dinner of fresh-squeezed carrot juice, silken hummus, and lentil soup leave you feeling a little smug, there's always that toothsome baklava waiting to take you down a peg or two.
Various midwestern locations including 14536 Detroit Ave., Lakewood;
Best Wine List
Market Avenue Wine Bar
Comfortable and friendly, this Ohio City haunt is a wine geek's dream, with an encyclopedic collection of more than 700 wines by the bottle and 75 by the glass. Styles range from fruity whites to the deepest, darkest cabernets, culled from vineyards around the world. If you find a favorite, rejoice: All wines can be purchased to take home, with $10 off what you would pay at your neighborhood grocery store.
2521 Market Ave.; 216-696-9463;
Best On-Tap Lineup
Tremont Tap House
Brown ales, pale ales, wheat ales, and ambers; stouts, porters, lagers, and Belgian imports; craft brews, microbrews, hoppy brews, fruity brews, and brews that can claim more medals than Michael Phelps: You'll find all this and more among the four dozen beers on tap at this happy little gastropub in Tremont. Do these guys know their way into our hearts or what?
2572 Scranton Rd.; 216-298-4451;
Thanks to sassy Sasa, Cleveland has become hip to izakaya, a casual form of Japanese dining that is akin to Spanish tapas. Of course, the idea of sitting at a bar and nibbling isn't foreign to our culture. It's just that at Sasa, you get to trade those stale peanuts for kobe-beef gyoza and ditch the pretzel crumbs in favor of wonton chips with pineapple salsa. There are plenty of other small, medium, and large plates on Sasa's intriguing menu too, all filled with vibrant flavors going far beyond tempura and teriyaki.
13120 Shaker Square; 216-767-1111; sasamatsu.com
Best Patio Drinking
Josh Kabat's neighborhood pub in the heart of the emerging Detroit-Shoreway area boasts one of the city's most handsome patios, with a pedigree dating back to its life as part of the former Snickers. Intimate, lovingly landscaped, and decked out in little white lights, the space remains the perfect al fresco party destination — best enjoyed with a beer, a bottle of wine, or a sassy 'tini from bartender Nathan Burdette. And if all that drinking demands some ballast, the flavor-infused gastropub menu is full of eclectic choices.
1261 West 76th St.; 216-651-6969; reddstonecleveland.com
Best Specialty Menu
Fabio Salerno's Tremont establishment dishes up fine Northern Italian cuisine every night of the week. But insiders know that Mondays are particularly enticing. That's when the kitchen presents Vegetarian Night, featuring a special menu for the herbivores — and herb-curious — among us. Like the rest of the restaurant's offerings, the veggie dishes focus on regional, seasonal ingredients to the greatest extent possible, so the choices change often. But with temptations like grilled polenta, ricotta gnocchi, and even vegan strawberry shortcake, you can count on an evening of meat-free magic.
2221 Professor Ave.; 216-344-0547; lagotremont.com
While the big menu has long been a curious dichotomy of Greek and Indian dishes, there's no contest for Clevelanders when it comes to Mediterranean-flavored faves like souvlaki, keftedes, pastitsio, and moussaka. And sure: Should you grow a little weary of gyros and Greek stir-fry, you can always wash them down with a mango lassi.
2466 Fairmount Blvd., Cleveland Heights; 216-421-3333; madgreekcleveland.com