Channeling the spirit of a European wine bar, this funky little spot in Ohio City makes a tasty backdrop for a small but tempting menu of thin-crusted pizzas, house-cured meats, handmade pastas, and some of the best twice-fried, Belgian-style fries you'll ever find on a Cleveland tabletop. To go with, the annotated wine list offers 100 selections, while next door's Bier Markt provides dozens of imported brews.
During daylight hours, this anchor of the Warehouse District party scene masquerades as a simple bar and restaurant. But on any weekend, the place becomes a holding pen for a unique cross section of clubbers, from gel-headed fratsters to hip-hoppers to suited execs.
This Tremont taqueria puts the power of the pen in the diner's hand. Guests design their own tacos from a list of some 30 components — from shell to filling to salsa to toppings. The best part: They are all just $3 each. This blissfully informal approach is a great fit for the unpretentious food. In addition to the tacos, the menu features a few starters and sides, not to mention a landslide of tequilas and margaritas. The delightful patio makes a perfect perch to enjoy them.
11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sun-Thurs, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fri-Sat
Casual, cozy, and with a splendid secluded patio for warm-weather dining, this upscale tavern offers everything from burgers and ribs to filet mignon and veal medallions. The surrounding countryside is charming, and getting there on the winding Geauga County roads is almost half the fun.
A hip hangout near the Gordon Square Arts District, this noisy wine bar offers grape-friendly snacks, starters, and sharable items. Instead of full-size entrees, diners can expect meat-and-cheese boards, Mediterranean flatbreads, and a host of creative tapas-size dishes. Some 150 wines are sold by the bottle, all priced just $12 over retail; good deals on glass pours, too. $$$
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.
BD's takes the salad-bar concept one step beyond: Rather than just assembling a plate of greens, you choose from an assortment of raw meats and vegetables, douse them with flavored oils and sauces, sprinkle on an assortment of spices, nuts, and seasonings, and hand the whole shebang over to cooks manning an enormous 600-degree steel grill. Recipe cards are provided for the unimaginative.
Casually upscale and unselfconsciously cool, this neighborhood bistro is home to delicious gourmet pizzas, an intriguing collection of fish and seafood dishes, and a dashing wine list containing one of the regions largest assortment of half-bottles.
This warm sports bar hosts live rock and blues when major games aren't commanding attention.
Since 1948, this casual diner has been a part of West-Side life: so long, most residents can't recall a time when it wasn't dishing up burgers, onion rings, and milkshakes. A recent closure gave management the time to renovate the entire space, resulting in a fresh, vintage-tinged design that neatly fits with the retro menu. Here, thin, diner-style burgers, crisp onion rings, and thick milkshakes rule the roost. Fried clam fans will find some of the best in town.
Part of an international chain of teppanyaki restaurants, Benihana has long been a Cleveland fave for communal dining around hibachi tables, where knife-wielding chefs provide dinner and a show. Thanks to a lengthy remodeling, a sushi bar now joins the scene; while the sushi offerings aren't particularly imaginative, they are fresh and tasty.
If you miss Mom's cooking, this is the place to get your fix. Big Al's has all the comforting favorites, like thick, steaming soups, housemade mashed potatoes with gravy, open-faced roast beef sandwiches and chocolate cake for dessert. Breakfast is served until the diner's late-afternoon closing time.
Classic American-style diner food is the star at Big Egg. While most days, the hours are a reasonable 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., an around-the-clock schedule is observed on Fridays and Saturdays, making it the ideal spot for sobering up after last call at nearby bars and clubs.
Besides offering the usual takeout options, this storefront pizza palace supplies the eats for Hotz Café, next doors vintage tavern, thereby solving the problem of how to entertain your buds when the apartments a mess and the beer is all gone. For a touch of class, a buttery half-head of roasted garlic sits in the center of all the thick-crusted specialty pizzas. Ribs, chicken and salads are available too, along with bar noshes like fried pickles and wings.
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