Best Of 2006

It took Angel Falls' co-owner Rafael Oletta an entire year to create the perfect 16-ounce cup of antioxidant heaven. Now, the Vulcan, which means "volcano" in Spanish, is the café's best-seller, even during the dog days of summer. Oletta, whose family has been in the business for more than 200 years, calls the Vulcan a confectionary homage to his Venezuelan roots. He steams a mixture of half-and-half and milk, infused with cardamom and cinnamon. When the temperature is just right, he adds two ounces of El Rey dark chocolate, imported from Venezuela, and whips the mixture into a velvety texture.
The Ohio City hot spot offers sleek decor, a bustling bar scene, and the creative offerings of chef-owner Karen Small. As one of the region's staunchest supporters of sustainable agriculture, Small ensures that her menus change with the seasons -- her large, international pantry yields everything from tempura-battered baby green beans and hoisin-glazed short ribs to bacon-wrapped Medjool dates and housemade ricotta gnocchi. Yet the vibe is thoroughly unpretentious. As Clevelanders, we wouldn't have it any other way.
Located in the center of downtown Euclid, the Bistro takes its name from the beach clubs that hug the shoreline from the eastern part of Cleveland to Euclid. The Beach Club serves 13 different pizzas, named after local clubs -- including the Gilchrist, the Arcadia, and the Utopia -- or local landmarks, such as Henn Mansion and the VASJ Vikings. The pizzas are great, and you can eat them on the patio, beside a waterfall and a pond.
By the time we haul our lazy butt out of bed, most restaurants have put the eggs and bacon away till tomorrow. Luckily, there's the Diner on Clifton. And what a breakfast: Fluffy omelets overflow with sausage, ham, and cheese. The portions are generous, flavors wholesome, and prices modest. The diner's relaxed, hip vibe is the perfect launching pad for the day -- no matter when you decide to start it.
It takes something pretty special to get us out of bed on a Sunday morning, but the fabulous seafood buffet at Pier W is worth setting the alarm clock for. The buffet tables boast dishes like steamy bouillabaisse, icy West Coast oysters on the half shell, and whole smoked salmon. You're also likely to find sushi, mussels, and shrimp, as well as such traditional breakfast offerings as bacon, sausage, and eggs Benedict. Finish it off with a show-stopping collection of homemade desserts. Served up against a fine view of Lake Erie and the downtown skyline, it's a real eye-opener.
Got a deal to finesse or a client to impress? Do it over lunch at Vivo, one stunner of an Italian restaurant located inside downtown's historic Old Arcade. From the worn brick walls to the white-cloth-draped tables, the setting serves as a classy antidote to sterile conference rooms and cluttered offices. And you can rest assured that the food -- contemporary Italian, filled with high-test flavors and trendy ingredients -- is like nothing you'll find in the company cafeteria.
We don't get out much anymore since we discovered lunchtime delivery from downtown's Tomaydó-Tomahhdó. Why leave the cube farm when this smart little eatery is standing by with a giant menu of homemade soups, wholesome salads, plump sandwiches, and creamy fruit smoothies? The best part is the efficient delivery system that gets them right to our desks exactly when promised.
Nestled in a former gas station, this nifty, '60s-themed sandwich shop offers an expansive menu of soups, salads, and sandwiches. Among the best sellers is the spicy tomato bisque, which boasts a cargo of blue-cheese crumbles. Then there's the Big Mensch sandwich, which comes loaded with pastrami, Swiss, spicy coleslaw, and chipotle mayo. Presto's does right by the meat-free crowd, too, with zesty options like the Veg Head (artichoke hearts, avocado, roasted peppers, and more).
This eatery, inside a Rapid stop just east of downtown, boasts a long menu of solid and affordable meals, including loaded-up pizza slices, hefty breakfast burritos, toasted subs, gyros, and chicken wings. Most meals sell for under six bucks, and all while you fill up your tank. The best part? The food tastes so good, you'll forget what a fill-up is costing you.
At Carrie Cerino's, entrées are served the way God intended: with soup or salad, fresh bread, and a choice of risotto, potato, fresh vegetables, or homemade spaghetti on the side. Of course, just because it's plentiful doesn't mean it's good; but here again, CC scores. The menu goes miles beyond spaghetti and meatballs, serving up such gourmet treats as heritage pork, organic chicken, and blue-egg ravioli, a house specialty featuring eggs from the rare Araucana chicken. It's the very definition of a value meal: delicious, creative, and reasonably priced -- you'll find it hard to spend more than $20.
Aladdin's offers food that is fresh, healthful, and inexpensive. Simple yet flavorful Mediterranean-style standards -- hummus, shawarma, falafel, and the like -- fill an extensive menu, and you'll have to go out of your way to find something that costs more than $10.