Best Of 2013

Best Restaurant

Best Sandwich Shop

Melt Bar & Grilled

You don't get where owner Matt Fish has gotten by being unpopular. And as evidenced by the spreading ooze of his melted cheese empire – which now reaches as far east as Mentor and as far south as Columbus – Fish knows what people want. By voting with their dollars – and their ballots, apparently – the people have announced unequivocally that they want great big sandwiches stuffed with crazy-good ingredients, served with amazing craft beer in a fun, sports- and memorabilia-themed bar. We can't quibble with that assessment of what it means to be a great – nay, the best – restaurant in Cleveland. Multiple locations,

Best Up-and-Coming Chef

Chris Hodgson

Chris Hodgson burst upon the Cleveland scene like an over-zealous firebrand. His star rose so far, so fast that before long he became more of a celebrity than a chef. A star turn on national television only served to propel the image and ego of the young chef, who seemingly spent more time charting his next move than cooking. But Hodgson, whether he likes it or not, is maturing before our eyes. Time spent cooking at Hodge's — and working alongside operating partner Scott Kuhn — has begun to sculpt the fresh cook into a leader, one who will help guide and shape a growing restaurant group. And when he gets there, we can all say that we knew him way back when.

Best New Restaurant

SOHO Kitchen & Bar

Since entering the crowded Ohio City dining scene, SOHO Kitchen & Bar has managed not only to contend but stand tall amongst some of this city's biggest and brightest names. Operated by chef Nolan Konkoski and partner Molly Smith, this cheery little Southern-inspired eatery makes fans fast thanks to its innovative twists on Southern classics like fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits and catfish Po' Boys. The restaurant's new Wednesday-night fried chicken dinners alone are enough to make this relative newcomer one of the best new places to eat in the 216. 1889 W. 25th St.,


Best Seafood

Most Romantic Restaurant

Pier W

Pier W has a not-so-secret weapon in the romance department: It's called Lake Erie. Incorporating a lake view into a romantic evening is a no-brainer, but sadly few restaurants in town – despite being on a Great Lake! – can pull off such a ploy. The interior, too, is richly appointed, with subtle oceanic design elements playing off the scene beyond the glass. But Pier W in Lakewood is more than just a pretty face: It's got the seafood to match the watery view. Canoodling over some raw oysters while sipping a crisp Chablis will undoubtedly ignite the sparks of romance for any couple. 12700 Lake Ave., Lakewood, 216-228-2250,

Best Chef

Michael Symon

How lucky are we to have Michael Symon representing our city on the national stage? Pretty stinking lucky – lucky enough that we will overlook the fact that no, he doesn't often actually cook in Cleveland. But he sure as hell busts his tail to make sure his restaurants – and his city – are shining representations of the hard work he has invested to get to this point in his career. It is rare to find a person who is both talented and humble, famous but charitable, but that's just what he brings to the dinner table. Lola, Lolita, B Spot – these are some of the most popular restaurants in the region because of Symon's leadership and his ability to develop deep and broad culinary talent. The word chef means "chief," and Symon has proven himself to be a great leader and chief.

Best Upscale



Often the first choice of visiting glitterati, Lola is the kind of place one takes his boss, his lover, his in-laws – anybody who needs convincing that we have great taste. This $2 million upgrade from the Tremont original has all the bells and whistles of a world-class destination. Glowing bar, wall of wine, open kitchen with chef's table... these elements and more conspire to deliver a first-rate setting worthy of the splurge. The food more than lives up to the room, with dishes built for both the adventurous carnivore and the timid vegetarian. Symon's signature beef cheek pierogies, beefy bone marrow, fresh-shucked oysters, and charcuterie all are great starters. Move on to smoked heritage pork chops, grilled veal heart or pristine fish. Whatever you do, save room for dessert – Symon is one of the few remaining operators willing to spring for a full-time pastry chef.

2058 E. 4th St., 216-621-5652,

Best Dinner Bargain

Best bar food

Best hot dog

Happy Dog

Five bucks will still buy you plenty these days – if you have no problem eating factory farmed fast food in a dreary den. But for those of us who prefer real food, dished up in a fun, locally owned establishment, we are largely out of luck. Unless, of course, we hit the Happy Dog, where a single Lincoln is enough to secure a gourmet dog (meat or vegan). This Gordon Square haunt serves up Cadillac food for Kia prices, with some 50 chef-built toppings to gild your tube steaks. For an extra $3, tack on an order of tater tots or fries, topped or sided by additional gourmet accoutrements. Best. Bargain. Going. 5801 Detroit Ave.,



Best Coffee Shop


There have been countless coffee shops to come – and largely go – in the Cleveland marketplace. But for more than 20 years, home-grown Phoenix has been keeping the commuting and telecommuting crowd productive and sharp-minded. In Cleveland Heights, the humble little shop almost singlehandedly put a Starbucks out of business thanks to a product and level of service that no mega-chain can match. By buying, roasting and brewing the best beans in the best ways, caffeinator-in-chief Sarah Wilson-Jones and company have built a reputation that extends well beyond their three cafés. Outreach, classes, and promotions teach the gospel of good brewing to coffee lovers citywide, making Phoenix one of our favorite places to roost. Multiple locations,

Best Food Truck

Umami Moto

It's been just three years since the food truck craze rolled into Cleveland for reals, and in that time the number of rigs has skyrocketed. That's great news for diners but not so much for operators, who must vie for an ever-shrinking slice of the pie in a city with just two seasons. One of the earliest operators also happens to be one of the best: Jae Stulock, whose Umami Moto dishes up pan-Asian mash-ups from his beefy rolling rig. His menu might feature pad Thai with tofu, massaman curry on rice, pork potstickers, and a Vietnamese bahn mi sandwich made with pulled pork. Best of all, he's good, fast and reasonably priced – qualities we wish every mobile kitchen could claim. 440-503-4146,

Best Breakfast


Chef-owner Heather Haviland launched her eggy emporium rather inauspiciously – by giving away a few breakfast items to her loyal coffeehouse customers. Before long she had a full-on brunch bonanza on her hands, parlaying her pastry chops into one of the most beloved weekend feasts in Cleveland. The motto here is local above all else, with local butter, eggs, cheese, flour... you name it, rolled into deeply satisfying plates that go well beyond typical greasy spoon fare. The Shipwreck is a delicious disaster of scrambled eggs, bacon, white cheddar, and golden brown potatoes, while the chef's sausage gravy and scones will plant a smile on even the grumpiest of old men. Whatever you order, make sure you slather it with the house-made hot sauce, a smoky revelation.  777 Starkweather Ave., 216-622-7773,

Best Patio Drinking

Market Garden


Ohio City has a pulse. That beat resonates through the streets, gaining intensity as it approaches West 25th Street, then ricocheting down the alley next to the West Side Market, finally reaching a crescendo on the patio of Market Garden Brewery. Almost immediately after opening in 2011, Cleveland's first true beer garden was embraced as the neighborhood's best place to drink outside. The communal tables bridge the gap between European beer hall and contemporary urban gathering space. Summer evenings are spent under the stars sipping Trouble IPA and eating spicy chorizo tacos.  Cold nights are spent cozying up to a roaring fire in the gigantic fireplace, snacking on Scotch eggs and sipping a snifter of Danny Greene the Enforcer Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout. Whatever the weather, this is the best place to get your drink on outdoors in Cleveland. 1947 W. 25th St, 


Best Brunch

Beachland Ballroom

Most of us know the Beachland Ballroom only for its nighttime delights – concerts from some of the best touring acts in the nation and beyond. But some folks hit the Beachland during daylight hours, believe it or not, lured from their slumber by the promise of a delicious brunch. Top-notch talent in the kitchen whips up a full menu of killer and creatively engineered meals, much of which is built from the plate up with local foodstuffs. Biscuits and gravy, chicken and waffles, buckwheat pancakes, Ohio farm-fresh eggs... Meals here are so good, you'll consider staying until the night's show begins. 15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124,

Best Buffet

The Spread,

Horseshoe Casino

A grand casino is deserving of a grand buffet, and that is exactly what you get at the aptly (and perhaps unfortunately) Spread Buffet at the Horseshoe Casino. Executing a good buffet is tough enough, but try doing that when you're serving 400 guests in 12,000 square feet at all hours of the day and night. At $25.99 for dinner, the Spread certainly isn't cheap. But with seven differently themed stations stretching for what seems like a country mile, this all-you-can-eat smorgasbord is no Old Country Buffet. Diners move through stations titled Salad, American, Italian, Dessert, Shuffle (a wild card that changes), Carvery and Asian. What it lacks in luxe touches like shrimp, crab legs and lobster tails, it makes up for with a dizzying variety of food – much of it expertly prepared and served. One thing is certain: Spread Buffet is the safest bet in the house. 100 Public Square, 216-297-4777,


Best Ice Cream


University Heights natives and brothers Mike and Pete Mitchell are magicians of ice cream. Mike is an Ohio State graduate with a degree in philosophy while Pete has a degree in psychology from Kent. But together they possess a PhD in ice cream science. For more than 14 years, the brothers have been building their local ice cream empire, all the while keeping smiles permanently plastered to their customers' faces. Lately, they've been challenging themselves to create cutting edge flavors borne from the freshest ingredients. Explosive creations like peanut butter chocolate chunk and toasted pistachio anchor the more than two dozen daily flavors. With eight locations and a huge new retail and production facility coming online in Ohio City, the future looks absolutely delicious for Mitchell's (and us). Multiple locations,

Best Sub Shop

Dave's Cosmic Subs

"I wanted to make the best sub on Earth," David Lombardy said as his motivation to get into the grinder game. And for 16 years he has been doing just that at his original Chagrin Falls location and at least a dozen more. If you can't find a sub to suit your fancy at Dave's then you just ain't trying. We lost count at "lots," but that's because we can't seem to order anything other than the Original Dave's Cosmic Sub owing to its perfect proportions of Italian meats, cheeses, veggies and Dave's Cosmic Sauce. But what we really love about our neighborhood Dave's are the staffers, who always act as if they really, really love working there. Considering that they probably get free food, that's wholly understandable.

Multiple locations,

Best Wine Bar

La Cave Du Vin

If you were to design the ideal wine bar on paper, it likely would look a lot like La Cave Du Vin. Subterranean as a wine cellar, darker than a bat cave, and run by passionate grape heads with the gift of gab. Sure, craft beer slowly has been edging out wine in terms of focus and selection, but what does remain is well curated and always worth a purchase. The best wine bars are date places, romantic nooks where privacy, conversation and discretion rise above all else. That describes this Coventry mainstay to a T, and that's why it ranks as the best in the biz. 2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., Cleveland Heights, 216-932-6411,

Best Patio Dining


The best outdoor dining spots are those that make diners feel as if they've escaped from the real world, if only for a meal's time. That's why diners love the patio at Reddstone (and before that Snickers). Not only is the restaurant off the beaten path, but the back patio feels like a retreat even from the restaurant, with mature trees shading a brick-paved expanse. A great beer and cocktail list is the perfect place to start – and end – a lazy meal in the "woods." Bring a few friends, snag a large table in the corner, and let the night unfold in its own way. That's what alfresco dining is all about: spontaneity.   1261 W. 76th St., 216-651-6969,

Best Brewery

Great Lakes Brewing Company 

Great Lakes Brewing Company has been proud to play a major role in the story of Cleveland. Over the past 25 years, owners Pat and Dan Conway have taken their business from a small startup in a forgotten neighborhood to one of the top 20 craft breweries in the nation. Along the way, they assembled a catalog of ales and lagers that rivals any in the world. Christmas Ale is a Cleveland phenomenon. Dortmunder is an old friend. Elliott Ness and Edmund Fitzgerald have a legitimate connection to local lore that is lacking in so many other labels. To celebrate 25 years, Alchemy Hour, Rye of the Tiger and a yet-to-be-named anniversary beer all have been added to the storied Great Lakes lineup. With each chapter, the story gets better and better.

2516 Market Ave, 216-771-4404,


Best Locally Made Beer

Great Lakes Christmas Ale

In other cities, the holidays begin when scents of pine and gingerbread fill the air. In Cleveland, the season officially starts with the pleasant aroma of cinnamon and honey from a pint glass of Great Lakes Christmas Ale. This juggernaut of a beer is only sold eight weeks out of the year yet it ranks as one of the top-10 selling winter seasonal beers in the U.S. Every year Great Lakes brews more and more Christmas Ale, but each year demand again exceeds supplyLast year the production was a whopping 359 batches! At local grocery stores, cases fly out the front door faster than they are dropped off at the back door, causing days and even weeks of drought. The beer even inspired a flavor of Mitchell's Ice Cream, a union of two blessed tastes. There are other great local beers, but Great Lakes Christmas Ale has become a Cleveland holiday tradition. 2516 Market Ave, 216-771-4404,

Best Beer List

Buckeye Beer Engine

The southeast corner of Madison and Arthur in Lakewood is sacred ground in the Cleveland beer scene. Although the exterior of the red-roofed brick building may be unassuming, the inside contains the stuff of every Cleveland beer connoisseur's dreams.  Since opening in 2006, Beer Engine owners Bob and Garin Wright have garnered mentions on both local and national lists for their amazing beer selection. Their 24 taps and two hand pumps (the beer engines behind the Beer Engine) continually rotate between the best local, regional and national breweries. House selections normally include five or more Buckeye Brewing beers and an occasional offering from the Beer Engine's own in-house nano brewery. The draft offerings are so varied and well curated that the list of a hundred or so bottles often gets overlooked. 15315 Madison Ave, Lakewood,


Best Specialty Cocktail

Velvet Tango Room

When owner Paulius Nasvytis opened this exclusive cocktail parlor back in-shoot, must be going on 20 years ­— he was pretty much the only game in town for classically prepared cocktails. Nowadays, of course, you can't throw a cat without hitting a "craft cocktail bar," mixing up the requisite old-timey drinks. But there is only one "Best," and it lives inside this squat brick building on a quiet street a few blocks from the West Side Market. Don't believe us? Take the Ramos Gin Fizz, a labor-intensive cocktail that by all accounts had been relegated to cocktail history. Small-batch gin is blended with beguiling orange blossom water, fresh citrus juices, whole cream and egg whites. It is shaken with the fury of 1,000 ninjas until it has the consistency of clouds. That, my friend, is what the Best Specialty Cocktail tastes like. 2095 Columbus Rd.,


Best Vegan/Vegetarian


Places like Tommy's used to be called sprout bars, hippie hangs where the naturally curly noshed on meat-free meals with gusto. Little has changed but the label (we now call places like Tommy's "restaurants") at this decades-old Coventry Village institution. Because they have been doing the herbivore thing so long, meat-free meals here don't feel like a Lenten sacrifice. Carnivores: Dig right into a spinach pie with mushrooms, veggies and sesame sauce and tell me that you're suffering. Won't happen. Uh-uh. While not vegan, room must be set aside for the city's best milkshakes, a richly textured treat that never goes out of style. 1824 Coventry Rd., Cleveland Heights,


Best Steak


It's fitting that Morton's now is stone's throw from the new Horseshoe Casino, where high rollers gamble big bucks on a hand of cards. This luxe meat market has always felt to us like it was ripped out of old Vegas and deposited in downtown Cleveland. The level of service here is matchless, with professional staffers attending to one's every need. But it's the steak — prime cuts cooked right, lightly seasoned — that is Morton's stock in trade. When you're going to splurge on a steak dinner, don't you want to know that it will exceed your expectations? It will always happen at Morton's. And here's a tip: Pre-order Morton's legendary hot chocolate cake. You'll thank us. 1600 W. 2nd St., 216-621-6200,

Best BBQ

Hot Sauce Williams

Cleveland lost a legend this year when Lemaud Williams passed on to that great barbecue pit in the sky. You see, Williams was the man behind Hot Sauce Williams, a place that has added so much joy to lovers of festive food. Stuff a Polish Boy into your mouth and just try to not smile. Polish sausage nestled into a bun, topped with fries, smothered in barbeque sauce, crowned with chilly coleslaw – that, friend, is soul food. Pork ribs, fried chicken, fried fish, macaroni and cheese and fried okra round out the menu at this venerable but humble establishment. This isn't just barbecue. It's Cleveland barbecue. 7815 Carnegie Ave., 216-391-2230

Best Burger

B Spot

Cleveland has no shortage of mouth-watering burger joints – and there seems to be a new burger bar every other week. And when it comes to burgers, well, everybody is an expert and each has his or her favorite go-to spot. But there is no arguing with objective facts: Michael Symon's hamburgers won the Burger Bash crown three years running – a singular feat never repeated. Here's why: The beef comes from Pat LaFrieda, fine New York butchers who supply damn near every fine restaurant in the five boroughs and beyond. It doesn't get any better than the Fat Doug burger, a perfectly cooked and juicy patty topped with pastrami, Swiss and coleslaw. It is part of what Symon likes to call his "meat-on-meat" technique, the not-so-secret route to burger bliss. Multiple locations,

Best Fries

Five Guys

At Five Guys, you have to eat the French fries first – have to. That's because the burgers are tucked into the bottom of the bag and covered – buried is more like it – by fries. There are so many fries, in fact, that you can't just scootch them to one side and extract the hamburger – won't work, we tried it. But that's alright because the fries are friggin' awesome: fresh-fried potato sticks of salty goodness. And waiting just a little bit longer to eat your burger actually is a good thing as it gives the meat just enough time to rest so the juices redistribute throughout the patties instead of oozing right out. Trust us: We're Clevelanders. We know what we're talking about when it comes to meat and potatoes. Multiple locations,

Best Pizza


Pizza is personal. We grow up eating the pies that mom and dad bring home, all the while developing a bias to a certain crust type, sauce tang, cheese blend, even shape and size. Only by picking our own toppings do we assert any sort of independence. For more than 30 years, Angelo's Pizza in Lakewood has been brainwashing its customers into buying lots and lots of their pizza. Some say the secret's in the sauce. Others pin it on the cheese. True aficionados know it's the crust. Never been there? Start with the usual pepperoni or sausage pie before graduating to a specialty pizza like the baked potato, seafood or chicken Alfredo. Angelo's is more than just a pretty pie: They do a mean salad, scratch sandwiches, groovy pasta, and all of it can be delivered to your door. Let them in. 13715 Madison Ave, Lakewood, 216-221-0440,


Best Sushi

Sushi Rock

If you've ever stumbled into Sushi Rock on a Thursday, you know how much people love this restaurant. Or discount sushi. Or both. Tsunami Thursday means half-price sushi at this clubby East Side eatery, and throngs of people show up for the privilege. We prefer to go on quieter nights, when we can eat our Rainbow and Spider rolls in relative peace and quiet. Fresh, colorful and masterly crafted, the sushi never fails to please. 2101 Richmond Rd., Beachwood,


Best Greek

Mad Greek

On warm evenings, when the garage-door windows are hiked to the rafters, there are few better places than Mad Greek to kick back and take in the sights of the Cedar-Fairmount neighborhood. You don't last more than 35 years in this fickle business by doing things the wrong way. Here, they do it right, and that is by serving wholesome, satisfying Greek food. Order a delicious platter of hummus, served with fresh pita. Relish a bountiful, beautiful salad or a dish of stuffed grape leaves. Enjoy an abundantly satisfying gyro platter or moussaka. Greek food comes from the heart, and this establishment seems to have a bottomless supply of that crucial ingredient.

2466 Fairmount Blvd., Cleveland Heights,


Best Indian

India Garden

Since this West Side eatery opened its doors in 2006, it has been a perennial favorite of Indian food fans. India Garden serves up deliciously fiery Northern Indian cuisine, and the ceaseless crowds are proof that doing things right can and does pay off. Diners here are rewarded with excellent service, high-quality food and consistent execution. All the classics are here – chicken tikka masala, rogan josh, saag paneer, aloo gobi. But adventurous eaters can also sample less common, more intriguing selections like goat daal and ginger lamb. The daily lunch buffet is pretty much the best thing going since the invention of lunch. 18405 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, 216-221-0676,

Best Asian

Superior Pho

Clevelanders are pretty much pho-ficient these days, with more Vietnamese noodle shops than we can count on one hand. But pound for pound, this Asiatown noodle house is the best in the broth business. Day in and day out, the big bowls brim with near noodle perfection. It's tough to pry ourselves away from the pho, but when we do it's for bright and citrusy chicken cabbage salad, addictive bahn mi sandwiches, meaty grilled pork vermicelli, and bracing cups of Vietnamese iced coffee. Owner Manh Nguyen makes sure that everything that leaves his kitchen is as good as it possibly can be. His dedication to quality is a big reason why a whole new demographic of Clevelander is discovering Asiatown. 3211 Payne Ave., 216-781-7462,

Best Italian

Trattoria on the Hill

Murray Hill residents get their weekly transfusions of tomato sauce at this cramped and lively trattoria, where fork twirling and sauce slurping are the main attractions. Don't expect elaborate Italian food and fine-dining service here as meals are served with few pretensions. Soft Italian bread and sweet whipped butter gives way to sweet and salty clams, meaty mussels in garlic sauce, and antipasto salads. Trattoria still offers its linguine with clam sauce in either red or white sauces, an old-school touch. The chicken parmesan is textbook, and the accompanying pasta is al dente and the sauce rightly tangy. All of it gets washed down with bottomless glasses of Chianti and heart-warming service. 12207 Mayfield Rd. , 216-421-2700,

Best Polish

Sokolowski's University Inn

For more than 90 years, the Sokolowski family has been serving the foods of Cleveland's working class to Clevelanders of every class. In fact, good luck finding a restaurant more closely aligned with Cleveland's past, present and future than Sokolowski's University Inn. Specializing in Polish and Eastern European cuisine, the restaurant is famous for its rib-sticking fare served cafeteria-style, complete with plastic trays. Old World classics like periogies, kielbasa, stuffed cabbages and Salisbury steak are just a handful of the gut-busting beauts on offer. At this cafeteria line the dessert comes first. Our suggestion? Get the rice pudding before it runs out. 1201 University Rd., 216-771-9236,

Best Irish

The Harp

This Cleveland mainstay recently earned honors as one of the Top 10 Irish pubs in the entire country from the fine folks at Gayot. And for good reason. We love it for its traditional Irish pub grub and bona fide Dublin feel, the kind of joint where every meal includes fresh-baked soda bread and fresh-pulled Guinness. Fish and chips, Shepherd's pie and corned beef boxty are tasty reminders of life back home – or gentle encouragement to make the journey. The Harp is also one of the only restaurants in Cleveland with an outdoor patio offering commanding views of Lake Erie, which might as well be Galway Bay. 4408 Detroit Ave., 216-939-0200,

Best German

Das Schnitzel Haus

Schnitzel is king at this haus, where the beer is German and the music oom-pa-pa. The draw at this family friendly restaurant is huge platters of homemade German specialties. This restaurant would still be a winner if all it did was sell heaping platters of pork and veal schnitzel – pounded, breaded, and fried perfection served with any number of varieties of potato. Just as good is the Hungarian goulash, gravy-covered beef served on a bed of chewy spaetzle. Out front, a German-style beer garden is the perfect place to sip a brew or two and snack on potato pancakes. 5728 Pearl Rd., Parma Hts., 440-886-5050,

Best French

L'Albatros Brasserie

Before Zack Bruell opened L'Albatros in a University Circle carriage house, Clevelanders were resigned to eating drab versions of fusty French food that lacked both authenticity and grace. Now, we dine in style. Bruell's take on French bistro fare like pâté, garlicky escargot, skate wing, cassoulet, pied de cochon and countless others approaches perfection. Meals are appropriately rich but not excessively so. And the cheese, let's not forget about the cheese. But the real reason this restaurant continues to sit at the top of a very large and growing heap is the service. Guests here are treated to a level of hospitality that is increasingly rare, making every moment a truly memorable one. 11401 Bellflower Rd.,


Best Spanish


Meals at this polished downtown eatery are Occasions, where calorie counting and time management fly out the proverbial window. Mallorca, like the Catalonian island, is where one relaxes for hours over heaping platters of Spanish-accented seafood, glorious grilled chops and to-die-for fresh-cut potatoes. To hear the tuxedoed servers deliver the litany of entrees and specials is something special (and somewhat overwhelming). Clams in green sauce, twin crab-stuffed lobster, paella Valenciana, broiled veal chops... just pick one or all of these and you will dine well and large. For years, this has been the place where Clevelanders go for authentic and delicious Spanish and Portuguese cuisine. 1390 W. 9th St.,


Best Mexican


In a sea of ho-hum Mexican restaurants, Momocho stands out as a shining example of how technique and creativity can come together to delicious results. Chef and owner Eric Williams' vision of "modern Mexican" is so clear and comprehensible that it feels as if we've been eating this way forever. His creative twists on regional Mexican cuisine work because they are grounded in truth. Smoked trout and bacon guacamole, beer-braised goat taquitos, crab and smoked trout chilaquiles, pepita-crusted trout. And don't get us started on the margaritas. Williams reinvented how Clevelanders eat and view Mexican food, and for that we say muchas gracias. 1835 Fulton Rd., 216-694-2122,


Best Cheap Lunch

Best Middle Eastern Restaurant

Aladdin's Eatery

It is hard to travel around Northeast Ohio without stumbling into an Aladdin's Eatery. Since 1994, founders Fady and Sally Chamoun have supplied Clevelanders with an endless banquet of Middle Eastern delights. It is largely because of them and their eateries that we know what the words hummus, baba and kibbie even mean. But now, thankfully, we fully comprehend how fresh, wholesome and wonderful this cuisine can be. The restaurant also has become indispensable to the area's growing number of practicing vegetarians and vegans, who love the menu's countless meat-free options. Multiple locations,

Best Latin

Barroco Grill

It doesn't get more authentic than this Colombian owned and operated eatery, which single-handedly ignited a passion for Latin street food. Their specialty – arepas – hails straight from the food cart the family operated back home. The thick corn tortillas are griddle-fried, split and filled with all manner of deliciousness like zesty chorizo and cheese. Cut into fingers and deep fried, those same arepas become a utensil for melty, gooey cheese dip. But we really love this Latin upstart for the half-dozen housemade sauces, which diners use to customize their arepas, Cubano sandwiches, and everything else. Our favorites are the chimichurri, ranchero and spicy peanut. Fans of this addictive fare now have two spots to grab some Latin love, Lakewood and downtown. Multiple locations,

Best Tacos/Burritos

Ohio City Burrito

OCB is a classic example of a win-win. Clevelanders get all the gustatory pleasure of eating customizable burritos as big as their heads while supporting a locally owned and operated establishment. This home-grown, Ohio City-based, brother-sister operation delivers the same satisfaction of that other burrito place without the national chain stigma. Overstuffed burritos (and tacos) filled with shredded chicken, braised beef or roast pork deliver in the flavor department. A friendly staff, efficient service, and wallet-friendly prices all add to the experience. The cheery little shop is indie all the way, with festively painted tables and funky accessories that brighten every day. 1844 W. 25th St., 216-664-0908,

Best Wings

Winking Lizard

You want to know the secret to success? Well, if you're the Winking Lizard, the answer is chicken wings. Those little fried and sauced flappers have helped this local legend grow from a single shop in Bedford Heights to a chain of more than a dozen spots. The fresh, never-frozen wings are the paradigm of the genre: big, juicy, crunchy and sauced to the hilt. With 15 flavors to choose from, diners can tailor their tastes from sweet and fruity to blazing hot. Teriyaki, spicy sesame, Caribbean and Thai offer more than just heat: They bring complex flavor to the party. But for tongue-blistering heat, diners know to go for the 911 or Magma. Yee-haw in a basket! Multiple locations,

Best Late-Night Menu

Bar Cento

"Good food and drink until 2 a.m. daily." It's that simple. Nothing to remember. Are you hungry? Is it late? Well, go to Bar Cento, silly. For a town crawling with killer restaurants, the number and quality of late-night options is embarrassing. Sure, we've got a few greasy spoons and questionable hot dog shacks, but when it comes to real food, we're generally SOL. That's why we all owe a debt of gratitude to this Ohio City haven. Belgian-style pommes frites, Neapolitan-style pizzas, meaty burgers — all of it served alongside great wine and beer in a cheery little pub. Everything on the menu is great, but we're partial to the Sunnyside pizza, with pancetta, eggs and heaps of black pepper. Good night indeed.

1948 W. 25th St., 216-274-1010,

Best Bloody Mary

The South Side

Nothing kicks off a weekend like a great brunch, and for years the South Side has been the spot in Tremont to do just that. Everybody knows that the real reason we even drag our asses out of bed on a weekend and go to brunch is for the Bloodies, magical elixirs that gently transform pain into pleasure. With eight signature Bloody Marys to choose from, South Side offers guests everything they need to right the ship and carry on. Guests love the Bacon Bloody, a perfect medley of bacon-flavored vodka and spicy Bloody Mary mix. The garnish? A strip of bacon, natch. The rightly popular Bloody Caesar is made with Stoli vodka, Clamato juice and secret spices. It's served with a freshly shucked oyster. Did somebody say drunch? 2207 W. 11th St.,


Best Dessert

Sweet Moses

Mourning the loss of the neighborhood soda fountain, Jeffrey Moreau did something about it. He transformed a neglected Detroit-Shoreway storefront into an elegant 20s-era soda fountain and named it Sweet Moses, after Moses Cleaveland. Traditional America sweets like hot fudge sundaes, chocolate malted milk shakes, root beer floats, and strawberry phosphates are not just old-timey, they're old-timey goodness in a glass. And like the Good Old Days, everything from the ice cream to the gourmet chocolates is handmade in house. Lazy summer evenings just aren't the same without a pit stop at this cherry neighborhood treats shop. 6800 Detroit Ave., 216-651-6800,

Best Taco Tuesday

Johnny Mango

If you haven't heard, Taco Tuesday is a thing. A big thing. Folks make weekly pilgrimages to their favorite bars and restaurants to pack away an ungodly amount of Mexican street food. Why this is done on Tuesday is beyond us, other than the obvious alliteration that is. Well, if you can't beat them, join them, and there is no better place in town to destroy an ungodly amount of tacos than this breezy Ohio City café. From 4 to 10 p.m., seasoned ground beef or bean tacos are just 100 pesos. Another buck or so will buy you a scoop of sour cream and guacamole on the side. Round out your Tuesday fiestas with $4 margaritas and half-priced beer and wine. 3120 Bridge Ave., Cleveland, 216-575-1919, 

Best Up & Coming


brgr 9

Who ever said "a burger is a burger" has obviously never dined at BRGR 9 in the Warehouse District. The owners of Heck's Cafe(legends of burgers) in Ohio City have created a literal burger paradise at BRGR 9. One bite of their locally sourced gourmet burgers, and you will realize why this is a serious up and coming restaurant. The space is comfortable and trendy while also being price approachable. Signature must try burgers like the Eastside topped with pastrami and smoked mozzarella will excite any burger connoisseur. And don't forget the hand-dipped milk shakes, beer battered eggplant fries or the 9 wedge salad. Adult beverage with that burger? BRGR 9 offers a solid selection of craft beer, specialty drinks and martinis. 1382 W 9th St, Warehouse District,216.535.0001,

Best Cupcake /Cupcake Shop

Colossal Cupcakes

Size and taste both matter when it comes to the cupcakes at the popular Colossal Cupcakes. Owner Kelly Kandah’s cupcake palace has taken downtown Cleveland by storm with these “muffin sized” morsels. Creating a roster of over twenty daily selections it might seem like a daunting task to choose. The easiest solution is to try a different flavor each day at lunchtime or throw them all in the blender with some ice cream to make an award-winning cakeshake.

530 Euclid Ave, Downtown Cleveland,216.938.9609,