The Spotted Owl is in a lower-level space inside the former Union Gospel Press building (now the Tremont Place Lofts), and anybody who hasn't been there needs to stop by ASAP. Although it just opened last fall, the sophisticated interior dates back to the 1850s, and the dark ambiance, weathered bar and large wooden tables give the place a relaxing vibe with a sense of history. Plus, drinks are crafted by the drink master himself, Will Hollingsworth. It was named one of the best new bars in America by Details magazine before it even opened, which is saying something.
710 Jefferson Ave., 216-795-5595, spottedowlbar.com.
The Music Settlement recently took over booking gigs at this fine listening room, and the group has upped the ante. Constructed to feature extraordinary acoustics, this is a great place to hear jazz, even if other jazz venues in town have their selling points. Local and national jazz and classical acts regularly play the club on weekends.
2920 Detroit Ave., 216-771-6551<, themusicsettlement.org.
Nestled on a bend of the Cuyahoga River, this might be the Metropark's best-kept secret. The place is built on the old Lock 44 ("Sloop Lock") that once was located beneath the Merwin Street Bridge between West and James streets. As a result, it offers great views of both the river and the city skyline, and the enormous deck stretches out to the banks of the river. The place regularly has a great selection of craft beers on tap — including several local brews — and when a keg nears its end, it's placed on the "mystery beer" list so you can order it at a great discount, making the brew and view thing all the more appealing.
785 Merwin Ave., 216-664-5696, clevelandmetroparks.com
Do you ever find yourself in East Cleveland for the day and in need of a simple beer? Most people do, in fact. And Columbo Room on Noble Road is the place to go to gratify such a desire. It's a long-running institution in the inner-ring suburb, complete with laid-back vibe and the friendly sort of employees that make bars like this the true gems they are. Order a corned beef sandwich to pair with that bottle of Bud, and lean back into a satisfying respite from the inner-ring bustle just outside those doors. There are diamonds tucked into the rough of Northeast Ohio's urban density, well off any map you'll find at the local tourist bureau, and those are often the best places to while away the day before the boss starts calling you.
1988 Noble Rd., East Cleveland 216-761-3569.
Even though this 1,200-capacity club is part of a national chain, that's no reason to steer clear — the place is a strong anchor for the Cleveland music scene and often hosts shows that independent promoters such as the Beachland Ballroom and the Grog Shop have booked. The intimate space has great sightlines — even the seats in the balcony give you a good view of the stage — and whether you want to get in with the crowd in front of the stage or relax in a seat far away from the pit, the House of Blues caters to every brand of concertgoer. The club regularly brings in an eclectic mix of hip-hop, classic rock, metal, EDM and indie rock, and it remains one of the best places to catch national acts.
308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583, houseofblues.com.
Located on the second floor of the 9, the ritzy downtown hotel that opened last year, the Ledger Bar offers a nice view of the hotel's lobby area. Normally, that wouldn't be terribly remarkable, but the 9 is the place where local celebrities come to hang out. In addition to offering the usual assortment of artisan cocktails and craft beers, the Ledger Bar occasionally hosts live music too. And you can order food from a small-bites menu as well.
2017 East Ninth St., 216-239-1200, metropolitancleveland.com.
We can't think of too many reasons why we'd want to venture into Middleburg Heights on any given night, but we really only need one: the Fat Heads Brewery and Tap House. Tucked into what seems outwardly like a forsaken patch of industrial warehouses, the Tap House is a wondrous thing. Featuring all the best Fat Heads beers on tap, a sampling of the restaurant's expansive menu (get the wings), and a brewery open to tourists, the Tap House takes care of all your craft brew-related needs in one stop. It's close enough to some of the region's big draws — the airport, the I-X Center — that anyone can reasonably add a side-trip to their itinerary.
18741 Sheldon Rd., Middleburg Heights, 216-898-0242, fatheadsbeer.com.
The art of hanging out at a blues club is a fine one indeed and one practiced most effectively at Brothers Lounge on Cleveland's westside. Brothers features music all week long, though the club's Wednesday night gigs (Brent Kirby's 10x3 event) and Thursday night gigs (the Bad Boys of Blues' jam night) are not to be missed. Tip your bartenders well.
11609 Detroit Ave., 216-226-2767, brotherslounge.com.
Much like the Fat Head's tasting room in Middleburg Heights, the Hoppin' Frog Tasting Room in Akron is in a non-descript strip of storage facilities and warehouses. But step inside and you'll find a cozy tasting room where you can find a huge array of the brewery's wonderful libations. The place features "hoppy hour" every weekday from 3 to 7 p.m. The brewers occasionally visit the tasting room and you can often sample "test batches" of suds the guys are developing in the "lab." While they don't fill growlers, you can drink bottles on site or take 'em to go. The place also offers a "Hoppin' Frog Rare & Vintage" list as well as a guest bottle list. And you can order from a limited food menu too.
1680 East Waterloo Rd., Akron, 234-525-3764, hoppinfrog.com/tasting-room.
Music comes first, and that's one of the great life rules. Thing is, most bars don't buy into that. Thankfully, newcomer Jukebox does. The Hingetown tavern is the perfect place to knock back a few while reveling in the city's rock 'n' roll traditions. This place is a throwback to everything we love about bars -- and authentic North Shore bars, in particular.
1404 West 29th St., 216-206-7699, jukeboxcle.com.