A Meal for Every Budget

A guide for princesses and paupers

For some foods, it doesn't make sense to pinch pennies. When you order discount steak or sushi, you likely get your money's worth and much less. But for others, there's nothing wrong with seeking out the more reasonable option when money's tight and saving the gold standard for payday. Here are some high — and low — dining options that will accommodate every budget.


High-Roller | Sure, pizza is like sex: Even when it's bad it's good. But on rare occasions pizza is like sex because it's so damn good. That's the case at Fahrenheit (2417 Professor Ave., 216-781-8858, chefroccowhalen.com), where chef Rocco Whalen turns out lobster pizzas — a bargain at $20 — topped with butter-poached lobster tail, melty brie, oven-roasted tomatoes and chives. You'll have to provide your own cigarette.

Low-Baller | Pizzas start at just $9 at Gillespie's Map Room (1281 W. 9th St., 216-621-7747, maproomcleveland.com), but we'd be willing to pay a few bucks more at certain hours of the day (and by day, we mean night). Built atop a great crust, and topped — in the case of the popular Deluxe — with pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions and green peppers, the pies are every bit as good as married sex.


High-Roller | Ginko (2247 Professor Ave., 216-274-1202, restaurantdante.us) sets the standard for sushi in Cleveland, with the highest quality fish and seafood cut by the most skillful hands in the region. Ruby-red tuna, coral colored salmon, head-on sweet shrimp, thinly sliced abalone, creamy sea urchin — all of it is heavenly, and amply priced.

Low-Baller | Yes, we just said discount sushi is for suckers, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy a sushi feast for less than the cost of a car payment. For years, Sushi 86 (509 Prospect Ave., 216-621-8686, sushi86.com) has been keeping downtown Cleveland swimming in delicious, affordable and, yes, fresh sushi. The key to reasonably priced sushi is to limit the menu to pieces and rolls built around as few moving parts as possible.


High-Roller | If you're looking for the best steak money can buy — a properly aged, cut and trimmed USDA Prime New York strip, for example — then you go to a place like Red, the Steakhouse (417 Prospect Ave., 216-664-0941, redthesteakhouse.com), where you will pay $45 for the pleasure. But what pleasure it is.

Low-Baller | For less than half the price of the high-roller option, diners can tuck into a juicy, flavorful and immensely satisfying grilled and sliced hangar steak at Fat Cats (2061 West 10th St., 216-579-0200, coolplacestoeat.com). What's more, the price includes tater tots, grilled beans and that irreplaceable cool Tremont atmosphere.


High-Roller | The Pasta Tasting Menu at Trentina (1902 Ford Dr., 216-421-2900, restauranttrentina.com) will set diners back a cool $60, but what follows is a roller coaster ride of starchy delights. The seven-course menu ushers guests on a mini-vacay through the Trentina Alto-Adige region of Northern Italy. No passport required.

Low-Baller | Diners might require a mini-vacay — at least a long nap ­— after polishing off the immense and immensely satisfying lasagna at Bruno's Ristorante (2644 West 41st St., 216-961-7087, brunosristorante.net), a neighborhood gem for nearly 20 years. This fat stack of multi-layered goodness weighs in at a good two pounds and costs just $16.


High-Roller | What with all the Taco Tuesday hoopla, it might sound insane to drop $15 on tacos. But when those tacos are the intensely flavored al pastor variety at El Carnicero (16918 Detroit Ave., 216-226-3415, elcarnicerolakewood.com), exceptions are made. Slow cooked, aggressively seasoned and paired with warm corn tortillas, these tacos are appropriate every day of the week.

Low-Baller | Show up at Parkview Nite Club (1261 West 58th St., 216-961-1341, parkviewniteclub.com) on a Tuesday and your money will go farther than a dollar-bill paper airplane. Two soft or crispy flour tortillas come filled with your choice of black beans, ground beef, grilled tuna or the house favorite smoked and shredded pork — all for south of $3.

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Douglas Trattner

For 20 years, Douglas Trattner has worked as a full-time freelance writer, editor and author. His work on Michael Symon's "Carnivore," "5 in 5" and “Fix it With Food” have earned him three New York Times Best-Selling Author honors, while his longstanding role as Scene dining editor garnered the award of “Best...
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