The 2019 Year in Review for Cleveland Dining

Dagu Rice Noodle
Dagu Rice Noodle Photo by Tim Harrison

As 2019 winds to a close, it's time for our annual year-end accounting of gains, losses and futures in the local restaurant scene.

In the win column are high-profile spots from notable chefs Doug Katz, Jonathon Sawyer and Michael Schwartz, who have opened Zhug, Sawyer's and Michael's Genuine, respectively. Those last two bring the Van Aken District closer to capacity in terms of food and drink options, having added over the past 12 months Craft Collective, Banter, Brassica, On the Rise, Scorpacciata Pasta, Rising Star Coffee and Chutney B, also by Katz. Still to come is the as-yet-unnamed rooftop bar and eatery that will sit atop Sawyer's restaurant.

After undergoing countless tweaks and mods, Moxie finally was put to rest after an impressive 22-year run in Beachwood. In its place came Blu, a restaurant dedicated to seafood. Next door, where Red Steakhouse long held court, Rosso Italia will debut with a menu flush with upmarket Italian fare. Red, by the way, has reopened in a massive new space at Pinecrest, where it will continue its ritzy meat-fueled revelry.

After 30 years, the Tremont property known as the Literary Cafe, or "Lit" for short, was reworked into a sharp 45-seat neighborhood saloon now called the Literary Tavern. Around the corner, another iconic Tremont spot has been reopened as SalsaRito, a laidback Mexican-Indian fusion joint.

In Ohio City, the aromas of wood-fired cooking will fill a former drill bit plant that has been converted into an industrial-chic bistro and wine bar called Alea. Also in the neighborhood, Ohio City Pizzeria pairs classic Italian food with a good cause now that the reborn eatery benefits the West Side Catholic Center. Nearby in Edgewater, the long-shuttered Palazzo was given fresh life as a finer-dining Italian restaurant. And Clark-Fulton is now home to Phunkenship, the sour beer production facility and taproom from the Platform Beer team.

Lakewood is riding high on sliders thanks to Rood Food, which has elevated that typically modest snack to a creative art form. The dreamy pie selection is worth a visit alone. The former Jammy Buggars spot in Lakewood was on the receiving end of a wholesale renovation project that ushered in Lindey's Lake House, which also has spots in the Flats and Beachwood. Soon to come is the new taco spot Hola Tacos from the folks behind Barroco, the Singapore-inspired eatery Dang Good Foods, and the relocated and expanded Thai Thai.

Detroit Shoreway gained the highly stylized "sports bar" Good Company, the world-class wine bar called Flight, and Blue Habanero, a colorful Mexican eatery that found a home in the former Arcadian space. Further west in Bay Village, snappy Thyme Table is making plenty of friends thanks to contemporary tavern fare and gracious service. And further west still, Hot Chicken Takeover landed in Westlake.

Vegans cheered the debut of Foodhisattva, a new dairy-, fish- and meat-free eatery in Cleveland Heights. Lee Road in that same neighborhood gained Voodoo Brewery, a festive and cozy brewpub, and Kensington Pub, which polished up the decades-old Tavern Company space.

Asia Town continues to add compelling new options to its already bountiful offerings with Dagu Rice Noodle, Pho Lee, Sichuan Hot Pot and Ball Ball Waffle, each of which brings something unique to the table.

We bid a sad farewell to Ontario Street Cafe, one of downtown's best watering holes, and also A.J. Rocco's, a solid runner up. Trentina closed in University Circle, Trio in Tremont, Jack Flaps in Ohio City, Sweet Melissa in Rocky River, Bubba's Q in Avon, and Marta's in Euclid.

In terms of projects on the horizon, we can look forward to Karen Small's as-yet-untitled breakfast joint in Ohio City, Dante Boccuzzi's contemporary Japanese restaurant Goma at Pinecrest, and Leaven, an artisan bakery currently rising in Tremont. Angie's Soul Cafe should open any day now on Carnegie, Boaz will open a No, 2 in University Heights, and Choolaah will open its second Cleveland location in Ohio City. Ohio City will also gain a combination Pins Mechanical and 16-Bit sometime this year, while Cent's Pizzeria opens on the western edge of that neighborhood. Look for Lakewood Food Truck to park sometime in the coming months. To drink, we have Immigrant Son Brewery and Arsenal Cider House around the bend.

About The Author

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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