Originally a transportation hub between the suburbs and downtown, Shaker Square was built by the Van Sweringen brothers in the 1920s and was named a historical landmark in 1980. With some of the best restaurants in town, a movie theater and a farmers market, Shaker Square serves as the — very scenic — town center between the border of Shaker Heights and Cleveland. Just a stone's throw away, Larchmere is known for its quirky charm and offbeat personality, exemplified by its eclectic shopping scene that includes 40 shops and art galleries, all independent and locally owned, and its robust, diverse roster of restaurants.
Doug and Karen Katz's Fire has been a staple of Shaker Square since it opened in 2001, one of the first restaurants that arrived after the square's renovation. A cool vibe and a sizzling menu of attentively prepared American fare have turned this bistro into one of the city's top restaurants. "Classical simplicity" is the watchword here, and when those classical techniques are applied to first-rate ingredients, the results are often nothing less than astonishing. In addition to serving up dinner, the restaurant is also known for one of the best weekend brunches in town (the homemade sticky buns are a must). They also have an extensive wine list and homemade pickles by Katz's father.
How can a bookstore that shares its space with a shop that sells antique Persian rugs not be a place you'd want to spend hours browsing around? Loganberry Books is the sort of warm, inviting new and secondhand bookshop now found only in college towns or the arty sections of a handful of major cities. There are some real gems to be found in its tall, closely packed stacks and rooms that seem to go on forever, including used and antique hardcover children's books, an eclectic selection of fiction, and long-out-of-print volumes of poetry by the likes of Edna St. Vincent Millay, Kenneth Koch, and Anne Sexton.
Drive or walk just minutes away from the shops and restaurants of Shaker Square and you'll be around the picturesque Shaker Lakes area, which features some of the most historic homes in the country. North Park and South Park boulevards are where you'll see some truly beautiful and astounding houses, some built as early as the middle of the 19th century. Stop at the Shaker Lakes for a hike and some much needed tranquility.
In 2013, Brandon Chrostowski opened Edwins Leadership Institute and Restaurant at Shaker Square. Not only is the French bistro one of the finest restaurants in town, it's also a nonprofit organization that hires and trains convicted felons to work the restaurant. Chrostowski started Edwins with the belief that, "every human being regardless of their past has the right to a fair and equal future". Everything on the menu is superb, but we're big fans of the burger that's prepared tableside, as well as the duck, all delivered with top-notch service.
Larchmere's Academy Tavern is one of the oldest drinking establishments, not just on the east side, but in all of Northeast Ohio. Like a well-worn couch, this vintage corner tavern may show its age, but its comfort is undeniable. For proof, just look at the diverse clientele. The tavern started serving cocktails just after Prohibition, in 1939, and has been a staple of the neighborhood since. The art-deco style and wooden bar makes this the perfect atmosphere to enjoy a beer from their superb draft list. Whether you want a quiet place to watch the Cavaliers' game or want to see some local live music on Wednesday nights, this is the spot.
The Larchmere neighborhood is widely known for its extensive offerings of antique and art shops. American Crafts is known for their collection of contemporary ceramics, wood and glass made by American artists from around the country. John L. Young Inc. specializes in antiques and jewelry from Asia. Elegant Extras features antiques for entertaining, like porcelain, crystal, and fine silver, and also has a wide selection of costume jewelry. Bingham's Antiques has an eclectic mix of unique decorative arts from the middle of the 20th century. Marc Goodman's Antique Mall contains six separate dealers of fine furniture, artwork, glass, pottery, china, jewelry and more.
The cozy Felice Urban Cafe is tucked inside a restored Craftsman-style home. Awaiting diners is unfussy and affordable Mediterranean fare, much of it with a decidedly Spanish flair. There's grilled octopus, a braised pork belly sandwich, a chimichurri Berkshire pork chop and garlicky seafood stew, which all can be enjoyed on their beautiful outdoor patio and carriage house in the summer. Margaret Mueller founded Felice in 2008, and recently sold the restaurant to her grandson Jack, and his husband Paul Neundorfer, who have updated the menu to include more vegan and vegetarian options.
One of the only Brazilian restaurants in town, Batuqui fits perfectly into the dining scene of Larchmere. Set in a 120-year old Victorian, it feels more like you're sitting in a home than a restaurant. Get your meal started with a traditional sweet, sugary Brazilian cocktail like a caipirinha or a Copa Kiss before diving in to some of the delectable small plates on the menu, like torresmo com mandioca, a bar snack of fried pork belly and yucca. For an entree, we recommend the feijoada. A Brazilian party dish, this stew is a mixture of black beans, locally sourced bacon, ham, beef, smoked porkloin, smoked kielbasa, and imported linguiça and is served with Brazilian rice, farofa, sauteed collard greens and tomato relish.
When Phil the Fire closed in 2004, it left a void in the soul food department at Shaker Square. But in 2014, Zanzibar brought back that soul with a menu of upscale soul-fusion cuisine. Owner Akin Affrica, whose family runs Angie's Soul Cafe, has not only spiffed up the notion of a soul food restaurant, he has spiffed up the notion of soul food. Expect shrimp and grits, catfish Po' Boys, and chicken and waffles, all served up in a tasteful setting. Some of the recipes date all the way back to 1985, when they were used at Angie's Soul Food in the now-defunct Carnegie Hotel.
The North Union Farmers Market operates farmers markets all over town; Shaker Square's market was the first, in 1991. Every Saturday, starting on the first Saturday in April and going all the way to the end of December, this market features something for every shopper, whether you're looking for fresh produce, baked goods, art and jewelry or a hot lunch. They even have Geoff Baldwin, a sheep shearer, who shares stories with passersby while shearing his sheep. They also have the Chef at the Market program, featuring local chefs teaching market-goers how to cook the latest seasonal recipes. The Spring Flower Market is also a must if you're looking to add some plants to your garden.
If you've never had an arepa before, you need to head to Barrocco ASAP. Arepas, which hail from Colombia and Venezuela, are grilled white tortillas stuffed with a variety of ingredients. The La Gringa, stuffed with braised beef, feta cheese, avocado, chimichurri, greens and mozzarella, and the Buffalo Chicken are two of our absolute favorites. Barrocco also has fantastic live Latin music three nights a week.
Sasa, a sushi and tapas restaurant, introduced the concept of izayaka to Cleveland. Izayaka is a cross between a sit-down dinner and a night at the pub, and this spot is the perfect place to share sushi and small plates like their award-winning tempura fries and their Kobe beef meatballs. The Sasa Fire Roll is filled with lobster, crawfish, masago salad and Chinese broccoli, topped with shrimp, spicy mayo and unagi sauce, and then brought to the table and set on fire, making for one of the more fun dishes in town.
The historic Popcorn Shop of Chagrin Falls opened all the way back in 1949; they finally opened their second location, Dewey's Popcorn, at Shaker Square in 2004. This old-timey shop features Euclid Beach custard from the gone-but-still-beloved Euclid Beach amusement park, along with local ice cream, old fashioned candy, and of course locally crafted popcorn and popcorn balls.