Best Of 2011

Best of Cleveland 2011: Shops & Wares

No place on earth so easily blends the convenience of modern shopping with the unrivaled charm of our hundreds of small businesses. Trends will come and go, but we will always be Clevelanders serving Cleveland.

Best Health-Food Store

Nature's Bin

No other place in town cares more about vegetarians and healthy eating than Nature's Bin. Whether it's the aisle of bulk foods (from brown rice to strawberry granola) or the freshly prepared dinners (pad Thai, vegetarian Chicken Kiev) or the tasty vegan desserts (from cookies to carrot cake), they're all about keeping you alive with yummy food.

18120 Sloane Ave., Lakewood; 216-521-4600;

Best Place to Spend a Day Shopping

Crocker Park

Crocker Park has an Apple store, a Barnes & Noble, and a Trader Joe's. In other words, all of life's essentials. There are also places to buy clothes (H&M), furniture (Arhaus), and, um, basketballs (Dick's Sporting Goods), plus plenty of restaurants (Aladdin's, Brio) for midday fueling. Best of all, it looks and feels like a self-contained village, with zigzagging streets, a public square, and a big-ass chess board, in case you suddenly crave large-scale competition.

189 Crocker Park Blvd., Westlake; 440-871-6880;

Best Place to Buy Unique Gifts & Best Locally Owned Toy Store

Big Fun

Remember that Planet of the Apes tree-house playset you had when you were a kid and your mom threw out as soon as you left for college? You'll find it at Big Fun. You'll also find tons of Star Wars action figures, ginormous Donkey Kong plushes, and more gag gifts than you can shake a rubber chicken at. This superstuffed store — with locations on both the East and West Sides — is like a pop-culture museum packed with toys from your nerdy past. And everything in this museum is for sale.

1814 Coventry Rd., Cleveland Heights; 216-371-4386 & 11512 Clifton Blvd.; 216-631-4386;

Best Comic Book Shop

North Coast Nostalgia

North Coast sells more than comics. You'll also find trading cards, collectible figures, and Star Wars paraphernalia here. But it's all of those comic books — new releases, back issues, graphic novels — that will unleash your inner (or maybe not-so-inner) geek.

5853 Ridge Rd., Parma; 440-845-7040

5120 Mayfield Rd., Lyndhurst; 440-442-1986

Best Locally Owned Hardware Store

Lakewood Hardware

Today's big boxes were supposed to make life easier, but the formula often backfires with hardware stores. While the home-improvement giants have squeezed the little guy into submission, fortunate are those still served by a mom & pop shop. At Lakewood Hardware, it's not just the amazing array of stuff they cram into a double-wide storefront; it's their many much-needed services that help do-it-yourselfers do it almost by themselves: from screen replacement to pipe cutting to blade sharpening to appliance repairs. As long as century homes break down, Lakewood Hardware will have job security.

16608 Madison Ave., Lakewood; 216-226-8822;

Best Locally Owned Bookstore

Mac's Backs

There are more than paperbacks at this venerable Coventry shop. There are plenty of hardbacks and even some magazines, but Mac's specialty is indie books (memoirs, bios, mind-blowing fiction, revolutionary treatises), and especially those penned by local writers. Best of all, many of those authors make in-store appearances to talk about their work.

1820 Coventry Rd., Cleveland Heights; 216-321-2665;

Best Adult Store


Valentine's Day doesn't have to come just once a year when you stock up on goodies at this locally owned "store for lovers." Pick up a pack of Stiff Ones enhancement pills for him, a bendable vibrator for her, and some strawberry-kiwi lube for both of you. And be sure to check out the line of sex furniture too. You'll never look at a spinning sex swing the same way again.

Various locations;

Best Place to Buy Groceries


Sure, you can pick up a box of Cap'n Crunch at Heinen's. But we love it for all the organic foods, homemade pastries, fresh produce, and onsite prepared meals, including vegetarian-friendly entrées. They also have a great cheese selection, which you can pair with one of the wines you tried at Heinen's frequent tastings.

Various locations;

Best Chocolate Shop


The question isn't What does Malley's dip in chocolate? The question is, What doesn't Malley's dip in chocolate? At its various locations around town, you'll find Fritos, Twinkies, potato chips, grapes, bacon, and strawberries — all smothered in rich, tasty chocolate. You can find lots of assortment boxes and by-the-pound candies here too. Bust a gut!

Various locations;


Best Shopping Mall

Beachwood Place

Whether we're craving furs, funky jeans, or a $500 handbag, this upscale "fashion mall" in Beachwood is the region's top shopping mecca, with more than 140 specialty shops and three big-name anchors (Nordstrom, Sak's, and Dillards) spread across nearly a million square feet of good-looking space. If there's a better way to beat the post-recession blues than blowing a few bucks at Pottery Barn, Sephora, or True Religion, Clevelanders haven't found it!

26300 Cedar Rd., Beachwood; 216-464-9460;

Best Wine Shop

Rozi's Wine House

Family owned and operated Rozi's Wine House has been dishing out great products and friendly service since 1939. Their longevity is no surprise: The beer inventory is mind-blowing, the wine selection is fab, and the almost limitless variety of gift baskets has been helping Clevelanders say "Happy Birthday," "Congratulations," and "I'm sorry I puked in your rose bushes" for more than 70 years.

14900 Detroit Ave., Lakewood;


Best Thrift Store

Unique Thrift

Bargain hunters, greenies, and just plain cheapskates flock to the Ohio City outpost of this 17-store chain for bargains on gently used clothing, furniture, electronics, and accessories. Plus, when it comes time to whip up an ensemble for the neighborhood costume contest, this place can't be beat.

3333 Lorain Ave.; 216-631-0205;

Best Vintage Store

Flower Child

This fun and funky vintage shop is a retro retail museum of 20th-century kitsch, focused on items culled from the 1930s to the 1980s. Whether you're searching for a duplicate of Grandma's china or a set of your childhood Star Wars sheets, odds are you're going to find it here.

11508 Clifton Blvd.; 216-939-9933;

Best Consignment Shop

Chelsea's Consignments

Perfect for potential hoarders and smart shoppers alike, Chelsea's ever-changing inventory of household furnishings and decor lets you unload your excess or stock up on more, as your needs, budgets, and psychological status dictate.

26443 Center Ridge Rd., Westlake; 440-892-1850;

Best Bakery

Corbo's Dolceria

The city's ultimate Italian sweet shop, this family owned bakery produces nearly two dozen varieties of cookies each day, including rich macaroons, chewy pignoli, and killer biscotti. Fresh-baked breads, sweet cassata cakes, and filled-to-order cannoli round out the offerings, leading Clevelanders to declare, "No visit to Little Italy is complete without a trip to Corbo's!"

12210 Mayfield Rd.; 216-421-8181

Best Manicure

Dream Spa at Quintana's Barber Shop

Hands that rock the cradle or hands that hoist a briefcase: Every little pinkie deserves to look its best. And while some might think a barber shop is an odd location for a pampering spa, the truth is that this hidden gem has been winning national recognition for its ladies' and gentlemen's manicures since 2004.

2200 South Taylor Rd., Cleveland Heights; 216-321-7889;

Best Lawn & Garden Store

Gale's Garden Centers

Mother Nature never looks more lovely than when decked out in plants, flowers, and garden accessories from Gale's four locations. The year-round offerings include blooming shrubs, herbs and veggie plants, lawn-care products, birdseed and feeding supplies, and extras like wind chimes, decorative planters, and fountains — everything you need to create your own little Eden on the Cuyahoga.

24373 Center Ridge Rd., Westlake; 440-871-0808

2803 Center Rd., Brunswick; 330-273-6255

5211 Lee Rd., Maple Heights; 216-662-4080

2730 S.O.M. Center Rd., Willoughby Hills; 440-944-6066


Best Eco-Friendly Business & Best Brewery

Great Lakes Brewing Co.

Fueled by recycled kitchen oils, Great Lakes' "Fatty Wagon" shuttle bus may be the company's most visible green initiative. But it's by no means the only one. In fact, owners Pat and Dan Conway recycle nearly everything that comes through their brewery and pub, including spent grains, plastic packaging, and paper products. They also support the nearby Ohio City Farm, utilize locally grown food products, and follow energy-efficient practices for heating and cooling, among other eco-friendly moves. Not that Clevelanders need a reason to drink beer: But if we did, Great Lakes provides a keg full.

2516 Market Ave., 216-771-4404;

Best Place to Furnish Your Place

Arhaus Furniture

Clevelanders like their sofas with a side of sustainability. That's just what they get at Arhaus, a locally based company since 1986, with a reputation based on uniquely designed furniture and accessories that blend style, value, and sustainable practices, including their oft-repeated promise "to never use wood from our endangered rain forests." Nationwide locations include two in the Cleveland area.

Legacy Village, 24613 Cedar Rd., Lyndhurst; 216-382-6053

Crocker Park, 175 Crocker Park Blvd.; 440-617-0373

Best Spa

Mario's International Spa

A jaunt to a European day spa may be out of reach. But a stop at a European-style day spa is as close as a trip to Aurora. After more than two decades, the elegant Mario's has become a relaxation destination for many Greater Clevelanders, offering a deeply soothing menu of massage, aromatherapy, herbal wraps, facials, and hand therapy from a staff of trained professionals. Whether you're longing for a pinot-noir body polish or a caviar pedicure, Mario's is a tasty way to nourish both the body and the spirit.

35 East Garfield Rd., Aurora; 330-562-9171;

Best Farmers Market, Best Bargain in Town & Best Place to Pick Your Own Produce

West Side Market

There are supercenters and farmers markets and co-ops galore, but there's still no better place to fondle fruit than this venerable Ohio city icon. On the verge of its 100th birthday, the West Side Market is unrivaled when it comes to sheer options, from locally grown and organic produce to exotic treats raced from tropical fields to your waiting hands. The food here couldn't be lower priced, and the chance to commune with each merchant couldn't be more priceless.

1979 West 25th St.; 216-664-3387;

Best Hair Salon

Ladies & Gentlemen Salon and Spa

When it comes to points of distinction, this suave salon can proudly claim its dedication to serving the whole family. Fido can't get a tuneup here, but everyone else sure can: Ladies & Gentlemen doesn't just make Mom and Dad look stylin,' but they'll gladly turn your li'l mop top into a posh tot or teen with a complete menu of hair services for kids under 18. That's what we call keeping Cleveland beautiful!

8780 Mentor Ave., Mentor and 25377 Cedar Rd. (Legacy Village), Lyndhurst; 440-255-5572;

Best Bicycle Shop

Spin Bike Shop

When local cyclists and triathletes aren't on the trail, chances are you'll find them in this Lakewood bike shop, where the combo of top-of-the-line products, expert service, and staffers who are as happy to explain the inner workings of your derailleur as they are to help custom-fit your helmet makes for a wheelie fine experience. Besides the basics, Spin also offers maintenance classes, performance coaching, a bike club, and a racing team. For the ultimate fan, the build-your-own-wheelset class is a slice of bike heaven.

14515 Madison Ave., Lakewood; 216-521-7746;

Best Florist

Brennan's Floral Gift Shop

Whether you want to say "I love you" (red tulips), "I'll wait for you" (asters), or "What the hell was I thinking!" (rue), flowers are a subtle way to state your message. Happily, their language is spoken fluently at Brennan's, a locally owned floral gift shop since 1982. Romance, celebrations, sympathy, or get-well wishes: When Clevelanders have something to say, they say it with Brennan's.

13396 Madison Ave., Lakewood; 216-221-8200;

Best Hydro Shop

Indoor Gardens

There are many reasons to consider indoor hydroponic gardening, not all of which have to do with illegal substances. So even if your seeds come from the Burpee catalog, not the bottom of a dime bag, this hydroponic superstore in Akron carries everything you need for maximum yield, from your favorite grow lights to entire systems for indoor gardening.

2076 Romig Rd., Akron; 234-678-5820;

Best Tobacco Supply Shop

Cheap Tobacco

People used to buy cars for what you spend on a carton of cigs these days. That's why Cheap Tobacco doesn't just supply smokers' every puffable need — it single-handedly sustains our American way of life. Looking for a quick carton of Marlboros? You'll fork over more than fifty bucks anywhere. But stop in at Cheap Tobacco and roll 200 tasty cigs of your own — and legally, mind you — for less than half the cost. Having fun yet? Buy your own simple machine and roll on at home in style. Cheap Tobacco's numerous Northeast Ohio locations also stock a full line of topnotch cigars and newfangled e-cigarettes. And with prices like these, you can hardly afford not to smoke.

Numerous Ohio locations, including:

7559 Pearl Rd., Middleburg Heights; 440-816-1374

4695 Great Northern Blvd., North Olmsted; 440-777-4033

5556 Ridge Rd., Parma; 440-842-1228

32327 Cook Rd., North Ridgeville; 440-309-4046

17008 Madison Ave., Lakewood; 216-221-0833


Best Place to Buy Music & Best Place to Buy Vinyl

Music Saves

This cool little record store sits just down the road from the Beachland, thus cementing its reputation as a hipster favorite — which is to say, a bastion of vinyl old and new. The shop is stuffed with indie-rock records, from the latest Mountain Goats CD to the new Jessica Lea Mayfield vinyl. It also hosts in-store performances, the better to get up close and personal with your guitar-strumming heroes.

15801 Waterloo Rd.; 216-481-1875;

Best Tattoo Parlor

Voodoo Monkey

Even when we're not looking for a lifetime discount on grilled cheese sammies or drooling over Michael Symon's porcine tats, Clevelanders thinking "ink" are likely thinking Voodoo Monkey, the hip Ohio City parlor where art, professionalism, and good hygiene intersect. After all, getting tattooed should be like giving birth: The process may be no picnic, but the results should make you happy for a long time to come.

2070 West 25th St.; 216-664-5658;

Best Auto Repair

The Lusty Wrench

How many mechanics do you know who boast a philosophy on their own website. Lusty Wrench patriarch Sam Bell is a veritable Plato of autos: "When I'm trying to figure out what services to recommend to a customer, I ask myself: 'What would I do if it were my Dad's car?' Then that's what I recommend." Now some 32 years into the family business, Bell rings the bell for customer-friendliness — but also for eco-friendliness: The shop is outspoken in its dedication to minimizing the impact of their labor on the environment we all share. Or, as Sam puts it: "We work hard to tread lightly." If only there were more folks like them. Until there are, the line forms at the bright yellow driveway marker out front.

2120 Lee Rd., Cleveland Heights; 216-371-8150;

Best Liquor Store

Minotti's Wine & Spirits

Because sometimes in life you need beer and sometimes you need more, Minotti's earns the top prize when it comes to liquor stores. A West Side institution five stores strong, every Minotti's stocks a dizzying assortment of beer and wine, but is also a state-licensed liquor store. Weekly wine tastings and regular events help make each raised glass a cause for celebration.

19831 Detroit Rd., Rocky River;


20550 Lorain Rd., Fairview Park;


30664 Detroit Rd., Westlake;


27313 Wolf Rd., Bay Village;


7526 Broadview Rd., Parma;


Best Hospital

Cleveland Clinic

Every year since 1995, Cleveland Clinic has been rated No. 1 in the nation for heart care by U.S. News & World Report. But that's not the only area in which the Clinic excels: 14 other adult specialties cracked the top 10 too, and so did its pediatric neurology care. From its more comfortable designer hospital gowns to the harpists' notes ringing through the lobby of the Cole Eye Institute, the Clinic aims to provide a "best in class patient experience." All signs indicate it's doing exactly that.

9500 Euclid Ave.; 216-444-2200;

Best Animal Hospital

West Park Animal Hospital

With enough doctors on staff to cast their own TV drama, West Park Animal Hospital specializes in a level of care most humans could only dream of. A member of the American Animal Hospital Association, West Park is pioneering in its use of an online pet portal to help owners keep tabs on their loved ones' health.

4117 Rocky River Dr.; 216-252-4500;

Best Discount Store


Marc Glassman's bargain empire grew out of a single store in Middleburg Heights back in 1979. It now numbers some 50 locations across Northeast Ohio, with an ever-exanding empire of believers who swear by the deals pouring out of every aisle. The best part of every visit revolves around the closeout gauntlet set up at the entrance of each store — an unpredictable wonderland stocked with everything from hardware to housewares at prices that weren't this low 30 years ago.

Locations throughout Northeast Ohio;

Best Sporting Goods Store


You know how people gripe about the service at big-box stores? It's folks like Geiger's who keep those complaints a-coming. At the flagship store in Lakewood and its two specialty shops, Geiger's has long prided itself on unequaled customer care. Their specialties include skiing and apparel, and their services include tailoring, cycle repair, and racquet stringing.

14710 Detroit Ave., Lakewood;


Geiger's Ski & Sport Haus,

Chagrin Shopping Plaza, Chagrin Falls; 440-247-4900

Geiger's Store for Women,

19126 Old Detroit Rd., Rocky River;


Best Cab Company

Westlake Express

They're called "Westlake" and they're found in Rocky River, but the Express fleet has made the rounds throughout Northeast Ohio for 39 years and counting. You'd be wise to think of them for your next trip to the airport — and even wiser for your next trip to the bar.

19061 Depot St., Rocky River;