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Cleveland Heights 

click to enlarge Flavors of Ethiopia at Zoma

Photo by Barney Taxel

Flavors of Ethiopia at Zoma

If Cleveland is your Paris, Cleveland Heights could be your Montmartre. Once an outpost of '70s counter culture, today's Heights is a somewhat more polished place where young professionals, students and hipsters mingle in cafes, dive bars and theaters. The Heights has evolved over the centuries; what began as log cabin wilderness is now one of the Top 10 largest cities in the Greater Cleveland area. It's also one of the greenest, with more than 130 acres of parks. The Heights also has numerous claims to fame, from oil magnate John D. Rockefeller to Academy Award-nominated actress Debra Winger.

Must See

Most moviegoers tend to suffer in silence while some bro snort-laughs at the gazillionth explosion in the latest multiplex dreck. Clevelanders, though, take refuge at the Cedar Lee. With a history that goes back to the days of silent film, the Cedar Lee specializes in artsy films but does not shun the worthy mainstream stuff. The theater began as a single-screen room that could seat 1,100 people. By the time it hosted the first Cleveland International Film Festival in the late '70s, the Cedar Lee had expanded to six screens. Each Monday, patrons can get a ticket for just $5 (except for the occasional 3-D showing) and purchase discounted concession items. On Mondays through Thursdays, the Cedar Lee offers discounted beer, wine and cocktail specials.

Must Eat, See and Drink

True to its name, Nighttown's eclectic vieux temps decor is imbued with a smoky atmosphere that makes it one of Cleveland's most evocative jazz venues. Nighttown's home is a historic 1920s building full of memorabilia and accents from various decades. Former owner John Barr bought three adjoining storefronts later on to create the composite that is today's popular restaurant and jazz club under the current ownership of Brendan Ring. Legends who have held the Nighttown stage include Benny Golson, TV host Dick Cavett, Esperanza Spalding, Maynard Ferguson, McCoy Tyner and Stevie Wonder. Executive chef Nathan Sansone is credited with keeping Nighttown's culinary offerings up to date with his farm-to-table philosophy and streamlined kitchen.

Must Eat

Previously a stand-alone butcher shop, Mister Brisket now offers the full sit-down deli experience in its recently opened 1,000-square-foot dining area that seats about 25 guests. The shop was founded in 1974 by Mister Brisket himself, Sanford Herskovitz. Mister Brisket is famous for its corned beef, pastrami, steak, poultry, seafood and, yes, even pork. (Herskovitz reportedly doesn't keep kosher.) Stepson Hank Kornblut has taken over the business, which goes back to Herskovitz's father.

Must See

As one of the region's preeminent full-time professional theaters, Dobama Theatre produces six mainstage plays each year. Productions tend to focus on pressing social issues. After a few years of instability, Dobama has found a permanent home on Lee Road. Dobama specializes in Cleveland or American premieres of new plays. This spring, Dobama will produce the regional premiere of the Obie-winning play, "Appropriate," by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins.

Do

There are dive bars, and then there's B Side Liquor Lounge and Arcade. The name itself hints at the bar's alternative, indie atmosphere and clientele. Sitting just beneath the Grog Shop, one can pre-game or cap off an evening of music in glorious hipster fashion. Take in a B movie (usually Sharknado) on one of the TVs at the bar, challenge a group of friends to a pinball match, catch some impromptu karaoke, or hang out on the back patio on a balmy Cleveland summer eve. Oh, and don't miss Mug Night: $2 PBR mugs every Wednesday.

Do

Th city-owned Cain Park, just eight miles east of Cleveland, boasts an outdoor amphitheater, dining options and an art gallery in addition to the usual amenities such as picnic areas and lighted tennis courts. The annual Arts Festival gives visitors a chance to purchase artwork from local, award-winning artists. This season's performance highlights include Memphis: The Musical and a concert by the Monkees.

Do

Eddy's on Coventry Salon & Barbershop is legenday. The Eddy in the name is founder Eddy Maddox. Eddy's has two locations in historic Coventry Village: a barnyard-chic salon and, just a few doors down, a barbershop managed by master barber Chuck Falk. Maddox, an Army veteran and boating enthusiast, opened his first salon just up the street and has more than 25 years of styling experience. Men's haircuts start at $25, while women's start at $50. The salon also offers coloring services and eyebrow/lip waxing.

Do

This grungy, intimate music venue is one of the remaining bastions of Coventry's counter culture history. Grog Shop has hosted such acts as Elliot Smith, Sleater Kinney, Fu Manchu, Wiz Khalifa, W. Kamau Bell, and many others. On Euclid Heights Boulevard since 2003, Grog Shop has a large standing area and full bar with imported and domestic beers as well as local microbrews. Grog Shop holds its popular Silent Disco on the last Saturday of every month. Upcoming performances include Drake Bell, Floco Torres and an album release by Punch Drunk Tagalongs.

See

The nonprofit Heights Arts gallery displays works by local and regional artists and hosts regular community arts workshops. Its galleries on Lee Road host five group exhibitions and six solo exhibitions each year. Heights Arts also presents chamber music and community concerts at intimate venues around town. In the spring, Heights Arts will present an all-J.S. Bach concert featuring members of the Cleveland Orchestra, and a performance by Burning River Baroque. Works by ceramist Sharon Grossman and a host of materials-minded artists are on display through mid-March.

Eat

James Beard-nominee, chef Doug Katz, is credited with raising the profile of farm-fresh cuisine in Cleveland. The Katz Club Diner itself embodies sustainability, settled inside a repurposed metal dining car with that classic mid-century, quasi-surgical sheen. The metal car was originally found in Berwyck, Pennsylvania, and came to Cleveland Heights in 1997. It was then attached to another diner car from Atlantic City, New Jersey. Following a 2014 arson that caused $900,000 of damage, the diner car now exists as a pop-up restaurant and catering business.

Eat

An anchor of the historic Cedar-Fairmount district, Luna Bakery and Cafe is owned by pastry chef Bridget Thibeault. Luna adjoins an office building, and equally accommodates on-the-go professionals and hearty brunchers in search of fresh pastries, crepes and sandwiches. A few doors down, Luna's Cake Shop offers appointment-only confections for weddings and other occasions. Catering is also available.

Drink

La Cave du Vin, a cellar-inspired wine bar, is about as intimate as it gets. After walking in off the street and experiencing a variety of unpredictable odors on the way down the stairs, patrons enter an earthy yet cozy space where candles and luminescent baubles cast long shadows on the stone walls. Guests can pick out their own spirits from a well-appointed display at the far end of the main seating area, or order from a constantly changing selection of fine wines at the bar. La Cave offers $5 wine-by-the-glass specials daily. It's a dimly lit and romantic spot for a date, unless you find yourself with the two-faced girlfriend from Seinfeld.

Do

Quintana's Barber & Dream Spa is something different depending on who you ask. To many, it's one of the best barbershops in Cleveland. To others, it's a stunning blast-from-the-past speakeasy on the second floor of one of the best barbershops in Cleveland. The latter is right out of the movies: go up a narrow staircase, flip open a book on a shelf, push a small button, and step through a bookcase into the Prohibition era. Chilean immigrant Alex Quintana opened the barbershop with his wife Dawn in 2003, adding the speakeasy only a few years ago. It's the first barbershop in Ohio to carry its own liquor license. Bartender Adam Acuff has expanded the speakeasy's offerings from basic bourbon pours to a full bar.

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