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December 12, 2014 Slideshows » News, Blogs

Go South of the Border with these 13 Cleveland Restaurants 

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Photo via Barrio, Facebook
This Tremont taqueria puts the power of the pen in the diner's hand. Guests design their own tacos from a list of some 30 components – from shell to filling to salsa to toppings. The best part: They are all just $3 each. This blissfully informal approach is a great fit for the unpretentious food. In addition to the tacos, the menu features a few starters and sides, not to mention a landslide of tequilas and margaritas. The delightful patio makes a perfect perch to enjoy them.

806 Literary Rd., 216-999-7714. $

Photo via Luchita's, Facebook
From the outside, Luchita's looks like nothing more than a corner bar in a working-class neighborhood. But inside, some of the city's best Mexican cooking is taking shape. It is in the authentic Mexican specialties that the kitchen really shines. Dishes are delicious, well prepared, and unlike any fast-food fare.

3456 W. 117th St., 216-252-1169. $$-$$$

Photo via Johnny Mango, Facebook
You've got to love a place that makes Ohio City feel like a beach shack in Cozumel, and Johnny Mango – a "world café" and juice bar – does just that, with a blend of Asian, Mexican, and Caribbean flavors, and items that range from burritos to pad Thai to Jamaican jerk chicken. Service is speedy, portions are hearty, and there are plenty of choices for vegetarians. Full bar and small patio.

3120 Bridge Ave., 216-575-1919. $$-$$$

Photo via Instagram, Aditi Giasotta
Consider this locally grown shop, run by an Ohio City-based brother-sister team, your alternative to that Denver-based chain, offering friendly staff, fast service, and fat burritos stuffed with a variety of freshly prepped fillings. Soft tacos and salads add variety. Take out, or dine in at one of the brightly painted tables.

1844 West 25th St., 216-644-0908. $

Photo via Brasa Grill, Facebook
If anyone is worried about the state of the economy, you would never know it by the festive crowd mixing it up inside Ohio's first Brazilian churrascaria. The house specialty is an endless parade of fresh-off-the-grill meats, carved tableside by a crew of peripatetic "gauchos." A meticulously maintained buffet offers salads and more, while elegant, a la carte desserts are worth saving room for.

1300 W. 9th St. 216-575-0699. $$$

Photo via Instagram, Jessica Birchfield
For years, chef Roberto Rodriguez has run a popular Mexican foods stand at the West Side Market. Now he has expanded into a restaurant in a slim Ohio City storefront. The 25-seat eatery serves contemporary Mexican cuisine like chicken mole tamales, jalapeno-dough empanadas, fish tacos, and chipotle honey glazed pork chops. A display cooler stocks many of the prepared foods sold at the market. BYOB is OK. $$
Photo via Yelp, Bethany K.
Friendly, informal and authentic, this tidy tacqueria serves bountiful portions of flavorful Mexican fare. Beyond the big burritos and saucy enchiladas, liquid options extend from creamy horchata to a fine assortment of top-shelf tequilas; now that's what we call family-friendly!

12207 Lorain Ave., 216-671-6661. $$

Photo via Yelp, Amy S.
This small Colombian restaurant specializes in street food – primarily homemade arepas: puffy corn tortillas, made fresh and filled with grilled steak, pork, chicken, or other savory fillings. Those same arepas also are cut into fingers, deep fried, and served with cheese fondue for dipping. Can you say "best drunk food ever"?

12906 Madison Ave., Lakewood, 216-221-8127. $-$$

Photo via Lopez, Facebook
Colorful, quirky, yet sophisticated, Lopez's urbane charms present the perfect backdrop to its creative menu of "gourmet Tex-Mex" fare, ranging from lobster empanadas to mahi-mahi tacos and blue-cheese-piqued guacamole. There's also a solid selection of homemade desserts and an impressive array of top-shelf anejo tequilas.

2196 Lee Rd., Cleveland Hts., 216-932-9000. $$$

Photo via Yelp, Yuan C.
This quick-casual joint specializes in those little Central American treats called pupusas. Filled with various toppings, the thick tortillas are griddle fried till crisp and corny. Also on tap here are great tacos and tamales: fresh, cheap, and utterly delicious.

3685 W. 105th St., 216-688-0338. $$

Photo via Taco Tontos, Facebook
Taco Tontos may have been imported from Kent, but Lakewood residents have adopted it as one of their own. And what's not to love? Here folks settle in for fresh-made tacos, burritos, tostadas and taco salads, paired with kicking margaritas and a hip, chill vibe. Come for fish taco Fridays and stay for dessert!

13321 Madison Ave. Lakewood, 216-221-4479. $-$$

Photo via Instagram, fennaramatron
This Collinwood eatery has managed to fly under the radar for far too long. But that will likely change as more new diners begin discovering the revitalized Waterloo neighborhood. Located just down the road from the Beachland Ballroom, this easy-going Caribbean themed café and bar dishes up non-fussy foods crafted by the Trinidad and Tobago native chef. Tuck into zesty jerk or curry chicken, chicken and vegetable rotis, crispy tofu burritos, soft tacos stuffed with fish and, of course, plenty of rice with peas. Live music, friendly folks and an artsy urban vibe combine to create a great neighborhood space.

15601 Waterloo Rd. 216-926-4673. $-$$

Photo via Yelp
Chef, artist and musician Antonio Carafelli turns humble Tex-Mex and Latino standards into flavorful masterpieces in this little Lakewood storefront.

14224 Madison Ave., Lakewood, 216-226-9999. $$

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Photo via Barrio, Facebook
This Tremont taqueria puts the power of the pen in the diner's hand. Guests design their own tacos from a list of some 30 components – from shell to filling to salsa to toppings. The best part: They are all just $3 each. This blissfully informal approach is a great fit for the unpretentious food. In addition to the tacos, the menu features a few starters and sides, not to mention a landslide of tequilas and margaritas. The delightful patio makes a perfect perch to enjoy them.

806 Literary Rd., 216-999-7714. $

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