December 14, 2022

The Best Things We Ate in Cleveland in 2022

Dining out made a full-throated return to Cleveland in 2022, with exciting new openings all over town. It was a satisfying year to write about food, filled with memorable experiences and dishes that made a lasting impression. These are a few of our favorites.

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Paneer at Amba
1430 West 28th St., Cleveland
Diners are ripped from their comfort zones the moment they cross the threshold of Amba in Ohio City. From the shadowy, lounge-like interior to the menu of Indian-inspired foods, this edgy eatery encourages culinary exploration. While one could toss a dart at the menu and come up roses, the paneer stands out for its beauty and depth of flavor. Arranged like jewels on fine ceramic, honey-colored cubes of cheese are dotted with mustard seeds and arranged in creamy dal.
Tiffany Joy Photography

Paneer at Amba

1430 West 28th St., Cleveland

Diners are ripped from their comfort zones the moment they cross the threshold of Amba in Ohio City. From the shadowy, lounge-like interior to the menu of Indian-inspired foods, this edgy eatery encourages culinary exploration. While one could toss a dart at the menu and come up roses, the paneer stands out for its beauty and depth of flavor. Arranged like jewels on fine ceramic, honey-colored cubes of cheese are dotted with mustard seeds and arranged in creamy dal.
 Any Slice at City Slice Pizzeria
12021 Lorain Ave., Cleveland
City Slice Pizzeria is the closest thing Cleveland has to an authentic New York slice shop. This bustling westside storefront offers a ready selection of gigantic 40-inch pies. Massive slices are reheated to order in the brick oven until they’re blistering hot and crisp. The thin, chewy crust is soft enough to fold, which prevents flopping, but sturdy enough to support the toppings. A thin but even layer of salty low-moisture mozzarella barely covers the mildly seasoned red sauce.
Douglas Trattner

Any Slice at City Slice Pizzeria

12021 Lorain Ave., Cleveland

City Slice Pizzeria is the closest thing Cleveland has to an authentic New York slice shop. This bustling westside storefront offers a ready selection of gigantic 40-inch pies. Massive slices are reheated to order in the brick oven until they’re blistering hot and crisp. The thin, chewy crust is soft enough to fold, which prevents flopping, but sturdy enough to support the toppings. A thin but even layer of salty low-moisture mozzarella barely covers the mildly seasoned red sauce.
Damas Eatery
3650 West 117th St., Cleveland
Yaseen Allaham fled war-torn Syria, made his way through Jordan, and settled in Northeast Ohio, where he and his family opened Damas Eatery. Thanks to this quiet westside restaurant, the local Syrian community has a place to go for comforting, traditional and often celebratory dishes that taste of home. In the soul-satisfying goat mandi, mellow, sweet and tender bone-in meat is arranged on a bed of fluffy, seasoned rice. Be sure to ask for a side of the spicy pepper puree.
Douglas Trattner

Damas Eatery

3650 West 117th St., Cleveland

Yaseen Allaham fled war-torn Syria, made his way through Jordan, and settled in Northeast Ohio, where he and his family opened Damas Eatery. Thanks to this quiet westside restaurant, the local Syrian community has a place to go for comforting, traditional and often celebratory dishes that taste of home. In the soul-satisfying goat mandi, mellow, sweet and tender bone-in meat is arranged on a bed of fluffy, seasoned rice. Be sure to ask for a side of the spicy pepper puree.
 Jerk Chicken at Gar and Mar
10 Seminary St., Berea
When the Campus Grille in Berea closed, Garry and Nadette Lawson swooped in to open a place of their own. Born and raised in Jamaica, “Gar” and “Mar” set about making the foods of their native home, going so far as to build a traditional Jamaican-style drumpan behind the restaurant on which to cook foods. Emanating from that grill is exceptional jerk chicken.  Marinated, spice-rubbed and grilled to a chestnut brown, the meat is firm, slightly smokey from the flames and intensely flavored.
Douglas Trattner

Jerk Chicken at Gar and Mar

10 Seminary St., Berea

When the Campus Grille in Berea closed, Garry and Nadette Lawson swooped in to open a place of their own. Born and raised in Jamaica, “Gar” and “Mar” set about making the foods of their native home, going so far as to build a traditional Jamaican-style drumpan behind the restaurant on which to cook foods. Emanating from that grill is exceptional jerk chicken. Marinated, spice-rubbed and grilled to a chestnut brown, the meat is firm, slightly smokey from the flames and intensely flavored.
Burger Box at Cordelia
2058 East 4th St., Cleveland
Lola was a tough act to follow, but the crew at Cordelia on East 4th has more than risen to the occasion. In the kitchen, chef Vinnie Cimino reminds diners that eating out can still be daring and delicious with items like fish toast, popcorn chicken livers and whole fried chicken. The Burger Box, Cordelia’s take on the smash burger, is a four-slider pull-apart affair that features the customary beef, pickles and special sauce, but it’s the epic griddle-melted cheese skirt that tips the scales.
Courtesy Cordelia

Burger Box at Cordelia

2058 East 4th St., Cleveland

Lola was a tough act to follow, but the crew at Cordelia on East 4th has more than risen to the occasion. In the kitchen, chef Vinnie Cimino reminds diners that eating out can still be daring and delicious with items like fish toast, popcorn chicken livers and whole fried chicken. The Burger Box, Cordelia’s take on the smash burger, is a four-slider pull-apart affair that features the customary beef, pickles and special sauce, but it’s the epic griddle-melted cheese skirt that tips the scales.
 Prime Strip Steak at JoJo’s Bar
87 West St., Chagrin Falls
After Gamekeeper's Tavern gave way to Bull and Bird, and Bull and Bird transitioned to Jojo’s Bar, Chagrin Falls finally landed the restaurant it deserves. Rick Doody treats guests to an impeccably remodeled interior, attentive but unhurried service, and food that exceeds expectations. The setting makes everything taste better, including the prime strip. This well-marbled beauty arrives charred on the outside, mid-rare within, and paired with crispy onion straws. Tack on orders of creamy horseradish or bearnaise.
Photo by Nicole Steffen

Prime Strip Steak at JoJo’s Bar

87 West St., Chagrin Falls

After Gamekeeper's Tavern gave way to Bull and Bird, and Bull and Bird transitioned to Jojo’s Bar, Chagrin Falls finally landed the restaurant it deserves. Rick Doody treats guests to an impeccably remodeled interior, attentive but unhurried service, and food that exceeds expectations. The setting makes everything taste better, including the prime strip. This well-marbled beauty arrives charred on the outside, mid-rare within, and paired with crispy onion straws. Tack on orders of creamy horseradish or bearnaise.
Chicken and Waffles at Juneberry
3900 Lorain Ave., Cleveland
Juneberry Table is a showcase for chef Karen Small’s unfussy style of cooking. In this sun-splashed Ohio City diner, breakfast and lunch plates star humble Appalachian ingredients like buckwheat, sorghum, cornmeal, fruit preserves, fermented veggies and cured meats. In the exemplary chicken and waffles, local chicken is pickle-brined, dredged in panko and fried to the perfect chestnut brown before joining the Ohio cornmeal waffles. To dress it up, there’s Ohio maple syrup and earthy-sweet sorghum butter.
Karin McKenna

Chicken and Waffles at Juneberry

3900 Lorain Ave., Cleveland

Juneberry Table is a showcase for chef Karen Small’s unfussy style of cooking. In this sun-splashed Ohio City diner, breakfast and lunch plates star humble Appalachian ingredients like buckwheat, sorghum, cornmeal, fruit preserves, fermented veggies and cured meats. In the exemplary chicken and waffles, local chicken is pickle-brined, dredged in panko and fried to the perfect chestnut brown before joining the Ohio cornmeal waffles. To dress it up, there’s Ohio maple syrup and earthy-sweet sorghum butter.
 Everything Bagel at Nubeigel
2254 Lee Rd., Cleveland Heights
There is always room for another great bagel, as evidenced by the lines at this new Cleveland Heights bakery. Israeli emigrant Josh Admon keeps things blissfully straightforward, offering plain, sesame, poppy, everything and spicy everything bagels that are hand-rolled, boiled and baked. Bagels can be purchased individually, by the dozen, or as cream cheese schmears with various flavors and add-ons.
Douglas Trattner

Everything Bagel at Nubeigel

2254 Lee Rd., Cleveland Heights

There is always room for another great bagel, as evidenced by the lines at this new Cleveland Heights bakery. Israeli emigrant Josh Admon keeps things blissfully straightforward, offering plain, sesame, poppy, everything and spicy everything bagels that are hand-rolled, boiled and baked. Bagels can be purchased individually, by the dozen, or as cream cheese schmears with various flavors and add-ons.
 Big Breakfast at The Spot on Lakeshore
7272 Lakeshore Blvd., Mentor 
The Spot in Mentor is a gastro-diner that melds the come-as-you-are comforts of a neighborhood hash house with a gently elevated menu grounded by local ingredients and chef-driven technique. Reservations make it a breeze to slide in for weekend brunch, where a full bar and occasional live music await. The Big Breakfast is a meat- and carb-lover’s feast, combining three eggs, a choice of biscuit, waffle or short stack, crispy hash browns and a choice of meats that includes local Serbian cevapi.
Douglas Trattner

Big Breakfast at The Spot on Lakeshore

7272 Lakeshore Blvd., Mentor

The Spot in Mentor is a gastro-diner that melds the come-as-you-are comforts of a neighborhood hash house with a gently elevated menu grounded by local ingredients and chef-driven technique. Reservations make it a breeze to slide in for weekend brunch, where a full bar and occasional live music await. The Big Breakfast is a meat- and carb-lover’s feast, combining three eggs, a choice of biscuit, waffle or short stack, crispy hash browns and a choice of meats that includes local Serbian cevapi.
Aunt Gay at Tommy’s
1824 Coventry Rd., Cleveland Heights
Earlier this year, Tommy’s Restaurant on Coventry celebrated its 50th birthday, surviving three fires, 9/11, the Great Recession and Covid. Swept up in the anniversary hoopla, I revisited some of my favorite dishes at one of Cleveland’s most enduring and endearing institutions. Founder Tommy Fello was a vegetarian foods pioneer, selling dishes like hummus, baba ganoush and falafel before Nate’s Deli and Aladdin’s. For meat-eaters, there is the comforting Aunt Gay filled with lamb, beef, onion, cheese, veggies and sesame sauce.
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Aunt Gay at Tommy’s

1824 Coventry Rd., Cleveland Heights

Earlier this year, Tommy’s Restaurant on Coventry celebrated its 50th birthday, surviving three fires, 9/11, the Great Recession and Covid. Swept up in the anniversary hoopla, I revisited some of my favorite dishes at one of Cleveland’s most enduring and endearing institutions. Founder Tommy Fello was a vegetarian foods pioneer, selling dishes like hummus, baba ganoush and falafel before Nate’s Deli and Aladdin’s. For meat-eaters, there is the comforting Aunt Gay filled with lamb, beef, onion, cheese, veggies and sesame sauce.