From a food lover's perspective, 2002 was delectable. Sure, the general economy continued to limp along, but you'd never know it by the slew of noteworthy restaurants that opened in the past 12 months.
Undoubtedly, the most exciting addition to the downtown scene was Vivo, in the Old Arcade (see full review in this week's "Café"), the best restaurant to open near Public Square in years. Then, there was the multi-million-dollar Pickwick & Frolic, on nearby East 4th Street. No, we aren't crazy about the food, but Kevin's martini lounge and the new Hilarities Fourth Street Comedy Club are reason enough to visit.
Just around the corner, you'll find Indigo Indian Bistro, a spacious, good-looking lunch-and-dinner spot. Then, not far from the Jake sits the handsome Juniper Grille, a smart stop for breakfast, lunch, or by-reservation-only dinners on Friday and Saturday nights.
In perennially trendy Tremont, the biggest news was the opening of the stylishly simple and almost effortlessly hip bistro Fahrenheit. The neighborhood also welcomed back a remodeled La Tortilla Feliz, the Central American eatery that reopened in June after eight months of renovations. Meanwhile, in nearby Ohio City, Parker's New American Bistro tinkered with its identity, shifting to a more casual ambiance and a menu of dishes crafted almost entirely from locally grown foodstuffs.
In midtown, everyone's favorite diner, Ruthie & Moe's, finally reopened after a fire and a death had cast doubt upon its future. In Chinatown, Vietnamese soup shops Pho Hoa and #1 Pho filled the air with the sounds of contented slurping. And a few blocks further east, Hot Dog Stan started frying up Twinkies and Oreos for a wicked taste of culinary mayhem.
The year saw an explosion of new spots on the East Side, including 1950s-style Dottie's Diner, nuevo-Mexican Lopez, Pacific East (sushi and Japanese cuisine), La Gelateria (the region's only gelato parlor), soulful Phil the Fire's chicken-and-waffle works, and vegetarian Café Limbo. This was also the year that old standbys Club Isabella and That Place on Bellflower were transformed into the up-to-date destinations Vina Noté and Flower, respectively.
Further south, Russo's brought a heapin' helping of Cajun and Italian fare to Peninsula, Wooster's South Market Bistro moved us closer to a true Ohio cuisine, and gracious Peter Shear's breathed new life into downtown Canton.
Need a New Year's resolution? How about vowing to visit at least a few of these new spots during the upcoming annum? More than ever, the tables of greater Cleveland are filled with good things to eat. Let's raise our forks to an adventurous New Year!