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Casual Madison Avenue pie joint with picnic tables & a simple menu
Sometimes simplicity is key, and that’s absolutely the case at Harlow’s, a wood-fired pizza spot along Madison Avenue in Lakewood. With just five pies and a handful of beverages to choose from, superb ingredients and refined technique are what make this spot stand out as one of Cleveland’s best. Sink your teeth into a classic Margherita, or branch out with a Leonardo, topped with mozzarella, EVOO, pistachios, grape tomatoes, arugula, and sea salt.
Playfully indulgent donuts paired with unique craft brews
OK, Brewnuts isn't exactly a restaurant per se, but we absolutely cannot talk about the latest and greatest additions to Cleveland’s food scene without mentioning this gem. Part donut shop, part craft beer bar, this early morning to late night hang out was easily one of the most anticipated and celebrated openings in recent months. Ultra-inventive, ultra-decadent donut creations such as hibiscus limeade and peanut butter Reese’s Puffs bring long lines and early sellouts, while frequent special events such as a Pancake Breakfast for Dinner and a Soup and Sammie Remix ensure there's always a reason to come back.
New York-style Italian fare in one of Cleveland's warmest, trendiest atmospheres
There’s no such thing as too many pizza places when the pizza is this damn good. Since opening in November of 2017, Il Rione has quickly become one of the most buzzed about restaurants in Cleveland for its warm atmosphere and most importantly, its fantastic New York-style pizzas. Bring some friends, because you’re going to want to taste a little bit of everything, including a perfect meat & cheese plate, a fresh arugula salad with romaine, honey lemon vinaigrette, fontal, polenta croutons, and almonds, and of course, several of the suggested pizzas. Don’t miss the green pie, with red sauce, mozzarella, arugula pesto, fried sage leaves and basil -- or just go rogue and build your own dang pie.
Cold craft brews and excellent farm-to-table bar food
Really excellent beer and really excellent bar food are a winning combination just about anywhere, which is probably why you’ll find Noble Beast’s indoor picnic tables packed most any night of the week. Sip on one of the brewery’s signature beers (like the hoppy Evil Motives IPA) while you peruse the menu, which incorporates locally sourced, seasonal ingredients wherever possible. Favorites include a Cleveland corn dog with smoked kielbasa, spent grain batter, honey beer mustard, and caraway kraut, as well as the Don't Quarry, Be Hammy sandwich with Quarry Hill apple & caramelized onion compote, Deejay's smoked ham, goat cheese fromage blanc, and griddled sourdough.
Ultra-stylish restaurant with dishes as creative as the decor
It’s hard to categorize the cuisine at The Plum, but it doesn’t matter when the food is consistently delicious. Since opening its doors in 2015, this adorably decorated spot has quickly won hearts by serving dishes that are just outside our comfort zone in the best possible way. Ever tried a donut with pineapple jam and ham spread? We didn’t think so -- but you’re definitely going to want to, and soon.
Homestyle Italian cooking and BYO wine in a charming old home
With its tiny, open kitchen and bring-your-own-wine policy, stepping into Molto Bene almost feels like you’ve been transported to a charming, family-owned cafe in the heart of Italy. Beautiful pasta dishes such as rich lasagna and pillow-soft gnocchi, as well as entrees such as trota al cartoccio (trout baked in parchment paper), are served in generous portions. Be sure to save room for some of the restaurant’s luscious house-made gelato, in flavors like raspberry cheesecake and espresso.
French food and wine, prepared and served by formerly incarcerated adults
Here’s something you don’t typically hear about at some of the best restaurants: Your food is being cooked to a culinary T and served with class by formerly incarcerated adults. Under the leadership of founder Brandon Chrostowski, this is EDWINS’ unique ethos, providing its staff with a foundation in the hospitality biz and a support network for successful reentry. Perhaps a bigger factor in the restaurant’s success, EDWINS' French-inspired dishes are consistently spot-on.
A sophisticated Shaker Square institution, serving some of Cleveland’s best seasonal, local fare
Since opening in 2001, Fire has continued to draw crowds of newbies and regulars to Shaker Square by offering a dependably great menu that always entices with something new. Chef Doug Katz has since gone on to open several new ventures, yet Fire remains the very best of his local, sustainable bunch.
Curated menu of cocktails, appetizers, entrees and desserts, plus a sweet grab-n-go cafe next door
Ohio City has quickly gone from relatively quiet to one of Cleveland’s busiest and hippest neighborhoods in the time that The Flying Fig cozied into its spot across the street from Great Lakes’ taproom. Amidst the great wave of change, this small eatery and bar is turning out some of the best farm-to-table fare you’ll find anywhere in town.
A glittering taste of Paris serving a rotating daily menu
With an eclectic interior, ever-changing menu with whatever’s seasonally fresh, and an emphasis on great wine, this Parisian-in-Cleveland bistro is just too adorable, with food too tasty to pass by. From a full-on meal of hearty dishes like prime rib and duck confit to drinks and shared apps, Gigi’s is always buzzing with a solid crowd of age-diverse patrons.
Hometown hero Michael Symon’s original (and arguably best) restaurant
If there’s one thing hometown hero Michael Symon knows and loves, it’s gotta be meat. So it should come as no surprise that his flagship restaurant’s steak selections, including beef hangar, strip loin, and the ultra-deluxe bone-in ribeye for two, are the best of the best that Cleveland has to offer. There is a small selection of salads and seafood for those who don't eat meat, and we wouldn't blame you if you tried to order every single dessert on their menu, because they are all mouth-watering. The atmosphere is sleek and elegant, making Lola the perfect place to indulge your carnivorous cravings.
Romantic Italian cafe serving some of the best homemade pizzas and pastas in town
Around since 2000, Marotta's hearty portions of classic Italian dishes continue to stand the test of time. In one of the most intimately romantic settings in Cleveland, expect delectable pastas such as gnocchi with sausage and roasted red peppers in a tomato cream sauce, plus some of the best pizzas in town. While the temps allow, don’t miss Marotta’s completely lovely, newly renovated patio.
A special occasion steakhouse that’s absolutely worth the money
Good steak is, well, pretty damn expensive. So if you’re going to shell out, be sure to choose a top-notch spot. Featuring decadent seafood, generous sides, and, of course, perfectly seasoned, perfectly cooked steaks, Red gives you exactly the quality you’d expect from looking at the bill.
Chef/farmer Ben Bebenroth sources most ingredients from his own farm
Farm-to-table is one thing, but Chef Ben Bebenroth is so committed to the concept of a local, sustainable menu that he and his family actually live on and run a 13-acre farm in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. That same passion is evident in each wholesome, soul-satisfying dish coming out of Spice’s ultra-creative kitchen, such as mushroom beignets with honey and goat cheese crème fraîche, as well as pan-seared salmon with Spice Acres ginger, braised butternut squash, Killbuck Valley mushrooms, kohlrabi, and cashews.
Cozy, no-reservations spot with New American fare and an impressive wine list
"Revitalized farm fare," like the brisket burger with bacon, blue cheese fondue, pepper jam, and salt and vin cottage fries, as well as the market fish in coconut curry sauce with spaghetti squash, pepitas, carrot, and scallion, and an uncommon wine list, including lesser-known selections that only true winos can appreciate, is what draws a happy crowd to Toast. The restaurant’s rustic charm makes you want to linger over just one more glass of the good stuff, long after the dishes have been cleared away.
Always-buzzing daytime cafe serving decadent pastries, coffees, brunch, and lunch
As every good Clevelander knows, Lucky’s is the place in town for a truly hearty brunch that delights with something a little different. In recent years, out-of-towners have been catching on too, thanks to Guy Fieri’s visit during an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. On a weekend morning, don’t miss the cheddar scallion biscuits with soft scrambled eggs and sausage gravy. It is sleep-coma inducing, in the very best kind of way.
Refined small plates, killer cocktails and beautiful wines draw an elegant crowd
It’s true that after years of becoming so accustomed to mega-size portions, small plates restaurants can be slightly annoying. The exact opposite is true at Salt, where small, shared plates equal more room to sample, and trust us, you’re gonna want to. A few hours with a few good friends, a selection of the menu’s vegetables, meat, and fish, and a couple of killer cocktails make for a near perfect evening.
European-inspired spot with a well-crafted, meat-focused menu
When you're after high-quality, perfectly cooked meat, The Black Pig is the place to park it. Chef Michael Nowak pairs decadent meats such as slow-braised short ribs and melt-in-your-mouth pork belly with top notch, locally sourced and seasonal ingredients to create one helluva good meal. Don’t miss the three-course or pasta-tasting menus for a delicious overview of some of the very best the restaurant has to offer.
Eastern European comfort food served cafeteria-style, perfect for large groups
This decades-old, family-run spot has diners lining up for hearty plates of stuffed cabbage, chicken paprikash, and some of the best damn pierogies you’ll find anywhere in town. Grab a tray, get into the cafeteria-style line, and choose one entrée and two sides (plus a roll), then head to the salad bar and load your plate to your heart’s content. As if that’s not enough, Sokolowski’s generous slices of homemade cakes and pies are certain to take you over the top. This is comfort food at its finest.
Chef Jonathon Sawyer’s original outpost, with some of CLE's most innovative dishes
As one of the original hot spots on Cleveland’s now-booming East Fourth Street, Greenhouse Tavern has remained one of the area’s most frequented hangouts by consistently turning out unique food in a comfortable-yet-lively setting. Diners can go casual with dishes such as confit chicken wings and a lamb burger with stinky cheese fondue, or go all out with a 40-day aged Delmonico steak. No matter what strikes your fancy, it’s all worth sinking your teeth into.