Food & Drink

The Best Places to Drink in Cleveland Right Now

Updated On 12/11/2017 at 06:07PM EST Updated On 12/11/2017 at 06:07PM EST
The Spotted Owl
The Spotted Owl | Nathan Dreimiller
Hilton Cleveland Downtown

Bar 32

Downtown

Cleveland’s best spot for drinking with a view
Need to impress some out-of-town visitors? Take them to Bar 32. Named for the floor of the hotel it’s on, it’s pretty hard to beat this ritzy Hilton bar when it comes to panoramic views of the city. There are small plates to be had, like jumbo pretzels and a spinach/artichoke bread bowl, as well a drink menu that will appeal to cocktail snobs and the Fireball crowd alike -- just be prepared to pay a correspondingly lofty price for the privilege.
 

Butcher and the Brewer

East 4th

A wide and airy beer hall with great eats
Killer brews -- the Albino Stout is to die for -- high, spacious ceilings, and a really cool bathroom (seriously) make this East 4th establishment well worth braving the crowds. Go during the day for the old-school neighborhood butcher’s market, and then go again at happy hour for some of the best darn bar bites in the city.
 

Jason Shaffer

The Vault

Downtown

A subterranean Jazz Age wonderland
Housed beneath the old Ameritrust Building, this space was a nightclub until it was recently relaunched as a craft cocktail bar, and we think the change is for the better. The drinks menu pays homage to both Prohibition-era spirits and Cleveland institutions, and the decor -- built around a series of elaborate bank vault doors -- is unparalleled. 

Great Lakes Brewing Company

Ohio City

The city’s flagship craft brewery
Before West 25th was a premiere nightlife destination -- before most Americans had ever heard of craft beer -- the folks at Great Lakes Brewing Company were doing their thing. Now counted among the top 20 craft breweries in America, GLBC’s home base is still churning out amazing beers, including barrel-aged and smoked exclusives available only in the brewpub.
 

The Rowley Inn

The Rowley Inn

Tremont

Longtime neighborhood staple with unexpectedly great food
In a neighborhood teeming with new bars and restaurants, the Rowley Inn tends to sneak by unnoticed. This should not be the case: its humble interior oozes old-school Cleveland charm, and its Buffalo pierogi -- that is, pierogi slathered in a sauce of your choosing -- are our new favorite appetizer in the city. 

Terrestrial Brewing Company

Battery Park

Creative, new brewery with constantly rotating beer selections
Tucked away just north of Gordon Square in the posh Battery Park district, Terrestrial is a formidable addition to Cleveland’s already-impressive brewery scene. The brewers never make the exact same beer twice (though they will replicate a couple favorites, like the awesomely named Space Chimp wheat beer), so every visit can be a surprise.

The Speakeasy at Quintana's Barber & Dream Spa

The Speakeasy at Quintana's

Cedar Taylor (Cleveland Heights)

A hidden bar with a cozy, Prohibition-era feel
A secret room on the second floor of an old-time, manly barbershop, The Speakeasy boasts one of the best bourbon selections in Northeast Ohio. Its cozy, mahogany-tinted atmosphere is a hotspot for local politicians, historians, and anyone who enjoys a great cocktail. The bar’s innovative new Garden to Glass program means all the herbs and spices infusing your drink are grown by the bartenders themselves.

Flickr/Edsel Little

The Velvet Tango Room

Duck Island

The standard-bearer for cocktail lounge cool
Back in the days when Kahlua Mudslides were considered a fancy drink, Velvet Tango Room was blazing the trail in what would become a national cocktail revolution. After 21 years in business, it continues to provide utterly immersive atmosphere and quality cocktails. Although VTR remains open, it’s recently gone up for sale; anyone have $2.75 million we could borrow?

Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern

Happy Dog

Gordon Square

Hot dogs, tater tots, and a whole lot of craft beer
Now that tater tots are a proven way to meet people, maybe Happy Dog will become an even more popular spot among Clevelanders (though that’s hard to imagine). Here, you’ll find an excellent draft list, stand-up comedy, both classical and modern music, live storytelling events, and pinball. The offerings are almost as diverse as the toppings you can put on your hot dogs, which include chunky peanut butter, Greek feta cheese, and SpaghettiOs.

Parnell's Pub

Cedar Fairmount (Cleveland Heights)

An old-time pub in newer, brighter digs
Cleveland’s favorite Irish bar (it’s owned by an actual Irishman) has moved down the road to a bigger, brighter location in the Cedar Fairmount district. Parnell’s new location adds a thousand square feet and mixes new-bar flair with old-school, County Meath charm. It's still the best place in town to catch a soccer game or throw back a pint of Guinness. 

Porco Lounge & Tiki Room

Porco Lounge & Tiki Room

Ohio City

Colorful craft cocktails and Hawaiian shirts aplenty
Cleveland’s reigning king of the tiki cocktail is still going strong in its fourth year of existence. Now, equipped with a larger kitchen and a build-you-own meatballs concept, Ohio City’s tiki lounge has become an essential destination for late-night eating as well as drinking. Expect loud music, loud shirts, and some sweet-but-balanced drinks that will knock you on your ass.

Tina's Nite Club

Detroit Shoreway

The ultimate night-ending karaoke bar
We’re not quite sure if Tina’s, everyone’s favorite, shady-looking drinking establishment, is an actual dive bar, but we don’t care. Order your beers and shots at the cheap prices of the '70s and belt your heart out at Cleveland’s most fun and diverse karaoke destination.

Bonnie Flinner

Prosperity Social Club

Tremont

Old-world style meets new-century cool, plus piergois
Joel Lovell of Esquire wrote of this warmly hip Tremont bar: “If I lived in Cleveland, I would go here every day.” Those of us fortunate enough to inhabit the Land know Prosperity as a destination for amazing pierogis (order with cheese), a great beer selection, and old-school decor that is quintessentially Cleveland.

Mahall's

Lakewood

Bowling, fried chicken, and a host of cool events
Mahall’s has something for everyone. Bowling? Check. Stand-up comedy and live shows? Yep. Delicious, affordable farm-to-table fried chicken and a small but curated drink menu? You betcha. That’s why, for decades, Mahall’s has remained the embodiment of the cool Lakewood bar -- and why you need to add it to your night-out repertoire, stat.
 

the plum cafe and kitchen

The Plum Cafe & Kitchen

Ohio City

An inviting, cool-as-hell bar with top-notch food
The aesthetic of the Plum Cafe is both ultra-modern and inviting. The same could be said for its cocktail menu, a frequently shifting seasonal list nestled comfortably in the $7-$10 range. And now you can enjoy those drinks paired with dope dishes like the baked pimento grits during Saturday brunch.

LBM

Birdtown (Lakewood)

A Viking bar with killer decor and drinks
Yes, there is a viking-themed bar in Lakewood: There are swords hanging on the walls, and there is at least one bat skull in a jar. The drinks are hyper-seasonal, only cost $8-$10, and have names like Flannel Is the Color of My People and I Am the Sacrifice. In other words, get out there and drink like a Nordic legend. 
 

Sachsenheim Hall

Sachsenheim Hall

Stockyard

Lovable, '70s-style fern bar with amazing Taco Tuesdays
With its ferns, disco ball, and wood paneling straight from Grandma’s basement, Sachsenheim Hall looks like it’s frozen in the '70s. Lucky for you, the prices are too: You can get that Hofbrauhaus-style stein of German beer without paying that Hofbrauhaus-style bill. The draught beers and the food on Saturdays are all German, but don’t miss Tuesdays for some of the most innovative (chicken paprikash? ostrich??) and dirt-cheap tacos in town. 

Yuzu

Lakewood

Asian-influenced food and drink with wacky themed nights
Newcomer Yuzu might win the (participation) award for Most Millennial Bar in Greater Cleveland, thanks to cocktails with names like 3AM Snap Stories and Straight Outta Pinterest. More than that, though, this is a bar that provides an international-themed menu of comfort food and some of the wackiest, most inventive themed nights -- we’re talking Wine and Cheese Pong and something called Rage in a Nic Cage -- we’ve seen in our entire drinking careers. 

Keith Berr

Salt+ A Restaurant

West End (Lakewood)

Small plates & great drinks in a cozy, classy, brick-lined space
Salt is a grown-up person’s bar, in the best possible sense. Its cool interior and lauded, seasonally shifting small plates are accompanied by a cocktail menu with wonderfully unexpected pairings. Gin and pickle juice? Tequila and fernet? Resoundingly, yes. Rather than feeling gimmicky or one-note, the drinks’ careful composition makes for balanced, smooth sipping.

The Side Quest

Lakewood

A modern, wood-paneled bar that's board game- and cosplay-friendly
The best elements of America’s modern bar scene, from microbreweries to craft cocktails, are largely the work of nerds, so it’s only appropriate that CLE should have “a safe place for geeks and nerds.” Go to rent a board game, catch a cool themed costume, or enjoy a solid draft selection -- maybe just brush up on your Game of Thrones references first.

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1. Speakeasy 2200 S Taylor Rd, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118

Behind a bookcase and up a narrow staircase in Cleveland Heights' Quintana’s Barber and Dream Spa is a gorgeous, old-school bar you'd never even know was there. With prohibition-era decor, cigars and a selection of more than 60 bourbons, this place can make anyone look like a real smooth operator so date night here is a must. The cocktail menu hosts a slew of classic staples (gin fizz, anyone?) but you can venture above to Bier Markt or Nano Brewery Cleveland for endless local and international drafts. Bar Centro, the restaurant also located above Speakeasy, has food for the night covered with any Italian dish your heart desires.

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2. The Velvet Tango Room 2095 Columbus Rd, Cleveland, OH 44113

The Velvet Tango Room gets its speakeasy vibe from, well, being located in an actual former speakeasy (the bullet holes in the ceiling remain to this day). Located in an inconspicuous old house, complete with backyard garden, VTR is committed to classic (Old Fashioned, Tom Collins, Sidecar) and modern (Cleveland Rose, Widow's Kiss) cocktails, crafted with loving attention and served up on their own or as part of sampler flights. The name and drink menu alone are worthy to a 1940s film noir; better yet, the bar hosts a live jazz band every weeknight.

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3. Happy Dog 5801 Detroit Ave, Cleveland, OH 44102

What does bacon-topped mac & cheese and Fruit Loops cereal have in common? They're both placed on top of a hot dog together at Gordon Square's Happy Dog, where the American wiener takes center stage. They take toppings seriously, or maybe not so seriously, with specials like The Mobile Home-wrecker (white BBQ sauce, onions, bourbon-baked beans, fries and cheddar cheese). Intrepid (or sane) customers can choose to construct their own from an intimidating list of toppings, including kim chee pickles, "everything bagel" cream cheese and fried eggs. Veggie dogs are on offer, but that's kind of not the point. Tater tots and fries also come with an impressive array of sauce options, best washed down with any of the 20 beers on tap.

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4. Porco Lounge & Tiki Room 2527 W 25th St, Cleveland, OH 44113

Porco is not the gaudy tiki bar you're used to. The bar and back lounge may be adorned with bamboo, faux thatch and jungle prints, but the drinks here defy the sickeningly sweet tropical-drink stereotype. Bartenders decked out in Hawaiian shirts hand craft complex (and very strong) cocktails (Mai Thais, Singapore Slings, Zombies, Painkillers) with a variety of rums, fresh-squeezed fruit juices and house-made syrups. If tiki drinks aren't for you, there's always draft beer from Hawaii's Kona Brewing Co., pork charcuterie plates and panini sandwiches.

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5. Tina's Nite Club 5400 Herman Ave, Cleveland, OH 44102

What kind of karaoke dive is housed in a nondescript brick building surrounded by chainlink fences and overgrown weeds? One of the best in Cleveland. Tina’s Nite Club didn’t get it’s reputation because of refined cocktails or continental decor, it got it because it’s dirty, fun and, well, a little weird. The garage-like atmosphere does away with any pretension, freeing up a loose clientele to really sing what’s in their hearts. Have a jello shot, drink a well vodka and see who can sing those 80s rock ballads the loudest.

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6. The Spotted Owl 710 Jefferson Ave, Cleveland, OH 44113

In Tremont, what was once a Bible factory in the 1800s is now The Spotted Owl, a bar that's both delightfully weird and delightfully blunt. Case in point: The wooden bar is made from the flooring of an old barn, and the tables are made from century-old freezer doors. And there are house rules (women initiate conversation, no using Google to settle arguments, no fighting, no kissing). This isn't the spot to drink beer or wine all night; The Owl's menu shines with its cocktails (particularly the Fish House Punch and the Pomme).

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9. The Plum Cafe & Kitchen 4133 Lorain Ave, Cleveland, OH 44113

This bright all-day cafe in Ohio City presents a vegetarian-friendly, sandwich-driven menu in an airy space with exposed brick, light-bearing French windows, and a spacious dine-in backyard. A comparison between the slow-roasted barbecue pork sandwich and the vegan banh mi with hoisin-braised jack fruit proves that equal flavor is imbued into both meat and meatless choices. Interesting cocktails and craft beers complement the food when things more serious (and less vegetarian) in the evening where dishes like catfish nuggets and smoked duck confit and pork sausage Cleveland Cassoulet reign supreme.

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11. Salt+ 17625 Detroit Ave, Lakewood, OH 44107

Chef Jill Vedaa’s Salt+ approaches New American without the safety net of a burger on the menu. Her lineup of small plates features combinations like foraged mushroom tapenade with goat cheese, braised octopus with olives and oranges, and duck leg confit with ricotta dumplings. The large, high-ceilinged space is modern with rustic touches, as evidenced by varnished steel plates next to hanging mod lamps and an overall warehouse feel. True to the restaurant’s name, a giant block of salt sits glowing atop a pillar in the lounge area. Just don't lick it.