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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.