Food & Drink

The Best Restaurants in Cleveland Right Now

Published On 10/06/2017 Published On 10/06/2017
JASON SHAFFER
Flickr/Edsel Little

Cork & Cleaver Social Kitchen

Broadview Heights

Broadview Heights may seem like an odd location for a dining hot spot, yet since 2013, Cork & Cleaver has been drawing suburbanites and city dwellers alike with generous portions of seriously flavorful dishes. Start with a plate of melt-in-your-mouth confit chicken wings, continue with a dish of pillowy gnocchi with braised lamb and tzatziki, finish with one of the completely decadent homemade desserts, and roll on out the door. Trust us, it’s well-worth the drive.

Lara Talevski/Courtesy of Edwins

EDWINS

Buckeye Shaker

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.

Donna Ruhlman/Courtesy of Fire Food & Drink

Fire Food & Drink

Buckeye Shaker

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.

Flickr/Edsel Little

The Flying Fig

Ohio City

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.

Gigi's on Fairmount

Gigi's on Fairmount

Cleveland Heights

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.

Jason Shaffer/Courtesy of GINKO

Ginko

Tremont

Situated below ground in the basement of Dante, Ginko exudes a hip vibe while turning out some of the best sushi found in Cleveland. With only a few tables up for grabs, diners can instead nab a spot around the sprawling bar to enjoy traditional Japanese sushi with a fresh, modern twist.

BARNEY TAXEL/COURTESY OF LAGO

Lago

The Flats

Lago first gained a loyal following in Tremont with its contemporary take on Northern Italian dishes paired with fine Italian wines. Relocating to The Flats in 2013, it was one of the first restaurants to spearhead the area’s revival. Now with a decidedly different atmosphere, one thing that hasn’t changed is the restaurant’s commitment to superb Italian fare.

Flickr/Edsel Little

Lola Bistro

Downtown

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.

Carissa Russell/Thrillist

Marotta's

Cleveland Heights

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.

Courtesy of Momocho

Momocho

Ohio City

Chef Eric Williams’ modern Mexican joint serves up dishes that are everything great Mexican food should be: fresh, bold, and adventurous. Taking account of Momocho’s homey-yet-lively atmosphere (not to mention stellar margs), it’s obvious how this spot has stayed relevant for nine years.

BILL BECK/COURTESY OF RED

Red, the Steakhouse

Downtown

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.

Spice Kitchen + Bar

Spice Kitchen + Bar

Ohio City

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.

TIM SMITH/COURTESY OF TOAST

Toast

Gordon Square

"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.

Lucky's Cafe

Lucky's Cafe

Tremont

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.

Tess Smith

Salt+

Lakewood

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.

Courtesy of The Black Pig/Alexis M. Carek

The Black Pig

Ohio City

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.

Courtesy of Sokolowski’s University Inn/Billy Clarksville

Sokolowski's University Inn

Tremont

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.

Cantinebar/Instagram

Cantine Bar + Bottle Shop

Broadview Heights

When Cork & Cleaver opened its doors in 2013, it was welcome news for west side suburbanites seeking a quality independent restaurant closer to home. Now with the addition of Cantine, these lucky diners have yet another tempting option right in their own backyard. Featuring an excellent wine and beer bottle selection (for consumption onsite or takeaway) plus outstanding small plates like herb focaccia and chèvre-stuffed peppadews, Cantine is a worthwhile destination for any Cleveland foodie. This place feels way hipper than its suburban strip mall locale might suggest.

The Greenhouse Tavern

The Greenhouse Tavern

Downtown

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.

Courtesy of The Plum Cafe & Kitchen/Jonah Oryszak

The Plum Cafe & Kitchen

Ohio City

It’s hard to categorize the cuisine at the Plum Cafe, but it doesn’t matter when the food is consistently delicious. Since opening its doors just over a year ago, 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.

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1. Cork & Cleaver Social Kitchen 8160 Broadview Rd., Broadview Hts., OH

Cleveland newbie the Cork & Cleaver serves up playful, farm to fork dishes in their "social kitchen." Come with a friend and sample their "tasters" appetizers, most of which are under $15. Talk about friendly service.

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2. Edwins 13101 Shaker Square, Cleveland, OH 44120

Edwins is both a culinary institute devoted to second chances and a world-class French-inspired restaurant. Their menu features country pork terrine with apricots and rosemary, as well as Frog legs and fine cheeses.

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3. Fire Food & Drink 13220 Shaker Square, Cleveland, OH 44120

Of course, anything that comes out of chef Doug Katz’s reputable kitchen is bound to be fantastic, but Fire’s signature wood-fired ovens help to take some dishes one step further than that. Don’t miss the tandoor ribeye, currently served with cauliflower fritters, braised leeks, Mackenzie goat cheese, tomato chutney, garlic aioli, and burgundy jus, for a twist on a classic steak dinner. The focus at Fire Food & Drink is on serving local and sustainable cuisine for brunch, dinner, and dessert along with an extensive list of wines.

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4. The Flying Fig 2523 Market Ave, Cleveland, OH 44113

Just as owner and chef Karen Small intended, The Flying Fig is all about farm to table. The ingredients for their ever-evolving menu (and their wine selection) are sourced locally, and for 15 years they have been serving up stylized comfort food to those who appreciate good, fresh grub. Dishes on both the brunch and dinner menus, such as the chilaquiles or the bolognese are served in small servings but are potent with flavor. These small dishes are hosted by a surprisingly laid-back atmosphere: With dim lighting and dark wooden surfaces feels less like a "small eatery" and more like a local hideaway bar.

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5. Gigi's on Fairmount 3477 Fairmount Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44118

Eat. Laugh. Wine. A neighborhood bistro with an emphasis on wine in the heart of Cleveland Heights! Their wine list is extensive, their food is divine, and one step inside their popular restaurant will show you just why Gigi's on Fairmount is considered a neighborhood hot spot by locals.

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6. Ginko 2247 Professor Ave, Cleveland, OH 44113

Consider your next date night spot selected-- this stylish Tremont sushi bar pulls out all the stops. Share omakase and shoot sake bombs while you luxuriate in the swanky digs of Ginko.

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7. Lago 1091 W 10th St, Cleveland, OH 44113

This upscale casual spot in the Flats East Aloft Hotel serves fresh takes on Italian classics. Take in the Lake Erie breeze on the patio or dine in the warmly lit main room, which turns into a dance spot later in the night.

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8. Lola Bistro 2058 E 4th St, Cleveland, OH 44115

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.

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9. Marotta's 2289 Lee Rd, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118

With a dimly lit, European bistro-like atmosphere, Marotta's in Cleveland Heights is the kind of neighborhood spot you wouldn’t mind settling into night after night for a good glass of wine and a generous serving of quality Italian comfort food. Although it’s hard to pass over the tempting array of homemade pastas and entrees, pizza aficionados are wise to head straight for the pies. Plus, the extensive all-Italian wine list features vintages such as the 1997 Brunello di Montalcino. When the weather is warm, its patio and terrace—complete with a beautiful natural brick wall—is where you want to be dining.

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10. Momocho 1835 Fulton Rd, Cleveland, OH 44113

Mexican food can be severely underrepresented in the Midwest, but Momocho -- under the carving knife of James Beard-nominated chef Eric Williams -- is not having any of that. His menu features both classic and off-kilter takes: guacamole comes traditional or loaded with fancy stuff like smoked salmon or white chocolate, taquitos pack carnitas and duck confit, and entrees range from pecan-crusted trout to tamales stuffed with lamb.

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11. Red, The Steakhouse 417 Prospect Ave E, Cleveland, OH 44115

Expect to pay a pretty penny for a meal at Red, but also expect to walk away fully OK with having done so. Don’t miss the raw oysters to start, followed by an expertly seasoned steak (no need for fancy sauces or toppings) and a bevy of tempting sides, including truffled & whipped potatoes and perfectly seared mixed mushrooms. The atmosphere is cozy and sexy, making Red a great place to bring a date. When it comes to luxury dining, this is truly money well spent.

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12. Spice Kitchen+Bar 5800 Detroit Ave, Cleveland, OH 44102

The seasonal menu at Ohio City's Spice Kitchen + Bar may change nightly, but one thing remains constant: everything is sourced from both the restaurant's own farm in Cuyahoga Valley and local producers. Chef Ben Bebenroth's interest in local ingredients and farming is obvious in plates like mushroom beignets with goat cheese, grilled butternut squash with root vegetable puree, and polenta and chickpea fries. Even the cocktail menu reflects the harvest cycle with locally made apple cider spiked with whiskey. While most restaurants might be a bit pretentious in their emphasis on seasonal cooking, Spice stays grounded.

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13. Toast 1365 W 65th St, Cleveland, OH 44102

Toast's not all that's on deck at the Gordon Square tapas spot. The seasonal menu features fresh veggies a plenty, and the late night small plates are a steal (most are under $10). Get your drink on with their extensive wine list.

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14. Lucky's Cafe 777 Starkweather Ave, Cleveland, OH 44113

Pop in for a pastry or post up for a full on brunch at this cafe located in an old house. Either way, you'll be charmed by the quaintness and blown away by the flavor.

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15. 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.

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16. The Black Pig 2801 Bridge Ave, Cleveland, OH 44113

This swine-centric spot in Ohio City traffics in French-inspired American classics with beaucoup bacon. The menu changes often and boasts a "weekly pig" section, where a different dish is made with each part of pig from a local farm. Reliable staples such as the house eggs benedict with pate and hollandaise elevate the traditional breakfast standby to heavenly standards. Strong, spirit-forward cocktails are also worth checking out for a night-cap.

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19. The Greenhouse Tavern 2038 E 4th St, Cleveland, OH 44115

This downtown gastropub is a tails-to-trotters kind of place: from barbecue-roasted pig’s head to pan-fried pork chop saltimbocca, there’s a meat-forward bent to this market-driven menu. Helmed by James Beard award-winning chef Jonathon Sawyer, the vegan- and vegetarian-friendly options don’t disappoint (pro tip: get the yucca fries), and a full bar means an array of craft beers and seasonal libations for imbibing. If you can’t snag a table in the sleek, modern space (note the bicycles hung throughout and the lamps made from repurposed wheels), don’t worry: the outdoor patio makes for a perfectly delightful evening.

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20. 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.