Where to Eat in Cleveland Right Now
From heavy metal burgers to guac six ways and everything in between.
It’s been, to put it extremely mildly, a tough year for the service industry. That’s certainly been clear in Cleveland, which saw food scene giants like Lola, Spice, and Greenhouse Tavern shut their doors permanently in 2020. But if Cleveland knows anything, it’s perseverance. Old and new eateries alike have adapted to fill the void—not to mention the stomachs of take-out hungry Clevelanders. As we move with cautious optimism toward a state called “normal,” let’s all make an effort to support the amazing dining spots that helped us soldier through this last treacherous year. Here’s where to start.
The gist: A modern Mexican bistro from the husband-and-wife team behind Char in Rocky River, Avo is a slightly fancier, more-than-worthy successor to the space vacated by Bakersfield Tacos.
The food: Given the restaurant’s name, guac is clearly a must-order, and any of the creative varieties will do just fine. Diners can go the casual taco route or opt for upscale dishes like espresso-rubbed filet mignon or succulent roasted chicken with an earthy, spicy mole. Standout drinks like Kissing the Beehive, a mezcal-honey-habanero pepper combo, indicate the cocktail menu should not be skipped.
The cost: Starters and sides $3.50 - $13, tacos and tortas $13 - $15, soups and salads $7 - $16, mains $17 - $26, cocktails $9 - $12, wine by the glass $7 - $16, beer prices vary.
How to book: Text 419-202-0610 and reserve via Buzztable or order take-out via Cake.
The gist: An Eastern European-style deli with a focus on creative, locally-sourced ingredients, Larder artfully merges old and new world influences in an handsome, open space inside the Ohio City Firehouse.
The food: Given the foraging and fermentation expertise of owner Jeremy Umansky, any dish involving mushrooms or brine is a hard yes here. Sandwiches are on seasonal rotation, and the fried chicken option is among the best in the city. And with sides like mettwurst, amazake butter, and koji-cultured venison, there’s always something exciting and new to try.
The cost: Sandwiches $9 - $12, sides and sweets $1 - $12.
How to book: Stop by for counter-service or call 216-912-8203 for take-out.
The gist: A Coventry staple, Tommy’s has been dishing up hearty meals and milkshakes in a friendly, unpretentious setting since 1972.
The food: Perhaps best known for their satisfyingly thicc milkshakes, Tommy’s has long been a vegetarian- and vegan-friendly staple around town. The falafel variants never disappoint, nor do the stick-to-your ribs veggie and cheese sandwiches washed down with what Rolling Stone once called “the best milkshakes east of the Mississippi.”
The cost: Salads and starters $6.89 - $13.75, lunch and dinner mains $4.89 - $12.79, breakfast $4.19 - $10.59, milkshakes $5.79 - $7.59, desserts $2.89 - $6.09.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out online.
The gist: Contemporary and traditional barbecue join forces in a dimly-lit subterranean hideaway beneath Crust Pizza and Visible Voice Books.
The food: We know it's a barbecue joint, but the true star here is the tacos. And how could they not be when they’re made with endlessly tender Angus brisket slow-smoked for a full 14 hours? Sandos with creative twists—pineapple and mozzarella on pulled pork, for example—plus an approachable bourbon and cocktail menu round out this thoroughly modern BBQ experience.
The cost: Starters $5 - $11, tacos and sandwiches $12 - $14, meat by the pound $12 - $25, sides $2 - $6, cocktails $8 - $11, beer and wine by the glass $3 - $9, whiskey price vary.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out via Toast.
The gist: Perhaps the most innovative concept Cleveland has seen in a long time, Salt takes a sophisticated approach to small plates, wine, and craft cocktails in an elegant but unstuffy setting.
The food: As insistently seasonal as ever, Salt continues to wow diners by combining unconventional ingredients with picture-perfect composition. The small plates, adventurous meals unto themselves, currently cover dishes as varied as lamb chorizo and rabbit pot pie. The wine list is similarly well-curated, and the cocktails, named after female titans of history and pop culture, are both surprising and beautiful executed.
The cost: Small plates and shareables $11 - $15, wine by the glass $9 - $21, cocktails $13 - $14, beer $2 - $6.50.
How to book: Call 216-221-4866 or reserve via Resy.
The gist: A Lakewood favorite since debuting five years ago, Thai Thai takes joy in bringing Bangkok street food and other Southeast Asian restaurant staples to The Land.
The food: You can’t go wrong with any of the usual hits, though Thai Thai shines the brightest when it ventures into meat-on-a-stick territory. Gai Yang may be the most tender and succulent chicken in the city, and the fiendishly spicy Thaiger Tears dipping sauce will reward your pain with unfolding layers of complexity and flavor.
The cost: Starters $4.50 - $7.95, mains and shareables $8.95 - $12.95, desserts $5.
How to book: Call 216-226-4890 for take-out.
Dang Good Foods
The gist: With a playful approach to Singapore’s diverse culinary traditions, Dang Good Foods survived a pandemic-era opening to emerge as a near-instant West Side success.
The food: Dang Good’s menu name-checks the food of India, China, and Japan, so the rice and noodle dishes that form the menu’s backbone cover a wide territory. The Nasi Lemak, with its fragrant coconut milk lavender rice, is a house favorite, but the soul-warming umami bomb that is Spam Musubi wins us over as the ideal on-the-go lunch.
The cost: Starters $5.50 - $7, rice wraps and bao $6 - $10, mains and shareables $9.50 - $14, desserts $5 - $6.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out online.
The gist: Any venture from Barroco owner Juan Vergara would warrant our attention, but this tri-location L.A.-style taco stand exceeds our expectations with no-nonsense execution and a commanding sense of flavor.
The food: All the tacos are stellar, but the birria-stuffed version is the true show-stopper here. Made with ultra-tender braised beef, they’re served with an optional consomme dipping sauce—and you’d best take that option. For the late night set, Mexican Ramen is a genre-bending blend of pleasingly slurpy noodles and zesty Mexican spice.
The cost: Starters and sides $2 - $9, tacos $4 - $5, mains $11 - $18, desserts $4 - $6.
How to book: Stop by any location first come, first served seating or counter service or order take-out online.
The gist: With its Viking warrior aesthetic and crushing metal soundtrack, LBM is the “friendly neighborhood cocktail bar” of our seemingly on-the-verge-of-apocalyptic world.
The food: Much like its oft-reinvented cocktail menu, LBM’s food offerings change with the seasons. This summer’s tropical-themed program is called, tongue firmly in cheek, “Sea of Terrors/Thirsty Beaches.” Bahamanian and other island influences abound, including pan-seared frog legs, yuca-fries, and a few light twists on the always-delicious house burger.
The cost: Starters and mains $6 - $16, cocktails $10 - $40.
How to book: Email eric@LBMBar.com to reserve or order take-out and delivery via Toast.
The gist: The West Side’s lesser-known Little Italy neighborhood gets a champion of its very own in the respectful but thoroughly modern Il Rione Pizzeria.
The food: Stylistically, the wood-fired pizzas skew closest to Old World-by-way-of-New-York: Substantial, ciabatta-like crust topped with smoked specialty meats and choice vegetables. Our pick is the Speck Pie, which makes good on the unlikely compatibility of smoked ham, lemon ricotta dotted with crunchy pistachios, and a salacious drizzle of fiery hot honey.
The cost: Pizzas $13 - $19, salads $7 - $8, wine by the bottle $18 - $60.
How to book: Call 216-282-1451 for take-out.
The gist: No culinary genre has borne the brunt of the pandemic’s wrath more than fine dining, but Alea, a relative newcomer to Ohio City, has not only survived but managed to thrive thanks to an overwhelmingly strong menu and dedicated staff.
The food: The tasting menu-only establishment features an assortment of ever-changing (and ever-enticing) options. One recent selection highlights a delightful take on grilled oyster and lamb with a heavy Korean influence. Expect the unexpected.
The cost: Five-course menus $100 for two (wine pairings + $50), eight-course menus $150 for two (wine pairings + 70).
How to book: Email email@example.com or call 216-912-8890 to reserve.
Lox, Stock, and Brisket
The gist: Nestled among the aggressive trendiness of the Van Aken District, Lox, Stock and Brisket aims to give the old-school Jewish deli concept a 21st century makeover.
The food: No better place to start than the namesake dish, of course. The Upper East Side combo brings together both cured and smoked brisket while the eponymous smoke-kissed lox can be sampled by requesting the Ridge Lane. Saturday’s Prime Rib sandwich is a weekly special worth the wait.
The cost: Sandwiches $11 - $14, sides and starters $2 - $3, salads $9 - $13, breakfast $9 - $10.
How to book: Stop by for counter service or call 216-471-8175 for take-out.
The gist: Chef Doug Katz and his team are offering superb South American cuisine out of a ghost kitchen for curbside pickup or delivery only. As COVID continues to put a serious damper on dining in, this innovative ghost -- or virtual -- kitchen concept may be the way of the future, at least for now.
The food: A concise list of small plates, including grilled Peruvian chicken and jackfruit tamales, plus a few takeout-friendly desserts. Don’t miss the Mexican spiced brownies, as chocolate is never a bad thing nowadays.
The cost: Small plates and desserts range from $7-17. All orders are served with complimentary corn tortillas.
How to order: Order online or call 216-932-3333 for pickup or delivery.
The gist: Since opening late last year, chef Doug Katz’s Zhug has become one of the east side’s most raved about spots, offering tasty Middle Eastern mezze, or small, shareable dishes.
The food: Cozy up with your quarantine buddy and share a selection of plates including harissa peanut hummus, butter roasted shrimp, and beef kofte.
The cost: Selections range from $5-22.
How to order: Order takeout or delivery online.
Molto Bene Italian Eatery
The gist: You can’t help but fall in love with this cozy little restaurant that makes you feel like you stepped into a house where grandma is turning soul-satisfying food out of her tiny kitchen. Molto Bene is now open for dine-in, takeout, and patio seating.
The food: Italian food, done right. Try the big-as-your-head chicken parmesan, smothered in a generous helping of mozzarella cheese, over a pile of pasta. Or, for something lighter, opt for the trota al cartoccio -- fresh trout baked in parchment paper with shrimp, calamari, clams, mussels, and Pomodoro sauce.
The cost: Starters and salads are $8-15. Entrees are $17-25.
How to order: Dine-in customers are encouraged to make reservations at least 24 hours in advance. For reservations, or to place an order for takeout, call 216-273-7333.