This Restaurant Reinvented the McGriddle
Comfort food done right by our friends at The Plum
Since its 2015 launch, The Plum has amassed an enthusiastic following, so it was welcome news when the owners announced they’d be opening a more casual, burger-n-fries joint in Cleveland’s Battery Park neighborhood. In an area that’s said hello and goodbye to a number of restaurants in recent years (Graffiti, Cha Pizza, Vita Urbana), Good Company promises staying power with vegetarian, vegan, and classic takes on good old-fashioned American comfort food. For instance, the Good Boi -- with griddled onion, white American cheese, pickle, shredded lettuce, and company sauce on a poppy seed bun -- can be done with beef, mushroom, chicken, or chickpea patties to suit all tastes and preferences.
One of the tastiest new additions to The Van Aken District’s vibrant Market Hall
It’s a buzzy time in Shaker Heights, thanks in part to the new Van Aken District. With a Market Hall featuring almost a dozen delicious dining destinations, it can be hard to settle into one spot. One fantastic option is the recently opened Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, by James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz. The restaurant offers simply prepared, seasonal food in an unpretentious environment. Plates range from small to extra large, including a petite shrimp toast "Banh MI" on one end of the spectrum, and a whopping wood-roasted 24-ounce rib-eye on the other.
Some of the best bagels in Cleveland, now available on the east side
Once you’ve had a taste of the good stuff, it can be hard to go back to the bagel-shaped bread we’ve become so accustomed to in Cleveland. Fortunately, Cleveland Bagel Co. is expanding their talents and operations to the east side with a new store and production facility in Fairfax. The simple menu features a rotating selection of bagels (including rosemary sea salt and cinnamon cranberry), schmears (including brie honey walnut and chorizo chipotle), hummus, breakfast sandwiches, coffee and juices. Don’t miss the classic lox.
Live music meets tasty subs in the former home of The Barking Spider
Open for more than 30 years, The Barking Spider live music venue had a certain je ne sais quoi that left patrons absolutely devastated when the owners shuttered its doors in 2016. So it was a happy day indeed when Dave’s Cosmic Subs announced they would be breathing new life into the beloved space. Cosmic Dave’s Rock Club features live music, a full bar, and the out-of-this-world sandwiches, salads, and sides the local franchise is so well known for. Try the Original Dave’s Cosmic Sub with pepperoni, salami, prosciutto, lettuce, tomatoes, banana peppers, onions, garlic, herbs, provolone cheese, and Dave’s cosmic sauce.
Casual fine dining heads west
As you drive west from Cleveland, independent dining options take a dramatic nose dive, which makes finding a great, locally owned gem all the more rewarding. Enter Thyme Table, a new venture from hometown hero Mike Smith. The Bay Village restaurant offers a comforting menu of shareables, salads, sandwiches, fulls, and sides in a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Dishes such as the loaded lobster tater tots (pictured) and the sunny side F.C.S. featuring a buttermilk biscuit, fried chicken, sunny-side egg, pickled ramps, hot sauce, maple mayo, and herbed fries leave diners feeling warm, fuzzy, and contentedly full.
Delicious French food paired with a noble mission
Since opening in 2013, EDWIN's Restaurant & Institute has been giving formerly incarcerated adults a foundation in the culinary and hospitality industry. Since then, President and CEO Brandon Chrostowski has been expanding his important mission across NEO with the opening of Sérénité Restaurant & Culinary Institute in Medina, as well as a butcher shop in the Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood. Yet, there’s a reason the original restaurant keeps reappearing on this list: its French-inspired dishes are consistently spot-on. Before or after your main meal, be sure to indulge in the to-die-for cheese cart, featuring every flavor, texture, and form your cheesy dreams are made of.
Expertly crafted cocktails, flavorful small plates, and booming music
Yes, the music in this viking bar is LOUD. But don’t let that distract you from the creative cocktails and flavorful small plates on offer at LBM. Dishes such as poutine with four mushroom gravy, cheese curds, and garlic fries, as well as fried chicken with potato and cheese pierogies and paprikash will help line your belly as you sample cocktail after delicious cocktail. Better yet, the service at LBM is some of the friendliest in town. Servers are happy to walk you through what may seem like an intimidating drink list until you find the refreshment of your booze-infused fantasies.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.