Everyone knows that winter doesn’t slow most Clevelanders down, and the momentum of our growing dining scene is no exception to that rule. This season has had its own bumper crop of restaurants open, giving us the perfect excuse to drag our homebody friend out of the house to venture out for taste tests -- snow be damned! Here are the must-try spots -- both freshly minted restaurants and new locations of old favorites -- that are heating things up in the bitter cold.
Cleveland's Best Restaurant Openings of This Winter
It’s late, you’re bundled up, and you just came from one of the growing Gordon Square Arts District’s many shows. You want poutine and sausages. This winter, Banter gave us the refuge and sustenance we needed. Veggie-friendly, lamb stroganov, and heritage pork poutine are all here to warm your belly. Their “breakfast” dish is built around Ohio maple sausage, but you can grab it up until the late night kitchen call.
Though it may be shiny and new, this hot dog-themed restaurant is rooted in the sock hop days of yesteryear. It took over the former Deering Vintage storefront and, fittingly, picks up on retro chic where Deering left off. Right along the W 25th strip, Weenie a Go Go is all about bubbly Coca Cola and drive-in movie dates as much as they are about authentic Chicago dogs. Keeping it Cleveland, the wieners are straight from local Wolf Boy Provisions.
In the heart of Little Italy, this newcomer adds an American flair to the traditionalist neighborhood. The main drag is already a sight to behold on snowy days, and now, we were given a whole new reason to visit. Retaining the feel of the historic surroundings, the tavern brings life to its 100-year-old building. Deep fried spaghetti inside meatballs and hangover tortilla soup are slam dunks. Flatbreads, salads, and ice cream with house-made chocolate sauce offer something laid back for everyone. For a casual winter warm up, a nice variety of wine and craft brews are on tap. Did we mention the bacon sriracha onion rings? Those exist.
Everyone knows Dave’s psychedelic subs rule the city. So much so that we even gave him the very official title of The Sandwich Mayor of Cleveland. The most recent of his quick-serve storefronts in Ohio City brings the fizzy soda pops, crusty bread, and addicting special sauce we'll drench with everything we all know and love.
The Hermit Club is by no means new; established in 1904, it's been operating as a private club for more than a century. Now attached to the Hofbrauhaus, the space swung open its doors to the public this year. The more upscale, fine dining wing serves a special menu. As an added bonus, it makes for a quick place to steal away for a post-show hang with its proximity to Playhouse Square.
Nothing warms us up quite like fresh baked bread, and Brimfield is at the top of its game. Wood-fired rustic rolls, country sourdough, pepperoni rolls, and olive and herb focaccia are just some of the breads baked daily. Pastries, such as scones and croissants, are also available for a quick early day snack. Build-your-own pizzas and house favorites like the margherita and veggie are bound to only grow in popularity.
On our coldest days, there’s nothing like a hearty sandwich, and Herb'n Twine doesn’t skimp on the fixings. Another foodie addition to the growing Lorain Rd strip, this grab-and-go sandwich shop took over the former Speak In Tongues nightclub space. Fried chicken with Korean barbecue sauce, sesame slaw, and cilantro makes an appearance, as does a porchetta sandwich with chilichurri. Daily specials, veggie options, soups, and salads round out the menu.
We already told you why Citizen Pie’s wood-oven Neapolitan pizzas were one of the best new things we ate last year, but we’re especially grateful for it this winter as we slush through the Waterloo Arts District. No cold can impede the Beachland Ballroom’s concerts, and nothing can hold us back from shuffling from gallery to gallery in Collinwood’s buzzing art scene. Between it all, Citizen Pie has quickly grown into a go-to destination before our favorite shows and events.
As if we didn’t already eat our weight in grilled cheese at the Lockview, they’ve gone and opened up a taco shop next door. Serving up street tacos, burritos, and salads, this only makes our munchies worse. For true late night eats, try an order of Disco Fries covered in chihuahua cheese, guacamole, and sour cream.
Call it a kitchen, call it a cantina. Or do as Local Sol does and call it a "cantiki." Whatever it is, cocktails are what we need right now, and the latest newcomer to Willoughby’s growing dining scene is bursting with Latin fare with the likes of mariquitas, Spanish sausage, and piri piri wings. Rancheros and a Spanish take on eggs Benedict heat up their brunch -- not to mention the build your own Bloody Mary bar.
This smokehouse serves up BBQ favorites like ribs, pulled pork, and brisket. Burgers like The Deep South topped with fried green tomatoes pay homage to its roots. Those not looking to douse their palates in barbeque sauce can opt for the pizzas, like the meaty Little Italy and veggie spinach and artichoke. Or order up the smoked chicken and roasted corn pie with BBQ sauce for the best of both worlds.
This winter we’re thankful for bakeries that opened in time for Paczki Day. Follow your nose to the first floor of Greystone Hall, where you’ll find fresh-baked, scratch-made seasonal baked goods. Savory quiches balance out all the sugary goodness. While you’re there, snag a French press from local coffee favorites Bent Tree.
One of the city’s favorite coffee shops has finally made its way Downtown, and this season we couldn’t be more relieved to grab a hot cup of Joe. Factor in that this year that Humble Pie Baking Company began partnering with Rising Star shops to carry the delicious pies, and you have a match made in Cleveland winter heaven.
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Nikki Delamotte is a Cleveland-based freelancer who can be persuaded to call you her favorite place to eat in the winter depending on the quality of your paczki. Follow her on Twitter at @nikkidelamotte.
1. Banter Beer and Wine7320 Detroit Ave, Cleveland
2. Weenie A Go Go1836 W 25th St, Cleveland
3. Tavern of Little Italy12117 Mayfield Rd, Cleveland
4. Dave's Cosmic Subs2547 Lorain Ave, Cleveland
5. Hermit Club1629 Dodge Ct, Cleveland
6. Brimfield Bread Oven3956 OH-43 #2, Kent
7. Herb'n Twine Sandwich Co4309 Lorain Ave, Cleveland
8. Citizen Pie15710 Waterloo Rd, Cleveland
9. El Gato Taqueria209 S Main St, Akron
10. Local Sol38257 Glenn Ave, Willoughby
11. Tavern On 916150 Som Center Rd, Solon
12. Sweet Mary's Bakery76 E Mill St, Akron
13. Rising Star Coffee Roasters412 Superior Avenue, Cleveland
Banter, known for their craft beer and fine wine, also has a menu that focuses on the Canadian dish poutine (French fries generously topped with squeaky cheese curds and rich gravy), and house made sausage sandwiches. Order your frites covered in meats from pastrami and brisket to lamb stroganov and rabbit, or try out their vegan options! The nature of this spot muddles the line between retail and eatery, catering to beer lovers who just want to run in and pick up a six-pack, and those who come hungry and get their drinks to stay-- and maybe some to go as well.
Weenie A Go Go's a retro hot dog spot (what else did you think it would be?) off the main drag in Cleveland's Ohio City. All of their dogs are locally sourced and made without hormones or additives by the folks Wolf Boy Provisions. Get yours in a freshly toasted bun with roast garlic, onion, and all the fixins'-- slaw, relish, mashed potato, bacon, or melted cheddar cheese among others.
This new neighborhood haunt has set up shop in a recently renovated 100 year old townhouse in Cleveland's adorable Little Italy neighborhood. Part sports bar, part wine bar, Tavern of Little Italy has over 14 drafts on tap plus a wide selection of wines to sip on; their food menu is equally varied. Expect to see deep fried meatballs on the the same page as baja fish tacos.
This Cleveland local fave has landed in Ohio City. These "famous cosmic subs" are a solid option for breakfast, lunch, or dinner-- they're huge, so expect lots of leftovers. We love the original cosmic sub with pepperoni, salami, prosciutto, banana peppers, lettuce, tomato, garlic, provolone, and of course, Dave's famous Cosmic Sauce.
This historic Cleveland landmark recently reopened as an intimate, pub-style restaurant in conjunction with local fave beer garden, Hofbrauhaus. Serving German and Northern European fare, the Hermit Club's elegant interior provides the perfect setting to enjoy a refined and hearty meal.
Just a short drive outside of Downtown Cleve, this tiny brick oven bakery in Kent has got all your gluten needs covered. Stop by for wood fired pizzas and loaves, all made on-site in a massive wood burning brick oven. Be sure you stop by early in the day; the shop stays open till they sell out.
This counter service sandwich shop in Ohio City offers lots of vegan and vegetarian friendly lunch options. Affordable and healthy, Herb'N Twine's grilled sandwiches, subs, soups and salads are a solid option if you're looking for fresh fare without a hefty price tag.
Citizen Pie in Waterloo is a small cafe serving cheesy, meaty pizzas and calzones from a gigantic wood oven. Ultra high-quality ingredients grace the top of doughy, charred crust, creating some of the best Neapolitan-style pizzas you can find anywhere in town. Taking root in the Waterloo Arts District directly across from the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern, Citizen is the perfect joint to grab a slice after a concert or shuffling from gallery to gallery in Collinwood’s buzzing art scene.
El Gato Taqueria in Akron offers tasty Mexican street food on the cheap. The bare bones menu features all of your cheesy, meaty faves, like nachos, tacos, and burritos, in a warm, trendy Downtown locale.
Local Sol, a "kitchen and cantiki" in Downtown Willoughby, serves up inventive takes on traditional Latin American fare. Stop by for lunch and munch on spicy sandwiches and sides; for dinner, the menu is divided up into small plates and tapas inspired main courses, including Albondigas, a tasty Spanish meatball dish that'll pair perfectly with a marg.
This recently opened spot in Solon serves up standard New American fare in a warm, trendy environment. There's something for everyone on the menu here; options include wood-fired pizzas, barbecue dishes, bistro salads, and hearty pub appetizers. The extensive beer list includes local and domestic imports, as well as drafts.
A quaint neighborhood bakery in Downtown Akron, Sweet Mary's has all the sweets you need to satisfy your tooth. The shop offers handmade speciality cakes, cookies, pies, and cupcakes. These guilt-free goods are made using locally sourced ingredients whenever possible.
Rising Star, a cute coffee shop and roastery is serving up superior brews that are perfect for enjoying at home or in their bright, minimalist shop located in the Downtown Arcade. With multiple locations across Cleveland, you can be sure you won't be far from getting your fix. At the Hingtown location, espresso's the star of the show. The shop also sells lots of coffee related accessories for home brewing.