Acquired Taste: Blood Rice Cakes With Timothy DeLaGhetto and Justina Valentine
Best new lunch
Café 55Address and Info
As part of the Hub 55 project bringing more culinary destinations to the St. Clair-Superior neighborhood, Café 55 is a bright, crisp next step. All-day breakfast and quick-serve lunches make for a cozy-yet-modern place to escape with your laptop for some laid back afternoon work and Wi-Fi connectivity. Snatch up local food favorites in stock from CLE Juice Box and Cleveland Bagel Company.
Best new place to be board
Tabletop Board Game CaféAddress and Info
Need a change of pace from the West 25th strip? Tuck into Tabletop, where you can pluck one of hundreds of games from their shelves and challenge your partner to a duel. They’ve also got sandwiches, snacks, and, of course, beer (this is gaming for adults, anyway). Just don’t ask us what games like Dwarven Miner or Exploding Kittens exactly entail.
Best new dance night
'90s Night at Mahall’sAddress and Info
Cutting the rug at a bowling alley should already be enough of a reason to make it out to Mahall’s intermittent '90s revival nights. Dancing with wall-to-wall people to Garbage, Nirvana, and REM should be your other reason.
Best new pizza
Citizen PieAddress and Info
The masterpieces of Vytauras Sasnauskas had already amassed a cult following when he would serve up pies at the swanky, tapped-by-Esquire cocktail bar Velvet Tango Room. Taking root in the Waterloo Arts District directly across from the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern, Citizen’s wood-oven Neapolitan pizzas are a welcome addition to a growing roster of food offerings in the neighborhood.
Best new nightlife
FM at Touch Supper ClubAddress and Info
There’s already plenty of intrigue surrounding Touch following its reopening after a year-long renovation. Amplifying the chatter is this new weekly Sunday speakeasy-type event, which caps off at an intimate 75 people. To enter, attendees must enter through the back alley and are then escorted by the doorman to the basement. DJs spin low-key house and techno until the early hours.
Best new bar event
Story Club ClevelandAddress and Info
Storytelling nights -- where featured readers and the audience take turns handing off the mic -- have drawn crowds to bar basements since 2014 thanks to Keep Talking at Happy Dog and Told at Market Garden Brewery. Story Club, founded by Mary Norris in Chicago, came to Cleveland Heights’ The BottleHouse Brewery in late 2015, and takes place every first Monday of the month. If you’re afraid to throw your name in the hat to tell your own story, throw back a few and you might change your tune.
Best specialty bar
Griffin Cider HouseAddress and Info
Blink and you might miss this pub on Lakewood’s Madison Ave corridor, but it’s worth seeking out the locally brewed ciders that Richard Read has been making since 2010. This year he opened the bar, which has a variety of Griffin’s own ciders on tap and other regional varieties on hand for a taste of Ohio apples.
Best triumphant return
Seoul Hot PotAddress and Info
For the past 30 years, if you were craving a fix of Korean barbecue, Seoul Hot Pot was the go-to. However, when they shut their doors a few years ago, it was uncertain if the AsiaTown staple would return. Longtime customers rejoiced as the restaurant swung back open this summer for plenty of sizzle-your-own fare on their tables built with grills. Plus, Cleveland loves a good comeback story.
Best new retail
Banter Beer and WineAddress and Info
Banter, you had us at “bottles, sausage, poutine.” The beer and wine shop has a fully stocked and carefully chosen selection ready to grab and go. In the fast-growing area of Ohio City, the team behind Banter made it into a stop for a bite (or two) as well. The small-but-mighty menu can be enjoyed over a boozy beverage or chilled wine pulled straight from the store.
Best new expansion
CodaAddress and Info
Cleveland institution Cobra Verde ripped through a set at this new Tremont music venue when it was less than a month old, making it one of the first reasons to add it to the to-do list. The next is that it’s in the hands of all-star chef (and musician) Dante Bocuzzi, located directly under his Dante Next Door, offering a below-ground venue to steal away to for libations and late-night snacks.
Best new healthy restaurant
Café AvalaunAddress and Info
For those cutting gluten out of their diets, a new haven opened this year. Celebrated chef Brian Doyle and Maggie Downey, who both worked together on Doyle’s SOWFOOD catering company, opened the entirely gluten-free café offering salads, sandwiches, breakfast dishes, and crepes. They took that one step further with a creperrito, a crepe rolled like a burrito. Yes, a burrito crepe. The breakfast of your dreams.
Best new ethnic eats
BatuquiAddress and Info
It feels right that a family owned restaurant -- serving authentic Brazilian food from the couple’s native country, no less -- would set up shop in a Victorian home on the cozy strip of Larchmere. Feijoada stew, a signature Portuguese dish, is a specialty here. And don’t skimp on the caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail served up traditionally with cachaça (a liquor distilled from sugar cane that dates back to the 1600s), sugar and lime.
Best destination restaurant
Great Scott TavernAddress and Info
You won’t find this building, home to an old Postal Service operation, in any trendy strip or hot “new” neighborhood. Instead, Great Scott is breathing new life into Euclid, where independent dining is harder to find. Great Scott’s tagline is “The Start of Something Great,” and it seems to certainly be true for the city.
Best new concept
Crop RocksAddress and Info
This was the year the east bank of the Flats came back -- we got the gleaming new Alley Cat Oyster Bar, Portside Distillery rum and beer watering hole, and much more. But of all the new nightlife spots, Crop Rocks has a few things the others don’t: Bone Thugs and Hominy. Hotel California Cobb. Friend of the Devil-ed Eggs. Dark Side of the Moon shots. This new joint of Steve Schimoler is lined floor to ceiling with more than 15,000 vinyl records, includes a full DJ booth -- with guest spinners -- and a 1977 VW Bug out front.
Best new life for an old favorite
Forest Hill Kitchen & BallroomAddress and Info
The city mourned the shuttering of Grovewood Tavern’s 16-year run. It seemed all was lost for those adored spicy sesame noodles. But then came Forest Hill Kitchen, and like that, the legacy of Grovewood lives. The newest venture of John Bausone, the beloved restaurant's last chef, has taken over the gorgeous space once owned by Rockefeller’s, and keeps busy with full-service catering and event hosting. And, of course, gives people the spicy noodles that they love.