Cleveland’s Best Restaurants
$ Entrées less than $10
$$ Entrées $10–20
$$$ Entrées more than $20
Best Place to Glimpse an Iron Chef: When he’s not at Lolita in Tremont or Roast in Detroit, or off filming some Food Network show, food celeb Michael Symon is at Lola ($$$, 2058 E. 4th St., 216/621-5652, www.lolabistro.com, HOURS: Mon.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. and 5–10 p.m., Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. and 5–11 p.m., Sat. 5–11 p.m.). Book your table well in advance and you’ll enjoy progressive American fare in a knockout restaurant. Say hi to Mike on your way out.
World’s Best Corned Beef Sandwich: We know the term “best” gets tossed around a lot when discussing corned beef, but Slyman’s Deli ($, 3106 St. Clair Ave., 216/621-3760, www.slymans.com, Mon.–Fri. 6:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.) really is the best around. Don’t take our word for it — visit this always-popular diner to see what mile-high perfection tastes like.
Tastiest Hangover Cure: Head to Lucky’s Café ($, 777 Starkweather Ave., 216/622-7773, www.luckyscafe.com, Mon.–Sat. 7 a.m.–5 p.m., Sun. 8 a.m.–5 p.m.) for a brunchtime Shipwreck, bound to cure any ailment — including those self induced. This mad jumble of scrambled eggs, bacon, cheddar, and fried potatoes seems to have magical healing powers. Either that, or the dish leaves diners too stuffed to notice.
Slowest Food: Chef-owner Karen Small is an ardent supporter of the slow food movement, so much of the cuisine served at Flying Fig ($$$, 2523 Market Ave., 216/241-4243, www.theflyingfig.com, Mon.–Thurs. 5–11 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5–11:30 p.m., Sun. 5–10 p.m.)is prepared with local, seasonal, and organic ingredients. Small’s frequent trips to the farmers market translate into delicious — and sustainable — meals for diners.
Best Cafeteria Meal: Clevelanders of all stripes — young and old, white collar and blue, East Side and West — can’t seem to get enough of Sokolowski’s University Inn ($$, 1201 University Rd., 216/771-9236, www.sokolowskis.com, Mon.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–3 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m.–3 p.m. and 5–9 p.m., Sat. 4–9 p.m.). This institution dishes up old-school Eastern European classics like stuffed cabbage, potato pierogies, and chicken paprikash in a tchotchke-filled cafeteria setting.
Best Late-Night Chow: Bar Cento ($$, 1948 W. 25th St., 216/274-1010, www.barcento.com, Sun.–Fri. 4:30 p.m.–2 a.m., Sat. noon–2 a.m.) serves food until 2 a.m. every single day of the year, including Christmas, New Year’s, and Arbor Day. The hardworking chefs here turn out approachable Mediterranean fare like charcuterie, warm herbed olives, Neapolitan-style pizza, and grilled Ohio lamb at this lively wine bar.
Best French Baguette: Fine restaurants around town call on the services of artisan baker Adam Gidlow to fill their bread baskets. At On the Rise ($, 3471 Fairmount Blvd., 216/320-9923, Tues.–Fri. 7 a.m.–6 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.–5 p.m., Sun. 8 a.m.–2 p.m.), his East Side bakery, customers can purchase fresh-baked muffins, scones, croissants, focaccia, and olive bread — but it is the baguettes that seem to fly out the door the fastest.
Best Hope for a Vegetarian: Tommy’s ($, 1824 Coventry Rd., 216/321-7757, www.tommyscoventry.com, Sun.–Thurs. 9 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri. 9 a.m.–10 p.m., Sat. 7:30 a.m.–10 p.m.) began in the 1970s as a hippie-run soda fountain. Today, it is the most popular eatery on Coventry Road. While not solely a vegetarian restaurant, Tommy’s has a wildly eclectic menu with loads of delicious meat-free options for herbivores.
Best Non-Indian Use of a Tandoor: Except in Indian restaurants, these clay ovens are not typical kitchen appliances in the United States. But at Fire Food & Drink ($$$, 13220 Shaker Sq., 216/921-3473, www.firefoodanddrink.com, Tues.–Thurs. 5–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5–11 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.–2 p.m. and 5–10 p.m.) chef-owner Doug Katz uses the atypical cooking implement to quick-bake flatbreads, seal in the juices in pork chops, and flash roast delicate fish.
Most Picturesque Patio: Set back from busy Detroit Road and cradled between adjoining buildings, the garden courtyard at Three Birds ($$$, 18515 Detroit Ave., 216/221-7480, www.3birdsrestaurant.com, Mon.–Thurs. 5–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5–11 p.m.) can feel like Earth’s last Eden. Mature trees, winding paths, and seasonal plantings all add to the unrivaled charm of this beloved patio.
© Douglas Trattner from Moon Cleveland, 1st Edition