Best Restaurants 2011: Tried & New

We love these 20 proven spots for keeping it fresh season after season.
Blue Canyon Chef Brandt Evans' food is as big and bold as the American West that inspires his restaurant. The lodge vibe is the perfect stage for Evans' hearty and inventive fare. Order: Alaskan halibut with fiddle head ferns ($24)
8960 Wilcox Drive, 330-486-2583,

Chez Francois (*) This place is proof that formality can be fun and fresh without caving to the casual ethos. Fine service and a terrific wine list enhance John D'Amico's consistent cuisine. Order: Escalope de veau aux fruits de mer ($33.95)
555 Main St., Vermilion, 440-967-0630,

Crop Chef Steve Schimoler is a master of flavor. Nobody gets more out of food without relying on the axis of evil: fat, salt and sugar. Crop is shuttered for now but is scheduled to reopen in its new Ohio City spot by late summer.
2537 Lorain Ave., Cleveland, 216-696-2767,

Delmonico's The steaks are why you come, but Delmonico's is also retro in all the right ways: an elegant dining room, perfect gin martinis and service that'll make you feel like Don Draper. Order: Double cut filet, 10 oz. ($34.50)
6001 Quarry Lane, Independence, 216-573-1991,

Downtown 140 Chef Don Triskett builds upon the work of his predecessor, Shawn Monday, with a four-part menu where inventive "firsts" are as much the draw as the main course. Order: Ahi tuna tartare cone ($4)
140 N. Main St., Hudson, 330-655-2940,

Fahrenheit Chef Rocco Whalen has mastered the art of regularly changing his menu to never let things get stale, but somehow every visit always feels pleasingly the same. Order: Grilled lamb loin ($26) with crispy salt and herb fries
2417 Professor Ave., Cleveland, 216-781-8858,

Fire The fact that Doug Katz is such a passionate supporter of local farmers and a great chef makes patronizing his restaurant plain fun. Plus, the meats and fish out of his tandoor oven are always spot on. Order: Foie gras studded mortadella ($14) with marinated pecorino, apricot jam, arugula and grilled flatbread
13220 Shaker Square, Cleveland, 216-921-3473,

Flying Fig The combination of chef Karen Small's commitment to using fresh, local products; a from-scratch-style; and finesse with Asian and Mediterranean flavors makes for reliably great dishes. Order: Tempura-battered green beans ($7) with ponzu sauce and pineapple caramel
2523 Market Ave., Cleveland, 216-241-4243,

Lola (*) Our Iron Chef's love for meats and the Midwest packs in diners at this beloved hot spot, which relocated from Tremont in 2006. Of course, when you're feeling nostalgic, you can always go to Lolita. Order: Seared sea scallops ($30) with sweet pea tart
2058 E. Fourth St., Cleveland, 216-621-5652,

Michelangelo's Nobody in Cleveland does Italian better than chef and owner Michael Annandono, who favors rustic Piedmontese cuisine notably in carpaccios, meaty ragouts, duck and truffle dishes. Order: Sacchetti ($25), ricotta and black truffle stuffed pasta and white truffle cream sauce
2198 Murray Hill Road, Cleveland, 216-721-0300,

Momocho (*) For a guy who has no local rival when it comes to imaginative Mexican fare, chef Eric Williams refuses to let his menu stand still. A hip but not hipster vibe adds to the fun, and the guacamole lives up to the hype. Order: Achiote-spiced shrimp ($16)
1835 Fulton Road, Cleveland, 216-694-2122,

Moxie Chef Jonathan Bennett's commitment to making everything from scratch (from butter to burrata) always impresses, and his revamped menu reflects how people eat now (small, medium and large plates). Order: 12-hour veal roast ($23.50)
3355 Richmond Road, Beachwood, 216-831-5599,

Parallax We can't ignore the quiet success of the Tremont spot where chef Zack Bruell shows off how simple Asian-inspired dishes and fresh fish can yield bold results. Order: Grilled salmon ($19) with Latin-style creamed corn and South American pepper sauce
2179 W. 11th St., Cleveland, 216-583-9999,

Pier W (*) At a place all about seafood, it's imperative to have a chef like Regan Reik, who can make even humble fish elegant. The dramatic views of Lake Erie and the downtown skyline don't hurt either. Order: Pistachio almond crusted tilapia with lavender honey butter ($21)
12700 Lake Ave., Lakewood, 216-228-2250,

Players on Madison Restaurateur Gary Lucarelli's landmark spot still packs them in with chef Tony Romano's contemporary cuisine and Players' signature custom and specialty pizzas and pastas. Order: Pollo pesto pizza ($16)
14253 Madison Ave., Lakewood, 216-226-5200,

Thyme Chef and owner John Kolar makes his mark with bold flavors and reinvented condiments: ginger wasabi aioli for a tuna slider, espresso barbecue sauce with a hangar steak, and the tomato marmalade that jazzes up a piece of halibut. Order: Grilled hangar steak ($21)
716 N. Court St., Medina, 330-764-4114,

Saffron Patch (*) On the upscale side of ethnic cuisine, this favorite proves that curry doesn't have to overpower, showing the wide range of savory flavors Indian cuisine offers. Order: Murgh malai tikka ($14)
20600 Chagrin Blvd., Shaker Heights, 216-295-0400,

Salmon Dave's Call us crazy for favoring this Rocky River spot over its seafood sister downtown, but we can't ignore the Pacific Rim influence or gold rush saloon vibe. Order: Great Lakes walleye with hazelnut crust ($23)
19015 Old Lake Road, Rocky River, 440-331-2739,

Sergio's Sarava (*)
Chef Sergio Abramof's Shaker Square spot is an authentic take on his native South American culture. The flavors are exotic but not off-putting, and Abramof's "street plate" selection will make you always want to dine here tapas-style. Order: Tamale cakes ($6.95)
13225 Shaker Square, Cleveland, 216-295-1200,

Three Birds (*) Chef Rachel Spieth cooks with equal parts imagination and hyper-seasonal ingredients at this contemporary West Side spot. Located in Lakewood's historic Bonne Bell property, the place shines in summer with courtyard dining. Order: Seared foie gras ($15)
18515 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, 216-221-3500,

* Indicates Silver Spoon 2011 award recipients

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