Take Comfort

Sweet Melissa // During these cool, crisp October afternoons, a meal at Sweet Melissa is like a warm hug. The rustic décor, with wooden floors and dimmed lights, is as comforting as the friendly service at the Rocky River restaurant, which opened four years ago in the former Max's Deli spot. The extensive menu is full of organic, locally grown and hormone-free appetizers, salads, pastas, tacos and wraps. We suggest indulging in one of the restaurant's popular appetizers, the fried Brussels sprouts ($6). Soaked in ponzu (a sweet soy sauce) and honey and served with a sweet chili dipping sauce, the sprouts are a crispy reinvention of traditional chips-and-dip starters. If you're looking for salads, go with the warm goat cheese salad ($7) — a sweet and tart mix of cranberries, pine nuts, balsamic vinaigrette and green apples on a bed of field greens. Most salads are half-price when paired with select entrees such as the pumpkin sage gnocchi ($12), a creamy combination of wild mushrooms, balsamic, goat cheese, toasted pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries and scallions. If you can't wait for Thanksgiving dinner, try the pulled chicken risotto ($13). The warm, gluten-free casserole of butternut squash, bacon, dried cranberries, basil and Parmesan is a healthy alternative to grandma's cooking.

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