Local restaurants have been going wild over game meats, creating dishes centered on elk, rabbit and more. "The best part about game meat is that it's very, very lean," says Bob Humphrey, general manager of Gamekeeper's Taverne. If you've never tried wild meats before, don't fear the flavor. "It's kind of like if you have a French or Italian wine," he says. "You get that mineraly, earthy Old World-style flavor."
Bison: Back when Sarita was Players on Madison, chef and co-owner Anthony Romano loved making pepper-crusted ostrich. His revamped dish features an espresso- and pepper-crusted bison strip ($30). "Bison is leaner than beef, but it's really not gamey at all," he says. 14523 Madison Ave., Lakewood, 216-226-5200, sarita-restaurant.com
Elk: If you like filet mignon, then try the seared elk ($37) from Gamekeeper's Taverne. "It's very tender like beef, and the flavor overall is going to remind you very much [of it]," says Humphrey. The entree playfully comes with fried leeks and an oyster mushroom arranged to look like antlers. 87 West St., Chagrin Falls, 440-247-7744, gamekeepers.com
Rabbit: To Kevin Auger, rabbit tastes like a really good piece of dark chicken. The Bar Cento executive chef likes to use the meat in his rabbit pappardelle ($20) with Ohio apples, celeriac and turnip. "It's very tender, very similar to if you were to do this like a pulled pork, texture-wise." 1948 W. 25th St., Cleveland, 216-274-1010, barcento.com
Venison: Felice Urban Cafe chef Laura Bouton's venison osso bucco ($25), a braised shank with celeriac and Yukon Gold potatoes and crispy speck, is an easy intro to game. "People are pleasantly surprised," she says. "The venison that we're getting can be less gamey than American lamb." 12502 Larchmere Blvd., Cleveland, 216-791-0918, feliceurbancafe.com