We're no stranger to dingy dive bars with World War II-era trappings, so Academy Tavern on Larchmere Boulevard — established in 1939 — has been a favorite haunt for decades. But recently owner Sam Gantous dusted off the decor, nixed the well-worn carpet, freshened the paint, replaced the chairs and light fixtures, and added a piano for a vibe that's clean and neat but still maintains the character we know and love. The menu's gotten a face-lift as well. Take your pick from the new 25-bottle craft beer list (we recommend Bell's Oberon Summer Seasonal, $5.50) and settle in with not-so-taverny picks, including a light, crisp shaved fennel and goat cheese salad ($11), elegant croque madame ($13) or sweet and funky Thai garlic wings ($12). Feeling nostalgic? Plenty of classics remain, such as the popular eggplant Parmesan sandwich ($10) on garlic toast or the long-lived Academy burger ($12) made with certified Angus beef, bacon, American and Swiss cheeses, lettuce, tomato, onion and a side of fries. It's a solid step forward, but we'll hold off on calling it 21st-century until we see a website. 12800 Larchmere Blvd., Cleveland, 216-229-1171
*Editor's Note: We spoke too soon. Following the printing of this article, Academy Tavern joined the 21st-century with academytavern.com. Welcome to the World Wide Web.