Karen Small is dedicated to serving local fresh ingredients on her seasonally changing menu.
It's easy to get tunnel vision on West 25th Street. Crowds flit between the trendy bars and restaurants that face off on opposite storefronts. But for the last 16 years, Karen Small has set many of the buy-local, eat-seasonal practices now standard in Cleveland with Flying Fig. "The most important thing was using the best possible products as close to the earth as possible," she says. That sentiment remains the backbone of an inventive menu, where your favorite dish is ephemeral and the chef's (seasonally informed) whim rules. And while you can get a dynamite burger here, Small encourages diners to go a little green with one of the menu's few recurring items: tempura green beans ($9). For nearly 14 years, the crispy, salty pods have graced the bar as what Small's friends dubbed the perfect cocktail snack. A one-time experiment with too much produce and tempura batter has since grown into one of the restaurant's best-known bites — especially when dipped in ponzu and pineapple caramel sauces. "I didn't realize how much fun they were for people," laughs Small. Don't miss: Spend a lazy weekend with a pile of corn and andouille hotcakes ($14) or nibble one of the Fig's house-made cheddar-chive biscuits ($3) with apple butter during its impressive brunch. Shop talk: The tiny storefront next to the Fig's front door — the Market at the Fig — sells sandwiches built on house-made bread, and the shelves are stocked with local cheeses and honey. 2523 Market Ave., Cleveland, 216-241-4243, theflyingfig.com
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