Cleveland, you’ve come a long way, baby.
It’s almost hard to believe the modern fine dining revolution only began to take hold here during the last 20 years.
In 1985, Paul Minillo first enticed us with a modern and refined approach to European and Mediterranean cuisine at Little Italy’s Baricelli Inn, and Zach Bruell introduced the East Side to the West Coast’s interest in fusing Asian and American culinary traditions.
Six years later, Piccolo Mondo became ground zero for another revolution in Northeast Ohio, as talented young chefs and managers turned Carl Quagliata’s Warehouse District gamble into the hottest dining destination in town.
With the increasing success of trendy new dishes and techniques, other young chefs previously dispersed across the country returned to their native city, hoping we were ready to accept more than brats and peirogies (not that we don’t still love both).
Fantastic eateries began to spring up in the suburbs and local groups such as Hyde Park and Hospitality Restaurants (Cabin Club, Salmon Dave’s, Blue Point, etc.) brought concepts from Chicago and beyond back to our ZIP codes.
In the later ’90s, long-abandoned urban areas flourished as dining and entertainment meccas, with restaurateurs following Piccolo Mondo to the Warehouse District and Michael and Liz Symon’s Lola into Tremont. Some of our best chefs, such as Symon and Minillo, have attracted national attention for themselves and our great city by the lake.
So, here we are today. I like to think that Clevelanders’ tastes have become even more cosmopolitan and refined. I believe, in my chef’s heart, that really good cuisine and distinctive local restaurants still have the opportunity to take root and flourish in our native soil. The dining revolution is, and hopefully always will be, still under way.
Bruell is back with Parallax, the hottest new restaurant in Tremont, while Piccolo alumni such as Tom Quick, Symon, Mike Long and Ron Seballos have continued to evolve, bringing our taste buds along for the ride.
Hudson, the city of my youth, now boasts three fantastic, upscale dining destinations as Vue and Downtown 140 join the iconic Inn at Turner’s Mill. Excellent, independent cuisine-driven steak houses have sprouted all around town, an answer to our deep-seated Midwestern need for meat and potatoes: Delmonico’s Steakhouse in Independence, XO Prime Steaks in the Warehouse District, and Beachwood’s Red the Steakhouse, the newest offering from Moxie’s Jonathan Bennett and Brad Friedlander.
Our palates, too, are evolving as we embrace offerings from the exotic culinary traditions of Thailand, Vietnam, Lebanon, India and Japan. If someone had told me five years ago that I would someday be craving Vietnamese pho noodles over french fries, I would have been more than a bit skeptical.
Sushi Rock has scored big with its second location on the East Side with scores of former perch-fry patrons now tucking into raw tuna, while Taza, the grown-up sister of the Aladdin’s restaurants, offers a Middle Eastern menu that delights meat eaters and vegetarians alike.
Some of these restaurants may have made your list of favorites, but all of them, and many more, deserve your business. Each time we patronize the new place we’ve been hearing about or return to an old favorite, we are making a commitment to a stronger and better dining scene in Northeast Ohio. I hope that you are as interested as I am to see which area restaurants earned the accolades of your fellow readers, so that you, in turn, can pick up a fork and find out for yourself what makes each one worthy of note.
Because the people who own, staff and stake their lifeblood in these local eateries await the results of the 2006 Silver Spoons, hoping for the vindication of the vox populi. While no amount of press can assure the success of an eatery, we can by dining out. In the end, every person with a fork is a critic.
Back in 2001, I closed my own restaurant, MacLaren’s Cuisine, after two years of rave reviews and too often empty seats. Five years later, people still occasionally say they loved the place. (To which I always answer, “Oh, you were the ones.”) It breaks my heart to see good local concepts closing and national chains expanding.
I remember, all too recently, visiting Doug Petkovic at Theory. As the once-proud venture faltered and began to sink around him, I found myself uttering a useless, “I know what it’s like.” Truly, ours is a difficult voyage aboard an unsteady ship in the most tempestuous of waters.
These servers, chefs, managers, bartenders and others who do this are the warrior poets of the kitchen, fiercely committed men and women forging instantaneous art out of raw ingredients, skill and fire.
Restaurants, and the people who make their livelihoods within them, are one of the finest parts of our community, creating what sociologists call a “third place” beyond our homes and workplaces. These third places give us a chance to reconnect with our families, friends and loved ones, our present and past, and to those important moments that are somehow captured on our tongues, just as in our minds. Food and the traditions that surround the meal are powerful caches of memory, and restaurants are the depository of that essence.
So enjoy the 2006 Silver Spoon Awards, and when you have finished, reserve an evening out with your dream girl or boy, your mother, father, children or someone whose dinner conversation makes you feel wittier than usual. During this coming year, be part of the revolution. Eat, drink, laugh, remember, reconnect and help dining in Cleveland continue to grow, evolve and endure.
— Greg MacLaren
Editor’s Note: Ballots were bound into subscriber copies of the December 2005 issue and available online at www.clevelandmagazine.com. Results were verified by accounting firm Meaden & Moore.
Best New Restaurant: Vue
Hudson’s Vue may be the first restaurant in our history to overhaul its culinary staff between voting and publication of the Silver Spoon Awards. But the move does nothing to diminish the accomplishment. After a two-week hiatus this winter, Vue returned with Robert Ledzianowski, formerly chef de cuisine at One Walnut, replacing Gregg Korney as executive chef. And the new plan already seems to be working. The menu has been freshly reimagined, while prices have generally been lowered across the board. An attractive bistro menu is in place for the lively and well-stocked bar, which offers live music on Fridays and Saturdays. Where Korney drew inspiration from the flavors of the Orient, Ledzianowski’s cuisine favors an upscale blend of the finest American, Spanish and Italian influences. We enjoyed dishes ranging from an interesting appetizer of warm Taleggio with a salad of wilted frisee, bacon lardons and quail eggs to a delicious, sausage-wrapped pork tenderloin with sweet potato gnocchi. Ledzianowski’s impressive cuisine blends well with his tony new surroundings — one of the area’s best-looking dining spaces. If judged purely by looks alone, Vue should be considered a world-class eatery. Fortunately, a stellar wine list and an extremely professional and adept service staff, both under the direction of general manager Michael Tomaselli, move the experience beyond the aesthetic and earn this standout eatery the distinction of being our readers’ favorite addition to Northeast Ohio’s dining scene.
— Greg MacLaren
BEST NEW RESTAURANT
A winter switch at Vue saw former One Walnut chef Robert Ledzianowski replace Gregg Korney and a freshly imagined menu that brought lower prices and traded Asian flavors for a blend of the finest American, Spanish and Italian influences. And even though this all happened after our voters cast their ballots for this year’s best new restaurant, our recent visit found Vue 2.0 on par with the original.
Zach Bruell’s reappearance on the city’s restaurant scene, Parallax, was a close second. The Tremont eatery’s minimalist decor and dishes that leap from grilled chicken with watercress to Asian black cod to some of the city’s freshest sushi make this one of the West Side’s destination eateries.
BEST FINE DINING
1. Blue Point Grille
After dropping out of the Top 3 last year, Blue Point Grille is back on top, proving the Warehouse District eatery still delivers one of the city’s best dining experiences eight years after opening its doors at St. Clair Avenue and West Sixth Street. Lockkeepers in Valley View retains the No. 2 position it finished at last year, while Classics rounds out the pack, making the list for the first time since the Cleveland favorite’s rebirth at the InterContinental Hotel and Conference Center.
BEST CHEAP EATS
1. Yours Truly
Yours Truly celebrates its 25th anniversary by retaking first place from last year’s winner and fellow mini-chain Aladdin’s.
BEST CHEAP EATS (CHAIN):
1. Blue Point Grille
2. Mitchell’s Fish Market
3. Blake’s Seafood Grill
For the eighth year, Blue Point Grille tops our seafood category, which the restaurant has hooked since its first year in business. Mitchell’s Fish Market and Blake’s Seafood Grill also repeat their 2005 finishes.
BEST FRENCH/ CONTINENTAL
1. Sans Souci
2. Chez Francois
Sans Souci is “without concern” about taking this category for its 14th year running, while Classics and Vermilion’s Chez Francois swap second and third place from last year. Now that famed French chef Guillaume Brard has departed Classics, we’ll be watching to see if his former sous chefs, now at the helm, will prove themselves contenders.
1. Ristorante Giovanni’s
2. Trattoria on the Hill
3. Mama Santa’s
Beachwood’s Ristorante Giovanni’s wins for a third year running. Little Italy’s Trattoria on the Hill once again falls just shy of taking top billing while fellow Little Italy location Mama Santa’s claims third.
BEST ITALIAN (CHAIN):
1. tie: Brio Tuscan Grille/
The Olive Garden
1. Cafe Tandoor
2. Saffron Patch
3. tie: Maharaja/Mughal
Now with locations in Cleveland Heights, Westlake and Aurora, no part of Greater Cleveland is denied the rich spices of Cafe Tandoor, which finishes on top for a fifth year.
1. Jade Tree
2. tie: Pearl of The Orient/
Hunan on Coventry
Lake County voters put Jade Tree on the list and pushed it just past perennial first-place finisher Pearl of the Orient, which has both East and West side locations. Hunan on Coventry — a list fixture — finishes third.
2. tie: Otani/Sushi Rock
The traditional decor and authentic cuisine prompted voters to give Shuhei its second consecutive first-place finish. Mayfield Heights favorite Otani enters the list this year for the first time since its 2001 first-place finish, tying with Sushi Rock, which extended its trendy take on Japanese to the East Side in 2005 with a Beachwood location.
BEST JAPANESE (CHAIN):
BEST ASIAN (OTHER THAN CHINESE OR JAPANESE)
1. Lemon Grass
2. #1 Pho
3. Pad Thai
1. Mad Greek
2. Niko’s on Detroit
A battle of mythic proportions arises as voters pay homage to two Greek restaurants that rule their respective sides of the crooked river. The East Side’s Mad Greek (which also serves Indian food) wins this battle, but the strong showing by Niko’s on Detroit proves the Zeuslike power this Lakewood eatery has over the palates of Greek cuisine lovers living west of the Cuyahoga.
BEST MIDDLE EASTERN
1. Aladdin’s Eatery
2. Nate’s Deli
Aladdin’s magic carpet ride continues, as the chain expands while owning this category. The only sign of competition on the horizon may be its newly opened upscale spin-off at Eton Chagrin Boulevard: Taza Lebanese Grill.
BEST GERMAN OR CENTRAL EUROPEAN
1. Frank Sterle’s
Slovenian Country House
3. tie: Der Braumeister/
Sokolowski’s University Inn
2. Viva Barcelona
Mallorca, the first eatery in the city to introduce us to upscale Spanish and Portuguese cuisine, once again runs away with this category by claiming several times the votes of Viva Barcelona, which traded spaces with last year’s second-place finisher Marbella (also run by the owners of Mallorca).
2. tie: Lopez/Nuevo Acapulco
Luchita’s easily wins the category again, while Lopez, a third-place finisher in a nearly identical list for the last two years, ascends to a tie but fails to take the whole enchilada from Nuevo Acapulco.
BEST CARRIBEAN/PUERTO RICAN/LATIN AMERICAN
1. 83 Degrees Caribbean
2. Rachel’s Caribbean
A new combined category and solid Caribbean cuisine options leaves Lozada’s Restaurant — the city’s most visible and popular Puerto Rican eatery — off this year’s list.
BEST CARIBBEAN/PUERTO RICAN/LATIN AMERICAN (CHAIN):
1. Bahama Breeze
Food & Drink
1. Tony Roma’s
3. Smokey Bones
The win is nearly posthumous for Tony Roma’s, which put three of its four area locations on the slab after voting was tallied. Will Roma romancers venture to the chain’s lone local outpost in Brunswick or does a growing number of barbecue outlets make this anyone’s game in ’07?
1. Hyde Park Prime
2. Ruth’s Chris Steak House
3. Morton’s, the Steakhouse
1. Mama Santa’s
3. Danny Boy’s
East Side landmarks Mama Santa’s and Geraci’s have taken turns slicing out victories for years, while Danny Boy’s third appearance in five years shows the West Side can still twirl dough with the best of them.
1. Heck’s Cafe
2. Yours Truly
2. Max’s Deli
3. Corky & Lenny’s
This is one city where corned beef is king and size does matter. Max’s and Corky’s sandwiches can compete, but only Slyman’s offers a heaping mound of corned beef that’s as intimidating as it is delicious. They don’t offer the brown bag for nothing.
1. Panera Bread
2. Corky & Lenny’s
3. The Olive Garden
1. Blue Canyon Kitchen *
2. tie: Lockkeepers/
BEST APPETIZERS (CHAIN):
1. TGI Friday’s
1. Max’s Deli
2. The Cheesecake Factory
3. Baker’s Square
Worries that national heavyweight The Cheesecake Factory would cakewalk its way into Max’s long-held first place slot were unfounded — one glance into Max’s dessert case in Rocky River gives you the entrancing reason why.
2. Aladdin’s Eatery
3. Johnny Mango World Cafe
BEST WINE LIST
2. Blue Point Grille
1. Winking Lizard
2. Metropolitan Cafe
BEST LOCAL MICROBREW
1. Great Lakes Brewing Co.
2. Willoughby Brewing Co.
3. Rocky River Brewing Co.
BEST BEER SELECTION
1. Winking Lizard
2. Great Lakes Brewing Co.
3. Willoughby Brewing Co.
The Winking Lizard’s “World Tour of Beers” pushes it to the front of the pack, but a faction of voters chose local flavor over sheer quantity, casting their votes for homegrown favorites Great Lakes Brewing Co. and Willoughby Brewing Co.
BEST LOCAL CHEF
1. Michael Symon,
Lolita /Lola Bistro
2. Brandt Evans, Blue Canyon
Kitchen * Tavern
3. Doug Katz, fire food
It’s little wonder with his appearance on “Iron Chef,” new Tremont eatery Lolita and the hotly anticipated opening of the transplanted Lola Bistro on East Fourth Street that Symon would take top honors for a fifth year running. Blue Canyon Kitchen * Tavern’s Brandt Evans claims the No. 2 spot once again just as he takes his Rocky Mountain lodge dining concept that is packing the house in Twinsburg to a second location in Montana.
BEST PLATE PRESENTATION
1. tie: Blue Canyon Kitchen *
Tavern/Blue Point Grille
BEST SUNDAY BRUNCH
1. Pier W
2. Century at The Ritz-Carlton
3. tie: Blue Canyon Kitchen *
Tavern/Inn on Coventry
1. tie: The Baricelli Inn/
2. Sans Souci
The Baricelli Inn rightfully bounds onto the list, showing it snares our readers’ affections as much as perennial first-place finisher Pier W. Sans Souci, which usually finishes in the Top 3, is another winner with its incredible Public Square views. Though we’d advise booking a table with that special someone here any time, the restaurant’s holiday views of the downtown lights are peerless.
BEST SPORTS BAR
2. Winking Lizard
3. Damon’s Grill
1. Gamekeepers Taverne
2. Three Birds
BEST PEOPLE WATCHING
1. Blue Point Grille
2. Shooters on the Water
3. Johnny’s Downtown
Blue Point Grille is a celebrity magnet, whether it’s LeBron stopping in for a pregame meal or Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson popping by after a long day of “American Idol” auditions. Shooters’ riverside patio makes it a natural environment for scoping out the crowd, while a week of lunches at Johnny’s Downtown provides steady sightings of city power brokers.
BEST PLACE FOR FAMILY DINING
1. Yours Truly
2. tie: Park City Diner/
1. Ristorante Giovanni’s
2. Blue Point Grille
3. Hyde Park Prime
1. Pier W
2. Blake’s Seafood Grill
3. Ponte Vecchio
It almost sounds like a punch line when you say the best way to see Cleveland is from Lakewood, but the breathtaking view of the downtown skyline from a few miles west down the Lake Erie shore is sure to let the air out of any joke. Blake’s Seafood Grill’s Chagrin Falls location reclaims its second-place spot, while newcomer Ponte Vecchio’s perch from atop the remains of the Old Superior Viaduct takes third.
1. tie: Blue Canyon
Kitchen * Tavern/
Bravo! Cucina Italiano
2. Pier W
1. Corky and Lenny’s
2. Jack’s Deli
3. Max’s Deli
BEST PASTRY SHOP
1. Corbo’s Dolceria
2. Presti’s Bakery
3. Panera Bread
Little Italy’s one-two punch of Corbo’s Dolceria and Presti’s Bakery claim the top slots in a switch of last year’s top finishers, while Panera Bread sneaks into the category to unseat last year’s local three-way tie.
BEST WINE STORE
2. Minotti’s Wine & Liquor
3. West Point Market
Great wines under $10, a deep lineup of premium bottles and store locations spanning Greater Cleveland give Heinen’s a slight margin over the West Side’s Minotti’s Wine & Liquor locations and Akron’s West Point Market in a tight finish.
BEST PLACE TO BUY BREAD
1. Panera Bread
2. The Stone Oven
3. On the Rise
The Panera Bread chain claims the first-place slot for the seventh consecutive year.
BEST CHEESE SELECTION
2. tie: The Baricelli Inn/
West Point Market/
West Side Market
by Carl Musacchio
Bucci’s, Berea — One of the best buys around. Standard Italian-American fare is handled very well — manicotti and veal Francais are as good as you’ll find anywhere in town — and seasonal specialties are outstanding. Don’t miss the grouper, especially if it’s offered in a lobster cream sauce or teamed with rock shrimp. The “lighter fare” menu offers a great prime rib dinner for $13.95, complete with salad, horseradish sauce, baked potato and some of the best bread in town. They also have my favorite cannoli anywhere. Baricelli Inn, Little Italy This culinary landmark occupies an architectural one: a century-old brownstone mansion on University Circle. Cuisine ranges far beyond the usual Italian-American red sauce specialties. Chef/owner Paul Minillo is especially serious about artisinal salumi (cured pork products) and cheeses (the restaurant boasts its own affinage, a cheese storage and curing area). It’s expensive and usually worth it.
Pier W, Lakewood — Always good, it’s been remodeled, redesigned and reincarnated — and it’s better than ever. Chef Anthony Phenis’ menu draws on culinary traditions ranging from Mediterranean to East Asian to Latin American. Appetizers are great, main courses are outstanding and the mini desserts are a treat. Try the halibut tacos or the bouillabaisse. For dessert, sample the chocolate macadamia nut tart.
Lockkeepers, Valley View — Beautiful dining and banquet rooms feature decor inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement in a canal-side setting near the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Chef Pamela Waterman offers steaks and chops as good as you’ll get anywhere. Venison osso buco is outstanding as are seafood selections such as peekytoe crab cakes, lobster gratin and crab-stuffed sole. The wine list is a perennial award winner. Blue Canyon Kitchen * Tavern, Twinsburg — Just sitting in chef Brandt Evans’ beautiful restaurant, in the style of one of the grand old National Park lodges, is a treat. The creative and innovative food usually lives up to the promise. Try the pretzel-crusted trout or the yellowfin tuna two ways. Don’t miss the Bibb lettuce wedge salad. It’s a big, busy restaurant though, and some have complained of being lost in the shuffle.
by Carl Musacchio
Pier W, Lakewood — This 40-year-old classic reopened in 2005 after being closed nine months for a $3 million refurbishing. The interior has been redesigned to give just about every table access to the great view over Lake Erie. Chef Phenis has kept many of the favorites and added a number of great new dishes as well.
Oggi, North Royalton — Chef/owner Carmela Delbusso left Portofino in Strongsville last year to take over this spot in North Royalton. The restaurant serves excellent versions of Italian-American restaurant classics. Don’t miss the penne pasta with vodka sauce.
Palmer’s Grille, Strongsville — Another old favorite that reopened under new ownership, with a new menu, in 2005. Steaks and ribs are excellent — give the espresso-rubbed rib-eye a try — but don’t overlook the fish and seafood entres such as grilled scallops with jasmine rice in chipotle cream sauce.
Raffine, Medina — Formerly the Glass Garden, this spot reopened in 2005 with a new chef/owner. The restaurant specializes in outstanding renditions of old favorites and classics like veal Oscar and steak Diane.
by Carl Musacchio
Pier W, Lakewood — The view across Lake Erie toward the Cleveland skyline is the best offered by any local restaurant, with the possible exception of...
Water’s Edge Deli and Grill, Lakewood — This waterfront favorite is on the ground floor of a Gold Coast apartment building. It offers much the same view as the nearby Pier W, but with much less strain on the budget. Serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Blue Canyon Kitchen * Tavern, Twinsburg — Sit in the main dining room near the great windows and enjoy a sweeping panorama of the Ohio countryside as it rolls gently toward the Pennsylvania line. Mapleside Apple Farm, Brunswick — Part of a rambling fruit stand, bakery, ice cream parlor and gift shop complex on a high ridge in Medina County. The homestyle food is good, not great, but if you score a table near the window, you can see for miles. It’s breathtaking in autumn.
Best New Restaurant: Runner- Up : Parallax
Twenty-one years after ushering Cleveland’s dining scene into the modern era with his incredibly popular Z Contemporary Cuisine, Zach Bruell, along with partner David Schneider, has returned with Parallax, arguably one of the busiest spots in Tremont. With clean lines, minimalist design and its feng shui feel, the restaurant is a very visual interpretation of the contemporary East-meets-West theme that weaves through Bruell’s cuisine. To complement his culinary arsenal, Bruell added a skillfully staffed sushi bar to his new concept, bringing extra traffic in the door and keeping the bar filled on most nights. The dining menu, one of the largest in Tremont even without the sushi selections, features several favorites from the old days (try the grilled chicken breast with watercress, pommes frites and beurre blanc) along with some new dishes, including the udon noodle appetizer and the Asian black cod with miso glaze and sauted bok choy, that showcase the skill and creativity of the eatery’s talented young kitchen staff. Portions here are uniformly hearty, a refreshing change in a time when many restaurants have begun to downsize their dishes in the name of art. Schneider’s wine list, possibly sculpted by the sensibilities he gained at the helm of Chicago’s Bin 36, is extensive without being overly large and offers several interesting and unfamiliar selections. A generally excellent staff of serving veterans, also working under Schneider’s watchful yet congenial eye, is efficient and attentively assures one of an enjoyable evening. While the times may have finally caught up to Zach Bruell’s cuisine, it has not been surpassed and is as thoroughly contemporary now as it was ahead of its time before.
— Greg MacLaren
by Greg MacLaren
Flying Fig, Ohio City — Karen Small’s cool-without-trying-to-be eatery is one of my longtime favorites. I love the Fig’s happy hour and its small plates. The inventive menu changes frequently, though favorites often reappear. Some of mine include the roasted pork empanadas on the tapas menu or the double-duck entre, though I have never had a disappointing meal (this is really saying something).
Lola/Lolita, Downtown/Tremont — Closed for more than a year (and hopefully reopening downtown any day now), Michael and Liz Symon’s Lola gets picked on past merit, but said merit is more than enough. Michael’s deft touch with cuisine is coupled with a sense of adventure and culinary joie de vivre that have made him the biggest thing to come out of Cleveland’s dining scene since Chef Boyardee. Lolita’s Mediterranean offerings also easily deserve inclusion in this list, but I can hardly let the Symons hog two spots out of five.
Fahrenheit, Tremont — With Chef Rocco Whalen forming a new owner-ship group with the guys from the Blind Pig and Southside, big things may be in store for this popular Tremont eatery. The room is vibrant yet comfortable. And Whalen’s cuisine — whether his widely touted, Puck-inspired pizzas or more trendy dishes such as the rare beef carpaccio rolls, Chinatown chicken spring rolls or tempura-battered chicken and waffles with truffle honey — is upscale yet approachable. Plus, Fahrenheit’s martinis are some of the biggest and best in the city.
Russo’s, Peninsula — Chef David Russo’s eponymous eatery is worth the drive for both his excellent Italian food and, more so, his wonderful renderings of Cajun gumbo, and jambalaya that he mastered while working at K-Paul’s, Commander’s Palace and Emeril’s in New Orleans. Grab a seat at the horseshoe-shaped bar to see a real-life restaurant reality show in the open kitchen.
#1 Pho, Downtown — Easily the city’s most consistent and approachable Vietnamese restaurant, #1 Pho offers consistently great noodles and other standouts such as fried pork spring rolls and pork and vegetable rice paper rolls. Exotic beverages, including Taro bubble tea and Vietnamese coffee, round out a great meal for Asian food fans who are looking to break out of the Chinese-Japanese rut.
by Greg MacLaren
Red the Steakhouse, Beachwood — Brad Friedlander, Jonathan Bennett and the gang at Moxie have outdone themselves with this upscale steak joint that is easily the best of its breed in the ever-expanding steak house market. While a visit isn’t cheap, it’s worth it for the seriously tasty steaks, general culinary acumen and polished service. An instant classic.
Cowboy Food & Drink, Bainbridge and Mentor — Mike Longo, the man behind popular East Side eateries Market Square Bistro and Firefly, decided to bring a taste of the Longhorn State to the East Side with his tribute to the barbecued cuisine of the Southern roadhouse and watering hole. The beer here is frosty cold and the barbecued specialties smoked to perfection. These joints are a great local answer to the chains invading our area.
Aura Global Cuisine, Broadview Heights — Chef Jihad Hachicho’s Broadview Heights outpost presents a distant but welcome location for fine dining in an area of Northeastern Ohio better known for Italian restaurants and chains. Expect fantastic food and better service. The chef is a master of hospitality in every conceivable way.
by Greg MacLaren
Whether no tablecloth, bar top or in-your-lap dining, these Northeast Ohio gems are what I craved while living in Europe.
Swenson’s, Akron area — The last of a dying breed, this chain of extremely busy drive-up hamburger stands has been an Akron fave since just after World War II. The burgers, freshly seared with a hint of brown sugar (maybe) and other closely guarded secret ingredients, are a true original, especially the signature double-decker Galley Boy with its two tasty sauces. Everything is cooked fresh to order from the original recipes that made Swenson’s great, and the fountain still offers some of the best shakes around.
Luigi’s Pizza, Akron — As you may have noticed, I grew up in Akron and have fond memories of the food there. Regardless, Luigi’s Pizza has been cooking up some of the best pies and no-nonsense Italian-American food since my grandparents were dating. The place is mobbed on weekend nights with a line stretching out the door until the wee hours. For starters, try a tossed salad with a mountain of freshly shredded cheese or their magnificent meatballs. Please note, Luigi’s does not except any credit cards.
Lucia’s Restaurant & Lounge, Canton — For 53 years, Lucia’s has served as Northeast Ohio’s answer to great Italian steak houses like Gene and Georgetti’s in Chicago. The ultimate best-kept secret among area steak lovers, Lucia’s offers hand-trimmed and perfectly