I’ve missed this. I’ve missed it more than I care to admit. The feeling of sitting down in a restaurant, ordering a cocktail, having a real conversation with friends and just well, being there.
On a warm evening at the end of March, my first fine dining experience in about a year occurred at 17 River Grille in Chagrin Falls. Yes, I was nervous. Will it be too busy? Should I be doing this? I thought to myself as I walked up to find a restaurant buzzing with energy as guests were being seated a safe distance away.
Scoring a table on one of three patios where I could overlook the waterfalls might have had something to do with the overwhelming feeling of peace and belonging I felt as I ordered a round of appetizers (don’t sleep on those biscuits). Life is slowly returning to normal, I thought.
But the answer isn’t quite so simple. While many of us are getting vaccinated and the world is opening up again, there are still challenges ahead for the local restaurant industry. The setbacks that chefs and restaurateurs faced in the last year redefined how we’re eating. Several scaled back operations, some shifted their concepts to takeout and carryout and unfortunately others had to close their doors for good.
Those struggles also prompted reinvention, collaboration and exploration that lead to some amazing food and new restaurants for us to try. This year’s Best Restaurant stories are meant to serve as your guide on what and where to eat in Northeast Ohio — whether that be at a restaurant’s patio or digging into takeout at your dining room table.
Chefs have embraced the idea of ghost kitchens (place an order for Douglas Katz’s Chimi now, trust me), pop-ups (Shawnda Moye’s The Roaming Biscuit makes amazing breakfast sandwiches) and our love of fried chicken (you’ve got to try Nolan Konkoski’s Chicken Run).
While our dining scene may look different with a focus that’s less on fine dining (though Best New Restaurant winner Home Bistro might prove us all wrong) and more on a casual way of eating, there’s always room at the table for more.