Long gone are the days when this Midwest industrial city was a mere blip on the culinary radar. Cleveland has two James Beard–winning chefs to its credit, a vibrant music scene, and a craft beer center in Ohio City that rivals any in the nation. The Republican National Convention offers a chance for the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to showcase its diverse and booming restaurant scene to the world.
Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute
Notable: More than 200 wines and 150 spirits with a focus on French and European regions
Brandon Chrostowski’s restaurant, which equips formerly incarcerated adults with the hospitality skills and support needed to successfully re-enter society, is more than a feel-good story: It’s simply a great venue with an equally stellar beverage program.
The French menu carries an average check of $60 and features elevated dishes like Lapin à la Moutarde—braised Briarwood Valley Farms rabbit leg, lemon potatoes, braised fennel, and Dijon mustard cream sauce. Beverage directors Jordan Levine and Jon Bosworth helped earn the restaurant a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. There are more than 200 selections, predominantly focusing on French and European regions, as well as some California labels. A spirits list of more than 150 leans toward French Cognac, Armagnac (a brandy produced in Southwest France), Chartreuse, and other dark offerings such as bourbon and Scotch.
Adega Modern Mediterranean
Notable: A wine vault houses upward of 200 varietals
Travelers hustling down East Ninth Street can peer into Adega and envy the glass wine vault, an impressive centerpiece holding around 200 varietals. Fittingly, the name Adega means “wine vault” in Portuguese, and the restaurant’s signature is visible from nearly every corner of the space. Wine Spectator gave Adega an Award of Excellence in 2015.
Housed in the Metropolitan Hotel at The 9, this doesn’t feel like a place to simply sip a drink before the cab arrives. Eddie Tancredi, who is a seasoned competitive chef, cultivates a modern Mediterranean style that focuses on Spanish and Portuguese flavors. Pasta is hand-rolled.
The spirits list is refined, and one selection—the rare Remy Martin King Louis XIII cognac—carries a price tag of $350.
Notable: Fifteen martinis, 22 rotating taps of beer, and 30-plus wines
Brothers is a vibrant venue with a pub, wine bar (with its own stage and piano), and a music hall, which books jazz, blues, and touring acts months in advance. There’s even a video of Kevin Costner singing on the website. Dating back further, legends like Buddy Guy and B.B. King have taken the stage. Owners Rodger Riggs and Chris Riemenschneider renovated the space in 2008 and have created an 11,000-square-foot establishment that caters to the working class as well as the ritzy.
Craig McDowell’s beverage program has 22 rotating taps of beer, additional bottles and cans, more than 30 wines, a full bar, and 15 martinis. Executive Chef Shannon Burns’ menu features favorites like Fried Lobster Mac & Cheese and Sundried Tomato & Garlic Ravioli.
Crop Bistro and Bar
Notable: Eclectic selection of about 200 wines
The restored 1925 Beaux-Arts building is an eye-catcher, with 30-foot, ornate ceilings framing the striking dining room. Chef Steve Schimoler arrived in Cleveland in 2005 as the director of innovation and development for Nestlé USA, and originally imagined the space as a laboratory for his cutting-edge culinary research.
At Crop, the inventive American fare changes four to five times a year and is eclectic, to say the least. Think Chicken and Waffles with a confit half bird, apple waffles, lardon-studded rainbow Swiss chard, and maple jus. Crop earned a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for its selection of about 200 varietals. Twenty-two wines can be had by the glass.
Five beers are on tap, and four more come in large-format bottles ranging from $22 to $35. More than 20 brews are featured in bottle format, as well as a couple of ciders. There’s also a well-formed cocktail list. The Bloody Devil—Four Pepper Vodka, house Bloody Mary mix, cilantro, and deviled egg garnish—is a favorite.
Notable: City’s top-rated wine list with nearly 500 selections
Dante Boccuzzi’s eponymous concept is the only Cleveland restaurant to earn a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence in 2015. General manager Phillip Hockey, who serves as wine director, curates the list of nearly 500 labels. Synergy is the idea. Guests can order a five- or seven-course meal with wine pairings ($95 and $135, respectively) and maintain that approach into dessert, where a three-course option can be paired with vino for $36. Boccuzzi, who earned a Michelin star at Charlie Palmer’s Aureole, operates six area restaurants with two more on the way. Fine dining comes from a team of chefs: sous chef Justin Ofandiski, pastry chef Kayla Palmisano, and chef de parties Ken Stevens, Ken Minkove, Edward Graham, Kelly Ofandiski, and Charlie Milter.
Great Lakes Brewing Brewpub
Notable: Legendary craft brewery with unique selections available only on-site
For brew devotees, a trip to Cleveland simply isn’t feasible without a stop at Ohio’s first craft brewery, which opened in Ohio City in 1988.
The Brewpub is one of the best places to sample the product. Some varieties can only be ordered there, at the same Tiger Mahogany bar perhaps, where the famous American Prohibition agent Eliot Ness once sat. Owners Dan and Pat Conway have kept the standards rolling through the decades, along with brewmaster Mark Hunger. In February, there was a pub exclusive Woodtooth Porter modeled after George Washington’s tastes. For the convention, expect the brewery tours to be expanded and the American food from Executive Chef Rock Finley, like pretzel-crusted chicken, to be plentiful.
Notable: Lengthy wine list with neighborhood roots dating back decades
The eatery on Fulton Road has been serving Italian favorites since the 1920s, when it was known as Louise’s Garden.
Named a Cleveland Classic by local newspaper The Plain Dealer, the venue has always held a firm place in residents’ hearts, possibly because it was the first establishment in the area to regain a liquor license after Prohibition.
The check average is roughly $100, and Executive Chef Joe Fall serves some dishes that were menued decades ago.
The wine list, curated by owner Bo Santosuosso himself, is lengthy and, according to the restaurant, sits somewhere in the thousands, although it’s been a while since anyone has counted.
There are two other locations—Johnny’s Downtown and the casual Johnny’s Little Bar, which is renowned for its burgers.
L’Albatros Brasserie + Bar
Notable: Global wine list of more than 250 selections
Zach Bruell was the lone Cleveland chef to be named a semifinalist for the 2016 James Beard Best Chef: Great Lakes. The nomination was for Bruell’s flagship Parallax, one of the respected restaurateur’s 10 Northeast Ohio restaurants.
His French concept, L’Albatros Brasserie + Bar, took home a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 2015. Chef Temple Turner and general manager Kim Paradise-Adelstein offer a wine list with more than 250 selections, a five-page epic that spans the globe from California to Europe to the Middle East. The average check is $23 at lunch and $44 at dinner. A full bar and select beers (four on tap, 16 in bottles) are also available, and guests can request particular brands of spirits if they’re not already available.
McNulty’s Bier Markt & Bar Cento
Notable: Belgian bier flights with 30 rotating taps
Cleveland’s burgeoning beer scene has an epicenter in Ohio City. USA Today’s travel section called it one of the “10 great places to bar-hop around the globe.” That’s pretty high praise, and it’s a culture Sam McNulty played a vital role in nurturing.
His Bier Markt is across the street from his Market Garden, which is right by Nano Brew—another of the company’s concepts (Speakeasy and Bar Cento are the others). Bier Markt labels itself the city’s only Belgian bier bar since opening in 2005.
The imbibing options are vast—30 rotating drafts and more than 100 Belgian and American craft beers. At Bar Cento, Executive Chef Andrew Bower serves dishes such as Wild Boar Ravioli and 13 pizzas.
Momocho Mod Mex
Notable: House-made Margaritas with inventive flavors
Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” once made a stop at Eric Williams’ modern Mexican eatery, which opened in 2006 and was recently named one of Cleveland’s Top 100 Restaurants by The Plain Dealer. The dishes are bold and inventive, and the margaritas—offered in flights if desired—are always house-made. Guacamole varieties are crafted with pickled corn, jicama, sheep’s milk, smoked trout, and other out-there combinations. Athina Thomas leads the beverage program, which specializes in those previously mentioned margaritas—fruit or vegetable flavored; Blood Orange, Hibiscus Flower, and Cucumber, just to name a few. There are also two beer taps, as well as 12 other selections, and 12 wines. The tequila and mezcal list is extensive. Check averages run $26.
Notable: Three bars and six rooms with iconic history
Brendan Ring’s massive venue celebrated 50 years in 2015. There are three bars and six different rooms. It can host receptions as large as 600. There are two four-season outdoor dining areas, complete with movable walls.
The heart of the concept, however, is its music. DownBeat called it one of The Best Jazz Clubs in the World. Stevie Wonder once ambled in on a Sunday night to play piano in front of about 18 people. Ring also tells a story about a time when he recited William Butler Yeats poetry as Wynton Marsalis provided the soundtrack.
Some of Executive Chef Nathan Sansone’s favorite dishes include Beef Brisket and The Famous Dublin Lawyer—fresh lobster sautéed in mild cayenne butter-cream sauce, mushrooms, scallions, and Irish whiskey.
The restaurant also features a full bar, as well as an extensive wine selection with picks approved by Ring himself.
Notable: More than 50 bottles of beer and spirits
Cleveland does more than rock. There are a bevy of local spots to grab a brew, some down-home food, and enjoy the calmer and more soulful side of life. Parkview NiteClub, owned by Michael Plonski, was a stop on Guy Fieri’s popular Food Network show as well, and has served as a landmark blues club since the mid-1990s.
The Wednesday Night Jam, hosted by the Bad Boys of Blues since 1996, holds the title of Cleveland’s longest-running blues jam. There are around 50-plus bottles behind the bar, from Bonded Bourbons to Windsor Whiskey, to sip during the show. Seventeen taps of craft beer and around 50 bottles and cans, along with some standard wine offerings, are also available.
Try the original Fifty Eight Street (Chicken) Fingers or the smoked in-house Salmon BLT.
Notable: Award-winning wine list of more than 300 selections
If it wasn’t enough to sit on a cliff with sweeping views of Lake Erie, Pier W is designed to look like the hull of a luxury liner floating down the water. This compelling seafood restaurant, operated by Select Restaurants Inc., has been a Cleveland staple since 1965, offering white-tablecloth dining with unbeatable sights. Travel + Leisure called it one of America’s Most Romantic Restaurants in 2011, and it’s been flooded with praise by just about every local publication over the years.
Kliment Stevoff’s wine program has about 300 selections, which earned a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 2015. The menu, from Chef Regan Reik, carries a check average of $100 to $150 per couple, and focuses on seafood, like the chef’s famous Bouillabaisse.
Shooters on the Water
Notable: Frozen drinks and Rum Runners served with a view of the Cuyahoga River
Since 1987, Cleveland natives and tourists alike have made a habit of stopping by the waterfront restaurant, which could, as its website states, only be described as an “entertainment center.”
The options range from watching the boats drift down the Cuyahoga River to appreciating a first-rate sound-and-light show. Owned by Roger Loecy, with Chef John Shanklin and beverage director Jeff Cervenka in tow, the offerings fit the scenery. There’s 13 taps of beer, 16 bottles and four cans, six white wines, five reds, and seven Champagnes. For spirits, Rum Runners and Bushwackers, as well as frozen drinks and Margaritas are especially popular when the restaurant is stuffed to the rails during summer months.
Notable: Thirty-six rotating taps of beer with a full month dedicated to IPAs
The USDA Certified Organic soda sets the tone. TownHall, owned by Robert George, is a beer haven that also happens to be one of the healthiest spots around. All food ingredients are non-GMO and organic.
Monday features an entire Vegan Night Menu, while Wednesday is Paleo Night. Chef Erik Roth keeps it interesting, churning out dishes like Crispy Tofu Wings.
The beverage program, led by Mark Frabotta, rotates 10 vintage bottles of beer ranging from one to four years old. The craft beer flows through 36 taps and is taken very seriously. In February, IPALOOZA boasted 29 rare IPAs in 29 days. For wine, there are 14 bottles, organic and vegan-friendly selections, and several varieties of high-end Champagnes. Primarily, American whiskeys and bourbons dominate the spirits.
Tremont Tap House
Notable: Forty-eight taps and triple-digit craft beer bottles
In a world where gastropubs have become as common as IPA releases, the Tremont Tap House boasts a unique claim.
The restaurant, opened on Halloween night 2007, says it’s the city’s first of its kind. The 48 taps and more than 100 beer bottle selections, curated by beverage director Tim Blank, are constantly rotating and always picked with care.
A full bar, including craft and beer cocktails, as well as 12 wines available by the glass, are also featured.
Owners Jason Workman and Chris Lieb make sure the taps are professionally cleaned on a regular basis, and the food, cooked by Quang Troung, is far better than the standard beer-focused venue.
Pork Belly Nachos, Chorizo Pizza, and House-Aged Cab Rib-Eye are some of the popular options for the restaurant, which averages $25 a check.
XYZ The Tavern
Notable: Twenty-four rotating taps and more than 80 whiskeys
Barbecue in Cleveland? There’s no room for regional bias at XYZ the Tavern, a Detroit Shoreway institution owned by Randy Kelly, Linda Syrek, and Alan Glazen. Chef Mark Caberina sets up a smoker seven days a week, putting out pulled pork, beef brisket, chicken, and St. Louis cut ribs.
The pizza is made in-house, from the dough to the sauce to the Italian Sausage, and the brunch service is locally revered. General manager Harris Eide curates a beverage program with a little bit of everything: 24 draft beers that constantly change, as well as five white and five red wines by the glass. Spirits play a major role.
More than 80 whiskeys are on the menu, which can be had as a beer and shot special for $8 during the week.
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