Cleveland’s robust dining scene is a reflection of the Rust Belt city’s entrepreneurial spirit and diverse immigrant population. Homegrown restaurants abound, in the form of unpretentious mom-and-pop diners, blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em spots dishing up ethnic cuisine, and farm-to-table joints. In many cases, the city’s best (and most interesting) restaurants aren’t the obvious ones. For food fans who prefer veering off the beaten path, we’ve put together a list of Cleveland’s — and Northeast Ohio’s — most intriguing hidden gems, including food court finds, clandestine bars, and underrated eateries.Read More
11 Hidden Gems to Try in Cleveland
1. La Plaza Supermarket
Locals know that some of the most authentic Mexican food in town can be found at the taqueria/café in the back of the grocery store La Plaza Supermarket. (In fact, demand is so great they’re adding seats.) Both the street tacos and the popular tortas are stuffed to the gills with fresh ingredients — and best consumed along with a cold Jarritos lime soda.
2. Steve's Doghouse
Cleveland, OH 44109
When Steve’s Lunch burned down in 2015, regulars lamented the loss of the Cleveland institution, a greasy spoon whose specialty was chili-smothered hot dogs. Thankfully, the 24-hour diner Steve’s Doghouse — run by Steve’s Lunch owner Ed Salzgerber — has filled the late-night void. Slide into an old-school counter seat and chow down on one of his famed dogs, or order up a $10 eggs-and-hotcakes breakfast combo cooked to perfection.
Tucked away in the food court of the majestic, century-old 5th Street Arcades is the downtown lunch (or early dinner) spot Indies. Married couple Narinder Singh and Prem Sital specialize in scratch-made Northern Indian fare prepared with tender loving care. The eatery’s massive portion sizes are also a plus — chances are one order of chicken tikka masala will turn into multiple meals.
4. Throwing Smoke
Cleveland, OH 44115
Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians, has no shortage of nontraditional ballpark fare. Case in point: the aptly named barbecue kiosk Throwing Smoke, which offers up belly-filling sandwiches piled high with smoked meats such as brisket or chicken. Grab an Elysian brew to go with your Flamethrower, a pulled pork sandwich garnished with pork belly, barbecue sauce, bacon jam, and a handful of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
5. Ginko Restaurant
Cleveland’s most adventurous sushi restaurant is found underground, down a flight of nondescript stone steps. The brainchild of celebrated chef Dante Boccuzzi (whose namesake restaurant is at street level), Ginko is one of the few places in the city to offer the Japanese hotpot dish shabu shabu. Its small but mighty sushi menu is also a marvel, courtesy of unique presentations of fresh, succulent fish.
6. The Speakeasy at Quintana’s Barber and Dream Spa
Located above a no-nonsense barbershop housed in a sturdy 1920s colonial, this speakeasy oozes class and tradition. Press a hidden button, and a handsome wooden bookcase springs open to reveal a cozy, Great Gatsby-esque space with plush chairs, dark paneling, and a well-curated cocktail menu. Classic standbys such as tart-meets-sweet Sidecars mingle with whimsical seasonal cocktails sharpened by infused spirits and fresh herbs.
Funhouse isn’t your average rock ‘n’ roll bar. Located right at the border of Lakewood and Cleveland, the establishment exudes a debauched carnival vibe, between the arcade games, striped walls, and food items like as cotton candy and corndogs. Plus, not only was Funhouse the first bar in the area to have the Elysian Def Leppard Pale beer, the establishment also serves up a colorful (and boozy) array of fruity alcohol-spiked slushies and fresh lemonade.
One of Northeast Ohio’s most cosmopolitan dining experiences can be found at Crave. The sleek downtown Akron eatery — whose décor combines colorful accent pieces and funky artwork — boasts an eclectic menu driven by flavorful veggie dishes, as well as flavor-packed meat and seafood offerings. Sip on the decadent tomato grilled cheese soup during colder months,— or dive into tender scallops when temperatures rise.
9. The Freight House Grill & Pub
Repurposing older buildings for more modern purposes is a proud Midwest tradition. Case in point: The Freight House Grill & Pub, a casual sports bar which (as its name implies) is housed in a vintage railroad freight house. The old-school surroundings provide the perfect backdrop for a comfort food-filled menu featuring Midwest delicacies such as cheese curds and sauerkraut balls, and weekly specials such as Bratwurst Wednesdays, where a sandwich, fries and beer will set you back less than a tenner.
10. Briquettes Smokehouse
Succulent barbecue is the name of the game at Briquettes Smokehouse, which sits on a picturesque, award-winning main street right near the Ashtabula Harbor. As its name implies, the eatery smokes its own meat — including pork, turkey, and corned beef — for sandwiches and meat combos, and also serves up meaty St. Louis-style ribs. Wash it all down with one (or more) of Briquettes’ rotating craft beer selections, like Elysian Brewing Company.
11. Barrel Room Wine & Beer Bar
The Barrel Room Wine & Beer Bar is a triumph of careful planning and execution. It all starts with a thoughtful wine and beer list, which caters to all palates and tastes, and extends to their deep sense of community. Not only are there pop-up dinners or taco nights featuring gastronomic delights from local restaurants, but new this year is the seasonal, weekly “Crops & Hops” special, where you can grab a drink while buying fresh, locally sourced produce or picking up a CSA order.