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Hound from LA visiting Cleveland -- What's good?

I will be visiting Cleveland for a week. Where can I find some REALLY good food? I have visited many times before, but can not remember even one meal.

I am not necessarily searching for fine, formal dining. Any type of great food recommendations will be appreciated. Atmosphere is secondary, but the restaurant must be clean.


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  1. It'd be interesting to see what an Angeleno would think of El Tango Taquería on Madison Ave. in Lakewood. It's often recommended on this board. In no way is it authentic Mexican food, but IMO there's real creativity there, and I lived on the West Coast and ate Mexican food three or four times a week for two years. Plus there is the fact that one burrito will feed two or three people, bringing the per-person cost down to fast food levels.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Jim M

      Portions there are generally very big. If you had soup you could share a burrito. I recommended them recently on Chowhound and on another food discussion website where I said:
      > The best Mexican food in Cleveland is El Tango
      > Taqueria. I don't think people would call it
      > innovative or nuevo or sophisticated but the food is
      > delicious. In fact, it's one of my favorite
      > restaurants of any kind. Anywhere.
      > Get the green chile stew and a couple pork tacos. Or
      > beef tacos. That would be my recommendation for a
      > first visit. I also like all the other soups. I just
      > tried the quesadilla for the first time - great.
      > There's a pork dinner and a beef dinner with Mexican
      > names which escape me. They're both fantastic. The
      > vegetables here are simple but flavorful which beats
      > many much more expensive restaurants. The dinners
      > come with a simple cabbage salad that's fantastic.
      > The soups come with a tortilla in them and the
      > dinners come with a tortilla hiding somewhere
      > underneath. Corn tortillas and Mexican food have
      > evolved together for generations and the food loses
      > something when they're omitted by restaurateurs who
      > think that Americans won't appreciate them.
      > The chips are served in an unreasonably large
      > portion but they're worth getting because the salsas
      > are good (pico de gallo, cinnamon, pineapple). The
      > guacamole is made fresh to order. It tastes
      > different from day to day which seems to bother some
      > people. The chips and salsa are sold together. The
      > salsa is sold separately. The dinners are also large
      > and should be enough for a hungry person but I
      > recommend eating too much. Two tacos, soup and
      > chips, salsa and guacamole is enough for one meal
      > and will leave you with a pile of chips virtually
      > indistinguishable from the pile as it was when it
      > was delivered to your table.
      > Antonio, the owner, has come back to the kitchen. El
      > Tango was a favorite even before I saw him regularly
      > but I think he's raised the consistency and
      > beneficially tweaked some of the preparations since
      > he's returned. The art on the walls is his, by the
      > way.
      > It's always a one or two person operation. They get
      > backed up sometimes. That seems to be less of a
      > problem with Antonio back but it still may happen.
      > You order at the register and your food is brought
      > to the table. Finally, they don't serve alcohol but
      > you can bring your own.

      1. re: stuart

        I'm going to tie several of my comments to the relevant entries in the new places database. Sorry for the bump but it's better than referencing of my old comments in each new thread were they're relevant. I'll try to be selective and do it all at once so that it's as painless as possible.

        El Tango Taqueria
        14224 Madison Ave, Lakewood, OH 44107

      2. re: Jim M

        re EL TANGO. i believe the owner is from new mexico and he gets his hatch chiles and other stuff from there, so i guess it has a mex/southwestern bent more than californian. regardless, agree he might try it, its an inexpensive favorite.

        cleveland has a small but sturdy cambodian population so another fav is PHNOM PENH by the westside market.

        speaking of inexpensive but tasty -- there is a nice local lebanese mini-chain called ALADDINS EATERY you might see in the area and by all means try it: http://aladdinseatery.com/

        hmmm what else? one night you all should take over the joint and have some cleveland style tapas and charcuterie and etc at LOLITA in tremont. great chow and the setting reminds me of greenwich village.

        also, not so good food, but if you get good weather by all means have a drink at SHOOTERS in the westside flats in the late afternoon just for the views. there is or was an italian restuarant near it on top of the viaduct called PONTE VECCHIO that you might want to consider for the views as well (ive never been to that one).

        for fine dining maybe BARICELLI INN in little italy. it's a great place for stroll too.

      3. There are so many fantastic choices! We were just discussing that last night at a dinner with 30 people - how lucky we are to have so many choices that I haven't even tried them all! And I'm a displaced New Yorker.

        These are places I have eaten at and highly recommend:

        Lola (downtown)
        Lolita (Tremont)
        Parallax (Tremont)
        Light Bistro (Ohio City)
        Lago (Tremont)
        Batutto (Little Italy)
        Momocho (Ohio City)
        Carrie Cerinos (North Royalton, but worth the trip - ask in advance for a Blue Egg Ravioli or try the Blue Egg Carbonara)
        Siam Cafe (Chinatown) (just had an awesome dinner there last night; it was Sunday and the joint was jumping!)
        Baricelli Inn (Little Italy)
        Moxie (Beachwood) - more economical for lunch than dinner - but a winner whenever I've gone.

        These places I know only on reputation; they are on my "I need to get there" list:

        Flying Fig (Ohio City)
        Three Birds (Lakewood)
        Michelangelo's (Little Italy)

        1. In addition to El Tango which I discuss below my favorite restaurants in Cleveland are Siam Cafe, fire, Shanti's Kitchen and Lucky's. I recommended several of them here on Chowhound just last week:

          http://www.luckyscafe.com/ (not up-to-date


          And, I agree with Nancy that Light Bistro is definitely a restaurant to watch. On another food website, I said:
          > Light Bistro also starts of with a nice bread service.
          > With Moxie, I think they're the only bread in
          > Cleveland worth eating that I'm familiar with. On top
          > of that, I was very pleased with my dessert at Light
          > Bistro which as I've said is also uncommon. I don't
          > think it's any coincidence that I think that Light
          > Bistro is also with Moxie (and fire) in the top
          > echelon of contemporary American food in Cleveland.
          > I've only eaten there once so perhaps I should make
          > this a provisional ranking but I think the food at my
          > one meal was diverse enough and delicious enough that
          > I don't think it was a fluke. My one disappointment, a
          > serious one, was the salad. It was not well balanced at
          > all. A companion felt that adding salt helped but I
          > don't like having to cook my own food when I eat
          > out.

          1. Also - almost forgot to mention fire on Shaker Square. Fresh and locally sourced food with an original flair.

            1. Check out Michael Rhulman's blog http://blog.rhulman.com. He lives in and loves Cleveland and always has the skinny on the best old and new places.

              1 Reply
              1. re: jocelyn

                jocelyn -- Nothing came through for me on this link...of course, it might be MY problem. Would you mind referencing it again? Thanks!

              2. Thanks to all for your many recommendations! I have lots of meals in Cleveland, and I might just check out every place suggested!

                Should anyone have any other Cleveland restaurants that they are fond of, please do continue to post; I won't be leaving for another few weeks.

                Again, thanks for all your ideas!

                2 Replies
                1. re: liu

                  Out in Westlake, Viva Barcelona for the best paella west of the real Barcelona and M Bistro for an awesome Sunday Brunch.

                  1. re: MerrieIreland

                    Note: M Bistro is closed and will re-open as a Pannini's Viva Barcelona closed, re-opened as Viva Fernando (or some such), and I'm not sure if it is still open at this time.

                2. i have to preface this recommendation with the warning that it's been quite a while since i've been there, but one of my favorites was the pyramid restaurant on lorain avenue for excellent, cheap middle eastern food. their chicken shwarma and kibbe are the best i've had. perhaps others have more recent experience with this place and can say if it's still as good.

                  1. You have gotten many, many good recs. I would add that Player's on Madison in Lakewood is consistently great food. Also, while we're in Lakewood, the view from PierW is terriffic....the food has always been good even though I have never been thrilled with the place; seafood is their speciality. I also love Parallax and while you're in Tremont, stop by 806 Wine and Martini bar for some great atmosphere and if the weather is nice, stroll around the art galleries there. The Southside in Tremont is great for casual lunches, not sure about dinners. And if you're a hound, please stop at the Westside Market (I've heard the Cafe there is great, but sometimes a wait to get in).

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: gourmanda

                      These are all good, I would definitely second the recommendation about the West Side Market - especially the falafel sandwiches at Maha's and there is a new crepe stand which has some really great looking choices although I haven't tried it yet. And there are many, many choices for bakery items that are out of this world.

                    2. You MidWest Hounds have offered me a lot of great ideas for my Cleveland visit.

                      Please, if there are yet any other ideas, I am still checking this post for the next two weeks...until May 1st!

                      Thanks to all of you!

                      1. A great new place in Lakewood called Melt Bar and Grilled is excellent. It specializes in gourmet grilled cheeses. It is excellent. It's the type of restaurant you'd find in New York with the specialty of grilled cheese. It has a great atmosphere. It is located on Detroit at the intersection of Warren in Lakewood. Enjoy Cleveland, the weather isn't great but the city is quite a surprise.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: calover123

                          Thanks, calover123! This sounds good. We have a group from 25 years old to 88 and this might work well for all ages! Who doesn't like grilled cheese?!!

                          1. re: liu

                            thinking of the older folks, i forgot to mention but we really enjoyed the breakfast at the 1890 resturant in the arcade hyatt regency when we stayed there one night last summer. it's calm, relaxing, great food, french press coffee at your table and best best of all set in the spectatcular historic arcade --- really a beautiful place -- take a look:


                        2. I have returned from Cleveland. I loved being well "armed" with all of your suggestions. I had the answers, and I was just waiting for the question: "Where should we go for dinner?" However, not according to plan, we ended up eating a number of our meals in relatives' homes. I have, however, printed your lists here and sent them along to all the Cleveland folks I know.

                          One of our best celebration dinners was at TY FUN, a Thai Bistro, in Tremont (a very happening place!). The space is invitingly beautiful and comfortable, yet casual. The menus were printed in Thailand and are a work of art in their own right. The owner was extremely helpful and attentive, and each of our eight or ten dishes had its own distinct personality of flavors. I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone who enjoys Thai cuisine! We went on a Monday evening and the space was full; I strongly urge reservations well in advance.

                          TY FUN
                          815 Jefferson Avenue
                          Tremont, OH 44113

                          We celebrated Mother's Day at the Ritz brunch in a smallish side room (perhaps 15 tables). This experience was disappointing. While the food was good, the service was barely adequate. Many dollars later, I would not return.

                          Yet one other place we enjoyed and enjoyed! was Sandy's ice cream stand on Lakeshore Boulevard. Their raspberry frozen custard was a special treat which they had only on Mother's Day, but they have strawberry all the time, I believe. They also serve pumpkin frozen custard at certain times of the year. Sandy's has been around for many years, and unlike many frozen whips, this has no funky chemical tastes.

                          Sandy's Frozen Whip
                          17635 Lakeshore Blvd.
                          They were closed for the Winter, but they have reopened and I believe their hours are 10:00 to 10:00, but please check.

                          Thanks once again to everyone who posted. Know that your many suggestions have been passed along.

                          1. I agree with the postings for Siam Cafe. Just went there for a pre-theater dinner on Sunday and it was excellent. Huge portions, too. If you like Indian food, one of the best is Saffron Patch on Chagrin Blvd.. This is the BEST Indian food in the city.