Coming to Cleveland in May
My wife and I will eb in Cleveland for a weekend in early May. Looking for fun, quirky places with lots of atmosphere. We love places such as featured on Diners, Drive ins and Dives (really like the dives). Places that are Cleveland must eat at's.
Hi! I grew up on the East Side of Cleveland, and here are some of my favorite inexpensive places to eat. I hope you enjoy your visit!
On the East side:
Tommy's (at Coventry) is possibly my favorite restaurant ever (and I live in NYC). inexpensive, vegetarian-friendly food, and the best milkshakes you'll ever have
Winking Lizard (multiple locations) for great wings, bar food, an awesome beer selection, and a giant iguana!
Sergio's Sarava' (Shaker Square) brazilian resto with a great happy hour including small plates and cocktails. regular meal food is delish too. they have outdoor patio seating in warm weather and sometimes live music as well
East Coast Custard (on mayfield Rd and at Shaker Square) has amazing frozen custard
Mama Santa's (Little Italy) has the best pizza in town and it's not very expensive
Aladdin's (Fairmount and Cedar) for delicious and inexpensive middle eastern food
Slyman's for really amazing corned beef on rye. George Bush ate here on a visit to Cleveland a few years ago, but don't let that deter you. pretty sure it's only open for lunch
Juniper Grill is great for breakfast or lunch. it's not a dive--more of a salad/sandwich place--but it's good food for a reasonable price
Li Wah is in Cleveland's teeny tiny chinatown in a building called "china plaza". relatively un-americanized chinese food
Fonduewchedder, I love this list. I too grew up on the East Side and you hit some of my favorite places for my visits "home". Like you, Tommy's is one of my places in the country. It just isn't a real visit to Cleveland if I don't get my Quigley (grilled cheese on pita with 5 cheeses, green peppers, tomato and lettuce with a side of brown mustard) and a mocha shake. Hmmmm....I like Aladdins and East Coast Custard as well.
The Cleveland dives that come to mind at Hot Sauce Williams and the University Inn. I want to try the new restaurant that opened in the previous "That Place on Bellflower". Cleveland doesn't have a real diner, and you have to get out of town to find a drive-in.
My current favorite is Phnom Penh on west 25th.
yeah cle has tons of old diners -- thats pretty odd thing to say.
is DINER ON E55TH still open? i heard it closed, but its the real classic deal.
the rapid stop diner on shaker square? DIANNAS w117th? etc -- google!
as for HOT SAUCE WILLIAMS, i am not a fan of the bbq style as its par-broiled and saucy, not my style. but otherwise it is certainly a local institution and worth visiting.
The Little Bar and Grill - burgers, beer, not much else except a game of pool upstairs. But v. good burgers. 614 Frankfort Ave, Cleveland, OH 44113
Lucky's in Tremont for brunch: http://www.luckyscafe.com/
Cuban sandwich and homemade flan at Lelolai bakery are fantastic:
Steve's Hot Dogs (formally, it's called Steve's Lunch) - a Cleveland institution:
Borderline Cafe for breakfast:
Maha's falfil (their spelling) for a take and eat falafel sandwich that's out of this world good, not to mention which it requires a visit to our AWESOME West Side Market:
That falafel is excellent. Don't bother with the shawarma.
Hot Sauce Williams is also excellent. I've recommended them here before and the report was positive. I've recommend them with success off chowhound, too.
I'm not a big fan of Melt. They seem to do all the right things but it just doesn't translate into flavor on the plate. The best grilled cheese I've had around here is at Buckeye Beer Engine. It's not some big monster sandwich. It's the sort of thing you'd make for a nice lunch with a bowl of tomato soup. It is perfectly grilled and very buttery. It's the platonic ideal of grilled cheese sandwiches. And if you are in the mood for a Man vs Food style challenge, they can replace the bun on any of their burgers with grilled cheese sandwiches. And the burgers are also excellent. I've had the burger/grilled cheese monster once but I enjoy a burger regularly. Their tomato soup is also very good.
I'm also not a fan of Steve's. The hot dogs they use? I think if they just served the bun with some mustard most people wouldn't even notice that the hot dog was missing. Is there anything going for it besides being a Cleveland institution? I have the same question about Sokolowski's University Inn. I'm not interested in trying it just because it's been around forever if the food isn't good, too.
I think Phnom Penh is gone, isn't it? Also, East Coast Custard is no longer at Shaker Square. I would recommend any of their other locations.
I think the banh mi at Superior Pho matches all your criteria. He makes the pate himself. I've had highly regarded banh mi in other cities and this one stands up. Of course, I've never had a banh mi anywhere.
Melt Bar & Grilled
14718 Detroit Ave, Lakewood, OH 44107
Pho Superior Restaurant
3030 Superior Ave E, Cleveland, OH 44114
Buckeye Beer Engine
15315 Madison Ave, Lakewood, OH 44107
5004 Lorain Ave, Cleveland, OH 44102
1979 w 25th, cleveland, oh
1929 W 25th St, Cleveland, OH 44113
Phnom Penh is not gone as far as I know.
I only recommended Steve's because it's a decent "Cleveland institution." I cannot say the same for Sokolowski's, I do not care for their food at all and neither has anyone that I've taken there. Outside of "atmosphere," it's not a place I recommend.
I went to buckeye beer engine recently to try it, neither what I had nor what mr. rockandroller had were anything we would go back for and the place seemed completely unheated, which in the winter is not good - we ate with our coats on as quickly as we could and then left. I'm curious about the grilled cheese but wonder how good it can be when everything else we had there was very, very mediocre. But to each his own as they say, or maybe we just ordered the wrong things.
The Phnom Penh on W 25th is still kicking. The prices are great, but the place looks a little too nice for me to categorize it as a dive. For that, you'll need to visit their older location on Lorain! That one won't be around for much longer. They're planning on moving it to N. Olmsted.
Sorry Uhockey - I'd agree with you completely that Lola does NOT fit the bill for this poster, much as I love Lola. Lolita, that's another matter. Especially if you will be here on a Tuesday and get the Pig Roast.
You might really enjoy Bar Cento - it's a little loud, but a great atmosphere with many beers on draft and wines by the glass. The food includes pizza, small plates, a small number of entrees locally sourced and ultra fresh, and Jenni's Ice Cream from Columbus Ohio.
Phnom Penh is wonderful - and if your home city doesn't have a Cambodian restaurant, it is a cuisine you deserve to try! Superior Pho is another divey choice that often flies under the radar, but has fantastic Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup) and Bahn Mi, as Stuart says.
There is also a truck serving awesome sausage sandwiches for lunch during the week that operates out of the parking lot of Dean's Restaurant Supply.
You should probably stop by Great Lakes Brewing Company for a beer (skip the food).
I would skip Winking Lizard (it's turned into a ubiquitous chain), and Aladdin's (ditto). Sarava is good, but it doesn't seem to be what you are looking for. If you are looking for awesome Asian (in addition to the two cited above) - Siam Cafe and Wonton Gourmet are miles ahead of Li Wah.
The new "Place" at Bellflower is L'Albatross. While it is excellent and reasonably priced, it is more French Brasserie than DDD. There is, however, a cute looking diner right next to it. I've never tried it, but if you do, and it doesn't look promising after you enter - you can always bail out to L'Albatross.
Please report back!
3951 Saint Clair Ave NE, Cleveland, OH 44114
Wonton Gourmet and BBQ
3211 Payne Ave, Cleveland, OH
Dean Supply Co
3500 Woodland Ave, Cleveland, OH
Nothing in super-close proximity to the HOF for lunch. This will really get uhockey's goat but I do think Lolita has a fun, great, affordable and tasty lunch. Their house-made bologna sandwich and Lola fries is one of my fave lunches in town. Other good choices on E 4th as well, La Strada (try a pizza or the pesto pasta) or Flannery's for your basic pub food. I also really like the lunches at Crop, more affordable than their dinners (this is on W 6th in the warehouse district). The "Pig Mac" is a take on the big mac but made with layers of shredded pork, pork tenderloin, bacon, "special sauce," cheese, it's fantastic. The Pig Mac and the bologna at Lola are definitely my 2 faves for lunch.
If you wanted to try an upscale restaurant at lunchtime, when it won't cost anywhere near as much as at dinner, Lola is open for lunch, and it's right downtown, not far from the Rock Hall. And they have the beef cheek pierogies as a starter on the lunch menu, so you could find out one reason why so many of us love the place! www.lolabistro.com
Just the crawdads, the cornbread, and the carpetbagger dessert the time we did sitdown after an Indians game. The other time it was the gator bites and - gosh, I don't even remember, had to be like 2002 on a Jazz night when the place was jammed. The music was superb and for casual/low price, I liked it.
I'm sorry Winking Lizard has fallen out of favor...my favorite location is the one out on Miles Rd by the highway which is totally divey (also b/c of its proximity to all the strip clubs). They may be a chain, but they're homegrown and have solid bar food and one of the best beer selections in the region. What are your issues with it besides that it's "ubiquitous"? Aladdins is cheap, tasty, and makes everything locally. Whats to detract? Has it gone downhill lately?
Fat Fish Blue is fun and fills a cuisine niche, but save your $$ for your next trip to New Orleans and try something unique to Cleveland. And I agree, Sergio's Sarava doesn't quite fit the Diners Drive-ins and Dives request, but their happy hour is a great deal and they offer both food and cocktail specials. Plus its a fun atmosphere and sits at a Cleveland landmark.
This is slightly off topic but in response to Nancy: I recently tried Crop and Lola, and I thought they were both overpriced with mediocre food and service. Lolita's great and I love Michael Symon but I would expect two of Cleveland's premiere restaurants to have the resources to train a knowledgable and competent staff, and despite the high quality ingredients, the execution of the dishes did not merit NYC prices. I appreciate the effort, and I thought there were redeeming qualities to each meal--the decor at Lola is top notch and the cocktails are worth at least a trip to the bar; Crop seems to be one of the only places downtown trying to do the Locavore thing; at both places the servers were very friendly--but overall I've found my meals to be a better value (service, decor and food taken into account) in that price range at places like Moxie, Fire, Parallax, Sans Souci, and Chez Francois. Just my two cents. Any thoughts?
I love Crop and go there about once a week for lunch, but after one dinner trip, I decided it was way too expensive for us for dinner and it's been relegated to "special occasion only" for dinner. Lola has always been in that category. I mostly enjoy both places for lunch. I have been downtown and seen Crop looking pretty empty at dinnertime, but who knows if it's like that every night.
I may not be the typical cleveland diner, but if you take away Symon's notoriety and the crowds thus associated with it, Lola might also have sparse seating on non-weekend nights like Crop, due to the prices. I can't speak to most of the places you gave in comparison except Sans Souci, I have not had a good meal there in years, I think it has really gone downhill and I'm surprised they are still open.
Fondue - The last time I ate at a Winking Lizard (Independence), the food was inedible, overly salty, food-service junk. I had previously enjoyed some meals at the original WL in Miles Road, but meals I've had at other locations were uniformly poor (in my opinion), so we stopped going. Ditto Aladdin's - they are taking shortcuts with the food to serve large quantities at cheap prices in multiple locations with less knowledgeable kitchen staff. The falafel balls are pre-cooked and reheated to order - just one example of a culinary shortcut that leads to bad-tasting food.
I only dined at Crop once, but I really liked it - I can't speak to whether it is consistent, since I only ate there once.
I have dined at Lola several times, and the food and service have always been stellar on those occasions.
I love fire, Moxie and Parallax, but I don't think that any of them are what the OP is looking for.
At the West Side Market, get a gyro from Steve's Stand E-13. Out of this world goodness. The portions are huge, be forewarned.
Across the street from the market and down a few blocks heading towards the lake is the Old Angle Tavern on W. 25th, a great Irish bar with really good food and live music.
i'd add the usual suspects: SOKOWLOWSKI'S polish diner , STEVE'S LUNCH hotdogs, STERLE'S SLOVENIAN for polka, SLYMANS for corned beef, SPORTSMAN'S DELI downtown and for a 2-4-1 i'd include the diner in the westside market because you can visit the market too:
it's true only SLYMAN's is really good, but these places are servicible and do seem to be what you are looking for. btw before you visit you might check up on thee most classic cleveland dive, THE BIG EGG, which is reopening.
For breakfast or lunch when you're going to the Rock Hall, try Waterstreet Grill on West 6th St. It's not walking distance, but it's downtown in the Warehouse District. http://www.wsgrill.com/WSG/WS_Main2.asp
A fun, quirky place is the Cafe at West Side Market. You can browse the market (bring home souvenir smokies).
Go to Great Lakes Brewing Co. across the street from West Side Market and have the beer sampler.
If you don't mind driving out to the far 'burbs, Bubba's Q in Avon has really good barbecue (http://www.bubbasq.com/)
Bar Cento's pizzas are the best in town. Go to Little Italy for baked goods like cassada cake.
Stick to the neighborhoods
NearWest: Ohio City/tremont
Jonny Mango - great sangria, smoothies, they call themselves a juice bar and world cafe - great pad thai and brunch
Bar Cento - wines and really decent piza (which you will not find in cleveland)
Flying Fig - sit at the bar, go for cocktails and apps - but enjoy the homemade chips with wasabi dip - sooo good
Lelolai - just get the Cubano
Great Lakes Brewery - if you enjoy beer, go check it out
Lolita - get the salumi
Treehouse if its warm, sit outside - and if you're under 30 drink a stoli doli and order takeout from Edison's down the street
East Side/Little Italy
Mama Santa's - pizza
Presti's - coffee and cannoli
Jerome's - Polish Boy - the only place left (I think) that makes it
I've never heard of Jerome's. I'm going to have to check out their Polish boy. I googled and all I found was a pizza place in Middleburg Heights. Is that the right place?
However, I can think of many other places that still serve them. B&M, Whitemore's, Seti's, Freddie's (mentioned in GQ), Hot Sauce Williams (my favorite), ZogDog, Battiste and Dupree. Besides those, there are a lot of rib shacks around Cleveland and I'd be surprised if many of them didn't also have a Polish Boy. I wouldn't be surprised if they were available at several urban delis and a couple soul food restaurants, too.
Some of them don't include pork shoulder unless you ask. Some of them don't even have it available but most do. We are talking about the same thing, right? Polish boy=hot dog bun, spicy sausage, french fries, bbq sauce and maybe pork shoulder, right?
In order, the pictures are B&M, Freddie's and Seti's.
I agree with previous posters on MAHA's falafel at the Westside market.I order mine with hot sauce always. Also try the Hot smokies from vendors at the market.( like beef jerky). You can eat your falafel on the balcony overlooking the market. I also agree www.slymans.com has the best corned beef in Cleveland. Great Lakes Brewery is right across the street from the westside market.Try their Dortmunder gold beer-my favourite. In Tremont, is Sokolowski's University Inn, cafeteria style, LOTS of atmosphere, great food. www.sokolowskis.com. Also try on the westside:
Pearl of the Orient, great asian food. www.pearlwest.com
Joe's Deli, closed Sundays, always a line but moves rapidly, www.myjoesdeli.com
Try the Shish Tawook, with garlic mayonaise (Aoli) order extra garlic mayo for
dipping your french fries.
Borderline Cafe: Breakfast only, closed Monday and possibly Sunday. A tiny cafe with
great "south of the border" breakfasts, omlets etc. I hesitate to
recommend this place as it is "my secret breakfast place" and there is
usually a line out the door and I hate to see the line get any larger.
I used to live in Cleveland, and loved eating there. For bar/Triple-D food, here are few names:
*Panini's (multiple locations) where for $6 you get a grilled sandwhich w any meat, cheese, fries, slaw, and tomatos.
*Winking Lizard (multiple locations) Great wings, burgers, chickens. Make sure you have the barbeque sauce. For Lizard and Paninis, check out Coventry. Its a cool street with lots of funky stores
*Progressive Field grilled kosher hot dogs. Go to sec 179, get them w grilled onions and Cleveland's renowned ballpark mustard.
*Johnny's Bistro: very nice sit down place downtown. Get the off menu grilled banana peppers w veal. Killer!
*In on Coventry-great breakfast food
*Lola's/Lolita's- owned by Michael Symon. More eclecctic the mac n cheese is killer. I like Lolita's just because it is in tremont which is a real funky area (just south of I-90). While you are there have a drink at the Treehouse.
*Phenom Pneh-hole in the wall w killer Vietnamese food
*Slymans for corned beef. Its only open for breakfast and lunch Mon-Fri.
When going to Cleveland sample the Great lakes brewing co beer. Their flagship is Dortmunder Gold. Others are Edmond Fitzgerald Porter and Elliot Ness. They also have seasonal beers.
Go Tribe and have fun in Cleveland
Hi! I would like to suggest some places not mentioned yet. My favorite brand new spot for Sunday Brunch is in Cleveland on Dollof Avenue, just off E 55th, south of Broadway. They don't have a sign up yet, but it has a green wood and old brick front facade. The place used to be a funeral home back in the day! For $12 you get all you can eat: fried chicken, sweet potato pie, mac and cheese, greens, lemonade, LOTS MORE!! Everything I had was fantastic!! Nothing fancy here, just really good food and nice people.
A few others include:
Souper Market on Detroit in Lakewood and Lorain in Cleveland. Best Soups ever.
Brothers Lounge on Detroit in Cleveland. Great music, beer, wine bar, food is excellent
Middle Eastern Buffet on W 117th in Cleveland, just north of Lorain. Authentic and very good, not amercanized.
La Campana in Westlake. Little place with Great food. Local, seasonal food, diffenrent menu all the time. Not a cheap night out, but worth it.
Wild Mango in North Olmstead. Cool ambiance, excellent asian fusion food. A little pricey
but high quality.
Have a fun stay! Cleveland has a lot going for it!
Middle Eatern Buffet-- how is this this? I have seen it for years and did not pay too much attention. What types of foods are on there? Does the quality suffer being a buffet and all? That soul food place on Dollof and 55th sounds like a real find. Too bad I am not really eating carby stuff :(
Middle Eastern Buffet was very good. We had passed it up a thousand times also but finally went in. I do not know much about this type of food but the selections varied from lamb, chicken, fish prepared in various ways, lots of salad items. All I can say is give it a try, most of the time I had no idea what I was eating, but it tasted good!
Regarding the soul food place (I will have to update with the name), pass it on to some carb eating friends! It is a new business trying to make a go of it. They do catering too. The food was fantastic!!
Its not a dive, but Greenhouse Tavern is Ohio's first and only "Green" certified restaurant - everything about it is recycled, reused and environmentally conscious. We've had two wonderful meals there - entree prices top out at $19 and drop from there; lots of small plates and sides great for sharing. Though they are only open for dinner now, check, because they may be open for lunch, breakfast and/or brunch by the time you get here.
The photos are: Duck Rillettes (served with bread in place of butter or oil)
House made prosciutto
House made Fromage Blanc with Pickled Thyme
Ohio Beef Burger with Raclette Cheese, Pomme Frites & House Beer Vinegar
The Greenhouse Tavern
2038 E 4th Street, Cleveland, OH 44115
If you are looking for something cool and unique to Cleveland that is near the Rock Hall, you have to walk up E 9th, right on Superior, left on E 6th and go to Tea House Noodles. They have one of the best lunches in the city. Little tiny storefront -- If you are there on Thursday or Friday, you have to have the Frican Rican. Other days, you can pick the Rica Rica sauce to go on your rice or noodles, veggies or protein, and have a smoothie to go with it. There's also a local chain two doors down -- Dave's Cosmic Subs, but I wouldn't bother with that. And you're not too far from E 4th there if you decide to give Lola or one of the others there a try.
Blue Canyon in Twinsburg does an awesome Sunday brunch; they are a straight shot from Independence on I480 East.
We're not big on eating out for breakfast, so I'm not going to be a big help for your there - though I did see on the local dining program 3 Squares that a locally owned Bagel Shop-Deli opened in the strip mall right down the street (Rockside Road) from your hotel - its the same strip mall that has a Winking Lizard and Aladdins (got their address below so you can find it). Looked like a good place for breakfast!
6901 Rockside Rd Ste 6, Independence, OH 44131
Thanks for all the recomendations. because of time, lack of knowledge of town and family commitments we didn't get to eat out as much as we hoped. had the BEST Corned Beef sandwhich I ever had Friday for lunch at Slymans. Had a late morning grazing on Sat at the Westside Market (good Pizza bagels, pepperroni rolls, and baked goods). Outside of that we were limited to Mavis Winkles Irish Pub which was OK (it was walking distance from the hotel Sat night) and late night wings at the Winking Lizard of Friday, again OK. We need o come back sio we can get more food in that we did.