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Feb 9, 2009 07:17 AM

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.

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  1. In to suggest MELT:

    Now I'll leave the others to say "LOLA, LOLITA, LOLA, LOLITA" for the next 5 posts. ;-)

    1. 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

      1 Reply
      1. re: fonduewcheddar

        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.

      2. 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.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Kelli2006

          I consider the Diner on Clifton to be a diner, don't you?

          1. re: rockandroller1

            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!

            not to mention there is a local guy who does major restoration of old diners:

            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.

        2. I recommend:

          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
          (216) 861-2166

          Lucky's in Tremont for brunch:

          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:

          6 Replies
          1. re: rockandroller1

            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

            Steve's Lunch
            5004 Lorain Ave, Cleveland, OH 44102

            Maha's Falafel
            1979 w 25th, cleveland, oh

            Phnom Penh
            1929 W 25th St, Cleveland, OH 44113

            1. re: stuart

              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.

              1. re: stuart

                I was just at the Phnom Penh on w25th 2 weeks ago and it is alive and well. There were only 3 4-tops being used at 6pm, but it is definitely open.

                Rockandroller, I forgot about the diner on Clifton, but it definitely qualifies.

                1. re: stuart

                  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.

                2. re: rockandroller1


                  man, you hit it all! the only others i would add to that lst would be melt, old fashioned, and sokolowskis!

                  as a clevelander living in los angeles this post is making me miss home soooo much! no good eastern european food out here at all!!!


                  1. re: GrillEmAll

                    Yeah, but you have Cuban, great Mexican, lots of other stuff we don't have here, not to mention In & Out. :)

                3. 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!

                  Siam Cafe
                  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