Cleveland is a city full of life, and the burgeoning food scene is a testament to that. From cheap feasts to high-end dining, from your local community garden to Europe and Asia, Cleveland has you covered.
1. Sokolowski's University Inn (Tremont)
Currently run by the third generation of Sokolowskis, this Polish and Eastern European restaurant is a Cleveland institution. If almost a century of serving up delicious comfort food and the best pierogies in the city isn't enough to convince you, take a look at Sokolowski's features on Michael Symon's 'The Best Thing I Ever Ate', and Anthony Bourdain's 'No Reservations'. As well as Food Network legends, this place has won the patronage of Bill Clinton and Jimmy Fallon. Along with generous servings comes a generous spirit: go to their website to find recipes for their classic pierogis or pork schnitzel.
With views of the city's skyline over the Cuyahoga River, this place is a comforting favorite for locals and a must-do for visitors. Located at: 1201 University Rd, Cleveland, OH 44113
2. Happy Dog (Ohio City)
If you've ever wondered what it would be like to mix all your favorite foods together in one decadent, loaded hotdog bun, then this is the place for you. Six dollar hotdogs all week long, with as many toppings as you can manage, and a side of tots or fries with even more toppings.
Go all out and grab a dog with chorizo chilli, mac-n-cheese, sloppy joe, bourbon baked beans, and a fried egg. If you're feeling a bit whimsical, toss on some Froot Loops. Or maybe take the more traditional route, with your choice of mustard, cheese, house-made ketchup, onions, and pickles. They feature local ingredients, like the Rising Star coffee jerk sauce, and a great selection of draft beers.
They also have a delicious vegan hotdog, and most things not listed under "meat" are vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free. Located at: 5801 Detroit Ave, Cleveland, OH 44102
3. Melt Bar and Grilled (Lakewood and Multiple Locations)
How do you like your grilled cheese? Classic cheddar? Pulled pork and pepper jack? Peanut butter and cream cheese? Vegan? Delivered right to your door? Melt has it all. Featuring 15 different kinds of cheese (16 including the cheesecake), and over 30 melting, oozing, masterfully crafted grilled cheese sandwiches, Melt knows that the way to your heart is through your stomach. If this isn't enough cheese for you, try the cheese pierogi or loaded fries. Melt has expanded to ten locations, including several in Columbus and Akron, and offers a 25% lifetime discount if you get a Melt tattoo somewhere on your body! Melt is proof that you can never have enough cheese, but boy, can you try. Located at: 14718 Detroit Ave, Lakewood, OH 44107
4. Mitchell's Ice Cream (Ohio City)
Mitchell's Ice Cream is a family favorite. The location in Ohio City is particularly special. Walk through the front door of a repurposed theater and into a Willy Wonka-inspired interior: the whole factory floor is visible from the restaurant, with a viewing platform upstairs. They feature seasonal flavors, such as pumpkin spice and caramel apple. In the interests of both your taste buds and sustainability, Mitchell's has partnered with the Great Lakes Brewing Co., using leftover beer that's too foamy to bottle, and turning it into Christmas Ale Gingersnap, and Porter Chocolate Chunk ice creams. As if you needed more proof that ice cream is not just for the kids!
Now with store locations in Rocky River Westlake and uptown, you can pick up a scoop or a pint while you do your shopping. Located at: 1867 W 25th St, Cleveland, OH 44113
5. Vero Pizza Napoletana (Cleveland Heights)
It may surprise you to hear that the best traditional Italian pizza in Cleveland is not in Little Italy. Thin crusts and simple, fresh ingredients are what sets Neapolitan pizza apart from its American-style cousins. This dine-in only restaurant keeps tradition alive, with all pizzas cooked fresh in an Italian wood-fire oven, and served uncut for you to (literally) tear into at you pleasure. The crust is crunchy and chewy at the same time, the tomato sauce rich and balanced, and the cheese melted to perfection. Ingredients are sourced from local farms, ensuring the best, freshest produce.
Seating is first come, first served, so get in early on weekends and be willing to wait a bit. It's worth it.
Tip: the true test of any Neapolitan-style pizza joint is the margherita (tomato, mozzarella and basil). If they can master these simple ingredients, everything else on the menu is guaranteed to be delicious. Located at: 12421 Cedar Rd, Cleveland Heights, OH 44106
6. Lola Bistro (Downtown)
Run by food writer, Food Network star, and Cleveland culinary legend Michael Symon, Lola Bistro is an upscale downtown eatery. Lola is the place to go to expand your culinary horizons without having to Google half the menu. Try some impossibly rich bone marrow, or citrusy ceviche. Treat yourself to perfectly cooked scallops, accompanied by smoked mussels and chorizo. Never to be second-best, Lola's desserts are simply to die for. They offer re-imagined French toast and s'mores that your inner-child couldn't even dream of. Pair your meal with one of the hundreds of bottles of wine available. Don't know anything about wine? Too many choices and simply can't choose? The in-house sommelier is there to help. This place may not be part of your average night out, but if you're going to splurge for one night (or if you really want to impress a client or date, or convince a visiting relative or Instagram that you're living the high life) then Lola Bistro is the choice. Located at: 2058 E 4th St, Cleveland, OH 44115
7. Mabel's BBQ (Downtown)
Barbecue fan? Of course you are! Just down the road from Lola Bistro, Mabel is Lola's down-to-earth, down-and-dirty, down-South younger sister. This place combines typical Cleveland Polish-inspired fare with the undying Midwestern love for finger-lickin', mouth-waterin' barbecue. The unique idea behind Mabel's BBQ is encapsulated in one dish called 'This is Cleveland', a surprising combination of kielbasa and spare ribs, with spicy pork cabbage. The extensive Bourbon list is a love story to American liquor, and the range of beers and cocktails leave no drinker empty-handed.
Mabel's BBQ is pretty new to the scene, and in true enthusiastic Cleveland style this means that you might have to line up for a table. But the lines here are worth it, and by the time you reach your seat you'll be grateful for the extra room in your stomach. This is the kind of place where you order brisket and pork belly by the pound. Perfect for carnivores, this place is aggressively meat-loving, but is the only place on this list that offers no real alternatives for vegetarians or vegans. Located at: 2050 E 4th St, Cleveland, OH 44115
8. Ginko (Tremont)
This shiny, brightly colored hole-in-the-wall basement restaurant is a gem of authentic Japanese dining in a polished modern setting. The sushi menu is huge and has more flavors/toppings/fillings than you can poke a chopstick at. As well as the best sushi in Cleveland, Ginko also offers a well-curated range of Japanese dishes. The Shabu-Shabu (a delicate and delectable variation of the Chinese hotpot) is delivered to your table as a bowl of boiling water, thinly sliced raw meat, vegetables, and sauces for you to cook for yourself. The idea of this is to create an interactive dining experience, letting you play with flavors (and with your food) and piece together your own meal to your own tastes.
Ginko is a little on the pricier side, but with a menu composed of melt-in-the-mouth meats, and fresh raw fish, only the highest quality ingredients will do. The only downside is that you may never eat fast-food sushi again. Located at: 2247 Professor Ave b, Cleveland, OH 44113
9. India Garden (Lakewood)
Buttery garlic naan, perfectly blended spices, traditional clay oven tandoori... What's your favorite part of Indian food? India Garden offers a huge menu, with all the things you love about Indian food and more. Taste something spicy and piping hot, fresh from the tandoor. Pile on chutneys, scoop up the rich sauces with freshly baked naan, and sip down a sweet lassi to finish it off.
In addition, they have as many vegetarian options as meat options, and a whole host of vegan selections. Go with friends or family, because you'll want to try everything on the menu, and with generous portions of rich curries, you won't have the chance on you own. The owners of India Garden (which serves typically northern Indian cuisine) have also recently opened a sister restaurant called Namaste down the road, serving up light and spicy Southern Indian cuisine for something a little different. Located at: 18405 Detroit Road, Lakewood, OH, 44107
10. Progressive Field (Downtown)
Baseball stadiums are not exactly known for their food selection, but Progressive Field offers a whole lot more than peanuts and cracker jacks. Each stall here is run by a local Cleveland company, and they have everything from artisan popcorn, to ice cream, to craft beer and burgers. The restaurants are arranged by neighborhood, so you can find your favorite without missing any action, or take a quick culinary tour of Cleveland between innings. Unlike many stadiums, the prices are mostly the same as the dine-in restaurant prices, and there are a lot of vegetarian options. Soak in some of that 2016 World Series glory with a local feast! Located at: 2401 Ontario St, Cleveland, OH 44115
Have you eaten at any of these restaurants? With so many to choose from, maybe your favorite didn’t make the list? Let us know in the comments! What’s your must-eat in Cleveland?