Though it isn’t a matchmaking service, Grovewood Tavern is responsible for more than 150 successful relationships in the past decade, all of which were realized over dinner. The brick-enclosed restaurant specializes in the delicious puppy love between food and drink, hosting meals that pair fine wines, beers, and spirits with bites from a globally conscious kitchen. The courses encourage guests to savor combinations in the moment, but also nod to the history inside the glassware. Trivia and origin stories accompany the drinks, detailing their flavors and the favorable reviews they've received. Some dinners benefit from presentation by expert hosts, including vineyard aficionados and people who know how the ghosts are added to each bottle of spirits.
Outside of these showcases, visitors can still enjoy selections from the tavern's regular menu. Duck-burger sliders and spice-rubbed ahi-tuna sandwiches dispel any worries about stereotypical pub fare, and the entrees' emphasis on local and organic ingredients adds a refreshing ease of conscience to each bite. Grovewood’s catalog of savory meats ranges from Japanese-style barbecued chicken to the bison pot roast, which, according to a 2007 feature in the Plain Dealer, "falls gloriously apart, upon gentle forkage." Chefs accommodate vegetarians and vegans as well. A wealth of meat- and gluten-free options speckles the menu's pages, and the pairing dinners list substitutions for nonveggie helpings, replacing tea-smoked duck breast with grilled tofu and skirt steak with vegan beef.
Zócalo Mexican Grill & Tequilería pulls its recipes from four different regions in Mexico, each with its own distinctive flavors and flairs—from the smoked meats of the Yucatán to the rich, chocolaty mole of the Puebla to the tangy seafood of the Veracruz and the inventive salsas of the Baja. Skilled cooks place innovative spins on traditional regional dishes, layering quesadillas with goat cheese, seasoning carnitas tortas in chipotle-barbecue sauce, and folding beer-battered fish into tacos.
Out in the dining room, bartenders mix margaritas beneath shelves of dozens of glimmering tequila bottles. They pair shots of premium Agave Loco, Dos Lunas, and Espolón tequilas with lime and a serving of spicy, citrusy sangrita. Ornate copper lanterns hang from the ceiling, casting a muted, twilight-like glow on tabletops and booths. A spiraling staircase leads down to the lower dining area, bordered by ornate metal railings. Colorful towers of light illuminate the outdoor patio, ideal for people watching or pointing out constellations to your date in a loud and impressive voice so everyone else can hear.
The hybrid vegan café and gift shop deals in good vibes, whether they take the form of sandwiches and soups made from scratch, eco-fashions, or candles that both soothe the senses and keep away ghosts that are wearing flammable bed sheets. After tasting the zing of a spicy plum vinaigrette or biting into organic sprouted-grains bread at the Compassionate Café, guests can browse a selection of eclectic wares. Vegan jewelry sparkles with gemstones alongside Dead Sea mineral soaps and colorful socks made from recycled cotton, which are ideal for keeping a giant caterpillar warm.
The Boardman location also delves into the world of knitting with a lounge where needle artists can pick up skeins of silk or bamboo yarn, sink into armchairs, and clack away until they have a spider web to sleep in that night.
Servers constantly scan Brasa Grill’s dining room for empty plates, approaching tables with skewers of chicken, lamb, or beef and carving tender pieces tableside. The selection includes 16 different types of savory, grilled meats and a salad bar with more than 40 side dishes, garnering Brasa Grill Cleveland Scene magazine’s award for Best All You Can Eat for Gourmets. The constant parade of hearty fare only relents when diners flip their color-coded token to red, allowing them to sit for a while and stretch their fourth stomachs. Alternatively, the menu also features a small selection of sushi for a lighter version of a high-protein meal.
A painted mural dominates one wall of Brasa Grill’s dining room and depicts a group of Brazilian gauchos as they sear rotisserie meats over open flames, a practice which would later inspire Brazilian-style, churrascaria eateries. The rest of the room embraces a more urban ambiance with its soft lighting, crisp white tablecloths, and stoplight chandeliers.
La Strada’s expansive space has “the ambiance of dining on an Italian piazza after sunset” according to Cleveland Magazine. Distressed paint covers the walls in muted colors, and unfinished wood trim balances the ornate framework around the bar. Eclectic sculptures stand in nooks or sneak out to watch wall projections of black-and-white movies like the Fellini film for which the La Strada was named.
Like the vagabonds followed by Fellini's camera, the restaurant's menu roams from place to place. The kitchen staff employs premium ingredients such as extra virgin olive oil, whole grains, and artisan cheese in dishes inspired by the traditions of Italy and the Mediterranean. Flatbread pizzas get crowned with kalamata olives, feta, and hummus, and pastas are tossed with a variety of vegetables. Varied seating lets patrons huddle in pairs, dine out of doors, or pass the time playing telephone at family-sized tables that seat up to 12.
In 1981, Luchita Galindo and her son Jorge began Luchita's, a humble family endeavor that focuses on fresh, authentic dishes. Over the course of 30 years, the Galindo family has continued to grow along with their restaurant, which began as a 24-seat eatery and currently occupies three locations throughout the Cleveland area.
Luchita's chefs work to maintain the family's vision while constantly seeking out new flavors to add to the menu. Their specialties include authentically prepared meats and seafood, such as shredded chicken simmered in a smoky sauce (tinga de pollo), tender strips of marinated steak (carne asada), and shrimp sautéed with potatoes, cactus, and poblano peppers (camarones borrachos). Chef Galindo also concocts vegetarian-friendly entrees, such as cheesy chiles rellenos, and tinkers with new recipes until—like a klutz unleashed on the stage of an awards show—he stumbles on a winner.
When La Dolce Vita Bistro's chefs aren't serving the crowds of diners during Little Italy's annual Feast of the Assumption Festival, they craft iconic Old-World cuisine for the restaurant's diners. The chefs dedicate themselves to the dishes' original flavors by ordering entire bales of Italian parsley and importing plum tomatoes through the Atlantic Ocean's subterranean tunnels. These ingredients add a distinctive Italian essence to the menu of oven-crisped pizzas, freshly blanched pastas, and sautéed veal tenderloins. Outside the kitchen, the atmosphere gets a dose of Italian essence from classic Italian films that, according to Gayot, are screened against the dining room's back wall. While taking orders, servers can help diners complete their meals by recommending wines from the 200-bottle-strong list.
Restaurant Europa acquaints its diners with the hearty, core-warming dishes of Russia via single servings or family-style platters before inviting guests to dance at the in-house ceviche bar, which stays open after hours. Escorted by servers who float between recessed, private booths and centrally situated tables, plates piled with sour-cream-crowned latkes, classic Russian-style schnitzel, and sautéed foie gras fill the dining room with international aromas. The option to dine family-style allows groups to sup on eight assorted appetizers and a choice of four entrees as they discuss their clan's sacred ancestral hairdo. After dinner, patrons can relax at the bar or steal away to the Siberian vodka room, where they can sip the traditional spirit from a glass made of ice.
The staple of Sushi Rock’s menu is its selection of roughly 50 sushi, sashimi, and maki rolls, which collect multiple Japanese flavors into one neat package. The Sushi Rock roll alone packs a punch of shrimp tempura, crabstick, salmon, tuna, asparagus, and masago. A slate of USDA Prime steaks and fresh seafood entrees such as sesame-seared tuna complement the sushi-bar creations. Each meticulously plated dish arrives in Sushi Rock's ultra-modern dining space, where backlit bottles glisten against a cityscape mural in the bar area, and color blocks of red and black pop in the dimly lit dining areas. Together, Sushi Rock’s choice food and hip vibe earned it a No. 1 ranking on CityVoter's Best Sushi list in 2010.
From 1992–1994, the Cleveland Thunderbolts gave the city its first taste of Arena Football League action. And while the taste was but a tease at the time—the team disbanded at the end of the 1994 season—AFL fans eventually would see a return to revelry in 2008 with the arrival of the Gladiators, a team that bounced around the country like a rock band on pogo sticks before diggin’ in their cleats at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena. In their first official season, the Gladiators introduced themselves in grand fashion by advancing to the franchise's first-ever conference championship game—a tough loss, to the eventual league champion Philadelphia Soul, that’s since stood as the squad’s humbling reminder of the unending effort required to achieve league dominance.
Prime Rib Steakhouse's team of gourmands crafts a menu brimming with elegant American fare. All entrees begin with a salad of mixed greens, chopped eggs, cherry tomatoes, and croutons, tossed in a fresh herb vinaigrette by way of tableside trampoline. Guests who order a USDA prime rib dinner ($29–$46) can observe servers as they slice up the cuts of their choice on stainless steel serving carts, which also bear hearty helpings of mashed potatoes with brown gravy and Yorkshire pudding. Herbivores can devour the chef's special vegetarian selection ($26), and seafood lovers nosh on the fish of the day (market price) accompanied by locally farmed produce.
Bottles of spirits line the wooden shelves of Muldoon's Saloon & Eatery dimly lit bar, illuminated by the glow of television sets overhead. The neighborhood joint has been watering locals for nearly three decades, and continues to attract both familiar faces and new clientele with more than 100 bottled beers, seasonal drafts, and freshly brewed Irish coffee. The cups that speckle the bars and booth tabletops pair with
hearty steak burgers, seafood, and barbeque, along with Irish favorites such as corned beef, fish and chips, and an edible Gaelic football.
At Mallorca, crews of attentive servers refill glasses of wine or house-made sangria as guests enjoy a long, leisurely meal of Spanish and Portuguese fare. Rotating menu specials incorporate fresh seafood as well as ostrich, venison, and other exotic meats, helping Mallorca to earn Best Spanish/Portuguese Restaurant accolades from Cleveland Magazine in 2011. At the end of the meal, servers return to romantically lamp-lit tables with trays of dessert pastries, cakes, and custards or a cappella renditions of "Kiss the Girl."
The North Union Farmers Market began in 1995 as a small market—back then, more than 500 hungry customers shopped the stalls of only six local farmers. Today, the market coordinates eight certified-producer farmers’ markets around Cleveland, allowing farmers to sell their products—from fresh, seasonal produce to meat, syrup, eggs, and dairy—directly to residents. The planet-friendly concept reduces the energy used for transportation and maximizes the freshness of the food.
Luxe’s eclectic mix of Mediterranean small plates, elegantly presented shareable appetizers, pizzas, and hearty burgers mirrors the varied design elements of the dining room, which sets baroque crystal chandeliers against an industrial metal ceiling. This classic and contemporary interplay carries over into rich, detailed carpets underfoot and a vintage safe. Serving Sunday brunch and dinner, the restaurant also hosts special events throughout the month and opens its doors for private events and catering orders.