Louie's Grill Fusion jazzes up everyday meals with south-of-the-border flavors from Mexico and Cuba that rouse snoozing, spice-craving taste buds. Dip a toe in the meal fountain with appetizers such as fried plantains ($5.49) or a towering plate of nachos ($6.99), or dive right in with a Fiesta burger ($9.79), a half pounder topped with fried onions, slivered avocado, and chipotle ranch with a side of sweet potato fries.
Explorers Club's cozy, 100-year-old brick exterior lends a deceptively comfortable face to the restaurant's constantly experimenting kitchen. Owner Tracy Studer and Chef Dan Varga—both veterans of the late Harold Smith's Gloria Café—root their eatery's fare in playfully updated Latin American food such as chorizo sliders and plantain-topped burgers. Yet, Varga constantly flexes his culinary muscles with unusual menu additions such as his chili-citrus-flavored vegetable lo mein. Monthly menus jet around the globe—614 Magazine notes that after deciding on "a country or cuisine, [Varga] spends months researching the ingredients, history, and flavor profiles, and then experimenting in the kitchen," turning out tributes to Germany, Spain, and his ancestral Hungary. An impressive range of vegan and vegetarian options makes use of soy-based tempeh and tofu, catering to animal-loving humans and self-hating venus flytraps.
Chefs at Barroco Grill craft Colombian street fare from scratch, nabbing glowing reviews from Cleveland Scene and a nod from Cleveland Magazine’s Best of 2011 list. The signature arepas—which Cleveland Scene lauds as “hot, corny, and crisp”—hug melted mozzarella and succulent meats inside a pocket of all-white corn batter. Chefs also drizzle plates with creative flourishes such as wasabi coleslaw and peanut cream sauce. Beneath the dining room’s exposed wooden beams, snippets of brick walls peek out from behind artwork by local artists and high-functioning house pets.