If you’re anything like me, the first step in planning a trip is deciding where to eat. So if you haven’t already developed your Content Marketing World eating agenda, you’re already behind schedule. But it’s ok. I’m here to help.
When Cleveland started to shake off its worn-out rest belt ruins image a few years ago, food was a big part of the transition. In fact, one of our best restaurant neighborhoods only happened because it was a place where chefs could get cheap rent in the early 2000s.
Our restaurant scene rivals any city out there and we have Iron Chef Michael Simon and recent James Beard Award winner Jonathon Sawyer to prove it.
Now that you’re convinced, let’s talk about some of True’s favorite spots. Let me start by saying, just because something isn’t on the list doesn’t mean we don’t like it. We can only cover so much, so these are just our favorites by proximity to the Convention Center. From near to far, wherever you are – whether you want 4-stars or a cozy bar:
Downtown/Gateway/Civic Center District – 5 minutes walk south of convention center
This is the heart of downtown. This is where you will see people coming to/from Indians games, shopping, headed to concerts. Make sure you walk around a little bit. See the casino. Check out Tower City.
Nice dinner | East 4th
There are a several great restaurants on East 4th St. This short pedestrian street is as far as a lot of tourists dive into Cleveland’s food scene. All great spots, but it’s the tip of the iceberg. If you’re eating here, my favorites are:
- Chinato – Outstanding Italian – Far beyond meatballs and red sauce. See what I mean . Chef Zach Bruell is among the best in the city. Of his eight restaurants in Cleveland, this is definitely my favorite.
- Butcher and the Brewer – Unique setting, great brewery, lots of meat. Think bone marrow apps, lamb ribs and dry-aged beef.
Cheap yet delicious dinner | Barrio
Barrio started as a little taco shop a couple years ago. Now, they have three shops across the city with the recent addition of a downtown location. The big idea: tacos your way. You choose the meats, toppings and sauces on a tear-off ticket and turn it over to the waitress. The only possible mistake is a burst shell due to overstuffing. Recommendation: Opt for the stoner shell. It’s a hard shell fastened to a soft shell with chorizo and queso.
Dessert | Colossal Cupcakes
There are cupcakeries all over this city, but this one stands out. For two reasons: One, amazing cupcakes inventions like s’mores and strawberry french toast. Two, it’s in the 5th St. Arcades – a historic hotel/shopping center hybrid you have to see to believe.
Downtown/Flats – 5 minutes walk west of convention center
Full-disclosure. This is the part of town I eat the least often. There’s a lot of new stuff going in to this part of town right now. There’s also a certain amount of construction. More stuff is constantly opening up so I’m not fully up to date on what’s good here. Please… don’t hold it against me.
Nice Dinner | The Willeyville
This place has a really unique menu. Something for everyone – from a burger to ramen bowls with house-made noodles. They describe their food as “handcrafted” and they mean it. If it can be made in-house, it is.
Drinks | Portside Distillery
This place is becoming one of my favorite breweries in Cleveland. You can find a few of their beers throughout the city, but the pub-exclusives are top-notch. Not the type of place to rage until 2 a.m., but a great place for a quiet beer.
Ohio City – $5 Uber West
This is still Cleveland. I only state this because the question always comes up. Ohio City is a little walkable neighborhood just west of downtown with some of the best bars and nightlife in the city. If that’s not enough, there are three breweries less than a 5-minute stumble apart. But on the food side, there are a few standouts.
Nice dinner | Black Pig
Expertly prepared French-inspired food. I have never had a bad meal at the place. From daily pastas to short ribs to some of the most adventurous charcuterie in the city. As one of the better seasonal menus in the city, you can pretty much shut your eyes and point and end up with an amazing meal.
Cheap yet delicious dinner | ABC the Tavern
Don’t be alarmed by The Misfits playing on the jukebox. This is some of Cleveland’s best food served out of paper boats. Daily specials, lamb quesadillas and atomic dogs (split hotdog, stuffed with jalapenos, wrapped in bacon, deep-fried, finished with Sriracha aioli – enough said).
Drinks | Nano Brew
Originally it was a pretty small space, but “Nano” brew has taken over adjoining real estate. They still specialize in nano (smaller than micro) batches of beer. Beyond house beers, there’s a great selection of crafts. Also, the rooftop patio has an unbeatable view of downtown.
Dessert | Mitchell’s
The word’s “Mitchell’s” and “ice cream” are synonymous to a lot of Clevelanders. Great seasonal flavors. Plus, the Ohio City shop has a full view of their state-of-the-art kitchen so you can see where the magic happens.
Tremont | $5 Uber South
Remember that thing I mentioned about the food neighborhood with the cheap rent? This is it. It is nearly impossible to have a bad meal in Tremont. In its rise to Cleveland food stardom, the cheap rent thing is no longer true, but it is chalk full of great restaurants.
Nice dinner | Lolita
A lot of people would disapprove of leaving Iron Chef Micheal Simon’s Lola out of the Downtown East 4th section, but I’m a big fan of his original place in Tremont. Much more intimate and laid back. All great food, but he has the best prosciutto in the city and his fried Brussels sprouts are always a crowd pleaser.
Cheap yet delicious dinner | Edison’s Pub and Pizza
Cleveland is not a city known for its pizza. That said, this place makes the meanest, greasiest, tastiest slice of pizza in the city. Sometimes I go out to dinner in Tremont and end up at Edison’s having pizza and a beer for dessert. Yes, I know I have a problem.
Drinks | The Spotted Owl
I’m not a huge fan of craft cocktails, but this place does it right. It’s in the basement of an old university turned swanky apartments. We’re talking exposed brick, stained glass and a classic lounge feel. A craft cocktail is mandatory in a place like this. These guys go far beyond your standard sazerac and old fashioned for some truly unique cocktails.
You can’t go wrong with any of the above choices. And as always, if you have any questions, or need more recommendations of what to do during your time in Cleveland, tweet us @TrueDigitalCom and we’ll be happy to point you in the right direction!