Best of Cleveland 2011: Food & Drink

How do you know your food scene has arrived? When the nation raves about your fine dining and chefs­ — but also your grilled-cheese sandwiches. Welcome to America's new culinary epicenter.

Best Restaurant, Best Sandwich Shop, Best Taste of Cleveland & Best Local-Food Champ

Melt Bar & Grilled

Five years after its Lakewood founding, almost one year after the launch of its Cleveland Heights clone, and just moments after the announcement of a third location slated for Independence in the fall, Melt continues to be the focus of our cheesy love affair. For that, you can thank owner and entrepreneur Matt Fish, a relentless booster of his beloved city and creator of 20 or so varieties of gooey, delicious grilled-cheese sammies served up in towering portions. Add a vast selection of draft and bottled beers, and a pleasantly punky persona that somehow combines piercings, tats, and plastic snowmen, and what you have is the city's best culinary hangout.

14718 Detroit Ave., Lakewood; 216-226-3699

13463 Cedar Rd., Cleveland Heights; 216-965-0988

meltbarandgrilled.com

Best Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurant & Best Milkshakes

Tommy's

This Coventry mainstay is not a vegetarian restaurant, popular perception to the contrary. But that doesn't mean proprietor Tom Fello doesn't know how to rock a meat-free meal, complete with everything from salads overflowing with raisins, sprouts, and sunflower seeds to thick 'n' creamy 20-ounce milkshakes, made with local Pierre's ice cream and milk from Hartzler's Family Dairy. Other homey, veg-friendly options include vegan toaster waffles, macrobiotic granola, tofu, tempeh, seitan, and falafel, just to name a few. Let the meatheads among you chow down on burgers and corned beef: Vegetarians at Tommy's will always feel the love.

1824 Coventry Rd., Cleveland Heights; 216-321-7757; tommyscoventry.com

Best Restaurant for Romance

Pier W

A perennial fave for love and seafood, this cliff-side showpiece overlooking Lake Erie offers extraordinary food, elegant ambiance, and jaw-dropping views of the downtown skyline. Factor in candlelight, wine, and maybe a ginormous Seafood Tower (impeccably fresh oysters, crab legs, shrimp, mussels, and Maine lobster salad), and you've got the makings of true romance.

12700 Lake Ave., Lakewood; 216-228-2250; selectrestaurants.com/pier

Best New Restaurant

Deagan's Kitchen & Bar

Ambitious chef-driven cuisine, an awesome beer list, and a warm, relaxing atmosphere mark this Lakewood gastropub as the best new addition to the region's dining scene. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Deagan's caters to its broad constituency with kids' menus, booster seats, and popular Wednesday-night specials aimed at the meat-free crowd. (No banal veggie burgers here: Look for inspired fare like ponzu-marinated tofu with soba noodle salad and locally grown Killbuck Valley mushrooms.) It's that kind of intelligent hospitality that has made Deagan's a winner.

14810 Detroit Ave., Lakewood; 216-767-5775;

deagans.com

Best Coffee Shop

Phoenix Coffee

Seattle has nothing on Carl Jones' homegrown coffee company, which has been roasting, blending, grinding, and selling top-grade java to Clevelanders for more than 20 years. The company's current holdings include five "coffee sanctuaries," a commercial roastery, mail-order business, and wholesale accounts. But no amount of success will dilute the Phoenix mission: to champion the cause of great coffee and build culture and community in the process.

Various locations, including the flagship café at

2287 Lee Rd., Cleveland Heights; 216-932-8227;

phoenixcoffee.com

Best Bar & Best Happy Hour

The Nauti Mermaid

No surprise here: One of the Warehouse District's least pretentious bars is also the one that Clevelanders love the best. Then again, what's not to love about a Key West-style crab shack with a jukebox full of reggae, ten beers on draft, and a selection of top-shelf spirits? Then there's the Monday-through-Friday happy hour, featuring $1 pints of domestic drafts and similar bargains on sliders, shrimp, oysters, and crabcakes. Come summer, look for the patio bar to take it outside with the same great vibe and island-style beers and libations.

1378 West Sixth St.; 216-771-6175; thenautimermaid.com

Best Patio Dining

Pickwick & Frolic

It may be only one block long and two cars wide, but bustling East Fourth Street is downtown's premier spot for outdoor dining, drinking, and people watching. Closed to cars, hopping with foot traffic, and lined with flower baskets and twinkly lights, the location is a gem. And where better to soak it up than from the spacious patio in front of Pickwick & Frolic, the street's top entertainment destination and home to a comedy club, martini bar, and a restaurant serving a big menu of wood-grilled specialties and rustic American favorites.

2035 East Fourth St.; 216-241-7425;

pickwickandfrolic.com

Best Breakfast

Yours Truly

Clevelanders have been waking up to Yours Truly's "anytime breakfasts" for thirty years: fluffy omelets, tender pancakes, zesty hash, and, for the bores who insist upon such things, oatmeal, granola, and freshly squeezed juices — reliably dished out by chipper servers, in a comfy setting, with endless cups of coffee on the side.

Various locations; ytr.com

Best Chef

Michael Symon

Even if you've never set foot inside his restaurants, you know the Michael Symon legend: Hometown boy and former St. Ed's wrestler heads off to a prestigious New York culinary school; gets a great education and returns to his hometown, where he works hard and plans smart; opens a groundbreaking bistro in an up-and-coming neighborhood; and winds up as a Food Network star and an Iron Chef, with a James Beard Award on the side. Of course, none of this would add up to a hill of beans if Symon had gone all Hollywood on us. But no: The local boy with the goofy laugh has remained a Clevelander through and through. He's not only the city's Best Chef: He's also the best ambassador this gritty ol' town could ever have.

Best Upscale Restaurant

Lola

Michael and Liz Symon's flagship restaurant in downtown's lively East Fourth Street district is a smart, stunning confluence of sophistication, innovation, and a menu that turns heartland favorites — pierogi, fried bologna, bacon — into points of culinary inspiration. Consider: People actually travel to Cleveland from Chicago, New York, and San Francisco for no other reason than the pleasure of dining at this restaurant. So if you have to pay $10 for valet parking, Mr. or Ms. Rocky River, don't come crying to us.

2058 East Fourth St.; 216-621-5652; lolabistro.com

Best BBQ

Hot Sauce Williams

Even before the notion of (medical) marijuana-laced 'que sauce was being bandied about for the Colorado market, this down-home BBQ spot in the pink-and-blue "cottage" near the Cleveland Clinic had us in its thrall. Sure, the Tony Bourdain-types all dig the soulful scene. But North Coasters were addicted to Hot Sauce's zesty ribs, juicy chicken, and overstuffed Polish boys — topped with fries, slaw, and that sweet-and-spicy sauce — long before the out-of-town talent ever heard of it.

7815 Carnegie Ave.; 216-391-2230

12310 Superior Ave.; 216-249-0710

3770 Lee Rd., 216-921-4704

Best Ice Cream Parlor

Mitchell's Homemade Ice Cream

Since 1999, brothers Mike and Pete Mitchell have overseen a small but growing empire of contemporary ice cream shops, outfitted with stylish lighting, comfy tables, and cases crammed with cartons of their premium homemade ice cream. With an ever-changing rotation of popular standards and seasonal additions, the flavors range from Key Lime Pie to Double Chocolate Chunk; the menu includes shakes, sodas, smoothies, sundaes, scoops, and signature treats like the Cleveland Brownie Sundae. Current shop locations are in Solon, Beachwood, Rocky River, and Westlake.

Various locations; mitchellshomemade.com

Best Place to Cure 2 a.m. Munchies

My Friend's Deli

We won't ask why you are out cruising for munchies at 2 a.m. We'll just assume you were up late doing laundry or comforting an old friend. Whatever your story, a craving for late-night sustenance calls for a stop at this homey, 24-hour restaurant and deli, where the pastrami is hot, the cheese comes grilled, and breakfast is served anytime.

11616 Detroit Ave.; 216-221-2575;

myfriendsrestaurant.com

Best Bar Food

Becky's Bar & Grill

Conveniently tucked in between Cleveland State and Playhouse Square, Becky's has been feeding actors, stagehands, students, cops, and assorted office workers since 1986, with a big, homey, and inexpensive menu of burgers, hot dogs, and homemade soups and chili.

1762 East 18th St.; 216-621-0055; beckysbar.com

Best Beer

Great Lakes Christmas Ale

Songs have been written, punches thrown, and entire weekends lost to this legendary brew from our local Great Lakes Brewing Company. A yuletide merrymaker, available for only two months of the year, Christmas Ale combines hints of honey, ginger, and cinnamon with a jolly seven-point-five ABV, for a lip-smacking, mind-blowing brew that makes even bad boys and girls count the days until Christmas.

Best Mexican

Momocho

Even before chef-owner Eric Williams earned back-to-back James Beard Foundation "best chef" consideration in preliminary rounds, Clevelanders were lovin' Momocho, his "modern Mex" restaurant in Ohio City. Credit the combo of fresh, seasonal ingredients, innovative preparation, and edgy decor for that fact; and in a world filled with Taco Bells, credit Clevelanders with the good taste to embrace it.

1835 Fulton Rd.; 216-694-2122; momocho.com

Best Vegan

Flaming Ice Cube

The Cleveland outpost of a Boardman café and aromatherapy shop, the Flaming Ice Cube has been dishing out a big menu of vegan-friendly foods since June 2010. Anchoring the all-day menu are fresh fruit smoothies, freshly squeezed veggie juices, homemade soups, meat-free panini, and a half-dozen versions of a homemade vegan burger. For dessert, the made-from-scratch sweeties (pistachio-rosewater cupcakes, anyone?) are wildly popular among vegans and omnivores alike.

140 Public Square; 216-263-1111; flamingice.com

Best Place to Eat on a Budget & Best Hot Dogs

Happy Dog

When it comes to low-cost eats, Clevelanders go by the numbers. At Happy Dog, those numbers go something like this: $5 hot dogs, 50 toppings (chipotle ketchup, Cheez Whiz, a fried egg, chunky peanut butter, and beyond), 24 beers on draft, five HDTVs, open till 2:30 a.m., seven days a week. Add live music, a rollicking vibe, and most-excellent rounds of Monday-night trivia, and sticking to a budget never tasted so sweet.

5801 Detroit Ave.; 216-651-9474; happydogcleveland.com

Best Steak

Red the Steakhouse

When restaurateur Brad Friedlander set out to craft a great steakhouse, he left nothing to chance — from the top toques who designed the menu to the soaring space itself, with its stacked-stone walls, crimson accents, and sleek, contemporary appointments. Of course, quality was key, and here Friedlander chose to serve only dry-aged beef: both Certified Angus and U.S.D.A. Prime. Thick-cut and perfectly marbled, the steaks are seasoned with kosher salt and Tellicherry pepper, seared to order over unimaginably high heat, and served sizzling hot on a plain white plate for maximum impact. If that doesn't get your mouth watering, check your pulse: You may already be dead.

3355 Richmond Rd., Beachwood;

216-831-2252; redthesteakhouse.com

Best Fries

Bar Cento

The Belgian-style pommes frites at Bar Cento have moved beyond mere foodstuff to become the stuff of foodie legend. Made by a classically painstaking process that includes frying, chilling, and frying again in ultra-luscious duck fat, these little golden batons are crisp outside, creamy within, and perfectly seasoned with rosemary and garlic. Lily-gilting arrives by way of four flavored mayos for dipping, continuing the Belgian tradition while ensuring that Cleveland will not find itself among the Ten Skinniest Cities anytime soon.

1948 West 25th St.; 216-274-1010; barcento.com

Best Pizza

Angelo's Pizza

Fresh sauces, homemade dough, and scores of toppings, combinations, and specialties including pulled pork, artichokes, and Stouffer's macaroni and cheese (yee-es!) have made Angelo's the region's go-to pizza palace for nearly 30 years.

13715 Madison Ave., Lakewood; 216-221-0440; angelosonline.com

Best Vietnamese

Superior Pho

It's right there in the name: Cleveland's opinion of this tiny restaurant tucked inside the Golden Plaza is rightly without peer. Indeed, the pho — 13 varieties of meat-and-noodle soups (plus one vegetarian), boosted tableside with a host of zesty garnishes — is superior. Also delicious, though, are the rice paper rolls, the stir-fried vermicelli, the marinated beef salad, and the French-inflected bahn mi, a Vietnamese sandwich of pâté, succulent roasted pork, cucumbers, herbs, and mayonnaise on a chewy French bun.

3030 Superior Ave.; 216-781-7462;

superiorpho.com

Best Indian

Cafe Tandoor

Tandoori or clay-oven cooking is an Indian tradition, and no place does it better than the three Cafe Tandoor locations throughout Northeast Ohio. Is it the exotic spices? The terrific aromas? Or the big menu of tandoor-baked breads, chicken, and shellfish? Whatever the attraction, the Tuesday and Wednesday wine deals (half off the regular menu prices) don't hurt; nor does the long list of vegetarian specialties.

Various locations; cafetandoorcleveland.com

Best Chinese

King Wah

As if to prove that not all great Asian food comes from the original 'hood, King Wah has been wowing suburbanites with its quality, consistency, and service since 1973. Classics like General Tso chicken and shrimp chow mein are duly represented, along with a few delicious rarities like pressed duck.

20668 Center Ridge Rd., Rocky River; 440-331-0330; kingwahrestaurant.biz

Best German

Der Braumeister

While "Der Brau" has been around only since 1983, a German restaurant has occupied this West Side location for more than 80 years. Probably that explains the profoundly European vibe: Eight decades' worth of sauerbrauten, wiener schnitzel, and smoked sausages is bound to leave a mark. Besides the restaurant, an on-site market and deli is stocked with traditional meats, cheeses, and condiments; and in warm weather, the sidewalk biergarten is the spot to enjoy an array of German imports on tap.

13046 Lorain Ave.; 216-671-6220; derbraumeister.com

Best Irish

The Harp

Well-loved for its impressive collection of Irish beers and spirits, the Harp also offers homey-yet-stylish surroundings (including a great view of Loch Erie) and a kitchen that treats its Irish-themed menu with the deepest respect. That includes everything from the signature soda bread (baked daily from a family recipe) and superlative boxty to the Guinness ice cream sundae, chosen by none other than The Wall Street Journal as one of the best "beer desserts" in the nation. Factor in the frequent live music and welcoming vibe, and you've got yourself a winner.

4408 Detroit Ave.; 216-939-0200;

the-harp.com

Best Brunch

Lucky's Cafe

What started out as a bakery and modest coffee shop has turned into one of the region's best-loved brunch spots, as chef-owner Heather Haviland helps Cleveland launch its weekends with a big, ol' biscuit-stuffed smile. Filled with free-range eggs, locally grown produce, and Haviland's own handmade breads, Lucky's brunch is a celebration of everything that is good, true, and delicious about our hometown — with a side of local bacon.

777 Starkweather Ave.; 216-622-7773; luckyscafe.com

Best Italian

Chinato

The Energizer Bunny of local chefs, Zack Bruell has spent much of the past decade dashing around town, leaving one fine restaurant after another in his wake. Chinato, on happenin' East Fourth Street, is the Italian one, with a big, Bruell-like menu loaded with contemporary flavors, of-the-moment ingredients, and deft preparations that respect and enhance classic dishes like Bistecca ala Florentina and burrata with grilled toast. Suck it, Olive Garden.

2079 East Fourth St.; 216-298-9080;

chinatocleveland.com

Best French

L'Albatros

The French connection in chef-restaurateur Zack Bruell's mini-chain of upscale restaurants, this contemporary brasserie and bar perfectly combines historic ambiance, polished service, and a big, enticing menu of French classics — cassoulet, confit, and choucroute garni included. Taken in combination with an extensive wine list, the city's best cheese service, and a stunning, secluded patio, it's no wonder this is where Cleveland goes when it craves a French kiss.

11401 Bellflower Rd.; 216-791-7880;

albatrosbrasserie.com

Best Spanish

Mallorca

This Warehouse District bastion of Spanish and Portuguese cuisine may be best known for its cadre of polished waiters who glide through the dining room like tuxedoed ninjas. But it is best remembered for its authentic Mediterranean menu: a compilation of gazpacho, paella, and lots and lots of fish and seafood, brought forth in jaw-dropping abundance in an ambiance both refined and fun.

1390 West Ninth St.; 216-687-9494;

clevelandmallorca.com

Best Middle Eastern

Aladdin's Eatery

A smart spin on the fast-casual concept, Aladdin's combines well-prepared Middle Eastern standards with a sharp focus on health and nutrition, making its many fans feel both virtuous and well fed. And should that dinner of fresh-squeezed carrot juice, silken hummus, and lentil soup leave you feeling a little smug, there's always that toothsome baklava waiting to take you down a peg or two.

Various midwestern locations including 14536 Detroit Ave., Lakewood;

216-521-4005; aladdinseatery.com

Best Wine List

Market Avenue Wine Bar

Comfortable and friendly, this Ohio City haunt is a wine geek's dream, with an encyclopedic collection of more than 700 wines by the bottle and 75 by the glass. Styles range from fruity whites to the deepest, darkest cabernets, culled from vineyards around the world. If you find a favorite, rejoice: All wines can be purchased to take home, with $10 off what you would pay at your neighborhood grocery store.

2521 Market Ave.; 216-696-9463;

marketavenuewinebar.com

Best On-Tap Lineup

Tremont Tap House

Brown ales, pale ales, wheat ales, and ambers; stouts, porters, lagers, and Belgian imports; craft brews, microbrews, hoppy brews, fruity brews, and brews that can claim more medals than Michael Phelps: You'll find all this and more among the four dozen beers on tap at this happy little gastropub in Tremont. Do these guys know their way into our hearts or what?

2572 Scranton Rd.; 216-298-4451;

tremonttaphouse.com

Best Japanese

Sasa

Thanks to sassy Sasa, Cleveland has become hip to izakaya, a casual form of Japanese dining that is akin to Spanish tapas. Of course, the idea of sitting at a bar and nibbling isn't foreign to our culture. It's just that at Sasa, you get to trade those stale peanuts for kobe-beef gyoza and ditch the pretzel crumbs in favor of wonton chips with pineapple salsa. There are plenty of other small, medium, and large plates on Sasa's intriguing menu too, all filled with vibrant flavors going far beyond tempura and teriyaki.

13120 Shaker Square; 216-767-1111; sasamatsu.com

Best Patio Drinking

Reddstone

Josh Kabat's neighborhood pub in the heart of the emerging Detroit-Shoreway area boasts one of the city's most handsome patios, with a pedigree dating back to its life as part of the former Snickers. Intimate, lovingly landscaped, and decked out in little white lights, the space remains the perfect al fresco party destination — best enjoyed with a beer, a bottle of wine, or a sassy 'tini from bartender Nathan Burdette. And if all that drinking demands some ballast, the flavor-infused gastropub menu is full of eclectic choices.

1261 West 76th St.; 216-651-6969; reddstonecleveland.com

Best Specialty Menu

Lago

Fabio Salerno's Tremont establishment dishes up fine Northern Italian cuisine every night of the week. But insiders know that Mondays are particularly enticing. That's when the kitchen presents Vegetarian Night, featuring a special menu for the herbivores — and herb-curious — among us. Like the rest of the restaurant's offerings, the veggie dishes focus on regional, seasonal ingredients to the greatest extent possible, so the choices change often. But with temptations like grilled polenta, ricotta gnocchi, and even vegan strawberry shortcake, you can count on an evening of meat-free magic.

2221 Professor Ave.; 216-344-0547; lagotremont.com

Best Greek

Mad Greek

While the big menu has long been a curious dichotomy of Greek and Indian dishes, there's no contest for Clevelanders when it comes to Mediterranean-flavored faves like souvlaki, keftedes, pastitsio, and moussaka. And sure: Should you grow a little weary of gyros and Greek stir-fry, you can always wash them down with a mango lassi.

2466 Fairmount Blvd., Cleveland Heights; 216-421-3333; madgreekcleveland.com

Best Pierogi & Best Polish Soul Food

Sokolowski's University Inn

Starch, filled with starch, soaking in a bath of fat: Sokolowski's big, tender, homemade pierogi have fueled Cleveland's, um, expansion since 1923. According to no less of an authority than Michael Symon, a taste for these yummy potato-and-cheddar-filled dumplings is present in Clevelanders from birth. This likely is so. But more important than heredity is this singular fact: They go down great with beer.

1201 University Rd.; 216-771-9236; sokolowskis.com

Best Caterer

Brennan's Catering & Banquet Center

Weddings, reunions, or your famous annual clambake, this West Side caterer dishes up everything you need — from forks, knives, and napkins to gourmet cookie trays. Better still for the busy host or hostess, online ordering is a snap, and delivery is available even to such far-flung outposts as Avon, Bratenahl, and Valley View.

13000 Triskett Rd.; 216-251-2131;

brennanscatering.com

Best Burritos

Ohio City Burritos

A locally grown alternative to the national-known chain, OCB serves up similarly humongous burritos and all the fixin's — including homemade salsas and guacamole — in a funky, welcoming setting.

1844 West 25th St.; 216-664-0908; ohiocityburrito.com

Best Seafood

Blue Point Grille

The flagship for locally based Hospitality Restaurants, Blue Point Grille anchors the Warehouse District with a boatload of charm, along with consistent quality and perennial crowd-pleasers like lump crab cakes, Nag's Head grouper, and filet mignon Oscar.

700 West St. Clair Ave.; 216-875-7827; hrcleveland.com/bluepoint

Best Dim Sum

Li Wah

New Yorkers love their weekend bagels and lox; Clevelanders love their weekend dim sum — especially when it comes from this expansive Chinese restaurant in Asiatown. The parade of stainless-steel carts bearing goodies like steamed buns, lotus-leaf-wrapped sticky rice, and the better-than-you-might-imagine duck feet seems to be never-ending; and with per-item prices enticingly low, sharing around the table is both cost-effective and companionable.

2999 Payne Ave.; 216-696-6556;

liwahrestaurant.com

Best Place to Get a Classy Drink

Velvet Tango Room

For years, the VTR was scarcely more than a legend, its obscure, unmarked, and unlikely location transmitted among the foodie elite amid whispers and blood vows to secrecy. Thankfully, that has changed, and these days debonair owner Paulius Nasvytis even has a website, complete with address, phone number, and a link to Google maps. Still, the air of discernment and mystery lingers: in the expansive menu of classic cocktails, the painstaking craftsmanship that goes into every gin ricky, lime fizz, and Manhattan, and the tear that stains your mixologist's cheek when you order that Appletini.

2095 Columbus Rd.; 216-241-8869;

velvettangoroom.com

Best Green Chef

Jonathon Sawyer

A member of Food & Wine's 2010 class of "Best New Chefs," Jonathon Sawyer is also rightfully regarded as one of the nation's most environmentally attuned toques, with a commitment to sourcing local foods, supporting local farmers, and creating a restaurant — his tellingly named Greenhouse Tavern — where sustainability and environmentally sound practices are a top priority. As a result, the Greenhouse Tavern became the state's first nationally certified Green Restaurant, and Sawyer became Cleveland's greenest chef.

2038 East Fourth St.; 216-443-0511; thegreenhousetavern.com

Best Sushi

Pacific East

Clevelanders have been getting a raw deal at this Coventry Road restaurant for nearly a decade — and loving every minute of it. Pacific East's sushi is a hit for many reasons, including its freshness and outstanding variety. But it is attention to the details that sets this sushi apart, including the use of premium short-grain rice, top-quality nori, and fresh, never frozen, tuna.

Various locations including 1763 Coventry Rd., Cleveland Heights; 216-320-2302; pacificeastcoventry.com

Best Fast Food

Swensons Drive In

There's something special about chucking the drive-through window in favor of the drive-in parking lot at Swensons. Maybe it's the retro vibe, as good-looking servers dash from car to car; or maybe it's the funny little tray they hook onto your window. But most likely, it's the food: fresh, delicious, and a fave in these parts since 1934, with items like the signature Galley Boy (a double cheeseburger with two special sauces), crunchy fried mushrooms, and thick chocolate malts that beat the pants off of anything from the national chains.

Various locations including 7635 Broadview Rd., Seven Hills; 216-986-1934; swensonsdriveins.com

Best Stadium Food

B Spot at the Q

Forget LeBron. There's another hometown hero playing at Quicken Loans Arena: Michael "Iron Chef" Symon's B Spot, with a tasty lineup of gourmet burgers, fat brats, and craft beer. Win or lose, you'll find them off the main concourse near the Cavaliers Team Shop. Dig in: We are all witnesses.

One Center Court, 888-894-9424;

theqarena.com

Best Thai

Ty Fun

The name pretty much says it all: Great Thai food and a fun time are what draw Clevelanders to Ty Fun time and time again. Beautifully plated and bursting with freshness, dishes like massaman curry, classic pad Thai, and the signature red snapper served with a choice of zesty sauces are the mouthwatering reasons this Tremont restaurant is Cleveland's favorite Thai.

815 Jefferson Ave.; 216-664-1000;

tyfunthaibistro.com

Best Corned Beef

Slyman's Deli

There's an art to the perfect corned beef sandwich, which must be neither too fatty nor too lean, too small nor too expensive, and too salty nor too bland. If the lunchtime lines are any indication, it's an art that the sandwich makers at Slyman's have mastered. Warm, rosy, slow-cooked beef, sliced to order and folded into a pocket of tender rye until it threatens to tumble from its own vast heft: The resulting sandwich is a sort of culinary sculpture, a masterpiece as daunting as it is delicious.

3106 St. Clair Ave.; 216-621-3760; slymans.com

Best Desserts

Luxe

Chef-owner Marlin Kaplan's cool little haute spot in the Gordon Square Arts District is a great destination for dinner and drinks. But Clevelanders love Luxe just as much for its homey desserts: the perfect endings to an evening of gallery-hopping or theater-going. Among the seasonal lineup, pastry chef Jill Wolf turns out yummies like Chocolate Ho-Ho Cake (layers of devil's food cake and white chocolate mousse inside a creamy chocolate-ganache coating) and caramel bread pudding. Hey, isn't that why you go to the gym?

6605 Detroit Ave.; 216-920-0600; luxecleveland.com

Best Cupcakes

A Cookie and a Cupcake

Like tiny works of edible art, the plump little cupcakes coming out of this Tremont bakery have stolen Cleveland's heart. Twelve daily flavors include carrot, apple, red velvet, and chocolate-peanut butter, each topped with a fat swirl of rich buttercream frosting. Owners SynDee Klingenberg and Wendy Thompson have a combined 20 years experience in the hospitality industry, and their talent shines through in every delicious crumb.

2173 Professor Ave.; 216-344-9433; acookieandacupcake.com

Best Urban Farm

Ohio City Farm

Located in the heart of Ohio City, just north of the West Side Market, is the largest contiguous urban farm in America, with six acres of land tended by the farmers of the Refugee Empowerment Agricultural Program. Designed to nourish the community with local food and empower resettled refugees through employment, education, and training, the farm was co-developed by the nearby Great Lakes Brewing Company and is supported by local chefs including Dante Boccuzzi (Dante, Tremont) and Karen Small (Flying Fig, Ohio City), making it a community project in the truest sense of the word.

West 24th St. and Bridge Ave.;

ohiocityfarm.com

Best Burger

B Spot

With one B-Spot in Woodmere and others slated for Crocker Park and Strongsville, this irreverent gourmet burger joint from Michael "Iron Chef" Symon soon will have the region awash in naturally raised beef from legendary N.Y.C. purveyor Pat La-Frieda. Not that that's a bad thing. But it's what Symon does with his juicy meat that really counts, and here things get all kinds of crazy, with add-ons and toppings that include bologna, pastrami, chili, pulled pork, and even a fried egg.

28699 Chagrin Blvd., Woodmere;

216-292-5567; bspotburgers.com

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