It's not the heat, it's the slaving over a hot stove that hurts during August's dog days. Yet our wallet is too thin to head for some ritzy salon each time the mercury climbs.
The solution? A short trip to a casual joint where we can chill out, chow down, and then head home with change still jingling in our pockets. Here are some suggestions.
The Waterstreet Grill: A cost-conscious find in the Warehouse District, this neighborhood tavern puts a contemporary spin on comfort food, with a big menu of salads, burgers, wraps, and rice bowls, including several that are vegetarian-friendly. Cool picks like the Mediterranean Salad, with grilled chicken, chickpeas, and feta ($8.95), or the Hawaiian Blue Burger ($8.95), with pineapple salsa and blue cheese, help beat the heat in a tasty fashion. But hydration is important, too, so the bar comes through with an extensive wine list and more than 30 bottled brews. (1265 West Ninth Street, 216-619-1600)
Aladdin's Eatery: The perfect solution for nights when it's nearly too hot to eat, let alone cook, Aladdin's offers plenty of inexpensive Middle Eastern noshes, featuring fresh flavors and light, wholesome textures. Our usual choice is the big-enough-to-share vegetarian sampler platter ($9.95), with hummus, baba, dawali, falafel, and lemony tabbouleh. And while we're seldom tempted by the small beer and wine list, the nonalcoholic fruit smoothies ($2.95) get us every time. (Seven area locations; www.aladdinseatery.com)
Mavis Winkle's Irish Pub: This laid-back pub makes a fine escape for families, offering a something-for-everyone menu that ranges from corned-beef boxty ($8.99) to Buffalo Chicken Salad with salsa, black beans, and shredded Monterey Jack ($8.29). On draft, there's Dortmunder Gold, Stella Artois, and the usual Irish suspects, or you can cool off with a fruity Key Lime martini. (5005 Rockside Road, Independence, 216-525-0770; 8870 Darrow Road, Twinsburg, 330-405-3663)
Johnny Mango World Café & Bar: Mango's air conditioner may be more decorative than functional, but guzzling Mojitos and Red Stripes beneath the languidly revolving ceiling fans, we hardly care. Salads and burritos are full of zest, but for a real taste of the tropics, order the incendiary yet delicious Jamaican jerk chicken ($12); the more you sweat, mon, the cooler you feel! (3120 Bridge St., 216-575-1919)