Food & Drink

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Best Locally Made Beer

Great Lakes Christmas Ale

In other cities, the holidays begin when scents of pine and gingerbread fill the air. In Cleveland, the season officially starts with the pleasant aroma of cinnamon and honey from a pint glass of Great Lakes Christmas Ale. This juggernaut of a beer is only sold eight weeks out of the year yet it ranks as one of the top-10 selling winter seasonal beers in the U.S. Every year Great Lakes brews more and more Christmas Ale, but each year demand again exceeds supplyLast year the production was a whopping 359 batches! At local grocery stores, cases fly out the front door faster than they are dropped off at the back door, causing days and even weeks of drought. The beer even inspired a flavor of Mitchell's Ice Cream, a union of two blessed tastes. There are other great local beers, but Great Lakes Christmas Ale has become a Cleveland holiday tradition. 2516 Market Ave, 216-771-4404,

Best Beer List

Buckeye Beer Engine

The southeast corner of Madison and Arthur in Lakewood is sacred ground in the Cleveland beer scene. Although the exterior of the red-roofed brick building may be unassuming, the inside contains the stuff of every Cleveland beer connoisseur's dreams.  Since opening in 2006, Beer Engine owners Bob and Garin Wright have garnered mentions on both local and national lists for their amazing beer selection. Their 24 taps and two hand pumps (the beer engines behind the Beer Engine) continually rotate between the best local, regional and national breweries. House selections normally include five or more Buckeye Brewing beers and an occasional offering from the Beer Engine's own in-house nano brewery. The draft offerings are so varied and well curated that the list of a hundred or so bottles often gets overlooked. 15315 Madison Ave, Lakewood,


Best Specialty Cocktail

Velvet Tango Room

When owner Paulius Nasvytis opened this exclusive cocktail parlor back in-shoot, must be going on 20 years ­— he was pretty much the only game in town for classically prepared cocktails. Nowadays, of course, you can't throw a cat without hitting a "craft cocktail bar," mixing up the requisite old-timey drinks. But there is only one "Best," and it lives inside this squat brick building on a quiet street a few blocks from the West Side Market. Don't believe us? Take the Ramos Gin Fizz, a labor-intensive cocktail that by all accounts had been relegated to cocktail history. Small-batch gin is blended with beguiling orange blossom water, fresh citrus juices, whole cream and egg whites. It is shaken with the fury of 1,000 ninjas until it has the consistency of clouds. That, my friend, is what the Best Specialty Cocktail tastes like. 2095 Columbus Rd.,


Best Vegan/Vegetarian


Places like Tommy's used to be called sprout bars, hippie hangs where the naturally curly noshed on meat-free meals with gusto. Little has changed but the label (we now call places like Tommy's "restaurants") at this decades-old Coventry Village institution. Because they have been doing the herbivore thing so long, meat-free meals here don't feel like a Lenten sacrifice. Carnivores: Dig right into a spinach pie with mushrooms, veggies and sesame sauce and tell me that you're suffering. Won't happen. Uh-uh. While not vegan, room must be set aside for the city's best milkshakes, a richly textured treat that never goes out of style. 1824 Coventry Rd., Cleveland Heights,


Best Steak


It's fitting that Morton's now is stone's throw from the new Horseshoe Casino, where high rollers gamble big bucks on a hand of cards. This luxe meat market has always felt to us like it was ripped out of old Vegas and deposited in downtown Cleveland. The level of service here is matchless, with professional staffers attending to one's every need. But it's the steak — prime cuts cooked right, lightly seasoned — that is Morton's stock in trade. When you're going to splurge on a steak dinner, don't you want to know that it will exceed your expectations? It will always happen at Morton's. And here's a tip: Pre-order Morton's legendary hot chocolate cake. You'll thank us. 1600 W. 2nd St., 216-621-6200,

Best BBQ

Hot Sauce Williams

Cleveland lost a legend this year when Lemaud Williams passed on to that great barbecue pit in the sky. You see, Williams was the man behind Hot Sauce Williams, a place that has added so much joy to lovers of festive food. Stuff a Polish Boy into your mouth and just try to not smile. Polish sausage nestled into a bun, topped with fries, smothered in barbeque sauce, crowned with chilly coleslaw – that, friend, is soul food. Pork ribs, fried chicken, fried fish, macaroni and cheese and fried okra round out the menu at this venerable but humble establishment. This isn't just barbecue. It's Cleveland barbecue. 7815 Carnegie Ave., 216-391-2230

Best Burger

B Spot

Cleveland has no shortage of mouth-watering burger joints – and there seems to be a new burger bar every other week. And when it comes to burgers, well, everybody is an expert and each has his or her favorite go-to spot. But there is no arguing with objective facts: Michael Symon's hamburgers won the Burger Bash crown three years running – a singular feat never repeated. Here's why: The beef comes from Pat LaFrieda, fine New York butchers who supply damn near every fine restaurant in the five boroughs and beyond. It doesn't get any better than the Fat Doug burger, a perfectly cooked and juicy patty topped with pastrami, Swiss and coleslaw. It is part of what Symon likes to call his "meat-on-meat" technique, the not-so-secret route to burger bliss. Multiple locations,

Best Fries

Five Guys

At Five Guys, you have to eat the French fries first – have to. That's because the burgers are tucked into the bottom of the bag and covered – buried is more like it – by fries. There are so many fries, in fact, that you can't just scootch them to one side and extract the hamburger – won't work, we tried it. But that's alright because the fries are friggin' awesome: fresh-fried potato sticks of salty goodness. And waiting just a little bit longer to eat your burger actually is a good thing as it gives the meat just enough time to rest so the juices redistribute throughout the patties instead of oozing right out. Trust us: We're Clevelanders. We know what we're talking about when it comes to meat and potatoes. Multiple locations,

Best Pizza


Pizza is personal. We grow up eating the pies that mom and dad bring home, all the while developing a bias to a certain crust type, sauce tang, cheese blend, even shape and size. Only by picking our own toppings do we assert any sort of independence. For more than 30 years, Angelo's Pizza in Lakewood has been brainwashing its customers into buying lots and lots of their pizza. Some say the secret's in the sauce. Others pin it on the cheese. True aficionados know it's the crust. Never been there? Start with the usual pepperoni or sausage pie before graduating to a specialty pizza like the baked potato, seafood or chicken Alfredo. Angelo's is more than just a pretty pie: They do a mean salad, scratch sandwiches, groovy pasta, and all of it can be delivered to your door. Let them in. 13715 Madison Ave, Lakewood, 216-221-0440,