Cleveland, known locally for its propensity to host new restaurant and bar openings, like, every other day, has a lot of cool new hang spots. In 2014 alone, some of our very favorite bars opened their doors for the first time. We couldn't be happier to welcome them into our little corner of the world.
East, west, downtown: The gang's all here.
If you're in the mood to check a few new bars and taprooms and pubs and watering holes off your ever-expanding wish list of places to visit, here are eight awesome places to start.
The old Slovenian Workman's Home on Waterloo Road in Cleveland's North Collinwood neighborhood is a helluva cool throwback to all the best things about hanging out in bars. The place is a hip microbrewery operating with old-world charm (polka dances, fish fries, the works: all of which still go on, despite the shift in exterior and name).
Sidle up the bar and order the namesake Waterloo Brew, which is brewed in partnership with Platform Brewery. Pair that sucker with a Cleveland Cheesesteak, the joint's mammoth take on the Philly classic, featuring shaved smoked brisket, sauteed mushrooms, onions, cheese sauce and (mmm mmm) hot pepper relish. Work that delicious combo over with the new friends you're making at the old-school bar, then duck over to the bocce court for a game or two.
Do you see where this is headed? Do you see why Waterloo Brew is the coolest new anchor spot in one of Cleveland's coolest neighborhoods?
"The cool part of this is the collaborative effort between parties to make this happen," co-operator Alan Glazen told Scene before the Platform partnership had even been made public. "It's very innovative."
Innovative and old-school, which is just how Cleveland likes it.
15335 Waterloo Rd., 216-785-9475, waterloocleveland.com.
Butcher and the Brewer
East Fourth Street — something of an epicenter for the downtown high life — is great anchor for whatever you choose to do. When Butcher and the Brewer opened up last year in one of the street's more expansive locations, the city couldn't contain its excitment.
Butcher and the Brewer is an undertaking. It's a unique experience. It's also, as Scene described in November 2014, "the most ambitious, audacious and daring dining project to land in Cleveland since pioneering showman Nick Kostis opened his $5-million fun zone, Pickwick & Frolic, just down the block." So go eat some good food. And drink some good beer.
Walk in, and you're greeted by pleasant employees who will escort you a high-top or, perhaps, a shared table where future friends await. There's a whole "communal dining" trip at this place. The bar, similarly, is welcoming to all.
The brewery, which is the reason you're coming here, for starters, hosts an impressive array of rotating beverages. December's Spice Spice Baby held down the foremost rankings in our local landscape of yuletide ales, and Bravo Company, the brewery's session IPA as of early 2015, tickles the tongue with bitter delight.
And if you've happened to trek downstairs, you know that the future space of the restaurant's lower-level speakeasy looks awesome. We can't wait.
2043 East Fourth St., 216-331-0805, butcherandthebrewer.com.
With dozens of arcade games at guzzlers' disposal, 16-Bit is kinda the perfect hang spot in downtown Lakewood these days. After noting the bar's success in its Columbus location, owner Troy Allen was rightfully compelled to bring the fun up north.
"We're really happy with it," Allen says. "We wanted to take everything that was great about Columbus and kick it up a notch in Cleveland — and we've definitely done that." For that, we're thankful.
16-Bit serves no food but welcomes guests to bring in or order in (hint: Melt is two blocks away). The bar has 24 craft beers on tap plus canned beer and cocktails.
15012 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, 216-563-1115, 16-bitbar.com.
Yes, Hofbräuhaus Cleveland is loud, touristy and occasionally annoying. But if you think it's any different overseas at the original in Munich, you obviously haven't been there. Like the original — and other official outposts in Columbus, Pittsburgh and Chicago — servers here are clad in dirndls and lederhosen. Beer, brewed on-site in gleaming and prominently displayed copper kettles, is sold by the liter ($10.99) and half-liter ($5.99). Those draft beers, by the way, are spot on, with crisp Bavarian helles (pale), dunkles (dark), hefeweizen (wheat) and a rotating seasonal. All told, this place is a real doozy, in the best sense of the word.
Take a seat in the first come, first served beer hall and it won't be long before one of the countless servers makes his or her way over to your table for a beer order. Keep your eyes peeled for the jaunty pretzel girls, too, who roam the hall dispensing quick and cheap sustenance in the form of Bavarian-style pretzels ($2.25) from wicker baskets.
Note that lines tend to get so long for tables here at times that the restaurant erects a tent and staffs the beer garden kiosk, which dispenses cold beer and warm mulled wine. By the time spring rolls around in 2015, the outdoor 1,000-seat bier garden will relieve much of that pressure. Groups and those wishing to sit in the Hermit Club or upstairs can call ahead and attempt to make reservations, but those spaces are often booked for private events. Best advice: come early, come on weekdays, and try to avoid peak weekend hours.
Part of the problem, of course, is that folks don't leave. Yes, shotskis (a ski with shot glasses glued to it requiring participants to drink in synch) are a sign of the apocalypse, and the Chicken Dance makes one covet a skewer to the eardrum, but the plain truth is: the Hofbräuhaus is — given the right mood and company — more fun than drunk skinny dipping in the Rhine with pretzels as water wings. Actually, it's pretty much the same thing.
1550 Chester Ave., 216-621-2337, hofbrauhauscleveland.com.
Portside Distillery and Brewery
Portside Distillery boasts 14 tap handles, with production brewery still a few feet behind the bar. Six taps will pour beer from the bright tanks snugly standing nearby while eight taps will offer beer from kegs. An enclosed dining room offers privacy. Multiple televisions are scattered through the space, which has an occupancy of 150.
Cozy and unassuming, Portside Distillery brings Ohio City brewing culture to downtown. Overlooking Lake Erie, the tall building with vaulted ceilings offers lots of daylight, dollar off 'Flagship' beers during happy hour, and select appetizers for $5. The red amber ale is not to be missed, and the babaganouj-type hummus is a welcome companion. While beer and apps are all fine and dandy, it's the house-made rum that sets it apart. Give the rum a shot with the sage mojito.
And Monday Blues got you down? Sorry kiddies, Portside is closed on Mondays. But they open right back up for the rest of week for service starting at happy hour. (Alise Belcher)
983 Front Ave., 216-586-6633, portsidedistillery.com.
Bourbon Street Barrel Room
After its soft open in October — once the word got out, that is — bartenders at Tremont's decadent new Bourbon Street Barrel room had to reduce the ounces of rum in their signature Hurricane cocktail from four ounces to three. And with good reason. We can attest that it's all too easy to be swept away by the N'awlins charm (on the first and second floors) of the coolest new bar over on Tremont's bustlin' Professor Ave. Get comfortable and settle into a hurricane, or even a "Category 5 Hurricane," made with liquor from Cleveland's own Portside Distillery, and prepared to be mesmerized by the fleur-de-lis and chandeliers.
There's quite simply nothing of its ilk in Cleveland, and certainly not among the cobbled, fine-dining walkways of Tremont. With a full slate of Louisiana's own Abita beers (Light, Amber, Purple Haze and Naughty Quaker, plus occasional seasonals, are all on draft), and cajun-infused appetizers (Po Boys, Hush Puppies, Beignets, to name a few), not to mention a full, reasonably priced lunch and dinner menu, you can't help but feel transported, thanks to owner Justin Clemens' pricey overhaul.
Clemens spared no expense. He stocked his barroom with high-def TVs, shiny woodwork, flickering gas lamps and the requisite wrought-iron of every French Quarter balcony, so you don't feel like you're stepping into a back alley or anything. This is themed elegance without the kitsch, an authentic slice of the Big Easy, just as Clemens imagined it.
And if you've got an Uber in the wings — and the weekend crowds are manageable enough — it's an ideal place to sit back and sip your booze and pretend you're somewhere else for an evening.
2393 Professor Ave., 216-298-4400, bsbr.squarespace.com.
Ohio City's new Platform Brewery, which officially opened in July in the emergent, so-called "SOLO district", has the distinction of owning the coolest logo of the new bars and breweries of 2014. If you haven't seen it — the logo — just walk over to the bar. All the taps, arrayed in bright primary colors, are emblazoned with the image, a light bulb laced with hops and a skyline filament inside a clean double circle. Kick-ass graphic design.
And kick-ass brews too, praise God. The urban-chic, interior — wooden picnic tables, visible brewing equipment — feels more like a straight-up brewery than the club-skewing Town Halls and Market Gardens of W. 25th. It's almost like a tasting room, and rest assured that there are plenty of brews to taste. That was the idea for owners Paul Benner, Justin Carson, and Shaun Yasaki: beer beer beer, and more delicious beer.
Scene's own Doug Trattner has noted, though, that despite the beertastic focus, Platform has managed to feed its guests awfully well, with guest chefs and caterers, plus rampant food trucks appearing Tuesday through Saturday. (And not to be outdone, Monday offers a competitive trivia night from the folks at Last Call USA).
Beyond Platform's own brews — which are always interesting and big — the draft selection from a diverse list of breweries is extensive and actively curated. Platform also offers regular tasting events and exotic beer-and-recreation pairings: Brews & Yoga, anyone? And it's refreshing, especially if you live on or around the near west side, to hit up an Ohio City bar without dealing with the Market or Town Hall traffic.
4125 Lorain Ave. 216-202-1386, platformbeerco.com.
Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern
"It's not made to look like a dive bar. It just is," Happy Dog co-owner Eric Williams told Scene's Doug Trattner in a walk-through last summer. Detroit-Shoreway's hippest bar — and it was hip before Detroit-Shoreway even cared about attracting hip bars — has now opened an east side satellite, in the home of the former Euclid Tavern. And it's probably exactly as you remember it from the 80s.
If you're not that old, or your memory's not that sharp, be advised that the dynamite special programming at the Happy Dog — the science talks, the readings etc. — is for the most part marching eastward. Likewise the awesome vibes. .
The Euc's neon sign still stands, poised at an angle on Euclid Ave. just east of the new Uptown District's epicenter. And with dirty hardwood floors, leather-topped stools, and a tin ceiling,this place is legit as it gets.
And any place that serves $5 hot dogs with unlimited toppings and cheap Canadian beers in the "international tradition" — Black Label, comrades? — is basically infallible in our book. Go for the dogs. Stay for the stage, and all those performers (musical and otherwise) who stand before the mic.
11625 Euclid Ave, 216-231-5400, happydogcleveland.com.