This past year, more than any other in very recent history, has been one of dizzying highs and lows. For every thrilling new restaurant opening, it seemed, we were dealt a sad blow by the loss of an icon or two. While it's always painful to say goodbye to an old friend, we can find solace in both the slate of exciting new options as well as the looming culinary projects that are just around the bend.
In terms of losses, it's hard to think of a more devastating 1-2-3 punch than the departure of Coquette Patisserie, La Cave du Vin and Bistro 185.
Whereas Coquette was a supernova whose existence was hot but brief, La Cave was a part of our lives for more than 20 years. In between was Bistro 185, an anchor of the Collinwood neighborhood for almost 15 years.
When the Sausage Shoppe closed its doors this past spring, Old Brooklyn lost a neighbor that had been in its midst for 80 years.
Other high-profile losses include Hot Sauce Williams, which sold its last Polish Boy on Carnegie Avenue this past spring, Brasa Grill, whose 15-year run as downtown's only Brazilian steakhouse just ended, and Grove Hill, an overlooked star in the Chagrin Falls dining scene.
Also in the loss column go Cork and Cleaver, Bac Asian Bistro, Latitude 41n, Cleveland Pickle, Poison Berry Bakery, Tremont General, and Ivory Keys, which both came and went. (Ciao Bistro currently is on deathwatch.)
The good news is that 2018 also welcomed a large class of notable newcomers that should serve us well for years to come. Ohio City Galley brought fresh energy to the old Massimo Da Milano space on the corner of Detroit and West 25th, thanks to a handful of unique eateries (Sauce the City, Rice Shop, Tinman, and Poca) tied together by a lively barroom.
Ohio's first Shake Shack brought the expected level of buzz when it opened at Pinecrest, in Orange Village, matched almost pound for pound by the christening of La Plaza Taqueria at the beloved west-side Mexican foods store.
And when it comes to sheer size, no opening was bigger than that of Fat Head's, which opened its ginormous new brewery, restaurant and beer hall in Middleburg Heights.
After reworking the old Diner on Clifton space, the owners of that building opened Landmark, a sharp fine-casual eatery. Meanwhile, the owner of the old diner made waves of his own by unveiling the on-trend Dinerbar on Clifton a few hundred feet away.
Trio took over the old Bac space in Tremont, Bull and Bird said yes to the venerable Gamekeeper's property in Chagrin Falls, and Blue Habanero turned the lights back on at the shimmering Arcadian location in Gordon Square.
Larder and Lox, Stock and Brisket demonstrate that Jewish deli food deserves its rightful place in the annals of food fame, while Barroco's third location, this one at Crocker Park, proves that arepa adoration is universal. At the top of our must-visit list is Distill Table and Rood Food in Lakewood, Mitchell's Ice Cream at Van Aken, and Polpetta in Rocky River.
So what's next, you ask?
Very shortly, the Van Aken District will unveil its Market Hall, a 20,000-square-foot food hub filled with familiar names like Banter, On the Rise and Bottlehouse. Down the road, Michael's Genuine and a new Jonathon Sawyer restaurant will join them. By the time you read this, Edwins Butcher Shop likely will be open in the Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood. In addition to serving the community, the fresh-food market offers another level of culinary training for ex-cons.
As soon as the Cleveland Bagel boys acquire new passports, they will cross the river and open a new storefront and production kitchen on Carnegie Avenue, adjacent to Souper Market. And speaking of the Souper Market, that hot-soup concept will open a new ladle lounge in the former home of Tea House Noodles on East Sixth Street.
Very soon, the owners of the Plum will open the more casual Good Company restaurant in the former Vita Urbana space in Battery Park, hoping that they'll have the right touch when it comes to a challenging address. This week, Flight Cleveland will take off in the Gordon Square neighborhood, debuting a snazzy new wine bar for that near-west community. Meanwhile, the former Flip Side spot in the Flats is being reworked into Good Night John Boy, a faux dive bar dripping with nostalgia.
The owners of Kensington Pub had a goal of opening by Thanksgiving. Last year. However, the wait appears to be worth it as the tacky exterior paneling comes down and dazzling new panes of glass go up at the original Tavern Company space in Cleveland Heights.
Another long-simmering project, transforming the old Literary Cafe in Tremont into the Literary Tavern, is still progressing, albeit at a glacial pace. Also good news: The smoldering Birdtown Brewery is finally coming together in the old St. Gregory Catholic Church in Lakewood's Birdtown neighborhood.
All systems are go for the Austin-inpired Lakewood Truck Park to open next summer on the corner of Detroit and Edwards avenues, and when it does, visitors can expect a bar, indoor and outdoor seating, and plenty of rotating food trucks. Progress appears to have slowed (if it ever really began) at Hot Sauce Williams on Carnegie, which will be reopened as a flagship Angie's Soul Cafe location.
As for that iconic Tremont property that long housed Lola and Lolita restaurants? We'll keep you posted.