What to eat? When to eat? Where to eat? These are the questions that, like ticks on a clock, propel us through our gluttonous days. To answer one without the others is an exercise in futility, because Italian in Ohio City at Breakfast makes about as much sense as Delicatessen in Westlake at Ever.
Here, then, is a helpful guide to Meals by Occasion by Neighborhood, so you never again have to wander the streets of Tremont in search of a date-friendly wine bar.
When it comes to dining diversity, Cleveland Heights is all over the map – both literally and culinarily speaking. There's Chinese on Coventry, pizza in Cedar-Fairmount and Turkish on Lee.
Got an early business meeting planned? Check out the roomy new Phoenix Coffee (1793 Coventry Rd., 216-932-5282, phoenixcoffee.com) on Coventry, which relocated down the road into a prized corner spot. Cleveland's favorite coffee never looked better.
If you want to have breakfast in 1969, step into Irv's Sandwich Shop (2164 S. Taylor Rd., 216-321-6812), a toothpick of a diner that serves up delicious, fast and cheap meals at one long counter. Grab a wobbly stool and enjoy over-stuffed omelets and home fries, pancakes and bacon, and breakfast sammies to go.
Most folks know of On the Rise (3471 Fairmount Blvd., 216-320-9923, ontheriseartisanbreads.com) for its artisan baked breads and pastries. But come lunchtime, the line out the door is for sandwiches, not scones. Matchless banh mis, grass-fed corned beef, and even house-made burrata sandwiches are calling your name.
Look at you out on a hot date. If you want to score some points in the what-a-pleasant-surprise category, take your companion for a pre-dinner cocktail at Gigi's on Fairmount (3477 Fairmount Blvd., 216-291-7237, gigisonfairmount.com). What this glitzy newcomer lacks in roominess it more than makes up for in romance. Drink wine and nibble charcuterie and cheese by candlelight.
Self-serve yogurt shops are all the rage come dessert time, but the good folks at Piccadilly Artisan Yogurt (1767 Coventry Rd., piccadillyartisanyogurt.com) do it right, using milk and cream from local, grass-fed cows, and organic sugar and fruit.
While we rightfully think of Asiatown as the epicenter of exotic eats, there's much more to enjoy here than just noodles, dumplings and rice.
Sure, Slyman's (3106 St. Clair Ave., 216-621-3760, slymans.com) is the king of corned beef, but show up a few hours earlier and you'll find the place lousy with breakfast junkies. And why not? With house faves like corned beef hash and eggs, hotcakes and ham, and sausage-stuffed omelets, you'll be set until dinner.
If you're more of a drive-by breakfast guy, swing by Koko Bakery (3710 Payne Ave., 216-881-7600) to grab a baby soft bun from the self-serve display. Think of them as savory Asian donuts, filled with BBQ pork, curried beef, or even ham and eggs. Wash it all down with a cup of warm almond tea.
Ha Ahn (3030 Superior Ave., 216-664-1152) is a tiny restaurant tucked inside a nondescript building on the edge of town. But if you love Korean food, it's worth seeking out for a satisfying lunch. From the sizzling-hot Bi Bim Bop to the simmering bowls of veggie-laden tofu soup, all of it is fresh, delicious and reasonably priced.
Bright, modern and attractive, Han Chinese Kabob & Grill (3710 Payne Ave., 216-769-8745) doesn't look like most Chinese restaurants. Designed to appeal to a younger generation of Asian-born diners, the food here is culled from Northern regions, with charcoal-fired lamb kebobs, cold poached chicken, and crispy whole fried fish splayed across most dinner tables.
Little Italy / University Circle
In just a few short years, this neighborhood has revolutionized its food scene, adding great independent options that fill the void between fast and fancy. And it ain't done yet.
Now that Rising Star Coffee Roasters (2187 Murray Hill Rd., risingstarcoffee.com) has landed in Little Italy, early risers make a bee-line to the corner of Murray Hill and Edghill. There they find the same beans, equipment and expertise that they've come to rely on in Ohio City.
Lunch time is the right time to enter Ninja City (11311 Euclid Ave., 216-860-0510, ninjacity.com), a lively, streamlined spin-off of Bac Asian Bistro in Tremont. A checklist-style menu flush with inexpensive ramen, rice and noodle bowls, along with steam buns and banh mi sandwiches, makes this joint popular with budget-crunched diners.
If you're headed to nearby Severance Hall – or dinner elsewhere in the neighborhood – stop by the impossibly cute Coquette Patisserie (11607 Euclid Ave., 216-331-2841, coquettepatisserie.com) for a pre-dinner aperitif. Champagne is served by the glass, oysters served on the half shell, and savory nibbles like mini quiches, tarts and smörgåstårta presented with flair.
Across the street is another Ohio City import, Crop Kitchen (11460 Uptown Ave., 216-696-2767, cropkitchen.com), a more casual offshoot of Crop Bistro. Dinners here are built around sandwiches, sushi and a handful of nightly specials, all dished up in a dramatic but informal space.
Why go home when you can stroll over to ABC the Tavern (11434 Uptown Ave., 216-721-1511, abcthetavern.com) for a nightcap. While more toned-down than the original on W. 25th Street, this classic bar has all the right elixirs – and pub grub, should you need it – to wind down a hectic day.