Photo by Doug Trattner
Offerings from Chicken Ranch, one of the many new places you should try this summer
For many of us, the last year and a half has been a blur, a foggy morass during which time crept and progress seemed to slow to a standstill. And yet, since March of 2020 – the official start of the pandemic – there has been a remarkable amount of activity in the restaurant world.
Don’t believe us? Here (in chronological order no less) are 46 new and notable arrivals on the Cleveland food and beverage front.
Citizen Pie Roman Café
Chef Vytauras Sasnauskas, who also operates wood-fired pizza shops in Collinwood and Ohio City, opened Citizen Pie Roman Café in the former home of Erie Island Coffee on E. Fourth Street. Unlike the Neapolitan pies he bakes to order at his other pizzerias, Roman Café sells Roman-style pizza al taglio, a focaccia-like pizza that is baked in advance. A daily assortment of rectangular-cut slices are at the ready for take-out or a quick reheat in the shop’s oven. (Scene's Citizen Pie review
In March of 2020, Summer House opened in the former Swingo’s space at the Carlyle in Lakewood. This restaurant from Tony George promises guests a summertime vibe 365 days of the year. The large space has been completely reimagined, with a 50-seat bar and stellar views of Lake Erie and downtown Cleveland. The bill of fare is Mediterranean, but there are plenty of creative American dishes on the menu as well.
Shinto Japanese Steakhouse (Westlake)
Sheng Long Yu, owner of the 17-year-old Strongsville restaurant of the same name, opened this splashy west-side eatery in the former home of Miami Nights. Inside the meticulously renovated space are multiple hibachi tables, conventional tables, a sushi bar and cocktail bar. Japanese food fans can enjoy an extensive menu filled with sushi, teriyaki and lively teppanyaki-fueled feasts.
Boaz (University Heights)
Aladdin's Eatery unveiled its health-focused, fast-casual spinoff Boaz Café in Ohio City back in 2017. Last year they added this larger second shop in University Heights. Boaz focuses on light, bright, fresh and vividly flavored Middle Eastern fare. This quick-serve eatery offers everything from build-your-own bowls to Aladdin's staples like fattoush salads, beef shawarma plates and rolled pita sandwiches.
After years of delay, Proof was set to launch on March 18, 2020. That didn’t happen. Instead, this barbecue joint located in the lower level of the Tremont building Crust Pizza and Visible Voice Books opened its doors in May. Inside or out, the inviting restaurant specializes in Texas-style barbecue like slow-smoked brisket, pulled pork and chicken, which are sold by the pound or in dishes like nachos, steamed buns and tacos. (Scene's Proof Bar-BQ review
From the day it opened in 2016, Thai Thai was an undeniable hit. The only downside: the wee 15-seat dining room. After temporarily closing in October 2020, Thai Thai finally reopened in its new, larger Lakewood home last spring. Now heat-seekers can enjoy electrifying dishes like larb, gai yang, tom yum soup, pad Thai, kra praow and Massaman curry in a more comfortable environment.
Chimi and Amba
Since the start of the pandemic, chef Doug Katz has opened two ghost kitchen concepts. Chimi, a South American-themed eatery, launched last summer while Amba, an Indian one, debuted in early winter. Both are pick-up or delivery only. Chimi offers customers dozens of options that range from small bites to large plates. Warm wraps are used to scoop up grilled chicken, braised short rib and shrimp Veracruz. Amba stars vibrant dishes like mixed vegetable pickles, biryani with saffron, chicken masala and chicken kofta. Amba proved so successful that Katz will open a brick-and-mortar version of it in Ohio City later this year. (Scene's Chimi
and Amba reviews
Lakewood Truck Park
Five years in the making, Lakewood Truck Park finally opened last summer, just in time to take advantage of alfresco social-distance partying. The 12,000-square-foot property features two bars, a rotating selection of food trucks and plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. Fun events like yoga, cornhole tournies and Tiki Tuesday with live steel-drum music keep the vibe lively and beverages flowing.
Cleveland Breakfast Club and Cleveland Vegan Club
Yours Truly closed its Shaker Square location after nearly 30 years, but it was quickly replaced by a twin-concept eatery from the owner of Angie’s Soul Café. Cleveland Breakfast Club and Cleveland Vegan Club operate out of the same property, with the former focusing on breakfast, brunch and lunch service and the latter vegan smoothies, bowls, sandwiches and wraps.
Hibachi Japan Steak House (Solon)
For decades, Hibachi Japan Steak House has entertained and fed generations of Cuyahoga Falls residents. Last year, owner Morgan Yagi expanded northward, converting the former Akira restaurant in Solon to a new Hibachi Japan. The main dining room has 12 hibachi tables where guests can enjoy teppanyaki-fired dinners built around soup, salad, fried rice and a choice of chicken, shrimp, lobster and steak, but also sushi in the form of rolls, platters and pieces.
A partnership between the owners of Sapporo Sushi (which closed last summer) and Ohashi in North Olmsted netted Hako, a new Japanese restaurant in Lakewood. The space formerly was home to Kim's Aji Noodle Bar and Yuzu. Diners enjoy a freshly remodeled interior alongside nigiri sushi, sashimi, traditional and eclectic rolls and noodle bowls. (Scene's Hako review
In March, the Kimpton Schofield Hotel in downtown Cleveland shuttered its restaurant Parker’s, making way for a transformation that netted Betts. The new breakfast, lunch and dinner eatery opened last summer with a menu built around elevated, health-conscious fare. The name “Betts” was chosen as a tribute to Elizabeth Schofield, the wife of the building’s architect and namesake Levi Schofield.
Sixth City Sailors Club
Joseph Fredrickson and the team from Society Lounge snatched up the former Hodge’s space downtown just in time to take advantage of that spacious courtyard patio and outdoor bar. The affordable, approachable neighborhood bar features slushie drinks, draft cocktails and quick-fire cocktails. To go with the refreshments is a seafood-focused menu starring items like clam chowder, shrimp fritters, crab cakes and fried clams. (Scene's Sixth City Sailors Club review
UJerk Caribbean Eatery
UJerk, a Jamaican-themed fast-casual restaurant, opened in the City Club Building downtown. The colorful restaurant specializes in jerk chicken salads, sliders, sandwiches and wraps. Other items like tuna salad, shrimp salad and falafel also can be enjoyed in slider, sandwich and wrap form. On weekends, UJerk trots out the Rasta Pasta, an Alfredo-esque pasta topped with jerk chicken. (Scene's UJerk review
Last summer, Rick Doody unveiled this well-appointed restaurant in the former Jekyll’s Kitchen space in Chagrin Falls. The interior has been completely reworked to open the space up and better align it with those dramatic water views. All new furniture, fixtures, fabrics, flooring and lighting complete the transformation. Classic American grill dishes like lobster bisque, wedge salads, cedar-plank salmon, pork chop Milanese and steak frites with Bearnaise are what’s for dinner.
Little Italy didn’t get to celebrate the Feast last summer, but it did score a wonderful new restaurant. Home Bistro is a revival of a Chicago spot of the same name that husband-and-wife team Victor Morenz and Emily Gilbert owned before returning to Northeast Ohio. The transformation of the space, formerly Gusto, has restored much of the turn-of-the-century elegance to the property. From the kitchen, Morenz turns out an eclectic roster of globally influenced dishes that always hit their mark. (Scene's Home Bistro review
Hell's Fried Chicken
Sheng Long Yu, the entrepreneur behind Shinto, Kenko, Dagu Rice Noodle and Ipoke, opened this streamlined fried chicken concept in University Circle. The fast-casual eatery offers a concise menu of fried tenders, whole wings, thighs and sandwiches, fresh-cut fries, coleslaw and garlic bread. An assortment of available sauces ranges from sweet to hot. (Scene's Hell's Fried Chicken review
Last summer, chef Matt Spinner announced that he was closing Ushabu, his shabu-shabu restaurant in Tremont. But he also announced its replacement, Bar Oni, which opened last fall. The hip, casual izakaya specializes in yakitori items like grilled chicken, sausage, pork belly and assorted vegetables. The skewers are joined by tempura, dumplings and pork katsu. To drink there’s beer, sake and draft cocktails. (Scene's Bar Oni review
Cloak & Dagger
This bookish cocktail lounge has nicely settled in at the revolving-door space in Tremont that has been home to many short-lived restaurants. Billed as a neighborhood craft cocktail bar, the library-themed salon boasts a book-like menu filled with libations described with tasting notes like herbal, floral, smoky and spicy. The beverages are buoyed by an all-vegan roster of bar bites like fries, “pork” rinds, BBQ “chicken” skewers and banh mi sammies.
Soba Asian Kitchen
After working for years in a traditional hibachi-style Japanese restaurant, Jingbo Xiao had the brilliant idea to adapt the food to a fast-casual concept. He did just that when he opened his first Soba in Sandusky. He followed that up with a new location in the former Jimmy John’s space on Coventry. The fully customized “bowl-type” experience tops bases like fried rice, egg noodles and soba noodles with veggies and proteins like chicken, steak and shrimp capped off with sauces such as teriyaki, garlic butter and yum-yum. (Scene's Soba Asian Kitchen review
The folks behind the fast-growing Boiler 65 concept opened Yonder last fall in the two-story brick building in Midtown formerly home to La Bodega and Angie's Soul Café. This updated breakfast and lunch place offers counter service and some dine-in seating. On offer are creative breakfast sandwiches and brunch dishes, some of which are jazzed up with funky additions like Fruity Pebbles.
Ian Herrington devoted a decade of his life to the art and practice of baking before opening Leavened, a European-style artisan bakery in Tremont. The sleek, modern storefront anchors the Tappan, a new residential building on Auburn. Visitors can expect fresh-brewed coffee, fresh-baked loaves and a light café menu of soups and sandwiches. Don’t miss the rustic sourdoughs, rosemary focaccia, cardamom buns and fruit-filled Danish. (Scene's Leavened review
Anthony Zappola closed the Rice Shop last Thanksgiving, but the University Heights space quickly transitioned to Chicken Ranch. Chef Demetrios Atheneos, formerly of Forage Public House, Oak Barrel and Bold, opened this quick-serve fried chicken spot in early December. It’s home to one of the best chicken sandwiches in town, but also ribs, shrimp, salads and sides. A great assortment of sauces adds to the fun. (Scene's Chicken Ranch review
When it opened in Kamm’s Corners this past December, Habesha Ethiopian and Eritrean Restaurant increased the number of Ethiopian restaurants in Cleveland to three and is the only such eatery on the West Side. Fans of the cuisine will discover a familiar assortment of platters that combine vegetarian and/or meat-based items – all served with injera bread for scooping and enjoying. Of course, the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, accompanied by the heavenly aroma of freshly roasted beans, is part of the experience.
The Sleepy Rooster
In February, Craig and Sarah Fitzgerald opened The Sleepy Rooster in Chagrin Falls. After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu Institute in Pittsburgh, Craig worked in fine dining restaurants in Pittsburgh and Florida. At Sleepy Rooster he focuses on top-flight breakfast, brunch and lunch dishes like fresh-baked biscuits and gravy, goetta and eggs, avocado toast and fried bologna sandwiches. (Scene's The Sleepy Rooster review
Keep The Change Kitchen Collective
Chef Ben Bebenroth wasted no time closing his farm-to-table bistro Spice Kitchen at the outset of the pandemic. A year later he launched Keep The Change Kitchen Collective, a virtual food hall that operates out of the 10,000-square-foot Spice Catering HQ in Detroit Shoreway. Pick-up and delivery customers have their pick of multiple concepts like Winner Winner’s roasted chicken dinners, Leif’s “burly” salad and grain bowls and Woo! Noods & Rice.
In March, longtime Michael Symon Restaurants employee Matthew “Chatty” Harlan opened this popular pizzeria in Bay Village. The one-of-a-kind setting in the Cleveland Metroparks Huntington Reservation is only part of the draw. The family-friendly restaurant also dishes up great thin-crust New York and thicker Grandma-style pies along with charcuterie boards, burrata salads and meatball sandwiches. (Scene's Chatty's Pizzeria review
Avo Modern Mexican
Gabriel Zeller and Julie Mesenburg, who also operate Char in Rocky River, grabbed the keys to the slick Bakersfield Tacos space in Ohio City and opened Avo in December. Avo’s aim is to elevate the “mod Mex” experience with tacos starring house-made tortillas, arepas topped with barbacoa and larger plates like grilled shrimp in spicy cream sauce with corn cakes. An excellent bar program is the cherry on top. (Scene's Avo Modern Mexican review
Sauce the City Galley
With the addition of Pearl’s Kitchen in late winter, the Sauce the City Galley became, for the first time since the Ohio City Galley closed, fully occupied with restaurants. In addition to original tenant Sauce the City, the food hall now features chef Jose Melendez’ pan-Latin Twisted Taino, serving mofongo bowls, tostones, empanadas and tripletas, chef Tiwanna Scott-Williams’ Pearl’s Kitchen, a comfort-food spot selling Southern-inspired dishes like blackened salmon BLTs, shrimp and grits and bourbon bread pudding, and Good Meal Jane, an enigmatic pizza ghost kitchen. Next on leader Victor Searcy Jr.’s to-do list is getting the bar back in business. (Scene's Twisted Taino review
Adam and Tiffany DiLauro parlayed a mobile pizza truck following into a brick-and-mortar success story. Occupying a prime corner spot in Bainbridge, this retro-chic neighborhood slice shop offers up a great experience from beginning to end. The main attractions are the thick-cut Sicilian and thin-crust New York-style pizzas, but diners also load up on salads, wings, charcuterie plates, meatball and Italian sandwiches and house-made cannoli. (Scene's Pizza DiLauro review
City Pop Sushi
This visually appealing eatery downtown is a candy-colored homage to Japanese pop culture. Original artwork is joined by an arcade game, TVs streaming city pop music videos, and short roster of contemporary sushi rolls. Rolls, both grab-and-go and made-to-order, feature fully cooked items like bacon, steak and shrimp. They are served with dipping sauces like wasabi mayo and yum-yum.
The Last Page
Within a tsunami of fast-casual monotony, The Last Page at Pinecrest is a welcome detour. This modern-day supper club offers an immersive, upscale experience, from the luxuriously appointed waiting area to the grand bar in the rear of the drama-filled dining room. A lengthy menu avoids categorization of any kind, presenting instead a blitz of 25 appealing items that lean on various cultures and cuisines. (Scene's The Last Page review
Cleveland-based Forward Hospitality completely reimagined the former Sawyer's space at Van Aken District into a more approachable casual restaurant. The space now offers unobstructed sight lines from end to end, inside and out. A chart-style menu is ideal for grazing, with dips and spreads, composed salads, wood-fired meat, fish and veggie kebabs and a few mains. In addition to the roomy front patio, guests have access to Garden City, a cocktail-focused rooftop bar that also opened in the past year. (Scene's Kindred Spirit review
Van Aken District Market Hall
The Market Hall also was the site of expansion during the pandemic. In addition to original tenants like Banter, Brassica, On the Rise and Craft Collective, the bright, buzzy food hall added Domo Yakitori & Sushi, starring sushi, yakitori and okonomiyaki, Lox, Stock and Brisket, with its killer fried chicken and brisket sandwiches, and Old Brooklyn Cheese Co., which stocks a line of award-winning cheeses and mustards.
Acqua di Luca
The transformation from XO Prime Steaks to Acqua di Luca is complete. The eight-month process has netted a gorgeous new seafood-focused Italian restaurant from the owners of Luca and Luca West. Exposed brick walls, expansive fold-away windows, new blond wood flooring and an open kitchen give this prominent Warehouse District space a whole new lease on life. Chef-owner Luca Sema beams from that shiny open kitchen while preparing dishes like crudo, frutti di mare and roasted whole fish.
East 4th Street's third act is well underway after the departures of Lola, Greenhouse Tavern and Chinato in the past two years with Dante Boccuzzi being the next powerhouse Cleveland chef to set up shop on Cleveland's restaurant row. Goma, Boccuzzi's ninth restaurant, is opening around July 1st in the former Chinato space, which will be unrecognizable to anyone who enjoyed a meal there. Gone are the dividing walls and newly installed are two garage doors on the Prospect Ave. side, opening the space and putting it right in the action at the corner of East 4th. Split between sushi much like you'd find at Ginko and the addition of shabu shabu, tempura, salads, seafood and veg-focused apps as well as udon and ramen, the menu draws on Boccuzzi's experiences in kitchens in Taiwan, Tokyo and the famed Nobu.