Retro, Rooted & Reimagined

Explore Cleveland's diverse food scene

By Destination Cleveland

by Lisa Sands, creator of the CLE Foodcast

Farkas Bakery, Dennis J., 21st Century, From the collection of: Destination Cleveland
,
Irie Jamaican Kitchen, Nathan Migal, 21st Century, From the collection of: Destination Cleveland
,
Corbo’s, Lisa Brown DiMaggio, 21st Century, From the collection of: Destination Cleveland
Show lessRead more

Cleveland’s inclusive food scene often surprises visitors. Though, like many midwestern steel towns, Cleveland’s early influences were established by immigrants arriving from Eastern Europe. Eventually other communities sprouted, making their own lasting impressions — AsiaTown and La Villa Hispana among them.

With Cleveland’s compact geography in our favor, we’re never very far from the melting pot of foods we’ve come to crave. We enjoy real Jamaican jerk on Tuesdays; Creole and Cajun comfort food on Thursdays; and big bowls of Vietnamese Pho on Friday nights.

Lisa with Larder SandwichDestination Cleveland

Step inside these remarkable Cleveland establishments for a taste of my city.

The West Side Market (21st Century) by Cody YorkDestination Cleveland

The West Side Market

Cleveland’s public market still has a charming Old-World feel, though it sits amidst a resurgence of rapid growth. Built in 1912, the market is a collection of authentic Cleveland food experiences beloved by locals and enjoyed by visitors. 

CLE’s Public MarketDestination Cleveland

The West Side Market

Among the stalls are third- and fourth-generation vendors and an increasingly diverse crop of newer food entrepreneurs.

CLE’s Public MarketDestination Cleveland

The West Side Market

It’s fun to wind through the aisles of vendor stalls to gather “what looks good.” At one time, Eastern European-owned stands dominated the market. Many of them like Czuchraj Meats, a market vendor for nearly 65 years, remain.

West Side Market (21st Century) by Destination ClevelandDestination Cleveland

The West Side Market

Nowadays, people flock to the market for ravioli and sauces from Ohio City Pasta; the catch of the day from Kate’s Fish; hummus and falafel from Jacob’s Oasis; and a selection of internationally sourced spices and seasonings from Narrin’s Spices & Sauces. 

West Side Market (21st Century) by Thomas SawyerDestination Cleveland

The West Side Market

Snacking your way through the market is encouraged (and hard to resist). From pizza bagels and Parisian crêpes, to Mexican salsas and brat sandwiches, there’s a delicious bite around each and every corner.

MabelsDestination Cleveland

Mabel’s BBQ

Before Michael Symon was America’s Iron Chef, he was a hometown kid with mad kitchen skills. When Symon says “meats,” we jump into a seat at Mabel’s. 

Mabel's BBQDestination Cleveland

Mabel’s BBQ

Symon perfected “Cleveland-style BBQ,” which is smoked over local fruit woods and served with his own irresistible brown mustard sauce made from Bertman’s Ballpark Mustard, another hometown favorite.

Mabel's BBQDestination Cleveland

Mabel’s BBQ

Savory smoked meats and sides are served on a silver platter. Ok, it’s really a cafeteria tray, but it still feels like something special. I’m usually going for brisket, pork belly and kielbasa. One thing I never miss, though, are the cracklins, served with French onion dip.

Zhug HummusDestination Cleveland

Zhug

Hummus and falafel are awesome, but the true depth of Mediterranean food is illuminated at Zhug.  The beauty of small plate dining is that you can sample to your heart’s content, land on a favorite and order seconds without anyone batting an eye. 

Zhug CauliflowerDestination Cleveland

Zhug

The menu changes seasonally, but cross your fingers for the Yemenite curry chicken honey; roasted cauliflower with raisins and spiced coconut sauce; and a lentil and forbidden rice mejadra. Rest assured, you’ll see hummus and falafel in a whole new light, too.

Juneberry table mult dishes by Karin McKennaDestination Cleveland

Juneberry

Noted farm-to-table chef Karen Small is opening the diner of our dreams. Light, bright and cheery Juneberry’s breakfast and lunch offerings are a nod to Small’s Appalachian roots. Grits, biscuits, hearty pancakes with seasonal fruit toppings are just a start. 

Juneberry

Rotating specials reflect the seasons and are brimming with regionally sourced ingredients like Ohio apples, peaches and tomatoes, as well as breads, cheeses and meats from purveyors in the area.

Noble Beast BrewingDestination Cleveland

Noble Beast Brewing Co.

Let’s not forget that Cleveland is a beer town. Noble Beast may not be the flashiest place with the fanciest merch, but it is a fan favorite, recently snagging top honors in dueling “Best of Cleveland” lists. 

Noble Beast Brewing Co.Destination Cleveland

Noble Beast Brewing Co.

Communal tables are a hop cone’s throw from the fermentors and short walk to the open kitchen where a small team churns out some of the best brewery food in the city.

Noble Beast Brewing FOODDestination Cleveland

Noble Beast Brewing Co.

I love the discreet patio—a magical urban hideaway, day or night to enjoy a flight and a spent grain Bavarian pretzel with honey beer mustard and cheese sauce.

Mahalls P&N2Destination Cleveland

Mahall’s

They say that everything old is new again. Mahall’s is having a moment —more like its second or third, actually. Even with a major restoration, the 100-year-old bar, bowling and concert venue is still a comfortable working-class hangout. 

Lakewood - Mahall’s (21st Century) by Nathan RogersDestination Cleveland

Mahall’s

 It’s known for better bar eats, including tacos, nachos and burgers. And the bar (and bartenders) come with no shortage of personality. For a place that looks like it was carefully staged for an artsy film,  it’s intentionally lowbrow.  

Marble Room fullroomDestination Cleveland

Marble Room Steak & Raw Bar

If a space could be “dressed to impress,” this is it. After an extensive restoration of the Garfield Building, the city’s first steel-frame skyscraper, Marble Room quickly became Cleveland’s crown jewel of fine dining.

Marble Room plated salmonDestination Cleveland

Marble Room Steak & Raw Bar

The Beaux-arts interior of marble columns and crystal chandeliers create magic. It'll make an average Tuesday feel extraordinary and a Saturday night delightfully decadent. Sitting at the glam bar for cocktails and caviar, you’re likely in the midst of VIPs.

Heinen's-RotundaDestination Cleveland

Heinen’s | Euclid Avenue - Downtown

Can you say that your grocery store is an architectural marvel? Heinen’s opened this store in 2015 after an extensive renovation of the Cleveland Trust Building, built back in 1907. As you shop for snacks, be sure to look up at the 85-foot-high stained-glass rotunda. 

Heinen’s | Euclid Avenue - DowntownDestination Cleveland

Heinen’s | Euclid Avenue - Downtown

Head to the second-floor balcony to grab something from the retail wine shop (or a wine on tap) and admire the massive marble columns, bronze fixtures and a series of historic paintings depicting Ohio’s founding.

Lisa with Larder SandwichDestination Cleveland

Larder

Jeremy Umansky bridges the traditions of an old-school Jewish deli with a modern culinary approach, using a revival of ancient fermenting and curing techniques. 

Larder Matzoball soupDestination Cleveland

Larder

I’m ordering Larder’s signature pastrami on house-made rye and his herbaceous matzo ball soup. Umansky’s pastrami is koji-cured, for an umami-bomb of taste that is familiar, yet more complex. The soup is heavy on fresh dill and tinged purple from the addition of red cabbage.

Sauce in the CityDestination Cleveland

Sauce the City

The Cleveland Hot Chicken Sandwich is a beautiful mess (literally and figuratively). Add to that, Vic Searcy says that his coveted smoky sauce contains a myriad of flavors reflecting Cleveland’s diverse cultures. 

Josh Dobay photo Cloak foodDestination Cleveland

Cloak & Dagger

Imagine that you’ve just opened the door to an eccentric author’s study where you’re invited to sip the most creative craft cocktails you’ve ever had. That’s “Cloak,” as the regulars call it, and it is an immersive experience from start to finish. 

Cloak & Dagger

A menu is presented in the form of an illustrated book, heavy on literary references. An unexpected plot twist — the drinks, bar snacks and entrees are all vegan.

Swensons car trayDestination Cleveland

Swensons Drive-In

It sounds like a movie script, but it is 100% totally true that this 90-year-institution started from the back of Pop Swenson’s station wagon. 

Swensons Drive-In

Now, you stay comfortable in your car and curb servers take your order from a large diner-style menu and bring it to you hot and freshly made.  I’m an unabashed “Swenatic,” as the raving fans are known. Try my order—a double cheeseburg, potato teezers and a vanilla shake.

SuperiorPho Noodle BowlDestination Cleveland

Superior Pho

The ultimate slow food, a steaming bowl of pho demands your presence. Tucked away inside a little shopping center in the AsiaTown neighborhood you’ll find some of the best around. 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Google apps