14 Best Restaurants In Cleveland

Cleveland probably doesn't spring to mind when the average American thinks of culinary destinations, but restaurants in the city have quietly been racking up accolades. Just about every year, a chef, restaurant, or restauranteur from Cleveland is nominated for a prestigious James Beard Award. 

That being said, a city's culinary scene is defined by a lot more than formal awards. Cleveland has a wide range of food options that measures up to any cosmopolitan city. From French fine dining to a cutting-edge deli to Italian seafood dishes, Cleveland's food options elevate the city high above its outdated Rust Belt reputation. The city has also enjoyed an urban revival in recent years, with the Lake Erie waterfront as its shimmering centerpiece. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, NFL stadium, Great Lakes Science Center, and International Women's Air and Space Museum are all along the waterfront and within walking distance. But beyond that, there are many culinary neighborhoods worth exploring, from the Eastern flavors of Asia Town to the brewpubs of Ohio City.

EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute

Using classic French cooking techniques and abiding by high service standards isn't what makes EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute particularly remarkable. To be fair, the French-influenced food and service doe has a serious wow factor. For example, the restaurant's signature hamburger — Le Burger — features tableside service that starts with the hand grinding of a filet. After the meat is mashed, it's sent to the kitchen for grilling while the server begins work on a sauce Diane, made with goose fat, bacon, mushrooms, shallots, butter, and brandy — which is flambéed, naturally. Once the cooked burger is returned to the table, it's topped with the sauce and served alongside potatoes fried in goose fat. 

Despite the decadence and technique in dishes like Le Burger, EDWINS is exceptional for its philanthropic side. Along with two other establishments in the restaurant group — EDWINS Butcher Shop and EDWINS Bakery — the restaurant employs formerly incarcerated people, giving them meaningful employment and providing them with valuable hospitality training. The company also has an online culinary education program available to current prisoners. It's all in keeping with the restaurant's motto: "Eat well, do good."

Larder Delicatessen & Bakery

While Cleveland's cuisine-focused and fine dining restaurants might whisk your off to distant lands or seat you in the lap of luxury, Larder Delicatessen & Bakery is one of the city's best restaurants that feels very Cleveland. Sure, one of the owners has Michelin Star pedigree, and another owner studied under American fermentation guru Sandor Katz, but you'd never know that walking into this Old World-style deli located in a repurposed neighborhood firehouse.

While the modern Jewish deli isn't exactly swinging for the conceptual fences, the culinary team is hitting home runs like Jim Thome operating at the peak of his early aughts powers. Made with koji-cured brisket and smoked rye bread, the pastrami sandwich exudes soulful efficiency, like a low-angle homer hit on a rope, just clearing the outfield wall. On the other hand, the fried chicken sandwich is pure showmanship and decadence, like a high-arcing shot that clears the stadium completely. Chicken thighs are brined in buttermilk and a fermented rice drink called amakaze before being deep fried and garnished with, among other things, Kool-Aid-pickled onions. But maybe one of the best things about Larder is its approachable price point. Even though the restaurant's chefs were nominated for James Beard Awards in 2019, 2020, and 2023, the prices are still wallet-friendly. But after all, this is deli food. And make no mistake, this is Cleveland.


When her art career ambitions didn't work out, Jill Vedaa redirected into what happened to be two very successful fallback positions: chef and restauranteur. She may have started trying to find success in the art world but paying the bills with restaurant jobs ended up paving a career path. At Salt+, the three-time James Beard nominee unfurls a new small plates menu for each season, drawing influence from far beyond the shores of Lake Erie. Although some customer favorites are carried over from menu to menu, Vedaa and her team are more focused on challenging themselves than playing the hits. Each seasonal menu is divided into three sections: vegetables, fish, and meat. One recent menu featured oyster mushroom kebabs, coal-grilled sardines, and pork schnitzel. 

Over at the bar, the cocktail program is also a particular point of emphasis. Many cocktails at Salt+ are named after women who are personally important to either Vedaa or co-owner and sommelier Jessica Parkinson. Treated very personally, these drinks are meant to evoke the person after whom they're named. For example, Gigi's Manhattan was named after Parkinson's grandmother, who loved Old Fashioned cocktails.

The personal passions on display at Salt+ even extend beyond the restaurant's walls. Vedaa and Parkinson help run a not-for-profit organization called CLE Family Meal, named after the traditional staff meal before service. The organization was founded to provide food and support to those in the hospitality industry who are out of work.


To many Americans, "French cuisine" conjures up images of esoteric dishes and museum-like ambiance. But French food culture is about so much more than invoking the aura of Versailles. At L'Albatros, the French brasserie concept involves very approachable dishes on a menu that stays the same, day after day, week after week. The restaurant's vision of French cooking is elevated but lighter, featuring emblematic dishes like cassoulet stew and mussels frites. Speaking of light, the restaurant also gets high marks for its lush back patio, which is luxurious on its own during warm summer nights.

Since opening L'Albatros around 15 years ago, Zack Bruell has unfurled many other concepts in and around Cleveland. His status at the forefront of the local restaurant scene made Bruell an obvious choice for consultation when the Cleveland Clinic was looking to develop COVID-19 guidelines for restaurants at the outset of the pandemic. To develop these guidelines, Bruell and his staff staged mock service scenarios in May 2020 that were then assessed by the world-renowned clinic.


For two decades, Douglas Katz was the toast of the town for his beloved Fire Food & Drink restaurant. But the pandemic forced him to shut it down, along with a few other culinary ventures. Fortunately, Katz's Mediterranean-focused restaurant Zhug overcame all the shutdowns and setbacks. In fact, Esquire magazine named it one of the best new restaurants in 2020.

Zhug was greatly inspired by a 2018 trip to Israel when Katz ate all the hummus and tasted all the lentils. The influence of that trip is plain to see on the menu. There's nigella seed and burnt onion hummus, a unique eggplant moussaka, and smoked octopus with saffron aioli. Interestingly, Katz makes no bones about his seafood being frozen after it's caught. As an ambassador for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, Katz says freezing seafood immediately after it is caught is a more sustainable approach to sourcing seafood that still preserves optimal freshness.

But beyond the food and sourcing practices, Zhug also evokes an overseas trip to Israel with its tasteful décor and overall vibe. Food from the open kitchen comes on colorful plates. Mediterranean music mingles with boatloads of natural light pouring in from the large front windows, only to bounce off the restaurant's tall ceilings. If you can't visit Israel to enjoy the famed Mediterranean lifestyle, Zhug offers a commendable copy.

Il Rione

Old Italian neighborhoods tend to offer unique dichotomies regarding dining options. On the one hand, you can usually find massive portions of pasta at affordably priced red sauce joints. On the other hand, many of these neighborhoods have elaborate palaces of Italian-American decadence, with menus featuring expensive ingredients like lobster and premium cuts of steak. Likewise, old established spots that have been in operation for decades often co-mingle with new kids on the block, slinging modern takes on the classics.

Located in Little Italy on Cleveland's West Side, Il Rione is a pizzeria that neatly incorporates the nuances of its surrounding neighborhood. The New York-style pizzas on its menu reflect a classic sensibility and the current demand for thin minimalist pies topped with on-trend ingredients like hot honey and Calabrian chilies. It's not as cheap as your typical New York-style pizza, but these pies deliver significant bang for the buck. Clearly, the elevated-yet-unpretentious Il Rione has achieved its stated goal of creating a neighborhood pizzeria that channels the surrounding area.

Astoria Café and Market

Astoria Café and Market was supposed to be a place that put its market first and its café second. Unfortunately, the owners didn't predict how wildly popular the café's Mediterranean food would become, and today, the seating capacity is more than triple what it was when the café opened in 2016. 

Under the stewardship of head chef Cory Kobrinski, the kitchen at Astoria prepares Greek-inspired dishes using minimalist preparations. The menu is calibrated to provide a taste of the Mediterranean while still considering the palate of your typical Clevelander. This makes Astoria perfect for those who are experienced with the cuisine and those who are Mediterranean-curious. For example, the Octopus alla Karvouna features octopus poached in wine, lemon, and garlic before it's grilled. It tastes of somewhere else while remaining very approachable.

The laid-back vibe is also a big draw at Astoria and its bar. Although the café serves smartly plated dishes, it's normal for people to roll in wearing jeans and a hoodie. Oh, and many people also stop by for the other half of this business: a bustling Mediterranean market alongside the café.

Cleveland Bagel Company

Although the bagel appears more than 700 years old, the story behind the Cleveland Bagel Company couldn't get much more modern. When the company started, it operated out of a shared commercial kitchen, mostly selling to local cafes and farmers' markets. The slow upward trajectory of Cleveland Bagel Co. took a sharp turn upward in 2016, when the company was featured on a LeBron James-produced CNBC showed called Cleveland Hustles. The show involved the company competing with a local hair salon to win professional business mentoring and financial backing from a prominent local investor. Cleveland Bagel Co. won the competition and secured a $100,000 investment, which it used to open its first brick-and-mortar location in 2016. 

Cynics might dismiss Cleveland Bagel Company as a reality show restaurant, but the company had built a massive cult following before LeBron James came along to sprinkle some stardust on those bagels. Speaking of which, the bagels at Cleveland Bagel Company are the product of intense research on Old World-style bagels and how to modernize them for today's customers. The result is what the company calls a "Cleveland-style" bagel that's flavorful, crispy on the outside, and chewy on the inside.

Juneberry Table

When the COVID-19 pandemic came along, Karen Small had been running her highly acclaimed Flying Fig Bistro for over 20 years, and she had just gotten the keys to a planned new breakfast and lunch spot called Juneberry Table. Sadly, the Flying Fig didn't make it through the pandemic, but closing the restaurant allowed Small to focus all her energies on Juneberry Table. After two years of pandemic-related delay, Juneberry Table finally opened with much of the kitchen staff having transferred over from the Flying Fig. Needless to say, the restaurant quickly became a runaway success.

Working with a smaller kitchen than at Flying Fig seems to have focused the culinary minds at Juneberry Table. The restaurant's menu features soulful yet refined dishes, and it reflects Small's time spent living on the western edge of Appalachia. Dishes like buckwheat lemon blueberry pancakes and grits with either bacon or sausage reflect the region's location between the Midwest and the South. The food may seem humble and soulful, but the execution from Small and her staff turn these dishes into something transcendent.

Acqua di Luca

Nominated by readers of USA Today as one of the best new restaurants of 2021, Acqua Di Luca is proof that Cleveland can do opulent dining as well as any other city. In many ways, the story of Acqua Di Luca's owner, Luca Sema, mirrors Cleveland's dining scene. After growing up in Albania, Sema began his culinary career as a chef in the army, then started working in Italian restaurants after his military tour had ended. Upon moving to Cleveland in the late '90s with his now-wife, Sema started again at the bottom: washing dishes in Cleveland's Little Italy. That grinding led to the upscale Luca Italian Cuisine opening in 2013. 

Having that successful restaurant under his belt, Sema opened the seafood-focused Acqua Di Luca in 2021. The restaurant is a bit of a throwback for Sema, who grew up along the Adriatic Sea. Sema's heritage and pedigree are flexed on the menu in several ways. A dish of sweet potato gnocchi comes studded with lobster knuckle and claw meat. Soul stuffed with spinach and crab meat comes wading in a pool of sundried tomato cream. More than just a supportive partner, Luca Sema's wife, Lola, oversees the service at Acqua Di Luca to ensure that every guest gets the attention they deserve.

Mabel's BBQ

Ever since he was named one of the country's Best New Chefs by Food and Wine Magazine in 1998, Michael Symon has been Cleveland's unwavering hometown hero, with all due respect to LeBron James. Symon went on to win a James Beard Award for his fine dining concept, earn a daytime Emmy award for his work on The Chew, and proudly represent Cleveland on shows like Iron Chef America.

Though Symon may have mastered fine dining and the art of television, Mabel's BBQ is his first foray into the barbecue world. Opened in 2016, Mabel's BBQ is a restaurant concept you might expect from a celebrity chef: elevated takes on classic comfort foods grounded in a personal narrative. But it's the execution that makes Mabel's BBQ one of the best restaurants in Cleveland.

Here's the often-unspoken truth about BBQ joints: They can usually do either great barbecue ribs or great smoked brisket, not both. Mabel's is one of those rare places that somehow pulls it off. The restaurant also separates itself from similar joints by having an entire section of appetizers made with so-called scrap meat, like pig's ears, skin, and tails. Made from scratch, the house BBQ sauce is a play-on mustard-based eastern Carolina sauce made with Bertman Original Ball Park Mustard, an iconic Cleveland export. Located near two sports arenas, Mabel's is the perfect welcome wagon for traveling fans seeking Cleveland's best food. 

Cloak & Dagger

Every city has its hipster gems, places that provide an experience so cool and unique they transcend their surroundings. As a literary-themed vegan cocktail bar and restaurant, Cloak & Dagger might sound like something you'd find in Portland or Brooklyn, not in the heart of the Rust Belt. The restaurant's concept is all-encompassing, from the menu presentation to the interior design. It also features drinks and dishes that will make you forget about eating meat.

The experience at Cloak & Dagger starts right when you walk in: Décor sets the tone with strong Edgar Allen Poe vibes, laced with a bit of Old West barroom. Each new seasonal menu is designed to look like a leather-bound book, replete with gothic illustrations and fonts. It's common to see a restaurant change its food and drinks with the seasons. But you rarely get to see a restaurant that changes the actual format of its physical menu. In one menu version, cocktails were divided into multiple chapters, with each chapter dedicated to a different type of service format: on the rocks, straight up, or over a single large cube of ice. Although completely vegan, the food at Cloak & Dagger is somewhat more conventional, and the menu typically includes sandwiches, bar snacks, and small plates.

Fat Cats

Serving cosmopolitan food in a low-key space, Fat Cats is the type of place that naturally attracts adventurous spirits with limited disposable income, namely artists and musicians. The eclectic décor and madcap menu are the work of chef-owner Ricardo Sandoval and co-owner Tim Verhiley. Raised in a Filipino-Irish family, Sandoval makes culinary fusion a defining part of his menus. Yes, there have been Filipino classics like arroz caldo, but there have also been dishes inspired by Italian, Vietnamese, Polish, and vegan cuisines. The wine program is another Fat Cats highlight, and it regularly features selections outside of the most popular growing regions in France, Italy, and California. Fat Cats also regularly holds wine dinners that focus on different regions.

Fat Cats is also fiercely dedicated to supporting local Cleveland artists. The restaurant features works of locally-made visual art on its walls and always has an open call for submissions. On top of that, the restaurant says its staff is predominantly made up of people from creative backgrounds. Because it's difficult to pay the bills only working as a local artist.

LJ Shanghai

A soup dumpling — or long xiao bao in Mandarin — is one of a few select foods you would call "an experience." While steamed, most Chinese dumplings contain a combination of meat and vegetables; soup dumplings also include a small amount of liquid broth that spills out when the dumpling wrapper is punctured. If you've never eaten a soup dumpling before, you should know that it needs to be done carefully unless you don't mind a lap full of scalding hot broth.

LJ Shanghai is the premier spot for soup dumplings, and many people go there just to eat long xiao bao. However, the restaurant also serves tasty versions of classic Shanghainese and Sichuan dishes. Dao xiao is a dish of stir-fried noodles with flank steak, spring onions, and rich soy sauce. Chong qing is a spicy beef noodle soup with cilantro and ground peanuts. Other popular dishes include cold pig ear salad and braised duck. To the uninitiated Western palate, these dishes might seem adventurous. But to those familiar with these cuisines, it's just good food. Either way, the very approachable price point at LJ Shanghai should inspire you to try a wide range of the restaurant's dishes.

Static Media owns and operates Tasting Table and Mashed.