1. Melt Bar and Grilled, 13463 Cedar Rd. Cleveland Heights, OH 44118 (216) 965-0988
The Monte Cristo
When I was in high school, I had a teacher joke that if she ever lost her job, she would open a grilled cheese restaurant and make millions. I always laughed at the ridiculousness of the idea –it’s just grilled cheese, how successful could it possibly be? But then I moved to Cleveland and reality slapped me in the face. Melt is probably the go to destination restaurant for Case students and their families. While “gourmet” grilled cheese might sound like an oxymoron, Melt has perfected the comfort food staple to where I can’t even imagine it getting any better… but I know it will. Special shout out to the Monte Cristo: honey ham, smoked turkey, swiss, american, crispy battered & deep fried, served with mixed berry preserves. I can literally feel my arteries clogging just thinking about it. Just a heads up, you get 25% off for life if you get a Melt tattoo (so worth it). And as soon as the new student center is finished, you won’t even have to go all the way down Cedar to fufill your Melt craving –a new Melt will be opening right inside Tinkham Veale University Center.
2. Superior Pho, 3030 Superior Ave E, Cleveland, OH 44114 (216) 781-7462
Nestled in the underappreciated Cleveland Asia town (shout out to Wonton Gourmet – didn’t make the list, but honorable mention nonetheless), this hole in a wall restaurant’s pho beats any I’ve ever tasted. Who ever thought the best pho in the world would be in Cleveland, of all places? For those of you who don’t know, pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup served with beef and rice noodles. A hot bowl of pho is exactly what every cold winter day needs, and just between you and me, it’s the best hangover cure I’ve ever had.
Corbo's Pastry Tray
Clevelanders take their Italian bakeries pretty seriously, but on our side of town, there’s a strict rivalry between Corbo’s and Presti’s. Both bakeries are on Mayfield just past Random, and both are fantastic, but Presti’s has more food type things (pizza, sandwiches, etc.) while Corbo’s focuses on desserts. For a direct comparison, both shops have incredible cannolis. Last time I went to Presti’s I had an amazing cheesy pasta bake with sun-dried tomatoes, and the cassata cake at Corbo’s is to die for. Try them out for yourself, and then pick a side!
4. Lucky’s Café, 777 Starkweather Ave Cleveland, OH 44113 (216) 622-7773
This brunch place in Tremont is legend for locals (it was on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives!), so as long as you’re gonna be stuck in Cleveland for four years, you might as well reap the benefits. Be ready to wait for your table, and parking is hard to come by, but as soon as you taste the lemon and blueberry waffles (with real whipped cream!!), all will be forgotten. For something a little more savory, try the Shipwreck: eggs, bacon, veggies, hash browns, and cheese. Yum.
5. Sweetie Fry, 2307 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118 (216) 932-2300
So mostly I’m just really salty that I didn’t think of the idea to open a restaurant that serves fries and ice cream –if I had, you wouldn’t catch me still in college. The lucky guy that thought of this ingenious business model hit the nail right on the head. Especially with maple bacon ice cream and pizza fries, this is one of those places where I wouldn’t even be mad if I could only eat here for the rest of my life. Next time I’m there: funnel cake fries. I can’t even express the emotions I’m feeling right now.
6. Piada, 13947 Cedar Road South Euclid, Ohio 44118 (216) 862-8872
Think of this place like Chipotle, except with Italian food. I’ve expressed my undying love for Chipotle before, so when I heard of this place, I had to try it. The pasta bowl is the Piada equivalent of a burrito bowl, and the spicy diavolo sauce is amazing. The protein options are almost unlimited (basically anything you can think of) and you can even get your pasta wrapped in a tortilla type thing (yes, pasta inside of bread. Carbs galore.) And this place is conveniently located right down the street from Target, so next time you go pick up necessities, stop for dinner on your way back. You won’t regret it.
7. Lola Bistro, 2058 E 4th St Cleveland, OH 44115 Gateway District (216) 621-5652
Lamb Shank with Fennel, Turnip, Fingerling Potato and Vadouvan
To wrap up this list, we’ll be ending on a slightly fancier note -$30 a plate, anybody? But in all seriousness, everyone should experience Michael Symon’s pièce de résistance, Lola, on trendy E. 4th in downtown Cleveland. While it’s already exciting that Michael Symon is a world famous chef and he chose Cleveland to base his best restaurants in (he’s credited with helping save the restaurant scene in downtown Cleveland), the food is so amazing there that the celebrity chef thing is just the cherry on top. Lola is definitely a once a year (once every two years?) venture, since it is fancy and expensive (seriously, who has $30 to blow on one plate?). Okay, so maybe you’ll just go there to celebrate your graduation with your parents so they’ll pay for it, but don’t move away from Cleveland without trying it for yourself.