Yes, the river caught fire 43 years ago and the Browns are an ongoing study in incompetence. But there’s no doubt that Cleveland is in the midst of a Rust Belt Renaissance, and at the heart of its resurgence are beer-loving foodies.
by Joe Baur
Great Lakes Brewing (Ohio City, greatlakesbrewing.com) has been a Cleveland staple since brothers Patrick and Daniel Conway opened up shop in 1988, establishing Ohio’s first microbrewery. The tapping of its honey-ginger-cinnamon Christmas Ale (winner of four World Beer Championship gold medals) brings a crazed crowd reminiscent of Black Friday, both in winter and at Cleveland’s Christmas in July celebrations; in the meantime, stick with another World Beer champ, summer’s sweet, Czech-style The Wright Pils. Across the street on West 25th sits Market Garden Brewery (Ohio City, marketgardenbrewery.com), where beer lovers perch at one of three bars and watch the Tribe or soak in the view of bustling Ohio City from the brand-new rooftop patio; wherever you sit, order a pint of Pearl Street Wheat, a banana-laden hefe. Chardon BrewWorks & Eatery (Chardon, chardonbrewworks.com) sits right on Main Street, surrounded by the beauty of historic Chardon Square. Go on Saturday night for live bluegrass and enjoy the aptly named Working Man Pale Ale, a traditional English pale that pays tribute to the men and women who churn out craft beer. Thirsty Dog Brewing (Akron, thirstydog.com) opened a downtown tasting room nearly five years ago, just off the University of Akron’s campus; it pours 12 beers in a modest taproom with about a dozen stools and a few high-top tables. Its must-tick Siberian Night Imperial Stout pours even in summer. Speaking of can’t-miss flavors: Though Willoughby Brewing (Willoughby, willoughbybrewing.com) draws a young set, drinkers of all ages appreciate its famous Peanut Butter Cup porter, infused with locally roasted coffee.
Happy Dog (Detroit-Shoreway, happydogcleveland.com) draws a mix of rail-thin hipsters and carefully dressed preppies with some of the most deliciously unhealthy food in the city. Five bucks gets you a decent-sized hot dog with your choice of 50 toppings ranging from house-made ketchup to grape jelly-chile sauce and kimchee. Sip from 20-plus craft taps, including newcomer Indigo Imp’s Blonde Bombshell, an apple-tart American blond. True footballers and ruggers gather at Old Angle Tavern (Ohio City, oldangletavern.com) for a pint and the D’Angle, a corned beef sandwich with Swiss cheese and a side of Guinness mustard. The mahogany bar surrounded by bookshelves is this European pub’s centerpiece; it’s also a quiet respite from the inebriated madness of West 25th on a Saturday night. Melt Bar (multiple locations, meltbarandgrilled.com) takes you back to that simpler time when grilled cheese was the best thing ever: The menu features no fewer than 25 different takes on the gooey classic with a stellar beer list to match. Order a dark fruit-laden Rochefort 10 to go with The Dude Abides, a colossal sandwich with homemade meatballs, fried mozzarella cheese sticks, marinara and provolone. On a budget? Get a grilled cheese tattoo, and enjoy 25 percent off any purchase for life. La Cave Du Vin (Cleveland Heights, lacaveduvin.com) has been the (literally) underground lair of craft beer evil genius Erich Lasher for 16 years. There, Lasher hoards about 250 craft beers plus a hyper-rare vintage list that boasts a 2002 bottle of De Dolle Stille Nacht. Edison’s Pub (Tremont, edisonspub.com) has all the bar classics—beer, pizza, popcorn, darts and billiards—plus 100 well-loved global beers. Head upstairs with a Spaten Optimator or a Unibroue Maudite, take a scoop of free popcorn and order a thick slice of artery-clogging chicken-bacon-ranch pizza. Another hundred beers await at the slick Market Beer (Rocky River, marketbeer.com), an 8,000-square-foot behemoth with a breezy patio perfect for summer beer sessions; come football season, head inside for the flatscreens, chicken paprikash and pints of Griffin Cider, brewed with Ohio-grown apples in nearby Westlake. Buckeye Beer Engine (Lakewood, buckeyebeerengine.com) curates a creative list of 350 or so beers you’ve always wanted to try—think meads from B. Nektar and sours from Panil Barriquee—as well as a handful of house beers that give the better-knowns a run for their money. Check out the Hippie IPA (a classic among Forest City hopheads) alongside one of 22 tricked-out half-pound burgers.
The world’s greatest breakfast burrito lives at Grumpy’s Café (Tremont, grumpys-cafe.com): eggs, meat, salsa and cheddar folded into a wheat tortilla. Add chorizo to ensure a full-on food coma. Chicken Parmesan is made the way it’s supposed to be—mouthwatering mozzarella melted over delicately breaded chicken—at the quietly romantic La Dolce Vita (Little Italy, ladolcevitacleveland.com). If you’re lucky, your waiter might double as a student at nearby Cleveland Institute of Music and serenade your table. When rising culinary star Jonathan Sawyer opened the eco-friendly Greenhouse Tavern (Downtown, thegreenhousetavern.com) in 2009, he and his wife Amelia adopted a farm-to-plate ethos proving your food tastes better dead when you treat it well in life. The adventurous order the whole roasted pig head with barbecue sauce, though a grass-fed beef burger with beer vinegar goes just as well with a coveted summer spot on the rooftop. The upscale Pier W (Lakewood, selectrestaurants.com/pier) is perched on a cliff along the shores of Lake Erie, resembling the hull of a luxury liner. Enjoy the view of the blissfully calm waterfront with the glistening Downtown Cleveland skyline in the background; splurge on the fresh lobster pappardelle kissed by a Cognac cream sauce. An unassuming pho joint tucked in the back of Golden Plaza and a favorite of celeb chef Michael Symon, Superior Pho Restaurant (AsiaTown, superiorpho.com) serves a bowl of phở dặc biêt with Ohio-raised, Ohio-butchered beef that’s more than enough for two people.
The Tudor Arms Hotels (University Circle, thetudorarms.doubletree.com) recently completed a $22 million renovation, restoring the space to its former grandeur as a prestigious men’s club in the 1930s, replete with ornate chandeliers and baronial ballrooms embellished with breathtaking murals. Extend your getaway at the Tuscan-style Clifford House B&B (Ohio City, cliffordhouse.com) with just four cozy, eclectic bedrooms; it’s a mere drunkard’s crawl away from the bar-hopping delights of West 25th. Hyatt Regency Cleveland (Downtown, cleveland.hyatt.com) is a chain, but the architecturally orgasmic Arcade building where the hotel sits is anything but. This landmark was built in 1890 and Hyatt turned it into downtown’s best hotel thanks to its location across the street from the sights, sounds and tastes of the East Fourth Entertainment District.