Classic Cleveland Restaurants

In recent years, Cleveland’s reputation as a restaurant Mecca has grown considerably. Buoyed by “celebrity chefs” like Dante Boccuzzi, Zach Bruell, Brandon Chrostowski, Doug Katz, Michael Symon and Rocco Whalen, the city regularly receives shout-outs from national print and online media. Nor has that exposure been limited to the culinary “high-end”: Happy Dog and Sokolowski’s were featured on the Food Network, and Rachel Ray lauded Tommy’s. While Cleveland restaurants from previous eras may not have received quite as much national acclaim, there were nonetheless myriad eateries that thousands remember fondly. Many of these were famous for their consumable masterpieces; others had less-notable food but captured locals with their ambience, location, or the anticipated presence of a local or national celebrity. A majority of them were downtown, but a solid handful thrived for lengthy periods in places such as Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights, Lakewood, and Chagrin Falls. The heyday of most restaurants on this virtual tour is long past, but a few continue to tickle palettes today.

In 1989 the Silver Grille restaurant at the Higbee Company’s downtown department store closed its doors. The 10th-floor space later became a special-event center managed by the nearby Ritz-Carlton hotel. This was a noteworthy transition because, in a very real sense, dining at the Silver Grille had…
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Beginning in 1893, and for nearly 100 years hence, Otto Moser’s was East 4th Street’s hippest hole in the wall—a cramped see-and-be-seen hangout featuring heavy food, boundless booze, and walls dripping with celebrity photos and theatrical playbills. Otto Moser was a crusty Canton, Ohio, native…
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In the mid 1970s yours truly ventured downtown to a tavern called the Round Table. The lure was a local band called Dragonwyck whose specialty was covers by the then-immensely-popular Moody Blues. The music was great; but even a scrawny 20-something could see that this was no ordinary saloon. It…
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Gangsters plotted there. Milton Berle and Jimmy Durante hammed it up there. Perry Como and Dean Martin launched their careers there. Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein hosted a private party there. When the Cleveland Indians ended Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, Joltin’ Joe drowned his sorrows there. Art Modell sealed the deal to buy the Cleveland Browns there.
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Looking for a place to grab a stein of beer and show off your new lederhosen? Herman Pirchner’s Alpine Village Theatrical Bar and Restaurant, located at 1614 Euclid Avenue (directly across the street from the Palace Theater) was the place to do it. Inspired by Pirchner’s childhood home in the…
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It didn’t live long. Its street presence was minimal and its food unremarkable. Nonetheless, The Last Moving Picture Company deserves a place in the pantheon of Cleveland restaurants. Located at 1365 Euclid Avenue in Playhouse Square, “LMPC” was founded by Hamilton F. Biggar and several chums…
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Most Clevelanders associate Stouffer’s with frozen food and (for those with long memories) restaurant icons like Top of the Town and Stouffer’s on Shaker Square. But these are just part of a story with more parts, more players, more breadth and more history than most of us know. The Stouffer tale…
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On the one hand, it was a bucolic, glass-walled, red-meat Mecca with unobstructed water and city views. On the other hand, both the Cuyahoga River and the City of Cleveland were increasingly dark, smelly and bereft of life. Moreover, travel to and from the restaurant was the kind of creepy,…
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Victoria and Michael Sokolowski opened Sokolowski’s University Inn in 1923 as a tavern at the corner of University Road and West 13th Street. Today it is still run by the same family: grandchildren Mike, Mary and Bernie Sokolowski. It still serves exceedingly generous portions of traditional…
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Founded in 1919, Hotz Café, located at the corner of Starkweather Avenue and West 10th Street in the Tremont neighborhood, is believed to be Cleveland's oldest tavern. The current owner, John Hotz, is the grandson of the founder, John Hotz, Sr., a Rusyn immigrant who came to the United States…
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Some classic restaurants bank on culinary excellence. Others feature great ambiance or perhaps famous clientele: celebrities, gangsters, politicians and so forth. However, the claim to fame for Kiefer’s – the venerable German eatery – might be the strangest: the longest-closed hostelry that still…
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Opened in 2008, Stone Mad Pub is the latest in a long tradition of saloons and bars located at 1306 West 65th Street. The history of the building speaks to the importance of these establishments within a community, and reflects the changes that the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood has experienced over…
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It's 1840 and you're traveling from Detroit to Buffalo on business. The fastest route would be by boat, straight across Lake Erie from west to east, but it's November and this shallowest of the Great Lakes is notoriously treacherous this time of the year. So you've wisely…
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Frank Sterle, an immigrant from Ljubljana, Slovenia, founded his Slovenian Country House in 1954. With a small building on East 55th Street, a few picnic tables, and only one waitress - who had to memorize the small menu since none had been printed - Sterle managed to create a successful and…
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Before Hot Sauce Williams and Beckham's B&M Bar-B-Que ruled the east side, Scatter's Barbecue was Glenville's home for ribs, shoulder sandwiches, and fries soaked in Scatter's notable barbecue sauce. Herman "Scatter" Stephens, born in Birmingham, Alabama on June 1,…
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When John Barr opened Nighttown on February 5, 1965, it was a one-room bar. Constructed in 1920, the building had previously housed the Cedar Hill Diner, a deli, Sam’s Beauty Parlor and Stock's Candies. The Silhouette Lounge, which was run by mob-operated Cadillac Amusements, replaced Stock's…
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For decades, Irv's Deli, on the corner of Coventry and Hampshire Roads, was the place to wallow in Coventry Village’s eclectic edginess. The delicatessen and adjoining bar opened in 1959, when the street was mainly a commercial district serving the area's heavily Jewish population. In the thirty…
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Walk down Coventry in the mid-1970s and you’d probably see a large yellow sign—Tommy’s—on a wood-paneled storefront where Coventry Road intersects with Euclid Heights Boulevard. Inside this unique restaurant, all 27 seats would likely be filled. However, that would be a mere fraction of the myriad…
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