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.

Otto Moser's

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…

The Theatrical Grill

The famous (and infamous) Theatrical Grill was a mainstay on the equally famous (and infamous) “Short Vincent” Avenue off East 9th Street in downtown Cleveland. In fact, the histories of the restaurant and the street are largely comingled,…

Herman Pirchner's Alpine Village

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.…

The Last Moving Picture Company

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…

Swingos Keg & Quarter

Two things about iconic hostelries. First, many had larger-than-life owners (consider Mushy Wexler’s Theatrical or Herman Pirchner’s Alpine Village). Second, their repute often was magnified by the renown of their customers (politicians, rock stars,…

Captain Frank's Lobster House

Literally and figuratively, Captain Frank’s covered the waterfront. On any given day, visitors to the East 9th St. Pier restaurant might be felled by wilting humidity or blistering wind. Once inside, they could order anything from hake to steak. Some…

Jim's Steak House

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…

Sokolowski's University Inn

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…

Hotz Cafe

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.,…

Prosperity Social Club

What kind of pub gets shout-outs from national media ranging from Maxim and GQ to Huffington Post and Better Homes and Gardens? The answer is Prosperity Social Club—one of Tremont’s, and Cleveland’s, homiest and most storied spots for drinking and…

Kiefer's Tavern

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…

Stone Mad Pub

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…

Samuel White's Roadside Inn

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…

Frank Sterle's Slovenian Country House

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 -…

Scatter's Barbecue

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"…

Gruber's Restauraunt

Operated by brothers Maxwell and Roman Gruber from 1947 to 1961, Gruber’s Restaurant was one of the east side’s most popular dining establishments, as well as an ad-hoc social center for the affluent community of Shaker Heights. The pricey…

Nighttown

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…

Irv's Deli

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…

Tommy's

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.…