A Cultural Smorgasbord
Eat around the world on Lee Rd.
By Imani Stephens
Do yourself (and your taste buds) a favor and head to Lee Rd. in Cleveland Heights for authentic food from all around the world. Sample flavors from the American southwest and deep south, to Ethiopia, Turkey, Europe and more. This particular stretch of less than a quarter mile has a mix of culinary and cultural influences packed door-to-door all the way up the street.
The Stone Oven
Who doesn't love warm European bread early in the morning (or late in the day, for that matter)? The Stone Oven has some of the freshest artisan goodies no matter when that craving hits. The founders of this restaurant, John Emerman and Tatyana Rehn, were both engineers who made their way into the baking business in 1993. Their croissants and cinnamon rolls are the perfect sweet treats for on-the-go or relaxing inside with a cup of coffee, but it's the smoked turkey and provolone sandwich with honey mustard that's the biggest crowd-pleaser.
Fast and friendly is the Stone Oven's modus operandi. Emerman says, "It's all about just creating a comfortable environment for people, that's all. That's what it's all about. The food is important, but it's just one piece."
And the European bakery fits in well with the other Lee Rd. establishments with global influences.
"We have so much to offer on this street," Rehn says. "We have lots of diversity as far as the ethnicities that the restaurants are representing. And we have a couple breweries now. We have a fantastic cinema here that is very unique to Greater Cleveland. And we're very, very close to the art center, the cultural center of Cleveland [University Circle]."
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-8 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.-8 p.m., Sun. 8 a.m.-7 p.m.
Get a taste of the beautiful Mediterranean Middle East at Anatolia Cafe, which serves authentic Turkish cuisine. You can enjoy traditional dishes in their festive dining area or in their party room with its bright, inviting decor.
Owner Yashar Yildirim is originally from Istanbul, and came to Cleveland Heights by way of Royal Caribbean cruise line (...as people do). He worked on a cruise ship for seven years, and then after finishing college in New York, moved to Ohio with his sister. His sister moved back to Turkey, he took over the family restaurant, and moved it to Cleveland Heights on his realtor's recommendation.
"There is an appreciation for ethnic food, for different food, for independent, non-chain restaurants," Yildirim says of choosing Lee Rd. as a location. "You want to locate your restaurant in a diverse neighborhood, usually close to colleges and close to ethnically diverse people. Cleveland Heights--for ethnic food, this is the best place."
Platters made from scratch with lamb and beef are a delicious contrast to their vegetarian mixed grill platters and vegetarian stews, all made daily with raw seasonal garden veggies. Try the Sigara Böregi--a pastry filled with feta cheese and parsley, rolled up in a cigar-like shape and absolutely delectable.
Hours: Sun.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri. Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Zoma Ethiopian serves traditional food from one of the oldest countries in the world. Ethiopian music plays as you enjoy your meal--and in true Ethiopian fashion, here you use your hands to eat (this is a "fork-free zone," says Zeleke Belete, the owner). Zoma prides itself on being one of the few authentic Ethiopian restaurants in Northeast Ohio.
Dive right into dishes such as their vibrant combo platter that includes kale, roasted veggies, spices, beef, chicken and more. On Sundays, Zoma holds traditional coffee ceremonies--a truly unique experience where coffee beans are roasted in front of you as you sit on cushions, mesmerized by the rising steam and deliberate movements of the ceremony as you breathe in the aroma, relax, and munch on popcorn.
Belete smiles as he explains the purpose of the popcorn. "You know how you watch the Super Bowl and you eat chips and other snacks? It's like that. You have snacks for the coffee ceremony."
Hours: Tues.-Sat. 12 p.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m.-8 p.m.
The Rib Cage Smokehouse
The Rib Cage Smokehouse transports you to a family backyard barbecue, complete with live music, paper tablecloths, and mason jar glasses. The Rib Cage is a true family affair (Robert Hill owns the restaurant, his sons Brandon and Ronnell are managers of the Lee Rd. location and the soon-to-open W. 25th St. location, respectively). They prepare minimally processed, non-GMO pork, beef, poultry and produce, locally sourced as much as possible, with a 10-ft. smoker fueled by cherry, apple, and hickory wood lumber crafting their finest meats every morning.
"We're here prepping at 6:00 a.m.," Robert Hill says. "We try to give it to you the same day it came out. If we run out at the end of the night, I'm fine with that, because tomorrow, you come in, it's gonna be fresh."
At The Rib Cage Smokehouse, you have your choice between 10 different sauces for your ribs and wings. Try some of the best southern sides that will have your mouth watering at first glance. A must-have? Their family favorite, "Stupid Fries." (They're stupid good.)
"When you're here, you really are family," says Brandon Hill. "We're really personal; we're in your face, we're like, 'Hey, how you doing?' We're very into the community. It's very comfortable, very laid back, no pressure, just like, hey, kick your shoes off and let's eat good."
Hours: Mon.-Sun. 4:00 p.m. - 2:30 a.m.
This ain't your typical southwestern restaurant--you won't find ground beef tacos here (...but you will find ancho braised carnitas tacos). Chef/Owner Micheal Herschman showcases inspired dishes ranging from sweet and spicy calamari basked with carrot thread, diced peppers, fresh scallion, and red sauce to a grilled skirt enchilada made with skirt steak, chile rajas, cheddar and jack cheeses and Tex-Mex sauce.
"We rely on creativity and technique, but most importantly, utilizing the indigenous ingredients of the region is important," Herschman says. "There are no rules to cuisine."
Southwestern flavors mean anything you can expect from Mexico to Southern California, Arizona, and Texas--all of the southwestern Americas. So don't make the mistake of thinking this is purely Mexican food--it's all-encompassing of the region, with a seafood thread, flavors that pack a kick, and killer margaritas (try the jalapeno one--it's amazing).
The restaurant is a staple of Lee Rd., having been there for nearly 40 years.
Hours: Mon.-Tues. 5 p.m.-9 p.m., Wed.-Thurs. 5 p.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 5 p.m.-11 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m.-9 p.m.
The Wine Spot
The Wine Spot is the ideal place to enjoy a nice glass of vino while listening to some of the most amazing bands in Cleveland. Housed in the old Seitz-Agin Hardware store (and only the third business in 100+ years to occupy the space), the Wine Spot has an intimate feel. The floor is from the 1920s-30s when the building operated as the neighborhood dairy.
The nostalgia pairs well with their fine wines, coming from many parts of the world including Italy, Spain, New Zealand/Australia, France, and more--all hand-labeled on their warm brick walls.
"We wanted to build the type of place that you might find in a city like New York or Chicago, Paris or London," Adam Fleischer, The Wine Spot's owner, says. "But wine can be a little overwhelming for people that are not really comfortable with it. So we wanted to have a place where you could get the best wine available in the state, the best craft beer, and hang out, but in an environment that was very approachable and low-key."
The casual-yet-classy atmosphere allows you to pull up a seat in their toasty lounge room in the back, or sit up front while gazing out the large windows to Lee Rd., which are open in the summer. Fleischer encourages people to visit the restaurants and cafes along Lee Rd. and bring the food into The Wine Spot.
"The reason you’re here is Lee Rd. as a destination, not because of any one business," Fleischer says. "And so for us to be as successful as possible, we need everybody around us to do well too."
The Wine Spot is also a retail store--pick up your favorite bottle and take it with you, or open it onsite and enjoy the vibe of the space.
Hours: Mon. 1 p.m.-8 p.m., Tues.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 12 p.m.-8 p.m.
There's more where that came from
The Sweet Fix
Satisfy your sweet tooth with delicious treats from the Sweet Fix. The newly opened bakery is full of desserts to satisfy all your sugar cravings. From whole cakes to cupcakes you can get your fix to take home or savor in the shop.
Hours: Tues.-Thurs. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Fri. 9 a.m.-8 p.m., Sat. 12 p.m.-6 p.m.
The Tavern Company
For more than 25 years, the Tavern Company has been carrying a family legacy left by the old saloon it used to be and in the new space vacated by The Colony. They even have a kids' menu, making this tavern perfect for a family night out.
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 5 p.m.-2 a.m., Sun 10:30 a.m.-2 a.m.
Bask in the aroma of Phoenix Coffee, a Cleveland franchise favorite. With their very own fresh coffee blends and stylish decor, this shop is perfect to grab a cup of Joe and unwind over a good book.
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 6:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Sat.-Sun.7:30 a.m.-9 p.m.
Mitchell’s Fine Chocolates
For 75 years, Mitchell's has created chocolates in all shapes, sizes, and flavors. Whether you want a soft-centered chew or a simple, smooth chocolate bar, Mitchell's serves some of the finest chocolates along with a small selection of locally made Pierre's Ice Cream.
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Boiling Seafood Crawfish
Boiling Seafood Crawfish serves authentic Asian food for seafood lovers. The menu ranges from lobster to fried oyster sandwiches, all made with natural ingredients sourced locally and seasonally.
Hours: Mon.-Wed. 4 p.m.-10 p.m., Thurs.- 12 p.m.-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 12 p.m.-11 p.m., Sun. 12 p.m.-10 p.m.
Everyone loves to create their own fresh pizza. Fresh ingredients chopped daily allow you to mix and match to create your perfect pie. Or, go with one of their suggestions for a new twist on the traditional staple--try the Porky Fig (a fig jam base with mozzarella, fontina, prosciutto, caramelized red onions and gorgonzola), or the Dr. Dre (olive oil, mozzarella, green peppers, red onions, chicken, bacon, house-picked jalapenos, with tomatoes and ranch after the bake).
Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun. 4 p.m.-10 p.m.
The Fix Bistro
The Fix Bistro earned its bragging rights with the local favorite "OMG Philly" and their curry veggie rolls. One of several concepts by Chef Eric Rogers, The Fix is quickly becoming a Cleveland favorite. Bonus: Their desserts are complimentary from sister restaurant The Sweet Fix.
Hours: Tues.-Thurs. 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri. 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m., Sat. 2 p.m.-11 p.m.
Rudy's Pub is owned by a married couple that enjoys making all their customers feel at home. Pull up a bar stool, grab a pint, and try Rudy's beloved chicken wings with your choice of several different sauces.
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 4 p.m.-2 a.m., Sun. 12 p.m.-2 a.m.
CLE Urban Winery
Savor the handmade wine from the CLE Urban Winery, with their in-house wine tastings held in the chic century-old garage-turned-winery. Not your typical wine bar, this place is inviting, fun, and celebrates Cleveland in their decor as well as their wines.
Hours: Mon. 5 p.m.-9 p.m., Tues.-Thurs. 3 p.m.-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat 3 p.m.-11 p.m.
Boss Dog Brewing
Alongside their full menu stocked with sandwiches and fresh pizza, Boss Dog Brewery also has 10 taps, including their own exclusive craft beers. Try their Boss Berry made with fresh blackberry tartness or the Dog Pound Brown infused with mild chocolate.
Hours: Sun.-Thurs. 4 p.m.-12 a.m., Fri.-Sat. 4 p.m.-2 a.m.
The owner of MoMo's Kabobs was inspired by dishes from Europe and Asia and brought that to Lee Rd. for food lovers all over to experience (lucky us!). Enjoy dishes from lamb to vegan to delicious, classic Moroccan desserts.
Hours: Tues.-Thurs. 12 p.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 12 p.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 12 p.m.-8 p.m.
Richie Chan’s Chinese
If you're looking for authentic Chinese food, Richie's is the ultimate go-to. There is an enormous menu with favorites like chicken chow mein and beef and broccoli, as well as more adventurous choices. Pro tip: This is a cash-only joint, so hit the ATM before you go.
Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Fri. 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Sat. 12 p.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 4:30 p.m.-9 p.m.
Founded in 2012, the Bottle House Brewery is a welcoming, friendly place to relax with a good drink and unwind. Taste test their house-made beers and meads while you play "Ale Stone," the official board game of the brewery.
Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 4 p.m.-12 a.m., Fri. 4 p.m.-2 a.m., Sat. 2 p.m.- 2 a.m., Sun. 2 p.m.- 10 p.m.
Compliment your insanely good pasta dinner with one of the 300 labels offered on their Italian-only wine list. Try the bresaola, which is thinly sliced air-cured beef with fresh arugula and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano.
Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m., Fri.-Sun. 5 p.m.-11 p.m.
New Heights Grill
New Heights Grill offers several different cultural dishes on their menu, and is a great family-friendly spot. The restaurant has been on Lee Rd. since 2011, serving everything from Mediterranean plates to corned beef balls and haddock hoagies.
Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 p.m.-2 a.m., Sun. 12:30 p.m.-10 p.m.
Open super late on the weekends, Best Gyro's is the perfect place to get your favorite seasoned lamb or beef to go whenever you're in the mood.
Hours: Sun.-Thurs. 10 a.m.-12 a.m., Fri.-Sat. 10 a.m.-4 a.m.
The Social Room
Open mic Mondays and a hoops game help establish The Social Room as the neighborhood pub. Grab food from one of the restaurants on Lee Rd. and bring it here--they've only got light snacks, but you're welcome to BYOF.
Hours: Mon.-Sun. 4 p.m.-2:30 a.m.
Taste is the ideal place for a sophisticated, yet easygoing, night on the town fused with a pretty long drink list. Take advantage of their killer happy hour Sun.-Fri. from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. and Sat. from 5 p.m.-6 p.m. in the bar area.
Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 5 p.m.-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 5 p.m.-11 p.m., Sun. 5 p.m.-9 p.m.