CLEVELAND, Ohio — One of Cleveland’s greatest strengths is that it truly is a melting pot, with people from all corners of every part of the world.
Perhaps the best side effect of that is the region is full of ethnic restaurants, which not only exposes us to other cultures, but also creates a community through food. Plus, it just tastes good, allowing us to sample dishes normally outside our comfort zone.
Here are 10 ways to eat around the world without ever leaving Cleveland.
Zoma Ethiopian Restaurant
Cleveland 19 News anchor and reporter Sia Nyorkor says this East Side spot is her favorite restaurant in the city. “It’s authentic, fantastic and oh so flavorful,” says Nyorkor, whose parents are originally from Liberia. “I love all the dishes, so I normally order the Zoma Special Combo. It has a sampling of beef, chicken and veggie entrees that includes cabbage, lentils, split peas, green beans, kale greens and cottage cheese on top of injera (flatbread). Paired with Tej (Ethiopian Honey Wine), it’s a meal that will leave you licking your fingers (since you eat with your hands!) and satisfied.”
2240 Lee Rd, Cleveland
This hole-in-the-wall in Cleveland’s Asiatown has rightly earned the reputation for the best Vietnamese cuisine in the city. Phở, the national dish of Vietnam, is indeed superior here as the complex, comfy flavor of the broth serves as a slurp-tastic base for the tender, perfectly cooked slices of beef and fragrantly fresh garnishes.
3030 Superior Ave., Cleveland
This Cleveland classic has been serving deliciously authentic Spanish cuisine in a fine-dining setting for more than two decades. The restaurant’s Paella Valenciana, a melange of saffron rice, chicken, chorizo, mussels, clams, shrimp, scallops and langostino, will instantly remind you of that trip to the Spanish coast you’ve been meaning to take.
1390 W 9th St., Cleveland
This old-school, but recently renovated neighborhood tavern bills itself as Cleveland’s most authentic German restaurant and bier garten, and it’s hard to argue. Eastern European delicacies like Schnitzel, Chicken Paprikash and Sauerkraut Balls have been coming out of the building’s kitchen for 90 years.
13046 Lorain Ave., Cleveland
Somewhat surprisingly, Cleveland has a number of good Indian restaurants, and this hip Tremont spot is among the most popular. Will Hollingsworth, owner of the nearby Spotted Owl, calls the Goat Vindaloo here one of the best dishes in the entire city. “It’s perfectly rich and perfectly spicy, with amazing depth. The goat meat is bone-on, so it’s super tender and the potatoes — the potatoes!” he raves.
2505 Professor Ave, Cleveland, OH 44113
Sérénité Restaurant & Culinary Institute
On paper, Sérénité is a classic French brasserie. The menu has all the usual suspects, from Escargot and frog legs to Lobster Thermadore and Cassoulet. But what makes the restaurant truly special is its mission: to provide training and job opportunities for people recovering from addiction.
538 W Liberty St, Medina
Kintaro Hot Pot
Hungry and indecisive? Kintaro is actually two all-you-can-eat restaurants in one. Choose the sushi side for unlimited sashimi, nigiri, sashimi, maki and specialty rolls, and even cooked-to-order Japanese entrees. But if you’re looking for a more communal and interactive experience, select the Chinese hot pot side and cook your meal yourself.
7325 North Cliff Ave., Brooklyn
Nuevo Modern Mexican & Tequila Bar
Mexican restaurants are plentiful in Northeast Ohio, with many serving the same exact menu. Nuevo isn’t that place. The casually upscale spot specializes in traditional Mexican food with a modern twist. The location, on Lake Erie and next to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is one of the best in the city. Try the Mariscos (pan-seared red snapper, littleneck clams, summer vegetables, white wine fumet) or the Chuleton (dry-aged ribeye, herb chickpea fritter, lobster elotes, crispy greens).
1000 E. 9th St., Cleveland
Irie Jamaican Kitchen
Chef Omar McKay’s two fast-casual restaurants provide an friendly introduction into the bright, bold and exotic flavors of the Caribbean. Service is Chipotle-style, making the food approachable and customizable. Choose from a variety of proteins, including jerk chicken, curry goat, oxtail and Chef Omar’s version of ackee and saltfish, Jamaica’s national dish. Add a few sides for a touch of island life right here at home.
621 E. 185th St., Euclid
4162 Pearl Rd., Old Brooklyn
The best Chinese Dim Sum experience in the city can be found at this Asiatown institution. “No food says relax and enjoy to me on a consistent basis these days more than dim sum at Li Wah,” says WKYC Ch. 3 anchor Russ Mitchell. “I’ll order the Siu Mai and Har Gow from the cart, a bowl of rice and the mini Peking Duck buns from the friendly servers and life is good.”
2999 Payne Ave., Cleveland