Let’s face it: Clevelanders often have a long, cold winter to contend with. That might explain why when summer comes, the city’s dining-out crowd heads straight for the patios, decks and plazas at their favorite restaurants. Dinner and drinks under a canopy of trees, beneath a giant umbrella or parked on wrought iron at the edge of twilight is a summertime highlight to many.
Al fresco dining is not just good for the subzero thaw-after several months of wind chill and lake effect snow-it’s good for the soul and a means of appreciating the best that life has to offer. To wit, there are some great places to soak up the peaceful, easy feeling of outdoor dining to great effect in Cleveland. Here is a rundown of C-town’s hottest outdoor dining spots.
D’Vine Wine Bar
836 W. St. Clair Ave., Cleveland
One of Cleveland’s hipper happy hour stops, D’Vine offers a cityside view of the Warehouse District on their patio in style. With a menu that boasts unique cocktails (i.e. cucumber martinis), zesty tapas options, house-infused liquors, a mushrooming wine list and a full late night menu available until 1AM, this is place to catch your breath, wind down and see or be seen.
12502 Larchmere Blvd., Cleveland
This restored, Craftsman-style edifice on Shaker Square has more than the exquisite, Latin-inspired menu, fare and influence going for it-there’s a quite charming flagstone patio to match. Fun, funky and free-spirited, this al fresco spot offers the specter of a giant oak tree for diners who may want to evade the noisy-but-lovely indoors. Catching a cool breeze as you wine and dine in has never felt more stylish.
Great Lakes Brewing Co.
2516 Market Ave., Cleveland
This American brewpub and brewery deserves every bit of press it gets. Outside of their award-winning beers and leadership in sustainability, Great Lakes does a great job of revamping their menu with the seasons and locally obtained ingredients from farmers. Their cozy patio facing Market Avenue has expanded over the years, and their straw-bale Beer Garden with retractable roof is pretty sweet, too.
Grotto Wine Bar at Shaker Square
13101 Shaker Square, Cleveland
With a solid Italian menu, globally-geared wine list and a wrought-iron and brick patio looking on Shaker Square, Grotto’s popularity speaks for itself. Many al fresco diners graze for hours multiple “piccoli piatti,” small plates of appetizers that include Carpaccio, calamari, veal shank “sliders” and bruschetta. And their gourmet pizza paired (especially with a robust red wine) makes for a superb summer meal.
4408 Detroit Ave., Cleveland
Cleveland, OH 44113
One of the better Irish tavern/restaurants in town, The Harp prides itself on its brick patio, which faces the west shoreway, Cleveland’s industrial port and Lake Erie. Great for a perfectly poured Guinness and a sunset, keep an eye on the Cleveland Indians’ schedule. When they’re at home, find a night with fireworks and score a free show. The fare is solid and traditional (i.e. boxty, bangers, shepherd’s pie) and should be enjoyed by the glow of the pub’s stone fireplace.
11401 Bellflower Rd., Cleveland
If you’re familiar with the old adage about “springtime in Paris,” check out Chef Zack Bruell’s phenomenal contemporary French bistro. It’s the next best thing for Clevelanders-and all without the hassle of a transatlantic flight. L’Albatros’ wicker-adorned patio is chic and as modern-feeling as the restaurant’s interior; both are inviting, comfortable and classy and pair well with Bruell’s renditions of Cassoulet, Duck Confit and the hopelessly romantic “Bouillabaisse for Two.”
Luxe Kitchen & Lounge
6605 Detroit Ave., Cleveland
Melanie and Marlon Kaplan’s eclectic bistro in the fashionable Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood is one of Cleveland’s best kept secrets. It won’t be for long: residents have already commandeered Luxe for cocktail hours. Think modern luster meets garden party in their walled space, which also features a sexy bar shaded by-wait for it-sailboat sailcloth. With a diminutive fire going at night, this private little oasis is definitely worth a visit. (Note: nearby funky urban patios at Reddstone and Stone Mad are worth a nightcap).
1835 Fulton Rd., Cleveland
This relaxed patio offers diners a modish, neighborhood feel to accompany Chef Eric Williams’ “mod Mex cuisine.” Momocho is a slang term for “helion little boy,” and Williams is said to have named the place for his son. Recently featured on the Food Network television show “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” Williams turns up the volume on taquitos, botanas and seven different kinds of guacamole-including one with smoked trout and bacon!! While the patio is not nearly as eclectic, is a perfect place for people watching… and poblanos.
12387 Cedar Rd., Cleveland Heights
Arguably the best jazz club between New York and Chicago, Brendan Ring’s classy confines feature a three-season, outdoor patio-a charming, quixotic spot electric glass panel heating. Named for the “red light district” in James Joyce’s Ulysses, Nighttown features classic pub fare, seafood, and an otherworldly dish called the “Dublin Lawyer,” which pairs lobster meat with scallions, mushrooms and a cream sauce over rice pilaf. The diverse musical entertainment that Ring and concert promoter Jim Wadsworth bring in is just as sumptuous.
Sergio’s Sarava at Shaker Square
13225 Shaker Square, Cleveland
Owner-operator Sergio Abramof’s Shaker Square digs play up the area’s cityscape with Sarava. Home to one of Cleveland’s best annual Carnaval parties, Sarava offers an explosion of traditional Brazilian flavors and a whole host of native cocktails including caipirinhas, mojitos and sangria. A Brazilian trip may not be in your budged, but one night of Abramof’s Samba music selections, delectable menu and unabashed people watching will make you feel like you got away for a weekend.
East Fourth Street Neighborhood
Between Euclid and Prospect Ave., Cleveland
Think one gigantic block party meets “restaurant row” and you’re about halfway there. There’s a plethora of dining and libation options to choose from on East Fourth-including the Pickwick & Frolic cabaret, restaurant and comedy club; “Iron Chef” Michael Symon’s Lola Bistro; Jonathon Sawyer’s green-minded Greenhouse Tavern and many, many others. Live entertainment at the hip Corner Alley bowling alley and the House of Blues concert club firm up dining and nightlife on East Fourth as one-stop-shopping.