Most restaurants in the greater Cleveland/Akron area are still open For business this summer — try these classic, family-friendly options
Sometimes, a meal is just sustenance.
But sometimes, it’s part of the adventure. Who doesn’t have memories of finding a hole in the wall that led to a great dinner, or an alfresco lunch during a day at the beach?
With that in mind, here’s a sampling of a variety of kid- and budget-friendly places in the Cleveland area, each offering its own piece of local flavor.
Obviously, coronavirus has made everyone’s travel plans a little more tenuous, and nobody’s been hurt more by the pandemic than bars and restaurants. Dine-in options are available at most of these spots, as is carryout. And whenever possible, please remember to wear a mask, maintain proper social distancing and wash your hands frequently.
Corned beef is an art form in Cleveland, and Slyman’s is one of its foremost practitioners. The original (slymans.com), not far from downtown Cleveland but only open for breakfast and lunch, is a destination unto itself, with celebrities including Rachael Ray and President George W. Bush stopping in and opening wide for the mountainous sandwiches. There are also locations in Independence, just off Interstate 77, Mentor and the Pinecrest shopping complex in Orange that are open for dinner and a drink (and their wall decorations will keep kids — and kids at heart — occupied).
Up from University Circle, with Severance Hall and a variety of museums, is the city’s Little Italy, home to a variety of restaurants serving everything from pizza to fine dining, and bakeries offering all kinds of pastries, with recipes handed down for generations. But the best place to get a little bit of everything is Mama Santa’s. It looks like a typical Italian restaurant, right down to the comforting checkered tablecloths — and the pizza is the best in town.
In 1933, Wesley Swenson started selling hamburgers out of the back of his car in Akron. A year later, he opened his first stand. Generations later, Swensons (whose carside service is particularly relevant in these pandemic times) remains a destination for fans of hamburgers and milkshakes in the Cleveland and Akron areas — including Akron native LeBron James, who took his “Trainwreck” co-stars down to Akron for Galley Boys, the often-imitated, never-duplicated burger regularly regarded as one of the best burgers in the country. And, if you’re looking for convenience instead of experience, you can order ahead at orderswensons.com.
For more than 70 years, people in and around Rocky River have been coming to Bearden’s for hamburgers, onion rings and milkshakes. The retro décor makes you imagine the staff pushing the tables to the side and hosting a sock hop. Meals there are a bargain — particularly on the restaurant’s anniversary date in the fall, when they sell burgers for a special price corresponding to the number of years they’ve been open.
Melt Bar & Grilled
What kid doesn’t love grilled cheese? The comfort food staple can be easy to overlook, but Melt makes it impossible to do so. With a variety of wild items on the menu — made from old album covers — amid an eclectic decor, the regional chain takes the dish to new heights. (There are locations outside of Northeast Ohio, including Columbus and Cedar Point.)
What began as a small milkshake stand in Cleveland Heights in 1972 has turned into an East Side landmark, with vegetarian, gluten-free and Middle Eastern dining options in addition to diner classics that draw people from miles around. And there’s still a full dessert menu — including the milkshakes that made them famous.
Dirty Frank’s, Columbus
Chicago has its own hot dog. Detroit has its coney dog. Dirty Frank’s in downtown Columbus takes its stab at an official state weiner with the Ohioana, topped with spicy corn relish and celery salt, a nod to the founder’s Windy City roots.
Vince Guerrieri is a journalist and author in the Cleveland area. His work has appeared in a variety of places, including Cleveland Magazine, Ohio Magazine, Lake Erie Living magazine, POLITICO, Smithsonian and Popular Mechanics.