The Best Food and Drink in Ohio for 2019
December 20, 2018
The Buckeye State is a culinary wonderland
The Best Food and Drink in Ohio
Ohio likes to call itself “the heart of it all,” and that’s not just because of its shape. The Midwestern state truly is a cross-section of the entire United States. It has rolling hills of farmland, booming metropolis cities, plenty of all-American suburban neighborhoods, and everything in between. There’s a reason why it’s the ultimate swing state; Ohio has all walks of life within its borders, and that makes for a fascinating and diverse food personality. To celebrate the vast landscape of Ohio, we rounded up 27 of the Buckeye State’s finest foods and fairs as part of our second-annual guide to the best food and drink in every state.
Cleveland is the state’s true culinary hotspot. Once dubbed “the mistake on the lake,” Cleveland has seen a resurgence in recent years not only thanks to its sports dominance but because a few prominent chefs (such as Michael Symon) have taken a chance on the city. That’s led to a few phenomenal eateries in the Cle, such as Mexican hotspot Barrio, the high-end steakhouse Red, and the classic cocktail bar The Velvet Tango Room.
Though people across the country tend to only think of Ohio in election years, the state’s foods are worth considering all around. Cincinnati’s signature chili, Barberton-style chicken, and the state’s many, many breweries are a great reason to consider visiting Ohio. Over the course of the past year we’ve honored everything from its best hot dogs and fried chicken to its best bar and craft beer in our comprehensive and wide-ranging lists and rankings, compiled through extensive research and with input from a wide network of site contributors, bloggers, journalists, and chefs. We’ve compiled these into individual slideshows celebrating the best food and drink in every state, and you can find our Ohio slideshow ahead.
Best Airport Restaurant: Bar Symon (Cleveland Hopkins International Airport)
Celebrity chef Michael Symon owns a restaurant chain that has graced the food options of multiple airports, including Ohio’s biggest. Signature dishes include Symon’s award winning Fat Doug burger with coleslaw, pastrami, stadium mustard, and Swiss cheese; as well as his potato and cheese pierogi with kielbasa, griddled onions, and mustard sour cream. At Bar Symon, not only will you find power outlets at each table or at the bar for you to keep your devices charged, but they also make sure to have screens displaying flight statuses so you can make sure that your delicious meal won’t make you forget entirely about your flight.
Best All-You-Can-Eat Deal: Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen (Mount Hope)
Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen is located smack dab in the heart of Ohio’s Amish country, and it’s run by Gloria Yoder, who, although not Amish, was born and raised in town. Both Amish and “English” alike gather at her restaurant, where they can enjoy traditional Amish home cooking like fried chicken, roast turkey, fried lake perch, fried shrimp, pot roast, chopped sirloin, and traditional Amish “wedding steak,” a patty of seasoned ground beef. There are also plenty of sides, soups, salads, and desserts to go around, including nine different pies and Amish cracker pudding.
Best Bar: The Velvet Tango Room (Cleveland)
Mary S. / Yelp
Proprietor Paulius Nasvytis and the bartenders of The Velvet Tango Room are “torchbearers of tradition.” Since 1996, long before it was trendy, the bartenders here have been serving classic cocktails. There are now more than 80 cocktails on the menu, and about 30 of them are house creations, including the India Lime Fizz (a rich, creamy, and powerful cocktail that combines gin, rum, floral India limes, vanilla, and a whole egg). The bar is housed in a space that was once a speakeasy — bullet holes can still be seen in the ceiling — with the bars made of refinished mahogany and the front room featuring a baby grand piano at which music is played nightly by a three-piece jazz combo and a late-night pianist. The second room is reached by walking through a mirror in the coatroom. There’s another baby grand piano there, along with a cozy fireplace, comfy leather chairs, and a patio where some of the bar’s cocktail ingredients are grown. Both rooms have an old-fashioned black-and-white TV that shows classic movies with no sound. There are limited snacks, including locally sourced smoked pork belly made by a German family in Cleveland.
The Best Bar in Every State
Best Beer: Columbus Brewing Company Bodhi (Columbus)
Ohio is the home to a lot of great beers and breweries. There’s Hoof Hearted, Great Lakes, Fat Head’s, Jackie O’s, Hoppin’ Frog, and many more. But the best beer in Ohio remains Columbus Brewing Company’s Bodhi. This golden IPA doesn’t have a lot of hype, but it highlights Citra hops in a truly balanced and delicious way.
The Best Beer in Every State
Best Brunch: Blue Door Café & Bakery (Cuyahoga Falls)
This quaint and charming small-town café has been acquiring legions of fans since opening as a bakery in 2009, and since then it’s branched out to serve the best brunch in all of Ohio. Each ingredient is sourced responsibly — flour is unbleached, unbromated, organic, and stone ground; meat is from small producers and never frozen; produce is from small, usually organic farmers — and the end result really is something special. So what’s on the menu? A croque-madame with rosemary ham and cave-aged Gruyère; a Nueske’s bacon and egg croissant; grass-fed hanger steak and eggs with bordelaise and red flannel hash; wild-caught smoked salmon and eggs; fried organic chicken and jalapeño Cheddar waffles; nitrate free corned beef hash; and sweet ricotta crêpes with local honey and blueberries. Also make sure you check out the weekly-changing specials, like wild-caught Gulf shrimp and grits, chocolate and spice pulled Berkshire pork, and a grilled cheese made with chocolate stout and imported double cream Gouda. If you live near Cuyahoga Falls and you haven’t been to this place yet, well, you’re welcome.
Best Burger: B Spot Burgers (Various Locations)
Iron Chef Michael Symon has won too many burger contests to recall, and with good reason — the man understands good food, he understands meat, and more importantly, he understands how to make a great burger. The Lola, Symon’s burger with bacon, Cheddar, pickled red onions, and a sunny-side up egg, is going to be on the rarer side, the saltier side, and the gooey-dripping side. If you’re really into burgers, and really know the way chefs like to make them, well… you’ll be into the Lola.
The Best Burger in Every State
Best Chili: Camp Washington (Cincinnati)
Camp Washington was founded back in 1940, and it’s the only Cincinnati chili parlor that has a James Beard Award under its belt. The usual Cincy chili lingo applies here: Two-way, three-way, four-way, etc., but what sets Camp Washington apart from the crowd is the chili itself. Made with a closely-guarded secret recipe, it’s rich, comforting, supremely beefy, and unlike any other game in town.
25 Best Chili Dishes in America
Best Chocolate Shop: Esther Price Candies (Various Locations)
For over 90 years, Esther Price Candies has been making the milkiest, most scrumptious chocolates in Ohio. Their chocolate-covered caramels are their most popular product, but no trip to one of their seven locations across the state would be complete without picking up a box of their Buckeyes — it’s an Ohio classic, after all.
Best Coffee Shop: Coffee Emporium (Cincinnati)
The menu changes up quite a bit at Coffee Emporium, featuring to-go foods like pastries, breakfast burritos, and bagels, as well as items like sandwiches, salads, and soups for when you want to eat in. Their artisan-roasted direct trade coffee is pretty constant, however, will all kinds of blends, including their signature Emporium Blend which includes chocolate, guava, and citrus flavors. Coffee Emporium's two locations are located in East Hyde Park and the hipster Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, the latter of which also houses the roastery.
Best Chinese Restaurant: King Wah (Rocky River)
King Wah is an unassuming restaurant on the outskirts of Cleveland, but it is a major find for those on the hunt for great Chinese fare from the Hunan, Canton, and Szechuan provinces. Since 1973, it’s been packing in crowds who have flocked to its lychee duck, pan-fried noodles, ginger flounder, honey walnut chicken, Mongolian beef, and Chinese-style steak. Its full bar is also popular.
The Best Chinese Restaurant in Every State
Best Craft Brewery: Fat Head’s Brewery (Various Locations)
Fat Head’s started as Fat Head’s Saloon in 1992 on Pittsburgh’s historic South Side. As their popularity (and list of awards) grew, they opened Fat Head’s Brewery & Saloon in North Olmstead, Ohio, in 2009. They expanded to a full-scale production brewery in 2012 in Middleburg Heights, due to an explosion in demand for their craft brews. Try the Hop Juju Imperial IPA, which in 2016 won the gold medal for Imperial India Pale Ale at the World Beer Cup and the bronze at the Great American Beer Festival.
The 50 Best Craft Breweries in America
Best Cupcakes: Fate Cakes (Columbus)
Best Deep Dish Pizza: Antonio’s Pizza (Various Locations)
Antonio’s got its start back in 1967, and it’s still family-owned, with 15 locations in the Cleveland suburbs and beyond. Deep dish is one of a handful of pizza styles on offer, but it’s definitely the way to go. These pizzas start with fresh-made crust, which is layered with provolone, toppings, more cheese, another layer of crust, house-made sauce, and grated romano cheese before being baked to a golden brown. The topping options are pretty extraordinary as well; you can choose from everything from Hungarian peppers to thick hand-cut pepperoni, meatballs, and sliced steak.
The 15 Best Deep Dish Pizzas in America
Best Dive Bar: Dick’s Den (Columbus)
“Why not?” an illuminating sign outside of Columbus’s Dick’s Den asks. And, yeah, why not walk in to this bar, which isn’t too far from Ohio State’s campus. Inside, you’ll find a bar where everyone fits in and live jazz music on most nights. There aren’t many frills to this bar, but that’s just how we like our dives.
The Best Dive Bar in Every State
Best Doughnuts: Buckeye Donuts (Columbus)
Students at Ohio State agree: The best drunk food spot isn’t Raising Cane’s or McDonald’s, it’s Buckeye Donuts. This 24/7 shop is good any time of day, though. Like a true Ohioan, you need to get the famous Buckeye Doughnut, a chocolate and peanut butter treat that’s a staple of the state. We also think their massive apple fritters are a must-have, as are the maple sticks.
Best Farmers Market: West Side Market (Cleveland)
Best Food Truck: Fired Up Taco Truck (Cleveland)
Fired Up Taco Truck serves tacos and empanadas out of their converted SWAT truck, which is now covered in paintings of flames. Cleveland goes crazy for these tacos, and we can see why. Popcorn shrimp served in a flour tortilla with Fired Up slaw, corn and green chile salsa, jack cheddar, seasoned fries, barbecue, and lime crema? Color us impressed. Don’t feel bad for the vegetarians; they get to enjoy pineapples in their tacos and empanadas.
Best French Fries: Melt Bar and Grilled (Various Locations)
Best Fried Chicken: Belgrade Gardens (Barberton)
Barberton is known as the “Chicken Capital of the World” because it serves seven and a half tons of chicken a week between just four restaurants, the oldest of which is Belgrade Gardens. The restaurant, which opened during the Great Depression, serves fried chicken in the Serbian-American (or “Barberton”) style, which is said to resemble Serbian fried chicken (pohovana piletina) very closely. This recipe relies on fresh (never frozen) bird, lard, and no seasoning. The fact that this creation tastes so good without seasoning is truly something worth going to Ohio (or Belgrade) for.
Best Grocery Store: Jungle Jim’s (Cincinnati)
Jungle Jim’s InternationalMarket/Yelp
With more than 200,000 square feet of all the food stuff you can imagine, Jungle Jim’s International Market is like a grocery store theme park. Nancy of Cincinnati explained the appeal in one Google review: “THIS is the stop all my out-of-town visitors insist on seeing. You can find wonders and treasures and oddities… You will be distracted by all the shiny things. PLUS, the selection of beer, wine, cheese and even butter is amazing. Oh, and an acre of produce... did I forget to mention that?”
The Best Grocery Store in Every State
Best Homemade Ravioli: Pastina Rustic Italian Kitchen (Mentor)
Located on the outskirts of Cleveland, this 47-year-old Italian spot owes its success to its commitment to using only the freshest local ingredients and making all of its bread, pastas, sauces, sausage, and desserts from scratch. You really can’t go wrong with the ravioli, which is available in four styles: three cheese with house marinara; pea with roasted carrots, celery, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, oil, garlic, and Parmesan; house-ground beef with tomato sauce, ricotta, fresh basil, and melted mozzarella; and butternut squash with brown butter, sage, and crispy sunchoke chips.
America’s Best Restaurants for Homemade Ravioli
Best Hot Dog: Dirty Frank’s (Columbus)
This dive-y hot dog joint in downtown Columbus is a late-night hotspot and the perfect fourth meal after a night out at the local bars. Even herbivores can stuff wieners in their faces here; they have both vegetarian and vegan options in addition to their Vienna beef frankfurters. They go all out with their dogs, with over 50 topping options, including onion rings, crushed potato chips, and a mango chutney. Their most popular offerings include the Cowgirl Carmen (Coney sauce, Cheddar, and crushed Fritos); Puff the Magic Popper (cream cheese, jalapeños, and bacon bits); and the Amy’s Big Boston (Boston baked beans, onions, and Cheddar). Don’t forget to order a side of tater tots; Dirty Frank’s tots are perfectly crispy on the outside and pillowy on the inside.
Best Hotel Restaurant: Urban Farmer (Cleveland)
One of Ohio’s most well-regarded steakhouses, the team behind this Westin restaurantsources local and organic ingredients for its farm-to-table fare. A wide variety of steaks are available, all sourced from the Plains states: corn-fed Creekstone, grass-fed Pasture One, and 21-day dry-aged New Creation (Colorado Wagyu is also available), with creative toppings like candied bacon, wagyu tallow and blue cheese butter, and maple-mustard bone marrow. If you can’t make up your mind, you can try a six-ounce strip tasting of the three non-wagyu varieties. Start your meal with French onion soup with braised beef, house-made charcuterie and local cheese, or rabbit and duck pierogi, and if you’re not in the mood for steak, other entrées include roasted lamb chop and shank with parsnip purée, an Ohio half chicken with butternut squash and mustard greens, and mushroom-crusted striped bass. And if you come for breakfast, don’t miss the buttermilk pancakes with blackberry compote.
Best Ice Cream Stand: Mitchell’s Ice Cream (Cleveland)
Mitchell’s Ice Cream focuses on tasty small-batch ice cream made from local grass-fed Ohio dairy cows and fresh seasonal ingredients. Their ice cream is just as delicious as their devotion to sustainability! Mitchell’s uses rainwater harvesting systems, water conservation, skylights, waste heat, and solar panels in their stores and kitchens.
Best Italian Restaurant: Trentina (Cleveland)
Everything chef Jonathon Sawyer touches turns to gold, and that’s certainly true of Trentina, which he runs with his wife Amelia. There’s a nice selection of wood-fired pizzas (try the one with duck confit, whipped taleggio, Ohio corn, caramelized onion and sherry gastrique); pastas including a stunning house-made bucatini della nonna and wood-fired lasagna; and entrées including a local strip steak grilled over hay. Can’t decide? The 12-course, $115 tasting menu is one of the Midwest’s finest.
The Best Italian Restaurant in Every State
Best Mexican Restaurant: Barrio (Cleveland)
This beloved Downtown Cleveland hotspot trusts its guests to build their own ideal tacos from a selection of fillings, including Coca-Cola-marinated steak, braised beef, homemade chorizo, pulled pork, bacon, shrimp with garlic cream, grilled portobello mushrooms, apple jicama slaw, and Western Reserve smoked Cheddar, but we suggest you let the masters build it for you and choose from the variety of “El Jefe’s Selecciones.” Don’t miss the spicy Carne Trozo: braised beef, smoked Cheddar, lettuce, tomato, cilantro, onion, corn salsa, salsa verde, and secret sauce in a hard shell. It’s a party in one bite.
The Best Mexican Restaurant in Every State
Most Outrageous Restaurant Dish: Croque Madame Hot Dog, Senate Restaurant (Cincinnati)
Located in Cincinnati, Senate has some of the best hot dogs in the country, and their Croque Madame hot dog is worth a bite. The beef hot dog is topped with ham, bechamel sauce, and a poached egg on a brioche bun.
Most Romantic Restaurant: Lola (Cleveland)
Michael Symon’s flagship restaurant is a true Cleveland gem; it’s here where the Iron Chef really displays his culinary prowess via dishes like beef cheek pierogis with mushrooms and horseradish and crème fraîche; bacon-wrapped sturgeon with creamed spinach, parsnips, and apples; smoked pork chop with chiles, polenta, and barbecue onions, and house-made charcuterie. The dining room itself is also insanely romantic, with dim indirect lighting, nicely-spaced tables, plenty of cozy booths, white tablecloths, and a relaxed and elegant atmosphere. Make sure you end your meal with pastry chef Summer Genetti’s chocolate hazelnut roll with roasted banana ice cream and passion fruit.
Best Old-School Candy Shop: Grandpa Joe’s Candy Shop (Middletown)
Grandpa Joe’s is no stranger to the spotlight. The Ohio hub (which has six locations around the state) has rows of colorful candies stocked from floor to ceiling. If you can’t find the childhood treat you’re looking for, staffers are all self-proclaimed candy experts, historians, and lovers who guarantee they’ll find it or die trying.
Best Over-the-Top Grilled Cheese Sandwiches: Melt Bar & Grilled (Various Locations)
Melt Bar and Grilled /Yelp
This legendary Cleveland spot offers a mind-blowing selection of nearly 30 grilled cheeses. Some of the most outrageous offerings are the Parmageddon (pierogis, sauerkraut, sautéed onions, and sharp Cheddar); Mighty Macaroni (homemade deep-fried mac and cheese, cheese sauce, and melted cheese); The Dude Abides (homemade meatballs, fried mozzarella wedges, marinara, roasted garlic, provolone, and romano); Korean War Pig (Korean BBQ glazed pulled pork, seared pork belly, kimchi slaw, pear onion cilantro relish, and Muenster cheese); Chicken & Waffles (fried chicken, Belgian waffle, sriracha butter, pepper jack cheese, and maple syrup); and Big Popper (jalapeño poppers, Cheddar, and herb cream cheese, deep fried and topped with powdered sugar and berry preserves). If you’re feeling especially gluttonous, you can also take the famous Melt Challenge, with three slices of grilled bread and an insane 12 different types of cheese.
15 Best Over-the-Top Grilled Cheese Sandwiches in America
Best Pizza: Crust (Cleveland)
Crust, which has two Cleveland locations, may look like your standard slice joint, but it’s anything but. The care put into these pizzas starts with the dough, which is handmade every day and allowed to slowly ferment and rise, and everything is made from scratch daily. You can top your pizza with more than 30 toppings, but we suggest you order the Finocchiona specialty pie: fennel salami, red onion, red sauce, smoked mozzarella, pecorino, and rosemary.
Best Restaurant for Breakfast: SuperChef’s Breakfast & More (Columbus)
Superchef’s, which opens at 8 a.m. and has locations in Downtown Columbus and Gahanna just outside the city, is a trip. Its motto is “Art for Breakfast,” and it’s most evident in the pancakes, which are super-fluffy and come in a variety of outside-the-box styles like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup pancakes with peanut butter layered between each cake and “Super Scriddle” pancakes stuffed with scrambled eggs, candied bacon, and house-made sausage. There are also some truly wild waffles (The Juggernaut is two red waffles topped with fried chicken, candied bacon, over medium eggs, American and pepper jack cheese topped with a honey drizzle and maple syrup); creative and delicious omelettes; and specialties like breakfast pizza and shrimp and grits.
Best Restaurant: The Greenhouse Tavern (Cleveland)
The flagship restaurant of acclaimed Cleveland-born chef Jonathon Sawyer, who won a James Beard Award (Best Chef: Great Lakes) in 2015 for his efforts, The Greenhouse Tavern has played a huge role in putting Cleveland back on the culinary map. Sawyer’s signature style and sense of whimsy translates to a meat-heavy menu that’s full of bold, smoky, tangy, umami-rich flavors, and he’s turning local ingredients into dishes you have to see (or eat) to believe. These include crispy pig ears with sesame barbecue sauce and crispy shallots; foie gras steamed clams with butter and red onion brûlée; barrel-aged Tabasco fried chicken; smoked pork tongue and braised pork cheek tacos on tortillas made with Ohio corn; pan-fried pork chop saltimbocca with country ham, scrapple, and red-eye gravy; fries topped with bacon, fried eggs, whole grain mustard, mozzarella cheese curds, and brown gravy; a roasted pig head with barbecue sauce, raw vegetable salad, brioche buns, lime, and lettuce cups; and one of the city’s finest burgers. If it’s not already obvious, a meal at The Greenhouse Tavern is a culinary adventure, a ride that you’ll want to take again and again.
Best Sandwich: Corned Beef, Slyman’s Restaurant (Cleveland)
Sheena W / Yelp
This old-school deli is a Cleveland institution, going strong and serving gargantuan sandwiches for more than 50 years. Only open for breakfast and lunch, it’s most renowned for its massive corned beef sandwich, heaped with a mound of house-made corned beef. For deli aficionados (or just lovers of a great sandwich), this is a can’t-miss.
The Best Sandwich in Every State
Best Seafood Shack: Jolly Rogers Seafood House (Port Clinton)
A seafood shack in a big culinary capital like Chicago makes sense, but in Port Clinton, Ohio? You better believe it. Jolly Rogers Seafood claims to have Lake Erie’s finest yellow perch and walleye, along with onion rings and jumbo shrimp. It seems diners agree — this summertime destination, nestled along the shores of Lake Erie, has customers lining up to feast their stomachs on the region’s specialty dishes all season long.
America’s 40 Best Seafood Shacks
Best Soup: Souper Market (Cleveland)
Cleveland’s 17-year-old Souper Market has become a serious local cult favorite for its ever-changing lineup of soups, all of which are served with “a big chunk of bread.” Fan favorites include jambalaya, chicken paprikash, pulled chicken noodle, New England clam chowder (pictured), and lobster bisque. It’s all homemade, so they’ll also sell you chicken, veal, fish, or vegetable stock by the quart or gallon.
The Best Soup in Every State
Best Sports Bar: Winking Lizard Tavern (Northern and Central Ohio)
Each of the 19 locations of Winking Lizard in northern and central Ohio has a curated draft beer list, including cult favorites like 3 Floyds Zombie Dust, Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, and Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast Stout. Watch OSU and the Browns while you chow down on BBQ Lizard Bones, a half slab of St. Louis-style ribs. Wash it down with one of their beer cocktails, such as the Crabby Balls, made from Fireball Whiskey and Crabbies ginger beer.
Best Steakhouse: Red, Cleveland
With two locations in Cleveland, Red is stylish, classy, and just about everything you look for in a steakhouse. Steaks are certified Angus and there are plenty of traditional classics like oysters, French onion soup, and shrimp cocktail, but you’ll also find unique offerings like a free-range veal chop stuffed with foie gras, mushrooms, and fontina as well as Italian options like lobster fra diavolo and linguine with clam sauce. Their off-menu surf and turf, which pairs an herb-brushed tomahawk rib-eye with a king-crab-stuffed 16-ounce lobster tail, also might just be America’s best. High-rollers, take note: If you want to top your steak with seared foie gras with black truffle demi-glace, nobody will stop you. For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2019.
The Best Steakhouse in Every State