Thanks to the soul-crushing real estate prices in Los Angeles, Austin, Portland, New York and even Brooklyn, Rust Belt capitals like Cleveland are seeing an influx of young artists, artisans and budding Web entrepreneurs who are snapping up relatively cheap, once-deserted urban spaces and living the loft life. And while the food and beer scenes have always been strong (C-town is home to Michael Symon’s empire and the Great Lakes Brewing Co.), this recent trend is raising the culture quotient and energizing the wine scene. There is life beyond the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland. Here’s where to drink it all in when passing through.
High ceilings, parquet floors and oak accents conjure an unpretentious European bistro ambiance at this Ohio City favorite, where guests can explore more than 80 wines, Ports and sakés by the glass. The kitchen emphasizes freshness with locally grown, seasonal flavors—many selected from the West Side Market across the street. “I don’t store much food here because we use the market as our larder,” says Manager Greg Bondar. “That means the prosciutto, salami and cheeses you’re ordering were sliced that morning.”
More funky fallout shelter than buttoned-up bar, La Cave (above) has an impressive selection of boutique wines and craft beers. There are 60-plus wines by the glass at this Coventry neighborhood haunt with nary a mainstream brand in sight, a point of pride for Manager Erich Lasher, a convivial raconteur who finds pleasure turning patrons on to new things. “Our mission is to inspire people to drink outside their comfort zone,” he says.
A star of downtown’s ongoing resurgence and the anchor of award-winning chef/owner Michael Symon’s culinary dynasty, Lola Bistro’s imaginative surf and turf-centric menu is greatly enriched by a diverse wine list, which is delivered via iPad. Visible behind the bar, the glass-walled wine room is awash in crowd-pleasing Left Coast reds like a spicy Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley Vineyards that duets nicely with Symon’s signature smoked Hampshire pork chop and cheesy polenta. Dig, er swipe, deeper in the list for tasty finds like the Joël Rochette Beaujolais, a fruit-forward tipple that tames the Indian spices adorning the standout wild steelhead trout.