HAPPY DOG :: Neighborhood bar meets hot dog joint with 50 toppings for your dog and an eclectic mix of live music. Open since 2009, chef Eric Williams serves up 1,000-plus dogs a week. Inspiration: The simmering sauce used in Williams' grandmother's mini-meatball appetizer inspired Marcella's Grape Jelly and Chili Sauce topping. Wildest Topping: When someone suggested serving dessert, Williams put Froot Loops on the menu. "It actually works," he says, though the sweet cereal has since been replaced with candy sprinkles. His Fave Combo: Creole remoulade, bacon-spiked Southern greens, smoked Gouda and a fried egg.
5801 Detroit Ave., Cleveland, 216-651-9474, happydogcleveland.com
FLIPSIDE :: Burgers are hot right now, but Flipside's Shawn Monday thinks his have an edge. He only uses Ohio-raised, grass-fed beef in his 10 burger varieties. Unusual Combo: Green Eggs and Ham Burger — fried egg, wilted spinach, crispy Parmesan, basil mayo and prosciutto Craziest Request: "Guys who want to stack another burger on top. They're 7 ounces already." On the Side: It takes three days to make Flipside's french fries. They're salt-brined, boiled, low-temp fried, then flash-fried before serving.
49 Village Way, Hudson, 330-655-3547, flipsidehudson.com
PALOOKAVILLE CHILI :: It's chili "made correctly," says artist and first-time restaurateur Ian P.E. That means using cubed beef (not ground meat) and 15 chili pepper varieties. Hot Button: "It's not real chili [other restaurants] are serving up. It's a Midwestern bastardization of Southwest chili." Unique Combo: Chili Cheese Steak — chili served on a sourdough hoagie roll with cheddar or feta cheese and green onions. Chili Flop: "I tried a shrimp chili, but it didn't have enough fat."
3900 Lorain Ave., Cleveland, 216-961-4810, palookavillechili.com
CHOP IT SALAD CO. :: It may be a food court joint, but Chop It offers your choice of four lettuce varieties, 25 dressings, seven cheeses, and 55 veggies and other toppings tossed by a "personal chopper." Didn't Fly: "We tried hearts of palm," says owner Joe Joltin. "One person asked if he could try it. He came back and said, 'Wow, that's disgusting.' " Craziest Request: "One guy asks for half lettuce and every single vegetable we have." Joltin's Favorite: Spring mix, romaine, goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, dried cranberries and candied pecans with black cherry balsamic dressing.
Southpark Center, 440-238-6027; Great Northern Mall, 440-777-0864, chopitsaladco.com
B SPOT :: Technically the "B" is for burgers, brats, bologna and beers, but B Spot's known for its 15 varieties of burgers, all conceived by the one-and-only Michael Symon. Why Burgers? "It's people re-embracing comfort food and those classics becoming cool," says B-Spot general manager Greg MacLaren. Unique Combo: The Symon Says — a burger with bologna, coleslaw, American cheese, "and what we call whip sauce, a mixture of Miracle Whip and yellow mustard." Burger Flop: The Jersey Boy, a burger with pork roll, "which is somewhere between baloney and Spam. It lasted about a week."
Eton Chagrin Boulevard, 28699 Chagrin Blvd., Woodmere, 216-292-5567, bspotburgers.com