By Leila Archer, Jennifer Bowen, Courtney Kerrigan, Amber Matheson, Kim Schneider, Ashley Sepanski, Beth Stallings, Carly Toyzan, Erick Trickey, Jim Vickers, Leah Wynalek and Aaron Yeager
Bloody Mary Bar
If beer is king at Great Lakes Brewing Co., then the pub's build-your-own Bloody Mary buffet is its queen. It appears just once a week — Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. — and draws a house full of curious patrons. The adventurous ditch standard vodka in favor of a rotating selection of house-infused flavors such as rosemary with pepper and garlic with basil. Then, it's on to the buffet, where patrons pick from regular and spicy tomato juices before facing a truckload of spices and garnishes such as lemon pepper, fresh garlic, bacon, shrimp, pickles and blue cheese-stuffed olives. It's fun and the possible combinations seem endless. It's why you'll find people spending a Saturday afternoon in the cellar loosening up with cocktails in the house that beer built. 2516 Market Ave., Cleveland, 216-771-4404, greatlakesbrewing.com
Go big or go home. That's the mindset inside Cana Wine and Martini Bar, a historic warehouse turned upscale gathering place in Medina. The martini list hits every taste bud with bold flavors and twists on more than 30 different cocktails. Classic drinks from gimlets to Manhattans are listed alongside fruity concoctions such as Blow Me (get your minds out of the gutter, people), a bubble gum/cranberry mixture. Most are created when bartender Justin Hartle asks customers for their favorite flavors and tailors drinks to their tastes, such as the Italian Surfer, a combo of amaretto, Malibu Coconut Rum, pineapple and cranberry juices topped with shaved coconut. Or sometimes inspiration strikes. He came up with the Snow Cone martini (pictured) on a hazy summer night. "It was so hot, and I had a snow cone machine," he says. "Why not add alcohol to it?" That he did. The drink is made with cherry vodka, a little Cointreau, blueberry and lemon syrup, fruit juices and, of course, shaved ice. 113 W. Smith Road, Medina, 330-722-1919, canamedina.com
The first thing you look for in a brewpub is house-made beers on tap. Why? Because you want to taste what the place is made of. That's why we're ordering a Kamm's Lager the next time we're in Cleveland's West Park neighborhood. Served at nine bars in Kamm's Corners, the custom brew offers a medium body with the everyday drinkability of a Budweiser and bitterness a notch below Great Lakes' Dortmunder. "It was fashioned to fit the neighborhood," says Steve Lorenz, executive director of the Kamm's Corner Development Corp. "This is not a highfalutin neighborhood; it's down to earth." Akron's Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. is behind this custom project and two other signature brews just as crowd-pleasing. Rosewood Grill's spice- and caramel-hinted Rosewood Red lager complements the Hudson restaurant's signature sauces. And for University of Akron fans, Thirsty Dog supports the creation of the RooBrew microbrewery's Litigation Lager. 529 Grant St., Akron, 330-252-2739, thirstydog.com
Tea is an art form at South Euclid's Bavarian Tea Studio. Like the best wine lists, its selection is bound in a multipage book that describes more than 80 varieties, listed by color and cross-referenced in the back by price per ounce of loose leaf. Owner Victoria Koehn and her cohorts sampled 300 teas to create the list, culling favorites from around the world. "I can't do anything halfway," Koehn explains. She imports most of her tea from Germany, where the German Tea Association strictly regulates organic tea to ensure quality control. Each tea is available hot, lukewarm and iced, and each tea has been tested at each of those temperatures by the studio team. Teapots arrive tableside with small sand timers for perfect steeping. There's even a tea barista in the kitchen, a veritable sommelier of leaves and water who's happy to answer questions. 1936 S. Green Road, South Euclid, 216-691-1936, sanctuaryongreen.com
Bene Vino is a winery with a craft brewer attitude. You won't find wine snobs or a vineyard for that matter (because "urban," in this case, actually means that Bene Vino doesn't grow its own grapes). Glass windows proudly display the production barrels for the entire tasting room to see. And owner Benny Bucci greets customers behind the tasting counter like an Italian mama welcoming you to dinner. Inside the 4,000-square-foot warehouse, Bene Vino blends varietals from California and Chile and regional varietals to produce high-end cabernet, chardonnay, riesling and other red and white table wines. Bucci may even just give you a sample of something straight from the barrel - a sneak peek of what's in store such as an easy-drinking malbec that's not quite ready to bottle. Fifty cents will get you one tasting, a glass starts at $5. Or buy a bottle, pull up a chair, and enjoy live entertainment if it's Friday night. 4199 Main St., Perry Village, 216-973-2711
Saturday, October 09, 2010 9:32:19 PM by Lisa
We just spent Saturday evening at Bene Vino. What a wonderful time! The entertainment was fantastic and the wine even better. We will definitely be returning. Thanks, Benny!!!!!
Wednesday, March 02, 2011 8:38:58 AM by Anonymous
The above description is perfect, as Benny is the perfect host. He always treats us like long lost friends, which makes it a great start to a wonderful evening! His helper Chris is also always friendly and hospitable. It's a bonus that you can bring in your own food also.
Great western Lake County addition! Look forward to going again very soon!
Jane (and Joe)