Both wind-ravaged road warriors and white-collar workers flock to this Harley-themed diner (it's inside the South East Harley-Davidson) for its good food and fun vibe, complete with a vintage dining car. But when The Original Harley Diner manager Karen Huebner was updating her menu, something seemed missing. "We wanted a sandwich that would fit in with the brand but be more upscale than a burger," she says. Thus was born the V-Rod ($9.29), a well-engineered stack of filet mignon medallions, buttery sauteed mushrooms and mild Swiss cheese on a toasty kaiser roll. Like its namesake, it's a burly but sophisticated ride, full of muscle and good taste.
Side Dish: Owner Paul Meyers brought the authentic 1946 Worcester dining car to Bedford Heights in 1989 from Rochester, N.H., where it had been in service until 1985. When the city wouldn't let him set it up in the parking lot, he tore down a wall and installed it inside.
23105 Aurora Road, Bedford Heights, 440-786-2246
Dee's Old Brooklyn Diner
"It's what we're known for," says owner Denise "Dee" Walsh of the sizzling double steak burger that has anchored her menu for the past 15 years. At $3.75, it's a great value, too, crafted from coarsely ground sirloin that arrives fresh each morning from nearby M & W Market. Shaped into square patties, slapped onto a hot flattop and then tucked into a soft bun, it's a juicy mouthful of meaty goodness, all the more delicious for its bargain price.
Side Dish: Walsh is the fourth person to operate a diner at this location since the early 1950s. During those years, scores of old photos, framed newspaper clippings and assorted bric-a-brac have accumulated on walls and shelves, lending the space a nostalgic, Grandma's-attic vibe.
4326 Pearl Road, Cleveland, 216-398-1633
Two Dad's Diner
Mom usually gets all the mealtime credit. But at Two Dad's Diner in Lakewood, owners John Kamkutis and Frank Vingale have tipped the kitchen scales in the other direction. Consider the Bif ($8.25), which pays tribute to Kamkutis' Greek immigrant father, a restaurant owner whose written English wasn't as good as his cooking. One day when he asked Kamkutis to fetch the roast beef from the back of the restaurant, the teen couldn't find it. "And then I saw bags marked 'bif,' " Kamkutis recalls. "Everything for him was phonetically spelled." Kamkutis' menu isn't literal diner fare either. The Bif updates the classic French dip starting with slow-roasted beef cooked in-house and chipped into messy pieces and topped with savory caramelized onions and crumbled blue cheese on a crisp baguette. Yeah, dad would be proud.
Side Dish: Between them, owners John Kamkutis and Frank Vingale have eight daughters (and no sons) ages 5-14. So Two Dad's seemed appropriate.
14412 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, 216-226-3270