Crave Cantina

While on the outset many will describe this place as a prototypical taco bar, Crave Cantina has a wider mission statement, to be “Globally Inspired.” Yes, that extensive list of tacos on the menu features many kinds that are dressed very uniquely for cuisines that come from around the world. This is anything but a run-of-the-mill shop, and to see it set up in Cuyahoga Falls between Cleveland and Akron, where so few other restaurants of these varieties tend to tread, offers a chance to try some very different things.

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Otafuku

Otafuku is a pretty simple operation, just a small room with a counter and a few stools along 9th Street in Manhattan. For all intents and purposes and a hole in the wall, you could pass by the store front and miss it. The spot does a simple menu of some very popular Japanese street food dishes near the very hip East Village neighborhood in Manhattan. You can count the items on the menu with one hand, and you’re supposed to be able to take them with you and eat. From the outside it doesn’t look like much, but it’s a great little dive with good food to offer.

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McSorley’s Old Ale House

Proudly proclaiming that “we were here before you were born,” McSorley’s Old Ale House has been a neighborhood bar in Manhattan since 1854. This Irish bar is very much an experience in the past. Maybe it’s the sawdust floors, or the old newspapers covering the walls. Or maybe it’s the rough charm of the barman who greets you with a brisk “light or dark ale?” before wordlessly setting a load of beer-filled glass mugs on your table. It’s a lot of fun really, this place is about the atmosphere. And it’s a memorable one.

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Sun Wah BBQ

Although it stays relatively quiet in Chicago’s uptown neighborhood along the Broadway Street corridor, Sun Wah BBQ has been around town for a very long time. Once you sit down at this restaurant, though, you’ll see why pretty quickly. The menu, inspired by Chinese grilled meats and many things like it, is simply unique even in a city of this size. While the restaurant seems like it might be like many other run-of-the-mill places around the city, this is going to be one that you will want to remember.

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Bar Dumaine

As Dayton’s restaurant world goes, Chef Anne Kearney is the cream of the crop. Cutting her teeth on the business alongside Chef Emeril Lagasse in New Orleans, she settled down in the south suburbs with a French-inspired concept, Rue Dumaine, with a nice upscale feel that has become a favorite in Dayton for years. After some scaling back, she’s re-launched Bar Dumaine, a re-brand of the concept with a bit of a scaled-down feel. The interior of the classic bar feels freshened up a bit and the menu has some very approachable features, setting a James Beard award-nominated chef up to carry her concept to the future.

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Shake Shack

A much beloved chain started in 2002 in New York City, Shake Shack is all the rage in town which has prompted a fast expansion out of the East Coast and into more cities all over the country. With that fast growth, Shake Shack has become a trendy stop for many a curious eater. Probably the most prominent of the “better burger” concepts that has blossomed around the U.S. in recent years, the ‘Shack has an easy demeanor and a simple menu of burgers and shakes that have worked the name up into a national darling. Is the food worth the hype? I thought so.

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Goo Goo Shop

The city of Nashville is growing all the time, and as it has continued to evolve some of its longstanding traditions have been left behind. Not so with the much-beloved Goo Goo Cluster; a giant chocolate confection that had been made in the Music City for over 100 years thanks to the Standard Candy Company. You can find them in most stories around town, or if you like, a single storefront in downtown near Honky Tonk Row where you can watch the candies be made. The shop gives a ton of insight into how this great Nashville tradition came to be.

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Dunlays on the Square

Situated in north Chicago’s well-to-do Logan Square and surrounding neighborhood, Dunlays on the Square is an upscale bar and brunch place that’s’ hard to forget. The walls and bar are laden with nice wood trim finishes and each dish is plated with great meticulousness. That upscale feel brings a nice sense of refinement to the dishes, but a the end all of the food to be tried here is still approachable, and at price points which aren’t too bad. If you’re going with more than a few people, consider sitting in that pleasant patio in the good weather, but be sure to make a reservation.

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Osaka Sushi & Hibachi Bar

While there are a few Asian-themed buffets around Dayton, what Osaka Japanese Steakhouse offers the region is a very unique experience. Opened in what has for several years been a series of family dining restaurants, this one is a higher-priced buffet of Far Eastern cuisines you won’t find in many other places around town, and certainly not all under one roof. From Peking duck to octopus, frog legs and, yes, a sushi conveyor belt, this spot is a place to go when you’re feeling like a very adventurous experience.

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Boca

As downtown Cincinnati has seen a renaissance of new and exciting restaurant concepts come to town, the top quality ones are getting quite a following, pleasing giant crowds and landing national attention. Cincinnati’s dining scene has become a national interest with a lot of new ideas coming to market. So it’s no wonder the fine dining scene here is filled with such creativity. In that time, we have Boca, “culinary curiosity in modern decadence” and a place where creative combinations simmer for adventurous palettes. It’s an experience.

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