Soho Japanese Bistro

As the Cincinnati suburbs have expended north, nicer restaurant concepts have emerged alongside them. The Voice of America Park is one of several major shopping developments to emerge in the growing Interstate 75 corridor between Cincinnati and Columbus. But even as that allows for a measure of creativity, the concepts here tend to be upscale, old-school and focusing on making quality food and experiences. Soho Japanese Bistro is one of the prime examples, and a great one at that.

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Olive or Twist

Downtown Pittsburgh abounds with great nightlife destinations, and Olive or Dive, along Sixth Street a stone’s throw from the river and many of the most exciting downtown venues, is among them. This spot offers a classy mix of martinis and live music to go with its upscale concept. With a section for a lively bar to listen to local acts, as well as a dining area that still feels intimate, this spot knows what to do with a compact space. It’s a nice spot for a date or a group of friends, at the same time.

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Chuy’s Tex-Mex

A fun-loving, quirky concept out of Austin, Texas, the fast growing Chuy’s Tex Mex chain sort of explodes at you all at once as soon as you walk in. The mass of colors, hundreds of hand-painted fish on the ceilings, a shrine to Elvis, all of it greets you as you find your way to the bar or to a table. The flavors that greet you there are equally bold and loud. All told, I’m a huge fan of this concept and what it has to offer.

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Chocolate Bar

The Chocolate Bar really doesn’t need an introduction, the name says it all. You come here to indulge in the cocoa confections of all types, whether you’re hungry for chocolate shakes, chocolate dipped fruit or one of the many, many chocolate martinis. When you pay a visit to this downtown Cleveland destination, make sure you come hungry, there’s a big menu. And try to stick to a few of the martinis, which are extravagantly sweet. I tried to share five between two people, and I’m pretty sure I left the place with prediabetes.

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Sushi Rock

Sushi Rock is a two-restaurant chain, with one location in Columbus and another in Beachwood, east of Cleveland. It’s an upscale dining establishment with a specialty in good steaks and big sushi rolls, with some cocktails to wash them down. Some of the ideas for the food are there, and the ambiance is definitely there. In the end, though, I didn’t like the place. It just didn’t seem to come together for me, like something was missing. The scenery is there, but the food is not.

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