Best of the Heights 2021 award winners

Tommy Fello (at left), owner of Tommy's restaurant, and (from left) employees Ian Anderson, Becky Dedenbach, Karla Zagari and Ivan Lemus, holding winner certificates for Best Curbside Pickup and Best Community-Conscious Business, and finalist certificates for Best Online Ordering, Best Socially Distanced Dining, Best Ecologically Friendly Takeout, Best Employee Pandemic Support and Best Pandemic Pivot. Photo by Deanna Bremer Fisher.

This winter, Heights residents cast their votes for Best of the Heights 2021, and 23 local businesses were named winners and finalists in this year’s contest.

FutureHeights, a nonprofit community development corporation and publisher of the Heights Observer, hosts this annual awards program to recognize the locally owned, independent businesses that serve Cleveland Heights and University Heights, and contribute to our local economy.

As in prior years, FutureHeights created a list of 12 unique categories, showcasing the wide variety of establishments that call the Heights home, and asked residents to vote by writing in the names of their favorites in each category.

This year’s categories, which included Best Curbside Pickup and Best Socially Distanced Dining, recognized that the global pandemic has upended everyone’s lives and forced local entrepreneurs to innovate as they struggled to stay afloat, while keeping customers and employees safe.

Despite the pandemic, several new businesses opened in the Heights. The winner of this year’s Best New Bar or Restaurant was Doug Katz’s Chimi, while Zhug, Foodhisattva, and Voodoo Brewery were finalists in this category. The honor of Best New Business (other) went to Kandace Marchant’s Marchant Manor Cheese. Finalists for this category were Made Cleveland and Wizbang Circus Theatre. (See the complete list of this year’s winners and finalists at the end of this article.)

To help support local businesses, FutureHeights purchased $1,000 in gift certificates from a variety of them, and entered each unique Best of the Heights ballot entrant into a raffle, for a chance to win one of four gift-certificate packages worth $250 each. Winners were drawn on Feb. 26 (see article on page 21).

In its award ballot, FutureHeights also asked Heights residents what they missed most about pre-pandemic times, and what they look forward to doing once again when the pandemic is behind us. Here is a small sample of responses:

“I miss browsing without any specific item in mind to purchase.”

“I miss the community! Seeing friends and acquaintances while dining out and attending live music events.”

“I miss coffee shops! We have some great ones, and it was such a big part of our community-gathering experience.”

“I miss the feeling of being a part of the community that I get when I go out to local businesses, spend time in the library, or sit in a restaurant. I miss being around people, even if they are strangers.”

“I miss the Cleveland Heights [Music] Hop. When that happens, the community feels alive.”

“I miss being able to walk down to Lee and pop into all of our favorite shops, restaurants, and bars. We would grab a cocoa and truffle at Mitchell’s, and then meander down to Wine Spot or Boss Dog, catch a movie at Cedar Lee, and then end up at Bottlehouse. We love our neighborhood so much and miss being able to casually enjoy it.”

“I miss feeling the energy and atmosphere.”

In addition, FutureHeights asked residents what new business they would like to see in the Heights. Responses included unique concepts such as a “waste-free store” and “independent soda shop,” and expressed nostalgia for—and hope for the return of—old favorites, such as Blush Boutique and Big Fun.

Places to gather to enjoy activities, such as bowling, rock-climbing, and listening to live music, as well as businesses that cater to an active and healthy lifestyle, such as a “juice bar” and an “outdoor and adventure shop,” were also mentioned by respondents.

Some readers suggested offering a monthly parking pass to residents, to enable them to park at any city meter. [Currently, the city of Cleveland Heights is offering free parking at any metered parking spot, as it has done since the beginning of the pandemic.] Others suggested offering more incentives for businesses to locate in the business districts along Noble Road, such as lowering rents and incentivizing locally owned businesses, rather than chains. For a list of the new business ideas voters suggested, send an e-mail to

Here is a list of all the 2021 Best of the Heights winners and finalists:

Best Online Ordering
Winner: On The Rise Artisan Breads and Pastries
Finalists: Foodhisattva, The Stone Oven Bakery & Café, Tommy’s restaurant

Best Curbside Pickup
Winner: Tommy’s restaurant
Finalists: Zhug, On The Rise Artisan Breads and Pastries

Best Socially Distanced Dining
Winner: Mojo World Eats & Drink
Finalists: Boss Dog Brewing Company, Tommy’s restaurant

Best Ecologically Friendly Takeout
Winner: Foodhisattva
Finalists: The Stone Oven Bakery & Café, Tommy’s restaurant, Zhug

Best Employee Pandemic Support
Winner: Phoenix Coffee Co.
Finalists: Bialy’s Bagels, Quintana’s Barber & Dream Spa, Tommy’s restaurant

Best Pandemic Window Display
Winner: Phoenix Coffee Co.
Finalists: Appletree Books, Mac’s Backs-Books on Coventry

Best Pandemic Pivot
Winner: Zhug
Finalists: Tommy’s restaurant, On The Rise Artisan Breads and Pastries, The Wine Spot

Best Community-Conscious Business
Winner: Tommy’s restaurant
Finalists: Heights United Soccer Academy, Mac’s Backs-Books on Coventry

Best New Restaurant
Winner: Chimi
Finalists: Zhug, Foodhisattva, Voodoo Brewery

Best New Business – Other
Winner: Marchant Manor Cheese
Finalists: Made Cleveland, Wizbang Circus Theatre

Best University Heights Business
Winner: Bialy’s Bagels
Finalist: Geraci’s Restaurant

Best Cleveland Heights Business
Winner: Foodhisattva
Finalists: Zagara’s Marketplace, Atma Center

Deanna Bremer Fisher

Deanna Bremer Fisher is executive director of FutureHeights and publisher of the Heights Observer.

Read More on Business
Volume 14, Issue 4, Posted 10:37 AM, 04.01.2021