When people think of Cleveland, they probably don't think fine dining. And yet, the Metropolis of the West is not only notable for being bad at sports and having high unemployment. In fact, the culinary scene in Cleveland is one of the most important and innovative in the country, providing up-and-coming chefs with the experiments and experiences they need to hit the big leagues.

It is in honor of that that we, at Traveler's Today, have listed below the 5 best restaurants in Cleveland, places you'd be surprised can exist in a city so small, but nevertheless will provide you with some of the best fine dining experiences to be had anywhere in the country.

5. Parallax

Just one example of the many innovative sides of Cleveland dining, Parallax chef Zack Bruell has created an Asian-inspired fusion of different flavors, tastes, and textures that you'll be sure to remember long after you visit. From longstanding favorites like fried shrimp and sushi, to more exotic dishes like Cauliflower Salad, Parallax has everything you've always wanted out of a restaurant and more. Be sure to stop by if you're feeling like taking a culinary adventure.

4. Red the Steakhouse

Though this local franchise just opened a downtown location, the original venue, in the East-Side suburb of Beachwood, is one of the clubbiest places in the city. From the dark, moody atmosphere, to the thick, succulent cuts of meat offered on the menu, everything about Red harkens to an era gone-by, both in the city, and in the country. It is that ambience, that nostalgia, and that quality of food, that marks Red both worthy of this list and worthy of a visit on your next trip to Cleveland.

3. Fire

 Nestled in Cleveland's historic "Shaker Square," Fire Food & Drink has been serving some of the most interesting and gourmet dishes in the city since it's opening in 2001. Famous for its minimalist attitude (both in terms of menu and decoration), Fire gives you what you want without much fuss, offering traditional favorites like scallops, soup, and steak. However, to locals, the most extraordinary thing about this restaurant is their brunch options, a list littered with perennial favorites like French Toast and Devilled Eggs that make waking up at 9 am worth it.  

2. Pier W

Cleveland's pre-eminent seafood spot, Pier W gets high marks both for the quality of its dishes and the quality of its views. Perched (literally) off of a cliff in the Lakewood neighborhood, this restaurant offers some of the best views of the Cleveland skyline anywhere in the city, just the atmosphere you'd want out of an excellent restaurant. The actual food is also top-of-the-line, with salmon, swordfish, and walleye dishes that rival any restaurant in the country. In short, if you're into the fine aspect of fine dining, Pier W is most certainly the place for you.

1. Lola

However, the number one spot is reserved for something even more iconic. Indeed, in recent years nothing has said Cleveland dining like Michael Symon, the celebrity chef whose restaurants in Cleveland include Lolita, the burger chain B-Spot, and, of course, the piece de resistance, downtown's preeminent gourmet spot, Lola. And he's earned that title in spades. From bacon broth to steak and salsa, Lola's menu offers the most delicious combinations Cleveland has to offer. Plus it's location, right off of Euclid Avenue and hardly a block away from Playhouse Square, makes the restaurant all the more attractive, Cleveland's answer to the urban dining experience of larger cities, and the number one reason the city's culinary scene is a national contender.