“Cleveland?!?” Typical response when we’d tell someone of our next trip. It required rationalization: “Larry has wanted to visit the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame for a really long time.” We figured three nights would be all the time needed… wrong! Friends and native Clevelanders, Barbara and Bill, crunched a month’s worth of activity for us, and that’s how we came to learn how cool Cleveland really is…
Here, in no particular order, are a handful of cool things you might appreciate about Cleveland. I was having a tough time trying to distill so much of our adventure, we did even MORE than what’s listed here:
Celebrity – walking distance from our downtown hotel was the ultimate destination, “The Rock,” aka the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame. Plan at least one long day here and take your time. Decades of history and boomer-loving artifacts to absorb, movies, and of course, music.
Cooking – Cleveland is for passionate cooks. In one day, we visited three sites any foodie should not miss: The West Side Market has been around since 1912, housed in a stunning brick building which (I kid you not, earthquake savvy Californians) had a brick ceiling. Shop there for everything grocery, you never have to go elsewhere. Unless, of course, to a Pizza Supply store like Gallucci’s. Mamma Mia, the goods! And there’s the Ohio City Farm, a public/private community partnership and farm stand to buy just-picked stuff. Check out the view!
Captains – Barbara and Bill took us to a Captains game, their A team with a fabulous ballpark. Besides the actual ball game, the sponsored activities were high-spirit, and I don’t even KNOW what to say about the MC who ran them all, except “STUPENDOUS.” He even took a pie to the face in one stunt. Unfortunately, our team lost. Larry’s summation: “Captains’ center fielder was unable to catch the curve ball thrown, which flew over his head scoring 2 runs for the Michigan Whitecaps.” Bummer. But BOY, what a fun night.
Cuisine – Four restaurant meals to brag about: Burgers & Beer (in Willoughby, near the ball park) was homey and classic with fall-off-the-bone ribs smothered in Mimi’s Sauce. We loved Chef Jonathan Sawyer’s The Greenhouse Tavern on East 4th Street, which dished up the best damn sandwich I’ve ever encountered (pictured: Dad’s Tomato Sandwich). Their sister Noodle Cat around the corner gave us our Asian-fusion fix with large bowls of noodles, and Little Italy’s La Dolce Vita, read all about that here.
Cakes, cookies, cannoli and other baked goods, as in “leave the gun, take the ___.” Larry is a bakery fanatic, and the unassuming Farkas Pastry Shoppe on Lorain Avenue just a block from the West Side Market beckoned him. Our luggage home included one of their fat nut rolls, God only knows what it looked like on the TSA x-ray screen.
Casino – Newly opened Horseshoe Casino was once the glorious art deco-decor Higbee Department Store. Still beautiful, what’s really fabulous is… no smoking casino!
Cemeteries – Early in our marriage, I talked Larry into visiting a cemetery on some trip. He thought it was a spooky idea, but has come to accept this harmless interest of mine. Modest Erie St. cemetery is on the sad side, so many headstones broken and toppled. At the other end of the spectrum, however, is the gigantic, elegant Lake View Cemetery, housing the remains of John D. Rockefeller and Eliot Ness.
Christmas Story – my sister, Jackie’s favorite movie. If you like kooky destinations, here you can walk through the house where the movie was filmed. We didn’t have time to do that, but we did visit the leg lamp in the lobby of the Positively Cleveland visitor’s bureau downtown.
Classic Clothing – at The Rock, you spend hours looking at collectibles. The clothing alone is eye-opening (rockers, for the most part, are small in stature. Maybe the drugs stunt physical growth, not just brain cells. If Mick Jagger ever picked a fight with me, I could crush him.)
Clean – spotless streets, power-washed sidewalks and you have to look really hard to find ANY graffiti. This darling gal (below) with Downtown Cleveland Alliance, is one good reason… so proud of her job. Having moved to her husband’s hometown from their ravaged Katrina home, she loves Cleveland and takes great care of it.
Colorful – the art guitars found all around the city, including several in front of The Rock, are custom painted by whoever adopted it. Some are weird but most are just… colorful!
Craft Beer – Great Lakes Brewing Company is right near the West Side Market and Farkas pastry shoppe. Larry appreciates beer, and gave their brew a try the evening of our ball game. Thumbs up.
Crosswalks – Clevelanders don’t wait for the WALK signal. They just jay walk. We stand there on the corner waiting for the light. It takes a day or two to stop doing that, like in New York. I appreciate not having to wait, but considering in LA you get a ticket for jay walking, I am trained.
The Moby Dick sandwich at the Captains game, $20 and appeared to serve around six to eight.
Old money lives on in Cleveland.