Local Life and Lore in Cleveland

Sound like a native Clevelander with these key terms and phrases.
By: Douglas Trattner
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East vs. West: Thanks to Lake Erie, Cleveland has no north side. But the Cuyahoga River slices the city down the middle, giving it an east and west. Depending on what side of the river you call home, you are either an East Sider or West Sider, and as such possess certain unique characteristics defined by your environment. While trite and no longer accurate, long-standing stereotypes pegged West Siders as blue-collar and nouveau riche, and East Siders as sophisticated and well-traveled. Funny how some labels linger.

Polish Boy: Clevelanders dig sandwiches so much, they practically dream up new ones every other week. The Polish Boy, though, is no Johnny-come-lately. This messy pleasure consists of grilled kielbasa, french fries and coleslaw all crammed into a big bun and doused with barbecue sauce. Yep, in Cleveland, fries are considered a condiment.

Dawg Pound: All Browns fans are enthusiastic, but the ones who sit in the Dawg Pound are downright rabid. This particular section of Cleveland Browns Stadium is the preferred setting for the rowdiest and most obsessive fans, evidenced by canine-related costumes, incessant woofing and adult face paint.

Dead Man’s Curve: When the brainy transportation folks built I-90 near downtown, they thought it would be wise to insert a 90-degree bend. And for many years, the speed limit was a brisk 50 mph. Even today, with the introduction of rumble strips, a banked turn and reduced speeds, accidents still occur at troubling rates.

Pee Dee: Clevelanders don’t read the Plain Dealer, they read the Pee Dee, the largest daily newspaper in Ohio.

The Islands: If it’s summer and your neighbor says he and his buddies are going to “the islands,” he is referring to the Lake Erie islands of South Bass and Kelleys. Located an hour’s drive and short ferry ride away, the islands are a popular getaway spot between Memorial Day and Labor Day. South Bass is home to the wonderfully hedonistic village Put-in-Bay.

Stadium Mustard: Brown, faintly spicy and chock-full of nostalgia, Stadium Mustard is the only rightful condiment for a hotdog. Every Clevelander remembers his or her first hot dog at the old Municipal Stadium, and on top of it was this distinctive mustard. Look for it in groceries citywide.

Pierogi: (peer-OH-gee) These Eastern European dumplings can be filled with potato, cheese or even sauerkraut. But they are always topped with buttery sauteed onions and served with a generous dollop of sour cream.

“Cleveland Rocks”: A phrase used in song and print to simultaneously describe Cleveland’s rock 'n' roll roots and its present-day awesomeness.

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