Cleveland Essentials

Discover the places and activities that give this Ohio city its flavor.
By: Douglas Trattner
Related To:
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Food and Drink Essentials: Best Places to...


West Side Market 
Corner of West 25th Street and Lorain Ave., 216-664-3387 
Built in 1912, the West Side Market is one of the country’s oldest continuously operated public markets. Locals do much of their weekly shopping here, lured by the staggering variety, cut-rate prices and personal relationships developed over decades. Tourists come here to grab a snack, gawk at the 45-foot barrel-vaulted ceiling, and inspect the wares of more than 100 food vendors.


North Union Farmers Market 
Numerous Locations 
Cleveland is located in the Cuyahoga Valley, a bread basket every bit as fertile as the famed Hudson Valley. For delicious proof, head to any of North Union's numerous farmers markets, which are scattered like seeds across the county. Most of these alfresco bazaars run from late April through September and sell only locally grown products.


Bialy’s Bagels 
2267 Warrensville Center Road, 216-371-1088 
Memphis has its barbecue; Cleveland has the world’s best bagels. Too bad they can only be found at this one tiny shop on the city’s East Side. These Manhattan transplants set up shop more than 40 years ago, and they still shape, boil and bake their dough the old-fashioned way. On weekend mornings, lines snake out the door as folks file in for bags of warm plain, salt and mishmash (everything) bagels.


2058 E. Fourth St., 216-621-5652 
Fans of the Food Network have come to know Michael Symon as the Next Iron Chef, but Clevelanders have adored this culinary trendsetter for years. The chef has a knack for reinterpreting Midwestern classics as contemporary delights, as in the case of his beef cheek pierogies. If you don’t immediately see Symon in the restaurant just listen for that familiar cackle to point the way.


Bar Cento 
1948 W. 25th St., 216-344-9944 
Serving food until the wee hours of the morning every single day of the year, Bar Cento offers night owls a schedule that’s easy to remember. Unlike other late-night haunts that rightly fall into the greasy-spoon category, this Ohio City hot spot is one of the city’s best restaurants. Hungry souls flock here for thin Neapolitan-style pizza, grilled hangar steak and wonderful (and wonderfully priced) carafes of house wine.


Lucky’s Cafe 
777 Starkweather Ave., 216-622-7773 
Many Tremont residents begin their day with a frothy mug of cappuccino at this cozy storefront coffeehouse. And for good reason. In addition to consistently great java, Lucky’s offers comfortable seating, Wi-Fi and friendly service. But the real reason Lucky’s is as popular as it is likely has less to do with coffee than it does pastry. Operated by one of Cleveland’s finest pastry chefs, this cafe has delicious scones, cinnamon rolls, muffins and cookies.

Entertainment Essentials: Best Places to...


Bleachers of Progressive Field 
On a warm summer day there is no greater pleasure than cheering on the Cleveland Indians from the stands at Progressive Field. Grab your mitt and head for the bleacher rows closest to the field and you just might snag an Indians home-run ball along with your ice-cold brewski.


While other great museums continue to raise admission fees, Cleveland Museum of Art (11150 East Blvd., 216-421-7340) retains its tradition of free art for all. Donations are accepted, and some special exhibitions require tickets, but generally, the penniless are welcome. To enjoy free professional classical music concerts, including some performed by Cleveland Orchestra members, visit the Cleveland Institute of Music (11021 East Blvd., 216-791-5000). This superb conservatory stages a steady calendar of free recitals, concerts and events in a striking new performance space.


Cleveland Metroparks 
Appropriately dubbed the Emerald Necklace, this ribbon of green space encircles all of Cuyahoga County, largely following natural waterways. Comprising 22,000 acres spread among 16 interlinking parks (called reservations), the recreational playground collectively known as the Metroparks offers four seasons of outdoor fun. The available activities include hiking, biking, birding, cross-country skiing, golfing, fly fishing and swimming. Also, the Cleveland Zoo and RainForest are part of the Metroparks system.


Cleveland Museum of Natural History 
1 Wade Oval Dr., 800-317-9155 
To wrap your children’s brains around the nebulous concept of the Earth’s rotation, take them to see the Foucault pendulum at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Suspended on a 32-foot line, the 270-pound bob works its way around the ring at the breakneck speed of six inches per hour. Next, grab seats inside the planetarium for an intergalactic show starring suns, planets, nebulae and galaxies.

Nightlife Essentials: Best Places to...


Velvet Tango Room 
2095 Columbus Road, 216-241-8869 
Long before the classic cocktail made its grand return, the snazzy Velvet Tango Room has been dexterously crafting drinks the old-fashioned way, only better. Purified water is used to make the ice cubes. Citrus juices are freshly squeezed. Fruit garnishes and twists are cut to order. This speakeasy-style lounge caters to a mannerly clientele, so wear proper attire and leave the baseball cap in the car.


12387 Cedar Road, 216-795-0550 
Cleveland’s most popular jazz club snags the biggest acts as they travel between Chicago and New York. Grab a table in the main room for up-close-and-personal performances or settle into a snug booth in the barroom for privacy. Praised for its wildly diverse crowd, Nighttown is like the den of wonderfully eclectic extended family. On warm nights, the patio pulses with as much energy as the beats inside.


If you are young, young-at-heart or hope to bump into somebody who is, plan a weekend visit to the Velvet Dog (1280 W. Sixth St., 216-664-1116). This happening Warehouse District venue boasts a rooftop party deck where guests groove to Top 40 music and killer city views. For a decidedly different dog and dance, head to the neighborly Happy Dog (5801 Detroit Ave., 216-651-9474) for one of its Friday polka happy hours. Until you’ve kicked off the weekend with pierogies, Polish beer and polka, you haven’t lived.


Tremont ArtWalk 
For more than 15 years, the adventurous, curious and artistically inclined have made Tremont their destination on the second Friday of each month. Tremont is home to numerous art galleries and boutiques, and most keep their doors open late on these ArtWalk Fridays. Make it a night by hitting one of the indie bistros for dinner or nearby pubs for a nightcap.

Other Essentials: Best Places to...


Great Lakes Brewing Co. 
2516 Market Ave. 216-771-4404 
While everybody else is off to overcrowded dog parks, you and Fido can be enjoying handcrafted ales and hearty pub fare. In-the-know pet parents bring their furry charges to the expansive patio at Great Lakes Brewing Co. to enjoy a peaceful meal on picturesque Market Avenue. If Fido isn’t partial to burgers and beer, employees will provide tap water and treats.


When locals are craving dim sum, a bottomless bowl of pho or a hard-to-find cooking ingredient, they head to AsiaTown, Cleveland’s Chinatown. This densely populated neighborhood is home to dozens of Asian-owned restaurants, markets and businesses. Wandering the aisles of the exotic groceries is like taking a mini-trip abroad. Ethnic food fans come here to enjoy Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai restaurants.


The Detroit Shoreway neighborhood’s popular Antiques District is a dog-eared stretch of road dotted with thrift stores, resale shops and flea markets. Best among them are Reincarnation Vintage Design (7810 Lorain Ave., 216-651-9806) and Suite Lorain (7105 Lorain Road, 216-281-1959). At Reincarnation, old, curious industrial objects are repurposed into fashionable home decor items. Shoppers might find an antiquated candle-drying frame given new life as a chic wine rack. Down the block at Suite Lorain, visitors will find 8,000 square feet of vintage kitsch, including old vinyl, outmoded kitchen appliances and retro furniture.


Edgewater State Park 
8701 Lakeshore Blvd. NE, 216-881-8141 
Apart from being on a boat, there are precious few opportunities to observe the Cleveland skyline set against the Lake Erie shore. Shutterbugs have long known that Edgewater offers some of the very best views of the city from dry land. Come to the upper bluff and train your telephoto on the sweeping vista, which includes not only the omnibus of tall buildings, but also the lake and shoreline.

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