- April 14th, 2010
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Cleveland is full of finds, some more popular than others (see: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). Our first stop off the plane was the West Side Market – Cleveland’s oldest publicly owned market. It has great history and is a ‘must’ on any Ohio visit. The building harks to a time when supermarkets did not exist; local farmers and (a near over abundance of) butchers selling their fare. Built in 1902 the building went through a few renovations and fixes, and still stands in it’s same place. Name a type of meat and I’m sure one of the vendors will have it – Duck liver? Rabbit Sausage? Venison? Squirrel? Yes.
We weren’t looking for meat, we were on the hunt for cupcakes and lunch. We found what we heard was Cleveland’s best cupcakes – Grandma Freda’s Fresh Bake. There are probably eight different flavors, but we only picked up three: Wedding Cake, Pistachio, and White Velvet. They boxed them up and we had lunch at the West Side Market Cafe – just down the corridor. My lady and I couldn’t wait and opened the cupcakes. They were good; cream cheese frosting (on two of them the other had regular frosting) which nicely complimented the fluffy cake. The food at the cafe was welcoming and the beer was perfect. It seems all of Cleveland knows and loves Micro-brews – especially Great Lakes. I was used to Chicago’s Alcohol tax so the beer seemed really cheap. I got a brat with soup and chips. The sausage was amazing – the waiter had said, if I remember correctly, that the sausage was from one of the stands vendors – it sure tasted fresh.
The other really nice thing about the market is the produce section: in the spring there are local farmers selling their recent pull. We went in January so there wasn’t much from local farms.
We were staying across the river and later that night we came back to the market area and went to the Great Lakes Brewery. The wait is usually horrendous so keep that in mind. The trick is to put your name in and take the free tour, your table will ready right after. Almost all of food is made with the “waste” from the beer or with the beer, everything sounded amazing and everything we ordered was amazing. We essentially ordered three entrees, the beer was $5 a pint, and our bill was pretty low – which is always nice. ‘Great Lakes’ is a don’t miss in Cleveland. Great food, amazingly nice wait staff, cheap fantastic beer, what else could you want in Cleveland? Who needs LeBron?
Something to keep in mind is that the downtown is pretty much all but shut down on Sundays. Even if a place is open they won’t be serving lunch or sandwiches usually which kinda stinks. We just checked out the sites on Sunday: the giant ‘Free’ stamp, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Nature Museum – with a brand new butterfly room it is really nice. We wanted to find a place with hot beef sandwich so we headed back downtown and stumbled upon Jake’s. With my namesake, there was no reason to resist. Part deli, part quick-mart – this place cooked up some delicious hot beefs. You know it is good because of all the pictures of Shaq up, but not photos – surveillance tape snapshots – standing at the counter and picking out a pop. We picked up a regular a hot beef and a hot turkey, both were great and sliced in-house right in front of us – with nice thick slices. We took a couple of small bites and took a long walk back to our hotel, they were still warm even.
Before skipping town we wanted to give one last place a try. The Greenhouse Tavern sits on 4th street, an eclectic foot traffic only street that is a nice change in such a car-centric city. Walking in, you can’t help but know you are in for some good food; recycled bike wheel lamps hang from the ceiling, large bar and dining area, and lighting at that ‘not too bright, not too dark’ setting. My lady and I were taken to a seat with that looked like a recycled pew from an old church. We started with an order of the Pommes Frites, a $3 can of local beer and a glass of red – the perfect starter. The fries were exactly how you always want them – stright cut and browned – and the beer icy cold and smooth. The lunch menu is tiny, though everything sounded incredible – we ended up with the Pâté Melt Sandwich (me), and the Chicken Salad Sandwich(her). Her Chicken Salad was great; chunks of chicken liver, chopped walnuts, fresh celery and a splash of tarragon. My though melt was incredible, fresh and rich, just stellar. What a great send off from Ohio. We couldn’t have asked for a better note to leave on.
Give Cleveland a try, it won’t let you down if you know where to look – in those little nooks. When you do find them you are rewarded with great food, nice people, and a wonderful experience.