Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cleveland in the Times

By now, almost every single one of you has seen the wonderful article about Cleveland in the New York Times this weekend. (FYI - The paper version will be in tomorrow's Sunday edition.)

Since it hit the NYT website, at least four friends from other cities have forwarded me the link. The most recent one to do so asked me if I had been to any of the places the article mentioned, and while I wrote him back and said, with sincerity, that I had, I did have to chuckle a bit. While they didn't bat 1000%, the writer of the article did have many of the best reference points I've personally discovered in the 2+ years I've spent living in this great city.

Let's take the places on the list one by one:

1) The Rock Hall. OK, right off the bat, I gotta admit ... I've still not been there. I guess I'm just waiting for an opportunity to go for free, though everyone I know says that chance doesn't happen very often, if ever. Dear Rock Hall marketing dude, if you want a glowing blog review, just send me an email saying you'll let me check the place out for free. I'm not a real journalist - I'll totally trade my integrity for that.

2) Lilly Chocolates - I dig this little joint, with the chocolates and the nice beer. I usually don't go in for truffles and the like, but when I'm there I can't resist the siren song of the lavender bites.

3) Visible Voice - Best bookstore on the west side and, when it comes to new books, best in all of Cleveland, period. I was just there last week and scored a copy of Mailer's The Deer Park ... for only a buck!

4) Lolita
- I'm not much for celebrity chefs, but I do like Mike Symon's style. And the happy hour here - when you can get access to the bar - is a good one, especially because of that wonderful chicken mac & cheese. Maybe by portion-size it is considered shareable, but I'm sorry - that stuff is too delicious to let anyone else get a bite. Order your own - it's happy hour!

5) Sokolowski's - Ahh, Sokolowski's. When I lived on the west side, I'd alternate between here and Melt on my stay-home weekday workdays for long solo lunches when the words weren't flowing. My boss at the time took me here for lunch my first week after moving to Cleveland and I had one of the most hilariously bad dates ever at the bar here. If I ever move away, Sokolowski's will definitely make the list of places that I simply must visit one more time during that last week of Cleveland living.

6) Velvet Tango Room
- I absolutely love this place. An island of sophistication that nestles delicately in a hidden crevice of this city of rust belt tough. I like going here for a drink probably more than anywhere else, and am happy to count the joint's owners as one of the most dear friends I've made in this city since moving here.

7) West Side Market - I love this place, too, and while I don't do much at all in the kitchen, I used to love cutting through the spacious hall en route from my apartment to the RTA station in the mornings when I lived on West 25th. Absolutely a stop on my must-see Cleveland tour for folks that come to visit.

8) Crêpe De Luxe - A fantastic little stand in the WSM and one of the few true prepared food stands therein. The crepes mentioned in the NYT post are good ones, but I gotta give a personal shout out to the nutella crepes. MMM, nutella.

9) William Busta Gallery
- OK, got me again. Not yet been here, though I've heard very nice things. I'm sorta ashamed that I've never been, considering how much I love and want to support the arts community here. This must be addressed immediately, if not sooner. Anyone ever here about events here, please holler!

10) Shaheen Modern & Contemporary Art - Again, another place I've not visited. And in this case, being totally honest, I've never actually heard of this venue. Anyone know the scoop? My radar is totally off, I think.

11) L'Albatross - Not been here either, but probably won't. Don't get me wrong - I'm all for haute cuisine, but Cleveland has too much going on in the proletarian world for me to waste time eating elsewhere. I'll save my French for when I'm in France. I have heard wonderful things, though.

12) The Beachland Ballroom - Now this place, I've totally been to and will continue coming to for as long as they'll let me. I live down the block, I've probably been in that building more than any other building in the city other than my various apartments and my office. This is my favorite place to see a band play anywhere in the country and I've made a lot of pals in and around this joint. A solid anchor to a part of the city I call home.

13) This Moment In Black History
- Speaking of Beachland-related pals, one of the pals I've made in this town is a member of this band. I met him one night when he was DJing a set and was kind enough to indulge my request for a Teddy Pendergrass jam. Since then, I'd put this dude and the VTR pal mentioned previously down as the two fellas that have taught me the most about this city I love living in. And, of course, the band rocks. Be sure to check them out when the open for Detroit proto-punkers Death next weekend. That, literally, is a once in a lifetime opportunity for you.

14) This Way Out Vintage - Another place I love to hit when I'm in the Beachland. Dave P. might be the most effortlessly cool person I've ever met, and I've been stylin' my most recent score from there, this circa-1970 awesome Cleveland Athletic Club blazer. It's totally perfect.

15) Tommy's
- Tommy's on Coventry. 'Nuff said. Great milkshakes. Great for vegans and such. I'm not one, but I'm glad for it.

16) Mac's Backs - The best bookstore on the east side of Cleveland and, when you consider used books, the best overall. I love this place, and Suzanne there was the very first person to remember my name. When you are new to a city and don't know a soul, you notice the first time you walk into a store and someone says hello and calls you by your name. Since then, she's only been cooler and sweeter every week, and I always know that when I pop in there to satisfy a book craving, I'm gonna get a great chat and some impossibly accurate personal recommendations. This place makes me happy like few other businesses I've ever been to before.

17) University Circle (especially Severance Hall, the CIA Cinematheque, the CMA, and Lakeview Cemetary)
- Cultural jewels, all of them. I've not been to Severance, and only to Lakeview and the CMA sporadically, though I appreciate them immensely. The CIA Cinematheque, however, now that's another story. I think ever person in Cleveland should go to at least one film a year there. It doesn't have to be some obscure French new wave flick or some heavy Asian import - the dudes here play lots of accessible stuff. I can't tell you how glad I am that this place exists and that they do such a wonderful job of programming. Now if only we could get some new seats in there ...

So, yes, I've been to a few of these places. And, if you are reading this but not from here, come visit! I'll take you there myself!

For the rest of you, what do you think they missed?


Mel said...

FYI, the Rock Hall will be free next Saturday (Sept 26) as part of the Smithsonian Free Museum Day.

Print out your pass here:

We went to the Rock Hall last year, but I haven't been the Western Reserve since high school; I intend to rediscover it.

Michelle said...

The Rock Hall is also free on MLK Jr. Day.

If you haven't checked out the photo slideshow of the article on the Web site, I recommend it. Some really great photography of Cleveland.

Ceez said...

CB: L'Albatros is not to be missed. Yes it's French, but it's not haute. The atmosphere is much more casual than the traditional idea of a stuffy French restaurant. It's done in the brasserie style, so think fun, casual bistro dining. The price points are extremely reasonable (there isn't a single entree over 25 dollars on the regular menu) and the food and wine are simply outstanding. My favorite way to dine is to show up by myself, grab a seat at the bar, and order the house chop salad (mixed greens, Roquefort, large pearly couscous), then move into the cheese selections (their in-house fromagier, Brandon Chrostowski, is a cheese nerd to be reckoned with) and finish up with a bowl of the fresh berries dessert and a cup of espresso. Mr. Bruell has clearly outdone himself here. Do yourself a favor and check it out sometime. I've been a loyal Cleveland foodie for over 5 years now since I moved back from college and this is hands-down my favorite place to eat in the city.

-Christina Z.