CMH Gourmand

Eat, Drink, Repeat: Culinary Discovery & Misadventure in Central Ohio

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Cleveland Week: an Intro by CLEGourmand

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 10, 2013

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In the last two years among the never relenting items on my Sisyphean to do list I added – learn more about Cleveland. With some persistence, an iron lined stomach and a lot of help from Positively Cleveland, I have taken a pretty big bite out of Cleveland. The more I explore, the more I realize, I have much, much more to sample and appreciate.

I am not sure what will take you to Cleveland or the North Coast this summer. It might be tall ships, an air show, a ball game or a whim, but whatever takes you I suggest you consider staying longer and doing more. Historically, most of my Cleveland adventures were targeted missions – one destination – (maybe two or three if only food related) or attending a wedding or social soiree. The city and it’s metro area are so spread out it that the many “nuggets” that make the city special are easy to miss.

Among the components than makes the city memorable is the spirit and spunk of each of its neighborhoods. They are all separate but equal in offering character, history and something unique more than just a zip code. Clevelanders often define their own city by a demarcation line between East and West sides. Given the travel time and distances between the far-flung outposts of each side, I can understand how natives might limit their excursions to one segment of the city. However, in my ongoing explorations, it has become more apparent to me, that Cleveland is best experienced by picking a neighborhood for a day or weekend and fully immersing oneself into the culture of the place. Most of the neighborhoods I find myself leaning towards are a bit more Bohemian in nature and all are food focused. I suggest you focus on these neighborhoods when you start your Clevelandification: Ohio City, Gordon Square, Shaker Square, Tremont, Coventry and University Circle. Pick a day for each (in some cases a weekend will not do an area justice) or a long weekend to hit two and I think you will find Cleveland is more that you knew or expected.

I always knew, well at least intuitively, that Cleveland was a great place for ethnic food thanks to my college pals from Cleveland and to the writings of Laura Taxel and Marilou Suszko. In my roaming of the neighborhoods, I have found more than authentic ethnic enclaves of Polish and Italian specialties but many, many places that would send a Bay Area Locavore to hippie heaven. I have mingled with chef’s well ahead of the edge of any culinary movement seen on the Food Network. There is a pride in the food based business owners in Cleveland that is ubiquitous, contagious and inspiring. It is hard to put into words. It is not cockiness. It is very collaborative with many a person spouting off long lists of other restaurants and purveyors to try and why they are so good. This spirit crosses neighborhoods and even the east side / west side line.

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What I also discovered is that there is so much to do in between bites be it art, nature or history, that I can spend hours not eating between meals and lose track of time. I will share a few of them with you. Aperature in Tremont is a mecca for polaroid and non digital camera enthusiasts. If you are photographically challenged or inspired, you will want to see if you can get added to their next Polaroid walking tour of the area. The Cleveland Museum of Art, always worth a few hours of my time. A new discovery is Lakeview Cemetary, I could and have just wandered around the plots reading history by default on the tombstones but for a real bonus visit the James A. Garfield Monument for one of the best views of the city. And finally, even after two trips to the Rock and Roll Hall of fame, I just feel like I have scratched the surface, I could use another six hours of exploration to feel I have done the exhibits justice.

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To prepare for this week and/or your next trip, you can look back at some of my past posts about trips to Cleveland via: CLEGourmand

This week is Cleveland Week offering a post per day about some of the places that prove that Cleveland really does rock. I hope to inspire you to make a visit to enjoy what our neighbors to the north have to offer.

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