In the past few years, my perceptions of Cleveland, our neighbor to the north, have become increasingly more positive. What used to be – in my mind – the city of expensive bars (the flats), a contrived museum (Rock & Roll Hall of Fame) and the morgue (my cousin works for the Cuyahoga County Morgue; it’s an association thing) has now become a city of diverse culinary treats, professional entertainment and a historical and cultural playground.
In short, for me, Cleveland has become a tourist destination instead of a duty, and I blame three things. For one, I’m getting older and my interests have changed. Two, there’s a glimmer of hope that there will be passenger rail from my city to theirs; I’ve – dangerously – allowed myself to imagine myself using said rail. And finally, one of my favorite National Public Radio programs, Marketplace, has featured Cleveland’s restaurant scene not once, but twice. If Marketplace loves Cleveland, than surely I can, as well.
The two-day trip was not a gastro-tour, but more like a well-rounded array of some of Cleveland’s highlights, her Greatest Hits. Even so, our trip started with the West Side Market in Ohio City, minutes away from our bed and breakfast. Cleveland is unique in Ohio as being (be ready to be impressed as I throw out my grocery store knowledge) the only city where independent markets and locally own chains do better than their national grocery counterparts. With a giant ominous bell tower, West Side Market seems to say, “Giant Eagle Beware: I will crush you.”