At the end of last summer I planned a short trip to Ohio during my Hipster America Project. The plan was to visit family, but also to explore two cities I hadn’t ever explored before: Cleveland and Columbus. By the end of my one-week trip, I was pretty surprised to find both cities actually quite interesting. Cleveland’s history with rock & roll is quite famous, but these days it doesn’t seem to attract the same appeal. So I set out to discover the cool side of Cleveland on my short trip. Here’s what I found…
Tremont—Cleveland’s newest hipster neighborhood
My first night in Cleveland started off with a quick visit to the Tremont neighborhood—a scenic part of Cleveland’s outskirts that was once part of a different city before being annexed to Cleveland in the 1850s. In the 20th century, the neighborhood was mostly made up of Eastern European immigrants (most notably from Poland) and today, with the influx of artists, hipsters and gentrifiers, it’s generally regarded as an up-and-coming hotspot for locals.
With farmers markets, art fairs and ethnic restaurants, Tremont is definitely the hip place to be these days in Cleveland. I walked around on a brisk, cool summer evening taking some photos and seeing what the neighborhood had to offer. The buildings were pretty (many have been restored in recent years) and the atmosphere was cozy. Lincoln Park is pretty much the historic center of Tremont and I stumbled on their farmers’ market. Plenty of art galleries and artist studios are on the streets around Lincoln Park. And for those especially ambitious tourists and movie fans, the famous Christmas Story house is located in Tremont.
For dinner I went to the highly recommended Prosperity Social Club (@ProsperitySC) in Tremont. It’s not a real social club in the historical sense, but definitely evokes the same kind of atmosphere. With a tastefully kitsch design (there’s an arcade bowling machine!) and a retro style throughout, it was the perfect ambiance for a casual, unpretentious dinner. While sitting outside in the backyard beer garden, I sampled several of their appetizers—from pierogies to empanadas—and washed it all down with a few craft beers. You could definitely tell that this was the type of place for locals, popular even on a weekday evening.
A night out in Owl City
After enjoying Prosperity Social Club’s beer garden, I decided to check out Cleveland’s other hip & trendy neighborhood: Ohio City. Historically its own city (briefly), today the area is designated “Cleveland’s Artisan Neighborhood.” The area is definitely hip with craft beer bars, nightlife, galleries, restaurants and even Cleveland’s very first hostel.
During my night out in Owl City, I went for a beer at the new Nano Brew (@nanobrewcl) which offers 24 different beers on tap. The Nano Brew bar and restaurant sits on a street corner and the bar’s outdoor patio has a nice view of the Cleveland skyline off in the distance. The bar’s logo and style definitely evoke a hipster theme, but like the Prosperity Social Club, it’s relatively unpretentious.
Hearty brunch at Latitude 41°N
After a night out of drinking Cleveland’s own local beers (don’t ask me which ones, though), I started my next morning with a big cup of *unlimited* coffee at Latitude 41°N. The restaurant is famous for their homestyle country food and their BIG brunches. Located in the Gordon Arts district, I started my morning off with their legendary Ménage à trois brunch special: eggs, toast, bacon, sausage, potatoes and unlimited Columbian coffee. I added some fried tomatoes and a quesadilla to make it extra hearty. Delicious!
Exploring the Gordon Square Arts District
After my leisurely weekday brunch, I did a bit of exploring through Cleveland’s Gordon Square Arts District (@gordonsquare). Another hipstery neighborhood, the main drag is along Detroit Street between 58th and 67th streets. With a few streets worth of independent galleries and shops, the area is definitely on the rise. The historic Capitol Theater regularly shows indie movies as well as foreign movies and documentaries, but all I saw was their retro signage.
Walking along the main street I spotted a handful of bars, restaurants and indie shops. Nothing much was open on a weekday afternoon, but on weekends and evenings I’m sure the place is buzzing with Cleveland’s hipsters.
Exploring Ohio City at daytime
Though I spent an evening out in Ohio City the night before, I went back to the arts district to discover what else I could find. One of Cleveland’s more popular tourist destinations is the West Side Market, Cleveland’s oldest food market. Today the main hall is a great place to grab lunch or just enjoy some good old-fashioned people-watching. I spotted kiosks and stands selling everything from pierogies to gyros for lunch, in addition to the typical fresh fruits, veggies & meats. One of the stands, Steve’s Gyros, was even featured on a Man vs Food episode. If you go, there’s a stairwell off near the bathrooms which you can climb up to get a birds-eye view of market.
Around the corner from the West Side Market are many of the craft beer pubs (where I did some nighttime exploring), but there were also galleries and small shops on the surrounding streets. There’s even a studio which offers glassblowing classes—something I did last year in my hometown.
Public art in downtown Cleveland
After spending most of my days exploring the outlying neighborhoods of Cleveland, I eventually decided it was time to see what downtown Cleveland had to offer. I spent a few hours inside the Rock & Roll Museum before setting out on a walk through the city center. While it was pretty quiet and there weren’t many people around, it was still a nice day for some urban exploration. I stumbled on one of Cleveland’s more famous public art pieces: the Free Stamp. Bit bizarre but the piece (sometimes called the world’s largest rubber stamp) is definitely a quirky attraction worth seeing.
Wandering around downtown Cleveland I also stumbled on some street art (“Life is sharing the same park bench”) and a weekly food truck festival (Walnut Wednesdays).
Food, glorious food! (with lots of cheese)
Continuing with my theme of eating ethnic foods in Cleveland, I decided to end my trip at one of the city’s more popular restaurants: Melt Bar & Grilled. The super-American restaurant/bar basically serves one type of meal, but with lots of variations. Grilled cheese. Can’t get much more American than that! I tried the grilled cheese sandwich with pierogies inside, and @dangerousbiz who joined me for dinner had an Italian version with meatballs. The sandwiches were massive and I’m glad I ate there…but I don’t know if I could do it a second time. This Cleveland restaurant was also featured on Man v. Food. Seems that Adam Richman and I have something in common: an interest in Cleveland’s food scene!
Cleveland—more hip than I first imagined
After spending a few days in Cleveland, I’ve definitely determined that the city is way more cool than I first guessed. Before visiting I assumed the Rock & Roll Museum would be just about the only thing to keep my interest, but getting the chance to explore the Ohio City, Tremont and Gordon Square neighborhoods, I quickly realized there was a lot more to the city. It’s particularly a good city to visit for fans of food, beer and typical Americana. After all, Cleveland is in America’s heartland.