Hastily made Cleveland tourism plans
July 12, 2009 9:34 AM   Subscribe

The wife and I are traveling to Cleveland, OH Tuesday and Wednesday this upcoming week. Neither of us have spent anytime there. Right now the only thing on our agenda is the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame Tuesday afternoon. Suggestions for the night?

We enjoy...

-Independent, unique stores (especially bookstores)
-Vegetarian-friendly dining
-Live music of a very wide variety
-Botanical gardens, aquariums, museums, art galleries, etc
-Grabbing a drink or three at casual bars

We do not enjoy...
-Clubs with untz untz music

Our hotel is pretty close to the RnR Hall of Fame, so anything proximal would be great, but we'll have a car available for use also.

posted by highfidelity to Travel & Transportation around Cleveland, OH (16 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
The Cleveland Museum of Art just opened up the east wing of their current renovation and it is remarkable. It is the best collection I've seen outside of New York, London, or Paris. And it's free.

Across the street from the museum is the Cleveland Botanical Garden, which I have yet to see but have heard it is fabulous.

Just up the street from University Circle, where both the previous attractions can be found, is Lake View Cemetery, a beautiful old cemetery with an enormous memorial for President James Garfield, the graves of John D. Rockefeller and Eliot Ness, and the stunning Wade Chapel, with an enormous Tiffany stained-glass window that will marvel any work of art you've seen.

Good vegetarian cuisine can be found just up the street on Coventry at a place called Tommies. Also on Coventry is the Grog Shop, my favorite indie music venue. The Beachland Ballroom is a sister venue on the other side of town that also has some interesting acts. There's also a House of Blues downtown.

Melt Bar & Grilled is a little joint on the west side of Cleveland that serves up some unique fare.

Edgewater Park is just outside downtown, on the way to Melt, if you'd like, that is a great place to see some kites, a great view of downtown, and take in a bit of Lake Eerie.

If you're looking for something a little classier, Iron Chef Michael Symon is the proprietor of Lola, an upscale joint in downtown Cleveland.

Enjoy Cleveland. It has an undeservedly negative reputation. Well, maybe it was previously deserved, but now it's a pretty cool city. And it's great this time of year.
posted by Grundlebug at 9:54 AM on July 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

Grundlebug hit this one out of the park, but: seconding Tommy's. While you're in the neighborhood, check out Mac's Backs, Record Revolution and La Cave du Vin.
posted by box at 10:06 AM on July 12, 2009

Also near University Circle is Rockefeller Greenhouse, though I think it's more fun to go there in the wintertime when it's tropical lushness presents a more dramatic contrast to the snowy desolation outside.

Just moments from University Circle (where all the museums and such are) is the fabulous Little Italy neighborhood, with many interesting little shops and restaurants.

When you're done there, you can drive up the hill, go a short distance further East on Mayfield Road and turn right into the business district of Coventry, where you'll find the famous Tommy's.
posted by jon1270 at 10:17 AM on July 12, 2009

Oops, sorry for the duplicates...
posted by jon1270 at 10:18 AM on July 12, 2009

Also at Lakeview Cemetery, you can get a self-guided audio tour (cassette or CD) "at the office just inside the Euclid Avenue entrance." The office and the Chapel are open 9am to 4pm, so I don't know how that works with your plans, but the Chapel is stunning and very worth seeing.

Also check out the West Side Market. It'd be a nice place to stop and pick up food for breakfast and lunch, though it's really tempting to just get everything you see. There is raw meat around if it bothers you a lot, (the vegetable stands are separated) but also plenty of cheeses, crepes, breads, interesting snacks, etc.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:26 AM on July 12, 2009

Lola is not very vegetarian friendly, I have to say. Momocho is, though, and we like it a lot. Another option on the West Side close to downtown (i.e. Ohio City) is The Flying Fig, which varies -- not in terms of quality, but in terms of vegetarian friendliness. Their menu changes seasonally and items that were once vegetarian sometimes surprisingly turn non-vegetarian; for example, they recently started frying a vegetable tempura appetizer in animal fat. So you might want to call ahead and ask what vegetarian options they have on their menu at the moment before you go. The food is good, though, so if there are suitable options, I'd recommend it. For drinks and a late night bite in that part of town, we like Bier Markt. They have a huge beer selection and a small but pleasant menu. I believe the frites aren't veggie (duck fat -- but you might want to ask if there's a vegetarian option; the staff is friendly) but some of their little pizzas are, and you can also customize.
posted by redfoxtail at 10:26 AM on July 12, 2009

The Flying Fig and Bier Markt are both very near the West Side Market. Also, if you go to the market, I highly recommend getting some falafel for lunch from Maha's, which is at one of the short ends of the building that's not the one where all the produce is sold. Then once you have your falafel, take it to the opposite short end of the building, and go to the opposite corner (so, this is the corner diagonally opposite Maha's). There's a door there that leads to a staircase. Go up the stairs and you'll find a walkway that runs along that side of the building, and a raised ledge (the cover to the radiators) where you can perch and eat your food -- there will be other people doing the same thing. The great thing about this is that you can watch all the action of the market from above while you eat. This is one of my very favorite Cleveland experiences.
posted by redfoxtail at 10:33 AM on July 12, 2009

Just FYI: Cleveland is an excellent restaurant town.

To me, it sounds like the two areas you would enjoy the most are the already-mentioned University Circle area, and Tremont/Ohio City.

University Circle is where the art museum and Severance Hall (which is where the Cleveland Orchestra plays) are located. Around there, you could stick around and check out Little Italy or walk over to Sergio's for a bite to eat.

As for Tremont, there's a cute independent bookstore, Visible Voices, a really great little place for brunch called Lucky's , great shopping at random little stores like the Banyan Tree. There are a few upscale restaurants here - Personally, I'm a bigger fan of Lolita, which is a scaled-down, more casual version of the previously mentioned Lola; Parallax is also an excellent restaurant. You can also go check out the Velvet Tango Room, which is one of the best drink bars in America - they make their own blue-cheese stuffed olives, bubble their own water; the Hemingway daquiri gave me a completely view for what it means to be a daquiri, and it's pretty low-key. Plus there's a putting green out back.

Ohio City also has a couple of restaurants; notably a little French place that I like - Les Petit Triangle.
posted by archofatlas at 10:35 AM on July 12, 2009

A friend from Cleveland suggests checking out Wade Oval Wednesdays at University Circle. She also highly recommends milkshakes from Tommy's and a cute independent bookstore on Larchmere called Loganberry Books.
posted by oceano at 11:00 AM on July 12, 2009

On Tuesday at Cleveland Public Theater there will be a monthly event called Dark Room, where local writers bring new works and have them read sight unseen by local actors. It's a lot of fun and the pieces, while sometimes varying widely in quality, are always interesting to hear; and there's free beer from Magic Hat brewery. I will probably be there this month.
posted by starvingartist at 11:28 AM on July 12, 2009

Oh, and Prosperity Social Club in Tremont is a great restaurant/bar. The decor is really neat and they have a bunch of old board games strewn around the bar that you can bring over to your table and play. I highly recommend the Gouda burger or the buffalo chicken sandwich (get it with bacon!).
posted by starvingartist at 11:29 AM on July 12, 2009

Vegetarian-friendly restaurants:

Vine and Bean, which specializes in local (within 100 miles) food and has quite a few vegetarian offerings.

Tommy's, which is in Coventry, sort of a fun neighborhood to explore. There are quite a few interesting shops, including Mac's Backs Paperbacks and Big Fun.

Johnny Mango isn't expressly vegetarian, but the staff there are fantastic about accommodating requests to make things vegan or vegetarian. They have a vegetarian section of the menu, but much of the regular menu can be made vegetarian upon request. If you get a big plate veggie burrito, you'll have enough food for two of you.

If you're in the mood for coffee, Phoenix Coffee is worth a visit. They usually have veg-friendly sandwiches and salads, as well.

The Stone Oven is primarily a bakery, but they have great sandwiches, soups, and salads, including several that are vegetarian-friendly. Also, their bread is delicious.

If you're into beer, you could hit up The Great Lakes Brewing Company--their menu's not super-vegetarian friendly, but there's a solid minority of dishes that would be safe. The menu's on the website, so you can check that one out before you decide to go. They also give tours of the brewery, which can be sort of fun.

The West Side is worth a visit, either searching for food or just to take in the sights. With that said, if you're squeamish about seeing meat or fish, you might be best to avoid it. Everything from seafood to whole pigs is on prominent display. If you're able to deal with the dead flesh, there are a lot of great stands that sell veg-friendly food--Judy's Oasis comes to mind, as do Orale and Kim Se. There's also a restaurant, The West Side Market Cafe, which sounds like it should be great for vegetarians but somewhat inexplicably isn't. Vegetarians should avoid it, as it'll be a disappointment.

I'm going to echo Grundlebug--Cleveland has a fantastic art museum, and the botanical garden is amazing. I'll also mention that Cleveland has a surprisingly wonderful Zoo--the Rainforest is pretty memorable.

I'll second the Grog Shop as a great venue for live music.

Maybe this is a weird suggestion, but if you enjoy exploring old cemeteries, you'd be hard-pressed to do better than Lake View Cemetery. It's just stunning. There's a chapel that you should try to see--the interior was designed by Louis Tiffany (of stained glass fame) and it's every bit as beautiful as you might expect. There are also several memorials and monuments, and the grounds are beautiful. I've spent many happy afternoons exploring here.

If you want to hit the beach, you could go to Headlands Beach State Park, with a mile-long natural sand beach, hiking trails, and a pier for fishing, if you're into that.

Also, if you're the outdoorsy type, you should check out the Metroparks system, which is a collection of parks that cover some 20,000 acres of Northeastern Ohio. They all have hiking trails, some have swimming areas, and if you're into geocaching, there's some of that, as well. There's even a haunted castle!

Smaller than the Botanical Gardens, the Rockefeller Greenhouse is a hidden gem. It's over a hundred years old and has a nice sampling of plants, including an assortment of succulents and a Japanese garden.

The Cleveland Cultural Gardens are an interesting look at history (specifically major world conflicts and immigration patterns). They're designed to educate the visitor about different cultures, but they're also just really pretty.

If you're going to be here on Wednesday evening, you could go to Wade Oval Wednesdays, which is a free concert series in Wade Oval in University Circle. It looks like this week is "Irish Folk and Celtic Music".

Who loves Cleveland? I do!
posted by MeghanC at 12:22 PM on July 12, 2009

Oh! Also, the William Mather Museum is pretty interesting--how many times do you get to go through an old steamboat? Avoid this if you are claustrophobic.

Also, the Great Lakes Science Center is fun--there's a lot of hands-on stuff, and while some of it's silly, it's still sort of neat to play with science like that.

Okay, now I'm really done.
posted by MeghanC at 12:26 PM on July 12, 2009

If you wind up in the neighborhood of the CMA, it's worth making the extra stop at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland. It's a small museum (up on the second floor of the playhouse complex), but they do some really great programming and the staff are pretty wonderful.
posted by wreckingball at 12:39 PM on July 12, 2009

Thanks for the suggestions.

And just to clarify, I'm not going to form a picket line in front of any establishment with meat for sale. Just wanted some veg-friendly options. It is always nice to know what places are open to slight modifications in order to accommodate vegetarians also.
posted by highfidelity at 2:49 PM on July 12, 2009

The Western Reserve Historical Society is also located on Wade Circle. It includes the Bingham Hanna Mansion (a lot of Ohio history), the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum, and the Chisholm Halle Costume Wing.

Nthing West Side Market. If you go, do climb the stairs and eat in the "balcony." FYI, things start to shut down around 3-ish. The Ohio City website has a list of restaurants and shops in the area.

Also nthing Little Italy! Trattoria on the Hill is fantastic - the gnocchi is primo!
posted by caroljean63 at 5:18 PM on July 12, 2009

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