The Tremont Tour (March 2009)
No neighborhood quite captures Cleveland’s history with a hipper vibe than Tremont. Sitting on a beautiful little bluff overlooking the bend in the Cuyahoga River, Tremont is peppered with some of Cleveland’s best bars, trendiest restaurants, coolest art galleries and best-kept cultural heritage.
The nightlife is a haven for out-of-towners and locals looking to supplement the big city feel with some small-town charm, but still within minutes from downtown Cleveland (with easy access to I-90, I-77, I-480, I-490 and 176). With the warm weather fast approaching, Tremont is also one of northern Ohio’s nicest walking neighborhoods. Within a quarter of a mile, you’ll find award-winning cafes, boutique shopping and historic buildings surrounding a New England-style town square. To capture a little of that magnetism, a sidekick and I took in a Saturday night dinner and pub crawl, discovering a variety of destinations for both a posh and casual evening.
“Tremont is eclectic,” assures Bonnie Flinner, owner of the Prosperity Social Club tavern. “There’s such a diversity of people. It’s got different income ranges. You can have a condo that’s $400,000 next to a little $50,000 workman’s cottage. And we have a lot of artists. The people that choose to live here love the real aspects of this community, while still being close to the city. I don’t think you can get that anywhere else in Cleveland.”
Prosperity Social Club is a personal favorite and a great place to start and end your Tremont tour. Located at the south end of Lincoln Park, the cozy pub captures Tremont’s nostalgia (it is one of Cleveland’s oldest neighborhoods) with warm chestnut walls, a fine selection of microbrews and live music on Thursday and Saturday nights. Vintage beer signs glow on the wall, family and friends play pool and skeet ball-style bowling, and area hipsters mix with old locals, feasting on upscale bar chow ($8.50 for a dozen fresh mussels and $12.50 for a main course like beer battered fish or apple roasted pork loin). Prosperity is essentially a gathering place.
“We started it as a social club as homage to the era this bar was built,” says Flinner. “Tremont is a very ethnic area and it’s kind of tribute to those times when everything happened at the neighborhood bar. You went there after a wedding. You went there after a funeral. You went there when you got fired. You went there when you got a job. It’s where the neighborhood congregates through good times and bad times.”
But it’s only a Stella Artois ($4.75) and an icy glass of sangria wine ($6.50) before we have to run . We journey first to Lolita to soak in the atmosphere of the famous Mediterranean bistro run by Cleveland’s most notable chef, Michael Symon (a regular Food Network culinary celebrity and Iron Chef). The neighborhood boutique is sophisticated, small and busy, so make reservations, dress with extra swank and enjoy the creative food. Exotic cured meats ($9-$12), fire-oven pizzas ($12-$13) and entrees like Hanger Steak ($18) and Goat Cheese Macaroni ($15) make for a relatively cheap dining experience for the nationally-recognized quality (like candle-lit tables, wines on tap behind the bar and an open-style kitchen to watch the cooking magic).
Tremont is saturated with similarly great eateries. The chic cantina Fat Cats is our final destination for food – a tiny retreat at the end of West 10th St. — where the creative ambience sprinkles not only into the fine food, but the art on the walls and the picturesque view of Cleveland skyscrapers.
“The neighborhood was really the most important thing,” says Fat Cats owner Ricardo Sandoval, explaining what drew him to the area. “It just has this different collection of people. We actually have a lot of artists that work here. That’s why we make our price point so affordable, so Fat Cats can be a place where everyone can come to. The menu is whimsical, we have a really nice wine list, and we’re also open for lunch six days a week.”
Downtempo and Latin jazz plays in the background at Fat Cats, local paintings accentuate the decor and two levels hold a core crowd–a melting pot of boisterous families, quiet couples and well-dressed singles waiting for a table at the bar. The knowledgeable staff convinces us to try the seared sea scallops with creamy basmati rice and a scallion salad for $21 and the popular Duck Breast with a celeriac pancake, braised wintergreens and dry cherry port sauce for $19. We walk away grinning with satisfaction for only around $50 (with no alcoholic drinks include).
Not weighed down by post-meal sleep syndrome, we take a walk around Tremont. Each street is lined with small houses that exude last century’s feeling of the early golden age of Americana. Think of the house in the movie “A Christmas Story” (www.achristmasstoryhouse.com), which is actually situated in the neighborhood (it’s a big area attraction). Tremont also has one of the largest concentrations of architecturally notable churches to be found anywhere in Ohio (like the grand St. Augustine’s Catholic Church and the magnificent St. Michael Church).
The cool air leads us to stop at the Treehouse, one of Tremont’s most clever taverns. A large ornamental tree arises of the center bar and sliced trunks make for high tables where patrons can add their own rings with a glass of chilly beer or a mixed drink. A notably young crowd is full of singles, browsing jukebox heroes like Franz Ferdinand, Bob Marley and Smashing Pumpkins or watching the Cavs game on plasma televisions in the corner. A pint of Guinness ($5.50) and pineapple infused Stoli Doli martini ($7) make us feel right at home.
The Treehouse intersects with a host of art galleries and other bars and restaurants on streets like College, Literary and Professor. Right down the road (on Professor) is another famous bistro called Fahrenheit, headed by Chef Rocco Whalen. This is the hangout for the dressed-in-black crowd, where the staff is as attractive and polished as the clientele. A woman at the bar who called herself Sukkei raved about the signature dish (Kobe Beef Short Ribs with teriyaki Lo Mein and Asian vegetables for $29). Come well dressed and don’t be afraid to mingle.
The second last stop of the Tremont tour is to Lincoln Park Pub on West 14th. This is a great blue-collar barroom where the beer flows for the working stiff and young cubs on a budget. The pub has a low-fi and relaxed atmosphere, where Alice in Chains mixes with Aretha Franklin on the radio, lines of TVs project constant sports, and patrons play pool and darts, fixing their fohawks in mirrors promoting Guinness and Harp. Bar fare includes burgers, sandwiches, potato-skin-type appetizers, and soup and salads (nothing over $9). This is the most reasonably-priced fun on our short tour.
We end the evening back as we began . . . at Prosperity, where band Acadian Driftwood is now sending Creole flavored folk music into the night air. Our circle is now complete and the sojourn home is full of talk about our favorite havens, the exotic people, and our next expedition to historic and hip Tremont — when the outdoor patios open up and al fresco dining is in the spring breeze. – Submitted by Keith Gribbins
Tags: A Christmas Story House, Bonnie Flinner, Cleveland, Fahrenheit, Fat Cats, food, Food + Drink, Lincoln Park Pub, Lolita, Ohio, Positively Cleveland, Prosperity Social Club, pubs, restaurants, Treehouse, Tremont
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