Tag Archive | Akron

Decked out in the Spirit(s) of the Season

Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens in Akron is a remarkable destination year-round, but during the winter holiday season, the historic mansion and grounds that Goodyear co-founder F.A. Seiberling once called home hold even more holiday magic and surprises during the annual Deck the Hall! celebration.

While Deck the Hall! is always a much-anticipated year-end event, the 2010 incarnation, “A Dickens of a Christmas,” mixes Stan Hywet’s atmosphere with characters of the Yuletide classic, A Christmas Carol. Thanks to characters from Akron’s “History Firsthand” troupe, seasonal visitors might wander past Ebenezer Scrooge muttering to himself while counting his money or catch a tune from Fezziwig’s ball while touring the estate’s magnificent surroundings. Forty areas of the mansion are being transformed to fit the Dickensian theme, and like old Scrooge himself, you’ll be able to experience the transformation all in one night.

“We’re going to bring it to life,” says Stan Hywet communications manager Donna Spiegler. “And the same characters won’t be there every day, so you never know who you’ll see.”

Visitors will step back in time and into Dickens’ territory from the moment they set foot in the courtyard’s vintage village. And, they’ll get in the spirit with a 20-foot Christmas tree which gets its own lighting ceremony each day at 5:30pm.

“You’ll know you’ve arrived at something special,” Spiegler says. “You’ll be able to buy hot cider and hot cocoa in one of the little houses and gingerbread cookies in another.”

Still more surprises await in the music room, where Deck the Hall! features live music every night, including local church choirs and music groups, solo pianists and tunes played on the Hall’s recently-restored Aeolian organ. The tours are self-guided so there’s no need to hurry back to the present . . . feel free to enjoy your own pleasant ghosts of Christmas past.

Stan Hywet’s famed conservatory will also be decorated and illuminated in the holiday spirit and, in the old tack room and horse stalls of the Carriage House, visitors are invited to browse and eat in the cozy confines of Molly’s Shop and Café. Molly’s menu features salads and gourmet sandwiches and wraps made with organic ingredients from the local Mustard Seed Market & Café, along with scrumptious freshly-baked cookies and scones.

This year, you can do more than just read A Christmas Carol. Spend a few hours at Stan Hywet and you can almost live it – and that’s a great Christmas surprise.

(Deck the Hall! is open from 5 to 8pm, November 26-30, December 2-5, 9-12, 16-19, 21-23 and 26-30.) — Submitted by John Booth, guest blogger

Cleveland Plus Drive-Ins

Pop a few bags of popcorn, swing by b.a.Sweeties for some Swedish fish and put on the most comfortable pair of pajamas you own. It’s time to load the kids into the family vehicle that most closely resembles a station wagon and partake in a summer tradition that conjures up memories from “back in the day.”

When searching for something family-friendly and nostalgic, look to the wide variety of drive-in theater options sprinkled around the Cleveland Plus region.

Cleveland West:
Aut-o-Rama Outdoor Theatre (about 30 minutes west of downtown)
33395 Lorain Road, Elyria
440. 327.9595
www.autoramadrivein.com

Cleveland East:
Mayfield Road Drive-In Theatre (about 45 minutes east of downtown)
12010 Mayfield Road, Chardon
440) 286-7173
www.funflick.com

Skyway Drive-In Theatre (about 1 hour southeast of downtown)
1805 North Leavitt Road Northwest, Warren
330.989.3059
www.skywaydrivein.com

Elm Road Twin Drive-In Theatre (about 1 hour, 15 minutes southeast of downtown)
1895 Elm Road Northeast, Warren
330.372.9732
www.elmroadtripledrivein.com

Pymatuning Lake Drive-In (about 1.5 hours east of downtown)
State Route 7 & Marvin Road, Andover
440.293.7757

Near Akron:
Magic City Drive-In (about 20 minutes south of Akron)
5602 Cleveland Massillon Road, Barberton
330.825.4333
www.magiccitydrive-in.com

Blue Sky Drive-In Theater (about 20 minutes west of Akron)
959 Broad Street, Wadsworth
330.334.1809
www.blueskydrive-in.com

Midway Drive-In Theatre (about 30 minutes east of Akron)
State Rt. 59, Ravenna
330.296.9829
www.funflick.com

Springmill Drive-In Theatre (about 1 hour southeast of Akron)
1040 Springmill Street, Mansfield
419.747.2156
www.greateasterntheatres.com/springmillhome.asp

Sunset Drive-In Theatre (about 1 hour southwest of Akron)
4018 Park Ave West, Mansfield
419.529.5986

While the car is packed, you should roll into one of the area’s authentic drive-in restaurants:

Skyway Drive-In Restaurants (three locations)
www.skywaydrive-in.com

  • 951 East Turkeyfoot Road (Rt. 619), Green
    • 330.896.9350
  • 2781 West Market Street, Fairlawn
    • 330.836.2806
  • 3296 Medina Road (Rt. 18), Medina
    • 330.721.8561

Swenson’s Cheeseburgers (seven locations)
www.swensonsdriveins.com

  • 40 S. Hawkins Avenue, Akron
    • 330.864.8416
  • 658 E. Cuyahoga Falls Avenue, Akron
    • 330.928.8515
  • 4466 Kent Road (rt.59), Stow
    • 330.678.7775
  • 40 Brookmont Road, Akron
    • 330.665.1858
  • 7635 Broadview Road, Seven Hills
    • 216.986.1934
  • 5815 Wales Avenue, Massillon
    • 330.833.5454
  • 1558 N Main Street, North Canton
    • 330.499.9494

Sonic Drive-In (three locations)
www.northcoastdriveins.com

  • 3280 Center Road, Brunswick
    • 330.273.6836
  • 1842 Snow Road Midtown Plaza, Parma
    • 216.661.7561
  • 9780 State Route 14, Streetsboro
    • 330. 626.9601

– Submitted by A.I.

Some Local Patty Pig-Outs (Best Burger Joints)

Menches Bros

Menches Bros. restaurant is still family owned and operated.

Frank and Charles Menches from Akron, Ohio are credited with inventing the hamburger when they ran out of pork for sausage patties they were selling at the 1885 Erie County Fair and decided to spice up some beef (with coffee, brown sugar and other ingredients) and hawk them as “hamburgers,” so named for Hamburg, NY, where the fair was held. Later, they went on to open Menches Bros. Restaurant, which is still family owned and operated in Akron, where their legendary burgers are served.

So, as the birthplace of the hamburger, it should come as no surprise that Cleveland Plus offers up an inspired array of burgers.

B Spot

In addition to the location in Avon, another Chef Symon location opened in Woodmere on the east side of town. The restaurant features Symon’s famous burgers, brats, bologna, craft beers and the renowned “Fat Doug” burger (beef patty topped with pastrami, Swiss  cheese and coleslaw on a brioche bun) winner of the 2010 South Beach Wine and Food Festival’s Burger Bash.
216.292.5567, www.bspotburgers.com

Brennan’s Colony
Wood booths and an old-fashioned neighborhood appeal await you at Brennan’s Colony. Once you’ve quit playing the Ms. Pacman arcade game, refuel with one of the bar-inspired burgers Brennan’s offers. Try the juicy “All World Burger” for one of the best burgers in town.
216.371.1010

Buckeye Beer Engine
This place really celebrates beer by specializing in hard-to-find quality drafts with nearly 30 exceptional local and microbrews on tap.  And, the burger list is off the charts. Try the West Side burger, equipped with caramelized onions, sour cream, and a cheddar potato pierogi or take a stab at the Fatty Melt, with a patty placed between two grilled cheese sandwiches, topped with bacon and tomato. If beef isn’t your preference, you can also substitute a multitude of different patty options, including a Portobello mushroom cap or chicken breast.
216.226.2337, www.buckeyebeerengine.com

Cleveland ChopHouse & Brewery
Casual elegance of the ‘40s-inspired specializing in delicious steaks, chops, BURGERS, white cheddar mashed potatoes and handcrafted beers.
216.623.0909, www.chophouse.com

Fire Food & Drink
This eatery, tucked away in historic Shaker Square, offers a sophisticated menu with an interesting burger surprise. The Miller Farm grass fed beef cheeseburger uses naturally raised beef to create a more organic burger experience. This burger is supplied by the nearby Miller Farm and is garnished with cheddar, tomato relish, mustard aioli and garlic fries.
216.921.3473, www.firefoodanddrink.com

Johnny’s Little Bar
Considered a true hidden gem, Johnny’s Little Bar offers what many rate as the best burgers in the city and a plentiful beer list. Located behind the ultra-upscale Johnny’s Downtown, Little Bar offers up a cool, casual atmosphere in a (you guessed it) very little bar.
216.861.2166, www.johnnyscleveland.com/johnnys_littlebar.html

Metro Bar + Kitchen
The recently opened Metro Bar + Kitchen is a dynamic, hip, energetic restaurant featuring a mouthwatering menu chocked full of American classics and a bar serving more than 15 craft and microbrews. Entering the emerging “burger bar” scene, Metro brings its own version of this American pastime to the forefront.
216.241.1300, www.metrobarandkitchen.com

Shula’s II
Owned by legendary NFL coach Don Shula, Shula’s 2 is part sports bar and part casual dining. The menu features steaks and burgers with a focus on “The Shula Cut” and premium black angus beef. A great place to enjoy televised sports.
216.901.7852, www.donshula.com

Swenson’s Drive-In
Wesley T. “Pop” Swenson opened the first original Swenson’s restaurant in 1934. This quintessential American drive-in restaurant features burgers with a secret sauce that’s been in the family since its inception. (Veg-heads, there’s a veggie burger on the menu too!)
www.swensonsdriveins.com

Tommy’s
Grab an interesting veggie burger or a juicy Curtburger at a Cleveland landmark, Tommy’s. This veggie-focused eatery offers a wide variety of healthy dishes as well as ones catered to the carnivorous. The winner of numerous “best casual meal” awards, Tommy’s is a restaurant worth trying.
216.321.7757, www.tommyscoventry.com

Check out these other great burger restaurant suggestions submitted by Twitter users following @PositivelyCleve:

Academy Tavern: 216.229.1171

The Greenhouse Tavern: 216.443.0511, www.thegreenhousetavern.com

Cedar Lee Pub and Grill: 216.371.1713

56 West: 216.226.0056, www.fiftysixwest.com

Heck’s Café: 216.861.5464, www.heckscafe.com

Parkview Nite Club: 216.961.1341, www.parkviewniteclub.com

Rocky River Brewing Co: 440.895.2739, www.rockyriverbrewco.com

–Submitted by ML, CA and SF.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you have a favorite Northeast Ohio burger not listed here, please comment below so we can add it to the list.

Cleveland Plus Baseball

When the weather turns warm and the sunshine makes its grand arrival, we want nothing more than to spend some time outside. Patio dining is always a wonderful option in Cleveland Plus and our park systems are some of the best in the country. Not to mention Cleveland is home to several outdoor music venues and we’re a stone’s throw away from Sandusky, Ohio, home of Cedar Point Amusement Park. I love the hiking, I love the concerts but what I crave the most, by far, is baseball.

We’re very lucky to be home to both a major and minor league team and with so many options to take in a game in Cleveland you’re very likely to find a lineup appropriate for you. From family-friendly deals to beers for a dime on “Thirsty Thursday,” everyone gets to play in Cleveland Plus.

It’s Tribe Time at Progressive Field
Progressive Field, formerly Jacob’s Field or “the Jake,” sits in the heart of downtown Cleveland in the Gateway district, among popular hangouts, entertainment and dining making a trip to the stadium more than just a game. Fans enjoy spectacular views of the city from every seat and friendly accommodations are within homerun distance of the park.

Not to miss at Progressive Field:

  • AMPM All You Can Eat Seats – Fans enjoy an Indians home game in the Upper Deck and unlimited hot dogs, peanuts, popcorn, nachos and soft drinks for $28.
  • KeyBank Kids Fun Days – Select Sundays are KeyBank Kids Fun Day at Progressive Field. The Indians provide a unique atmosphere on Gateway Plaza at least two hours prior to designated Tribe games filled with fun activities for kids of all ages like blow-up slides and batting practice.
  • There are plenty of ways to save on tickets. Click here for ticket specials.
  • Fans enjoy a fireworks show after Friday night games (and some Saturdays) through September 10.
  • Monthly Sweepstakes offer up some pretty cool prizes like Batting Practice Xtra passes, ampm All You Can Eat seats and Club Seats in the all inclusive Club Section at Progressive Field.
  • The FanCave,  the ultimate sports suite is the newest addition to Progressive Field. Available for rent with food and beverage package, the Fan Cave features 6 HD TVs, a beer fridge, sports-themed furniture, pool/ping pong table, arcade games and toilet paper decorated with the opponent’s logo.

Stay at: Hilton Garden Inn, Renaissance, Ritz-Carlton Cleveland, Hyatt Regency Cleveland at the Arcade, Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites, Radisson Hotel Cleveland-Gateway

Lake County Captains at Classic Park
Classic Park opened in 2003 and quickly became known as one of the most intimate and fan-friendly parks in the minor league. The ballpark, constructed by the city of Eastlake, combines nostalgic charm with amenities of the modern sports facility and provides plenty of seating options from festival seating above the outfield wall all the way to luxury suites in the upper deck. Classic Park offers an affordable, comfortable and enjoyable experience.

Not to miss at Classic Park:

  • Weekly Promotions – Great deals every day of the week like “Kids Eat Free Tuesdays” and “Thirsty Thursdays.” Check them out here.
  • Check the promotion schedule for extras like fireworks, fan appreciation giveaways and other special events.
  • Classic Park provides a variety of food and drink at very affordable prices. Specialty food and drinks are served at Grillworks, Captains Galley, Sausage Shack, Munchie Madness, Ice Cream. Bottled beer is served at all portable locations and Corona Castaway’s Bar offers a fully stocked bar.
  • Kids Zone – Located behind the bleacher and lawn seats in left field, the PNC Kids Zone features inflatables such as speed pitch, bouncer and a slide.

Baseball Heritage Museum
Experience the stories, photographs, letters, programs, uniforms and other game-used treasured memorabilia detailing the important contributions from the Latin and Caribbean leagues, the Industrial and Barnstormer leagues and the Negro and Women’s leagues that helped shape the history of the great American pastime. The Baseball Heritage Museum is open by appointment only and admission is donation based. Call 216.978.5068 to visit.

Akron Aeros
The Aeros are a Double A Affiliate of the Cleveland Indians playing in Akron, Ohio just a short trip south on I-77. Like the Lake County Captains, the Aeros offer a traditional baseball experience paired with creative family-friendly promotions and special events like “Dollar Dog Mondays,” “Two for Tuesdays” and “Fireworks Fridays.” Ticket prices range from $7 to $9 and can be purchased by calling 1.800.97.AEROS or visiting www.akronaeros.com.

Lake Erie Crushers
Head east to catch a baseball game at the newly built All Pro Freight Stadium in Avon, Ohio. The Crushers are an independent, professional minor league team meaning, essentially, their players are not working their way up in the Major League system. The family-friendly stadium (with a grassy knoll and an inflatable jumping course) holds around 5,000 people and ticket prices range from $6 to $18. Check the calendar for special events and weekly promotions like “Kids Club Night,” “Family Day” and “Thirsty Thursday.” Call 440.934.3636 or visit www.lakeeriecrushers.com for tickets.

With so many opportunities it’d be hard to miss the “boys of summer” this year in Cleveland Plus!

–Submitted by C.A.

Smile and Say (Goat) Cheese

Our food scene here isn’t exactly a secret. With top-notch microbreweries, award-winning local wineries, chic eateries, homestyle ethnic cooking and, oh yeah, a genuine Food Network Iron Chef who got his start here and still runs a few choice Cleveland Plus restaurants, it’s pretty well-known that you don’t have to look far for a fantastic meal.

But it’s a good bet you didn’t know that Northeast Ohio has is building reputation for the award-winning gourmet cheeses crafted at the region’s goat milk dairies, or that these artisan cheeses are helping bolster the “farm-to-table” dining that brings unequaled freshness and variety to so many area restaurants. 

Cleveland’s Lake Erie Creamery, for instance, offers five handmade goat’s milk cheeses, including their soft-ripened Blomma, which took the Grand Prize for Dairy at the 2008 Gallo Family Vineyards Gold Medal Awards. And the goat milk for this urban creamery comes from neighboring Portage County’s family-run Cherry Lane Farm. You can savor Lake Erie Creamery’s handiwork with a visit to landmark and world-class restaurants like The Baricelli Inn in Little Italy, the Bistro on Lincoln Park and fire food and drink—all who have had it on their menus.

Mackenzie Creamery in Hiram offers ten intriguing and tempting varieties of its goat milk cheeses. In addition to the likes of Black Truffle and Garlic Chive, Mackenzie offers more adventurous creations like its “Sweet Fire” (which includes blackberry and hot pepper flavors) and “You Say Tomato.” This rural Portage County cheese-maker has also raked in big awards, receiving Best of Show, Reserved Best of Show, one second place and two first place awards in 2007 at the American Dairy Goat Association National Cheese Competition.

 Want to take some cheese home with you? The 25,000-square-foot gourmet food West Point Market in Akron carries Mackenzie Creamery cheeses. And you can find both of these marvelous artisan products at Cleveland’s historic West Side Market and other foodie friendly retail outlets. –Submitted by John Booth

EDITOR’S NOTE: Read more about Ohio goat cheeses here (Our Ohio) and here (Plain Dealer).

Cleveland Plus Clambakes

As a Clevelander, I never gave the popularity of clambakes a second thought. But, just like Sweetest Day (a candymaker concoction that is apparently only really celebrated widely in the Great Lakes region and some the Northeast United States) or referring to Coke and Pepsi as “pop,” clambakes are a regional thing. Perhaps due to many of our New England roots, Clevelanders love to gather with friends and family over a meal of clams, chicken, sweet corn and potatoes. Whether it’s a big backyard bash or a gathering at one of the many local restaurants serving up the essentials, when the weather just begins to turn chilly you’re certain to find a clambake happening somewhere in Northeast Ohio.

CLEVELAND PLUS RESTAURANTS HOSTING, SERVING OR CATERING CLAMBAKES:
Tick-Tock Tavern – 11526 Clifton Boulevard, Lakewood / 216.631.6111
Don’s Lighthouse – 8905 Lake Avenue, Cleveland / 216.961.7000
Blake’s Seafood Restaurant & Bar – 9 Main Street, Westlake; 440.892.3474
Pickle Bills – 101 River Street, Grand River; 440.352.6343
Mavis Winkle’s Irish Pub – 5005 Rockside Road, Independence; 216.525.0770 + AND 8700 Darrow Road, Twinsburg; 330.405.3663
Thirsty Parrot – Let the Thirsty Parrot host your clambake. 440.356.7202

CLAMBAKE EVENTS:

Sundays through September 27, Pickwick and Frolic Anniversary Clam Bake @ Pickwick & Frolic Restaurant and Club –2035 E. 4th Street, Cleveland / 216.241.7425
Join Pickwick and Frolic as they celebrate their seventh anniversary with a clambake every Sunday through the month of September. Admission is just $7 and the event runs from 4-7pm.

Fridays & Saturdays through October 11 – Clam Bake @ The American Tavern & Eatery
28020 Miles Road, Solon / 440.349.3736 Cup of Clam Chowder, 12 steam clams, clam broth, corn on the cob, sweet potatoes, chicken breast ($20.95), sirloin steak ($24.95) or crab legs ($27.95)

September 18 + 25, 2009 – Clam or Steak Bake @ Debonne Vineyards
7743 Doty Road, Madison / 800.424.9463
Dinner includes a dozen clams or 14 oz. steak, ½ chicken, New England Clam Chowder, sweet potatoes, red skin potatoes, corn on the cob, salads, chicken broth and bread & butter. Make reservations at least five days in advance because this is a pre-paid, non-refundable ticket event. $25.95 per person.

September 18-20 – Clambake Weekend @ The Winking Lizard (Bedford Heights)

September 19 – Fall Clam Bake @ Tree Top Café at The Inn & Spa at Honey Run
6920 County Road 203, Millersburg / 800.468.6639
Hearty clam chowder, whole Maine lobster with fresh drawn butter, roasted half chicken, one dozen little neck clams, corn on the cob, sweet potatoes, cole slaw, soft drinks. $65/person. Seating from 6-8pm. Reservations required.

September 19 – Oberlin Inn’s Clam Bake Murder Mystery Package
7 North Main Street, Oberlin / 440.775.1111
Package includes: Overnight accommodations, clams, chicken & sausage and a murder mystery. Cash bar available. Outdoor event. $78 per person. Call for reservations.

September 19-20 – Firehouse Clam Bake & Food Extravaganza @ Old Firehouse Winery
5499 Lake Road, Geneva-on-the-Lake

September 25-26 – Clam Bake @ The Mustard Seed
3885 West Market Street, Akron / 330.666.SEED
4-9pm. Call for details and reservations.

September 25-27 – Clambake Weekend @ The Winking Lizard (Macedonia, Peninsula, Mentor, Avon, Brunswick, Canton and Fairlawn)

September 26 – Put-In-Bay Fire Department Clam Bake @ Put-In-Bay Fire Station
Volunteer Fire Department Island Style Clam Bake. Call 419.285.7805 for tickets.

September 27 – Great Western Reserve Clambake @ Lake County History Center
8610 Mentor Road, Kirtland / 440.255.8979
Dinner includes clam chowder, clams, bar-b-que chicken, ribs, corn, sweet potato, cole-slaw, rolls and butter and dessert. Open 1-5pm, serving 1:-3:30pm. LCHS members $28/ non-members $33. Reservations required.

October 2-3 – Clam Bake @ The Mustard Seed
3885 West Market Street, Akron / 330.666.SEED
4-9pm. Call for details and reservations.

October 8-9 – Gourmet Clam Bake @ Chez Francois Restaurant
555 Main Street, Vermilion / 440.967.0630
Farm-raised Littleneck Clams from Virginia and Prince Edward Island mussels from Nova Scotia, lobster caught off the coast of Massachusetts and Bell & Evans Free Range chicken from Pennsylvania. Top-quality, fresh and prepared just right.

October 10-11 – 2nd Annual Fall Fest & Fine Art Fair @ Crocker Park
25 Main Street, Westlake, Ohio / 440.871.6880
The event features a clam bake, a special fall farmers market, music, dancing and more. The highlight of the event is the 99 juried artist booths on Main Street.

October 11 – Inaugural Fall Clam Bake Scramble @ Blue Heron Golf Club
3225 Blue Heron Trace, Medina / 330.722.0227
12pm Shotgun, 4-player Scramble. $35 for dinner only. Open to the public.

Read More…

More than a Game

Akron premiere of "More than a Game." Two main images by JNiesel.

Akron premiere of "More than a Game." LeBron James and Kristopher Belman. Photos: JNiesel.

I had the good luck to be able to attend the Akron premiere of the Kristopher Belman documentary “More than a Game.” It was an extremely rainy Monday night, but that didn’t stop a ton of media, some lucky fans, basketball player Chris Paul and Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic from showing up at the Civic Theatre to see the film about LeBron James, four of his teammates (James Dru Joyce III, Willie McGee, Sian Cotton and Romeo Travis) and their inspirational coach (Dru Joyce II) on a journey to win a national high school basketball championship.

The film chronicles the story of each of the “Fab 5″ teammates as they progress from challenged urban youth to become winning men. The coming of age story weaves together interviews with the tight-knit group of players, personal photos, home videos and news clips to depict the highs and lows this “family” faced to reach their goals.

Before the movie, Belman, an Akron native, stood on the stage at the showing and said he had ” one dream and one goal” which was to tell the story of this team and to bring it home to share with his friends and family. After, there was a “Q+A” session for the audience with Belman, Coach Dru and four of the “Fab 5″ in which it was evident that one) all had gone on to be successes in their own ways (graduating from college, playing in the NBA, starting families of their own) and two) they were all still close friends.

“More than a Game” will be released October 2. For more information, visit www.morethanagamemovie.com. –Submitted by SF

All-American Soap Box Derby

09SoapBoxDerby_AkronI had the distinct pleasure of attending the 72nd Annual All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron on Saturday, July 25, 2009. I told a friend I had seen soap box races along the shoreway in Cleveland, but never been to “the” derby in Akron. His response was, “Akron is to soap box racing as Indianapolis is to car racing.”

Turns out, even on a misty gray day, folks turn out in a big way for this gravity race. There were some 600 entrants from around the US (and as far as Japan) ages eight to 17 participating. These kids had won qualifying races or earned points racing in “rally races” throughout the country and their friends and families were on the sidelines (under tents, in pop-up chairs, lining the bleacher seats or patiently waiting at the starting line) ready to cheer them on.

The Akron three-lane track is permanent. The culminating race is held there every July. Racers, tucked down in their cars with just a sliver view of the track ahead, go down the hill in heats. Their finishes are timed, photographed and filmed to ensure accuracy. How do they get back up to the top? Their cars are loaded on trailers and vans and driven back to the starting line.

Read More…

Menches Bros.

Menches Bros' great burger recipe dates back to 1885.

Menches Bros' great burger recipe dates back to 1885.

I spent Saturday, July 25, 2009, in Akron, Ohio, showing around Gordon Sparks, a BBC journalist in town for a couple of weeks, a little of the “plus” in Cleveland Plus. We started off Menches Bros. The Akron tradition (with restaurants in Green and by the Akron Aeros‘ stadium) is a family-owned business and Judy Menches-Kusmits was gracious enough to meet us at the downtown location for lunch even though they weren’t opening until 4pm for pre-game diners. Judy explained that Frank and Charles Menches are credited with inventing the hamburger when they ran out of pork for sausage patties they were selling at the 1885 Erie County Fair and decided to spice up some beef (with coffee, brown sugar and other ingredients) and hawk them as “hamburgers,” so named for Hamburg, NY, where the fair was held.  And, legend has it that in 1904 at the St. Louis World’s Fair, the duo decided to use cone-shaped waffles holding their ice cream, thereby creating their “Premium” ice cream cones.

Read More…

Fistful of Festivals: 15 Big Celebrations to Round Out a Great Cleveland Summer

Ingenuity, Cleveland’s Festival of Art and Technology
July 10-12
Playhouse Square
What do aerospace engineers at NASA have in common with a Cleveland psychobilly band like the Whiskey Daredevils? Well, you can find both at Ingenuity, Cleveland’s Festival of Art and Technology–a weekend-long celebration of art, music and technology, designed for audiences of any age, staged in the center of downtown Cleveland. More than 70 organizations and about 1,000 arts and technology groups (from UrbanArtz to the CSU Chemistry Department to Three Olives Vodka) come together for the unique festival that is celebrated throughout Cleveland’s streets, alleys, and performance venues. It has piano competitions, virtual entertainment, poetry readings, technology lectures, design contests, film presentations, tons of great bands, and a crazy amount of bizarre acts and exhibits. High technology firms and major colleges and universities are presented alongside acclaimed artists to create a dazzling display of exciting new work you won’t find anywhere in the country. Cost: Single day is $10, weekend $15, children 12 and under are free.

Italian-American Council Festival
July 10-12
Akron, Lock 3
The tastes and smells of Italy mix with the culture and atmosphere of Akron and its downtown Lock 3 Park at the Council of Italian-American Societies’ 62nd annual Italian-American Festival. Dabble in wine tastings, Italian cooking classes, bocce tournaments, car shows and plenty of people watching, scored to a background of bands like Hotel California (an Eagles tribute outfit) and the Sands Trio (a homage to the Rat Pack). The Budweiser Clydesdales even parade down Main Street on Saturday (3-5pm) and Sunday (12:30pm). For the bold, we suggest the pizza eating contents on Sunday (1:30-2:30pm), where pie and man fight for supremacy. A Catholic Mass is held on Sunday at 11am (where all gluttony is forgiven) followed by a spaghetti dinner (where all gluttony begins anew). Cost: Free

Wellington Cheese Festival
July 17-19
Downtown Wellington
Slicing and dicing oodles of dairy delights, the City of Wellington cuts more cheese than any healthy Ohio town probably should. Luckily, it’s all in honor of the annual Cheese Festival–a celebration of crafts, rides, live entertainment and most of all Wellington’s cheesy history (throughout the 19th Century Wellington was known as the country’s Cheese Capital with 40 factories). Enjoy the grub–cheese on a stick, cheese hotdogs, cheese popcorn, cheese pizza and a variety of unique dairy blends–while participating in a bevy of activities (which in the past included) the Cheese Olympics (including a cheese shot put), Kids Cheesefest (mold chunks of Velveeta into . . . anything), and the Cheese Festival Parade (full of floats, marching bands and your favorite farm animals). Cheesecake bake-offs, kid rides, a petting zoo and a slew of food and beverage booths round out this tasty event. 

27th Annual Cleveland’s Irish Cultural Festival
July 24-26
Berea Fairgrounds
09IrishFestOver a quarter of a century of great and green Cleveland-Irish heritage are honored this July in Berea. The Annual Irish Cultural Festival celebrates Northern Ohio’s lively and historic Irish traditions with more than 20 bands on nine stages, dancing schools, live theatre, a children’s area and tons more. Irish and American specialties like bangers, bridies, boxty, Irish stew and corned beef are available in the food court. Then relax to the high-spirited magic of musicians from Ireland and America like the Hedge Band, the Irish Descendants, Cherish the Ladies and the Screaming Orphans. Outdoor Mass on Sunday is always a festival highlight, with renowned Celtic harpist Dennis Doyle. Cost: General admission is $10 and parking is free; kids under 10 are free too.

Balloon Classic Invitational/Jackson-Belden Food Fest & Fireworks
July 31-August 2
Kent State Stark Campus
More than 75 excitingly slow and lumbering hot air balloons compete for big money ($19,000 and other prizes) at the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival Balloon Classic Invitational in Canton. And while these inflatable aircraft compete for your love and cash, the Jackson-Belden Food Fest will win over your stomach next door. Around 25 vendors (both from in and out of state) cook up first-rate foods for balloon gawkers–sausage and pulled pork sandwiches, homemade ice cream, ribs, apple and cherry cobblers, wine and beer, and yes, even corn dogs. Some 100,000+ people will come to enjoy the exquisite fair food while watching balloons like “Piggles,” the floating piggy bank, “Touchdown,” an enormous flying football, and “Off the Wall,” a Humpty Dumpty balloon. Plus the festival will have its share of fiery explosions — at the Saturday night fireworks display for sure, but also at the Friday Night Glow, when the balloons tether to the ground and fill their envelopes with propane. Cost: Admission is free; $5 for parking after 3pm.

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