Pick a weekend in Cleveland, and visitors can find a chance to boogie with bagpipers, drift downriver on dragonboats, “mangia” manicotti and more. With such an appreciation and celebration of the 117 different ethnicities that make up our region, it’s not just Cleveland, Ohio… it’s more like Cleveland, World.
May – September: Throughout the summer months, Cleveland’s gourmet cuisine on wheels comes together for Walnut Wednesdays. Nearly a dozen of the area’s most popular food trucks gather in downtown’s NineTwelve District for delicious food, live music and an enjoyable mid-day break.
May 11: The Kamm’s Corners neighborhood recently introduced a new type of ethnic celebration to Cleveland. The Hooley (an Irish slang term for “party”) brings together the community for day of music, pipes and drummers, Irish dancers and food vendors galore. The inaugural year brought out more the 15,000 attendees for a block party like none other.
May 25 – 28: Each year on Memorial Day weekend, families head to the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in the Tremont Neighborhood for delicious traditional dishes such as moussaka and hours of Greek music and dancing at the Tremont Greek Festival.
May18 – 19: In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month the region’s Asian community hosts the annual Cleveland Asian Festival, a weekend of fun for the entire family. With cultural performances, martial arts demonstrations, children’s activities, authentic Asian cuisine, trolley tours and fun competitions, this festival is quickly becoming a “not-to-be-missed” summer activity.
May 24 – 27: Get the bib ready for some lip-smacking, finger-licking fun at the Berea National Rib Cook-Off at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds. Rib masters battle it out to provide some of the tastiest ribs in town with other events for kids, themed nights and a slew of favorite local bands.
May 24 – 27: Taste all of the delicious barbeque goodness provided when grill pros go head-to-head to earn best ribs in the land during the Marc’s Annual Great American Rib Cook-off and Music Festivalat Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica.
June 8: A free community arts celebration, Parade the Circle incorporates the drama and artistry of handmade colorful floats (no motorized vehicles, though), giant puppets, bright costumes, handmade masks, stilt-walkers, dancers and musicians. Held in University Circle, the nation’s most concentrated square mile of arts and cultural institutions, the event draws more than 60,000 people every year.
June 14 – 16: Attendees choose from more than 200 wine samples from around the world while learning about new and exciting varieties from the experts at the Cleveland Wine Festival, located at Voinovich Park in downtown Cleveland. Some of the region’s best restaurants and caterers are on-hand selling their signature dishes.
June 20 – 22: At the 35th Annual Ohio Scottish Games on the Lorain County Fairgrounds, traditional musicians compete head to head in solo piping and drumming, pipe bans, harping fiddling and highland dancing. As a one-day escape to the highlands, visitors are immersed in traditional Scottish culture with massed bagpipe bands, along with art displays and traditional food. The weekend also features Clan Village where heritage clans and societies gather to assist the general public with family, genealogy and membership questions pertaining to their clan/society.
June 28 – 30: The community of Lorain located west of Cleveland, hosts a week-long annual International Festival and Bazaar to celebrate various nationalities and cultures. Along with authentic music, live performances and costumes, a three-day bazaar features more than 40 food vendors and craft booths with products from native lands.
July 11: A not-to-be-missed summer event great for the whole family is the Taste of Tremont. For the past ten years, this art and culinary-centric neighborhood throws a massive street fair to showcase all the best that Tremont has to taste.
July19 – 21: The Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival seeks to preserve, memorialize and document Irish history and traditions. The festival includes more than 20 performers on nine stages, a multitude of exhibits and Irish vendors. From traditional Celtic dancers, pipe bands and harpists to massive rock bands, the festival truly exemplifies the spirit of the Irish community.
July: Help Cleveland celebrate environmental awareness with great music, incredible food and a frothy pint of Great Lakes Brewing Company beer during the Great Lakes Burning River Festival. Held at the historic Coast Guard Station on Whiskey Island, this festival features educational exhibitors who raise awareness of environmental issues affecting the region.
August 2- 3: Vintage Ohio Wine Festival, an annual wine festival held at Lake Farmpark, features the latest and greatest offerings by some of Ohio’s best vineyards. Besides all the wonderful wine, visitors can enjoy the fabulous food offered by participating restaurants with menu items ranging from $3-$10. Also experience great music, entertainment, crafters, exhibitors and cooking demonstrations.
August 15 – 18: Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood is famous for its annual four-day festival, Feast of the Assumption. The throughout the weekend, affectionately called “The Feast,” the streets are shut down and all the family-owned Italian eateries bring their menu to the streets where more than 100,000 people visit just to get a taste.
August 17 – 18: During The National Hamburger Festival, at Lock 3 Park in downtown Akron, burger fans in goggles bob for foam hamburger patties in a kiddie pool full of ketchup. This delicious weekend celebration features many fan favorites, such as burger cook-off events, Hamburger Eating competition, the Miss Hamburger Pageant and more.
August 30 – Sept. 2: The Cleveland Labor Day Oktoberfest honors German culture with a beer-stein holding contest, a nationally-recognized marionette company, wiener dog races and more. The scale of Europeans foods, microbrews, exhibits and vendors participating in the festival is of Germanic proportions. The festival takes place at the Cuyahoga County fairgrounds all weekend long.
August: The City of Cleveland has hosted the Puerto Rican Parade and Latino festival for more than 40 years. The activities highlight the Latino community’s rich music, foods, folklore and splendor. Stunning floats and costumes line the city streets for a spectacular conclusion to the weekend-long festival.
Sept. 7 – 8: Shaker Square, home to the ever-popular North Union Farmers Market, once again becomes the place to be for “all things garlic” in the region during the Cleveland Garlic Festival. Attendees, armed with breath mints, enjoy garlic-themed food (everything from ice cream to oysters) prepared by local chefs, an onsite celebrity chef Grill-Off, live music, cooking demonstrations, wine tastings, taste and grow tents for children and more.
October: Visitors can enjoy an entire week dedicated to beer! Cleveland Beer Week showcases local breweries, restaurants, bars, taverns, grocers and specialty beverage stores. From music and activities to ale tastings and brewmaster meet-and-greets, all events offer unique specials for and raise awareness of craft brews.
Nov. 8- 10: Foodies who desire to learn the latest techniques from top chefs, shop for the holidays, sample outstanding food and taste fantastic wines should take a trip to The Fabulous Food Show, a consumer culinary show at the I-X Center. Take a trip down the aisles and aisles of cooking products and savory samples mixed in with a dash of cooking demos and the zest of celebrity chef appearances.
December 31: For more than 15 years thousands have gathered in Port Clinton for the “Madness at Midnight” Walleye Drop. Located approximately an hour and a half outside of Cleveland, the town of Port Clinton is home to a hearty population of walleye capital in the Lake Erie waters nearby. To celebrate such a distinction the town uses a massive crane to lower a fiberglass walleye replica, approximately 30 times larger than the average walleye, at the stroke of midnight.
Emma Beno, 23, and Alexia Rodriguez, 31, met in 2009. They live in the West Park/Kamm’s Corners neighborhood. They are co-owners of the Pork Chop Shop at the West Side Market. They stay here because of the quality of life in Cleveland, including the nightlife and dining scene.
What makes Cleveland’s foodie scene unique? There is an abundance of fresh food, locally grown. There is also a great tradition of many ethnic cuisines. The increasing numbers of creative chefs and adventurous restaurants and customers makes the Cleveland food scene second to none.
What can visitors expect to find at the West Side Market? It is a unique experience. You’ll see things and discover food that won’t be found anywhere else. The other thing you’ll notice right away is that this is a working market. You can do your grocery shopping here. At the same time, you’ll learn about and taste new foods, talk with vendors and get to know where your food comes from.
What are some of your favorite things about Cleveland? It’s easy to get around, which is great because there are so many fun and exciting neighborhoods. There are many pockets of hip and interesting places to go, whether you like art, dancing, dining, sports, culture, theater, or whatever. We live in the Kamm’s Corners neighborhood, where there are lots of great restaurants and bars; we work in Ohio City, where there are galleries, breweries, clubs, restaurants and more. Also check out Tremont, University Circle, Little Italy, East 4th St. and Waterloo. There are so many.
Every culinary tourist knows that traveling to a new city means exploring the dishes that make it special. Cleveland Plus is no exception with its signature foods ranging from freshwater fish to savory, ethnic dumplings.
Pierogi – Much like that of Italian ravioli, pierogi is a thick semi-circle (and often triangular) dumplings with crimped edges. But unlike its Italian counterpart, pierogi are traditionally stuffed with whipped potatoes and cheese (though some stuff them with more adventurous ingredients like beef, jalapenos, prunes or sauerkraut). Then, the dumplings are boiled, fried, grilled or baked and served slathered with butter and sautéed onions (or sprinkled with sugar if filled with fruit) and often accompanied by sour cream or apple sauce. While the specific Eastern European country of origin is unknown, pierogi can be found at the region’s Polish eateries, Ukrainian churches, Slovakian festivals and even German Oktoberfests.
Polish Boy – Taking roots from the region’s rich African American culture, the Polish Boy is a truly unique sandwich. It all starts with a grilled Polish kielbasa in a thick, white sausage roll. Next comes a layer of tender, pulled pork followed by a coating of barbeque sauce. The sandwich is then topped with French fries and crowned with a mound of crunchy coleslaw. It goes without saying, but this colossal concoction is best enjoyed with a fork.
Find it at Hot Sauce Williams, Seti’s Food Truck and B Spot Burgers
Ice Wine – This sweet dessert wine is a staple at the region’s many vineyards. Ice wine is the product of allowing wine grapes to freeze while still on the vine to concentrate the natural sugars in the juice. The climate around Lake Erie is ideal for making ice wine as the warm lake protects the vines until the first hard frost, which generally occurs in early December. The grapes are then harvested and pressed immediately, while still frozen. The result: an incredibly sweet wine with high acidity.
Walleye and Yellow Perch – Lake Erie, a hub for even the most experienced fishing enthusiasts, is the 12th largest lake in the world and the shallowest, warmest and most biologically productive of all the Great Lakes. These conditions allow the Lake to supply more fish for human consumption than all the other Great Lakes combined. And, while the region boasts an abundance of freshwater fish, walleye and yellow perch stand out as the region’s most popular. Both fish are light tasting and have a delicate texture.
– Lexi Hotchkiss
From sandwiches stuffed with mountains of corned beef to thick chocolate milkshakes laced with homemade peanut butter, Cleveland offers a wide array of not-to-be-missed culinary offerings and signature restaurants that define the region’s tastes.
Great Lakes Brewing Company
Great Lakes Brewing Company, which is comprised of a brewery and brewpub, was the first microbrewery in the state of Ohio and today remains Ohio’s most celebrated and award-winning brewer of lagers and ales. The brewery has a strong ties to the local community and showcases this commitment by naming each of its beers after local historical events, people and places. While there, visitors should head to the Brewpub where guests of all ages can enjoy a memorable dining experience from start to finish, including their famous brats and pierogi.
Lilly’s Handmade Chocolates
Lilly’s Handmade Chocolates is an artisanal chocolatier that specializes in pairing fine wine and craft beer with handmade, fresh chocolate confections. Owned and operated by Amanda and Joshua Montague, who are both classically trained chefs, Lilly’s creations are unique with both sweet and savory flavors. Guests love “Sweet Cheeks,” a dark chocolate piece filled with burned salty caramel and “That Bacon One,” a milk chocolate piece filled with bacon and organic maple butter. 216.771.3333, www.lillytremont.com
Start your morning out right at Lucky’s Café. Perfectly situated in the artsy, blue-collared neighborhood of Tremont, Lucky’s Café is brimming with charisma and quirkiness with its home-cooked breakfasts, lunches, pastries and coffees. Their biscuits and gravy are practically world famous and the Shipwreck (hash browns, eggs, seasonal veggies, bacon and cheddar cheese served in one delicious mound) is a fan favorite. Chef Heather Haviland is also an accomplished baker and makes incredible pastries.
Melt Bar + Grilled
Grilled cheese is a favorite to all, old and young. But this isn’t your typical piece of American cheese slabbed between two slices of white bread. Melt features more than 20 different takes on the original all with their own unique twist. Try a “Parmageddon” stuffed with onions, kraut and a potato and cheese pierogi. This amazing restaurant receives national attention – we encourage you to see why.
While certainly not the “haute couture” of upscale culinary, the renowned Slyman’s Deli has been serving Cleveland’s most coveted corned beef sandwiches for countless generations. A friendly environment and delicious eats makes this Cleveland staple a must.
Steve’s Lunch is a classic 24-hour Ohio City (on the near westside) diner with tabletop record-playing jukeboxes. It’s a late-night hotdog place that’s been around since the ’50s that insiders in Cleveland know and love. Music aside, the chili dogs are an attraction within themselves.
At Sweet Moses Soda Fountain and Sweet Shop, guests are treated to ice cream and confections the way they were meant to be enjoyed. Homemade ice cream is served up from an authentic Bastion-Blessings soda fountain. Visitors can grab a seat at the stunning 16-foot bar of Tennessee marble or a restored wrought-iron ice cream chair for a sweet escape back to the good old days.
Head to Tommy’s for a burger and milkshake. While the menu stayed the same since it opened in 1972 (with items named after longtime customers), Tommy’s is now in a much bigger venue and is always filled with customers – vegetarians, vegans, meat-eaters, health-conscious and the just plain hungry. Visitors can’t miss one of Tommy’s award-winning milkshakes.
– Lexi Hotchkiss
With the West Side Market celebrating 100 years, there is no better time to get in on the hottest trend in the country: locally grown foods. The demand for local, healthy and organic dining options has never been greater. Luckily, Cleveland already has a leg-up. In a 2008 SustainLane ranking of the best cities for Local Food and Agriculture, Cleveland came in at number two. The fact that there are 225 community gardens and 25 for-profit farms within city limits certainly helps make CLE the place to be if you want local.
Cleveland also has an array of world-renowned chefs, such as Jonathan Sawyer (owner of Greenhouse Tavern on East 4 St.), who are championing this “farm-to-table” movement. But this type of fare is not reserved solely for a pro chef. Thanks to organizations like the North Union Farmers Market and places like the West Side Market and Ohio City’s Urban Farm, farm-fresh options are readily available.
The North Union Farmers Market is a nonprofit group that began operating in 1995 with the goal to provide Clevelanders access to healthy, fresh, local produce sold directly by farmers. Currently, the group runs eight farmers markets in the Greater Cleveland area. Through perseverance and dedication, the North Union Farmers Market has became extremely successful, receiving awards in 2009 and 2010 from the American Farmland Trust ranking in the Top 20 large farmer’s markets in the U.S.
All of this food talk got you hungry? Check out the information below and hurry on over to the nearest farmer’s market.
Shaker Square Market
8am – Noon
April 7 – December 22
13209 Shaker Sqaure
Shaker Square Shopping Center, Cleveland
Crocker Park Market
9am – 1pm
April 14 – December 22
189 Crocker Park Blvd., Westlake
Cleveland Clinic Main Campus Market
June 6 – October 24
Carnegie Ave. & E. 100th St, Cleveland
Cleveland Clinic Beachwood Market
11am – 2pm
July 25 – September 26
26900 Cedar Rd., Beachwood
Cleveland State University Market
June 7- September 27
1930 Euclid Ave., Cleveland (In front of Marshall Law School)
Crocker Park Evening Market
4pm – 7pm
June 14 – August 30
189 Crocker Park Blvd., Westlake
Chagrin Falls Market
June 3 – October 21
Corner of N. Main St and N. Franklin St
For more information on the individual farmers and the process to become a certified vendor visit www.northunionfarmersmarket.org.
- Nate Klein
Year-round, the Cleveland Plus tapestry of art, culture, music and food puts on its most vibrant and immersive display at the region’s many festivals and gallery hops, but with the onset of strolling weather, now’s the time to fully dive in and explore the offerings at two of the city’s most famous art walks.
On the East Side, the first Friday, Saturday and Sunday weekend each June find the historic Murray Hill neighborhood transformed by the ever-growing Little Italy Art Walk into an all-senses-enriching experience of dance, song, dining, wine tasting and more than 100 art exhibits.
You’ll find dozens of galleries, studios and specialty shops offering limitless exploration, from the Verne Gallery and its renowned Japanese art collection to Galeria Quetzal’s Hispanic folk crafts to the locally-championed Brian Jones Gallery.
And when it’s time to eat, more than 20 neighborhood restaurants mean a great meal, whether you’re in the mood for the rich Italian tradition of La Dolce Vita, the pastries of century-old Presti’s Bakery, or the new Asian cuisine of Tea House Noodles.
Across town, the near west-side Tremont ArtWalk has been a second-Friday-of-the-month institution since 1993, with an eclectic flavor and a close-knit feel all its own. What started as a seven-business combination of energy and resources has since involved more than 20 neighborhood businesses every month – a rotation of participants keeps things constantly fresh – and showcased the works of more than 1000 different artists.
From the recently-opened Aperture Photography and Variety Store to the studios of fourth-generation artist Rob Hartshorn to the mouthwatering creations at Lilly Handmade Chocolates, creativity and craftsmanship are around every corner.
That goes for the Tremont kitchens, too, whether you’re in the mood for the spicy southwest menu of Grumpy’s Cafe or something more out-there, like The South Side’s grilled German bologna on a pretzel roll.
And it’s all just a few steps away.
– Submitted by John Booth, guest blogger
Culture can widen the mind and spirit, but it takes a community to bring the two together. Just look at an enclave like Little Italy, where mind and spirit have never been closer. As the Italian cultural center of northeast Ohio — located at the base of Murray Hill, between University Circle and Cleveland Heights on the east side — Little Italy is a place where art, food, faith and frame of mind congregate in the spirit of a classic neighborhood.
“I enjoy the true sense of community and the warmth of the people,” says Father Philip Racco, pastor at the Holy Rosary Church (Little Italy’s epicenter for catholic culture). “For newcomers, it still has that sense of a neighborhood. You walk out the door and you don’t feel estranged. You feel connection.”
Community spirit certainly starts at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church (216.421.2995), the Baroque-styled house of worship, founded in 1892, that still celebrates mass daily. The parish has hosted Little Italy’s biggest celebration for the last 112 years — The Feast of the Assumption — that is a mixture of faith and fun that includes a four-day street fair with rides, food and live music.
“You might say the celebration that happens in the church pours out in the street,” says Father Racco. “The Feast of the Assumption is a celebration of life. Therefore celebrating at the height of summer with the bounty of summer — the food, the festivities and the music — is most appropriate.”
The church’s old-world charm spills out into the community as well, a blend of well-preserved homes, neighborhood bistros and more than 55 artist studios, galleries and boutique shops.
“The neighborhood certainly has its color,” says Jerry Keller of Keller Art Glass (216.721.0314 or http://www.kellerartglass.com) who’s been redefining the warm glass art world for the past 37 years with his glass guitars, mirrors and stained and etched glass windows. “The brick street has turn-of-the-century buildings made of stone with long-standing inhabitants that mix with college students and the newly hip.”
Whether it’s framing, photography, sculpture, painting or glass, Little Italy can probably satisfy your distinctive taste. But, speaking of tastes, what probably draws the most visitors to Little Italy all year around is its amazing variety of bakeries, cafés, bistros and cantinas. Chef Boyardee opened his first restaurant, Il Giardino d’Italia, in Little Italy in the 1940s, and today the neighborhood still has some of the best Italian eateries in Ohio, including the oldest restaurant in Cleveland, Guarino’s established in 1918 (216.231.3100).
“Our cooking today is as it was 90 years ago,” says owner Nancy Phillips, long time family friend of the original Guarinos and owner for 25 years. “And the [décor] style is still Victorian — much as it looked in 1918. One of my seven children tells me I should change it. I said I’m not changing anything. This is the way it was when I was a little girl and it’s staying this way. Sometimes people like to step back in history. Sometimes we’re in too much of a hurry to black-and-white tile everything — to glass everything — to polyurethane everything. People forget about the old woods and the antiques. And here it’s all still this way.”
Visiting Little Italy today is not so different than when immigrant stone cutters, masons and bricklayers, carving local streets and cemetery stones, started the community in 1885. The people have changed, the businesses have evolved, the church has receded and grown, but Little Italy still retains its nostalgic neighborhood charm and spirit. – Submitted by guest blogger Keith Gribbins
I went to celeb chef/restaurateur Michael Symon’s B Spot Burgers on Saturday, and let me tell you it was a throwback comfort food moment. When I looked at the menu and saw fried bologna sandwiches and real milk shakes, I knew that a salad was not an option.
As someone who seems to be perpetually on a diet, there is usually nothing that can shake my resolve when I am on a mission to shed a few. That was until I saw the burger- laden baskets and savored the smells at this very comfortable, down-to-earth restaurant. B Spot is located at ETON: Chagrin Boulevard, one of the most upscale boutique malls in the area. This is a nice addition to the diverse mix of restaurants currently located at ETON. B Spot has excellent food where you can come in and watch a game at the bar or bring your family in to have a burger and fries.
Yes, Symon does have his signature Lola fries on the menu. My husband ordered some and of course I couldn’t let him eat those all by himself. My daughter had a regular cheeseburger and a chocolate milk shake. It was a real milk shake, and I know, because of course I couldn’t let her drink that all by herself. It was delicious. So chocolaty! ( Is that a word? If not, it should be.) I had the Thin Lizzy, well done, which when you read “Symon Says” will let you know what they think about people like me. It was seasoned so nicely that I practically inhaled it. It came with caramelized onions, cheddar, mayo and pickles. My husband had the Shroomage, with portabella mushrooms, blue cheese and Lola steak sauce.
They have a nice beer menu. The wine list is short, but I still found something to my liking. It was a pleasant time out with the family and I got to do some shopping too. – Submitted by SSM
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