Thursday, May 28, 2015

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

 I've been sharing a lot about the restaurants, but make no mistake there is a lot to see and do in Cleveland, too! Without a doubt, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should be at the top of that list. Situated on the banks of Lake Erie in the developing North Coast Harbor area, this place is pretty spectacular. Only a small glimpse was captured through my camera, but, I was enamored with: The Herb Ritz Rock Portraits exhibit (the man notorious for his Rolling Stone covers), Paul Simon Words and Music - a new exhibit in the first person narrative style, and, of course, The Inductee Hall of Fame exhibit with an endless showcase of major artifacts and funky memorabilia. A couple hours here barely felt like enough! There's four state of the art theaters, a really neat dark room with inductee signatures, and some fun interactive kiosks. Give yourself plenty of time to linger!

Adult Admission - $22 / Children - $13

Cleveland, OH 44114

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Lolita | Cleveland

At Chef Michael Symon's chic and cozy Mediterranean bistro, Lolita, there's an understated brilliance working its way into his dishes. Take the exemplary Housemade Pork Rinds ($6) which achieve a light and airy crispness, benefiting from a simple chili and lime seasoning that ever so nicely cuts their natural saltiness. The Crispy Pig Tails & Ears ($10) are another outstanding demonstration of the chefs prodigious ways with pork, again the textures are spot on - crispy yet tender forkfuls meet a fennel-onion agrodolce, pickled chilies and cilantro. The Carrot Agnolotti ($18) presents elegantly braised rabbit - shredded and bathing in a gorgeous, bright heirloom carrot agrumato. Side dishes of Fried Brussels Sprouts ($6) laced with caper, anchovy and walnut and Broccolini ($6) seasoned in calabrian chili, olive oil, garlic, lemon and breadcrumb prove themselves worthy to stand alongside all these tremendous meat dishes.

Cocktails are inventive and inspired, the Port Authority ($11) made with Makers Mark bourbon, LBV port, balsamic reduction and basil offers unique and deep flavors. The wine list is thoughtful and widely sourced - despite the one Rosé offering, a Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare ($12). I'm always going to be on the lookout for Rosé this time of year.

The small space is relaxing and tasteful, where soft lighting and exposed brick meet elaborate pressed gold ceilings. Heavy framed slate windows gaze out over a quaint block in the neighborhood of Tremont. Lolita would be the perfect host for an intimate girls night or a date night. The group was thoroughly impressed with our first dinner out in Cleveland.

900 Literary Road
Cleveland, Ohio 44113

Friday, May 22, 2015

Happy Dog

Get your gourmet hot dog fix (for Clevelanders, such a thing exists) at the gritty, retro-hip neighborhood corner bar, Happy Dog. The interior remains largely unchanged since it was built in the 1940s; heralded by an oval wood racetrack bar and chrome barstools, outfitted with raised scallop paneling and dangling globe light fixtures. Downstairs at Underdog, pinball machines stand out against dim lighting and black fixtures. 

The kitchen offers locally made all beef hot dogs, veggie dogs (vegan Italian sausages), crispy tater tots and slender french fries - accompanied by a massive selection of toppings, all house made. The menus are designed as a choose your own hot dog adventure -  pencil in your order and get creative with it. They've got everything from Froot Loops and pimento mac n cheese, to vodka sauerkraut and Caribbean coleslaw. The sauces range from traditional (house made ketchup, Bertman Original Ballpark mustard, sriracha sauce) to intriguing (black truffle honey mustard, Alabama-Style white bbq) - all of them that we sample are excellent.

For those feeling daunted by the topping selection, but still up for something wacky - go for a suggestive wiener from the list of signature happy dogs. The East Meets West comes slathered in crunchy peanut butter, dressed up with Thai chili and garlic sauce, topped with do chua (Vietnamese daikon and carrots) and garlicky escarole. A 1:45 am Special features applewood smoked bacon, cheddar, chipoltle hollandaise and a fried egg. Wash down your dogs and tots with a local beer on draft like the Bell's Two-Hearted Ale (Kalamazoo, MI) or the Fat Heads Head Hunter IPA (North Olmstead, OH). They offer a large selection of domestic and imports - including some funky Eastern European beers

Our CLE crew was in for lunch and the place was relatively quiet -  but they have live music most nights, so I imagine a rowdy crowd. The Happy Dog is unmistakably authentic. This place makes me very happy, indeed. 

Happy Dog
Gordon Square Arts District / 
Detroit Shoreway 
5801 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44102

Happy Dog on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Pour Cleveland

Start your day in the CLE at Pour - a multi roaster pour over coffee and espresso bar. The owner, Charlie Eisenstat, meticulously sources and rotates in blends from roasters all over the country to keep things fun and fresh. The baristas are friendly and knowledgeable. Enjoy a strong cup alongside locally made bagels and pastries in the ultra clean and modern light-filled space.

Gateway District / E 4th St
530 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44115

Pour Cleveland on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 18, 2015

Cleveland Makes a Comeback

There was a grim point in time in the city of Cleveland, Ohio, marked primarily by the decline of the steel and iron industries in the 1970's. The urban environment was largely forsaken, and you can sense it in certain city districts where abandoned warehouses are slowly starting to come back to life. The recession didn't help matters, in fact it hit them pretty hard. 

As one local put it "You just had to grind it out - we grind till we shine, there's always a struggle, we always get through it."   

This sense of resilience and pride emanates from all the Clevelanders I mingle with; and in this gritty meets sophisticated Ohio city situated on the banks of Lake Erie, now is the time of revitalization and renewal. Said abandoned warehouses are being transformed into loft apartments, restaurants and retail space. Downtown districts are coming back to life, seeing a 98% full occupancy housing rate, the demand has skyrocketed. Local entrepreneurs are sinking roots, while Blue Collar neighborhoods remain true to theirs, and a vibrant spirit emerges. It's an exciting time to live in Cleveland, and an exciting time to visit. What this city has to offer is sure to surprise you if you give her the chance. 

Getting Here: Jet Blue is now offering direct flights from Boston Logan and Fort Lauderdale, Florida into Cleveland Hopkins International. Bostonians - with flight time clocking in at less than an hour and a half, it makes for an easy getaway!
Getting Around: A light rail system known as The Rapid connects the airport with downtown, Ohio City, and University Circle area. The downtown districts are walkable. A rental car is a worthwhile option to reach other neighborhoods. 
Pictured Above (in order): The Flats District | Bridge crossing the Coyahoga River | Market Garden Brewery | Ohio City Neighborhood | The Arcade on Euclid | Fried Brussels Sprouts @ The Greenhouse TavernPlayhouse Square (Theater District) | Carrot Agnolitti @ Lolita | World's largest outdoor chandelier(!)Gateway District | Bacon wrapped Pork Loin @ Prosperity Social Club |
Where to Eat & Drink: This Midwestern cities food scene has long been influenced by its Eastern European roots - notably hearty fare like perogies, kielbasa and sausage. Today, the culinary renaissance is largely accredited to Cleveland born Celebrity Chef Michael Symon (James Beard Award Winner, Iron Chef America Fame). Look to future posts that will individually highlight quintessential neighborhood restaurants and bars. 
Pictured Below (in order)The Arcade take 2 | Bar Cento | Black Pepper Bucatini @ The Greenhouse Tavern  | Ohio City take 2 | The Mayweather Building | East 9th & Euclid Avenue | Pretzel Crusted Chicken @ Great Lakes Brewing Company | Market Square | Gateway District accommodations |

I visited Cleveland on a press trip - and I'm thrilled to have been given this opportunity. I can't wait to share with you guys some of the fun things to do here!!

This trip was sponsored by the awesome crew @ Destination Cleveland; they covered all expenses including round-trip airfare on Jet Blue, accommodations at the Downtown Residence Inn Marriot, meals, and transportation throughout the city. I am not obligated to write about this trip, all opinions are my own.