chrystal moved to cleveland last year to take a job as the director of undergraduate admission at case western reserve university [she’s a big deal], and i finally made it up to see her over mlk weekend.
yes, that means i visited cleveland in january. i’m sometimes brilliant like that. but that was the weekend that worked for both of us, so off i went to spend three days in the cold and snow.
i landed around 2pm on saturday and took the train to little italy [about 40 minutes on the red line straight from the airport for a whopping total of $2.50] to meet chrystal. our first stop was lunch at murray hill market, a super cute café in little italy. chrystal had her standard porchetta while i opted for the meatball sandwich, and we each had a tiny bottle of red wine. and for dessert: the snoogle. this cream-cheese filled pastry dusted with sugar is so light and delicious and i want one every day for the rest of my life.
from there we went for a drive so that i could see bits of the city while chrystal explained some of cleveland’s history to me. i learned about the industries that started there as we drove by the old “millionaire’s row”, and she also talked about some of the gentrification and revitalization that has happened around the case campus.
we drove by lake erie and chatted about lake effect snow [i’m fascinated], prowled around downtown and the flats, and then backtracked through the case campus while i learned about the large arts and music presence on campus and in the city.
after heading home to rest for a bit we got ready to hit up fourth street for some fancy cocktails. lola was our first stop of the night, and we grabbed some bar stools and settled in. the drinks were great, but the real star of the night was the beef cheek pierogis. while there we had a lovely conversation with the women sitting next to us, and once they learned of our shared love of bourbon they very energetically told us we needed to go to the velvet tango room, so that was a very easy choice for our next stop. pro tips: we were lucky to get seats at the bar on a saturday night, but if you want a table you’ll need to make a reservation ahead of time // also i’m supposed to mention that this restaurant is owned and operated by chef michael symon [full disclosure: i still don’t know who he is]
the velvet tango room was a speakeasy during prohibition, and today it is a lounge that has maintained a very speakeasy-like atmosphere. we again opted for seats at the bar and had a great conversation with the women tending bar. they have about 90 cocktails on their menu, but if you let the bartenders know what you like and that you’re in the mood for an experiment they will happily oblige. two added bonuses: pat turns hasn’t been there yet, so i got to experience somewhere before him, and because i pointed out that the bartender only charged me for one drink each when we both had two she thanked me for my honesty and said the other two were on the house. win-win.
chrystal did a late morning workout on sunday while i slept in, and once we were both ready we made our way to flying fig for brunch. i had a divine salmon benedict and chrystal had the corn and andouille hot cakes which were delicious. we stuffed ourselves silly. pro tip: make a reservation; we were early for ours and hung out for a few minutes while our table was turned over and the wait for two people walking in at 1pm was around 45 minutes
from there we went across the street to have a wander through the west side market. chrystal knows i’m a sucker for a good market, and this one has all the things i love: it’s in a beautiful historic building with a gorgeous ceiling; it’s filled to the brim with vendors selling meats, cheeses, cakes, fruits, flowers, and everything else you can imagine; and it has a stall that has at least 200 varieties of hot sauce for sale. i loved it.
it was getting close to football time, and chrystal’s friend riley suggested we meet at the boss dog brewing co in cleveland heights. i appreciate a brewery that also has a full bar, and we stayed for the afc championship and the first half of the nfc championship. it had been snowing all day and it was beginning to get dark, so we opted to head home while there were still lyfts available and watch the rest of the game at home.
churst made some guacamole and we snacked on the couch and watched the end of the game and called it an early night.
chrystal worked out again on monday while i again slept. it was still snowing so we opted to have a slow morning at home. we had a homemade brunch and chatted while we ate and figured out our plan for the day.
first stop after leaving the house was the a christmas story house. since i have watched the movie every christmas since childhood i couldn’t visit cleveland without seeing ralphie’s house. it’s now a museum, but rather than take the tour we walked up and down the street…and of course took pictures of the leg lamp in the window.
churst needed to grab a few things from target, so we went to the one near the steelyard so i could see part of it. you crest over this hill and all of a sudden this massive steelyard emerges in front of you and it is pretty wild to see in person. and what we saw was only a portion of it.
near the steelyards in the tremont neighborhood is one of the cleveland script signs, which chrystal knew i would love. there’s a great view of the cleveland skyline and some of the city’s beautiful historic bridges behind it, and we had ourselves a fun, brief photoshoot. note: there are 6 of these signs around the city; we went to the tremont one
initially we thought we would see just mercy at 4pm, so we stopped in new heights grill for a drink. new heights is a very local place, with the bartenders greeting most of the people around us by name and plopping down drinks before people even needed to order them.
with the snow still coming down and concerns about the roads getting back we decided to ditch the movie and go home to watch the grizzlies game instead. we had some more guac and heated up a frozen pizza and had another chill, early night.
we covered quite a lot of ground in the time i was there, but we also had some time to chill together and enjoy each other’s company. i had never been to cleveland, and i really enjoyed my time — the food was good, the people were friendly, and i got to see a great friend. you can’t go wrong with a combo like that.