A Guide to Dining, Eating and Cooking in Cleveland, Ohio

vermillion alpacas September 26, 2007

Filed under: Random Cleveland Stuff — jenniferferf @ 6:34 am
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Cleveland has it all. Fine dining, entertainment, wealth, poverty, traffic, the grit of the city, and (one of its most underappreciated assets) the beautiful Lake Erie. I am convinced that many Clevelanders don’t fully appreciate the amazing natural wonder that is Lake Erie, which they are so fortunate to live next to.
So I was thrilled to finally visit Vermillion, a small picturesque town about 45 minutes west of Cleveland. Tourists and retirees seem to flock to this little town to enjoy the lake, which is something I have been wanting to do since I moved to Cleveland!

A short drive west of Avon Lake, with my aunt and uncle bubbling with excitement about the birth of their newest granddaughter the day before and a few other fun conversations – “Oh, you’ll love the antique shopping in Vermillion – there’s an auction we go to nearly every Friday night!” – and we soon found ourselves contentedly exploring the rolling hills peppered with farms and homes. We passed a particularly interesting-looking alpaca farm, when my uncle remembered that friends of theirs had recently purchased an alpaca farm, and maybe that one was it. So, we took a short drive up the driveway to inquire, and lo and behold, it was their friends’ farm! Their friends weren’t in, but the farm manager, who looked like an overgrown, tattooed scary-looking biker, cheerily invited us to look around. We pet the friendly alpacas and a stray deer he had taken in, and he happily told us story after story about the various strays he’d rescued and close calls he’d faced looking after animals for the past several years. He’d worked in a steel mill for 25 years before being laid off, and then found a second calling working with animals on farms in the years since then.

The beach on the lake in Vermillion is absolutely beautiful, and there were kids there swimming and laughing and having a great time in the chilly water.
Sometimes the serendipitous parts of road trips and traveling is even better than what you had planned.


mulligatawny and barber shop mirrors

Filed under: Cuisines,Dinner,Restaurant Reviews — jenniferferf @ 6:33 am
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Ohio City, the neighborhood surrounding Cleveland’s famed West Side Market, boasts its fair share of fabulous food options, and working in the area presents ample opportunity to sample the variety of foods available to food lovers unafraid of exploring this side of town.

So when a friend called mid-morning to suggest a lunch excursion to The Souper Market, on Lorain Avenue, across from the West Side Market, I jumped at the chance!

The Fabulous Souper Market is a tiny place with only a small counter to eat at – no tables. But their soup selection more than makes up for the lack of space inside!

First of all, every day they have two or three seasonal soups, in addition to about ten homemade soup selections, with about half vegetarian options. Soups like butternut squash and apple, corn chowder, pulled chicken noodle, jambalaya, and the famed mulligatawny.

Their salad menu is just as creative and fabulous as their soup! My favorite so far is the season’s greens salad, with nice fresh romane, tiny sweet cherry tomatoes and fantastic goat cheese, topped off with the most fantastic homemade lemon vinaigrette I’ve ever had. The asparagus salad is similarly fantastic, with fantastic slivers of parmesan and another yummy salad dressing to top it off.

I had never even heard of mulligatawny before, and I have been craving it since I tasted it a few weeks ago. This savory yellowy-green soup is an enchanting mix of ginger, coconut milk, curry, cumin, and tamarind, with potato, green lentils, and a little magic besides. A google search revealed that mulligatawny was made famous by Seinfeld, when Kramer mentioned that it was his favorite of the Soup Nazi’s soups.

Serendipitously, a visit to The Souper Market also yields another benefit. Aside from being right next door to a cool urban park at Lorain and West 25th Street, it is a few doors down from a fantastic old barber shop. When I go past, you can peek into the windows and glimpse the barbers busily at work tending to the men seated in two long rows of barber chairs, reading the newspaper and trading banter with one another, white towels draped around their necks, their faces reflected in the mirrors that I’m sure have lined the walls for generations.


we’ve got a bridge that swings September 16, 2007

Filed under: Random Cleveland Stuff — jenniferferf @ 6:36 am
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Yesterday afternoon I was driving around in the flats with Steve and Rachel and we happened to be about to cross the red swing bridge, when it started gearing up and swinging into action! What started out as a slightly boring (to them) drive around downtown looking at cool bridges suddenly turned into a fantastic opportunity to see this thing in action.

I had heard about this swing bridge thing from some coworkers, but didn’t really understand what people were talking about, because honestly, there are a ton of weird-looking bridges in the area. So the deal with this one is that when a big boat needs to go through on the river, the guy in the little hut on top pushes a button, and the whole bridge turns on this passive pivot in the middle!

It’s quite a sight to see! We stood there and watched as this thing turned and stopped parallel to the river, and then this massive, long, huge boat came through around the curves of the river! It was so long that it reminded me of the beginning of Spaceballs, where you see the spaceship, and it keeps going on for a ridiculous amount of time.

Anyway, it took at least ten minutes for this massive boat to come through, and the bridge swung back around, and the backed up traffic got on its merry way.
According to the Flats Oxbow Association, it’s called the Center Street Swing Bridge, was built in 1901, and is the only one left, which means that there used to be more! It’s the red bridge in the top right of the picture below. Who knew bridges were so interesting?

And there’s another great photo of the swing bridge at the website of the people that built the bridge, King Bridge Company. Scroll down once you get there to read more!


Pointe Vecchio Point of View September 12, 2007

Visited Pointe Vecchio Italian Ristorante, which is quite a fancy establishment located on a viaduct on the West bank of Cleveland’s Flats district. We took a client there for a snack before her flight back to D.C. The location is probably one of the best in the city, with a beautiful view of Cleveland’s skyline and Flats district, blocked by only one new condo building. (Why are they building new buildings for condos when there are abandoned buildings all around? Not sure.)

The restaurant is very stylish, with beautiful marbletop tables and dark wooden chairs and linen curtains hanging at the open windows. It was breezy and lovely. They have a nice patio (with excellent heaters!) and I read that they have half-price drinks during happy hour during the week.

We didn’t have much time, so we ordered some wine and a large antipasto appetizer to split, and it couldn’t have been more lovely. The waiter brought out some excellent bread to dip in the herbed balsamic vinegar and oil, which was the perfect combination of flavors. The antipasto was a pleasant assortment of grilled and marinated vegetables, including some excellent eggplant, roasted tomatoes, roasted red pepper, some sort of spicy capicola ham, olives and marinated artichoke. I ate all of the olives.

The rest of the menu looked excellent, and I would love to go back there. It’s pricy enough, however, that I would only go back when someone else is paying.
At 5 p.m. on a Wednesday, the place was quiet, but by the time we left at 5:45, a good crowd of folks were gathering on the patio and at the bar for happy hour.



Filed under: Random Cleveland Stuff — jenniferferf @ 6:39 am
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One of the things that I love about Cleveland is the bridges. The bridges, you say? Yes, those tenuous towering giants made of ridiculously huge but surprisingly majestic steel beams. Bridges evoke images of industry, and of past productivity, and of changes in store for Cleveland in the future.

Nearly everyone I talk to in Cleveland who is from Cleveland decries the sad state of things in this city. And then they look at me oddly when I tell them the things I love about it already! Maybe I am a hopeless optimist, but if you’re going to live in a place for at least a few years, you need to find things about it to love!

I love how immense the bridges are, and I love the huge steel beams. For me, they are a symbol of industry, progress, and strength, but also, in a roundabout way, they show our connection to and necessary deference to and respect for nature. Rivers are a powerful natural force, and bridges show our tenuous connection to nature.

My favorite bridge so far: the Lorain-Carnegie bridge with the fantastic art deco “guardians of transportation” statues carved into the tall pylons at either end of the bridge. I think the statues look like a cross between the statues of the kings of old in The Two Towers and weird superheroes that are officially named “The Guardians of Traffic.”

I may be a little bridge-crazy.

On my commute to work, I have my choice of about five awesome huge industrial bridges over which to cross the lovely Cuyahoga River. Yes, my office is in the Flats, right on the river, right where it caught fire. Woo hoo! I have also heard rumors that there is a salt mine around there where a relative of mine apparently worked. And I need to ask my uncle about my Simon relatives that, rumor has it, after moving here from Germany in the late 1800s, started a boilermaking factory in the Flats. Mental note to find out about that.

The Guardians of Traffic