Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Cleveland Lake-Cation: Day 2

This is the second installment of my Cleveland lake-cation (and here's "Day 1" if you missed it). Everything in this post covers our experiences on the Saturday of our trip.

The Positively Cleveland followers directed us to Cleveland's quaint Tremont neighborhood to start our day.

Lucky's Cafe
Top: Lucky's garden / Bottom: Lucky's pastries and baked goods
Left: Blueberry Fizzy / Top Right: Bruleed Steel Cut Oatmeal / Bottom Right: Pecan Bacon
I liked everything about Lucky's Cafe. Its thriving garden, bustling atmosphere and interesting menu are the right combination. Upon recommendation of the Positively Cleveland gals, we got several orders of the Pecan Bacon (cured bacon, crushed pecans, and brown sugar) for the table, and in the end there wasn't a piece left. Because it blew our minds. For my breakfast, I selected the Bruleed Steel Cut Oatmeal (winter fruit compote, eggs en croute, house-made multi grain toast), which was superb. I was uncomfortably full for the next six hours, but it was worth it. WHY HAVE I NEVER THOUGHT OF TAKING THE CREME BRULEE TORCH TO OATMEAL BEFORE?!?!?!?! Wow. Just wow.

Lucky's Cafe on Urbanspoon

A Christmas Story House & Museum
FRAGILE (It must be Italian.)
When we pulled up to this house, I was unprepared for the emotions that would overcome me. No, seriously. I had a moment. Like, there were tears in my eyes. And then I realized that there was a gift shop and I turned that moment into a spending spree.

But really, if you are a fan of The Christmas Story (like, if you leave it on for 24 hours straight and refuse to let anyone in your family change the channel or turn off the television), a stop to this house is worth every penny that you will spend on admission ($10 for adults, $6 for children over 6, and $8 for seniors) and at the gift shop.

West Side Market
Ohio City
 Left: West Side Market tower / Top Right: West Side Market interior / Middle Right: Fruit! / Bottom Right: Over 25 different varieties of pierogies  
Our next stop was the historic West Side Market in Ohio City. Butchers, bakers, grocers, florists, and even pierogi pinchers are as plentiful as their goods. I could have roamed for hours just observing locals negotiating with the vendors for the fresh products. And my, were the aisles of fruit beautiful. Pittsburgh doesn't have anything that comes close to this marketplace, and I really hope that someday we do. Until then, it wouldn't be difficult for us to take a day trip to Cleveland, eat a great meal somewhere, and then visit the West Side Market. No doubt we'd leave with a packed cooler and a trunk full of goods.

Ohio City Farm
Ohio City
On nearly six acres of land and about a mile from Downtown Cleveland sits the Ohio City Farm. In walking distance from the West Side Market, there is no way that one can leave the area without locally grown fresh produce or flowers. It's simply wonderful.

The Lake View Cemetery
We still hadn't gained an appetite from our filling breakfast at Lucky's, so we kept up with the activities and pushed lunch to late afternoon. The Lake View Cemetery is a really unique place to visit in Cleveland, especially with kids or on a budget because it is both interesting and free.
J.D. Rockefeller Monument 
Legend has it that if you put a dime on Rockefeller's stone, you will be blessed with financial success. I put as many dimes as I had in my wallet on there. No success yet, but it has only been two weeks. I will be patient.

James A. Garfield Monument 
The James A. Garfield Monument is the most beautiful Presidential monument that I have visited with the exception of the Lincoln Memorial. With a stunning view of the Cleveland skyline, architecture that rivals Hogwarts, and an intricately beautiful interior, it's hard not to feel something (even if you may or may not know exactly what President Garfield did during his time in office, like me).

Wade Memorial Chapel 
The Wade Memorial Chapel took my breath away, and the interpretive guide has a great story to tell once visitors are inside. If you are religious and/or a fan of Tiffany glass, the Wade Memorial Chapel is in your wheelhouse. My photograph doesn't do its beauty justice...

Cleveland Museum of Art
University Circle

After the Lake View Cemetery, we decided to do one more stop before lunch, and the social media polling directed us to the Cleveland Museum of Art in the University Circle neighborhood.
Top Left: a window and chair by Frank Lloyd Wright / Bottom Left: Marilyn Monroe as seen through the eyes of Andy Warhol / Right: "The Thinker"
Put me in a museum, and I am happy. Put me in a museum that has pieces by Frank Lloyd Wright and Andy Warhol, and I am ecstatic. Add in a great gift shop, and HGB is on cloud nine. Note: admission to the Cleveland Museum of Art is free to all visitors year round because of an endowment from the Gund Foundation.

Tommy's Restaurant
Top Left: Homos (hummus) / Bottom Left: the Cigar / Right: Shakes
Locals sent us to Tommy's in Coventry for lunch. Legend has it that not long after Tommy’s opened in 1972 (as a soda fountain), Rolling Stone magazine voted it “Best Milkshake East of the Missisippi”. So of course the first thing that we ordered were some shakes for sharing! Each was 20 oz. and $4.99; we tried chocolate, cookies and cream, and vegan chocolate peanut butter. Those were easily a meal in themselves! We also ordered the Homos ($8, chickpeas, sesame tahini, lemon juice, garlic, pita bread with veggies) for the table. For my meal I went with the Cigar ($8.75, 4 oz. corned beef, onion, mushrooms, pickles, sesame sauce, mustard, cheese, pita). It reminded me very much of a Cuban, and was equally tasty.

Tommy's has a pleasant atmosphere with an open kitchen and a book store at arms' length. It's a great place for foodies, and picky eaters alike as the menu is quite extensive and literally has something for everyone.
Tommy's on Urbanspoon

Big Fun Toy Store

After Tommy's we walked a few doors down to Big Fun Toy Store, and if we weren't on a schedule, I think that we all could have been in there for hours. Advertised as a, "cornucopia of delights, a cathedral of counter-culture, a warehouse of nerdabilia and nostalgia," Big Fun Toy Store is exactly that. Like, my childhood was contained in one big toy box that was big enough for me to walk through and enjoy all over again. I saw toys that I hadn't seen in decades... original Strawberry Shortcakes, Care Bears, Poochie, the Get Along Gang, My Little Pony, Star Wars figurines, Smurfs, G.I. Joe's, California Raisins, etc. In addition, there are tons of novelties, quirky greeting cards, and other random "I cannot believe they make this" kinds of items. Needless to say, I did not walk out of there empty handed.

Hodge's Cleveland
near East 4th Street
Clockwise Starting at Top Left: complimentary tots, ohio city pasta gnocchi, blue crab hushpuppies, and devils on horseback  
Clockwise Starting at Top Left: ohio city pasta potato and truffle pierogi, complimentary corn bread, the damage (the bill), and seared duck
After a long nap and some time to collect ourselves, we met up again for a late dinner in walking distance of our hotel (the Holiday Inn Express on Euclid). It was between Michael Symon's Lola Bistro (East 4th Street) and Hodge's (Euclid); ultimately, Hodge's won. I have been to Lola before (and it is amazing), but of course I wanted to try something new. Thus, I was excited to check out Hodge's, which hails from Cleveland food trucker Chris Hodgson and restauranteur Scott Kuhn.

The dining experience was so much fun, and possibly my favorite of the trip; at this point, we all felt like we knew each other so well... because we did. At times during this meal, we had to pause from eating because our laughter consumed us. Anyway, we also had a great waiter (Patrick) who did a superior job at appeasing a bunch of bloggers who obsessively take pictures of their food before letting anyone touch or eat it.

As we had been doing all weekend, we ordered some menu items for the table to share in addition to our entrees. Note: Hodge's menu is entirely in lower case letters, so I typed the names exactly as they appeared. For the table we got devils on horseback ($4, medjool dates, chorizo, and bacon), ohio city pasta gnocchi ($11, charred scallions, wild mushrooms, preserved lemon, english peas, and parmesan), blue crab hushpuppies ($12, cucumber and old bay’onaise), and ohio city pasta potato and truffle pierogi ($13, sweet corn broth, roasted shallots, and truffle crème fraiche). For my entree, I went with the special of seared duck ($26, smoked chili salsa, sweet potato hash, tomato relish, and micro basil). The tots and corn bread were complimentary, and I saved my bite of corn bread for my after dinner change of taste- perfect!

Overall, Hodge's thoughtful design elements are consistent in all areas of the space (bar and kitchen, private rooms, outdoor seating), and the food certainly makes a statement not only with its ingredients and satisfying flavors but also with its presentation. I will be returning (and if I was on the dating scene in Cleveland, I would recommend Hodge's for a third or fourth date)!

Hodge's Cleveland on Urbanspoon

Society Lounge
East 4th Street
We took our nightcap at Society Lounge on East 4th Street. A speakeasy of sorts, Society Lounge boasts a private, intimate setting with a live piano player and craft cocktails. Since Moscow Mules are all the rage these days, I opted to try their version. Admittedly, it was quite smooth and I believe that the copper straw added a little extra kick.

We ended the evening tired but fulfilled. With only one more day left, I was looking to make the most of our time left together and also starting to get sad about leaving this great group of bloggers and gals from Positively Cleveland.

Click on "Day 3" for Sunday's adventures.