top of page

63.73 Hours in Cleveland

Updated: 2 days ago

Cleveland exudes a real city vibe and by that I mean a downtown that has enough traffic, pedestrians, skyscrapers and homeless to make you realize this place is a city and not just a bunch of buildings. The fact that a river runs through it, it has two downtown stadiums, a major orchestra, and a fully functioning Little Italy, makes it all the more legit.


3:42 pm

Stopped by the House from the movie A Christmas Story, in the Tremont neighborhood. I've never seen the movie, but if I ever do, I'll be prepared.

6:34 pm

I think I may have previously ranted about all the benefits of the small plate culinary experience (vs. the one plate entree) in my Fort Worth Report, but let me restate: Why have one great meal when I can have five? So therefore I visited the Butcher and the Brewer, an "Industrial-chic brewpub serving a menu of carefully sourced American fare & housemade beers." One damn delicious small plate after another: Kimchini Rice Balls in Wasabi Aioli, Grilled Octopus, Charred Broccolini and Korean Sticky Fried Chicken, though you may want to take a pass on the Fish and Chips. All with outstanding and patient service.

The place is located on the pedestrian only portion of 4th Street which with all the adjacent well reviewed restaurants, is Cleveland dining ground zero.

8:07 pm

Next stop was Bar 32 for some heavily glass reflected Great Lakes Eliot Ness Beer O'clock views of Cleveland. Located on the eponymous floor of the Hilton Cleveland Downtown, it's the typical cool modern hip hotel rooftop bar.


10:30 am

Phoenix Coffee for some sustainable coffee, so sustainable it won a 2021 Sprudgie Award . . . whatever the hell that is. Now, to be honest I could give a shit about how sustainable my coffee is. If it takes slashing and burning a rainforest, damming a pristine river or the mother of all gas flares to get a hot cup of coffee, a well paired nosh and a comfortable chair . . . then so be it.

A rather non-descript exterior that leads to an inviting space, the previously mentioned sustainable hot cup of coffee and cappuccino, a croissant to be shared, and two very comfortable wingback chairs.

12:30 pm

In addition to erecting a Ferris wheel, many cities in an effort to appear bigger and more sophisticated than they really are turn to the street car (Kansas City, Omaha, Cincinnati, etc.). Well it's that and to reward construction companies, civil engineers, and consultants for their political contributions. Not Cleveland though, as they recently removed their Ferris wheel¹ and refused to buy into the whole street car nonsense. Instead they built the HealthLine, a very nice series of elevated bus stops, linked by bus lanes and articulated buses that transports commuters and tourists at a tenth of the price.

After buying a $5.00 "all day individual pass" at the Euclid Av & E. 9th St Station, I boarded a bus and rode it all the way to . . .

1:01 pm

. . . the Cleveland Art Museum.

Why is it that some cities (Cleveland, Kansas City, Cincinnati, etc.) can provide its residents (and tourists) with world class art and plenty of it, for free, while others need to charge upwards of of $20? It makes me think art may be less about providing culture and more about running a business.²

This place is so extensive that a resident (or tourist) would need at least three days to see it all, which could make the free admission quite handy. I did my best to hit the high points in two hours, but this aesthete can only cover so much ground. A piece that really caught my eye was "Why Born Enslaved?" It has has such a fresh look, that I thought it must have been created quite recently . . . though this polychromed plaster statue was created in 1867.

Why Born Enslaved? Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, Plaster, 1868

Later I came across three museum employees reviewing a statue. When I asked what was up, a gentlemen in coveralls mentioned he was an art mounter and that it was necessary to better secure Saint Sebastian (circa 1600-1620, painted and gilded wood) to its pedestal to prevent its toppling by those too admiring of their cell phone and not enough of the art. I mentioned that maybe a laser beam could be used, not so much to warn admirers, but to punish them.

The Mounting Clip and the Art It Secures

4:30 pm

Most cities have a representative food, that helps explain the city in one bite. In Cleveland it's called a Polish boy (kielbasa sausage placed in a bun, and covered with a layer of French fries, a layer of barbecue sauce and a layer of coleslaw). According to the internet, the best Polish boy in all of downtown was to be had at Gillespie's Map Room. Well the internet was wrong, as the place doesn't serve one.

At the bar there were three adjacent gents dressed in a suit and tie. I mentioned to them that they must be lawyers as no one else dresses like that anymore. They were, and next thing I knew the leading members of the Cuyahoga County Major Trials Unit - Homicide, were informing me that the Italian Mafia in Cleveland is de minimus and that the place is known for their pizza.

This is the only bar I've ever visited that had an overhead loft that enables its occupant to look down on the patrons. A bartender currently lives there. Now, I like the idea of having a short commute, but this seems a little much.

A fine pizza, but not good enough to warrant a return visit . . . unless maybe the homicide boys are in attendance.

7:30 pm

The Cleveland Orchestra is one of the American orchestras informally referred to as the "Big Five" and it operates out of Severance Hall on the grounds of Case Western University. Now generally when I attend the symphony, it is in a modern Frank Gerry inspired architectural masterpiece, but this place is an ode to when orchestras played in a Carnegie Hall like palace.

Tonight's concert, courtesy of a subscriber's discounted tickets, was called City Noir and featured a little Claude Debussy and some John Adams. I was concerned that the Adams' stuff might be a little too avant-garde, but in the end both were outstanding, with the opening piece called Breathing Forests by Gabriella Smith a little underwhelming. You see it's one of those contemporary pieces that actually is supposed to sound like a forest. And it actually did, with Mrs. AAR at one point whispering in my ear "Did you just hear the monkey?" Though if I want to hear what a forest sounds like (or a babbling brook, a jet engine or say . . . a monkey), I'll just listen to one. Call me a philistine, but when I go to the symphony I want to hear songs . . . not sounds.


10:30 am

Coffee and a raspberry Danish³ at what has to be the most beautiful grocery store in the world. The Cleveland supermarket chain Heinen's operates a store out of the old Cleveland Trust Company Building that includes a Tiffany-style stained glass dome, marble floors, and a circular mural titled The Development of Civilization in America. This could also be a place to pick up a $4.99 orange or an $11.99 jar of pasta sauce.

12:13 am

Another city, another Soldier's and Sailor's Monument, in this case the Cuyahoga County Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument. Travel has taught me many things, and one of them is that building a Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument became a thing in this country in the latter half of the 19th century to honor Civil War veterans. Mostly Union veterans, but even a good thing can go bad, with one being built to honor confederates, in Baltimore of all places.

Most have a common look with a statue placed on a column in the middle of a rectangular base that has soldiers and sailors standing upon it. I particularly enjoyed this one as there is a sculpture of a Union soldier shooting Johnny Reb right between the eyes.

12:49 pm

A walkabout of downtown that allowed me to review three Ohioans, who may possibly be the greatest quarterback, running back and pitcher in history.

Click to Identify

1:53 pm

So I'm walking south on E. Sixth St when I come across a crowd of people gathered like they were waiting to see the all-time scorer in NCAA basketball history . . . which they were . . .

4:46 pm

A driving tour of the West Side to include the Westside Market (a fine market), Cliff Drive (a fine view of downtown Cleveland) and a neighborhood called the Flats that borders the Cuyahoga River (a fine neighborhood). It's strange post-industrial/entertainment district that is home to a long defunct bascule bridge/ruin porn called the Cuyahoga Jack-Knife Bridge 464 as well as . . .

5:15 pm

. . . the oldest bar in Cleveland and winner of the 2020 Best Dive Bar in Ohio Award, the Harbor Inn. And it looks every bit of its 129 years, as does a number of its regulars. For a dive bar it has an extensive beer inventory, everything from Carling Black Label (him) to King Ludwig Weissbier (her).

I'm always fascinated how adive bars are stocked, with this well stocked one containing a liqueur of which I was quite unfamiliar: sour grape schnapps. Apparently it's mixed with grape vodka and Sprite in a drink whose name I have no desire to know.

6:24 pm

The quest for a Polish boy continued. You know that the most famous sandwich in a city may not be that famous when everyone's heard of one, but no one knows where to eat one. So in the end I decided to go with Cleveland's most famous chef Michael Symon and his restaurant Mabel's BBQ. It made sense as the place is directly across the street from the Butcher and the Brewer, so in essence my Cleveland adventure had come full circle. They only serve a Polish girl which is sans French fries, which I'm thinking was for the best. Preceded by Crispy (pig) Ears and washed down by a Michael's Manhattan on the rock (the secret: a little port). Outstanding.


10:00 am

Coffee and a cannoli at Presti's Bakery. Located in what has to be the most vibrant Little Italy in the country. So vibrant it doesn't contain a single Asian restaurant. This place covers all the Italian bases, everything from Cavatelli with Meatball to Yogurt Parfait. Mangia!


The observant reader will notice I did not visit the number one tourist attraction in C-town, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This was partially because much like the Baseball Hall of Fame⁴ I do not agree with the selection of a number of the inductees. Now the Beastie Boys, Dolly Parton and Eminem are fine artists, and most definitely belong in a Hall of Fame, just not the Rock and Roll one. And don't even get me started on Duran Duran, Eurythmics, and the Go-Go's. And that they are all members of the same club as the Beatles is blasphemous. Who's next Peabo Bryson?!


When I looked into staying in Cleveland, there were very few rooms to be had with the cheapest being the Comfort Inn at $474+tax. I realized that Cleveland fell in the direct path of the soon to be eclipse, but really?! Then I discovered it may have been due to the 2024 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Final Four (damn you Caitlin Clark!)

My only real option to stay downtown was at the poetically named 2 bath| Prkg+Gym+Sauna | Perk Plaza |+30 Day via for $206/night+tax. It made me realize that lodgings at non-hotel Airbnb like accommodations have really lost much of their charm. Five or so years ago when I used Airbnb extensively, the places I stayed at had low prices, nice appointments and the personal touch. There was the hassle of front-desk-less check-in, but the benefits far outweighed the drawbacks. That time has passed. Their prices are now on par with hotels, the appointments basic and a personal touch non-existent.

Although getting 8.8 on, it was filled with low end cabinets, countertops, fixtures and dust. The place was so devoid of personality and wall art, that I thought it might be a CIA safe house. The hallway leading to it was quite dark with a flickering light that exuded a haunted house vibe. And the dank parking garage was equally creepy and underlit, but also oozed strangely colored liquids on my car, which whenever I got out of, I carefully looked around as to make sure I wasn't on the wrong end of a Mob hit.

But Wait There's More!

In case you didn't know, there was an eclipse on Monday, Apr 8, 2024 whose path of totality went directly over Cleveland.

Endnotes: I wanted to provide some very specific details that while vaguely interesting did not contribute to the overall narrative. Perhaps just wait until the end to read. 

¹ Cleveland's Ferris wheel now rotates in an infinitely more sophisticated Canton, OH.

² Besides being a business, I think many museums are also a form of welfare, with the rich (the patrons) using the middle class (the museum administration) to channel funds to the otherwise poor (the artists).

³ A Danish pastry (sometimes shortened to Danish) is a multilayered, laminated sweet pastry in the viennoiserie tradition. It is thought that some bakery techniques were brought to Denmark by Austrian bakers, and originated the name of this pastry.

⁴ While I would visit the Baseball Hall of Fame again, I wouldn't view the plaques of Harold Baines, Ron Santo and Ferguson Jenkins. Maybe it's a Chicago thing?

138 views2 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Interesting what an outsider sees and reports on from Cleveland! When I was growing up there the standard quip among school kids was: Mabel, Mabel -- get off the table. The quarter's for the beer. Christmas story, dated and hilarious in all kinds of non-PC ways. They had to make the snow with ivory flakes since it was so warm during filming. A classic. My grans see it every holiday season. But as written it was set in Indiana. Which slips through from time to time. No truth in advertising. LOL. LB

Replying to

LB, I'll keep the Christmas Story background in mind if i ever watch it. Thanks for reading.

bottom of page