Fleeing to the Cleve: Part 2

August 22, 2013

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After Part 1 of our Cleveland trip and breakfast at Lucky’s Cafe, the folks from Positively Cleveland took us on a little sightseeing tour. We needed to walk off our breakfast of pecan bacon and biscuits & gravy, so this worked well. First, we hit up the Christmas Story house. Made famous as the exterior location for the family home in A Christmas Story, this house has become a regular Cleveland attraction. (The movie takes place in Indiana, but the in the story the house is located on Cleveland Street, which is fitting since that was author Jean Shepherd’s street growing up.) The house has been restored to look as it did for the movie 30 years ago (!), and you can actually take tours inside; they’ve redone the interior to look like the set for the movie. And, yes, there is a leg lamp in the front window.

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We skipped the tour, opting instead for a visit to the gigantic gift shop across the street. It’s surprisingly big, much bigger than it appears from the street, and it’s filled with every imaginable piece of merchandise from the movie. Bunny suits for the whole family? Check. Leg lamps of all sizes? Check.

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Stack of Red Rider BB Guns? Check. You’ll shoot your eye out!

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They tap into the nostalgia and love for the movie so thoroughly, that even the displays are made to look like the box the leg lamp comes in. “Must be Italian!”

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After some time at the Christmas Story house, we drove over to the West Side Market. This is one of the few Cleveland spots I had visited before, but this time I got to experience a fully-fledged Saturday market.

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Now, I love Columbus’ North Market. There’s no doubt about that. But the West Side Market is in a completely different category. Whereas North Market has your expected market stalls (fish, meat, bread, flowers) and food vendors (pretzels, Indian, Polish, Italian), West Side Market boasts 100+ stalls with multiple butchers, bakeries, candy shops, coffee stands, and food vendors.

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To top that off, the market is located inside a stunning brick building with subway tile, vaulted ceilings, and intricate decorative details. The building celebrated its 100 year anniversary in 2012. Market hours are only on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. We were told that these hours were set in decades past, as those were the arrival days of ice at the market. Over the years, the hours never changed. In some ways this seems odd, although it does concentrate the crowds on the open days. I also remembered reading about a fire at the market earlier this year. April, one of our Positively Cleveland guides, told us that the fire damaged a few stalls and forced the entire market (the main concourse) to close for two weeks. The community rallied around it with special events and programs to raise money for the vendors hit hard by the closing, and to help pay for renovations. The one positive to come out of the fire was that the entire market building had to be professionally cleaned, which revealed architectural and decorative details that hadn’t been seen for decades.

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Next to the market is another covered arcade housing the produce market. It runs the full length of the main concourse, and is loaded with another 80+ vendors.

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A beautiful summer Saturday seems to be the perfect time to visit the market. The stalls are bursting with colorful produce. I had reminders of past trips to London from the vendors calling out their goods and prices and offering samples.

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I can easily see why the Market is a focal point for Cleveland’s locally-sourced restaurants.

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The indoor market stalls were overwhelming, so I relied on some Twitter suggestions for spots to visit. Of course, then the Twitter suggestions were overwhelming (because there are so many good things to see!), so I took a couple of them and went with it. But while I wandered I noticed big lines at Crepes de Deluxe, with separate lines for crepes and coffee.

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I joined the throngs of children ogling candy at Campbell’s Popcorn Company.

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I picked up a handful of kolacky cookies from a bakery.

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And then kicked myself for being too full for donuts and apple fritters.

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But then I tempted myself with a look at all the sausage and meat sticks available.

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And eventually I ended up where I knew I was headed anyway: Noodlecat‘s market stall.

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A steamed bun seemed the perfect-sized snack after a big breakfast. I tried the Butcher Bun special: chorizo (from J&J Meats in the market) with lettuce, creme fraiche, and sambal (a spicy pepper sauce/paste). It was a nice little kick in the mouth.

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After the market stroll, we walked down the street to peak at the Ohio City Farm, an urban farm run by a group of restaurants and organizations, including the Refugee Response program, which offers work to refugees coming to the United States. The farm is built on the former site of a housing project. When it was razed, the soil proved too soft for rebuilding, but perfect for a small farm. Here it is with downtown Cleveland in the background.

Such a great start to our Saturday! Stay tuned for the next stages (and meals) of our trip.

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FOOD + TRAVEL WRITER

I go by Dr. Breakfast, but in addition to restaurants and recipes, I write about family travel, breweries and distilleries, the arts, outdoor fun, and so much more.

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