CLEVELAND: What’s New ???

3 Jun

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We’re in Cleveland for the weekend; our home base, Stone Gables Bed and Breakfast is nestled in the vibrant, charming, historic Ohio City neighborhood. A group of young entrepreneurs have given new life to the area now known as Hingetown in Ohio City. It’s a familiar story, vacant old buildings are restored and repurposed, new businesses move in and flourish, elevating the quality of life, which in turn attracts new residents and visitors. We’re on 29th Street in the midst of  a sun-drenched Saturday, the old Ohio City Firehouse building is buzzing with activity, people sit at picnic tables on the patio drinking cold beverages, dog walkers greet one another as they pass, bicycles whiz by. We step into the air-conditioned space of Urban Orchid, a floral and gift boutique. The place smells amazing, like Gardenia, fresh-cut flowers have been arranged into colorful centerpieces for a reception that will take place later in the evening. Cleveland goods such as t-shirts and cards as well as gift items created by local artists are available for purchase.

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Just around the corner of the firehouse is Rising Star Coffee Roasters, this was the first business to take a foothold on the block. Inside the line moves swiftly, the guy in front of me has the highest praise for the coffee and the oatmeal chocolate chip cookie–who am I to argue? Standing at a high-top table we have our cold brew coffee and cookie, both are excellent, never doubt a local. Back outside we cross the street to the Striebinger building with businesses on the street level and apartments on the second level. We wander in and out of each space, long and narrow interiors are accented by exposed brick and Edison bulbs. Glass storefronts allow sunlight to wash in giving shops an open, airy feel. Beet Juice Bar is doing a brisk business selling cold-pressed juice, I love the drop tin ceiling in Cleveland Tea Revival, the lunch crowd has started to arrive at Juke Box. Harness Cycle is a spinning studio that also sells cool work-out gear, pet owners make their way to Ohio City Dog Haven. This little district has the feel of a small village integrated right into the neighborhood, it’s wonderful.

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Heading west in the Jeep, we stumble upon the Madison Arts District on, what else, Madison Ave in Lakewood. We both spot the sign at the same time, Kris manages to turn around and park us in front of a quirky, vintage, antique, Mid Century shop called Googie Style. Googie is that modern, futuristic, atomic, car-culturish, bright-colored, starburst, anything goes style found from the 40’s to the 60’s. Inside we meet Margaret, one of the owners, she’s awesome. She points out some of the more unusual pieces, shares stories of great finds as we take in the fun and funky collection of items. Sure there’s the great mid-century design furniture, beautiful glass and copper sculptures, but there’s also a jack-a-lope, masks and a framed painting of parrots. With names of other shops in the area and a school to check out, we’re off.

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First the school, Lakewood High School on Franklin is home to Viktor Schreckengost’s 1954 sculpture, Johnny Appleseed. A native of Ohio, Schreckengost attended the Cleveland School of the Arts, designed the Jazz Bowl for Eleanor Roosevelt, taught industrial design and was a bicycle designer for Murray, Sears and others. The sculpture is kitchy-cool and definitely worth a look. Back on Madison we drop in and out of several antique shops. Great 70’s kitchenware, Corning Ware had some far out patterns, mushroom canisters were all the rage, ahhh, the memories… The Good Goat Gallery is a great place to stop and browse, the art ranges from fine to fun. Kris and I wander, we find it all quite attractive, dolls have amazing faces, paintings use bright colors, some of it is humorous, some solemn, much of it puts me in the mind of Latin America. The gallery is gearing up for a big show called Six Degrees of Vincent, Vincent Price’s daughter Victoria will be there for the opening, looks like an awesome show!

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We are having lunch at Barrio, Cleveland’s own taco house serving up specialty tacos, tequila and whiskey. We are seated on the patio, pencils and menu pads stand in a metal bin on our table, our server brings us icy cold glasses of water and explains the ordering process. We’re hungry, too hungry to create our own tacos from the vast list of available ingredients, so we go with El Jefe’s Selecciones, we ask our server to bring us the first four on the list. Munching on still-warm chips and flavorful salsa our basket of tacos arrives. We each take two, eat half and switch, thank goodness for the roll of napkins in the basket. The Vegan Stoner is a soft shell with grilled peppers, onions, portobello, corn salsa, pickled veggies and a herb vinaigrette, delicious. El Jefe is a hard shell, wrapped in a soft shell and stuffed with queso, chorizo, chicken, corn salsa, smoked cheddar, lettuce, chipolte honey sauce, wow, a great combo of flavors and textures. El Puerco is the combo soft and hard shell with white cheese, pulled pork, queso fresco, chipolte honey, salsa roja, lettuce and tomato, so good! The Spicy Sapanaro is spicy, but not so hot that it’s hard to eat. Here we have the soft and hard shell, cheese, chorizo, chicken, queso fresco, salsa roja and secret sauce, yum! I can see why Barrio is such a local favorite.

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Refreshed and re-energized we drive into downtown Cleveland to check out Heinen’s on 9th and Euclid. This gorgeous building, designed by George B Post, opened in 1908 as the Cleveland Trust Building. The building was occupied by Cleveland Trust, then Ameri Trust and finally Society Corp until the 1990’s. Today Cleveland’s oldest family-owned grocery chain, Heinen’s operates out of this iconic domed structure. The exterior is richly detailed with carvings and columns, one look and you know it was an important building in its day.

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Inside, your eyes are immediately drawn to the elaborate, beautiful glass dome. A ring of super-ornate plaster covered in gold leaf caps arches and more columns, illuminated rosettes are magnificent, a stunning railing runs the perimeter of the mezzanine level, hand painted murals peek out between arches, plaster details are heavy. Cafe tables fill the circular ground floor, grab a coffee, something from the bakery or a meal at one of the counters. The mezzanine level offers wine tasting, a huge selection of bottles and beer. From here the overall view is spectacular; above, the murals, dome and all of its details, below, the patterned marble floor, the stairway is pretty snazzy too. Aisles are located in the space beyond the dome for all your grocery needs.

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We make one last stop on our way back to our room, there’s a new ice cream shop on Bridge Street we want to check out. Mason’s Creamery is housed in a tiny Mid Century building with a covered patio that looks like it has always been a neighborhood ice cream shop. Folks are gathered along the freezer staring into five-gallon drums of frozen deliciousness; tasting is encouraged and everyone seems to be doing their part. Along with the usual suspects, Mason’s offers flavors like popcorn, Cleveland Whiskey, butterscotch and Paw Paw. Flavors are made in-house in small batches, today there are about a dozen to choose from. I taste and I taste, it’s the dark chocolate I like the best, Kris goes with the Roasted Peanut, they add a drizzle of strawberry for that peanut butter and jelly combo. We eat our dessert sitting at a small table, it’s fun to watch people try the different flavors, the line continually repopulates. It has been a day of fun and new discoveries in a place so familiar to us. There’s still tomorrow………..

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