Sunday, January 01, 2012

My Cleveland: a first and last time visitor's guide

--This first one is easy. If you are coming to Cleveland, the one thing you must see is Armor Court in the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Charging Armor Court in the Cleveland Museum of Art

I have been strolling through this magnificent room for four decades and it takes my breath away every time. While you walk amid dazzling tapestries and authentic knights in shining armor, do keep in mind that all the metal around you was forged with fire and a hammer.

A hammer.

Looking skyward, Interior, Peter Lewis Building.
The museum is in the heart of University Circle, which you will not have enough time to explore (no one ever does, which is part of its intrigue), but do take in the Peter B. Lewis Building, if only to challenge your conception of solidity. You might even be able to sneak in and snoop around the common areas.

Lunch suggestion: L'Albatros Brasserie.

--The Gordon Square neighborhood is one of my favorite parts of town. It's old and tough and coming back, plus it's got the Capital Theatre, where the silver screen glitters in a building that hails from 1921. HELL YEAH.

Gordon Square street band.

After the movie, amble across the street to LUXE and enjoy their braised short ribs with potato gnocchi and blue cheese sauce. When I took my first bite of this dish, I chewed, swallowed, inhaled, then leveled my eyes at my husband and said, "This may be the best plate of food I have ever eaten."

Dessert: Sweet Moses.

--I start talking about the West Side Market and my eyes well up. Places with a energy such as this are very rare indeed. You don't have to buy anything; just being here will feed you.

Some people say "living history" and it's just two words. But when I get a falafel sandwich at Maha's (the best in town) and eat it while perched on the stone bench in the market balcony with my kid at my side, I take living history into singular territory. My great grandfather was a sweet corn and potato farmer in this county and he used to trade his produce at the West Side Market almost a hundred years ago.

View from the balcony, Cleveland's West Side Market

If you're looking for a nosh with a little more swank, walk over to Crop Bistro.  Oh hell, just go over there anyway for a glass or cuppa while you take in the most elegant dining room in Cleveland.

Quirk at Big Fun.
--The Coventry neighborhood is brimming with small quirk at places like Big Fun and Mac's Backs, where you MUST descend the stairs and browse the stacks and stacks of used books.

Don't miss: the spring rolls at Tree Country Bistro.

--For a handful of unparallelled architectural delights in the downtown area, try the Huntington Bank Building, the Cleveland Public Library's Main Branch or the Cuyahoga County Court House. Eats? I always hope to find one of our eclectic food trucks.

Bigger quirk: Cleveland's Free Stamp.

--Because this is Cleveland and because it's January, I must include Rockefeller Park Greenhouse in this list. Let the wind and snow blow, in here you'll find a vintage tropical wonderland worthy of Gatsby & Co.

--Yeah, yeah. I know. We've got the ultimate Rock House, which is right next door to a big ol' science center, you can learn more about those and tons of other venues over here But this is an Erin guide and while the Cleveland savvy will drone on about the history of Playhouse Square and crow about it being the second largest theater district in the country (next to NYC's Broadway), I will tell you that to stepping into the Palace Theater is pure magic bathed in undiluted opulence.

So I shall leave you here, where anything is possible.

*  *  *

This post is a response to a request for a list of suggestions of what to do in my town for a few days surrounding a life threatening procedure at the Cleveland Clinic.

More of Erin O'Brien's Cleveland.

*  *  *


alphadog said...

Man, what a whirlwind tour. I was still delighting in the memory of the Armour Court, where I could have spent an entire day had the person I was with not been in such rush to try and see everything. Then you throw in everything else and it's like I should move back to Cleveland just to again appreciate the city where I grew up.

Lynn said...

Thank you so much Erin! You're the best!

Anonymous said...

That FREE Stamp is AWESOME. (Googling now)
BTW E'O...
I've been meaning to ask...Sometime ago when I discovered the cheap version of Netflix I watched oodles of obscure documentaries. One very good one was called "One Bad Cat-The Reverend Albert Wagner Story." Do you know the late, great Rev's work?


Anonymous said...

I knew it had to be subversive..."Sohio had previously been acquired by BP, and BP executive Robert Horton took over the management of Sohio before the sculpture was installed. He believed that the stamp was "inappropriate" for the location, and that Oldenburg actually intended to mock BP about Sohio's loss of corporate freedom and the lack of freedom in office work."


Erin O'Brien said...

Don't have to, RJ, I was there. I signed on with Sohio in 1987 shortly before BP bought them out, so I saw the transition.

Oldenburg was commissioned by Sohio brass to create a sculpture for the front of their new downtown CLE building. The merger happened just after that.

Oldenburg was commissioned on his artistic merit, without final plans in place. He was to create the art for the space. When BP took over and the building was finished, Oldenburg unveiled the work (much to the dismay of many many many Sohioans and other CLE biz dignitaries), but BP's Horton threw a fit.

Horton reportedly took one look at the Free Stamp (which was supposed to be positioned face down in front to the new building, with an access door for the public to view the inside structure and giant FREE letters) and said:

Not in front of my building!

BP paid Oldenburg per his contract, then dispatched the Free Stamp to some storage location in rural Ohio, where it remained for years.

Eventually, BP agreed to donate the sculpture to the city of Cleveland, but Oldenburg had mandated some creative control over the piece in his contract. He had to approve the Free Stamp's placement.

So it sits in Willard Park and I can promise you that it is positioned so it is clearly viewable from (what used to be) the top floor executive offices of BP. Yes, the building has since been sold, but top BP brass were treated to a backwards and upside-down (or should I say mutated?) FREE for several years. I know, I've stood in those offices and have seen it for myself.

Make no mistake, Oldenburg got the last word, or should I say nose-thumbing.

I swear, no one out-Clevelands the O'Brien.

Anonymous said...

Great info but I didn't mean for you(E'O) to google it. That was sort of a "hey this is cool stuff" general populace call to google.

What about Wagner?


I've been trying to come up with a good springtime vacation location. You keep posting this stuff I'm gonna have to come to Cleveland.

alphadog said...

I'll make you a deal. You come to Cleveland for your spring vacation and I'll make sure I'm in Yankeeland that week so to provide you with enough barbecue you don't get homesick.
Hell, maybe we could entice Bill and DogsDon'tPurr and everyone else to come too. Erin could be the master tour guide. If Al came he and I could collaborate on the bbq. It would be a meeting of the minds of the Owners Manual.
I will tell you this, everyone falls in love with something, in the spring, in Cleveland.

Bill said...

Thanks for hosting my vicarious visit to Cleveland. I have no reason, now, to actually visit unless, of course, I had the opportunity to meet the O'Brien.

Anonymous said...

Generous offer sir, thank you.
It's just being so close to those Canadians makes me a little nervous. I heard if they hear someone say ya'll they make 'em sing "God Save the Queen" and gorge themselves on Poutine.


Erin O'Brien said...

Sounds like quite a bash, alph. Maybe we can all fall in love together.

Don't worry RJ, no illegal Canadians here. If anyone in CLE is caught wearing a Molson shirt, saying "hoser" or "eh?" or "pahtahtah" instead of potato, we demand to see their papers. If they can't produce them, we make them watch video of last season's Brown's games for 24 hours. So far it's been pretty effective.

Al The Retired Army Guy - And Iraq Veteran said...

I'm game if everyone else is. I'm always looking for a good excuse to come to what I consider the Nexus of the Universe - Cleveland, Ohio.

Oh, and the West Side Market? As our humble hostess knows, I consider it pornography for cooks, much like the Sausage Shoppe.

Browns games? Don't worry about it. It's not really professional football.


alphadog said...

Bill, of course you'll meet Erin. who the hell do you think your tour guide is going to be, her evil twin?

Pick a date RJ and don't worry about the hordes from the north, there's a pretty good size lake between us and them.

Barbecuing with Al, hot damn.

Al The Retired Army Guy said...

@ Alpha: Hot damn indeed. It will be good, real BBQ.


Ben@NationalFurnitureSupply said...

you are awesome erin. I love it.

Anonymous said...

No comment-I just had to use this wv:'oveness'....the Goddess of the Kitchen