Cleveland Rocks! Part II May 23 2016
Recently, I watched ESPN's 30 For 30 documentary about Cleveland sports called: Believeland. I wasn't sure if I was watching a sports documentary or a documentary about the death of a family's beloved house pet. It was sad with lot's and lot's of shots of sad looking Cleveland fans. Even though I have my critiques of the documentary (the part about Art Modell seemed a bit one sided), overall, it's an accurate depiction of what it's like to be a Cleveland sports fan. There's a saying that Cleveland teams are "always almost"; they make it to the finals and then something crazy happens and they lose. Then fans show faith by proclaiming, "Next year!" I'm too young to remember the 1980's Browns, but I do remember the disappointments of the 1990's Indian's championship loses, the most recent Cav's Labron departure (and return), and last year's basketball championship loss. You almost have to be a masochist to be a Cleveland sports fan, but we are some loyal die-hards and will never give up on our teams or our city.
That loyalty and hope have translated into some business, tech, healthcare, and infrastructural investments that are putting Cleveland in the upswing after a massive depopulation due to the eradication of manufacturing jobs and the foreclosure crisis. The airport is now undergoing a facelift and new swanky downtown hotels are under construction in order to prepare, at least in part, for the influx of out-of-towners to the Republican National Convention in July. It seems like people are taking notice of what Cleveland has to offer and I'm seeing a lot more tourists, particularly downtown. There's some good restaurants, sports stadiums, a casino, and new quirky shops like Rocket Fizz located downtown, but I recommend that visitors explore what Cleveland has to offer outside of downtown.
As I kid, my family and I frequently went to the quaint little town of Chagrin Falls, which is 30 min from Cleveland. It's a suburb where you see people walking their golden retrievers in front of beautifully maintained historic homes. We usually had ice cream from the now closed Baskin-Robbins and fed the ducks while sitting by the waterfalls. There are some nice fashion boutiques, restaurants, a historic popcorn shop, and the annual Blossom Time Festival where you can watch the set up and launch of hot air balloons. Chagrin Falls reminds me a lot of Hudson, OH which is technically a suburb of Akron, but close enough.
There's this friendly rivalry between the East and West sides of Cleveland, so I have to admit as someone who grew up on the Eastside, I didn't know much about the Westside. But recently I've been drawn to the Westside because of the Westside Market and some amazing vintage shops. Sweet Lorain is packed with items like old Playboy magazines, antique telephones, and clothes going as far back as the 1920's. They mostly have clothes from the 70's, so I found a wonderful yellow winter coat and hot pink Lacoste dress from that era. My good friend frequents vintage shops all over the country and she commented that Sweet Lorain is one of the best. The owner even mentioned that burlesque dancers from NYC frequent his shop. Not too far from Sweet Lorain is Sweet Moses, which is a vintage-inspired candy, soda fountain, and ice cream shop straight out of the 1950's.
Last but not least, I must mention some of my favorite restaurants. First, I love Ethiopian food. I've had it at restaurants throughout the country and Empress Taytu Ethiopian Restaurant near The Cleveland Clinic is by far the best. The food is flavorful and the meat is tender. Plus, the decor makes you feel like you've stepped into a restaurant that is actually in Ethiopian and they usually have videos playing Ethiopian music with dancers showcasing the Eskista (shoulder) dance. They are only open for dinner and closed Sundays and Mondays, but they are not too far from downtown. My other favorite restaurant is a new find. Nazca is a Peruvian restaurant, which transform into a dance club at night. I'm a huge fan of Peruvian food and Nazca does it well.
Cleveland is definitely worth visiting. I will admit that good restaurants, landmarks, etc. are more spread out than in bigger cities, but gas is cheap now...so enjoy and explore :-).