I also have in my mind the ongoing Portland and Seattle rivalry, in real form and on Portlandia, playing in my brain.
But for my birthday weekend, my 26th birthday, I wanted that to change. I wanted to get the know the city better, not just pass through. And I wanted to give Cleveland a fighting chance, instead of watching and giggling over this YouTube video for the 700th time. In the end, I love and appreciate my hometown through and through, it's MY place, but Cleveland has some gems that are uniquely its own.
Cleveland Museum of Art
Our first stop was the Cleveland Museum of Art; we pretty much drove straight there on Saturday morning. We had considered going to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but between Mark's previous visit being less than spectacular there and steep ticket prices, we opted for the museum, the free option.
The breadth of collections and the beautiful museum building made it worth the visit. We spent the first hour and a half on the main floor, before realizing we still only hit less than half the building, but had to keep moving. The classic Italian and French art, from the 1600s and 1700s, was most impressive to me. There were also a few Van Gogh pieces that were great.
It's definitely worth another visit next time we go.
We were off to eat tacos next.
Tacos have always been a thing for me, so it was an easy sell. Mark and I got two tacos each, plus we shared a strawberry margarita. The food was great. One of my tacos had pulled pork, and it was magnificent. And the prices were great, too; 20 bucks for everything.
Our bellies were full, and now it was time to look out for some sweet deals.
This was voted best thrift shop in the city, according to the Cleveland Scene, but Mark and I weren't very impressed.
I know selections have their good days and bad days, but anything I did see was kinda pricey for a thrift store. Most dresses were $8 to $10, shirts were $6 and up, and there wasn't anything very special.
I think my favorite part of going here was watching one of the employees sing songs that were listed on CDs to a guy looking through them. He was in a wheelchair, and had a boombox next to him, so I guess he was just in need of some good jams. She had a pretty good rendition of "We Will Rock You".
The only thing I got was a ceramic turtle, with a shell lid, and that was $8. I probably paid too much, but I hate leaving thrift stores empty handed. Plus, it was my birthday and turtles are freaking adorable.
Over the weekend, there were other thrift stores we shopped at, and had the same issue. I don't know if it's a Cleveland thing or if Pittsburgh has super cheapy thrift stores, but the price points were all high and the selection was pretty drab. Meh.
On the other hand, past trips to Columbus were way different. Great finds, great prices, great selection. So who knows.
I have to preface this part by saying I don't shop in vintage stores very often. I tend to prefer the grittier thrift stores and estate sales. Also, vintage clothing in bigger sizes that also looks nice is hard to come by, so I get easily frustrated shopping in them.
With that said, while Sweet Lorain was unassuming on the outside, it was spectacular on this inside. This was another one of Midwest Muse's suggestions, although I had also heard of the place thanks to Orchid Grey's post from earlier this year.
Whether it was vintage clothing, old postcards, glasses, plates, photos, artwork, nick-knacks, this place had it. It was wall-to-wall, crowded but well organized. I'm surprised that there isn't a full-time staff member to lead search parties; it's so easy to get lost in here, taking in all of the beautiful things to see.
I'll admit the prices were a little high, (a lot of the dresses ran $50 to $60), but for the convenience of potentially getting some great finds, particularly if shoppers have specific items in mind, the prices are probably justified.
I got a small stack of Pittsburgh postcards here. I was also tempted to get some old family photos, which they labeled in a bowl with "instant relatives", but I resisted. (But it's on Instagram, which is almost as good.)
Yep, we hit a few vintage stores one after the other. This place felt very reminiscent of a vintage shop we went to Columbus last year, but then I looked at their business card when we got home and realized they have another location in Columbus. Ha.
This place also has a ton of stuff. The store layout is a little more spread out, and prices are a little more reasonable than Sweet Lorain. I tried on a few vintage dresses. While they looked great on the hanger, they didn't look so great on me. One of them was put together like a hospital gown. It's the black and white polka dot one on my arm in the picture above. My entire ass and back were exposed wearing it. There weren't even any buttons there, just a tie! Thanks, but no thanks, guys. Haha.
I got a banjo pin here, made from a sea shell. I thought it would be a cute accent piece next time I make it out to banjo night. :) (More details on that below.)
Melt Bar & Grilled
This local chain was probably the highlight of Mark's trip. As the name implies, Melt Bar and Grilled specializes in grilled cheese sandwiches. My co-worker Amy, who recently graduated from Kent State, recommended this restaurant.
The wait was long, both before and after we were seated, (probably because of a huge neighborhood event they were hosting that evening) but it was worthwhile.
Mark got "The Dude Abides", which had fried mozzarella sticks and meatballs. I had a bite and holy crap it was delicious. I just wouldn't want to eat one everyday or anything.
This may just become our regular stop in Cleveland.
(Unfortunately, all of the pictures I took of our glorious sandwiches were super dark. Just use your imagination.)
We stayed in a cheap motel, and everything went to shit Sunday morning, for lack of a better term.
We made plans to go to West Side Market, only to realize they're closed Sundays. Damn. We planned on going to a Cleveland Indians game Sunday afternoon, but a huge storm front came in and we didn't want to risk buying tickets. We tried going to a few flea markets to kill time, but most of them sucked, mostly due to the crappy weather. I also realized we hadn't made it to The Cleveland Flea the day before, which sounds like a great monthly market.
It was a sign that Cleveland is probably just worth a day trip rather than an overnight one. And I should probably plan things out a little better.
So after our series of fails, it was time for brunch.
Beachland Ballroom & Tavern
(If you need Sparknotes: Banjo night has a very blue collar environment; it's held at an Elks Club every Wednesday. It's exactly what it sounds like: a Banjo Band rehearsal. Zenith is a hip vegetarian cafe and antique shop with a bumping Sunday brunch.)
In addition to a number of locally sourced foods, there's a small vintage clothing and record shop in the basement.
Mark and I ended up splitting the biscuits and gravy, which is apparently made from scratch, according to Cleveland Scene.
The atmosphere of this place left something to be desired, since the brunch drink menu was longer than the food menu, and there was a DJ (I guess it's also a great concert hall), but the food was excellent and reasonably priced.
All in all, I wish our plans went a little more smoothly, but I don't regret the trip. It'll just give me another list of things to do again for next time.
One more thing: We got there the day after LeBron James went back to the Cleveland Cavaliers. I'm not a sports fan, especially not a basketball fan, but I even know that's a huge freaking deal.
The town was in a damn frenzy all weekend, which was kinda funny and awesome.
For anyone who's been to Cleveland, was there anything that I didn't mention that's not to be missed for next time?