Back in May, Robert and I spent a long weekend in Cleveland with my fabulous sister-in-law, Katelyn. Robert’s birthday is right near Memorial Day, so we like to use that holiday as a chance to go somewhere for the weekend and do something fun. We went to Cleveland over Memorial Day weekend the first summer we were dating (2012), and this year was our first time heading back there just for the sake of spending quality time with his sister, as opposed to a holiday or other family event.
In case you haven’t been there, Cleveland is a lot of fun. Katelyn knows to take us to all the best spots in town, and we always have a blast with her and her friends. So I’m going to give you a little tour of all the places we ate (because you know that’s all I really care about when I visit a new place). We visited a handful of Cleveland’s little neighborhoods, so I have it broken down into individual sections like that, which should make it easier for you to seek them out based on which part of Cleveland you might be in. (Give or take – some of the lines here are a little blurred for the neighborhoods, but it should give you a pretty good idea.) Here we go:
What we ate: Sweet potato fries (with 3 dipping sauces: maple mayo, chipotle lime mayo, dark chocolate), pesto chicken flatbread
What we drank: Rogue Mocha Porter + salted caramel martini
Katelyn works here, so we went straight there on our Friday night drive into town to visit her at work and grab a bite to eat. As a chocolate lover this place is always fun for me with their crazy list of chocolate martinis and whatnot, but honestly my favorite thing was the sweet potato fries with the variety of dipping sauces.
DETROIT SHOREWAY / GORDON SQUARE ARTS DISTRICT:
What we ate: Left Coast omelet (avocado, bacon, diced tomatoes and mild cheddar), buttermilk griddle cakes with banana and pecans, cinnamon roll french toast
This was our breakfast stop the first morning in town. We knew we would be “appetizing” our way through the city that day, so we ordered light and shared everything between the three of us. Everything was great, but the griddle cakes won my heart that morning. This is one of Katelyn’s favorite breakfast spots, and it sounds like you can’t go wrong with their menu.
What I ate: Classic all-beef hot dog with applewood-smoked bacon, nacho cheese, dill pickle spear, Roma tomatoes, Spanish onions, house recipe ketchup and traditional yellow mustard + tater tots with an assortment of sauces (house ketchup, black truffle honey mustard, Alabama style white BBQ sauce, Japanese yum yum sauce, top secret fry sauce, roasted garlic aioli and Korean BBQ sauce)
What I drank: a whiskey soda
This is another one of Katelyn’s favorite spots, and one she’s been dying to take us to for a few years. It’s really just a neighborhood bar with a killer hot dog menu. You fill out an order form where you pick your hot dog along with its various toppings by checking off boxes. Robert had things like mac and cheese and a fried egg on his. I kept mine somewhat traditional. Then we all shared an order of tots with a bunch of their dipping sauces. I think my favorites included the top secret fry sauce, garlic aioli and the yum yum sauce. This place was cheap and super fun – great for a cozy night with friends.
What we ate: biscuit sandwich (prosciutto, fried egg, Ohio goat cheddar, home fries), seared corn bread (with prosciutto and goat cheese-wrapped asparagus, butter stewed tomatoes and a fried egg), poached eggs and avocado (on an English muffin with beef steak tomatoes and Hollandaise), house beignets with chocolate and blueberry coulis
What I drank: “Bloom” (citrus vodka, lavendar lemonade, blueberry purée)
This kind of place is my jam! My drink was so good I could have had 7. I really love boozy drinks with a lemon/lavender twist to them. The food was also spectacular, and we kept rotating the plates around the table. (Because we’re family. But also because we love food and like to share.) We sat on their back patio and enjoyed watching someone’s golden retriever walk around with his leash in his mouth. This was our hangover brunch and it was perfect for a lazy Sunday.
Ice cream flavors we had: cookies and cream, salted French caramel, bananas foster
Right across the street from Luxe, this was our entirely unnecessary dessert after our Sunday brunch. Sweet Moses is an old fashioned ice cream and soda shop where they make their own ice cream and a bunch of other sweets. The salted French caramel flavor was one of the best ice creams I’ve ever tried.
What we drank: morning glory shots (cold-pressed ginger, orange, lemon, cayenne)
Try saying that name three times fast. I have to think so hard when I say it, even just in my head. I love juice bars and have been wanting to try one of these ginger shot thinger-ma-bobs. Katelyn loves them, so she offered to “do a shot” with me. Whooaaa boy this thing was spicy! I had to take it a little bit at a time (I’m terrible at taking shots), and I felt like I had smoke coming out of my ears. But it definitely woke me up and cleared out my sinuses. Ha! I could have done without the cayenne, but oh well. If that sounds like your thing then you would love it, like Katelyn. The mood in this place was so nice and cheery. I’d love to go back another time for a different juice.
What we drank: iced orange blossom green tea, iced peppermint yerba mate, grapefruit kombucha
I was saving myself for coffee (see below), so I didn’t initially order anything when we got here. I had sips of Robert’s and Katelyn’s iced teas (which were VERY good), and we had a great time just hanging out in there for a while and chatting with the lovely lady behind the counter. Then I noticed their huge sign for kombucha (how did I miss this?), asked for the daily flavor and knew immediately that I needed to try their flavor of the day, grapefruit. So good! This place is fantastic if you’re a tea or kombucha lover, and their staff was extremely friendly.
What I drank: iced cardamom bomb (brown sugar, cardamom, single origin espresso and milk)
What I ate: chocolate chip cookie
These fancy coffee places can be intimidating sometimes, and I’m the annoying customer who likes to ask a million questions before I order. But Rising Star is one of those fancy coffee places with smiling employees who love to tell budding coffee newbs like me all about their products. They helped to steer me towards ordering what I already knew I would probably get: the “cardamom bomb.” But since it was hot AF and I drink iced coffee in zero-degree weather anyway, I ordered it iced. And since I can’t resist a huge chocolate chip cookie to eat with my coffee, that was added to my order as well. Five stars all around for this place.
Pairing one (wine + truffles): Les Roses de Marie Rosé + the Maui Wowie (velvety vanilla bean ganache sprinkled with black lava salt in Valrhona white chocolate), Frou-Frou (blood orange and passionfruit reduction spiked with Fruit Lab orange liqueur in Valrhona white chocolate), Lime (fresh key lime juice with a touch of Stein’s honey in Valrhona white chocolate)
Pairing two (beer + truffles): Wicked Juju Imperial Ale brewed with ginger + Jimmie (hot fudge ganache layered with their signature salted caramel in Valrhona dark chocolate), PB Brownie (Stein’s honeyed peanut butter layered with a triple chocolate ganache in Valrhona milk chocolate), Old School (creamy malted milk blended with vanilla bean in Valrhona milk chocolate)
Extra truffles: Red Planet (red wine & strawberry ganache, topped with raspberry powder in Valrhona dark chocolate), Half Past Midnite (Hazelnut Praline & espresso ganache with cinnamon spiked feuilletine crunch in Valrhona dark chocolate)
Katelyn has also been dying to take me here for years. It’s like my soul mate in a chocolate shop: They do pairings of craft beer and fine wine with their decadent chocolate truffles. Can I live there? I could seriously spend all day in this place. I’d feel like crap after a million beer/wine and chocolate tastings, but it might be worth it. Our helper did a great job of suggesting truffles to pair with the beer and wine of the day, and the combinations were truly mind-blowing. I probably wouldn’t have picked a blood orange and passionfruit truffle to try that day, but when you eat it while sipping some rosé, that’s like the definition of a perfect afternoon.
What we ate: artichoke and spinach au gratin, gulf blue crab cake (with Pernod velouté, fennel and red onion citrus slaw)
What I drank: Ramos gin fizz (watershed gin, orange flower water, half and half, lemon juice and egg whites)
This was our Saturday afternoon “we’re feeling peckish” stop after some window-shopping in the cute Tremont neighborhood. Although I’m not really a fan of crab cakes, the few bites I had of this one were really good. The artichoke au gratin was heavenly, so I probably ate the majority of that out of the three of us. Our drinks were great, too. This is a cool stop, and it’s designed to make you feel like you’re in New Orleans. It was fun to pretend for an hour.
Katelyn and Robert drank: Short’s Soft Parade, Boulder Beer Shake Chocolate Porter
I took a hydration break here, but I wrote down the beers Katelyn and Robert ordered for all of you beer nerds out there. They have a large selection of craft beers at this bar. We enjoyed their back patio and I noticed they have popcorn for when you need drinking snacks. I believe you can also order pizza from Edison’s Pizza Kitchen and have it delivered to the bar for you. Smart moves!
What I drank: I think I ordered “The Sharpest Juice” (apple, cucumber, fresh lime juice), but I feel like it tasted more like the “Jessica Rabbit” (apple, carrot, fresh ginger) …. It’s hard to say. Either the person making my juice gave me the wrong one, or I was all out of sorts. But it doesn’t really matter because it was delicious.
Oh boy, this was a hungover afternoon. We were too full to eat here (although the menu looked fun), and I was too hungover to drink (even though I really wanted to try some of their cocktails). Thank goodness for their fresh juices, which I think is exactly what I needed. This is a fun spot because they have a bunch of board games, bowling lanes and an arcade to play around in, and various different areas for hanging out in large groups, plus tables and booths and whatnot. We just wandered around and then hung out on the patio until we had the strength to haul our butts somewhere else. (PS – Punch Bowl Socials are in a lot of major US cities.)
What we drank: Heart of Darkness (rum, honey, demerara and citrus), Fogg Cutter (almond, lime), Pain Killer (pineapple, coconut and rum)
What we ate: Closing Time Nachos
I believe this was one of our Saturday-Funday afternoon/happy hour stops. The atmosphere and decoration in this tiki bar are on point. We had so much fun sitting at the bar, talking to each other and annoying the bartenders, watching them make all of the fancy tiki drinks. To be honest, I didn’t love these cocktails – I think I’m just not a huge fan of tiki rum-based beverages. They do have a full bar, however, and make a bunch of classic cocktails as well. If I had ordered an old fashioned or something I probably would have loved it, but it seemed like a waste to not order a tiki drink at a tiki bar. Robert, however, LOVED his drink. I was all about the nachos, though, because I’m always all about nachos.
What we drank: Lemon basil margarita, blueberry mint margarita, classic mojito
What we ate: guacamole, Caribbean French Fries (fried plantains)
Now at this place I’m ALL about the drinks. We had been to Johnny Mango’s together during my first visit to Cleveland back in 2012 and I fell in love. The drinks are wonderful with a bunch of seasonal options for the flavored mojitos and margaritas (my favorite), and the guacamole is perfection. In other words, this is my happy place.
What we drank: Pure Green Juice (kale, spinach, chard, romaine, collard, cucumber, lemon, ginger), El Greengo (pineapple, jalapeño, cilantro, spirulina), Shakerato (cold shaken espresso + hazelnut syrup), Virescent (green tea Watershed gin, apple cucumber mint purée)
What we ate: Harvest Bowl (organic greens, townhall granola, bacon, pear, candied walnuts, seared sweet potato, goat cheese, townhall cranberry vinaigrette), The Full Monty (root vegetable + lardon hash, poached egg, sweet potato purée, caramelized brussels, maple + sorghum + blueberry-glazed thick-cut bacon, spinach), Eggwich (sprouted English muffin, poached egg, organic cheese, pickled onion, spinach, sriracha-maple aioli, bacon or sausage, rosemary potatoes)
Holy crap look at that menu!!! ^^ That’s insane! We ate brunch here on our last day before Robert and I headed home, and it was my favorite place we went to. They’ve got a really eclectic menu with vegan options, paleo options, a whole list of “bowls,” flatbreads, crepes, juices and smoothies, coffee, cocktails, etc. Highlights for me included the El Greengo juice, which I never thought I would have liked because of the cilantro and jalapeno, but I frickin loved it. The green tea gin cocktail was also phenomenal. The food was delicious as well. We sat outside without an umbrella for our table and got our first legit sunburns of the season, but I’d say it was worth it because this place is DA BOMB. (Katelyn – when are we going back?)
What I drank: Iced cold brew with half and half plus a smidge of cinnamon and cocoa powder
What I ate: small chocolate chip cookie
I was on driving duty for the first leg of our trip home, so this was my fuel for the road. Iced coffee of some kind plus a chocolate chip cookie is my favorite caffeine-laden indulgence, and this one did not disappoint. It kept me well-fed during the drive while Robert slept and I rocked out to some podcasts.
So Katelyn technically lives in Lakewood, which is right outside of Cleveland. We spent our Saturday evening there and hit up a few fun spots:
What we ate: Lakewood roll (lemon pepper tempura fried crab stick, wasabi cream cheese, avocado, spicy mayo), pecan salmon roll (salmon, scallion, Asian pear, smoked honey, toasted pecans), Unagi (BBQ eel, avocado, cucumber, unagi sauce), lemon chicken potstickers with green tea noodle slaw
What I drank: “Gin Gin” (strawberries, hibiscus tea, lemon, simple syrup, Watershed 4 Peel Gin, plum bitters)
This was a great Asian fusion restaurant that Katelyn wanted us to try out. They have a lot of fun cocktails and one of the more interesting sushi menus I’ve seen, with unusual rolls like the pecan salmon one we tried. I believe the Lakewood roll was my favorite of the ones we had.
What I drank: the “Burt Reynolds” (bourbon, sugar, orange, angostura bitters) – I asked for no cherry and had them add a splash of soda, because I’m really annoying
16-Bit is a bar and arcade with old school drinks that are all named after famous people like Kevin Bacon, Ice T and Bill Nye. There are a ton of old arcade games like Donkey Kong and whatnot, and they are all free to play. I’m not much of one for arcade games, but this is a really fun bar for a group of friends.
Weirdly enough, we are headed back to Cleveland TODAY to celebrate my brother-in-law’s 21st birthday, which was yesterday. (Happy Birthday Daniel!) He has specifically requested that we go to 16-Bit, so that’s happening. Going through this list just made me even more excited to go back for the weekend, and hopefully I can visit some of my favorites. If you have any Cleveland hot spots I didn’t mention, please let me know in the comments.
Illustration at top created with Photoshop.
Prints of my illustrations (along with other products with my work on them) are available in my Society6 shop.
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