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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On the Road: Cleveland's West Side Market

Does Cleveland, in fact, rock?

I used to live with someone who watched The Drew Carey Show, and I would titter at the theme song, partly because the video was funny and partly because I could not imagine a world in which Cleveland rocked.

Then I married a born-and-bred Clevelander (Clevelandian?  Your guess is as good as mine.) and made several trips to the city, where my in-laws still live.

I'm not going so far as to say it rocks, at least not from my limited time there.  It's a big Midwestern city that's fallen on hard times.  It feels pretty familiar to this girl from Omaha, although Omaha has not suffered as much and I understand that it's becoming downright hip.  (Sidenote:  I cannot imagine Omaha being hip, per se, but it's always had one of the largest numbers of restaurants per capita of any American city.  Go figure.)

But I will say this about Cleveland:  it has a bright restaurant scene, one of the best-known food writers and bloggers, Michael Ruhlman, and maybe the best market I've ever seen.  The market alone might be reason to live there.

Check out the suckling pig in the background.

The West Side Market has more than a hundred vendors--bakers, butchers, cheesemongers, ethnic food stands--you name it, it's there.  It's the kind of place you can actually talk to the butcher about how to prepare a certain cut of meat, or find a baker who will remember your favorite kind of kolache.  The market is over a hundred years old, with the majority of the time of its current site. 

Can anyone identify what type of pastry this is?  I've never heard of a "monk," but I want one.

It's not fancy--it smells like fish from the many fishmongers, and there are no real amenities--but I want desperately to have it as my market.  I want to be introduced to stinky cheeses from foreign countries and be cajoled into cuts of meat that would never make it into the local supermarket.  It's a genuine throwback to a time where people had relationships with their food sellers.

Alice Waters would approve.  And it has the best felafel I've ever had.
Details:  The market is located at 1979 West 25th street and is only open four days a week:  Monday & Wednesday 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday & Saturday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.


  1. I have actually been intrigued by Cleveland every since Bourdain did a show on it (which I think included Michael Ruhlman.) Thanks for the friend request and I buzzed you! I look forward to checking out your posts.

  2. I've heard people rave about this market! I hope to see it in person one day~

  3. I'm a Clevelander myself so I love your review of the market! It is pretty awesome, isn't it?!

  4. That's a pretty cool market! I agree with you regarding's fallen on hard times, but it's nice to see it's reinventing itself!

  5. I married a Clevelander myself. They have a tour there called Lolly on the Trolley. It runs a couple of hours and gives you a great sense of Cleveland's history.

    Personally, I've been told you haven't experienced Cleveland cuisine until you've had Slovenian blood sausage. Not my thing really, but my wife loves it!

  6. I have this theory that the best way to know a city is to visit the local market where one can breathe in the flavors and vibe of the city. This seems to be a great way to know the city of Cleveland. Great post!