Saturday, July 1, 2017

A Memorable Visit To Cleveland's Near West Side--Ohio City And The Arts District

From time to time, I write about places other than Charleston if I am impressed by what I have seen while on my travels. This is one of those occasions.

On my recent return to Northern Ohio, my daughter took a group of us on a driving tour through the communities of Cleveland immediately west of the Cuyahoga River. It was a side of the city I had not seen, the Near West Side to be exact with Ohio City at its center. Born and raised on the eastern side, over the years I had never really taken the time to explore its old, tree shaded streets or patron the numerous small businesses and celebrated eateries that have come to line its corridors.

Ohio City features the historic and famous European-styled West Side Market, the largest contiguous urban farm in America called Fresh Food Collaborative, and Ohio's oldest microbrewery, the Great Lakes Brewing Company--occupying a building that formerly housed the Market Tavern, a pub frequented by Eliot Ness, and I will add, its brand is also my favorite choice in beer when visiting. Adding to the areas landmark character, it is also home to Ohio's most haunted house, the Gothic Franklin Castle.

For lunch, my daughter chose the open-air, all natural restaurant called TownHall. Located just north of the West Side Market on W 25th Street, it proudly displays a theme of timber and grass throughout with tables made from thick slabs of sawn trees, ceiling and walls lined with wood planking, and outside tables shaded by yellow umbrellas with green grass growing across the middle of the table top for you to irresistibly run you fingers through while you wait for your food, which I blissfully did numerous times. It was a beautiful day for outdoor seating.

TownHall features a NON-GMO menu, top to bottom, loaded with a tempting medley of plates, flats, sides, deserts, and drinks. Perusing the menu, it didn't take me long to spot the dish that would satisfy my brunch craving. Anytime grilled cheese sandwiches are an offering, and I am not talking about the common, everyday version, I am immediately smitten. I reckon it is the kid in me to blame. I chose the Grilled Cheese Bars + Soup. The sandwich was made with roasted roma tomatoes, cheddar, gruyere, and sourdough wheat bread with an add-on of Prosciutto. The soup was a Organic Tomato Bisque with goat cheese and house croutons. The complete offering was $10 plus $2 for the add-on of Prosciutto--magnificent.

My daughter had the Grass-Fed Cheeseburger for $12 consisting of grass-fedbeef, organic white cheddar, onion, oregano vin, shredded romaine, rosemary aioli, and pickle with a side of Fresh Cut Truffle Fries made with White truffle oil, parmesan cheese, and rosemary aioli for $6. This would have been my second choice. Others in our party had the Zucchini Pasta with House cut zucchini pasta noodles, marinara, roasted chicken+fresh veggie primavera, and grana padano for $11. Drinks were beer, wine, and crafted sodas. Completely and utterly satisfied by food and conversation, it was time to move on.

Our next stop was the corner of Detroit Avenue and W 65th Street. Located directly under the Capitol Theatre sign, there is no mistaking what goes on beyond the glass windows of this business establishment, and it has to do with FUN. This is the home of Superelectric Pinball Parlor. A collaboration of five different individuals, their mission is to create a forum where pinball machines and the artwork related to them can be enjoyed and shared with the whole community. Step through its door and you enter a world of flashing lights and a symphony of pings all orchestrated by moving flippers and bouncing steel balls. With over 20 games ranging from the 50's to the latest releases, the parlor is wall to wall pinball games and old memorabilia with some oddities thrown in to leave you smiling.

Nathan, one of the owners, was the host on duty when we visited. He was very inviting and presented a comforting, friendly smile. He handed me a complimentary white paper cup filled with tokens and suggested I start with the Dragon game that had a picture of Elvis hanging on the wall next to it. It had been a long time since I played a pinball game and my reflexes were somewhat out of sink, but after a few plays I started to get into a groove and put up a decent score. Then, I played a game with a Wizard of Oz theme where I got blown away and landed in the Twilight Zone. It was a blast while the tokens lasted.

Superelectric Pinball Parlor has acquired and restored over 80 vintage games and they are dedicated to continue the process of preserving these special pieces of Americana for people to enjoy. There is a monthly Pinball Battle. The space can be rented for parties ranging from a $35 package for 6-10 persons to a $100 package for 20-25 persons. For complete list of packages, click on Party Rental. There is also a Belles and Chimes--Northeast Ohio's first women's pinball club. Refreshments are offered and they are working on getting a liquor license. It is a great pinball venue to patron where persons of all ages can come to unwind and have a great time.

This was my first real exposure to the Near West Side, and I was truly impressed. I would not hesitate to visit again in the future. There is so much going on throughout its old thoroughfares. The Arts District showcases a variety of activities. There is live theatre and film, a growing restaurant and retail presence, and a wealth of cultural institutions. Named the second most walkable neighborhood in Cleveland, it is the complete urban neighborhood. On your next trip to the city on Lake Erie, consider a visit to Ohio City and its surrounding areas.

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