Tag Archives: West Side Market Cafe

The Thrifty BonVivant celebrates in Cleveland

20 Nov

The BonVivant is not a cake lover, but is a cake admirer and wishes these had supplied birthday cheer to all her pals

This past week made me formally a year older, and some external celebrations were in order–I wish I could have had bigger parties, but these little excursions were November delights. So live vicariously, and if you don’t know these Cleveland stops, put them on your radar! And please take a slice from one of these inventive birthday cakes–although they didn’t grace my table, they provided a digital feast for my eyes.

I needed to renew my driver’s license, and my friend Miss D suggested a trip to the Brooklyn DMV might

This gets the idea across

prove quick. It was incredibly fast and pleasant, and–I can’t phrase it any other way, though it does date me–a hoot! Because the strip mall location does not prepare the motorist (no, I don’t drive, but I do have a license and want to keep it!) for the exotically pink, black and zebra-accented interior that is this

bureaucratic stop. It made me grin and I got a great license picture as a result! Why oh why

Buon appetito!

did I neglect to take a photo? You must see for yourself!

After the swift and successful license renewal, it was time for lunch, and three of us decided nothing would do but Bruno’s Ristorante, at 2644 W. 41st St.  From the outside it’s an unpretentious place, and the interior is pleasant and restrained (with a great-

Two-fisted culinary love for perch!

looking bar), but it supplies one of the city’s best dining experiences. Because it’s about real service and delicious food. Not “Hi, I’m your waiter John” pseudo-sincerity of the type that doesn’t mind interrupting an intense conversation for an inane inquiry. No. Real service to go along with your cloth

But not for long, Chicken Marsala

napkin. Service that’s pleasant, inobtrusive, attentive but not hovering. The kind Dino or Peter Lawford would have enjoyed. Professional service. Oh, and fantastic food, beginning with the still fresh-baked warmth of the delicious bread with REAL HERBED BUTTER. Funny enough, I was just talking about how much I liked herbed butter in Europe, where it’s made commercially, wrapped in metallic foil like a bigger version of a diner’s butter. Bruno’s had me so reentranced with it that I made it at home the next day, with a little oregano and garlic powder; I’m thinking of getting one of those small shaped rubber ice cube trays at the dollar store and molding some to freeze and give out at Christmas. Anyway, all the recipes at Bruno’s were concocted by a true Mamma from the Old Country, and she knows her stuff. The table had a variety of tasty meals, all automatically with side dishes (kitchen-made soup or salad with a delicious balsamic dressing plus pasta). I was the veal parm, Miss D was the chicken (or was it veal?) marsala, and Mr D was breaded perch. I was so satisfied that my meal was over before I thought to take a photo, so I will entertain you with theirs. Mr D said he had never had better fish–and he eats plenty of it. Miss D loved her Italian Wedding Soup and marsala–but she saved

The Strange Case of the Vanishing Tiramisu

room for the tiramisu, which she had an intimate acquaintance with. Mr D took a forkful and almost fainted from bliss. Not only did the whole experience please me no end–Italian is my favorite cuisine–I loved the nostalgia it produced. There were a couple of guys (lawyers?) gesticulating in the corner as they wolfed down their food, Frank was playing softly through the speakers, and there were butter mints, toothpicks and MATCHES at the door. I haven’t seen imprinted matches in ages, but everyplace used to. Bruno’s is a place with neighborhood swagger that it well deserves. They cater, toom and are priced nostalgically–thank you, Bruno!

This once was a Walleye Sandwich

Lunch for three was under $45.

This once was Christmas Ale

A few days later was the actual bday, and it was time for lunch at the West Side Market Cafe. I have been there many a time, and never disappointed. Again, excellent service in a busy spot. Mr. D could not resist his favorite, the breaded walleye sandwich, while I embraced the pulled pork sandwich. Everything fresh, hot, plentiful, and with flavor far surpassing what the luncheonette appearance would suggest. This spot, like Bruno’s, piles on the value for money. In a festive mood, it was time for Christmas Ale from Great Lakes Brewery, but the cafe does something with it that the Brewery didn’t (at least not on Halloween)–they dipped the glass rims in cinnamon and sugar. Yes, ask for it!

Horizontal books--ideal for the thrifty book explorer! Surprising treats!

We roamed about a bit–have you been shopping at W. 25th’s Horizontal Books? They deserve your custom! With both current bestsellers and remaindered works, their size is just right–good selection, not so big that you can’t look at most sections. Their pricing policy allows 50% off the first book, 60% off both if you buy two, and 70% off all if you buy three. And I just noticed as I tracked down the link that they have free shipping. Can’t beat that! Please support them so the city’s easily reachable bookstores stay easily reachable–none downtown except for textbooklands.

On to the Capitol Theatre, the restored 1921 wonder on W. 65th just off Detroit. What a

The West Side's Cedar Lee--but with an authentic early lobby

gem! We were there in the late afternoon on a weekday, so only one other couple shared the viewing with us, and there was a deal on popcorn. We saw Tower Heist, a fun film with Eddie Murphy, Ben Stiller, Heavy D in a small role (RIP), Casey Affleck and Alan Alda–what a distinctive voice that guy’s got! A good popcorn film, and one certainly enhanced by a big

Downtown can't beat Luxe for atmosphere or creative dishes--warm almonds anywone? Veal-stuffed olives?


Dinner? My favorite spot, Luxe. Just across Detroit. I’ve loved it since it opened–it’s an ultra-stylish place that in NYC or Philly would be overpriced because of its imaginative dishes and appetizers–and drinks–and its funky eclecticism. But here in Cleveland it’s exceedingly reasonable. The bar (where one can also nosh) is always hopping, but the dining room is quieter (same great mix of DJ’ed background music, though). If you want fancy cocktails, they have inventive

When pizza is served on a silver salver, it deserves the knife & fork treatment

Hearty onion soup is as Luxe as anything

ones–I opted for a non-alcoholic one this time, and it was equally splendid: lavender-infused carbonated lemonade with a blueberry syrup drizzle. Oh, yes. I wanted the margarita pizza and wolfed its basil deliciousness down like a goat. Mr. D was overfull from the popcorn and stuck with the onion soup, which he drained with deep satisfaction. Lucky for me, they were out of blood orange sorbet, or I might still be there.

I love going to new places and trying them out, but this birthday was about familiar and favored stops. Tried and true, still atmospheric with three moods. You won’t be disappointed if they become your choices.


Cleveland’s West Side Market–city treasure, Bon Vivant treasure trove

3 Oct

On the Lorain Avenue side, look up!

Next year Cleveland’s West Side Market will be 100 years old, though its roots on the spot go back even further. When I lived in Cleveland Heights, I got there a few times a year. Now I’m not that far away, and a run to Dave’s Market is often accompanied by a West Side Market trip. Go prepared–have some of those ecofriendly bags, since the Market’s plastic bags often break–or dig into your hand. If you are either a bon vivant with your food OR thrifty, get thee hence! The market is open four days a week: Mon and Wed from 7-4 (but try and arrive by 2), and Fri and Sat from 7-6. Some vendors don’t come on Mon and Wed–there’s lighter traffic. Saturday is to be avoided at all costs, unless late in the afternoon–way too crowded, with many people unaccustomed to maneuvering baby carriages, cell phone conversations and thoughtful pauses within a structure of courtesy–i.e., outside of junctions and main market thoroughfares. If you’re being thrifty, I advise going in the late afternoon–vendors want to unload things, and will beg you to buy things with enticingly dropped prices. If you want everything you want, I advise Friday at 11, with a stop for some food to round off your day.

How to get there? If you drive, park in the free lots behind the market, entering by turning east from W. 25th St. onto Bridge. Don’t park in the little strip shopping center across from the market on Lorain–they tow. You can take the Red Line Rapid, since there’s a handy stop across the street, or, like we public transit mavens, take the bus (#22 and #20, among others) and get on and off across the street at W. 25th.

Inside the main market building

I’ve been going to the market, whether periodically or regularly, for 21 years, but just noticed the charming reliefs on the Lorain side earlier this month. As I snapped some photos today, I was pleased to see at least two couples were looking up and commenting: “Oh, they must have sold turtles here at one time!” “Look at that duck!” I’m putting more of the photos on our Facebook page, if you want a look at the album.

The market’s organization keeps the fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers outside in an L-shaped, heated enclosure. Everything else–meat, spices, bread and baked goods, cheese, fish, etc. is inside the main building, which also has a Mediterranean grocery (every variety of olive known to man, some African staples, some European dry goods that are hard to find, certain cheeses). The wonders of the Market’s over 100 vendors are many, with many ethnic offerings of specific cheeses, smoked meats, and a plethora of ethnic breads and sweets. I’m going to mention a few oddities that are hard to find elsewhere or are too delicious not to note: on the inside–bison and goat meat, fabulous pita and hot pepper hummus, red candy apples (the only ones I’ve seen in Cleveland itself), buffalo flavored turkey lunchmeat, fabulous sculptural breads, gorgeous baked goods I don’t eat but they belong in a Food Museum, Amish-raised chicken, crepes, the best fresh pasta with a great variety of flavors, from lemon pepper to jalapeno; outside–the only dried peaches (and every other dried fruit) I’ve seen in three states lately, good prices on the less common–star fruit, champagne grapes, inexpensive fresh herbs, habaneros for peanuts, a zillion lettuce types.

$2 strawberries, waiting for my Rice Chex

If you come late in the day, you can make out like a bandit at the bakeries and fruit and veg, in particular. Today I got the last four “cut up fruit in a container” containers–the regular price is 3/$5 or $2 each, and the standards are pineapple, honeydew, watermelon, canteloupe. I saw a comparable cut up pineapple one day at Heinen’s–same size, one container for $5. And they’re fresh. This afternoon, they pushed 4 containers on me for $2. Once I got a whole flat of strawberries in season for $5. Today I got one for $2, almost a dollar less than their current grocery store price. The best? My veg man (south side, not too far in from the W. 25th entrance). He knows I eat a lot of Roma tomatoes, and gave me a late in the day price–$5 for an unbelievable 8 lbs.

Mind, you have to watch your fruit and veg–there may be an occasional bad one or they may not keep as long. But if you return to the same vendors and banter, you’ll reap the benefits. And almost everyone will urge you to try a new fruit, or test how the flavor is at any given point. The cacophony of languages (vendors and buyers), the variations in the customers (dress, class, origins), the casual conversations and recommendations of other shoppers–unforgettable.

West Side Market Cafe! A treat--and a useful restroom

Feeling peckish at the Market? There are many inside stands that have ready to eat goods, from the crepe place to the pizza bagels, but if you want to relax and really enjoy, go to the Cafe. You can enter from within the Market, on its south side, or come in through the Lorain Ave. entrance. It’s nothing fancy, but the food is delicious, the service friendly, and it’s a bargain for the quality. There’s a bar if you’re thirsty. My visitors are very attached to the Cafe’s generous portions of walleye and pulled pork sandwiches. They’re open on non-Market days through the Lorain entrance, but in the evenings it’s just wings, french fries and drinks. The food is afternoon fare, at least for now.

The whole Ohio City neighborhood is getting involved in the fresh food movement, and more and more events will be turning up once January starts the anniversary year. If you haven’t been for a while, remember you can eat like a bon vivant and still be thrifty. If you’ve never been, wait no longer! Your friends will need an experienced guide once they keep reading about it in the paper.