Tag Archives: West Side Market

Flying SoLo! Makeover of a Shoddy City Street

12 Nov

The SoLo temporary storefront at 3204 Lorain--get your two cents in!

Yep. Shove over, SoHo–Cleveland’s now got SoLo (South of Lorain–and Lorain Ave. itself), and the real estate’s far more affordable. Last night I hopped the #22 and rolled over to 32nd and Lorain for another of Kent State’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative charrettes. I’d found the one for the EcoVillage terrifically stimulating, and this one was to take in my expanded stomping grounds–Lorain Ave between W25

The Guardians should be guarding a treasure--time to treasure up, Lorain Ave.! Shake off the mustiness

and W52, as well as the area south of the avenue up till the freeway. It was really all about the thoroughfare, though, and it needs to be. Lorain is one of Cleveland’s main arteries, and follows the path of an old stagecoach route. Cross the glorious Art Deco WPA-built Carnegie-Lorain bridge, with its wonderful Guardians of Transportation, and what’s your destination? Oh, the West Side Market is terrific, Crop Bistro is urging the W. 25th St. crowd around the corner, but the area between W25 and W.–oh, 80 or so is spotty. Parts are very seedy, full of used car lots, poor lighting, layers of posters on deserted buildings. It has its charms, no doubt about it, but they’re scattered, with plenty of detritus in

St. Ignatius High School--an educational gem on Lorain Ave.--and the boys behave well on RTA, too

between. Many spots are windowless or shuttered, mysterious small factories or warehouses (What IS Seamus O at 4700 Lorain? What do they make? Are they still open?).

For a main artery, it has little consistency. There is the glory that is St. Ignatius, the best high school by far in the Cleveland Metropolitan area, which marks one side of the tract. I wish I had a son just so I could send him to Ignatius, with pocket money to hop across the street for a burger at Wendy’s. I love it that Ignatius has built a performing arts facility, the Breen Center for the Performing Arts, across the street from the main campus, and that other

The Urban Community School

organizations schedule performances there, too–Inlet Dance Company has a performance there at 8 pm tonight, with $20 tickets, and the Polish company Zatanczmy will perform “Let’s Dance” on Nov. 19 at 6 pm for just $15, along with plays and concerts that appeal to a wide variety of tastes. Other arts destinations on Lorain include Morrison Dance, a modern company at 4201 Lorain, Pink Eye Gallery/Rag Refinery hosting funkier events and exhibitions at 3904 Lorain, artist studios, the newly-installed Ohio City Writers, which will be helping K-12ers with personal and academic writing (and is looking like a terrific venture!), and others, dotting the avenue until the sector’s other educational anchor at 4909 Lorain, the

West Side Catholic, without the daytime crowd

newish Urban Community School. This Catholic school has a fine reputation, and it has helped revitalize the west end of this Lorain stretch, with companion developments like Appleseed Learning Center (daycare) and the Open Yoga Studio.

Much of Lorain has its grit because it serves the poor and the sometimes displaced or newly arrived. There are a lot of hard-working agencies and community-oriented centers, like West Side Catholic Center and its neighbors–a place where decent clothes, food, and a shower can be had. The street in lined with other community and social

Voted Cleveland's best thrift store!

service organizations, such as the Spanish American Committee, the McCafferty Health Center, which includes veterans’ services, nearby Providence House and more. There are also many spots selling cheap

Crop Bistro's mural--incredible high ceilings and arched windows, too

furniture, used appliances, and second-hand goods. Some, like Unique Thrift, are a clothes hunters’ dream. Arranged by color, clothes for the whole family vie with small appliances, shoes, toys and other objects.

There are entertainment destinations, like Touch Supper Club (I miss Rain, which also had dancing and live music), and a number of dining options, from the ultra-elegant

This gorgeous, painterly photo is by David Ploenzke--a simple and direct statement that a movie should be filmed here.

Crop Bistro by the Market to Palookaville Chili to the two battling hot dog spots that take you back in time. Steve’s chili dogs are famous, but I like my franks unadorned, so can’t speak for or against. Ohio City Pizza, Wendy’s, the Souper Market–but perhaps you want to make a meal at home or take a little nosh back for dessert?

Lorain’s immigrant-destination status has a history, and its residue includes foods you don’t find at Giant Eagle. Farkas‘s pastries are

Hungarian Dobos torte--I don't even like pastry sweets and my mouth is watering!

Hungarian wonders, the legacy of a Budapest master pastry chef. Hansa Imports has a slew of pickled fish, Bahlsen cookies, German and Austrian beers, as well as every variation of chamomile tea known to man. Supermercado Rico has Latin specialties and the occasional botanica goods as well.

So, all in all, this side of Lorain has some great spots and some big warts, reminiscent   of a beautiful but aging dame who’s removed half her makeup and loosened her girdle. There’s a lot of beauty there and tons of possibilities, but some creative intervention is definitely desirable. Ohio City, Inc. did well to invite in the CUDC. I missed their preliminary meeting, but last night’s presentation wasn’t really an end game–there was less time for the students and faculty to do on-the-spot research and come up with solutions. The process is therefore ongoing, and the pop-up

Standing-room only crowd at the charrette--great turnout for 5:30 on a Friday!

storefront is open this afternoon for a Chili-Off, scheduled for 2. Bring your appetite and share some ideas.

Nonetheless, the intelligence gathered was formidable, and CUDC’s director, Terry Schwartz, ably laid out the challenges and potential solutions, always keeping the comments and desires of the citizenry at the core. She divided the endeavor into four sections: Public Infrastructure, Green Space Connects, Real Estate Development and Wayfinding/Marketing/Identity.

Public Infrastructures: Some big ideas here. One of the biggest is the proposal that Lorain Avenue might abandon its rush hour ban on parking and become less of a throughway. This would enable parking for the growing number of businesses, and slow down traffic. Corner bumpouts would allow for some tree clusters (many of the previous plantings have died) and creating some gateway impulses. This effective reduction to two lanes would provide a safer environment for students and other pedestrians, and also allow for a cycling lane. This would also allow for some designated bays to serve as bus pull-outs. I was delighted to hear my W. 25th/Lorain/W. 65th/Detroit trolley circuit idea mentioned, with a great coda–an EVENING trolley. Perfect! Ohio City Inc. director Eric Wobser clarified this wouldn’t be anytime soon–that RTA wanted to expand their trolley service in a ripple-like manner, first connecting downtown with W. 25th, then the Market Area with EcoVillage/Gordon Square. Encouraging nonetheless.

Residents had concerns about sidewalks and streets–not just potholes and maintenance problems in and of themselves, but unequal code enforcement.

Monroe Street Cemetery in Ohio City

Green Space Connects: Connecting pocket green spaces with parks like Fairview Park and Monroe Street Cemetery could be a matter of posting signs marking a trail route and mileage of a walker or runner, with a possible extension to Zone Rec in EcoVillage. Major intersections could have corner bump-outs to both slow traffic and provide mini green  spots, visually softening the corridor. CUDC suggested Fulton and Lorain be realigned so as to create a tiny park that could also serve the transit population. Residents put in bids for a dog park, bike paths and biking repair stations.

At night, few cars on Lorain and rarer buses--can be creepy for the pedestrian.

It also might be a matter of greater safety along the road. If those at the Urban Community School are afraid to have their kids walk the short distance to EcoVillage’s Zone Rec Center, there’s a safety problem. If parents of Ignatius kids are stretching to even let their kids cross the street to go to Wendy’s–forget about further afield, there’s a safety problem. And it’s not just a matter of perception, as one meeting-goer put it: two rapesalong western Lorain have occurred in the past month, and there have been attempted and successful child abductions along Lorain as well. Robberies by and of pedestrians and cyclists are not an utter rarity. Sections of

the street have abandoned structures and narrow passageways that allow for lurking, as well as numerous other unsavory activities. Waiting for the bus in the winter mornings can be a frightening exercise.

Gather 'Round farmers as they transform asphalt to soil.

Real Estate Development: Further discussion is ahead regarding attracting business, the area’s potential as a SID (Special Improvement District), marketing initiatives, etc. The SoLo storefront had a fun concept–speed dating for properties. Photos of vacant spots with their price and profiles were posted on the wall, in the hope of generating suggestions or even a match. Community suggeations for numerous types of new businesses include a pharmacy, a business center, a hardware store, garden center, health food store, art/craft supply store, outlet stores, community center, outdoor music amphitheater. A sub-post office might be useful, too.

CUDC suggested a multi-storied combo police/fire station in front of Unique as a possibility, though that would rob Unique of both its visibility and parking lot. The vacant Hollywood Video site was proposed as a mixed use site: retail ground floor, residences above, as were areas around Friedrich Bicycles.

Agrocentric development, a key point of CUDC’s EcoVillage thoughts, was a central idea. Grouping homes around a farm is becoming a popular direction in some regions, and they suggested that if the Bodnar Funeral Home is indeed coming up for sale, this would be an ideal spot for such a core–and one that would generate interest from its street visibility. You think you know your neighborhood? I’ve been busing down Lorain for eight years and had no idea 3919 Lorain housed Gather ‘Round Farm, which is five years old. This is a grass roots, volunteer-run place that transformed a parking lot into a rich garden of vegetables, flowers and chickens,

Portrait of a vintage Lorain Ave sign by "Scottamus"

pulling in adults and kids in a Whole Earth Catalog kind of way. That’s one of the things I love about Lorain–it’s a place that demonstrates a lot of personal initiative, with a lot of seat-of-your-pants efforts–the type that builds true community.

Wayfinding/Marketing/Identity: Branding a neighborhood as hip, trendsetting, green, what-have-you is a real estate agent’s dream–as long as the adjectives stay positive. CUDC reported that residents love their distinctive retro signage and historic architectural detailing, and some TLC has transformed certain blocks, such as those anchored by

Many intriguing architectural bones on the Avenue

the West Catholic Center, Palookaville Chili and, now, Ohio Writers. The more infill and retail, the more Lorain will be less a throughway, more a destination.

Certain quick, low cost measures can make a huge difference. The quirky alleys could

Ikea solar lights could be installed innovatively to illuminate alleyways

be better lit to celebrate them (and discourage professional loiterers). Additional signage could alert visitors to neighborhood sights. Hanging baskets and window boxes are a perfect way of inserting color, an organic touch, and beauty into a concrete haven.

Hanging flowers give Cleveland Hts Coventry a welcoming Old World feel

The water tower visible from Ohio City came up as a branding opportunity. Though some residents liked the thought of it draped in greenery,

The area is being marketed as foodcentric, so some of these water tower ideas link in. Examples from Sweden, Lakeland FL, Stanton IA and Junction City OR

CUDC director Schulz pointed out this might create maintenance problems. She showed some painted towers from other locations, suggesting the varied Ohio City population might brand the tower through a series of neighborhood faces. I’m wondering whether LED illumination might work, and one resident suggested that windmills, a la the CSU engineering project, might dot the surface.

Other Thoughts: Ohio City Inc. wants to create a rec program, even if sans building, and build youth baseball, soccer and other league teams. A businessman got to his feet and vowed he would pay for referees and uniforms for a team, and there’s

There's something so visually appealing about the Lorain & W 26th Allstate Hair Styling and Barber College

likelihood others would join in such an endeavor. Residents want more art programs. They’d like Tri-C to fulfill a thought by its president, Jerry Sue Thornton, to put in some satellite restaurant training in Ohio City (sorry, it’s already downtown), or hold some English as a Second Language courses; it’s be the perfect lab for CSU’s Urban College, as well.

CUDC is going to continue developing and refining its report, and plans on pulling in more of the community, as well as emailing the draft out to those who participated. Other forums for public discussion are on Internet bulletin boards, and Joe Cimperman, the region’s councilman, is a responding tweeter @joecimperman

Lorain Avenue has many desirable destinations, many notes from the ages. It wouldn’t take a lot to push it from gap-toothed ragamuffin into a boulevardier, worthy of a stroll, flower in buttonhole.


Autumn on Cleveland’s Near West Side–Happy All Hallow’s Eve!

31 Oct

A small splash of color on my street

Did the Halloween eye result from the Curse of the Mummy Pumpkin?

Seasonal. That’s the word that kept flitting about in my mind today. It’s been a true autumn day, and a real Halloween (that’s opposed to a sprinkling of unseasonable 60 degree Cleveland Halloweens in the past decade). Admittedly, the foliage is wonky; plenty of trees are still green and vigorous, and relatively few are colorific. Still, there’s a rich, earthy scent in the air, a golden glow around dusk(when it isn’t raining), and enough of a chill in the air to keep the RTA fairly spare of bus stop malingerers. I don’t remember many Halloween decorations in my PA childhood–with the exception of a tp’ed house, soaped windows, or chalked sidewalks (we had both Chalk Night and Mischief Night the two days before the holiday, and I would trick myself out in dark clothing, armed with the hose, ready to face any miscreants who might be walking by, egg in hand. Unfortunately, my night as protectress never garnered any young hooligans). Of course, we did have real pumpkins with real candles–I have a fabulously malicious demonic pumpkin right now, courtesy the art students’ organization at CSU–though he is not a lantern, I love him nonetheless.

The Thrifty BonVivant earlier this week, looking mysterious for Halloween--eye intact

The shudderingly gruesome Halloween Eye

I discovered my first year on the Near West that kids in this neighborhood don’t trick and treat–they go to the now-renovating Zone Rec Center for a big party (in fact, I can hear the little ghouls passing right now). Is it because of chainlink fences and nasty dogs? Too high a percentage of registered sex offenders? They sound cheerful, but I miss seeing costumes. No matter–I’m going out in a minute to light the grill and enjoy a last non-shivery barbecue. But I’ve already had plenty of Halloween today. This weekend I discovered a…ughh…lumpy pimple near my eye, along brow bone skin. Did I remember my mother’s dictum to “just leave it alone”? Of course, but I ignored it–though I was not too interfering with it. But it hurt, and I took advice to regularly clean it with alcohol (being careful not to get it in my eye, of course), and dab peroxide on it. This would weed it out! I complied–ouch. But it was a mistake. By yesterday, the skin below my eye and the lid had swollen, and had not receded  by this morning. Since I couldn’t get to a CVS Minute Clinic yesterday–talk less of Kaiser–it was time to visit the clinic at work this morning. My doctor checked me out thoroughly, told me to listen to my mother, and said it wasn’t really an allergic reaction–that my body had perceived my gentle prodding as trauma, and promptly padded itself with edema, much like a boxer who’d taken a punch. A mild antibiotic (for the gross and disgusting pimple) and cold compresses were advised. Nonetheless, said swelling has presented me with a built-in, evil makeup job a la Lon Chaney. I could definitely scare children with this temporary eye. Look at the picture!!! Still shaking?

But to fiendish bank robbers, isn't every day potentially a holiday?

Ohio City's Market Ave--treat for the eyes in sun-dappled summer, snowy winter--anytime.

But the medical jaunt had me out and about, and I decided to see what Ohio City was up to on a fine Halloween. Ohio City Burrito‘s skeleton sign looked mighty chipper, and even the warning on the Ohio City Savings door was tricked out in seasonal colors.  A festive lunch was in order! And what better place than Great Lakes Brewery, just as it opened. Actually, I was there before it opened, as were quite a few other people. A chilly day and 11:15 in the morning, and customers are already clamoring? Oh, you’re doing something right! The Brewery’s a great choice for Fall. Not only does it have a cozily warm atmosphere (the indoor/outdoor room has a lovely fireplace in cold weather), but the street view is enchanting. Its short, narrow street, Market Avenue, is terrifically inviting. Part of that has to do with its destinations: the Cleveland Film Society, The Flying Fig restaurant (had a great duck dish there last winter), the Market Avenue Wine Bar (another cosy place, best a deux), and a cafe I’m dying to try. But even before all these were in place, it was still inviting. It’s the proportions, the architecture and the view, for it looks onto the Market Square Park (which is under mysterious reconstruction right

When colors and textures align, it's time for placemaking! Djenne, Mali

now–however, a small cement stage has already been created on the north side). It’s not that the architecture is so spectacular in and of itself, it’s that it has a consistency of color and texture–old red brickwork. All the best places have that kind of consistency, with variations in shape, proportions and details to keep things interesting. In Italy’s Assisi, everything is made from the same pink stone. In Mali’s Jenne, the buildings earthen walls match the ground, and seem to emerge from it organically. This is something contemporary architecture can rarely match, because its growth patterns and standard materials are so different. But when you stumble on it in a city, its allure and charm ensnare you.

James, one of Great Lakes Brewery's kindly yet gruesome (today) waiters

Oh, and seasonal? It was a tough choice between a glass of Nosferatu ale (and the extremely pleasant and competent James was my waiter, all tricked out like Nosferatu himself) and the now-available Christmas ale, but the latter’s lovely red tones won out. Matched with a margherita pizza, a splendidly hearty choice. Side notes–why do most American versions of the margherita use sliced tomatos? That’s not the Italian way–though it tasted just fine. Why margherita? After Italy’s one-time Queen Margherita and the patriotic colors oThe pleasures of the season at Great Lakes Breweryf the Italian flag: red sauce, white mozzarella, green basil leaves. Which makes me digress once again–a first date took me to Luxe some years back. I love Gordon Square‘s Luxe (my favorite Cleveland restaurant, which I persist in pronouncing the French way, counter to the restaurant itself). I’d been raving about Luxe. In my verbal anticipation, I kept repeating on the way, “Oh, I can’t wait till I have a margherita!” When we were seated and the waitress came for our order, I puzzled him when I asked for iced tea. Words and their confusionistic power! Anyway, the pizza at the Brewery is delicious! Luckily for me, the waiter tried to tempt me with cheesecake, which I don’t like. In checking the website, however, I see there is now, courtesy of Mitchell‘s, a new seasonal ice cream to be had: Christmas Ale Gingersnap Ice Cream. Now, I know I will be putty in its hands–and will visit it on my

Yes, they have taffy apples, too. But there's a reason the lipstick color is called "candy apple"! One of the red beauties is now mine, all mine.

next round of seasonal lists.

After lunch, a quick round at the West Side Market. I needed my dried peaches from the dried fruit girls–far better than dried apricots, and for under $17 you can get a huge quantity that will last even the profligate  bon vivant for over a month. I also needed a Halloween candy fix, and only one thing would do–not the Midnight

Heart-warming mice at Campbell's Popcorn in the West Side Market

Milky Ways that I could get anytime (frozen….mmmm), and that aren’t available at the market anyway. No, it’s a red candy apple or nothing. For some reason, these are hard to find in Cleveland, which apparently prefers caramel (or as we used to call them) taffy apples. But Campbell’s Popcorn, an indoor stall near the Lorain side), has them year round, and one is awaiting me on the counter right now, its glossy cinnamon crust calling a siren song. My eye was caught by their adorable cookies–particularly the mice with almond ears. There are some real artists in the world of Cleveland pastry, and I will update you on their offerings as the seasonal marchdown continues.

A Halloween feast for the eyes at Campbell's Popcorn

What then? The bus stop and home, James. I see Ohio City has fixed some Halloween/Thanksgiving decorations along Lorain in the form of cornstalks. It really is a beautiful thing to mark the seasons, and is yet another reason W. 25th is a great destination for a stroll and several stops. If only there was destination entertainment there…just think if the wine bar or cafe hired Cleveland Institute of Music students or CSU music majors for regular background performances? I know I’d want to linger to hear a violinist one night, someone singing bossa nova another, a klezmer clarinetist a third. Or put that trolley in and make it easy to jump from lunch to a movie at Gordon Square’s Capitol Theatre, or from dinner to a play! In the interim, Happy Halloween! Rustle a leaf pile and breathe that bracing air.

Learning at Dave’s Market, One Week’s Menu–Could be $25/wk or $33.89, depending

26 Oct

A one-week menu experiment--$25 to hand over to Dave

I completed a challenge some weeks back that forced me to come up with the best weekly menu (of things that I eat) I could that amounted to $25–but that menu was costed per meal and prorated. This time I’m challenged to do what many of us are faced with: go off to the grocery store WITH $25, and come up with a non-starvation menu for a week. One big caveat–I’m not counting things like spices, salt, oil or teabags, since those kind of staples don’t have to be bought on a weekly basis. I chose Dave’s Market in Ohio City, my go-to supermarket, for this challenge, but I’m going to try an identical one in future that relies on the West Side Market alone. A second caveat–I’m a very picky eater, and this is a busy working week. If I ate eggs, some delicious omelettes could be on the menu, or some tasty rice dishes if only I weren’t a pasta freak. If I had time, I could take some cheap cuts of meat/poultry and create more all-day, low-heat wonders. I also tried to keep this as nutritious as possible, fitting in fresh fruits and raw vegetables, ensuring protein levels weren’t too low (borderline anemia).

Constantino's of the Warehouse District--great if you don't cook!

Before delving into general observations and the menu itself, I want to thank Dave’s for being committed to the city. As I mentioned the other day, none of the nurse-practitioner clinics that CVS, Target and Walmart have are located in Cleveland proper, nor are any Kaiser facilities. Grocery stores have many similar attitudes. Yes, there is now a Giant Eagle (really TOO giant for quick shopping) on W 117th St, on the Lakewood border, and 117th’s Target, as well as that of Steelyard Commons and its neighboring Walmart do carry food, but more centralized options are slim pickings. A large and fairly new Asian grocery is Park to Shop at 1580 E. 30th, and the Warehouse District has Constantino’s Market at 1278 W. 9th, but these are specialized markets, as are the many small Arab groceries on the West Side. How is Constantino’s specialized, you say? Well, it caters to the young with no time, so it’s strong on prepared food and filler foods, weak on a large variety of fresh fruits and vegetable, certain staples. Marc‘s has some locations way out west on Lorain and on Puritas, but they aren’t easy for a non-driver to reach. Admittedly there are other pocket groceries–Sav-a-Lot, which I’ve never been in, Rico‘s on 45th & Lorain (limited size, but some fruits and veg), specialist Indian and other niche shops, but regular old standard groceries? Now that the Reserve Square grocery has closed, Dave’s on Bridge Ave by W 25th  in Ohio City, Dave’s in Chinatown at 2201 Payne, his Supermercado on Ridge Rd., and other locations on Shaker Square, in Slavic Village, at Harvard & Lee, and on E. 40th, as well as in the suburbs. That’s commitment to and investment in the city, and I for one am very grateful. Plus their fried, prepared chicken is incredibly good.

The well-stocked shelves of Dave's Market--the city dweller's savior!

Okay, some general thoughts about this project. Cooking for one on this kind of challenge is deadly boring–two people at $25 each would allow much more variety and some perks. With one person, there are no snacks except popcorn. NONE! This may be an excellent challenge for those trying to limit calories as well as expenditures. There’s a high degree of repetition in a one-week experiment, too. The good news is that there are leftovers–extra spaghetti sauce to freeze, some buns and hot dogs for the next week, cereal that carries over, and so on. Over a longer period of time, the frozen goods and partially used items introduce more variety, and hand cooked items deeply from scratch (bread!) would be fit in to times that weren’t so frantically crowded. That being said….

Menu Day One:

Breakfast: banana, bowl of puffed rice
Lunch: hot dog and bun (hey, I split them and grill them all at once for a delicious smoky flavor–a minute in the microwave brings that all back). A third of the cuke, sliced thinly in vinegar and water with lemon pepper and salt
Dinner My recipe for spaghetti sauce with meat and angelhair pasta, generous portion

Menu Day Two:

Breakfast: banana, bowl of puffed rice
Lunch: Bowl of chicken noodle soup and lots of Zesta saltines
Dinner: Hotdog and bun, big salad with lettuce, a little cucumber, part of the red pepper

A lot of habanero heat for less than 50 cents--you can put them right into the freezer, whole

Menu Day Three:

Breakfast: oh, the last banana and bowl of puffed rice–it works because the banana is very filling, and those little puffed rice grains have to be corralled onto the spoon, which gives you time to feel full.
Lunch: Peanut butter crackers galore!
Dinner: My “hot mess” with pasta. The hot mess is a quick meal–get out the cutting board and put water on to boil. More-or-less dice up the Roma tomatoes and much of the onion, chopped, along with (be careful with your fingertips!) one to one and a half habanero peppers. Put oil in the bottom of the pot–not deeply, but maybe an 1/8 of an inch or so. Heat the oil till its quite hot, throw your vegetables in and stir, adding salt and plenty of basil, a dash of dried ginger, and other herbs if you like. Turn the heat down; by the time you finish cooking the pasta, the hot mess is ready, delicious and spicy (not for the faint-hearted).

Menu Day Four:

Breakfast: Honeycrisp apple cut up into slices on the puffed rice, sprinkled with a little cinnamon and brown sugar.
Lunch: Hot dog and bun
Dinner: Spaghetti with meat sauce and pasta, small side salad

Menu Day Five

Breakfast: Honeycrisp apple with puffed rice
Lunch: Chicken soup with crackers
Dinner: More hot mess with pasta, small side salad

Menu Day Six

Breakfast: Honeycrisp apple with peanut butter crackers (peanut butter sticks to your ribs!)
Lunch: Hot dog and bun
Dinner: Spaghetti and pasta, small side salad

Menu Day Seven

Breakfast: Honeycrisp apple with puffed rice; four peanut butter crackers to finish
Lunch: Hot dog and bun
Dinner: Last of the hot mess with pasta, large salad to finish off the fresh ingredients.


  • Zesta saltines (only item not bought at Dave’s–Dave’s may still sell them, but Saltine brands are grouped with their manufacturers’ cookies (an odd conceit) rather than banding together, so I couldn’t find them. Package was bought out-of-town at $1.79 on sale.
  • Dave’s brand hot dog buns, 8 to a package $1.29.
  • Ball Park all-beef hot dogs, 8 to a package $3.99 (on sale from their usual $4.99)
  • 3/4 pound ground round 85/15 @3,89/lb.  (normally I would buy ground sirloin for a higher price; ground beef at 80/20 was $2.99/lb, and at 72/27 was $2.88/lb) for $2.92.
  • 3 bananas @54 cents/lb. for .74 I can’t stand them after they’re ripe and get spots, so have to stick to a small number
  • Honeycrisp apples (they restored my faith in apples after scientists tinkered with and ruined the Red Delicious of my childhood) @ $1.99/lb for $3.40–pricey, but worth it, since it’s Fall! Not available all year round, which makes them special.
  • 1 head of iceberg lettuce (I don’t care what you say, I still like it better than other lettuces because it crunches!) for $1.69
  • 1 English cucumber (wash it well and you needn’t peel it–good nutrition in its dark green exterior, and sliced thin not noticeable) $1.99
  • 1 package Lipton Ring O’Noodle chicken soup (2 packets inside; each has 4 servings for a total of 8) for $1.59
  • 1 bag of substitute Puffed Rice for $1.79 (the Food Club brand had 6 oz; the Quaker was 6.4 oz., but $3.39, and the difference is infinitesimal)
  • 5 Roma tomatoes @ $1.99 (unusually low price for Dave’s this week) for $2.33
  • Jif’s natural peanut butter, 18 oz. for $3.19
  • 1 small can Contadina tomato paste for 79 cents
  • 1 large can Valutime stewed tomatoes $1.58
  • 1 red onion @$1.49/lb for 77 cents
  • 5 habanero peppers @$3.99/lb for 40 cents
  • 1 big red sweet pepper @$2.49/lb for $1.27
  • Special on Gia Russa brand angelhair pasta–a 2 lb. box for $2.29

Oh, Honeycrisp, my flavorful love! Must I sacrifice you on the altar of frugality?

“Wait!” you say. “That doesn’t add up to $25–in fact, it’s $33.89!” And you would be correct–but…this is how I looked at it. You have considerable leftovers: Three hot dogs to go–and their buns, spaghetti sauce with meat left for FIVE servings (freeze it or have a friend or two over), lots of puffed rice left, plenty of peanut butter, likewise crackers, no pasta left–I looooove pasta (hot mess and spaghetti sauce taste fine with rice, if you prefer it–how do pasta and rice prices compare these days?), chicken noodle soup, still had some habaneros. Those leftovers certainly are worth the $8.89 difference, aren’t they? If not, what do you cut and what does that do to your nutritional value? There are much cheaper hot dogs out there (Dave’s weekly flyer for Ohio City this week has five packages of one brand for $5–MUCH cheaper) but they may not be all beef or as tasty as Ball Park. There are cheaper peanut butters. Maybe you don’t need a big red sweet pepper (sniff!) in your salad, since you’re getting plenty of vitamins from all the tomatoes. You could up your fat intake but slightly reduce your costs with cheaper ground beef. You could forget apples and go with bananas all week. What would that bring things down to? I’ve got it to $27.50 now, still with leftover hotdogs and buns (or sometimes during the week you could eat two at a time), leftover peanut butter, crackers, spaghetti sauce, habaneros, puffed rice, and chicken noodle soup. But I’m still $2.50 over! This is where many families have to cut the fruit and vegetables, or go for canned rather than fresh–applesauce, anyone? With that adaptation, you can get to $25 and still have some leftover foods, but you’ve given up the tastiness and texture of fresh, as well as some vitamins.

You can't eat like a self-indulgent rabbit when you're on a budget. You must be selective.

Food prices are rising, and in some arenas much higher than others. Snacks? Forget those delicious potato chips or crunchy other things–at Lays 2 for $7 (WHAT! Boycott with me!), Dave’s makes them unreachable on a budget and outrageous for anyone. I say Dave’s, because you can get them for less elsewhere, but most of the responsibility lays with the Frito Lay company. Fresh fruits and vegetables are desirable, but a free hand with them makes budgeting difficult. While this budget works for a picky eater like me who loves her pasta, it’s hardly variety-packed, and it’s more suited to a dieting female than a male. Sigh. No perfection anywhere. But as the winter closes in, I’m not only going to see what the same amount of money can bring me at the West Side Market, I’m going to look at a variety of possibilities for breadmaking, batch making, looking at other world cuisines for hints about stretching a budget yet filling up. So, let’s keep learning something our immigrant great-grandmothers were all too familiar with.

As a footnote, there are some great specials, if you can get to Dave’s this week: 2 boxes of Bigelow tea for $5; two Pillsbury flaky Grand biscuits (in the cardboard rolls it’s so much fun to flack open, even though they warn against it) for $2.39 (half-price); Crystal Farms mozzarella slice were 50 cents off at $3.49; in-store bakery-made Kaiser rolls were two packages of 6 for a total of $2.79 (half-price); package of 7 Steak-Umms (don’t judge me!) for $4.69, a dollar off their usual price; and, best of all, Klondike bars on sale–two for $7. Even three Kellogg’s cereals for $10.

Mandate Politicians to use RTA in Cleveland?

9 Oct

Rahm Emmanuel interacting with other Chicago commuters

In Chicago, new mayor Rahm Emmanuel has ordered city employees to use public transportation for jaunts about town on city business once they’ve arrived at the office. He did this because he uses public transport himself, and because he wants to trim the fat. Estimated savings? A million annually. There had been some shady doings with reimbursements, including those for car washes and parking tickets. Chicagoans are pleased.

I love this idea, but want to add a twist for Cleveland. Yes, let them do this, but also, twice a month, have the councilmen and other city politicos TAKE PUBLIC TRANSIT TO AND FROM WORK. It’d be nice if they did this voluntarily, but I wager few would opt for it. But if they did…

A wandering story repository

They would learn how convoluted are the routes and times many have to plot to get to work. They’d reconsider where a bench or shelter would be invaluable. They’d think about the reasoning that puts police substations in Rapid stations, then doesn’t staff them. And if they had to do an occasional schlep to stop for groceries, they’d wonder how to get to a stop without breaking their bags and arms. They’d appreciate the free city trolleys and think about how they promote business and city living–maybe they’d install a J trolley that would loop from Detroit and W 25th to Lorain, heading West to W 65th and back up to Detroit and east again. People could go to the West Side Market, dine out in Ohio City or Detroit Shoreway, get to a multiplicity of churches to worship or enjoy architectural treasures, see a play at Cleveland Public Theatre or catch a film at the Capitol. I can’t help but smile at the thought.

The Thrifty Bon VIvant dreams of a trolley line circling from W. 25 to W. 65, Lorain to Detroit

More importantly, they’d understand their citizens’ lives better in the here and now–which might help them understand the transformative power of good public transit. Only the most desperate of the middle class ride the bus now–otherwise they avoid the lingering stench of some homeless, or the rowdy curses of schoolchildren heading home. Most of the citizens on the bus are members of the hoi polloi. Unshy about their phone conversations, politicos would soon be clued into how very common stories of incarceration (pending, just ending or about to commence) are, as are tales of late child support payments, missed job interviews, and overwhelming illness. Lines outside the West Catholic center, non-hipsters at Unique Thrift. Want to know where free meals are that day? Someone on the bus will know. It can be Jerry Springer without the twisted entertainment factor, but it’s an indispensable part of the city. We all need to know what life is like for all, especially those planning the city’s direction. Numbers and trends don’t make it as personal as overheard conversations about public housing and molesting uncles.

There’s a story a day on the RTA (copyright pending). And if the councilmen pushed past the baby buggies to climb on board regularly, it would be a better story.

Walter Sinz, sculptor of the West Side Market’s tempting food reliefs

4 Oct

No turtles currently sold at the West Side Market--mock it up

Yesterday’s post on Cleveland’s West Side Market got me wondering about the sculptor, and I contacted @ohiocitytweets to find out if they knew. Their quick research led them to To Market To Market by Joanne Lewis, who stated they were the work of Cleveland sculptor Walter Sinz (many thanks, @OhioCityTweets; you also noted the interior ceramic corbels were by Herman Latzen, who created Public Square’s Mayor Johnson monument). I did some quick research of my own on Sinz, whose father had been a lithography instructor. Sinz went to what became the Cleveland Institute of Art, as well as Paris’s Academie Julien. He was a regular exhibitor at the Cleveland Museum of Art’s May Shows–112 entries–and created numerous sculptural commissions, including medals and portraiture, usually in clay, plaster or bronze. He also worked at Cowan Pottery.

Cowan was first based in Lakewood, then Rocky River, but the Depression sent it belly-up. Their temporal positioning meant they were involved in the Arts & Crafts movement, Art Deco and eclecticism–and there’s a book about it! Cowan pottery lives on in a “museum” at the Rocky River Public Library, which consists of over 1100 pieces displayed in circulating exhibits. They provide a ceramics scholarship at CIA, and this coming May 5 they’re holding a symposium, presumably for collectors and historians.

The Thompson trophy, now at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum

Sinz (1881-1966) taught at the now-CIA from 1911-52, frequently working in bronze. He designed the Art Deco Thompson Trophy, which was the award for one of many air races popular in the 30’s, and known to airplane buffs (funny enough, my brother recently told me about these famous plane races, far more dangerous than today’s air shows–they flew around pylons on a course). The trophy came about because the air race’s organizers felt most trophies at the time were mere loving cups, unconnected to the competition at hand. They called upon national sculptors to submit maquettes, and the five were submitted to five judges for their choice–one of the judges was Orville Wright. Unanimously, they picked Sinz’s design, which featured Icarus–whose flight efforts, marked by hubris, ended in disaster.

Sinz medal for Cleveland's Rowfant Club, a bibliophile's retreat on Prospect

Sinz’s other Cleveland public art includes a 1949 plaque honoring poet Emma Lazarus at the Hebrew Garden of the the Cleveland Cultural Gardens, as well as a sculpture of St. Luke at St. Luke’s Medical Center and his 1926 Portage Path Marker,  in Akron, a bronze relief of a Native American carrying a canoe through the portage.

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.

Final Day of the $25/wk challenge! Did I make it? And some musings…

3 Oct

On the very last day of the @cbnickras $25/wk challenge, I had only $1.59 to make it on–yikes! Remember, I’m a picky eater (no beans, lentils or rice for me), and the object was not to feel deprived, but indeed satisfied. One problem–food was low, for I didn’t reach the market till today.

Breakfast 45 cents

A Thomas’s English muffin (bought at a bargain as previously described) for 28 cents, plus a small dollop of peanut butter–about 15 cents worth. Iced tea for two cents. Total?45 cents.

Four containers of fruit for a $2 total late today at the West Side Market!

Lunch 17 cents

Held lunch down to a quick Lipton’s Ring O Noodle chicken soup, as previously described–17 cents. Water to drink.

Dinner 97 cents

I went to the market, and got an unbelievable 8 lbs of Roma tomatoes for $5. That allowed me to make a pasta dish for a lower price than my Dave’s Market tomato-based dishes earlier in the week. I made spaghetti to the tune of 50 cents, then made a slightly different sauce from fresh, cut-up ingredients. With 25 cents worth of tomatoes, onion, a habanero pepper and a little oil, I chopped all ingredients finely, and fried them in oil, adding plenty of basil and a little salt. By the time the spaghetti was off the boil, this peppery pasta topping was ready. Served with two cents’ worth of iced tea, dinner hearty, filling and spicy. That was LOTS of spaghetti–believe me, I don’t stint with pasta. And, as shall be outlined in a separate post today, I got a huge bargain on cut up fruit–four containers for two dollars. I had twenty cents’ worth of pineapple as dessert! All for a dinner total of 97 cents

and yes, came in for a week’s total of EXACTLY $25! Woohoo!

This was a great experiment. It mirrored my usual eating habits fairly closely, but without my usual snacks. Somewhat less fruit at the end of the week due to shopping access, and less salad than usual–if I had bought all my fruit and veg at the West Side Market, and had actually stocked in advance, there would have been salads and fruit galore. If I used cheaper cuts of meat and poultry, costs would have allowed for some extras, too–but I prefer deboned, skinned chicken breasts and ground sirloin. If I had actually planned all this in advance, I could have had more variety with more freezeables. And with that in mind, I think I’ll do some other challenges in future.

What if I DID go  shopping with just $25 and was restricted to that for the entire week (not counting spices and condiments)? A different set of conditions, where planning becomes critical. What if I wanted to plan a special dinner for four–with just ten or fifteen dollars? Maybe you can challenge me to some other variations.

I wish you would. I really learned a lot from this exercise. I grew up with the idea that, however much you might budget yourself on clothes, you should buy the food you wanted–so I never really tracked how much a week’s worth of eating cost, just how much I spent at the grocery store. It became clear that judicious planning could bring my grocery bill way down. While I don’t know that I’d want to hold it at $25 each week, I now know I could, without a sense of deprivation. And if I challenge myself to different dishes (or at least main courses) per day for a week another time, I could fill my freezer for much tastier “I’m home from work, what can I eat days.” Hope you enjoyed eating with me (ice cream cools the peppered tongue better than anything–good thing I didn’t need any!)

Dinner   1.00 quick stew