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Cleveland Observations

January 7, 2014

Many things have struck me about Cleveland and Northeast Ohio, since I moved here in May.

  • First of all, it can get cold here. I write this as the Midwest and much of the rest of the country is experiencing he record-breaking cold of the 2014 Polar Vortex. Temps here last night got as low as -11, with wind chills nearly reaching -40. And the winds are BRUTAL, Polar Vortex or not. My poor dogs could barely go outside to pee. On the plus side, I’ve learned a new meteorological term this week: FROST QUAKE. It’s not a breakfast cereal – it’s a real and frightening phenomenon.
  • We’ve found pitifully few places that serve decent Italian food around here. There are tons of places that TRY, but nothing comes close to what you can get in New York. I know that sounds snobby and elitist, but when you are a native New Yorker, you just come to expect 120327-pizza-590decent pizza and Italian takeout. I ordered a calzone from a place a few weeks ago, and it was merely some mozzarella stuffed inside some pizza dough. No ricotta! That’s not a calzone, my friends. We did find one place that was pretty good – D’Angelo’s in Twinsburg. The food was tasty (awesome risotto), and the service was fantastic. We even took my in-laws there when they visited in November.  But we haven’t found a delivery joint that slings NY-style pizza like the ones we used to order from in Clifton Park (La Bella and Inferno). Now, let me give credit where credit is due: Cleveland can do Polish, German…anything Eastern European. Fine. But unfortunately no one delivers galumpkis or sauerbraten. Because we’d totally order that.
  • Related: every delivery joint sells fried chicken. That’s just weird. And none of them – NOT ONE – offers raspberry sauce with their mozzarella sticks. Sigh.
  • Clevelanders are extremely proud of their hometown. Sure, the place has its detractors, but their voices are drowned out by the sea of voices singing the praises of CLE. It’s really nice to see how much people love the place where they live.
  • Clevelanders are extremely proud of their losing sports teams. They love the underdogs here, and there are no greater underdogs than the long-suffering Cleveland Browns. They wear the Browns’ losing seasons like a badge of honor. I think they’d more upset if the Browns actually won. Because then they’d have nothing to complain about. Reminds me of pre-2004 Red Sox Fans (who now just sound like Yankees fans with a dumber accent). Perhaps the best example of the Cleveland attitude towards the Browns is local comedian Mike Polk’s video about the “Factory of Sadness”:

  • Browns aside, having professional sports teams close by is great. Bob & I went to a few Indians games this season, and they were a blast. Wish we had enough $$ to get season tickets.
  • Beer is HUGE here. Ginormous. You can’t swing a dead cat without it falling into a fermenting tank. I haven’t been to any of them yet, but I have plans. Recently, we went to the West Side Market (more on that another time) and attempted to have lunch at the Great Lakes Brewing Company across the street, but that plan was thwarted by a two hour wait. But, we did visit the gift shop, so it wasn’t a total loss. Also, I am currently in love with GLB’s Christmas Ale. It’s kind of the local thing to drink.
  • Grocery stores here really suck. Giant Eagle is dirty and expensive, and Heinen’s is wonderful and expensive. I have since learned that there are other options for groceries (Marc’s, Acme, Aldi), but they all have vocal opponents who claim they are horrible. I haven’t personally visited any of them because I really like Heinen’s (even though it’s crazy expensive most of the time) and it’s really close to our house. We did manage to find a great butcher shop nearby: Mazzulo’s. We ordered our Christmas/NYE prime rib roast there, and have really enjoyed their sausages and steaks. Better prices than the chains, too. Win!
  • Related: Trader Joe’s manages to find the WORST locations, no matter what part of the country they’re in. One of the Cleveland stores (there are only two) is located in the most horrendous shopping malls I’ve ever seen: not only does this place have a North Face store and a Lululemon Athletica store (those two are enough to make you want to kill yourself right there), they have the smallest store-to-parking-space ratio I’ve ever seen. There is never a time when there is adequate parking for the demand. And it doesn’t matter if it’s Cleveland, Albany, or Danbury CT – no matter where, people turn into complete assholes once inside a Trader Joe’s. Self-important, elitist assholes. Except me, of course. I’m still as sweet and polite as always.
  • Small-town politics are just as dirty here as they are in NY. Awesome.
  • Everywhere you look, all you can see on the horizon is…nothing. Vast swaths of nothing. I didn’t realize how much I took the
    Look at that. I miss that.

    Look at that. I miss that.

    mountainous terrain of NY for granted. Up and down the Northway and Thruway, majestic mountains as far as the eye can see. Here? Empty sky. I miss the Adirondacks and the Catskills. The landscape here is boring (though looking at Lake Erie from the lakeshore is kinda cool).

  • The job market here is pretty tough. I still haven’t found a full-time job yet, and I’m getting discouraged.

Man, it really sounds like I’m complaining. I am, but I’m not. Problems are the same all over. The Capital Region may have good pizza and decent grocery stores, but it has cold snowy weather and a shitty Trader Joe’s parking lot, too. There are definitely things about Cleveland that are far superior to Albany: museums, zoos, theaters, professional sports, low taxes…but the Capital Region has one thing over on the CLE – Stewart’s. Damn I miss Stewart’s.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. January 7, 2014 10:53 pm

    I understand being wistful for the things of the past, but let this be the last time you romanticize Inferno’s pizza. Or maybe the problem is worse than I thought and you’ve actually forgotten what good pizza is supposed to taste like.

    Oh dear.

    And thanks for rubbing in the GLBC bit. Maybe instead of an aquarium, the Capital Region should try to get some major sports franchise. We have that arena downtown. Seriously, why doesn’t anyone ever propose we get an NBA team. It has to be a better draw than an aquarium or a convention center.

    • January 7, 2014 11:07 pm

      My husband would be better equipped to answer the sports franchise question, but my guess would be that a small market such as Albany could never support a large sports team. Hell, it can’t even support a small sports team. Remember the Firebirds? The A-C Yankees? The River Rats? All failed because the people of the greater Capital Region only number about 1million, and they are all cheap bastards who refuse to spend money to buy a ticket. A miserable market in which to do business. But I’m no expert.

      On the pizza problem, I am also no expert. But we didn’t really like Inferno for their pizza as much as their wings. La Bella’s pizza was better. And that was just in Clifton Park. That’s who delivered to our house. We didn’t travel for pizza.

      • January 8, 2014 10:28 pm

        We still have the River Rats, but they’re the Albany Devils now.

        Also, I’m gonna have to try LaBella’s now — I haven’t had any luck finding good pizza in CP yet.

      • January 8, 2014 10:40 pm

        True about the River Rats. But the Devils still can’t draw more than a few thousand to a game. College basketball is a much bigger draw at the TU Center.

        Good luck with LaBella. I hope it’s still good!

  2. Claire Lynch permalink
    January 7, 2014 10:58 pm

    Great post. The best Trader Joes was in San Francisco- Huge store and I bought Two Buck Chuck (actually $2.50 Chuck. Not being wine enthusiast, but the stuff was very drinkable. Or it had been so long since I had tasted wine that swill may have tasted good to me. Your former uncle lived in Fostoria, OH for some time and the flatness of the state was something he ALWAYS commented on. At some point your mother and I will make a trip to Cleveland to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame…and you. Grandma sends love to her friend Bob.

    • January 7, 2014 11:07 pm

      I am pretty sure Grandma likes Bob better than me.

      • Claire Lynch permalink
        January 7, 2014 11:45 pm

        I think she just loves the attention from men…hence her “fiance” Assif. I am pretty certain she likes you too. She like you better than she likes me.

  3. Kim permalink
    January 7, 2014 11:12 pm

    yep, we were there in September and loved the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of fame– I got the feeling, walking around downtown that they were really working hard to bring the town up a few notches– but the best burger place we thought was great was outdoor eating with the huge heater to sit around– it was called DynOmite I believe!

    • January 7, 2014 11:25 pm

      I did get to the Rock Hall finally – we really enjoyed it. And we’ve eaten at a couple downtown places so far, nothing fancy. I am hoping we go to Lola for my birthday…only a few weeks away!

  4. Tara permalink
    January 10, 2014 9:27 am

    I moved from Canton, OH to Albany in June.

    Here are a few things I miss about Northeast Ohio:

    * Great Lakes Brewing Co.: Skip the food, it isn’t great. Just go in and head straight down to the basement pub room. Great vibe, amazing beer.

    * Melt Bar and Grilled: Best gourmet grilled cheese ever.

    * World Market: Such a cool store.

    * Marc’s: I don’t go there for the groceries; I go there for the wholesale home goods from Target. Items that cost $25 at Target cost $1.99 at Marc’s. Love it.

    * Cedar Point.

    * Cheap prices: From drinks to gas to taxis to hair salons, I can’t believe how much more expensive everything costs here in the Albany region!

    I still love Albany, however. I love how close everything is! Folks here consider something to be far away if it’s a 25 minute drive. In Ohio, I would regularly drive 1.5 hours or more just to go do something fun. The sushi is better here too.

    • January 10, 2014 2:51 pm

      Wow – we traded places, didn’t we??? We might have passed each other on I-90. Haha.

      Thanks for the tips, esp about Marc’s – I will definitely check it out now. I am such a cheapskate.

      My husband and I have been pleasantly surprised with the lower costs of things here, too. Though, gas prices have been all over the place lately – $3.15, then $2.97, now $3.45 again, all within like 2 weeks. AND – I can’t seem to find a salon to do my hair for less than $45. Am I being too cheap here???

      Tell everyone in Albany I said hi, and that I miss them.

  5. williepitt permalink
    January 14, 2014 2:16 pm

    1. Wendy, when I was still living in Cleveland (1964-82), the place to go for Italian food was Little Italy, just up the hill on Mayfield Road from Euclid Ave. There was a pretty great restaurant up there called Guarino’s, and several others not quite so highly respected. Is Guarino’s still there? It might be worth a visit. Its decor borrowed some from an old Catholic church that was torn down some time in (I think) the 1970’s.

    2. Groceries? Other than Heinen’s, the main places we went were Fazio’s (now, unfortunately, Giant Eagle) and Pick-n-Pay (now perhaps Tops). The latter chain was noted for the fact that its CEO, Julie Kravitz, was kidnaped and murdered and the chain was taken over by Dick Bogomolny, an old musical friend of mine from high school music camp. His brother Robert was, for a while, dean of Cleveland-Marshall Law School where I had attended my first year.

    All of which gives you little help in the grocery buying arena, but at the time we were there I can’t say that any of these chains were inferior to Price Chopper or Hannaford here.

    3. When I first moved to Cleveland from Illinois (!), I thought the scenery was spectacular. Particularly Cedar Hill – seen it? It’s the first foothill of the Appalachians.

    4. Try the Cleveland Orchestra. I’ve probably said it before, and I’ll say it again. The greatest in the US, maybe in the world.

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