In Defense of Cleveland

Original art by Barry Gott. Click on the image to visit his etsy store.

When I first moved to the Cleveland area seven years ago, I didn’t expect to stay long. It was just a short stop on my way from grad school to the “real world.” I actually wanted to go to library school in Albany, but I got a full ride at Kent State University and I never did end up applying to the school in Albany. And here I am, seven years later, still in the Cleveland area. I’ve yet to actually live in the city or in one of the inner-ring suburbs, but I feel like a move is coming soon. We’ll see where that takes me.

Cleveland is a city that grows on you. It kind of sneaks up on you unexpectedly. I’m originally from Western PA and Pittsburgh has always been my go-to city and I never thought I’d like any other city as much as Pittsburgh. But like I said, Cleveland grows on you. In fact, when I visited the Smalltower Press etsy store, my intention was to purchase a print of Pittsburgh’s skyline, but when I saw the Cleveland print, it just felt more “right.” I think I’ve officially become a Clevelander.

Cleveland gets a lot of shit thrown its way and I think most of it is unwarranted. Sure, we get a lot of snow in the winter and the sky is a lovely shade of blah gray from November to March, but that’s true of pretty much any Midwestern or Northern city. Okay, so the Cuyahoga River caught fire multiple times, most notably in 1969. And so maybe our beaches are among the most polluted in Ohio, thanks to a long history of sewage runoff in Lake Erie. And yeah, Cleveland was the first city to be affected during the foreclosure boom and there often more foreclosed homes than lived in homes on certain city streets, but good news! Cleveland is no longer the foreclosure capital of the universe. Despite all these things, Cleveland is home to some of the friendliest and most resilient people I’ve ever met.

And there’s some really cool stuff in Cleveland! Since I don’t live in the city or within 10 miles of it, I really and truly haven’t spent a lot of time exploring the city and what it has to offer. Now that @winelibrarian lives here, we are both making conscious efforts to enjoy our city the fullest. Every Wednesday night, we go out to eat at a new restaurant. And there are no shortages of AWESOME eateries in the city of Cleveland and its surrounding suburbs.

One of the most interesting bits of Cleveland history (in my opinion and it should be yours, too) is the Cleveland Torso Murderer. Yup, that’s right, Cleveland had its very own serial killer. Can you say that about YOUR city? Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t be bragging about my city being home to a serial killer, but it does make for fascinating history.  Eliot Ness was Safety Director of the city during the times of the murders and he’s buried in Cleveland’s Lakeview Cemetery. Last summer, I did a Torso Murder tour that took participants to all the locations where bodies were found and ended at the Cleveland Police Museum. It was probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. The photos seen here (warning, most are graphic in nature) were also on display at the museum.

Cleveland is also home to some of the best museums and other such things. The Cleveland Museum of Art is always free; the only times you have to bust out your wallet are to buy souvenirs, something to eat, or to purchase tickets for special exhibits. While I’ve yet to visit the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, it’s definitely on my short lists of places to visit. There’s also the Great Lakes Science Center (have yet to visit) and the Children’s Museum of Cleveland. While I wasn’t super impressed with the fish selection at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, it is well-designed and the appeal to children is off the charts. I’m still on the fence about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The building looks like graph paper from the outside and I’ve heard mixed reviews; however, I’m sure I’ll end up visiting it eventually.

I feel like I can’t accurately speak on the sports culture of Cleveland, as I’m not a football, basketball, or baseball fan. The nearest NHL team is the Columbus Blue Jackets and there’s no danger of me forsaking my Pittsburgh roots and converting to a fan of that team. I’ll always be a Penguins fan.

Cleveland has great neighborhoods. From Hough, where blacks rioted for Civil Rights; to Ohio City, home of Westside Market and where I got my tattoo done; to Coventry, home to the Grog Shop, one of the best concert venues I’ve ever been in; to Shaker Square, an area that contacts awesome little shops and unique restaurants; to Little Italy, where you can get pasta, gelato, and tiny cookies all on the same street. I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot of neat places, but these areas are some of my favorites.

John D. Rockefeller got his start in Cleveland. His estate in Forest Hills is now a park that spans two cities. General Electric calls Cleveland home. A Christmas Story was filmed in Cleveland. You can tour the house and probably buy one of those leg lamps. I really don’t know. I fucking HATE that movie, so touring the house is at the bottom of my list of things to do in Cleveland. Oh, and The Avengers was filmed here, too. It’s nearly completely unrecognizable in the movie, but I’m pretty sure I saw a familiar parking garage.

I realize that by posting this entry, I’ve given up all mystery about myself. You’ve seen my face and now you know where I live. If you choose to stalk me and @winelibrarian, all we ask that you take us out for dinner and drinks. It’s the least you can do after being such a creeper.

And also? This is the most well-researched blog entry I’ve ever written, so if you don’t click on all the links, I’m going to be super pissed.

Edit: Sorry that “Cleveland” shows up as ********* in comments. We have a filter set up to block certain words in comments in order to protect us. Now? We mostly just don’t give a flying fuck.

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14 Responses to “In Defense of Cleveland”

  1. Jenna says:

    You almost make me want to go.


    I kinda get my fill once a year for the Birthmother’s Day event. Of course, maybe that’s why: It’s an emotionally charged thing and I just want THE HELL OUT. Also: STEELERS.

    • Bitchy Librarian says:

      We’ll get you up here eventually. I’m sure of it. ;)

      And yes, I think the emotions associated with that event would definitely color your perception of the city. I’ll never be a Browns fan or a fan of any other team here. PENGUINS FOR LYFE.

  2. I visited Cleveland for the first time last year while taking one of my kids to Case Western for a campus visit (he ended up not going to school there, but that’s a different story). At first I thought, “what a wasteland – it’s like Mad Max meets Escape from New York”. My kids determined that when the Zombie Apocalypse finally arises, it will begin in Cleveland. But I have to admit that the closer we got to downtown, the more impressed I was. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency, which looks like the inside of some elegant airship. I swear the place was going to take off at any moment. We explored a little bit, but my wife and I settled on dinner at the Chocolate Bar Restaurant (in the same building as the hotel). Wow. That was amazing.

    So I have this image of Cleveland as a schizophrenic city. When it’s bad, it’s really bad, and when it’s good, it’s really good. Hated the outskirts, LOVED downtown. We’ll have to come back and visit it again, since I suspect that the good far outweighs the bad.

    • Bitchy Librarian says:

      First of all, sorry for the stars. When we were set to be more anonymous, certain words were added to a filter to protect us. HAHAHA.

      Yeah, you’re absolutely right. When it’s good it’s good, but when it’s bad, it’s WAY bad. I work in a pretty bad part of the city, but I absolutely love where I work. There’s good in every part of the city, I feel.

      I’m not sure how far from downtown you strayed, but some of the inner-ring suburbs are just awesome. But the area directly surrounding downtown? Kind of a wasteland, definitely.

      I’ve yet to go to Chocolate Bar, but I hear it’s really good. We’ll have to add that to our list of restaurants to try! :)

  3. Here’s a little confession. I’m from Pittsburgh, and I kind of have a huge soft spot for Cleveland. I went to college with a lot of people from Cleveland and I went home with a friend from a suburb numerous times.

    After I graduated college, same thing. Cleveland was a fun place to visit.

    And then, my Big Ex spent 15 or so years of his life before he came into mine living in Cleveland. Throughout our entire relationship, we jumped on a weekend trip to Cleveland anytime we had the chance. It was perfect. A night with his friends, a night with mine and lots of exploring. For a few years, I spent a lot of time in Cleveland and now wish I had done that Murder Tour! When we were in grad school and thinking about what to do after graduation, a move to Cleveland was high in the possibilities.

    But now, that guy has long since moved out of my life. And my best Cleveland-friend has moved to the West Coast. I’m more distanced from the city than I have felt in years. There isn’t much for me to “do” there anymore.

    But I still love it. I love the West Side Market, the neighborhoods that sometimes feel so much cooler than Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods (how dare I saw this, since Pgh has some pretty awesome neighborhoods), the flat-bike-friendly streets that I crave, libraries that put mine to shame.

    Oh, and if you and @WineLibrarian are looking for a place to do brunch on a Sunday? Please go to Lucky’s and order the Mac & Cheese. You won’t regret it.

    That said though, Pittsburgh is still the best.

    • Bitchy Librarian says:


      One of the main reasons I stay here is because of the libraries. **** takes good care of their libraries, even after budget cuts, we still have some of the best libraries in the country. I have good benefits and a well-paying library job. When I got divorced, my aunt just assumed that I’d move back in with my parents in smalltown, PA. Uh, why would I do that? This area has become home to me now.

      But yes, it makes sense that as the Cleveland people left your life, you’ve become more and more distant from it. I’m finding lots of things to do here, but that’s mostly because I never did them before. It’s funny how things change in your life.

      The West Side Market is so cool and I agree, Cleveland has some GREAT neighborhoods. I’d say Cleveland and Pittsburgh are comparable with unique neighborhoods. I’ve yet to ride my bike in the city, but I definitely have around where I live. There are so many cool parks.

      Thanks for the brunch suggestion! We will totally add it to our list of places to try. It’s going to take us forever to eat our way through the city.

      Pittsburgh will always be in my heart (and on my hockey jersey), but there’s just something about Cleveland. And you are always welcome here, if you want to rekindle your Cleveland love. ;)

  4. Rad Cocker says:

    I’ve enjoyed my infrequent visits to Cleveland and don’t think it deserves all the derision that’s been heaped on it over the years. Shaker Heights is a nice place to visit and I enjoy the train ride downtown. What’s sad is that downtown was so deserted the last couple of times I was there, with the Public Square almost empty.

    • Bitchy Librarian says:

      Yes, some of the inner-ring suburbs like Shaker Heights and Cleveland Heights are super awesome. I’ve YET to ride the train. I hope to fix that soon. Hahaha.

      But yes, a lot of downtown is really deserted. Cleveland was hit hard in the economic shit that happened. I’m hoping more businesses will come into downtown, but we’ll see.

  5. Have you seen the first season 30Rock episode about Cleveland? After reading this, I think you’d love it.

    • Bitchy Librarian says:

      I don’t really watch 30 Rock, not for any real reason; I just don’t watch a lot of TV. I’ll have to find that episode and watch it.

  6. Rachel Lux says:

    Yay for Cleveland! SO happy whenever people show the city some love. I moved there (well, to Lakewood, first ‘burb to the west) for my first real journalism job after grad school in 2006 and stayed until the end of 2010 (when I left to go to library school of all things!) Aside from low traffic, cheap baseball tickets and tons of beer, I always tell people that Cleveland is a foodie mecca. Here is a (not very short) list of some of my faves:

    In Lakewood area:
    Melt (you gotta go to the OG Melt in Lakewood… When it first opened, it was about 1/3 the size and max wait was 15 minutes. Plan on waiting for at least an hour now. But c’mon. Gourmet grilled cheese.)
    Deagan’s Kitchen (upscale pub grub)
    Buckeye Beer Engine (delicious pub grub, ridic beer list)
    Blackbird Baking Company
    Clifton Diner (for the sweet potato fries)
    Angelo’s Pizza
    Rocky River Wine Bar

    Cleveland proper
    Bar Cento/Bier Market (the pomme frittes are to die for. They cook them in duck fat. Uh, yeah.)
    The falafel stand inside West Side Market
    Souper Market (one near West Side Market and one in Lakewood)
    Happy Dog (dive bar that specializes in hot dogs with 30+ different topping choices, plus tator tots instead of fries)
    Momocho (guacamole heaven)
    Johnny Mangos
    Flying Fig
    Crop (I haven’t been to this since it moved to **** City. It used to be downtown and just open for dinner, as it was a test kitchen for a steakhouse during the day. It was really good back then, though, so I imagine it still is)
    Dim and Den Sum food truck (I think they have a storefront now, too, but also the food truck credited with starting that trend in Cleve-o)
    Lola (if you’re a Michael Symon fan) or her less upscale counterpart in Tremont, Lolita
    Greenhouse Tavern
    Ty Fun (just know it’s BYOB)
    D’Vine (wine flights and tapas)
    Table 45 (worth it if you don’t mind eating in a restaurant in a hotel that’s connected to this hospital)
    Sweet Moses (for ice cream sundaes)
    Superior Pho
    And for sushi, everyone talks about Sushi Rock downtown, but I think Mizu out in Parma is actually the best in the area

    I’m sure I’m forgetting a bunch, but these are off the top of my head. And now I am hungry. Enjoy your Cleveland culinary adventures!

    • Bitchy Librarian says:

      Thank you SO MUCH for all the great restaurant suggestions!

      We will definitely be adding these to our lists. I’m super excited about the Pho restaurant. I love noodles. And the hot dog place? YES! We’ve been wanting to try a Micheal Symon restaurant and will probably do Lolita.

      I plan on heading to Lakewood soon to visit a gallery, so we will have to check out one of the Lakewood restaurants. I’ve only ever been to the Melt in Lakewood, though there is one in Cleveland Heights now.

      You are my hero and now I’m starving, too!

  7. Lou Lange says:

    Where you settle eventually grows on you in most cases. Sounds like you have found a nice area. And the cullinary choices sound very interesting. I hope to get there someday.
    One other tidbit about Cleveland..they were the first city in the US to declare bankruptcy. The mayor at that time was a guy named Dennis Kucinich. He has also, I believe, been in Congress and ran for President a few times. His nickname is “Dennis the Menace” for his political exploits.
    Hope you and WL continue to enjoy the area! Take good care.

  8. John says:

    I’m reminded of the 30 Rock episode.

    I’ve always thought Cleveland was a pleasant city . . . small to those of us who grew up where “New York” was synonymous with “the city,” but it has everything one might want . . . but it’s smaller, and a little more laid back. And the rivers hardly ever catch on fire.