Neighborhood Series: Ohio City

 

If you come to Cleveland for more than a day, you’ll probably hit Ohio City. It is close to downtown and certainly is one of two big entertainment districts in the city. We’ve been there many times. In fact, we probably either stop there or drive through at least once a week.

This time, however, we visited a small part of Ohio City in an unusual way. For our 15th anniversary we reserved a two hour tour with Cleveland Cycle Tours. There were 15 friends and family (one for each year of marriage) who met us at their garage on Columbus Avenue.The group before Johnny Mango

Adam, our driver, greeted Dave and me.  He was waiting for the bike cart to return. Soon we heard music and laughter coming around the corner and then it turned into the driveway. Ten giggling, sweating young women, all wearing the same T Shirts, got off. It was a bachelorette party.

Once they cleared out, the cart was pushed/pulled back out onto the road and we were on our way. Three people sat across the back and the rest of us pedaled. Let’s just be clear. We were going very slowly. Walkers were keeping us with us.

We realized we were minor celebrities when we turned west onto Abbey Avenue. Cars were creeping by and taking pictures. People were waving. Drivers stuck behind us were cursing. Our 70’s themed music kept us on pace and happy. I got out the Viking chant and started yelling “Faster, Faster!”

Soon we were on Lorain Ave alongside the West Side Market. It was Saturday so the market was open and, even at 4 in the afternoon, still was busy.

West Side Market

West Side Market

The West Side Market is the center of activity in Ohio City. It is rated one of the best markets in the world and it’s a great place to shop for meat, cheese, bread, pastries, spices, and produce of all kinds. You can also get lunch there and eat in the balcony or outside in the alley.

We continued on Lorain and past St Ignatius High School then turned the corner and ended up on Bridge Street. Adam pulled over, instructed us to walk to the end of the block, and get our first drink at Johnny Mango’s. That’s right. There is lots of beer flowing during this two mile excursion.  But Johnny Mango is known for organic juice drinks and that’s what I got.

Bridge Street is one of the streets that has been heavily restored. There are many two story Victorian and Queen Anne style homes with lots of tall trees offering shade. Just painting the outside of these places requires money, patience and skill. There are porches, old wooden windows, lattice work, and eaves- often of two to three colors. It’s charming and a popular place to live.

Ohio City restoration

Ohio City restoration

After leaving Johnny Mango’s, we turned toward West 25th. This may be all many tourists see of Ohio City. There are dozens of restaurants here. They represent many ethnicities and price ranges.  Many have cropped up in the last 10 years. Just when you think there can be no more room for more, another one moves in to a restored hardware store or wig shop. Last year the big hit was Mitchell’s Ice Cream.  It moved into an old theater.

Now we were heading for Nano Brew. Adam pulled over on Jay Street and parked. After only pedaling for 15 minutes we had another 20 minute break for —– MORE BEER! This time I went for orange juice over ice.  At 85 degrees outside, I was drinking fluids like a fiend and still didn’t need to pee.  Nano Brew has its own beer and everyone was sampling except my grand niece Libby. She’s pregnant and, yippee, the designated driver for her husband and two friends.

No butts about it, big fun

No butts about it, big fun

When that intermission was over we were back on the cart and heading down Jay Street. It’s another gem of lovingly restored homes. With all this gentrification, you can imagine that house prices have skyrocketed. You would be right. All this charm comes at a price. You are near bars, restaurants, and a grocery store, but you are also near late night partying people and very little parking. Residents in both Ohio City and Tremont complain that people park in front of, on in, their driveways. They are loud and rude after drinking a lot and they even use the front lawns when they should be using a toilet.

At any rate, on this afternoon, we saw none of that. We literally rounded the corner and stopped again. This time it was at Great Lakes Brew.

Everyone in NE Ohio has heard of Great Lakes Beer. It was 5pm and the Saturday night visitors were out. Tables were filled, people were filing in. We ended up in the pub in the basement.  Now I had my first cold beer and felt it was a prelude to dinner.  I got to catch up with everyone at some point along the way but I especially wanted to catch up with Cousin Judy Sterling and her husband Mike Eisman who were coming through Ohio on their way across the country from California. Our time together wasn’t long enough.

Cousins Mike and Judy

Cousins Mike and Judy

Back out in the heat and onto the curb, we remounted our cycles for the last time.  We retraced our route on Lorain, Abbey, and Columbus and made a gallant attempt at ramming speed when we turned into the driveway at the garage.

All that drinking worked up our appetite for dinner around the corner at the University Inn. But that was in Tremont- the rival next door neighbor to Ohio City.