When making plans for summer trips, Cleveland, Ohio isn’t usually the first place most people have in mind. Telling people I had plans to visit Cleveland was often met with furrowed eyebrows, but I think many people underestimate Cleveland. It’s certainly not a flashy city, but it still has many good things going for it that makes it worth visiting. For me, one of those good things is one of my best friends, Mandy.
Mandy and I have been learning to master the art of long distance friendships since the start of college—maybe even since high school when we went to different schools after middle school. It’s been a long time. I’m grateful that we don’t have to talk every day or even for weeks at a time, yet when we get together, it’s like there’s been no time apart.
Since we both wouldn’t be in New York at the same time at the end of the summer, I decided to visit her now before my other travel plans and moving to work abroad. The day I flew in was the same day she was moving into her new apartment, so it was a little chaotic, but still manageable. I’m absolutely obsessed with her new place; it’s a beautiful and spacious 2-bedroom apartment, with walls painted a soft pinky beige and has ample sunlight streaming in at all hours. It makes me so jealous what $1300 can get you in Cleveland compared to Boston or New York.
The first day was spent helping Mandy move in and buying immediate apartment necessities with the assistance of her boyfriend, Yoon. We picked up shower curtains, cabinet liners, The rest of the week was spent waiting for some other essential furniture pieces, like mattress, bed frame, chairs, and work desk. We had something new to assemble almost every day. Aside from apartment-oriented activities, we ate out a lot and went to some cool places.
Normally for my travel diaries, I do day by day breakdowns, but since this trip wasn’t very jam-packed with activities and pictures, I’m going to do broader summaries and highlight what’s worth talking about.
I am a big fan of ice cream and if you are too, Mitchell’s is the place to go. Their ice cream is handcrafted in their Ohio City kitchen, which is open for public viewing, and the company is focused on sustainability and contributing to Northeast Ohio communities. I was super excited to visit their Ohio City location and to get more of the banana cream pie flavor that I loved so much last time.
West Side Market
Mandy and I tried coming here on Tuesday without realizing that it was closed, so tip to visitors: make sure you check the operating hours. West Side Market is located in a beautiful concourse and boasts hundreds of vendors selling meats, sweets, fresh produce, and more. We picked up some desserts, our favorite beef jerky sticks (smokeys), and fresh fruit.
SOME PLACES WE ATE AT
This is one of Mandy and Yoon’s go-to places to eat. For dinner one night, we each got a bowl of the Chongqing spicy beef noodle soup, as well as an order of soup dumplings to share. The noodle soup was fantastic and really hit the spot, although it could have been spicier and had even more noodles.
TownHall was probably my favorite restaurant of the whole trip. The restaurant has one side that has wait service and the other, you order at the counter, but they both serve the same food. We couldn’t get seats immediately at the wait service side, so we just opted for the cafe. We each got the grassfed burger, which comes with a side of truffle oil and Parmesan fries. Absolutely delicious.
Map of Thailand
While Cleveland, I also met up with my friend Danielle who is from here. She took me to her favorite Thai restaurant and she was boggled by how full it was during lunch, since she only goes at odd hours. It was really great being able to catch up with her and talk to her about post-grad life.
Morton’s The Steakhouse
I’ve never been to a steakhouse before, but dang, they are expensive. We went to the Tower City location for dinner before seeing a play. The waiter recommended the prime cajun ribeye, so that’s what I got. It was cooked to a perfect medium, in my opinion. You couldn’t really taste any cajun spice, but it makes for a nice rub on the meat and adds a smokey flavor. Yoon and Mandy both got the prime ribeye (Mandy added some truffle), and we got matchstick fries and spinach and mushrooms to share. Not sure if eating 16oz of meat in one sitting is really my thing, but it was a neat experience even if I’m not eager to repeat it anytime soon.
THINGS WE DID
When we found out West Side Market was closed on Tuesday, we scrambled to find an alternate plan, and Mandy found this art gallery. At the time, she didn’t give me any extra information, nor did I ask for any details, yet I was on the fence about going. However, since there wasn’t anything else to do, we decided to go anyway and I’m so thankful we did because it was really cool.
There was one exhibit about the Seattle campaign for safer drug consumption sites, which was a remarkable example of health communication and public health promotion through digital print and stories. I spent my last semester lobbying for the implementation of such sites in Massachusetts, so it was really amazing to see the exhibit in Ohio. Another piece that stuck out to me was Roopa Vasudevan’s Editor’s Notes, which showcases edits to the Constitution with written print or spoken words from the Trump administration. It is a powerful statement criticizing the values (or lack thereof) of the current presidency.
Tabletop Board Game Cafe
One of my favorite places! Super cozy and casual, perfect place to hang out with a few friends. Mandy and I spent three hours playing a variety of games, including my favorites Organ Attack, Scrabble, and Pandemic, at this board game cafe. There’s a $5 cover charge, so we had to get our money’s worth by staying there for a bit.
Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin at Allen Theatre, Playhouse Square
Mandy asked me if I wanted to see a play after she found tickets on Groupon. I knew nothing about who Hershey Felder or Irving Berlin were beyond the short description of the performance, but decided to do it because exposing yourself to new experiences is the only way to broaden your knowledge. Yoon, Mandy, and I were by far the youngest people in attendance, which I didn’t really notice until we were into the play. It made sense once I realized that Irving Berlin was a famous composer and performer from the early 19th century. By famous, I mean a literal American icon who produced popular songs like “God Bless America”, “Blue Skies”, and “White Christmas”.
After the show, Hershey Felder held a question and answer session with the audience, which I really appreciated. He gave us insight into his craft and characters, and I really admire his talent, intelligence, and abilities. Each character takes him years to develop, and Felder writes and performs all by himself. I think he’s a truly brilliant storyteller.
I was adamant about watching Incredibles 2 on the day it came out, so we went to the local cinema to catch it. Matinee tickets were just $7! We were both buzzing with excitement, and the movie didn’t disappoint, even after 14 years of waiting. Jack Jack and the racoon were the real stars of the show.
With all Pixar movies, there is a preceding short film. Bao confused me, particularly when I first saw the trailer, but upon seeing the whole short film, I realize it’s about a story about a mom coming to terms with her son to grow up and leave home. Most importantly, it’s situated in Chinese culture and there are so many details that resonate with me. It’s such a beautiful, wordless film and I think it really tugs at the heartstrings. I love this LA Times interview with the director, which provides more artistic insight to the short. I love that Pixar is diversifying their storytelling, and props to Domee Shi for being the first woman to direct a Pixar short and surrounding herself with people who helped bring her vision to life.
Overall, I had a lovely week in Cleveland and can already think of things I want to do next time.