Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Day in Tremont, Cleveland

I've finally gotten around to organizing my pictures from my time in Cleveland this past holiday. We spent a wonderful nine days there, and it was nothing like I had expected. Originally, I thought I would be sitting around, hunkered away from the freezing winter cold, only to venture out on the rare occasion we would run out of wine.

Instead, we were met with remarkably warm weather. For the Mid-West, that is, meaning it wasn't snowing, and hadn't quite gotten down to freezing--yet. I had done some research on neighborhoods in Cleveland proper that might be a good place to spend a sunny day, and immediately, I knew Tremont was the place to be.

Just south of Downtown Cleveland, it is apparently the up-and-coming neighborhood for young people and families, due to the newly opened bars, restaurants, shops, and monthly art walks. The area has completely revamped buildings and homes once abandoned in Historic Tremont, so a walk between 14th St and Professor, or Literary and 11th, is like a scavenger hunt for amazing holes in the wall.

The area is bookended by epic churches and sanctuaries, with a small park, ice cream shops, public graphic art, and cafes of all sorts sandwiched in between.

First order of business was food. I'd read pretty much everything about the restaurants in the area, and many that I wanted to try are only open beginning around 4 PM (there are amazing Happy Hours here) for dinner. We'll talk about that later. But first, lunch.

We hopped into The South Side well before the lunch rush started. And it's a good thing too, because by the time we left, it was Standing Room Only--on a Monday, of all days! By then though, I'd already enjoyed an enormous hamburger.

This is their South Side burger, and it was just right, but the slabs of bacon alone would have made it all worth it. We were going to be walking around the neighborhood for the rest of the day, so I didn't mind the protein and carbo-loading.

Feeling 10 lbs heavier, we began to circle around the blocks. Things were decked out for the holidays, and shops glittered with twinkling signs and lights. A not-so-little clothing and local crafts boutique caught my eye immediately, and I dragged John in to scope the place out. Even the front entrance had traces of what the building used to be (though I can't for the life of me figure out what it was). Banyan Tree had its curb appeal down pat.

Even the floor of the front entryway had tiling from the building's previous occupants. I'm really curious about this ORLIK, but I can't seem to find anything about it! Any locals out there know?

Inside, I felt like we had the store all to ourselves. I wish I could always going shopping in the middle of a work day! The place was dripping with twinkly lights and newly stocked shelves full of sweaters, hats, jewelry, and housewares. The smell of gingerbread was lingering in the air from the soy candles on display (and for sale!) -- I was set to stay there for the rest of the day!

With John prodding at me, I decided to snap up some quick shots so that you could all see what I saw.

There was a ton of Cleveland pride in this place, and some of these trinkets were way nicer than the stuff you'd find at tourist shops. I was pretty darn close to walk away with a couple of novelty bottle openers. Or maybe even a Ohio-shaped cutting board -- eh??

When I turned around, I found that John had made his way to the Kids section, which was shock-full of some of the cutest, softest stuffed animals I've ever touched. And John found his new favorite thing: a socktopus!

I managed to escape from Banyan without blowing all my Christmas money, and sneaking away with only a couple of ornaments from their display. I mean, how could I resist?? I have an affinity for gold, hand-painted ornaments.

By this time, I was ready for a pick-me up. Back over, kiddy-corner from The South Side, was a shop that came very highly recommended by John's family (and our lovely Cleveland hosts): Loop-Tremont. What is the Loop, you might ask? Well, it's a coffee shop that doubles as an art gallery and vinyl record store! (or would it be that it "triples"...? Oh, never mind.)

We bee-lined down Professor, and made our way to the warmth of Loop's spacious interior. The sun was shining brightly outside, but the temperature had begun to drop considerably. I actually had to pull out my hat and gloves! Which, honestly, made me excited, because I'd purchased them just for this trip, and what fun is it to go to Ohio in the winter and not need any of your adorable winter gear?

Anyways, I have a vinyl-buying problem. And I always seem to buy the most records when I have to then carry them on an airplane in order to get home. At Loop, two of my favorite things were combined in one place: music, and COFFEE.

The shop was built inside what was once a classic Cleveland home, but one that had been fully gutted, renovated, and industrialized to suit the modern tastes of its patrons. The second level was completely open to the lower, with metal grating rails and tension rods framing an area for coffee drinkers to sit--and vinyl lovers to shop.

The selection was by no means huge, but it was very comprehensive. Re-releases of Led Zepplin II and III caught my eye immediately, so home with me they came! Over the course of the trip, we collected some Billy Joel, John Lennon, Lady Gaga 45s, Oasis, and Journey. Cleveland is clearly a place that loves music, and for that, I kinda love this city.

We spent nearly two hours at Loop just flipping through the stacks. When I noticed that the clock had struck 4 PM, my immediate thought was: It's Happy Hour time!

Now, what to pick? There was a long list of suggested Happy Hours within a block of where we were, all of them bound to be empty at this early, work-day hour. Knowing we only had another stop or two left in us, we decided to go with another recommendation from our hosts: Press Wine Bar on Professor.

And of course, like every business establishment in Cleveland, there was a Leg Lamp to light the entryway. At Press, the entry space was also tiled in the branded wood from old wine crates. I loved this, it was a beautiful touch, and it adorned the room, floor to ceiling, before you stepped into the restaurant itself.

This has to be the best Happy Hour in the Tremont area. I just can't imagine another place having the same sized selection for such a great price. The $5 wine options were extensive, as were the local draft beers, which John was immediately drawn to. That guy can't resist a draft IPA to save his life.

We were the first people in the place when it opened, but it didn't take long to fill up. The bar itself is massive, and there are even multiple party areas in the back for very (very!) large groups. I think I would probably come here at least twice a week if I lived locally. We even ordered a mid-day snack of mussels and a flatbread (both on their Happy Hour menu for $7!), which completely hit the spot. Sadly, I don't have pictures of these scrumptious dishes, because my camera battery died riiiiiiight after we snapped this picture together...

Ah, beautiful, shadow-inducing back-lighting.

This was the only day during our trip where we spent from morning until night out and about in Cleveland. For the most part, we relaxed and enjoyed the warmth of our temporary home. But I'm so glad we took the time to explore a neighborhood that John didn't know from his childhood. Tremont is busting at the seams to bring the newest and best establishments to the developing area, and I know that when we visit next, there will be so much more to see, drink, and enjoy.

Look for a few more, probably less-exhaustive, Cleveland posts this week. xx

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