How to Make the Most of Your Time at the West Side Market: A Guide to a Cleveland Landmark
Lake Erie Pearls, Ohio Maple Syrup, handmade squid ink fettuccine, giant apple fritters.
Pig’s feet, Hungarian sausage, cured smoked bacon, head cheese. (Note: it’s not cheese. It’s a giant terrine of meat jelly made of calf or hog head.)
You can find all of these things at the West Side Market.
The West Side Market is one of my favorite places to go in Cleveland. To me, it represents so much of what I love about the city: local products from our extremely arable land, immigrant-run shops and vendors, and indoor public space to enjoy during the summer and winter. The Market is an anchor for the Ohio City Market District — an institution that has long endured changing neighborhoods and inclement weather. It is one of the reasons the Market District has been able to undergo this renaissance of artisanal products and local businesses. The Market was a catalyst to the chain reaction of a revitalized Ohio City, which led to the birth of Hingetown, a new loca-vore haven. A day at the Market doesn’t just mean coming to this building anymore, it means coming to the neighborhood and seeing what else is new. It really feels like something new is popping up every month.
As home chefs, my husband and I especially love the West Side Market for its availability of hard-to-find cuts of meat. Since we make a lot of Asian food, we rarely have been able to find cuts like this in any grocery stores. Who else is going to sell pigs feet or Galbi beef cuts? Or who else will be there, live with a butcher block, willing to cut your chicken drumsticks into 2″ pieces for you? (I once tried to ask someone to do this at a local grocery store. It did not work.) Since we live in the neighborhood, we come here at least 1-2 times a week to pick up groceries for our next meal, and so I thought it might be helpful to add some of my insights.
West Side Market, W. 25th St and Lorain Ave., Cleveland, OH 44113
WHEN TO GO.
The West Side Market is open 4 days a week: Mondays and Wednesdays from 7am-4pm and Fridays and Saturdays from 7am-6pm. The West Side Market has become quite the tourist destination. If you’re interested in seeing the WSM at its peak, visit on Saturdays for maximum crowd-watching and neighborhood hubbub. When I’ve gone on Saturday mornings for a grocery run, I have to strategically slip through the narrow aisles because it can get so crowded.
Big crowds can be fun, but if you’re interested in a slower pace, try going on Wednesdays or Fridays. Mondays are the slowest, and though it’s least crowded, some of the vendors don’t open during that time. Tip: For deals, go an hour before close. That’s when vendors are more likely to do a final push to sell products.
I learned recently why the Market is only open 4 days a week on a tour around Cleveland for a conference. In the early half of the 1900s, there was a Market across the river called the East Side Market, and they were open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. They both accommodated their times so that they wouldn’t compete with one another. Sadly, the East Side Market burned down in a fire mid-century, and the West Side Market never changed its hours.
Driving. If you’re driving, there are two rather large lots behind the market off of Lorain Ave. On slower days, the lots are pretty open. But, if you’re going on a Saturday, prepare yourself for parking lot craziness. People really are just insane in the lot and its not uncommon to get into near accidents. The local government is working on solving the parking issue, so hopefully I’ll be able to update this post with some good news. If you aren’t able to find a spot in the lot, look for parking along local side streets. My suggestion is to park elsewhere (perhaps near Hingetown or Gordon Square), rent a Zagster bike (local bike sharing), and make a day out of it!
Rapid or public transit. If you’re riding the Rapid, Cleveland’s rail line, there’s a stop directly across from the Market (get off at “W. 25th St.”) It’s on the Red Line just one stop west of the Tower City central station. If you’re traveling from University Circle, which is also on the Red Line, this is probably the easiest way to get here.
IT’S TIME TO SHOP AND BROWSE!
The West Side Market is divided into two large sections. The most northern section is a long L-shaped hallway for produce. The second is the main hall, filled with vendors in the aisles and eats/restaurants in the corners. I come to the main hall often for products and cuts of meat that I can’t find at traditional grocery stores. They are also our in-person butchers!
Here are the vendors that I go to regularly for various items in the main hall:
- Bone-in beef shank, bones, chuck roast – Steve Check Jr.
- Korean style beef short ribs: “flanken”, cut lengthwise across the ribs – Vince’s Meats (usually on hand but closed Mon)
- Pork shoulder/butt, sausage, really any pork at all – D.W. Whitaker, Pork Chop Shop. Jim’s Meats has good deals sometimes
- Chicken – Kaufmann’s Poultry
- Miscellaneous yummy food – Ohio City Pasta, Pierogi Palace, Vera’s Bakery, the many cheese shops (The Cheese Shop or Annemarie’s Dairy)
You can also find fish (Kate’s Fish), veal, venison, duck, cured meats…all sorts of delicious, mostly local goods!
As for vegetables, most are not local unless marked. Walking down the vegetable aisle is an experience – vendor owners shout out deals and ask you to try their samples. If this is new to you, smile and politely decline if you’re not interested. However, keep your ears out for good deals! Deals will depend on the time of day and what’s in stock.
If you want to look for local and organic, there are a handful of stalls in the northeast section of the “L”.
See below for a video about Vince’s Meats and the West Side Market:
Save some stomach space for eating here too! You can get anything from snacks to full meals here. Grab something to eat and head to the upstairs balcony to people watch! (Use the southwest staircase.) Some popular stands:
- Crepes de luxe + City coffee roasters – people love these stands
- Steve’s Gyro – huge gyros worth the wait in line
- Maha’s Falafel – some of the best falafel in town
- Orale – quick bites of Mexican food
- Other options – West Side Market Cafe for a sit down meal. I’m not a huge fan, but at the very least they use food from the vendors in the Market
EXPLORING OHIO CITY.
When you’re done visiting the Market, make a day out of visiting Ohio City and the surrounding neighborhoods! All of them are accessible by biking or walking (except Gordon Square/Edgewater–I definitely suggest taking a 15 min bike ride there). If you plan to go to A few points of interest:
- The Farm Stand. Located behind the Lakeview Towers, just north of the WSM parking lots is the Farm Stand. It’s the county’s largest urban farm (1 square mile) and many of its employees are refugees who have recently come to the area. (The near west side is one of the most diverse populations in the whole state of Ohio.) Here, you can buy local produce and even participate in some local activities, like the Annual Pie Contest.
- Local gastropubs, breweries, and eateries. So many to name: Bar Cento, Bier Markt, Platform Beer Co, Market Garden, ABC Tavern, Nano Brew, The Old Angle, Hansa House. Market Wine Bar. Great Lakes Brewing Company if you must. 🙂 Lots of other eateries: Soho (Southern-style comfort food), The Black Pig, Nate’s Deli, Bonbon Cafe, Flying Fig, Market at Flying Fig, Crop Bistro, Farkas Pastry Shop. Quick bites: Ohio City Burrito, Bogtrotter’s Doorstep, Souper Market.
- Hingetown. Rising Star Coffee Co, Cleveland Tea Revival, Beetjar, Jukebox. The Music Settlement’s Bop Stop and Cleveland Museum of Art’s industrial-chic Transformer Station.
- Ice cream!! Mason’s Creamery, Mitchell’s Ice Cream HQ is right on W. 25th St.
- Edgewater Park and Gordon Square Arts District. If you have a bike (your own, or a bike share), take a 15 min bike ride west to Edgewater and Gordon Square. Take Detroit Ave to see recent developments in the area, or Franklin Ave to see gothic antebellum-style homes. Edgewater Park during the summertime is just one of the best ever. At Gordon Square, my favorite go-to is definitely Happy Dog. Luxe Kitchen and Lounge, Spice Kitchen and Bar, XYZ the Tavern, Taste. Irish pubs: Stone Madd Pub, The Harp. Dessert: Sweet Moses. Cleveland Public Theater, Capitol Theater.
There is so much to see, do, and eat at the West Side Market. Enjoy your time there! Leave a comment below about your favorite memories at the Market.