How to Make the Most of Your Time at the West Side Market: A Guide to a Cleveland Landmark

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.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

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  

http://www.westsidemarket.org

IMG_1291

The holidays at the West Side Market (taken 2012)

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 got all of this for $7.45 when I came about 30 min-1 hour before close!

I got all of this for $7.45 when I came about 30 min-1 hour before close!

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.

GETTING THERE.

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.

Zagster, the new bike sharing company!

Zagster bikes, located between Market Garden & WSM

IT’S TIME TO SHOP AND BROWSE!

You're looking at the fine poultry at Kaufmann's Poultry

You’re looking at the fine poultry at Kaufmann’s Poultry

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:

 

EAT.

IMG_0053

My apple fritter.

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.

Lake Erie Living

Did you know that Cleveland has a lake? After being buried away for many years near an inner suburb totally disconnected from the waterfront, I have discovered life on Lake Erie.

The Cleveland Metroparks recently acquired Edgewater Park, formerly owned by the Ohio state park system. They’ve totally revamped park usage in Cleveland. Tonight, there are thousands of Clevelanders out at the beach listening to music, eating food from our food trucks, doing yoga and trying stand up paddle boarding.

Now I’m here relaxing, at a beautiful lake just 2 miles from my home. I biked here along the west side city streets and metropark bike trail. It made me feel like a true urban commuter and Clevelander. I can’t wait to do this again.

w604_51454b7d-1099-40c9-86e8-df5c8bb727b8

When in doubt, follow your nose

One summer, my friend and I were exploring a few stores in the Collinwood Arts area. For context, Collinwood is a place that embodies grit and scrappiness, but also a need to create and express. There are large, edgy murals that coat the sides of old residential buildings. There are a few newer stores alternating with older kitsch or empty spaces. The roads even capture the grit – the main road has been under construction for a while.

So while we were walking on the street, bypassing a record shop and local CLE goods store, we suddenly smelled something sweet in the air. Looking around, we didn’t see any signs or markings for where it was coming from. For more context, my friend and I are very susceptible to baked goods (or anything that smells like food in general.)

We stopped and asked each other, “Wait, do you smell that??”

“Where is that coming from?”

“I think it’s coming from behind that door… try pushing on it!”

Impulsively, we pushed on the door. We had a moment of incredulity as it gave way. Inside, there were stainless steel appliances, chairs that were turned upside down on tables, and two elderly African American women mixing large amounts of batter. They welcomed us warmly.

We had just stumbled upon a pound cake bakery. Not just any pound cake bakery, but one that sells 55 different varieties of pound cake!

We nodded in response as the two women shared with us all the different flavors: vanilla, strawberry, lemon, chocolate, double chocolate… and if we brought in our own rum, they would make a rum-soaked walnut pound cake. “But don’t eat too much cause you might get drunk!!”

We stood, staring at each other, mouths agape, maybe even slightly drooling… We couldn’t believe we had found this place, and we wondered how many others knew about it. More like, how many others should know about it.

I don’t recommend pushing on most unmarked doors in Cleveland, but sometimes, they lead to hidden gems.

Edgy - on Waterloo

Edgy – on Waterloo

Things I’ll Miss about the East Side of Cleveland: #2 Loganberry Books and Larchmere

Image

Loganberry Books on Larchmere

I used to come to Loganberry Books on my days off to read history books about Cleveland and shop for used books. The inside of this little independent store is magical – the rolling ladders with classic book covers, the back reading section where the local educated elites come to discuss politics and their liberal literature, the women who work here and handle each book with great care.

Image

Larchmere Boulevard is so interesting. It borders Cleveland proper and it buffers Cleveland from the affluent Shaker Heights. If you cross from west of N. Moreland to the east of N. Moreland, you will find yourself among mansions from the robber baron era. Larchmere is not located in a wealthy neighborhood – it is a wonderful and interesting intersection of two worlds. Barber shops and antique stores appear on the same block. Old world tailors and consignment shops draw people from many neighborhoods. Urban entrepreneurs and octogenarian restauranteurs grow their successful businesses.

I will miss the intersection of these many worlds on this street.

Things I’ll miss about the East side of Cleveland: #1 Shaker Square Farmer’s Market

Illustration by Julia Kuo

This summer, I will have lived on the east side of Cleveland for 6 years. I’ve lived in the same apartment, with the same roommate, for two presidential elections, five iPhone iterations (the first iphone came out when I moved to Cleveland), and six college graduation ceremonies. I’ve spent a major part of my 20s in Cleveland in my neighborhood of Shaker Heights! A lot has happened since I’ve lived here, and I’ve collected a ton of memories.  Since I’ll be leaving soon, I figured a good way to remember these past few years is to post (sporadically) about the things I’ll miss about living on the East Side.

#1: Shaker Square Farmer’s Market

I still remember my first few visits to Cleveland in 2007, looking for apartments with my (now) best friends, exploring the different residential areas on the East side of Cleveland, like Cedar Lee, Cedar Fairmount, and Cleveland Heights. We eventually settled on an apartment complex just one block away from Shaker Square, a very charming shopping area from the 1920s (interestingly, it was the first ever shopping center in America!) We quickly discovered the Saturday morning farmer’s market called the North Union Farmer’s Market, and almost immediately started a weekly tradition of Saturday brunches. Our first year, we would invite new people each week to cook and eat together, lasting anywhere from 1-4 hours. Our morning routine included walking to the farmer’s market together, discovering Midwestern delights like pierogies and handmade pastas, trying new vegetables like fresh tomatillos and swiss chard, and selecting cuts from locally raised beef, pork, and chicken. We’d sample the local goat cheese, pretzels and dip, very spicy salsa, and fresh pork sausages… and sometimes, it would even make us full before brunch even started!

The weekly trips to the farmer’s market and the hours of preparing food for brunch was how many of my closest friendships began. I feel very thankful to my friends/neighbors who took a risk and opened their apartment to new friends and acquaintances each week. Over the years, the weekly Saturday brunches became social anchors for me as I went through the waves of loving/disliking Cleveland and through busy schedules and heavy workloads. I think one of the reasons why Cleveland became so special to me was because I found that community in a new place was possible. It took lots of intentionality and a structured event to foster those types of relationships, and I am so glad that so many people were willing to take a risk and begin opening our lives to one another. One of the keys to how I started loving Cleveland is how I’ve seen community really be lived out here, and it continues to be dynamic.

ITASA 2013

ITASA 2013

My life = hopping around the Great Lakes

In just a few hours, I’m going to travel south from Cleveland to Columbus to participate in the Intercollegiate Taiwanese American Student Association Midwest conference. The theme is called “Taiwan Taking Root”, and I have been asked to talk about “Learn to Love Your Rust Belt City.”

One amazing aspect of Asian American community is how networked we are. I’d like to propose that the greater community in the U.S. is linked by only 2 degrees. (For example, I have personally found multiple paths through which I am linked to Jeremy Lin by 2 degrees!) When such communities work together in cities like Cleveland, we don’t need to just survive by maintaining our population of young adults, but to thrive by using what resources we have to be creators and makers of businesses, artifacts, and systems. This is stirring in already in Cleveland!

I’m excited to join alongside other civically engaged workshop speakers (like my former Michigan classmate, Stephanie Gray Chang, an activist in Detroit, and my friend Julia Kuo, illustrator for “New to Cleveland”) to inspire a new generation of Taiwanese Americans to work for the greater, common good!

http://www.osu2013.itasa.org

The Sounds of Seasons

In the winter…

…the faint choruses of Christmas and Advent hymns on nearby church carillons…

…the whirling wind rattling the old windows of the apartment against the frames…

 

In the spring…

…the plopping rainfall against the pavement that soon contribute to the giant puddle in our back parking lot…

…the chirping of regional birds that remind us that spring is coming and their migration from the south is over…

 

In the summer…

…the cicadas buzzing at dusk and the children of the apartment complex yelling and beating little sticks against a large, fallen log…

…the distant jazz from local bands performing outdoors in shaker square…

 

In the fall…

… the wind rushing through the trees, pulling on the leaves until they cannot resist the tug any longer…

… the squealing brakes of the school bus that will pick up small children, the ethnically diverse progeny of immigrants and local people…

 

once,

two women who started fighting outside our window at 4am, maybe over an ex, and they wouldn’t stop until someone called the authorities

 

and always,

the distant toot of the freight train carting resources cross-country, or is it that they are carrying jobs out of cleveland?

the screeching brakes of “the rapid”, the local light rail, as it nears the shaker square stop one block away

the occasional ambulance siren bringing people to the nearest cleveland clinic satellite, maybe carting someone who had a heart attack, or perhaps a trauma injury

the loose electric meter cover on our apartment complex that always bangs against the side of our apartment whenever the wind blows

and the crazy dog that barks out of habit at 8am when he arrives at my building, right outside my room

sounds of my neighborhood, shaker square