If you follow me on any form of social media, you probably already know that I spent this past weekend in Cleveland. A little over a month ago Cuyahoga County’s convention and visitors bureau, Positively Cleveland, reached out to me and asked if I’d like to visit Cleveland for a weekend. My initial reaction was – umm Cleveland? Cleveland has never been on my travel radar. Nashville, New Orleans, Boston, yes – but Cleveland, no. Cleveland is only about a 5 1/2 hour drive from Chicago and I even have family that lives there, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t heard the endearing nickname “mistake by the lake” once or twice.
I considered the invitation for a minute or two and then thought to myself, why am I even thinking about this, of course I should go! When an opportunity like this comes knocking at your door you don’t pass it up. So I said yes and I’m beyond happy that I did because I realized that Cleveland is actually a pretty awesome city.
Positively Cleveland paired me up with a local Cleveland blogger, Charity, of iheartcleveland.com. We started exchanging emails a few weeks prior to the trip to put together an itinerary. As soon as I read through the first itinerary that Charity sent I knew that we were going to have a fantastic time together. The dreary picture of Cleveland that I had in my mind quickly vanished and I couldn’t wait for the weekend to arrive.
I drove from Chicago to Cleveland on a Friday afternoon and arrived downtown at the Holiday Inn Express with enough time to get settled in and freshen up before dinner. The Holiday Inn is in a great central location, just blocks away from a ton of great bars and restaurants on East 4th Street. My room was huge with beautiful natural wood floors, giant windows, and a great view. It was a super busy weekend in Cleveland with Gay Games 9 kicking off on Saturday, but all was peaceful at the hotel!
After a quick outfit refresh I headed out to meet Charity for a pre-dinner meet-and-greet at Urban Farmer. From the modern rustic decor to the craft cocktails and local, organically sourced menu, Urban Farmer was perfect for my first stop in Cleveland. Charity and I hit it off over bourbon and charcuterie and before we knew it our dinner reservation was right around the corner.
From Urban Farmer we headed to East 4th Street, a popular one-block stretch lined with restaurants, bars, and other entertainment venues like Cleveland’s House of Blues. On this beautiful summer night the patios on this block were the place to be! We took a quick walk around this area before dinner, checking out The Arcade – an old indoor shopping mall turned event venue and Hyatt hotel, and CLE Clothing Co., the best place to pick up some cute Cleveland-themed gear.
Finally it was time for dinner and we had a reservation at Chef Michael Symon’s Lola that we did not want to miss! Lola is a trendy spot, but trendy in a way that still feels comfortable and not overdone. I had the popular and delicious Beef Cheek Pierogis to start and followed those up with the Smoked Pork Chop. My dining companions had the beet salad, oysters, halibut, and duck, and we finished off the meal with Chocolate P.B. Banana dessert. I loved the pierogi and my pork chop was a large and tasty portion. I tried a bite of the duck that came with rye spaetzle, cabbage, mushrooms, caraway, and currants and I think that might have been my favorite entree of the night. Our server claimed that our dessert was good for sharing, but I beg to disagree. We still enjoyed it though, and it was just enough to give us each a sweet bite to end the dinner on.
After polishing off our dessert we began to fade pretty quickly, but decided to stop at the rooftop of the newly opened Red, The Steakhouse for a night cap. The views were great and the weather was perfect, but our wine was definitely sub-par. I’d stick with beer or cocktails if I returned. Finally we called it a night so we could rest up for the jam-packed Saturday that lay ahead. Stay tuned for more adventures from the 216 to come!
My expenses during my time in Cleveland were paid for by Positively Cleveland. As always, all content on Lion + Maven comes from my own, unbiased thoughts and opinions.