I skipped my college graduation to go to a concert in Cleveland with my friends. It was one of the best decisions I had ever made. That night, I ate a sub-standard American meal at the open-air restaurant across the way, tucked in my favorite alleyway, decorated with hanging lights. I was beaming with excitement to be finished with college and spending the evening in my second home. I have roots in Cleveland. Nothing can change that, but on my most recent visit, something felt off. The city holds a lot of memories, but that’s just it. Now that the music industry chapter of my life is finished, Cleveland feels a bit empty to me. My friends remain, of course, but our paths have taken us in separate directions leaving us with nothing but fondness and nostalgia for those nights we spent singing along to our favorite songs.
I know now to stop trying to re-create those memories and just cherish them for what they are. In any case, last weekend, I sent myself on a mission to visit Cleveland’s many summer markets, stay the night at the youth hostel, and delightfully discover just how wonderful Cleveland is for foodies.
Cleveland Has a Hostel Now
Outside the major cities like L.A. and NYC, America isn’t all that hostel friendly, but I’m happy to see the Midwest is coming around. Madison, Chicago, Indianapolis, Columbus, Detroit, and Cleveland all offer hostel accommodation. Sandwiched between an appliance store and Campbell’s Sweets (try the caramelcorn drizzled with chocolate, just drooled on myself thinking about it), the Cleveland Hostel is ideally situated for budget travelers of all ages to explore the best of the city. Located on the city’s west side, the hostel is a 1 minute walk from West Side Market and plenty of eateries and shops. To get downtown, however, requires taking the light rail, a car, or a taxi.
Hearing there was a hostel in town, I took it upon myself to check it out, see what it has to offer, and relay what I learned to you.
Pros: It’s clean, there’s a huge common area and kitchen for cooking, rooftop deck, free/reliable wifi, laundry, in-room lockers, bicycle rentals, area maps/info on things to do, lot across the street with free parking, spacious showers, and dorm rooms run $25-27/night.
Cons: They don’t accept online payment, the keycard door locks are a bit tricky, and the walls are thin so beware of drifting voices and slamming doors. Reception hours are from 9am-10pm, but even during working hours, staff will disappear for 10-15 minutes leaving behind a sign that reads, “Temporarily away from desk. If immediate assistance is needed, please call…” Also, starting in the late afternoon, bathrooms get unusually messy, and if you get a room facing 25th street (front of the building), street noise may be an issue.
Overall, it meets the standards and expectations of a hostel and nothing more. Would I stay there again? Yes.
Food Truck Fridays
Little did I know that Cleveland has a market for food trucks. Every summer from June-September, on Fridays from 11am-2pm, 8-10 food trucks are gathered at Willard Park next to City Hall (601 E. Lakeside Ave). A grab bag of different foods are available like kettle corn, sushi, southern, cupcakes, burritos, pizza, and ice cream. Not the healthiest foods, but it’s summer so whatever.
Picnic tables are set up in the shade of the famous “FREE” stamp, and within walking distance is First Energy stadium where the Cleveland Browns play and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. If you need a public restroom, walk 2 blocks down 6th Street to Superior Ave to the library. Food Truck Friday isn’t so much an event as it is a chill lunch spot for those working in offices nearby. Still cool to check out though. I had a tropical chicken burrito from the Jibaro truck, as seen above. Though it was nothing to brag about, it hit the spot.
Other noteworthy eateries include:
- Phnom Penh – First Asian restaurant I’ve been to where the floors were SPOTLESS. Try the Taprom with veggies.
- Ohio City Burrito – They give Chipotle a run for their money. These burritos are no joke.
- Grumpy’s Cafe – Go for brunch and try the Veggie Benedict.
Market Square Park
Every Saturday, from May-September, there is an open air market with entertainment in Market Square (25th St. and Loraine). Aside from the flowers and vegetables, the market reminds me of a street wide garage sale. People are usually selling vintage, knick knack goodies, but you can also find treasures like postcards, photographs, vinyl records, and more. The last time I came to this market, there were funky, multi-colored statues sporadically placed throughout, giving the environment a hippie vibe. Great to look around, but personally speaking, I’ve never purchased anything. The square is located directly across from West Side Market so make a day of it, do some shopping, and eat outside at a nearby cafe.
West Side Market
The WSM is the anchor point for the west part of town, but it isn’t my favorite. Despite its simple layout, it’s difficult to navigate because of how unnecessarily crowded it is. Also, I don’t know why it bothers me so much having moseyed through worse in Asia, but it’s dirty, smelly, and many of the stalls are never fully stocked. In a sea of bread, meat, pastries, herbs, and seafood among other questionable foods, the quality doesn’t look great cased under fluorescent lighting. As a traveler, it’s an experience just to walk through, but I never have the need to buy anything. It’s worth taking a look once, otherwise, time can be better spent elsewhere.
Asiatown Market (3820 Superior Ave.)
Further down Superior Avenue, past the downtown area, I stumbled across one of the largest oriental supermarkets in the Midwest, closed in on 3 sides by a residential neighborhood. Asiatown Market is housed in a warehouse resembling Costco, but the supermarket only takes up 1/3 of the first floor. The rest of the renovated warehouse still feels abandoned. The second floor features an art gallery, a coffee shop, taiko drum practice space, and a Korean restaurant without customers but a saliva-inducing menu.
Imagine my glee and the self-control it demanded to pace myself and not buy everything in the supermarket. Endless ingredients from all parts of Asia stocked the shelves — Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian. Simply walking down the packaged ramen aisle, I could feel my cholesterol skyrocket, and the smell of raw seafood had me on the edge of fainting. Whatever kind of Asian dishes I wished to experiment with, all the pieces I needed were at my disposal. Unfortunately, I didn’t stock up on anything (rookie mistake, I know), but next time, I’ll wipe the place clean.
Getting Around Cleveland
Getting into Cleveland, you’ll either fly into Hopkins International Airport, take the Megabus that will drop off/pick up at 2115 East 22nd Street (22nd St and Prospect Avenue), or drive. To get around will require a rental car, a taxi, a bicycle, your own two feet, riding the light rail, or a combination of any of those. The RTA costs $2.25 for a single ride.
More photos from Cleveland can be found on the SYT Facebook page.