Oberlin Blogs

"Come on down to Cleveland Town, everyone..."

June 30, 2009

Alice Ollstein ’10

Let me just start by saying that even though it's a tiny fraction of the size, Oberlin has much more to offer than Cleveland. On any weekend of the year, you can wander around campus and find free concerts, plays, sketch comedy, art shows and dances. Why leave? I'm not being an L.A. snob. I'm being an Oberlin snob! This recent YouTube phenomenon demonstrates just how lame and sketchy Cleveland can be.

Now, I don't want to be too harsh or unnecessarily cruel, because poor old Cleveland does have its merits. That's why I'm dedicating the rest of this post to things in Cleveland that don't suck. Maybe it will inspire you to bite the bullet and take that 30 minute drive.

Sushi Rock: Even though this restaurant is featured in the YouTube video as "a great place if you're a douchebag," it's a fun, moderately fancy place to get your sushi fix. I just hope they don't get their fish from the Cuyahoga River, which is so polluted it once caught on fire. I'm almost positive they don't. I once had plum wine there, which was delicious. It's also good for people watching, as the clientele are decidedly non-Oberlin.

Melt Bar: For a more casual dining experience, this little place in the Cleveland suburbs is amazing. The entire menu is focused on gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, with surprising combinations that will make any cheese lover drool. I ordered the Parmegeddon and was one happy vegetarian.

Cavana Ballroom: After taking the Tango ExCo at Oberlin, I wanted to test out my new moves. Oberlin has some tango events spread throughout the year, but if that isn't enough Cleveland has a pretty good tango community, and this venue in particular is good for getting your dance on. The space is beautiful, the people are friendly, and being 20 years younger than everyone else guarantees you many dances.

Now for a few things that I myself haven't experienced, but have been highly recommended to me:

Westside Market: This outdoor market has been around since 1840, and is (apparently) a great place to get fresh produce, delicious pastries and all kind of prepared food. My friends who appreciate good food have told me this is not to be missed.

Great Lakes Brewery: For the over-21 crowd, Cleveland's beer microbrewery gives free tours and tastings every Friday and Saturday. It's good to support a local company, and they're really great about environmental issues (composting their residue, etc.) They have fun flavors like Burning River (chuckle) and Grassroots Ale, which tastes like a combination of herbal tea and beer. It sounds gross, but is actually quite good. This one is definitely on my to-do list.

Unique: I have several hip friends who make multiple trips per semester to this extremely cheap thrift store and always come back with scarves, vests and other great finds. Perhaps I too will venture there this year.

As you might imagine, the best part of driving to Cleveland is simply getting out of the Oberlin bubble, seeing new people and new sights and forgetting about that paper or exam for a few hours. As the YouTube songs says, at least it's not Detroit.

Responses to this Entry

Alice - Nice post. Re. Westside Market, it's indoors, open year-round, has everything, and is one of the great food halls anywhere. There is a terrific Mediterranean market in the northwest corner of the building, and a cheese stand halfway along the north wall that is beyond awesome. Great Lakes Brewery is a two-minute walk from the market, as is a good Cambodian restaurant, Phnom Penh, a great Hungarian pastry shop, and a Belgian beer place. Well worth the trip.

Posted by: Ferd Protzman on June 30, 2009 5:04 PM

Hi Alice. Hope you won't mind if I express a slightly contrary opinion. Like you, I rarely feel the need to leave Oberlin for Cleveland--there's always more going on here than one person can possibly take advantage of. But to say that "Oberlin has much more to offer than Cleveland" seems somewhat short-sighted to me.

That YouTube video you posted is satire, not documentary, and although Cleveland (like many old-industrial cities these days) is facing considerable challenges, there's much more to it than the "lame and sketchy" stereotype. The Cuyahoga River fire was 40 years ago, and much progress has been made since then: see http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/21/us/21river.html?_r=3&hpw . Cleveland has one of the best art museums in the country, and one of the five best orchestras (both much superior to anything found in--dare I say it--LA). It also has a burgeoning restaurant scene, with some of the best new restaurants in the country (if you're interested, here's an article from--you got it--the LA Times: http://travel.latimes.com/articles/la-trw-trvmain3-wk3 ). It's a city of considerable charm, I think, though many of the most interesting aspects won't be apparent to casual visitors, since they're found in out-of-the-way neighborhoods and ethnic communities. I encourage you to do some poking around in the fall.

For a more in-depth look at some of what's going on in Cleveland, take a look at the current issue on a website called Cool Cleveland: http://www.coolcleveland.com/.

Posted by: David on June 30, 2009 5:38 PM

I want to throw in a big HURRAY for Westside Market.

My intro Anthropology instructor took three classmates and me to Westside to practice participant-observation technique. I thank her immensely for introducing me to the market.

If you decide to stay in Oberlin for Winter Term (and it's fun, I promise!), I'd recommend grouping with some folks, especially one with a car, and take the trip up and purchase ingredients for the week. You have incredibly options for meat (if it's your proclivity) and veggies and dairy. It's cheap and delicious and an amazing way to spend part of a weekend. You can head up there early on Saturday, eat lunch there, and then have ingredients for the whole week. A group of friends and I fed 10 people for under a thousand dollars for the month, spending most of our money at Westside Market. It was awesome.

Posted by: Ma'ayan on July 1, 2009 4:19 AM

Thanks for your comment. With my post I was hoping to provoke people with more knowledge of Cleveland than me to step and defend her. My only question is, why if I clarified that I'm an Oberlin snob and not an L.A. snob did you feel the need to criticize Los Angeles (home to many many current and future Obies)? Also, I only say that Oberlin has much more to offer out of pride. Obviously I think it has more to offer or I wouldn't have chosen it as my home for four years. I could have gone to John Carroll or any other college in Cleveland (or UCLA for that matter) if I thought it had more to offer. Finally, of course I know that the video isn't documentary! That would mean I believe Cleveland only has two buildings and that its fish have AIDS.
Thanks for all the links and info!

Posted by: Alice on July 1, 2009 10:25 AM

Alice, my comments were addressed more to readers than to you. I know you recognized the video as satire--but there's a danger that not all readers would. Maybe I'm just hypersensitive to the way Cleveland stereotypes are casually tossed around by people who've never actually spent any time there....

And I certainly wasn't criticizing LA! I'm just trying to present some context: the fact that Cleveland has some cultural amenities equal or superior to those found in much more celebrated cities comes as a surprise to many prospies, and I think is worth emphasizing. Sorry if I sounded as though I was bashing your hometown.

Looking forward to seeing you in September!

Posted by: David on July 1, 2009 11:35 AM

I like to read articles, which are really interesting and informative, and this is exactly about your article. In the past I didn't like to read that much and prefered download and read books from the Internet, but several times I came across worthy articles, and am not that categorical ever since :)

Posted by: Roman on December 18, 2009 10:55 AM

I appreciate the fact that there are many things to do in Oberlin, and that Cleveland as a city can sometimes be lacking. But Alice, you've forgotten the cardinal rule: don't insult a place unless you're from there! Oh, sure, Clevelanders can gripe all they want about their hometown, but when an outsider insults it, you'd better think again. It's like the kid who complains ad nauseam about her mother...but when her friend insults her mom, it's a showdown.

You don't have the right to make fun of Cleveland unless you're from here.

You've pissed off a good old Irish Catholic Clevelander, and I have a whole city full of supporters to back me up.

Posted by: Mary-Kate Fitzgerald Donaghy on August 18, 2010 8:00 PM

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