Friday, June 12, 2015

A 15-Step Guide to Having an Adventure Weekend Instead of Staying Home & Being a Whiner

There were two places I wanted to be last weekend: One was with family at a cabin in Pennsylvania that I've been going to since I was a kid, & the other was with friends at an unveiling ceremony in Chicago for our friend Elissa, who passed away in 2013. Neither of them panned out, though, & I was fully prepared to spend the weekend moping instead.

Luckily, Cleveland had other plans for me.

Early Thursday morning, I drove up to Lakewood to work from home for the day with my boyfriend (!), Mike, who works remotely twice a week. When the workday came to a close, though, we activated weekend mode in full force. It was one of the best weekends I've had in a long time, & there was absolutely no moping involved.

And so, based on my four-day weekend in the CLE, here are my tried-&-true steps for having an Adventure Weekend in this great city (though I look forward to identifying additional adventures for future weekends):
  1. Eat dinner at Barrio, where you can create your own (fairly extreme) tacos. I knew I could probably only eat two, but I ordered three anyway, just so I could sample more. Unfortunately, the one with peanut butter & BBQ sauce didn't go over very well with my taste buds. But, uh, adventure!
    Disclaimer: These tacos are not from Barrio. I was too busy eating those tacos to photograph them.
  1. Cheer for the Cavs in Game 1 of the NBA Finals from a townie bar, preferably while drinking PBR from a can. This is the only way to do it, unless you're, like, actually at a game (in which case, congrats on having thousands of dollars to spare). Even though our team lost, it was exhilarating to be a part of that atmosphere, befriending strangers (including an openly Islamophobic former pastor who told us that Jesus had healed his limp...) who were all rooting for a hometown win.


  1. Try not to eat every single thing at West Side Market. I first consumed a cornbread waffle with piping-hot honey butter & real Ohio maple syrup at the attached West Side Market Cafe before wandering in & out of the many bustling stalls as WSM that sell everything from gourmet cheese to homemade pad Thai to colorful macarons to... an entire pig. Mike got a pourover coffee & ate half a bag of homemade cheese-&-beef jerky (which was surprisingly less gross than it sounds), but we otherwise left without buying anything because we didn't want to haul groceries around the city all day.
  1. Take the $5 brewery tour at Great Lakes Brewing Company. Truly, GLBC deserves its own post, & I fully intend to give it one at some point in the future, but for now, suffice it to say that I was wildly impressed with the tour & with the company in general. I've long been a fan of Great Lakes beer, especially now that I drink more than just, like, Miller Lite, but hearing the company's story - including their commitment to sustainability & bettering the local community - really sold me on them. The four beer samples didn't hurt, either.
  1. Take a bunch of cheesy pictures downtown. We spent a not-insignificant amount of time trying to locate the #ThisisCLE statue that I've seen featured in so many Clevelanders' Instagram photos. Alas, it was only after all our searching that we learned it's actually a mobile installation... & thus its location is totally unpredictable. We did, however, score a photo of the "ALL IN" Cavs logos spray-painted on the ground around the Q, which was an acceptable substitute... for now.
  1. Bask in the magic of East Fourth Street. I received my $50 credit - which can be used at any restaurant that uses OpenTable - right after I left D.C., which was a pretty big bummer because I had big plans for it in the District. Luckily, it turned out to be perfect for a more-expensive-than-we-could-normally-afford dinner date at Greenhouse Tavern, recent winner of the James Beard Award, where I inhaled lamb rigatoni & this Strawberry Smash cocktail. We sat on the patio that faces East Fourth, where all the coolest stuff downtown is, & basked in the Clevelandness of it all... including the part where some bricks fell out of a building & almost smashed the people sitting at tables below it.
  1. End the night at a hole-in-the-wall Motown bar. Suffering from a severe case of the JAMS ("just ate, must sleep"), we capped off our Friday night with a drink at the Ontario Street Cafe, which serves only one beer on tap - Gennessee Cream Ale, of all things - & takes only cash.
  1. Fall asleep watching HBO's Scientology documentary. OK, so this one doesn't have anything to do with Cleveland, but it was entertaining.
  1. Spend half a day at a quirky coffee shop. I slept in Saturday morning & spent the afternoon solo at The Root Cafe in Lakewood, an adorable vegan bakery & coffee shop that makes all their own syrups, etc. While there, I read my friend Jess's book & sipped on a vanilla iced coffee & pretty much just loved life.
  1. Chill at another strange bar that doesn't serve food or take credit cards. Is this a thing, Cleveland? Because I don't like it. What I do like anyway is The Barking Spider Tavern, a hidden gem of a music venue near Case Western Reserve University. It's not  restaurant, & their draught selection is pretty limited, & they only take cash, but they have live music every night, you can bring food in from the outside, & there were free cupcakes on the bar because it was someone in the band's birthday. It's the sort of place where everyone has a story - & much of it is scribbled on the bathroom walls.
  1. Eat dinner at the towniest chain restaurant in town. We'd been planning to go to a festival in Little Italy but spent so long listening to the band at Barking Spider that we missed it! Instead, I requested, with only slight embarrassment, that we eat dinner at The Winking Lizard, a popular (if cliche) Ohio wing joint whose sauces I've long loved. I took no photos because A) I was very busy inhaling boneless wings with Thai chili sauce, & B) Adventure Weekend was so much fun that I let my phone die. 
  1. Fulfill Mom's 15-year dream of eating arepas again. My mother has been dreaming of arepas since our Venezuelan exchange student, Ani, first made them for us in 2000. Imagine her excitement, then, when I revealed that there's an areperia in Cleveland! We met up at Barroco, a quirky little gem of a place in otherwise-weird Birdtown, for a Sunday brunch of arepas & plantains & BYO booze. Bonus: My mother was at peak happiness level, which meant it was the best possible time for Mike to meet her.
  1. Go to the beach. OK, so we weren't really beach-ready (I was wearing a denim vest, after all...), but we stopped at Edgewater Park, situated on Lake Erie, to do some people-watching & enjoy the finally-nice weather. This spot also has a damn nice view of the, uh, very impressive (ha) Cleveland skyline. Come see both of our buildings!
  1. Geocache! Mike had never been geocaching before, so I loaded up the app & we set off looking for Edgewater Park's three caches. We found two, much to Mike's excitement, & then spent awhile digging for an as-yet-undiscovered cache in a mayfly-filled patch of woods. It was the perfect (free!) activity for a sunny day in the city.
  1. Head home exhausted & happy... to watch the next Cavs game. After a weekend like this, I am definitely "all in" on Cleveland.
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