Cleveland! The city I swore I would never go to again. I went for the first time around 2005. It was rainy and cloudy. I found nothing interesting to eat. I found nothing really interesting to do. I frankly didn't understand why people even live there. I was convinced that the sun never shines there. And it probably doesn't most times. But, fast forward to 2020. The pandemic is happening. Travel is limited. Other countries have closed their borders. ALL of my international trips are cancelled. I figured why not give Cleveland another shot. But, this time, I didn't throw caution to the wind thinking that food and fun would find me. I had to do some research before I got there to make sure I maximize my time and experience.
The first thing I found out is that The Christmas Story House is right in Cleveland. I had no idea. I watch that movie every Christmas at least once. And I've been watching that movie for years. I had to see this house. I was surprised that the house is in a regular liveable neighborhood next to houses that look very similar. And it's not a movie set. It's a real house that has since been updated since the movie debuted in 1983. They give tours of the house too. The tour guide was pretty good in giving the background and the inside scoop of the movie. Only 15% of the movie was shot at this location. And only the scenes shot through the windows or doors are the ones in the movie. Nothing was filmed inside the house, according to the tour guide. The leg lamp inside the house is a replica because none of the originals can be located. The snow in the movie was made from firefighter foam, soap suds and mashed potato flakes. A vacuum was used to suck the character's tongue to the pole. And three original Red Rider BB guns, out of six, still remain. Here is a tip. Don't go to the restaurant across the street that they recommend. It's a neighborhood staple but the food is subpar.
As I said before, I found nothing interesting to eat in Cleveland before. Nothing. But, this time, I found that Cleveland may not be that bad when it comes to food. First stop was Slyman's for a cornbeef sandwich. I've tasted it once before and it wasn't bad. I thought Slyman's would be far better since it's so well known. It was about the same as the one I had gotten before. Nothing special about it. I think cornbeef is a bit salty. So it isn't my favorite food to eat but it's pretty good. Next up was Insomnia Cookies. I had never heard of it before. Now, I know it's a chain cookie place because I have since been to the one in Baltimore too. Can't go wrong with a fresh soft baked cookie. They were extremely decadent and sweet. I could only eat two a day, which I thought was pushing it. I have a major sweet tooth on any day of the week. And those more than satisfy it. I went to Sweet Moses Soda Fountain and Treat Shop for an ice cream sundae. I went on a different day from Insomnia Cookies because I probably would have gone into a diabetic coma had I eaten both within 24 hours. I picked Sweet Moses because it had vegan ice cream options. The place was cute. It had an authentic old school ice cream parlor look and feel. They make the ice cream in house. Because of the pandemic, we could not sit at the wooden booths inside. But, we did get to sit at a table outside. The neighborhood was quaint and quiet. It was peaceful. I got the vegan dark chocolate ice cream with some basic toppings. Hot fudge, caramel, pecans, whipped cream and a cherry. The sundae was good but the environment was better. It was the first time that I noticed the sun shining in Cleveland. The breeze was blowing. Just a few people walking by. I thoroughly enjoyed just sitting out there and appreciating the atmosphere.
My favorite two places to eat in Cleveland were Steve's Gyros and Kim's Wings. Steve's Gyros is located in the West Side Market. Depending on which entrance you go into, the place is sectioned off with fresh produce on one side and hot foods/meat/baked goods on the other side. I walked through the fresh produce side first. I purchased a couple of mangos from a stand and asked the lady to cut it up for me because I didn't have a sharp knife available. She begrudgingly obliged. And I'm so glad she did. It was the best mango I've ever had. I also purchased some dried strawberries, which I had never had before either. They tasted like candy. So good. Inside the market, my mission was to find Steve's Gyros. I'm addicted to The Travel Channel and Food Network. Like Sweet Moses, I saw this place on one of the shows and had to try it. OMG. I was not disappointed. It was better than I could have imagined. They overstuff the gyro with the beef/lamb blend meat cut directly off the spit. And you can tell that someone personally chopped the tomatoes and onions because they are not uniform in size. The meat was seasoned just right. I asked for extra tzatziki sauce because extra is always better. It turned the whole gyro up a notch. I bought two of them, just in case I really liked it so I could take one home with me. And yes, I do fly with food. That will be my go to place whenever I visit again.
Kim's Wings is the next place I was impressed with. This place is a carryout in some part of Cleveland. I tried the beef polish boy. I don't understand the concept of fries and coleslaw drenched in barbeque sauce on a sandwich. I usually give a new food item two chances to make my determination that I don't like it. That was my second time having a polish boy. The jury of my taste buds have reached a verdict. I don't like it. But, Kim's BBQ Sauce was bomb. I had Kim's Wings with Kim's BBQ Sauce and I think I've found the holy grail. The actual wings weren't anything to rave about. You can get a good wing in many places. But, that sauce!!! How can I explain it? It tastes like its vinegar based. It's a thinner consistency. It has a slightly sweet aftertaste. The closest comparison I can think of is the barbeque sauce in Memphis. I liked the sauce so much that my extended family member shipped four bottles of it to me. I've finished one bottle so far. It's that good.
And lastly, the Metropolitan at the 9 in downtown Cleveland is lovely. I really liked the room. It's a restaurant and bar downstairs. They have a rooftop lounge. The place seems like the hot spot in Cleveland. We saw some lady who had wayyyyy too much to drink and could barely walk. A sign of a really good time that's about to go really bad. The only drawback is that the shower is in the middle of the room, encased in frosted glass. The weird thing is that you can't see out of the shower into the room. But, you can see into the shower from the outside. So, if you are sharing the room with someone and you like a private shower, I wouldn't recommend it.
After this trip, Cleveland has made its way off my "never travel again" list.