the big egg

100 things that make Cleveland the best

Published: Sunday, July 11, 2010, 7:05 AM Updated: Sunday, July 11, 2010, 12:21 PM


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John Kuntz, The Plain Dealer

Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James holds up an award as Akron's Hometown Hero presented by the city of Akron in June at the end of a LeBron James Appreciation Day rally. Think he'll get that kind of adoration in Miami?

LeBron is gone.

It's no reason to hang our heads. We can still love Greater Cleveland.

A friend says you can set your watch to rush hour here. As opposed to Southern California, where hours are needed to measure how long it will take to get some place. Or New York City, where a packed subway ride in the heat of summer somehow seems to increase the cranky quotient of commuter

A colleague says our region's motto should be "cheap and easy" because it's relatively inexpensive and easy to get around. It's hard to argue with that.

Hidden gems are there for our finding, with places to explore, food to relish, annual events to celebrate. Yes, we've got lots of reasons to love the city and surrounding areas, even though the biggest superstar to hit town in years is leaving.

We'll still enjoy life. Will The Q be the same? No. We've still got reasons to celebrate.

So start now. This isn't supposed to be a best-of list by any means, just a quick 100 places, people and things that we can enjoy here.

Even without LeBron.

- Marc Bona, Assistant Entertainment Editor

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Lisa DeJong,

The PD

Leaves turning from green to fiery red are a sure sign that we're well into the fall season. This was evident at Buttermilk Falls at the North Chagrin Reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks in Mayfield.

1. Cleveland Metroparks. Kind of a hidden gem an Emerald Necklace, to be exact.

2. Cleveland Orchestra. Consistently one of the worlds best.

3. Actual seasons. One lasts a little longer than the others, but still.

4. Cleveland International Film Festival. Lights, camera, action and a lot of documentaries downtown. Annual movie-buff heaven.

5. The Dawg Pound. OK, it's not where you want to spend quality family time, but it's our own special spot within Cleveland Browns Stadium.

6. The Big Egg. The legendary hangout in Cleveland is reopened, with something for everyone on its menu.

7. Progressive Field. Would you rather watch a ballgame at the old Municipal Stadium?

8. Cost of living. Median home price in the Bay Area in Northern California topped $400,000 last month. And how much did you pay for your house?

9. "Hot in Cleveland." Who doesn't love Betty White? Check it out on TV Land, 10 p.m. Wednesdays.

10. Severance Hall. The venerable hall in University Circle classies up anyone who plays here.

11. Great Lakes Brewing Co. Christmas Ale, anyone?

12. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Yes, we rock.

13. Cleveland Museum of Art. Almost 100 years old, with a legacy of expansive collections.

14. Lake Erie Tall Ships, beaches, Edgewater Marina, Goodtime III, the Steamship William G. Mather . . .

15. Terminal Tower. A tall legacy of our city (with a reopened observation deck!).

16. Michael Symon. When he's not opening burger joints you can find him on the Food Network competing against other chefs.

17. World-class health care. Best place in the country to be chronically ill.

18. A Christmas Story house. The Tremont-neighborhood home draws us closer to Ralphie seeking that special BB gun.

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Lisa DeJong, The PD

Parade the Circle in University Circle.

19. University Circle. Cleveland Museum of Art. The Museum of Natural History. Western Reserve Historical Society. Cleveland Botanical Garden. Wade Oval. Case Western Reserve University. Enough said.

20. PlayhouseSquare. From "Wicked" to something wicked this way comes, these eight (soon to be 10) venues make the theater district the nation's largest performing-arts center outside New York.

21. Sokolowski's University Inn. This isn't your school cafeteria food, that's for sure. Comfort food in the shadow of the Inner Belt.

22. Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Only 33,000 acres to explore.

23. West Point Market. A luxury market, almost in LeBron's back yard, in West Akron.

24. Pierogis. A local traditional favorite that makes you feel good all over.

25. The blimp. Who do you think is responsible for making the city look great during Cavs playoffs games? The city never looks better than the nighttime shots on television.

26. Ice cream. Swenson's in LeBron's hometown, Mitchell's in Westlake, Honey Huts all around -- the list is mouth-watering long.

27. Blossom Music Center. It's a summer rite of passage to hear the orchestra and have a picnic at the Cuyahoga Falls amphitheater.

28. Little Italy. One of the city's most charming, and tasty, areas. Stroll through many galleries and boutiques, then grab a bite at one of many delicious eateries, from pizza, cannoli and espresso at Prestis or a scrumptious slice of cassata cake at Corbo's to a meal at La Dolce Vita or Trattoria.

29. Warehouse District. Once a bustling area for yes, warehouses, when Cleveland was an industrial boomtown, today the lovely restored area bustles with top restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Choices range from gourmet seafood and steaks and Blue Point Grille and XO Steaks to hot beats and Fortress to Spanish favorites at Mallorca.

30. Great Lakes Science Center. Hands-on science, giant-screen movies learning never stops being fun here.

31. Public Square. Cleveland's focal point, literally and figuratively, for history and more.

32. Festivals. Where else can you celebrate ethnic heritage, duct tape and ribs?

33. Maltz Museum of Jewish History. One of the area's newest and finest museums.

34. West Side Market. Cleveland's oldest publicly owned market in Ohio City beckons with its wafting smells, fresh produce, sausage and more.

35. Polka! The National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame could be nowhere else.

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PD file

Runners cross the Abbey Road bridge into Tremont and past the West Side Market.

36. Lakeview Cemetery. More than graves, it's history, fame and power, all resting in one place.

37. Big Fun. The iconic Coventry toy stores name says it all. Now with a West Side location, too.

38. Karamu Theatre. Nation's oldest racially integrated performing-arts center counts Langston Hughes and Ruby Dee among its many alums.

39. Gallucci's. Whether it's pepperoni bread or parmigiano-reggiano, cheap white table wine or a barolo riserva, hot capicola or prosciutto di parma, this East Side Italian market which traces its roots to 1912 imports much of its own stock.

40. Beachland Ballroom. Esquire calls it one of America's top 100 bars. Blender says it has the best jukebox. Bands across the country swear by it. It's more than a hangout; it's the anchor of all activity on Waterloo.

41. Cedar Lee Theatre. Classic theater draws classic films.

42. Commute. Think I-71, I-77 or I-90 are bad? Try Southern California.

43. Edgewater Park. A warm-weather break to fly a kite or catch your breath.

44. Tremont. Arguably the most Clevelandy part of the city, old and new. Find boutiques, steel mills and art galleries; corner bars, VFW halls and trendy bistros; ethnics and bohemians; more churches than any other part of the city; and more places to drink, too. Don't miss St. Theodosius Russian Orthodox Cathedral, a magnificent onion-domed landmark that had a starring role in the "The Deer Hunter."

45. Coventry Road. The laid-back boho thoroughfare boasts must-stops in Cleveland Heights, from nationally renown concert club The Grog Shop to one of the best playgrounds in town; to Macs Backs bookstore; the city's only American Apparel; and Tommy's, maker of some of the best, most healthful sandwiches, shakes and pita pies around.

46. Sweet corn. Local sugar, ready to be husked.

47. Farmers markets. A local, fresh food festival every week in growing season.

48. Akron Civic Theatre. If PlayhouseSquare weren't enough, this 1929 theater is still going strong, for all types of concerts and events.

49. Towpath Trail. Walk, ride your bike or a real railroad from downtown to Akron and beyond, through urban confines and natural areas.

50. East Fourth Street. Downtown's newest vibrant area, from Greenhouse Taverns local foods to fine dining at Lola to sipping a margarita at Xocalo to bowling at The Corner Alley all within one block.

51. Cinematheque. Film festivals, special screenings, foreign films, silent classics all regular occurrences here.

52. Melt. Crisp and plush, grilled cheese so good you'll want to tattoo it on your chest. Or maybe just go back to this Lakewood eatery again. And again.

53. Cedar Point. Roller Coaster Capital of the World is only about an hour away.

54. Put-in-Bay. Nothing like a close, quick, fun getaway.

55. Memphis Kiddie Park. How many circa-1952 parks for tykes are there left in America? A handful, but none more vintage than this one.

56. Amish country. Need to slow down? Head south for a good meal, pleasant stroll and a quiet getaway.

57. Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. One of the gems of the Metroparks, there's always a new program among the dozens of exhibits.

58. Boutique shopping. No snobs + low prices = good buys.

59. Ingenuity fest. A fun, unique marriage of art and technology.

60. Parade the Circle. Creative, colorful University Circle event is an annual family draw.

61. Architecture. It's not just one style around town. From the downtown's Federal Reserve Bank and classic churches to the Frank Gehry-designed Peter B. Lewis Building at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland isn't a bad-looking place.

62. Old Arcade. Our Victorian lady, one of the first malls in America, glass-domed and shining in brass.

63. Free July 4th concerts. Fireworks and the Cleveland Orchestra under the stars downtown. Wonderful sights and sounds for free.

64. Higher ed. Not just good schools, but good in different areas. Engineering? Try Case Western Reserve University. Plastics and polymers? University of Akron. Business? John Carroll University. How about a known liberal-arts tradition? Oberlin College. Want to teach? Baldwin-Wallace College. Like liquid crystals, fashion or journalism? Head to Kent State University. Want to learn about urban affairs? Check out accessible Cleveland State University.

65. Art walks. A summer weekend without an art walk seems pretty rare.

66. Neighborhoods. Yes, we still have them. Keepers of the walkable streets come from East and West Coventry, Chagrin Falls, Lakewood.

67. Rockefeller Park. Green space across the city with ethnic gardens, handsome stone bridges and separate north and south bike paths.

68. Phoenix Coffee. Roasted coffee beans are not a bad scent to smell as you walk downtown.

69. Hot dogs. Happy Dog on Detroit Avenue, Polish Boys, all-night Steve's Lunch on Lorain Avenue that simple American fare tastes extra special in Cleveland.

70. Stadium mustard. Mouth-watering requirement for those dogs.

71. Diners. Bacon and eggs and nighthawks! The diner scene has eats and personality with the Little Polish Diner, Diner on East 55th, Diner on Clifton and a heaping plate of other spots.

72. Velvet Tango Room. Classic cocktails might be the rage, but this nationally acclaimed West Side snazz-pad started the trend.

73. Bowling. For some cities it's nothing more than a trendy old-school throwback. For us, it never left.

74. L'Albatros. Zack Bruell's homage to French food can make you say, Oui, oui. And ...

75. Parallax. Bruell also knows his way around seafood.

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Plain Dealer file

76. Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens. The Seiberlings' estate in Akron is a rich historical lesson and step back in time every time you visit.

77. St. Ed-St. Ignatius rivalry. Classic rivalry (and we're not choosing sides).

78. Toboggan chutes. How cool is it to have Ohio's only public ice chutes?

79. Feast of the Assumption. Where religion meets a large Italian street party every August.

80. The Great Geauga County Fair. One of the oldest in the nation, this is the 188th year (Sept. 2-6).

81. Gold Coast. This lakefront neighborhood in Lakewood boasts some of the best views of the lake and skyline and one of the best, classiest restaurants. Chic, sophisticated Pier W has been a favorite of locals since the '60s.

82. Nostalgia. The cults of Ghoulardi, Dorothy Fuldheim, Moondog Coronation Ball . . .

83. Apollo's Fire. Give baroque a chance.

84. Downtown bridges. Sure, you travel over them to get to work, ballgames or restaurants, but have you ever noticed the design and workmanship of the Lorain-Carnegie (Hope Memorial) Bridge?

85. Sense of history. If you don't think Cleveland has this, go to Thousands of pages make the city's rich history and people come alive.

86. Diversity. Scores of ethnic groups comprise our city, giving us heritage, festivals, pride and more.

87. AsiaTown. From dim sum at Li Wah or Wonton Gourmet to bubble tea at Koko Bakery, from Vietnamese soup at No. 1 Pho to the kitschy gift boutiques at Asia Plaza, this is a treat for tourists and locals.

88. Bubba's Q-World Famous Bar-B-Q & Catering. Thinking of the Avon rib joint, with its on-site pits, is making our lips smack.

89. Hot Sauce Williams. The Williams family's home-style chicken wings and ribs have been zinging tongues for decades.

90. Malley's. Chocolate for every occasion.

91. Renaissance Hotel in Tower City. The onetime Hotel Cleveland has been a Public Square fixture since 1915. Today, the renovated icon stands proud as a glam-and-glitzy reminder of a swankier era, from its luxe marble-and-fountain filled lobby to elegant rooms.

92. Local authors. It's a long list, and one that seems to keep growing. Our literary lights include George Bilgere, Dan Chaon, Michael Ruhlman, Mary Doria Russell, Thrity Umrigar, Cinda Williams Chima and others.

93. Aut-O-Rama Twin Drive-in Theaters. There are fewer than 400 drive-ins left in America but Ohio is tied with Pennsylvania for having the most, 33. This North Ridgeville throwback remains the king.

94. Momocho. The Mod Mex restaurant on the near West Side is tequila central.

95. Fish fries. How popular are these? Enough that we run an annual list that seems to grow each year in The Plain Dealer.

96. Community gardens. This city is growing up!

97. Drew Carey. Local comedian always remembers his hometown roots even though he's in Hollywood's limelight.

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Peggy Turbett,

The PD

Malley's chocolate-covered Twinkies. 'Nuf said.

98. Cartoonists. Some biggies hail from here Bill Watterston (Calvin and Hobbes) and Tom Batiuk (Funky Winkerbean), to name a couple.

99. Superman. The Man of Steel was forged right here, in Cleveland's Glenville neighborhood.

100. Byron Scott. He knows how to win, Laker-style. Go Cavs.

Contributing to this list were The Plain Dealers Marc Bona, Tony Brown, John Campanelli, Laura DeMarco, John Petkovic, Debbi Snook, Andrea Simakas and Julie E. Washington.