Cleveland in 36 hours and some

This past Sunday’s New York Times’ article “36 Hours in Cleveland” did the city proud. Writer Brett Sokol captured most of the must-sees of Cleveland’s many faces that range from the down home blue collar to the artsy and highbrow. I was particularly pleased to see a nod to Lilly Handmade Chocolates in the Tremont district. The pink-haired owner is a delight and the chocolates exquisite. Think manna from heaven. Please go there because I so want this upbeat business to succeed.

For anyone planning a few days trip to Cleveland, print off Sokol’s article as a basic guide but add to the itinerary. The places I’d add to round out the mix are top notch and next to the ones that Sokol highlights. You’ll have to add a few hours to fit everything in though, otherwise you’ll be racing through Cleveland without enough time to enjoy the view–or savor the food.

Even if you don’t want to pay admission to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, take time to enjoy the building. The atrium and gift shop are free. The building, an I.M. Pei creation, is one of my Cleveland favorites. Some hotels like the Embassy Suites may have a package deal where tickets to the museum are part of the deal. The view of Lake Erie from inside the museum is wonderful.

Next to Rock and Roll is the walkway that heads down to the lake. This is where artist Spencer Tunick set up his shots of naked people. At the end of the walkway you can catch a trip on the Good Time III, the sightseeing boat that travels up the Cuyahoga River. The tour passes under a series of Cleveland’s movable steel bridges that turn and raise to let tall boats through.

This part of Cleveland that edges Lake Erie is also where the Great Lakes Science Center and the Cleveland Browns Stadium are located. The science center boasts a wide range of hands-on exhibits that suit people of all ages. Along the outside wall of the Browns stadium are bronze relief plaques that pay tribute to Football Hall of Famers who played with the Browns.

Before you head to Lilly’s for a chocolate fix, if it’s a Sunday, go to Lucky’s Cafe for brunch. Lucky’s is also on Starkweather Avenue. Be prepared to hold your ground when it comes to getting a table. It’s first come, first serve. Don’t lose your place in line. If you’re with another person, one of you should stake out a table while the other person orders at the counter. The fruit salad with yogurt is absolutely gorgeous and sublime. Personally, I’d have them go sparingly on the honey.

At Lolita, Iron Chef Michael Symon’s restaurant, one of Sokol’s recommendations I second, order appetizers and a pizza for dinner. It’s one way to cut down on the price of a meal and still be able to savor Symon’s brand of creative cooking paired with a glass of wine.

Sokol’s choice of Sokolowiski’s University Inn as another meal location was a brilliant call as a way to contrast Cleveland’s upscale cutting edge creations with its comfort food and ethnic roots. Here I dug into the pirogies and cabbage rolls . Plus, as Sokol notes, the view of Cleveland from this restaurant encapsulates what makes the city unique.

Another area of the city that Sokol captured in his 36 hour spree is University Circle. Although it was “built on the backs of the working people,” as my husband, the son of an auto worker, is fond of saying, wealthy industrialists did put their money to excellent use. For example, The Cleveland Museum of Art, I think, is the grandest museum in Ohio–and it’s free. Recently renovated, the 1916 building is an architectural gem. October 4- January 18, 2010, Paul Gauguin: Paris features 75 of Gauguin’s paintings. Although the main museum is free, this special exhibit has an admission.

Nearby are the Cleveland Botanical Gardens and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Each are also worth a visit. The glass house at the botanical garden features a wonderful canopy walk that is a chance to pretend that you’ve gone to Costa Rica–the version without the rain as Katie recently experienced.

Another of my Cleveland favorites that garnered a Sokol nod is the Westside Market. Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous place. If you want to see the bounty of Cleveland’s ethnic heritage, it’s clearly evident in the mix of food stalls. Asian food newcomers have found their way here as well. Here you can pick something up to take on the road or chow down on there.

Ohio City, where the Westside Market is located, is a restaurant mecca. Within view from each other–most on West 25th Street are Phnom Penh, Bar Cento, and Nate’s Deli and Restaurant . Around the corner on Market Avenue are Great Lakes Brewing Company and Flying Fig. Each of these are excellent. Take your pick depending upon your mood, time of day, financial situation and appetite. There are more eateries than these, but these are the ones I’ve been to and can give a rousing thumbs up.