Only in CLE: Local Joints

March 22, 2016
Local Joints

Old-school joints? Music-themed digs? Cleveland’s got’em both in spades

Annie Zaleski
Photo Cody York

You can build failures into fortunes. We’ve had practice. Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River can catch fire. Our Browns can fumble away wins. Cities across America can put tongues firmly in cheeks when mentioning Cleveland, and we’ll just take those lemons and turn them into lemon chiffon pie. Then, we’ll pass out slices at the 2016 Republican National Convention (July 18-21 in Cleveland). We’ll use CLE Iron Chef Michael Symon’s secret recipe, and we’ll save that big piece for the globe’s greatest baller, our very own LeBron James. We invite you to grab a slice, too. Put away past perceptions, snag a fork and let us show you the people and places redefining Cleveland as a success today through our Only in Cleveland article series. Just be warned: This pie isn't humble.

It’s said that celebrity chefs are the new rock stars. While Mick Jagger or Prince will quibble with that statement, there’s a grain of truth to that assertion here in Cleveland. Gastronomic gurus Michael Symon, Zack Bruell, Jonathon Sawyer and Chris Hodgson have revolutionized the local dining scene and created a decidedly forward-thinking, distinctly Cleveland brand of cuisine. We’re not talking brats and beer — but homegrown, farm-to-table dishes with no pretension and plenty of surprises.

Still, Cleveland is better than most at combining its dining and rock and roll heritages. The proof is in the number of restaurants and bars that consider music as its main dish. At the Flats East Bank’s Crop Rocks, décor such as a gigantic Beatles mural and vintage concert posters mesh with tune-toned entrees like Phish and Chips — yes, it’s exactly what you think it is — and the pork-loaded War Pig sandwich. Appropriately, DJs will spin everything from the Dead to David Bowie during dining hours — a nod to the thousands of LPs from ex-Rock Hall CEO Terry Stewart’s personal collection, which line the restaurant’s walls.

The Beachland Ballroom’s popular Sunday brunch comes by its “Rockin’ Brunch” nickname honestly. The weekly feast features soothing hangover cures in the guise of guest DJs, mega-loaded (and mega-strong) Bloody Marys, and hearty portions of biscuits and gravy.

The Hingetown bar Jukebox also lives up to its name with craft beer, tasty pierogies and an ever-revolving jukebox catalog mixing old faves and new classics. Meanwhile, the Flats West Bank’s Music Box Supper Club pairs a rockin’ food and drink menu with a diverse lineup of tunes.

Yet a rock-and-roll heritage isn’t the only thing its watering holes preserve. There are plenty of beer-and-a-shot joints proudly flying the flag for old-school Cleveland. Look in the dictionary under “dive bar,” and you’ll find Flats staple Hoopples, which boasts a killer view of downtown’s skyline, Thursday night jams with the Schwartz Brothers (featuring Glenn Schwartz of James Gang fame), and Indians games projected on a nearby bridge truss.

You’ll find an even friendlier baseball atmosphere at Hotz Café. Owned by the Hotz family since 1919, the Tremont bar was the hangout of legends such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ty Cobb — and it’s still a prime Tribe pregame meeting place.

In Tremont, head to Prosperity Social Club, a 1938-era ballroom with bar bowling, uber-Cleveland dishes (stuffed cabbage and potato pancakes, anyone?) and eclectic (and loyal) clientele.

And no old-school Cleveland bar roundup is complete without a mention of the Harbor Inn, an unassuming beer haven that's been open since 1895 on the Flats West Bank. Have some business you need to keep on the down low? Hit the Harbor Inn.

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