Connecting neighborhoods at the Square
By Eris Eady, photo by Larry E. Highbaugh
At the eastern apex of the city of Cleveland snuggled quaintly on the boarder of Shaker Heights is the historic Shaker Square. Sitting at the center of five bordering neighborhoods, Shaker Square is the oldest shopping district in Ohio, and the second oldest in the nation. From it's inception as Moreland Circle to the Octogon-esque shape it now maintains, The Square has maintained its eclectic and eccentric foundations that have had a lasting impact on this neighborhood for almost 90 years, despite its apparent geometric identity crisis.
Initially seen as “a focal point and gateway” to Shaker Heights, the real estate developers who acquired this land, the Van Sweringen brothers, indulged in a “create your own adventure” of sorts. Back in 1929, the Vans wanted to create a space that included a mix of apartment buildings, markets, and commercial buildings that lured folks from near and far.
If you are headed east towards the Square, you'd better come hungry. Shaker Square has a ton of restaurants of every kind, but they have at least one thing in common: Great potatoes.
Spuds fans can find The Notso Fries at Yours Truly, a loaded cottage fry dish topped with plenty of melted cheese, tons of bacon, and of course sour cream. They're pretty great for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Feeling frisky? Ask for a side of jalapeños. Next on the Square’s tater-express is the soul fusion inspired Zanzibar. Their house potatoes are phenomenal, pairing well with anything on the menu--especially the turkey chops.
Next up is Sasa. A Japanese-style restaurant and bar that bridges the best of a sit-down dinner and a night at the pub, Sasa is the first of its kind in Cleveland. Their signature Sasa fries come with house made sauces. Though the fries are made to share, you’ll want to keep them all for yourself.
If you want to get a bit fancier, Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute is an award-winning French cuisine restaurant that has a revolutionary mission. Edwins is the only white tablecloth restaurant in the country whose staff consists entirely of formerly incarcerated men and women in both the kitchen and front of the house. The Coquilles St. Jacques is a must-have. Featuring sea scallops sautéed in duck fat with duchess potatoes, tomato concasse and basil, your tastebuds will thank you profusely.
This is only the tip of the Shaker Square iceberg. This neighborhood boasts great shopping options like Cosmic Bobbins and Fashions By Fowler. There is great java at Dewey’s Coffee Shop, and the weekly open-air North Union Farmers Market brings you some the freshest produce from the region. And let's not forget, Shaker Square is home to the Garlic Festival in late summer each year; you know it’s coming by the larger-than-life garlic bulb that dominates the landscape each year.
Shaker Square is literally a square peg in a round hole: it shouldn’t fit, but it makes perfect sense.
From Downtown Cleveland: Take either the Blue or Green Rapid lines, or drive east on Carnegie Ave., Chester Ave. or Euclid Ave.
Travel time: 30 minutes by public transportation; 15 minutes by car