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Issue Date: October 2005 Issue

Best of Cleveland

We took a spin around town and looked for this city's greatest hits. We feasted on breakfast at Big Al's and cannoli from Casa Dolce, watched revelers challenge the mechanical bill at Tequila Ranch, puffed away at Kan Zaman and shopped for vintage T-shirts at Big Fun and the buy-one-get-one-free tickets at House of Blues. But that was just the start. For the record, we discovered 55 things that rock about Cleveland that you'd be wise to put in your weekend rotation during the next 365 days.

The Editors

Scary Night

Psychic Sonya Horstman’s tours of haunted downtown Cleveland spots are so scary she won’t even disclose the tour stops, so as not to tempt jokesters to set up frightening hoaxes. The tours start at the eerie Gray’s Armory near Playhouse Square, and Horstman does reveal that they feature a paranormal investigator, haunted theaters and a cemetery. Sonya Horstman’s tours, (440) 775-1217,

Piano Tuner

“Sing us a song, you’re the piano man.” Jeff Krill may not sing, but he’s definitely the piano man when it comes to tuning. The Cleveland Institute of Music graduate works his magic on the keys at Severance Hall, and he’s been a piano technician for his alma mater since 1986. If you’re lucky, Krill sometimes squeezes in time for private customers. Jeff Krill, (216) 791-5000


The jukebox at the 97-year-old Jerman’s Café is stocked by two regular customers who are musicians. They’ve compiled the most surprising, inspired mix of 100 CDs in town: classic, local and punk rock, plus everything from Patsy Cline love songs to Peter Tosh’s “Legalize It.” Instead of best-ofs, lots of classic bands are represented by one great record: the Rolling Stones’ “Beggars Banquet,” Bob Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks,” The Clash’s first album. Jerman’s Cafe, 3840 St. Clair Ave., Cleveland, (216) 361-8771

Monogram SHOP

Has your spirit of celebration been stifled by the anxiety of finding a gift for the next wedding, graduation or baby shower? The Little Monogram Shop, a monogram service and retail gift store in Chagrin Falls, promises a delightful cure for your angst. Owner Dori Loomis will monogram whatever she can fit on her machine: hats, scarves, bathrobes, bags, napkins, guest towels, linens, wool throws. With more than 300 monogramming colors and 100 type styles available, she offers variety you might not find in a catalogue. Her little shop beams with a colorful selection of gifts from $25 to $50. She even sells monogrammed soap. The Little Monogram Shop, 3 North Franklin St., Chagrin Falls, (440) 247-9090

Tea House

As coffeehouses become extensions of the office, full of business meetings, laptops and worker-bees seeking their daily jolt, we need a break from the café rat race. Like Osiyo Tea House in Cleveland Heights. You know a place is serious about serenity when it’s named after a Cherokee word that means either “hello” or “Everything is good with me, with you and the world.” Osiyo (pronounced OH-seeoh) is mystically civilized in the way only a American-Indian-influenced 19th-century-Scottish-style tea room can be. It’s like your great-grandmother’s Victorian house, if she also liked raw wood (the chairs are made of tree branches) and hanging lamps shaped like 20-pointed stars. Osiyo’s tea menu tries to make tea as much a connoisseur’s experience as wine. It lists 77 varieties with descriptions such as “deliciously vegetative with expansive flavor.” Osiyo Tea House, 12433 Cedar Road, Cleveland Heights, (216) 791-1100


Pastry chef Leslie Minotti is strikingly casual about the gift she’s given the world. “I just started playing around with different ideas and different flavors,” says Minotti, formerly with the Baricelli Inn. The result? A new mail-order business, Cinq Truffles, and a line of six chocolate concoctions that you can order (for about a buck apiece) from We tried them all and found that the Thé truffle, with its Tahitian vanilla undertones and crunchy flake outside, is the best. Or maybe it was the Grand Marnier, the only orange-flavored truffle we’ve ever truly loved. But the Chambord is just so darling, with its chocolate-curl exterior and classic French interior. We’ll call it a tie. Cinq Truffles, P.O. Box 241404, Lyndhurst, 44124, (440) 442-4411,


Behold the Casa Dolce cannoli. Its shell is drizzled or coated with chocolate. It’s heavy, with the right ratio of ricotta cream to cookie. It’s delicious, the cream subtly sweet, the shell fried until it is both flaky and chewy. There is yet another life lesson from “The Godfather,” where the line “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli” originates: Cannoli can ease your conscience, soothe your soul and fill up your mouth with so much flavor that you forget what you’ve just done and what you’ve got to do next. At Casa Dolce in Mayfield Heights, the cannoli are surrounded by scrumptious cassata cakes, tiramisu, biscotti, cream puffs and éclairs, just a few steps in front of high shelves overflowing with fresh breads and rolls. In the next case over, classic Italian dishes beckon: pizza, sausage and peppers, lasagna, stuffed artichokes, little towers of fresh mozzarella and tomato. Good cannoli, you see, are in good company. Casa Dolce, 5732 Mayfield Road, Mayfield Heights, (440) 473-0660.

Salsa Dancing

Every Saturday at 11 p.m., the Waterstreet Grill puts a little Latin in your blood and your hips. The restaurant’s diners turn to dancers, as the DJ heats things up with the spicy sounds of salsa, merengue and cumbia. This place is for dance professionals, wallflowers and everyone in between. Waterstreet Grill, 1265 W. Ninth St., Cleveland, (216) 619-1600,


Flavored with a dash of wit and adventure, Foodgoat ( chronicles the culinary passions of two Cleveland epicures, “Ladygoat” Roselle Ponsaran and the anonymous Foodgoat himself. Whether waxing poetic about chicken paprikash, lamenting the sliminess of okra or experimenting with Cleveland restaurants on Tryout Tuesdays, Foodgoat approaches all food with the same mentality: You’ll never know unless you taste. Go ahead — feast vicariously!

Revival Band

For those who just can’t let the disco era go, have a flashback with Disco Inferno’s dance moves, Afros and tight, tight spandex pants. This cover band, which frequents Shooters in the Flats and McCarthy’s Ale House in Lakewood, is sure to leave you with a Saturday night fever. Disco Inferno,

Retro T-shirts

So many people are suddenly eager to wear T-shirt styles from 25 years ago that even Target is stocking Bruce Lee and “Star Wars” shirts. But if you want to wear more authentic designs from your wasted youth, we recommend Big Fun in Cleveland Heights. Remember iron-ons? The store (which also specializes in vintage and collectible toys) will iron classic ’70s and ’80s designs onto white, colored or ringed T’s ($20-$22) while you shop. They have three images of Farrah Fawcett to choose from, two of Donna Summer, a Rod Stewart and a Todd Rundgren, various classic American beer logos (Stroh’s, Blatz, Miller High Life) and both the cast of “Dynasty” and J.R. Ewing from “Dallas.” We liked the Cleveland-themed shirts best. One, with a ’60s-ish Vegas-billboard look, promises, “Whatever happens in Cleveland stays in fabulous Cleveland, Ohio.” Then there’s the infamous civic slogan, “New York’s the Big Apple, but Cleveland’s a Plum,” centered on a round, purple plum. On a shirt, it becomes the perfect iron-on irony. Big Fun, 1827 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights, (216) 371-4386,


One of the few perks that comes with living in the snow belt — some would say the only perk — is winter fashion. “Staying warm” is the perfect excuse to check out the artsy scarves at Lakewood’s Local Girl Gallery while perusing the collection of jewelry, paintings, crafts and all sorts of art. “People love the gnarly feel of different wools,” says owner Linda Goik. Her store’s knitted wool scarves range from basic to beaded to ribboned. You’ll also find such year-round accessories as hand-painted silk scarves from chiffon to Charmeuse silk, from earth tones to tropical tones. Goik, a silk artist herself, offers ongoing silk-painting classes. You don’t even have to be a scarf wearer, she says. These scarves can serve as room dividers, luminarias or wall hangings. Local Girl Gallery, 16106 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, (216) 228-1802,

Manly Salon

Smoke a cigar, have a beer, watch a football game — and get a haircut? At the Reagle Beagle, a saloon-style salon in Lakewood, men finally have a place where they can get pampered while safe in a haven of masculinity. With a big-screen TV, a bar with draught beer and a putting green in the reception area, the Reagle Beagle may resemble a sports bar, but sports bars don’t offer you a back wax with a cold Heineken. The Reagle Beagle’s house haircut starts out with steaming towels on the face, a mini-facial, an under-eye treatment, a full haircut, a shampoo rinse with a menthol conditioning scalp treatment, a hot lava rock neck massage to relieve tension, a complimentary shoe shine and use of the cologne bar, all for $28. Appointments can be made at their Web site. Reagle Beagle, 17617 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, (216) 228-9677,


The competition may be hard to see inside Firefly’s Minigolf in Strongsville, but that’s the point. Firefly’s is a glow-in-the-dark, 18-hole miniature golf course. Children and adults will be glowing with anticipation as they putt their way through themes such as an underwater adventure and an African safari complete with a larger-than-life gorilla with spooky eyes. The walls come alive, thanks to some masterful painting, as you blast off on a starry space journey and explore the Ice Age wonderland. Though the course may look simple, it has its surprises. (We ended up 10 over par, despite two lucky holes-in-one.) Mini-golfers used to banking shots off wooden boundaries will find that the cinder blocks add a new twist: the neon green, pink, orange and yellow balls bounce off them haphazardly. And since the holes are shallow, just when you think your ball is going in, it may jump back out onto the green, adding another stroke to your game. Firefly’s Minigolf, Westfield Shoppingtown Southpark, 200 Southpark Center, Strongsville, (440) 846-4569,

Childhood Sports Revival

If you haven’t played kickball since elementary school, now is the perfect time to get a kick out of life again. The World Adult Kickball Association plays at Beaumont School in Cleveland Heights, while Burning River Sports calls Cove Park in Lakewood its kickball home and Cleveland Plays runs the bases at Kirtland Park in Cleveland. World Adult Kickball Association,; Cleveland Plays,; Burning River Sports, P.O. Box 603354, Cleveland,

Graffiti Art

The mural on the outside wall of Cleveland Public Theatre is the work of two internationally renowned graffiti artists, Daze and Mode 2, whose art is displayed in Paris, Tokyo, London and New York. The two created their mural last spring, using spray paint to sketch people and scenes in the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood. We love the blend of characters, the surreal, all-seeing eyes and the bold coloring. Park in the back lot to view the side wall of the theater. Cleveland Public Theatre, 6415 Detroit Ave., Cleveland, (216) 631-2727,

2-in-1 Shop

Devereaux in Westlake is the store to fix your fashion emergency. It pairs the latest designer fashions and celebrity wear from Los Angeles, New York and Spain with contemporary hair styling by owner Patti Devereaux inspired by Toni&Guy’s worldwide academies. We couldn’t resist purchasing a dress by Sweetees ($78) that “Desperate Housewives” star Teri Hatcher wore in the pages of In Touch magazine. 2-in-1 Shop: Devereaux, 28707 Center Ridge Road, Westlake, (440) 892-0019

Soul Food

Trendy soul food restaurant Gookies does the kind of justice to a catfish sandwich that you don’t often see north of the Mason-Dixon Line. It’s fried crisp but light and served steaming in a toasted roll with only lettuce and a ripe tomato slice between them. Other highlights include the sides — sweet-potato fries, mac-and-cheese, corn muffins served i n cloth towels to keep them steaming hot. The soul rolls, big fried appetizers like giant egg rolls, have a strong, tangy flavor thanks to the chicken, corn, collard greens, red pepper and cheese sauce stuffed inside. Gookie was the owner’s childhood nickname, and you can see pictures of him as a little boy on the wall, along with posters of Duke Ellington and Miles Davis. Jazz plays in the background, and the décor is bright and arty, like a restaurant you’d find in Tremont, with snazzy vases jazzing up the dining area. Gookies is a favorite of local politicians, judging by the hefty bills that have shown up on Cleveland City Council’s expense accounts. Count us as fans too. Gookies, 7800 Superior Ave., Cleveland, (216) 431-6776

Best 5K

It was the first time we ever received a 21-and-over wristband before a race, moshed to a Green Day song in our running shorts and looked forward to beer and burgers at the finish line. After pounding 2 miles of Cleveland pavement, from the mighty Jake through a harrowing battle with cars on Prospect Avenue to our 27th-place photo finish (hey, we’re busy writing, not training), we were in love with this summer’s second-annual Winking Lizard Shot in the Dark night race. In an atmosphere half street-fest and half athletic convention (very few participants enjoyed a smoke with their hard-earned brewski), we partied so long we really were doing shots in the dark. Say a prayer to Hermes that the race returns next July. Winking Lizard Downtown, 811 Huron Road, Cleveland, (216) 589-0313,

Celebrity Rims and Brims

The way fashion trends go in cycles, you’re probably wishing you’d saved those Jackie O. sunglasses you used to don. The Cleveland Shop, Cleveland’s oldest vintage store, has the next best thing, with 50 styles of glasses. No young artist can go wrong with the trademark frames of John Lennon, Elvis Costello, Elvis Presley, Elton John or the Blues Brothers. If you pick up those Jackie O.-style rims, top off the look with a pillbox hat from the store’s vast selection of vintage and celebrity-style hats. Whether you’re looking for a Frank Sinatra fedora or an Audrey Hepburn wide brim, check out this stop for a nostalgic nod to the class and kitsch of the ’20s through the ’70s. The Cleveland Shop, 11606 Detroit Ave., Cleveland, (216) 228-9725,

Legal High

Visit Ohio City’s Kan Zaman and you might think you’ve traveled back in time. The Middle Eastern restaurant and hookah bar, whose name means “a long time ago,” transports its patrons back to “Arabian Nights.” The secret behind owner Wael Ayyad’s time machine is some flavored tobacco and a water pipe imported from Jordan or Egypt. You may know it as a hookah, hubble-bubble or shisha, but all we know is that it’s just plain fun. Hookahs, which originated in Turkey, have increasingly enticed the curiosity of the West, appearing on college campuses and in bars throughout the United States. The hookah uses water to cool the smoke of tobacco sweetened by molasses or dried fruit. Hookah smoke is tar free and contains about 0.5 percent nicotine, so the short and sweet tobacco buzz comes with few long-term worries. Kan Zaman offers tobacco in apple, strawberry, mango, mint, Coca-Cola and other yummy flavors. Sipping a cup of Turkish coffee and passing the hookah hose around a circle of friends is an exotic alternative to another night at the local burger joint. After an evening of authentic Middle Eastern cuisine and Arabic music, you’ll be hooked. Kan Zaman, 1917 W. 25th St., Cleveland, (216) 685-1500,

Practical Self-Defense Classes

The way many martial arts are often taught, it may take years before the techniques can be used effectively against an attacker. After your first lesson at the Krav Maga Training Center in North Royalton, you’re already safer than you were an hour before. Krav Maga is the official defensive tactics system of the Israeli military. Students learn to break choke holds, escape headlocks and deliver simple, devastating punches and kicks. Krav Maga Training Center, 10139 Royalton Road, North Royalton, (440) 877-9108,


Even after five years, DJ Jugoe’s Friday nights at the Lava Lounge are still one of Cleveland nightlife’s best-kept secrets. Jugoe specializes in mid- and down-tempo tracks carefully chosen from the underground, pulling records from a crate full of funk, dub, Afrobeat, Latin and hip-hop, Jugoe drops in the occasional disco or funk classic. He also frequents West Sixth’s sleek Mercury Lounge, Coventry’s B-Side Liquor and the swanky Leopard Lounge in New York City. DJ Jugoe, Fridays at Lava Lounge, 1307 Auburn Ave., Cleveland, (216) 589-9112

Bowling Alley

Let’s say you’ve got a few dozen friends to entertain. You’ve got $350. And you want a bowling alley all to yourself. Call St. John Cantius Catholic Church in Tremont. The church rents its 12-lane alley — built 40 years ago for its now-closed high school — on Saturdays in the fall, winter and spring. The church supplies balls and shoes, you bring food and drinks. Pray for strikes. St. John Cantius Catholic Church, 2265 W. 10th St., Cleveland, (216) 771-6688


Seduction. It’s a powerful force, one that all too often we don’t mind succumbing to, because we don’t even realize what’s happening. We find ourselves ordering 75 cocktails and barely glance at the bill — that would be too bourgeois. How does it happen? Some people radiate a kind of sexiness, like throwbacks from ’20s movies. They’re the ones who miss elbow-length gloves, pine for a glimpse of ankle, dream in French. Paulius Nasvytis, owner of The Velvet Tango Room, a tiny renovated house between Ohio City and Tremont, is such a man: a purveyor of all things beautiful, sexy and expensive. The impeccably dressed host graces every woman in the bar with fresh roses and European chocolates; he remembers names; when he promises VIP-room entry, he delivers. For an hour or two, he’ll make you forget you’re just an assistant to the secretary of accounts receivable. Paulius Nasvytis, Velvet Tango Room, 2095 Columbus Road, Cleveland, (216) 241-8869,

New Band

Swirling together electric indie-rock urgency and acoustic lounge-jazz ambience, Monet Madrid Madagascar is frenetic, eclectic and elegant. The group’s debut album, “If Manatees Had Trunks,” released in July, finds the Cleveland sextet turning tension into bliss, using a Fender Rhodes keyboard and electronic beats to fill the space between its extremes. The disc is subtle, while MMM’s live performances are more aggressive. Front man Ryan Cunningham croons about misspent days and howls about long nights, flailing to the band’s manic rhythms. The group played its first show in January, and this summer it established itself as one of the city’s busiest bands, developing chops in more than 40 out-of-town shows. When MMM is here, you’re likely to catch them lighting up the Beachland Ballroom in Collinwood. And we highly recommend that you do so. Monet Madrid Madagascar,

Polka Happy Hour

Every Friday from 5 to 7 p.m., The Happy Dog rolls out the barrel, ending the workweek with the Polka Happy Hour. In the kind of celebration that only could happen in the 21st century Rust Belt, grandmothers, young professionals and college students rub elbows and stomp feet in a sincere appreciation of Cleveland’s ethnic heritage. The near West Side tavern, with its warm, authentic post-war décor, is the perfect spot for the party. Once a month, Jason Uzl and Ethnic Jazz play live favorites. When they’re not there, owner Billy Scanlon pulls classic polka platters from his collection. The special theme menu is limited to fresh pierogi, potato pancakes, kielbasa, bratwurst, perch, sauerkraut, soups and desserts — someone stole the kishka. The Happy Dog, 5801 Detroit Ave., Cleveland, (216) 651-9474,

Rare Book

He comes in periodically, she says softly. He asks only to see “the book.” She knows the one he wants. At $2,500, it’s not the most expensive book on the endless 15-foot bookshelves at 84 Charing Cross Bookstore. (Their prices start with Borders-esque familiarity, but rise to heights that require a special kind of love for the printed page.) Nor is it the oldest or rarest. It’s simply two small sets of engravings, one detailing Cupid’s life, the other depicting a girl with her doll, bound together in a full-ruled, mottled-calf binding, beautiful in their simplicity and intoxicating in their rich past. The old leather folio, circa 1795, bears the inscription: “Presented to the Queen from papers cut by Lady Dashwood.” But because of one broke grad student’s appreciation for this sheath of drawings sheltered in rice paper, and because the best books are the ones with two stories, the one inside and the one about, and because true book lovers understand the bond between a beloved tome and its someday-owner, we plead with our readers on that unknown bookworm’s behalf: Find another book that calls to you, and leave “The Birth and Triumph of Cupid & The Joy of a Doll” by Peltro William Tomkins on the shelf — it’s taken. 84 Charing Cross Bookstore, 6411 Detroit Ave., Cleveland, (216) 961-0084,

Winter Escape

Last March, in Cleveland’s fourth vicious month of winter, we headed to the Rockefeller Park Greenhouse off Martin Luther King Boulevard to cheer up. We took off our coats and strolled past the tropical room’s fruit trees and several rooms of greenery and flowers from orchids to bromeliads. We sat on the picnic table in the cactus room, basked like lizards in the sun and almost convinced ourselves it was summer. Rockefeller Park Greenhouse, 750 E. 88th St. (look for sign on Martin Luther King Drive, just south of I-90), Cleveland, (216) 664-3103,

Tiny Dive Bar

The weirdness starts with the black alligator swimming on the roof and the bucket atop the chimney. Inside, Avon Lake’s Close Quarters Pub has 12 chairs, 11 stools, no room to move, and cluttered collections of yacht club flags, charts of Lake Erie, and stickers from islands such as Guam and Key West. It once claimed to be the “world’s smallest tavern.” Now it’s just the coolest tiny dive bar in town. Close Quarters Pub, 31953 Lake Road, Avon Lake, (440) 933-5217

Holiday Lighting Display

Long before the Terminal Tower was illuminated in a festive crimson, even before most of the world had thought to put up holiday lights, GE’s Nela Park facility had its Christmas lights all-aglow. Every December since 1925, its winter wonderland of glowing snowmen, trees, trains, candy canes and other sugarplums has stood along the front of GE’s facility. There’s even a replica of the National Tree in Washington. GE’s Lighting Institute at Nela Park, 1975 Noble Road, East Cleveland

Bomber Jacket

With one million visits a day to its Web site and customers including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former President George H.W. Bush, Angelina Jolie, Bill Gates and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, it’s no surprise U.S. Wings has the best bomber jackets in the country, let alone the city. David “Sarge” Hack, a retired Army sergeant and CEO of U.S. Wings, has owned the store since 1986. It supplies the U.S. armed forces with bomber jackets and is the official supplier of caps, hats and shirts to the White House’s gift shop. “We sell 300 jackets a day, 365 days of the year,” Hack says (that’d be 100,000 jackets sold a year). The U.S. Wings Pilot shop in Stow houses 3,800 square feet of jackets and specialty items along with a 12,000-square-foot warehouse. U.S. Wings also provides jackets and other items for about 90 percent of aviation films, Hack says, including “Behind Enemy Lines,” “The 6th Day” and “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.” U.S. Wings, Stow Hudson Towne Centre, 1624 Norton Road, Stow, (330) 653-3746,

Cheese Cooler

If you want to serve cubes of cheddar, Swiss and pepperjack at your next shindig, put down your cheese wire, knife or laser die cutter and listen up: Since 1999, the area’s best chefs and cheese connoisseurs have been heading to The Baricelli Cheese Co. in Little Italy. Chef, owner and affineur Paul Minnillo and his staff carefully tend some of the finest artisan sheep, goat and cow’s milk cheeses from Europe and the United States in their state-of-the-art affinage (cheese “blooming” cooler). While you should expect to spend a little more than elsewhere (prices on a recent visit ranged from $11 to $20 per piece of cheese; sizes vary), you’ll get a fantastic gustatory experience and a lot more adventure than you’ll find in plastic shrink-wrap. The Baricelli Cheese Co., 2203 Cornell Road, Cleveland, (216) 791-6500,


Twenty-two-year-old Sean Bammer’s Kent store Metropolis Popcorn is the Baskin-Robbins of exploded kernels, boasting 50 flavors, such as iced cinnamon roll, pina colada and cherry cheesecake. Bammer sells about 10 gallons a day of the best-seller, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Flavors such as Count Chocula, chocolate coffee and sour cream and cheddar put Jiffy Pop to shame and keep the customers coming. Don’t feel too guilty about chowing down on the fluffy morsels; all Metropolis Popcorn is made in cholesterol-free coconut oil. Metropolis Popcorn, 164 East Main St., Kent, (440) 223-2747,


If you need some apologetic roses for your loved one, score points for originality instead by giving a bouquet of heliconias. All will be forgiven if you show up with these exotic flowers with their banana leaf-like foliage and Technicolor petals in full bloom. These plants, with more than 200 varieties, are native to South and Central America, says Ann McCulloh, curator of plant collections at the Cleveland Botanical Garden. Silver Fox in Westlake can special-order these beauties for the next day (or sometimes the same day, if you know you’re in the doghouse early in the morning). A Floral Boutique in Willoughby says stems could be ready for you that day. If time is on your side, Flower Port, also in Westlake, can have some heliconia stems shipped in about a week for a lower price. Tuthill’s Florist in Euclid and Mentor needs at least two days, but is cheaper than the West Side. The names of various species are as fun as the flowers themselves: Banana Split, Total Eclipse, Prince of Darkness, Stairway to Heaven and Holiday (a festive red and white). But to really set the mood, order Sexy Pink, Sexy Scarlet and Temptress. Silver Fox, 26825 Detroit Road, Westlake, (440) 835-3699,; Flower Port, 27223 Center Ridge Road, Westlake, (440) 835-2688; A Floral Boutique, 35101 Euclid Ave., Ste. 23, Willoughby, (440) 951-4060,; Tuthill’s Florist, 557 E. 185th St., Euclid, (216) 531-9022 or 7372 Lakeshore Blvd., Mentor,


Tasty Polish dumplings have long been Cleveland’s favorite ethnic food. We think no one’s beat those of Cleveland’s self-proclaimed pierogi queen, Rhonda Raidl. She and her son, David, dish out 100 varieties of pierogies from their West Side Market stand, Pierogi Palace. Mix up four or so varieties (75 cents each or $8/dozen), pan-fry the lot in butter and serve with sautéed onions and sour cream. Smacznego! Pierogi Palace, Stand E-5, West Side Market, 1979 W. 25th St., Cleveland, (216) 861-9800,

Cheap Tickets

To take advantage of the House of Blues’ “2 for Tu” promotion, join the mailing list online. You’ll get a list of buy-one-get-one-free ticket deals every Tuesday. You have to act fast: by 10 p.m. the day you get the e-mail. We nabbed a pair of tickets to see ’90s rockers the Gin Blossoms for $15 total and checked out ’80s new wave act The Psychedelic Furs with a friend for $28. House of Blues, 308 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, (216) 523-BLUE,


For those of us with multiple personalities, Odyssey Printwear in Aurora has a costume for every occasion, from Halloween to masked balls. Its 3,000 outfits include a mail-order bride (a dress covered with postage stamps), God’s gift to women (a huge present) and the ever-popular “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter” characters. Odyssey Printwear, 7286 N. Aurora Road, Aurora, (330) 562-1523,

Drag Queen Bar

The hostess promenades onto the stage, lip-synching to an R&B-ballad remake of “I Will Survive.” Sinuous sequins run down her floor-length black dress, slit all the way up her leg. Stylish men and tomboyish women hand her dollar-bill tips. It’s 11:30 on a Saturday night at Bounce, the friendly, trendy gay bar in Ohio City, and Miss Kari Nickels is kicking off another fabulous night of drag-queen drama. Bounce’s radically diverse crowd — white, black and Hispanic, lesbians, gay guys and plenty of their straight friends — hangs over the second-floor railing and perches atop the back booths for better views. Miss Nickels delivers a performance full of diva camp and bawdy shock, while the sashaying queen mouthing the words to Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” and the slim one doing Janet Jackson in jeans and a pin-striped coat have being a woman for a night down cold. Bounce, 2814 Detroit Ave. (inside Union Station Video Café), Cleveland, (216) 357-2997. Drag shows Thu-Sat, 11:30 p.m.

Cosmetics Store

Ladies, let’s see a show of hands: How many of you don’t bother to wear eyeliner because you don’t know how to apply it? Step into Lusso Cosmetics in Lakewood for a free one-hour session with owner Louis McClung. He’ll take you step-by-step through the entire application process using his own formulated makeup line, available only at his store and a few local spas. He’ll also custom-blend foundation for you to buy that same day. “My style is teaching women how to apply makeup in a classic way so that they’re never out of style,” says McClung. The showroom has a quiet atmosphere and plenty of glass to let in natural light. Extra kudos for its new Chinese takeout container gift boxes, filled with makeup products and a fortune cookie. Lusso Cosmetics, 13519 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, (216) 228-9950,

Pool Hall

Walk into Fox and Hound in Parma and take a deep breath. Though smoking is allowed inside, the ventilation system keeps the air clean and clear for those who’ve come to play pool and not wade through a cloud of smoke. The hall is a shot above the rest, boasting 13 pool tables, hunter green and wood décor, big-screen TVs, a restaurant and a bar. Guests can sit back on a leather couch to watch the action. Leagues are held Thursday nights; 9-ball tournaments are on Wednesdays. Need a break from the office? Play some pool for free while you eat your lunch before 2 p.m. And while $9.75 on Friday and Saturday nights sounds pricey, it buys pool sharks an hour of fun. Fox and Hound, 8735 Day Drive, Parma, (440) 842-8840

New Nightclub

A little bit country, a lot rock ’n’ roll, Tequila Ranch is a cross between country roadhouse and trendy club. The Warehouse District’s hottest new nightspot opened in March. Highlights include live music, a mechanical bull and scantily-clad barmaids who dance on the bar “Coyote Ugly”-style. But don’t expect to find draught beer here. Instead, try one of the 30 varieties of tequila, which range from $3 to $30 a shot. Bottled beer and mixed drinks generally range from $4 to $7. Above the 40-foot bar is a stage where live bands play Thursday through Saturday. Those looking to escape the crowd can venture to the downstairs bar and lounge on soft velvety couches. The adjoining Killer Burrito stand, open until 3 a.m. on weekends, serves quesadillas, tacos and burritos the size of your head. On Thursday, for $2 a ride, you can test your rodeo skills in the mechanical bull-riding competition. Tequila Ranch, 1229 W. Sixth St., Cleveland, (216) 566-TACO,    

Cheap Gas

With gas prices out of control, the Cuyahoga County auditor’s gas price survey Web site has been especially valuable lately. This summer, when nine auditor’s office staffers went on their twice-a-week rounds, scoping out more than 200 stations’ prices, the Shell station at Brookpark Road and West 130th Street offered the cheapest price in the county several times. It may hold that official distinction for a while. Bill Westfall, county director of weights and measures, says gas is so expensive, the auditor’s office can no longer afford enough gas to search for cheap gas. Shell, 13030 Brookpark Road, Cleveland, (216) 267-3571. Cuyahoga County Auditor’s Gas Price Survey:


With haystacks, a tree house, nature hikes, wagon rides and a corn maze just minutes away from the eastern suburbs, Patterson Fruit Farm offers the ultimate fall orchard experience. When you’re not picking apples or painting pumpkins, enjoy fresh-pressed apple cider and baked goods at the farm market. Patterson Fruit Farm, 11414 Caves Road, Chesterland, (440) 729-1964,

Creative Stagings

The local Charenton Theater Co. has made the Superior Viaduct and the East Ninth Street Pier into stages, put on a beer-fueled drama at Lincoln Park Pub and performed “Spoon River Anthology” in local cemeteries. Check the Web site to see where they’re staging this fall’s play, “A Day in the Death of Joe Egg.” Charenton Theater Co.,


La Bella Vita, a charming boutique in Little Italy, is filled to the brim with jewelry, finely woven scarves, beautiful Italian dishes and housewares, purses, music and candles. When you enter, expect a sensory explosion: a tangle of colors and textures, even as your ears embrace the opera music weaving its romantic spell in the background. Imported Italian items, beautiful platters and linens, original oil paintings and myriad other gift possibilities provide the resources to create a “bella” life in your home. Local artists created the murals on the walls, floors and ceilings. Stop by on a weekend and get an informal lecture on the fine points of opera by owner Barb Strong’s husband, Pete. La Bella Vita, 2013 Murray Hill Road, Cleveland, (216) 421-1717

Scrapbooking and Stamping Store

The scrapbooking and stamping craze sent us searching for the perfect store that has that one flower stamp you’ve been wanting but can’t find anywhere. Our choice is Amherst’s Stamplistic. Fran Kennedy, a scrapbooking and card-making fan, has often made the journey west from the Cleveland-Lakewood border to Amherst during the past year and a half. She says it’s worth it: All 2,500-plus square feet of space at Stamplistic is filled with top-name supplies, including those by EK Success and Hero Arts, as well as a stamp line, called Stacy Stamps, created by store employee Stacy Rich. The staff has the scoop on new trends because the owner, Bonnie Perkins, and her eight employees often trek to craft shows and take what they learn back to the shop’s classroom. Stamplistic, 944 Amchester Drive, Amherst, (440) 989-2622,

Children’s Library

Magic. It’s a word Rosemary Kneale uses frequently, and it’s easy to see why. Kneale, branch manager of the South Euclid-Lyndhurst Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library system, works at the 26-room Telling Mansion on Mayfield Road. To its enthralled youngest visitors, it is known as The Castle Library. Kneale leads a tour through stone archways that separate the breakfast nook (poetry) from the kitchen (first fiction), pantry (children’s A/V) and plant nursery (picture books, naturally). Fun — and the chance to learn — are in plentiful supply. Within the children’s section is the “secret cupboard,” a tucked-away closet with a rotation of hands-on activities to explore, while the teen area (the former dining room) is accented with a cozy Tudor loft filled with board games and set up for open-mic poetry nights. And when budding readers, adolescents, teens and parents all anxiously await their next chance to visit the library together? Magic. Cuyahoga County Public Library, South Euclid-Lyndhurst Branch, 4645 Mayfield Road, South Euclid, (216) 382-4880,

Historic Church

St. Theodosius Orthodox Cathedral’s 13 onion-shaped domes, or cupolas, overlooking the Cuyahoga River make it our favorite skyline treasure. The church, nestled on Tremont’s Starkweather Avenue, is considered one of the nation’s best examples of Russian religious architecture. Built in 1911, the cathedral features Byzantine and Romanesque design. It was modeled after the Church of Our Savior Jesus Christ in Moscow, and seeing it, you might just think you were in Russia. The aged copper of the cupolas, which has faded into greenish-blue, gives the cathedral a quiet and wise majesty. We’re not sure which we like better — the structure itself or the gold leafing and magnificent blue backgrounds of the icons inside. Czar Nicholas and Czarina Alexandra even appear in the crowd in the depiction of the Sermon on the Mount. St. Theodosius Orthodox Cathedral, 733 Starkweather Ave., Cleveland, (216) 741-1310,

Bike Rental

See the Ohio and Erie Canal Corridor behind a pair of handlebars. Century Cycles in Peninsula offers $6/hour bike rentals daily. Chose your bike style and pedal north along the Towpath Trail through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park for an afternoon full of fresh air you won’t soon forget. Century Cycles, 1621 Main St., Peninsula, (330) 657-2209,

Secret Menu

Hunan East in Richmond Heights, a tiny spot in a strip mall, has two menus: one in English, one in Chinese. Utter the secret phrase — ask to order off the Chinese menu — and you’ll discover the gourmet Asian restaurant hidden inside the chop-suey joint. Don’t worry that you can’t read Chinese; the wait staff will guide you to the house’s best dishes. Hunan East, 724 Richmond Road, Richmond Heights, (216) 381-2266


We heard Big Al’s blueberry pancakes were the best in town, and sure enough, he gets more berries in his batter than we thought possible. But it’s the feel of Big Al’s Diner that makes it our latest breakfast favorite: the photos of regulars covering 14 corkboards, the conversations reaching between booths, the lucky horseshoe over the door. Big Al’s Diner, 12600 Larchmere Blvd., Cleveland, (216) 791-8550

Light Show

As you cruise through downtown on the Shoreway after sunset, don’t accelerate so fast that you miss the mesmerizing nightly show on the north façade of the Cuyahoga County Courthouse: three ever-changing, ethereal swatches of color spotlighting the 1911 building. The contrast between traditional architecture and state-of-the-art lighting is the brainchild of county architect Berj Shakrian. He says some city officials had reservations at first, but they eventually came around; perhaps it was partly Shakrian’s enthusiasm that got them in the end. “We can make it orange for the Browns game,” he says gleefully. “It’s just to make Cleveland more fun, so there is color, so there is life to it!” On the nights we heeded the lights’ siren call, we were romanced by soft shades of turquoise, blue, purple, green and red. “When I drive by at night,” Shakrian coos, “I look at it and say, ‘Well, I did something right!’ ” Cuyahoga County Courthouse, 1 Lakeside Ave., Cleveland

Game Day Mustard

Cleveland has two hometown brands of mustard, both really good, with one problem: They both claim to be the spicy condiment sports fans began devouring at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in the 1950s. Bertman Original Ball Park Mustard calls itself “Cleveland’s Famous Original,” while The Authentic Stadium Mustard sports the tag line, “Served and enjoyed at Cleveland Stadium for more than 50 years.” There’s even a contentious claim that both brands were made at the same factory in Chicago for a time, using the same recipe. But these days, the two mustards taste distinctly different. Bertman Ball Park Mustard is sharper up front before fading into a traditional brown-mustard taste, while Stadium Mustard sports a warm blend of spices throughout. So, even though the Bertman brand dresses dogs at Jacobs Field, we’d go for Stadium Mustard on a hearty day of tailgating. The Authentic Stadium Mustard,

Hostess Gift

Anyone can show up at the door with a bottle of wine or a box of candy. Why not surprise your host and adopt a zoo animal through the Cleveland Zoological Society’s ZooParent program? A $50 contribution gets your hostess a personalized certificate of adoption, a fact sheet about her animal, a color photograph of him or her, a ZooParent key chain and name recognition on its Web site. You can upgrade the adoption to the $75, $100, $250, $500 or $1,000 levels for a featured animal, such as a koala, python or flamingo, and get extras such as stuffed animals, an invitation to ZooParents’ Night, a T-shirt, behind-the-scenes tours and even a private meeting with the animal’s keeper. Hey, even pythons need a little love. And you can be pretty certain that no other guest will duplicate your hostess gift. ZooParent program, (216) 661-6500,

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