I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio at a time when Cleveland sucked a big bag of rocks – huge, dirty rocks covered in dog crap and sadness. Lake Erie was polluted, the river caught on fire, the city declared bankruptcy, our sports teams blew, and the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Ted Stepien, was so dumb and gave up so many draft picks that the NBA came up with “The Stepien Rule,” which made it a rule that teams could not trade their first-round draft picks in consecutive years.
Cleveland was a big, hot mess. Not any more.
Earlier this year, Fortune Magazine declared Cleveland as one of the top U.S. cities on the rise, even going so far as to call Cleveland, “The New Brooklyn.” And although that is a mighty fine compliment, it’s a bit misleading. Cleveland is becoming cooler, hipper and better than Brooklyn (yes it is!) making it actually, “The new Williamsburg.”
Downtown Cleveland is experiencing a revival of sorts with many people deciding to live there instead of the typical neighboring East Side or West Side suburbs. This was unheard of years ago. Nobody lived downtown. Nobody wanted to live downtown. Downtown was for going to the few nightclubs that Cleveland had and hoping you wouldn’t get punched in the face or carjacked on the way home. Now downtown Cleveland is “the hot new” which is utterly amazing because for so long it was “the depressingly bad.”
Cleveland has been known as the kind of city people move out of, not into. This is no longer the case as you can now get more bang for your buck in C-town. The best part is that you can get your cool-as-hell, high-ceiling and brick-wall loft for a reasonable price, unlike Brooklyn where you have to donate your left kidney and sell your first born child to even get a one-bedroom apartment.
Nothing exemplifies this rebirth of Cleveland more than the neighborhoods of Tremont and Ohio City, two neighborhoods that sound less hip and fun and more like the perfect place to dump a body. Both of these hoods were completely off the radar years ago, little known even to Clevelanders. Now they are the poster children for this “New Williamsburg” label. Farmer’s markets, coffeehouses, boutique shops, and small plate restaurants are now all standard fare. Craft beer joints are popping up all over the area. This is a huge deal as for decades the beer of choice in Cleveland was “anything cheap that gets me s**tfaced the quickest.”
But being the more affordable version of Williamsburg is not all Cleveland has to offer. Here is some other cool stuff that the city brings to the national coolness table:
* The Cleveland Orchestra – Considered the number-one symphony orchestra in the world for 2013. Where you at, Berlin Philharmonic? Oh yeah, right behind us.
* Michael Simon – Popular chef and TV personality, Simon literally saved the restaurant scene in Cleveland, gave a face to Cleveland cuisine, and proved that chefs from this town can cook more than just perogies (though perogies are damn tasty).
* The Cleveland Playhouse – Celebrating its 99th year in existence, this is one of the top regional theatres in the country. It has not one, not two, but three theatres in its complex and they are constantly producing new works as well as the old standbys. Remember that the next time you find yourself in the basement of a Brooklyn “artist’s space” watching a three-hour-long experimental dance performance about a mother who talks to her unborn child by actually traveling into her own uterus.
* The Cleveland Clinic – The number-one hospital for cardiac care in the country for NINETEEN YEARS IN A ROW. So if you’re about to have a heart attack from taking The Grilled Cheese Challenge (a monster grilled cheese sandwich with thirteen types of cheese, three slices of thick bread and topped with French fries and coleslaw) at the popular Cleveland haunt called Melt, be thankful you live in city with such a kick-ass hospital.
There’s a great scene in “30 Rock” were Tina Fey “flees to the Cleve” with her new boyfriend and she falls in love with the city and it’s all played as one big joke that she would love Cleveland over New York City. And yet, that’s closer to the truth than you might think. Cleveland has never been a cool place to live, yet, slowly but surely, it certainly is becoming much cooler than it ever was. Cleveland has as much to offer as does NYC, maybe even more.
Okay, our sports teams still suck.