Growing up in Florida, I had three strong mental associations with Cleveland:
1) Lake-effect snow.
2) This Randy Newman song and the burning rivers it mentions.
3) The fact that more tourists who visited St. Pete seemed to be from Cleveland than from anywhere else. I figured that if you were that eager to leave home, home must be pretty miserable. (I now realize that there are many, many alternate interpretations of the same paltry body of data.)
Despite these associations, when Bouchercon, a convention for mystery and thriller fans and writers, and a gathering I quite like, moved to Cleveland, I followed. I'd also heard many good things about Cleveland over the years, so this con afforded me an opportunity to see the city for myself.
After less than half a day here, I have to admit that I am finding Cleveland quite charming. The downtown architecture is splendid, a blend of new and old skyscrapers with grand re-purposed buildings and the occasional lower structure still boarded up and awaiting its ride on the gentrification train. The hotel is grand in the old style, but with large remodeled rooms that feature decent wireless access and tons of electrical outlets.
To give the city a chance to put a good foot forward, I made my first meal here, tonight's dinner, be at as close to a sure thing as possible: Iron Chef Michael Symon's signature restaurant, Lola Bistro. We made dinner a shared affair that consisted of an assortment of entries, an order of the delicious rosemary frites, and a few desserts. The weakest dishes were good. The strongest dishes, the crispy pig's ear, the beef cheek pierogi, and the deconstructed lobster roll, were excellent.
I was wrong about Cleveland, at least so far. I quite like it and look forward to seeing more of it.
So you can share some of what I saw today, what follows is a selection of my iPhone happy snaps.
Enjoy (and click on any image to see a larger version).
The ceiling in a lovely hall in sort of indoor shopping center slash business center.
A fountain in the same area.
The view entering another large hall in this same building. The place feels like an old train station, but I haven't had time to make sure that I'm correct.
Yet right outside the end of the building, the industrial city reappears.
This lovely metal detail work...
...is part of this beautiful vent grate.
A lounge area in the hotel.
Sunset through my hotel window. The sky was so much redder than I can show you.
The historic (for reasons I don't know) 4th street dining area.
The top of a building as I saw it while walking back to the hotel.