Best Of 2011

Best of Cleveland 2011: People & Places

Welcome to a city that was built to last. We're gritty, good-natured, and caring as they come — the kind of people all others strive to be.Best Reason to Love Cleveland

The People

We've been an easy target for a lot of years. Now the joke is on everybody who overlooked us. As long as Cleveland has had its bad teams and worse leadership, a rich reserve of resilient residents has remained determined to see this through till the good times roll again. Now the sun is peeking out and Cleveland is rounding the corner, and now's the time to celebrate our hardy souls. As the wheels of prosperity begin to turn, we cast our thanks toward our neighbors and friends. We've shared in our years of misery together, and now we'll share in our arriving glory. It's just how we do things here, how you've always done things here.

Best Park

Edgewater Park

Now part of Cleveland Lakefront State Park, Edgewater skirts the western edge of downtown Cleveland and offers overwhelming views of the city skyline. Best known for its sprawling beach and primo kite-flying, it's also a top spot for picnicking, jogging — even sledding come wintertime.

6500 Cleveland Memorial Shoreway; 216-881-8141;

Best Day Trip

Cedar Point

There may be no place on earth where time flies more quickly than a day spent at Cedar Point. A summertime fun magnet for all of the Midwest, the park is tireless in its quest to be the best at everything it does — and it's got the credentials to support the claim. More — and better — roller coasters than anybody else, gorgeously maintained grounds, friendly workers, and no shortage of indoor attractions make the Point a lock for every summer itinerary. There's something spectacular and new every year: In 2011 it's Windseeker, a sorta-sideways Ferris wheel that rises far above the park and, like everything else at Cedar Point, seems like it might never let you down.

One Cedar Point Dr., Sandusky; 419-627-2350;

Best Reason to Come Downtown

East Fourth Street

The pulse of downtown is beating like it hasn't in decades, and the top source of the excitement is East Fourth Street. A centrally located afterthought for decades, the district has emerged in recent years to serve everyone from visitors looking for a hot night on the town to residents in need of urbane climes to unwind. From its restaurants to it clubs and the people who crave them, the new East Fourth has paved the way for Cleveland's inevitable downtown renaissance.

Between Euclid and Prospect Aves.;

Best Reason to Visit the East Side

Coventry Village

Cleveland's bohemian ground zero has seen its share of change over the years, but it's just now hitting its stride like never before. Still a haven for offbeat merchants and quirky shops, the street has cultivated a fantastic blend of homegrown and outside enterprises in recent years — and the result is a district teeming with energy day and night.; 216-556-0927

Best Reason to Visit the West Side & >Best Place to Take Out-of-Town Visitors

West Side Market

We boast at least two things that no community will ever exceed: a swirling melting pot of cultures and a collective grocery cart to match. No place but the West Side Market so fully embraces this ancestral melange of Old World and new, from its butchers to its fruit stands, and from its cheeses to its cappuccino. Those of us who've grown up on this place so easily forget just what a sensory wonderland it is. Then it all hits home when you take a guest there and experience anew the sights, sounds, and smells. The West Side Market is an icon that modern America has passed by; the good news is that Cleveland would never dream of doing the same.

1979 West 25th St.; 216-664-3387;

Best Reason to Visit Akron

Akron Art Museum

Cleveland's sister to the south serves up no shortage of charms, but the Akron Art Museum is as apt a metaphor for the Rubber City's rebirth as you will find. Perched in the heart of a rejuvenated downtown, the museum recently completed an expansion that more than tripled its size. Once a two-room art school founded in 1922, it's now a sprawling world-class facility that spotlights a wide range of art made over the past 150 years.

1 South High St., Akron; 330-376-9185;

Best Radio Personality

Alan Cox

All the fun and class of a trailer park striptease in convenient radio form. From his eye on celebrity buffoonery to his celebration of women's undergarments, Alan Cox spouts all the outrageous crap you were already thinking but way too shy to say. Is it creepy? Oh sure, but no more so than what's on any other guy's mind.

Weekday afternoons on 100.7-FM WMMS

Best Local TV Personality

Dick Goddard

The inventor of local weather just turned 80 this year, complete with a celebration that was long overdue. An Akron native and lifelong Northeast Ohioan, the unassuming Goddard so often flies under the StormFOX radar because he'd rather you know about the weather he watches and the causes he supports, most notably animal rights. Yes, weathermen tend not to forge particularly resounding legacies, but Dick Goddard's place in Cleveland is secure.

On Fox 8 TV


Best Local Sportscaster

Jim Donovan

It's been more than 25 years since the Boston native settled in on Cleveland's airwaves, and in that time Donovan has earned his reputation for straight-talking sportscasts and spine-tinglingly bonkers play-by-play. The longtime sports director for Channel 3, Donovan has served as the voice of the Cleveland Browns since 1999, stepping into a role previously held by the legendary Nev Chandler and quickly making it entirely his own. If only he had a better team to cover, his calls would be every bit as legendary.

On WKYC-TV Channel 3

Best TV News Team

Channel 3

The ever-classy Romona Robinson holds down the news desk at WKYC, but she had help here from an avalanche of votes for her weekday-morning counterparts. Mark Nolan and Hollie Strano, the twin gluttons for punishment who host the early show beginning each day at 4:30 (that's a.m.!), turned the tide in favor of Channel 3. Not sure whether anyone's actually watching at that hour, but readers seem to appreciate knowing that they could.

Best Area You'd Like to See Revitalized

The Flats

For those who didn't experience the Flats' entertainment heyday in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the tales of packed bars and day-and-night partying could be mistaken for the stuff of lore. But as the East Bank continues to crumble, the West Bank is percolating with activity — most notably the Improv comedy club's move to fresh new digs and the aquarium that will be tanked in the Powerhouse. Mighty visions abound for the East Bank too, giving reason to believe it's only a matter of time before the true stories of the Flats once again become the stuff of legend.

Best Local Landmark

Terminal Tower

Maybe it's the resurgence of downtown that returned our collective attention to the venerable monument at the center of it all. It was the second-tallest building in America at the time of its completion in 1928; and while it's no longer even the tallest building in its own home, the Terminal Tower's architectural grandeur has yet to be matched. It's perfectly fitting that the future casino of Cleveland's dreams will flank the skyscraper that birthed all our dreams.

50 Public Square; 216-621-6060

Best Suburb


There's a new energy coursing through Cleveland's western neighbor these days. It's an energy derived from residents young and old who share a determination to celebrate their city's countless virtues. Nowhere in Northeast Ohio do so many cultures mesh so harmoniously as they do in Lakewood. It's the perfect gathering place thanks in no small part to its wonderful restaurants, its rollicking bars and clubs, and its quirky small businesses that line every major street. And it's the perfect home thanks to its bountiful and hardy old houses and apartments, for its overachieving schools, its bucolic parks, and its pervasive sense of neighborhood pride and unity.

Best City Living

27 Coltman

A welcome splash of modernity in vintage Little Italy, the townhomes of 27 Coltman are beloved for their amenities and their convenience to all the bustle and excitement from University Circle to Coventry. Beginning at $327,000, each luxury home boasts a gourmet kitchen and master bath, and incorporates state-of-the-art energy-efficiency technology throughout. Just as enticing: The heavenly smells wafting in from Murray Hill's eateries don't cost you a penny.

East 119th and Coltman; 216-721-0027;

Best Troublemaker

Jimmy Dimora

We've learned about his penchant for favors and whores. But the main event surely awaits us: While disgraced Auditor Frank Russo quietly took his medicine from the Feds last year, our former Cuyahoga County commissioner, Democratic Party boss, and all-around skeevy guy has chosen to fight the corruption charges against him in court. That means more golden TV moments, more outrageous sound bites, and quite a few more thousand taxpayer dollars squeezed from you on Jimmy's time. Don't forget to enjoy it!

Coming to a federal courtroom near you in September.

Best Politician & Best Do-Gooder

Dennis Kucinich

He's the little guy who's out to stick it to the big guy, and we've all been cheering for that since our first Tom & Jerry cartoon. A consummate cage-rattler, Kucinich is fearless when it comes to championing the causes most dear to his constituents, from his anti-war initiatives to his crusades for social justice that catch the eye of all of liberal America. It's good for publicity, and even better come election season.

Best Famous Clevelander

Drew Carey

There's a lot less of him to love these days, but a slimmed-down Drew is still fat with pride for his forever hometown. He put our Polish beer halls on the map with The Drew Carey Show; now he's wrestled the skinny mic from legendary Bob Barker on The Price Is Right, injecting new energy into the world's best game show. Drew has long been a Hollywood star, but his heart still belongs to Cleveland. And Clevelanders, of course, are still quick to return the love.

Best Author

Les Roberts

If this particular category lacks an air of suspense, the winner's novels more than compensate. Long regarded as a literary all-star, Roberts made his bones in Hollywood, of all places — as producer for the original Hollywood Squares and classic comedies from Andy Griffith to The Lucy Show. But it's his series of mysteries revolving around Cleveland everyman Milan Jacovich that have endeared Roberts to the thousands of readers who hang on his every word. With novel names like Pepper Pike, Collision Bend, and A Shoot in Cleveland, there's no mystery as to where Roberts' heart lies either.


Best Website

Perhaps this one's just the tiniest bit rigged, given that you can't even vote without a visit to our humble site ... but we'll shamelessly pocket this trophy anyway. Thank you for helping us grow an online community devoted to exalting the wild, weird, and wonderful world of Northeast Ohio. We love you, Cleveland; thanks for loving us back.

Visit us at, and follow the foolishness via Facebook and Twitter

Best Playground for Kids

Lakewood Park

In a city where your neighbors reside almost as close as your own family, it's all the more important that kids get ample acreage to run. Expansive Lakewood Park, perched on a bluff overlooking Lake Erie in the center of town, is a wonderland of kid enticements, from the wooden playground with the pirate ship, to the region's best Skate Park, to the regular family-friendly parties, concerts, and movies that take place during summer weekends and evenings.

14532 Lake Ave., Lakewood;


Best Playground for Grown-Ups

Dave & Buster's

It looks, sounds, and smells like Vegas, but this nationwide arcade and restaurant is way more fun. When's the last time you played Donkey Kong at the Bellagio? There are plenty of games that reward your skills with tickets that can be redeemed for everything from plastic snakes to video-game consoles. But we prefer sitting behind the wheel of the racing sims with a big ol' mug of beer in our hands, because this is all about escape.

25735 First St., Westlake; 440-892-1415;

Best Bartender

Jeremy Bloom at the Nauti Mermaid

"We're like your neighborhood bar down on the corner, but we're in a downtown setting that you'll want to come back to." So says God's gift to liquor slingers, 30-year-old Jeremy Bloom, who has tended bar at the Nauti Mermaid since 2004. An advertisting student at Cleveland State, Jeremy holds down Thursday nights and weekends at the Warehouse District pub — but the workload could go up or down, depending on what happens after his graduation this spring. As for Jeremy's secret to winning your heart? "I'm willing to take care of somebody, you know — make them want to come back."

1378 West Sixth St.; 216-771-6175;

Best Inn, B&B, or Guest House

Glidden House

If your night away from home is all about extravagance, Glidden House is the place you want to be. A 1910 brick mansion in the heart of University Circle, the inn devotes its days to pampering guests visiting Case Western Reserve and other walkable institutions — but it also excels in special-occasion package deals and weddings, complete with an abundance of striking locales for photography. Essential to the Glidden House experience is a meal at Sergio's, the European-style restaurant that makes its home in the former Glidden carriage house.

1901 Ford Dr.; 216-231-8900;

Best Place to Be Seen

West Sixth Street

There are other districts that vie for attention, but the beautiful people — and those looking for them — still congregate in the heart of the Warehouse District. With an eclectic roster of clubs, including Velvet Dog and Barleyhouse, and urbane restaurants like Metro and Sushi Rock, West Sixth is a gallery of Cleveland's finest from happy hour through closing time.

Between Superior and Lakeside Aves. downtown;

Best Filmmaker

Wes Craven

An icon among modern horror filmmakers, Wes Craven has been turning stomachs since the early 1970s and churning out several bona fide classics of the genre in A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream. Though derided for their endless supply of sequels, the Cleveland native's best movies have proven to be more influential on popular culture — and young filmmakers — than anything made by his contemporaries. And as his career careens into its fifth decade, Craven is still cranking out the gore: Scream 4 lands in theaters in mid-April.

Best Place to Hold a Wedding

Windows on the River

Since 1990, this full-service events company has been a mainstay of the Powerhouse on the Flats' West Bank. Each of its banquet rooms — dubbed City View and Bridge View — offer gorgeous views of downtown and together can accommodate up to 1,000 guests. The arrival of Cleveland's aquarium on the first floor will only raise the profile of this prime spot for swapping nuptials.

2000 Sycamore St. in the Powerhouse; 216-861-1445;

Best Blog

The mission statement at Christopher Busta-Peck's blog says all you need to know: "We believe that the best way for Cleveland to move into the future is to engage with the past. Let us be your guide to those local people, places, and events that made Cleveland and Northeast Ohio unique." Through archival research and photography, Clevelandareahistory pauses for reflection on the dormant structures — and their stories — we pass each day without spending a moment of thought; in this way, the history that's so often silenced finally gets a voice of its own. As Cleveland plows forward into its post-industrial age, this is a fitting, living tribute to the people who got us this far.

Best College or University

Case Western Reserve

World-class education in a setting straight out of a collegiate fairytale? It's no wonder Case tops all challengers when it comes to area institutions of higher learning. Internationally renowned for its programs ranging from medicine to business to law, Case preps its students for prosperity and immerses them along the way in a setting steeped in cultural riches.

10900 Euclid Ave.; 216-368-2000;

Best Cemetery

Lake View Cemetery

The self-styled "Outdoor Museum and Arboretum" near Little Italy is also the final resting place of James A. Garfield, John D. Rockefeller, and Eliot Ness. It could be your final resting place too: more than 70 undeveloped acres remain, enough to plant former folks for another century.

12316 Euclid Ave.; 216-421-2665;


Best Urban Farmer

Tim Smith

Two years ago, Tim Smith was screening documentaries for the Cleveland International Film Festival when he saw one that featured an urban greenhouse project in Milwaukee dedicated to providing healthy, affordable food to inner-city residents. "That's what I want to do with the rest of my life," he said, then he set about making the Cleveland Greenhouse Project — now renamed Community Greenhouse Partners in anticipation of eventual expansion — a reality. He assembled a team of believers with skills ranging from fundraising to aquaponics. And after 18 months of searching for a suitable site, he struck a deal late last year with the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland to purchase the closed St. George parish property, where work is progressing toward GCP's first growing season.

Best Sustainability Champion

Great Lakes Brewing Co.

The titan of local brewing says it all with its house policy known as the "Triple Bottom Line": Great Lakes is dedicated to making its money via means that are economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable for the community it serves. Likewise, the nonprofit Burning River Foundation is devoted to education on sustainability issues, and other efforts include locally grown organic crops, recycling, and use of alternative fuels. Perhaps best of all are Great Lakes' more conventional fuels: the beers that make Clevelanders swoon.

2516 Market Ave.; 216-771-4404;

Best YouTube Video

Parma State of Mind

Chad Zumock of WMMS' Alan Cox Show concocted this twisted ode to Parma that took on a life of its own on YouTube. A knockoff of "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, "Parma" name-checks everything from Rent-a-Center strip malls to ubiquitous 10-cent wings and dollar drafts. "Can't front on this, Strongsville." No doubt.

Best Comedian

Mike Polk

The Kent State grad and co-founder of the Last Call Cleveland comedy troupe has reconfigured his comedy empire as a YouTube sensation — amassing some 20 million views with an assortment of video strangeness. There was "One Semester of Spanish — Love Song," an ode to Kim Kardashian that blew up on Telemundo; then there was "Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video," which blew up here. His new stand-up CD, No One's Even Listening, came out earlier this year, and Polk is about to hit the stage again in early April — in the title role of Last Call's Michael Stanley Superstar, a demented rock opera that puts the ass in "cult classic."

Best School District

Rocky River

Take a peek at the key numbers here and you might swear this was a private school system: 9 out of 10 students who pass through the halls of Rocky River advance to college. It achieved the highest possible ranking — "Excellent With Distinction" — on the most recent annual State of Ohio Report Card. And it blends a small-school atmosphere with the programs of a much larger district. River has implemented a series of objectives with a target of 2014 — and it appears they've arrived there a handful of years ahead of schedule.

21600 Center Ridge Rd., Rocky River; 440-333-6000;

Best Entrepreneur

Matt Fish of Melt

Sometimes the most brilliant ideas are the ones that seem so simple. Matt Fish had only modest expectations for his grilled cheese and brewski enterprise in Lakewood. What's resulted is a food phenomenon the likes of which cable TV can't even comprehend. With a Cleveland Heights location joining the Lakewood flagship, and a third Independence spot slated to launch this fall, Melt has enslaved the taste buds of Northeast Ohio and provided employment for nearly 200 locals. It's sheer brilliance that Fish would pair Cleveland and beer and cheese this way — and remarkable that it took three centuries to think of.

14718 Detroit Ave., Lakewood; 216-226-3699

13463 Cedar Rd., Cleveland Heights; 216-965-0988

Best Scenic Drive

Cleveland Metroparks

In how many cities can you duck off the urban path and be eyeing deer and majestic stone formations within minutes? There are sometimes quicker ways to get where you're going, but there's never a more bucolic way to get there than a leisurely trip through the Metroparks. Which route to take? It hardly matters. Bask in all of nature's beauty, but keep an eye out for bikers and joggers. They're allowed to soak in the scenery too, after all.

Best Place for People Watching

Tower City

Though it goes quiet after quitting time, midday at Tower City is a Whitman's Sampler of humanity — from professionals to panhandlers to tourists, and every flavor in between. We still dream of Tower City nightlife, but till then there's plenty to take in during the day.

230 West Huron Rd.; 216-623-4750;

Best Kept Secret

Loganberry Books

The secret here isn't necessarily the expansive collection of old and new books; it's more about the vitality of Harriett Logan's circa 1994 store — from the musical performances and artist visits, to the book club meetings and social group gatherings that fill the sun-dappled space with joy and warmth on a regular basis.

13015 Larchmere Blvd., Shaker Heights; 216-795-9800;

Best Place to Take the Kids

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

You ever schlepped your family to the zoo in some other cut-rate metropolis around the country? Try it once — or don't! — and you'll fall in love with Cleveland's zoo all over again. What sets it apart? Its sprawling grounds and countless exhibits that truly feel one with their surroundings, unlike the procession of cages that make up so many other parks. There's the sheer mind-boggling breadth of different creatures awaiting your visit, the countless kiddie attractions that keep the fun rolling long after the bears and giraffes lose their charm. There's the all-weather appeal, from bucolic summer days spent strolling the park to cozy winters defrosting in the Rainforest. And there's a zillion other reasons to love Cleveland's zoo, but maybe none so potent as this: A year-long family membership will set you back no more than what you'd blow on one forgettable day at the movies. But forget the memories you'll make at the zoo? Nope, ain't ever going to happen.

3900 Wildlife Way; 216-661-6500;

Best Jewelry Maker

Erika Originals

You might say the works of Lakewood artist Erika Laine Hansen are wearable little pieces of modern art, but each one traces its origins to something decidedly vintage: old skeleton keys, trinkets, maps, and other found materials that she unites with her handmade glass beadwork. The results are unique necklaces and other jewelry that's making a splash in area shops and shows.


Best Museum

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

The first time anyone uttered the words rock & roll museum, there was surely some righteous weed circulating the room. But between those decades-old dreams and our modern reality on the lakefront, the notion of a rock museum has matured beyond belief. Dedicated to educating the world on the history, significance, and continued influence of rock music — and, not incidentally, to be perhaps the most fun you'll ever have at a museum — our beloved Rock Hall has become an iconic symbol of Cleveland, a linchpin of our cultural community, and the first thing visitors crave when they set foot on our fair shores.

1100 Rock and Roll Blvd.; 216-781-ROCK;

Best Cleveland Neighborhood & Best New Place to Live


In the first half of the 19th century, Tremont came into maturity thanks to the effort of incoming Irish and Germans, Poles and Russians who migrated here and constructed what are still some of the region's most inviting homes and breathtaking churches. With its blend of vintage architecture and upscale new housing, its bohemian vibe fueled by art galleries and other small businesses, its reputation for good times after hours, and its veritable army of outstanding chefs and eateries, it's no wonder that everyone who isn't in Tremont is clamoring to get there. It's good news for all that competition is cropping up in burgeoning neighborhoods all over town, but venerable Tremont will always hold a special place in Clevelanders' hearts.

Best Photographer

Herb Ascherman

If modern gadgets have made everyone a photographer, they have also accentuated the artistry of Cleveland's Herbert Ascherman Jr. A black-and-white portraiture specialist whose career has spanned four decades, Ascherman favors platinum printing, the 140-year-old process by which a negative of the image is placed on platinum-coated paper and exposed to ultraviolet light. You don't find that at the Walgreens photo lab, and talents like Ascherman are equally rare.


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