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Collinwood 

click to enlarge Good times and smiles at the Waterloo Arts Fest

Photo by Bridget Caswell

Good times and smiles at the Waterloo Arts Fest

During the early half of the 20th century, Italian and Slovenian immigrants gravitated toward and settled in the industrial hub of Collinwood, creating an enclave with a vibrant culture. The neighborhood's population evolved and changed post-World War II, as societal and employment shifts reverberated throughout Cleveland, although Collinwood emerged from decades of turmoil as a community that's firmly on an upswing. In fact, the area's tight-knit feeling has grown stronger than ever today, thanks to business district merchants, and a thriving arts scene, that support one another's endeavors.

Must Eat

The motto at Citizen Pie (15710 Waterloo Rd.) is "Pizza for the people," although the slogan could easily be revised to "Perfect pizza for the people." The cozy restaurant's simple Neapolitan pies are created using traditional ingredients and cooking processes, which ensure they're uncommonly decadent 'zas. Seating can be at a premium in the storefront, which is directly across the street from the Beachland, but nobody will judge if you stand around outside and dig into a slice while the pizza is piping hot.

Must Drink

Only in Ohio would a neighborhood bar take its name from a president of the United States, and a Whig Party die-hard at that, who only ascended to the position because Zachary Taylor died while in office. But the 13th president actually doesn't have a library of his own, making the Millard Fillmore Presidential Library (15617 Waterloo Rd.) — a musical mecca with open-mic nights, monthly vinyl spins and local bands playing on the weekends — something rather special indeed. Reasonable beer prices and a welcoming atmosphere make it a great spot for a pre-Beachland drink, or a low-key place to unwind and catch some tunes.

Must See

Neighborhood anchor Waterloo Arts Gallery (15605 Waterloo Rd.) isn't just the biggest supporter of Collinwood's growing arts district: It's also a vocal champion for all of Northeast Ohio's burgeoning arts scene. That's obvious in the mind-expanding exhibits that cycle through the gallery in a given year — all of which encompass diverse mediums and approaches — and the community-oriented way it approaches operations. After all, few organizations would dare to combine their annual meeting with a Valentine's Day card-making party — a welcoming, transparent gesture that makes the public feel connected to both the gallery and culture at large.

Must Do

There's no better way to get to know the ins and outs of the neighborhood than by attending Walk All Over Waterloo. Held the first Friday of every month, even during the winter months, the event highlights what's cooking in Collinwood: art gallery openings and shows, local musicians, new community initiatives, and retail shops. Think of Walk All Over Waterloo as a giant organized block party — only the entire city is invited.

Visit

Space: ROCK—an initiative of the nonprofit Cleveland Rocks: Past, Present & Future—has a very specific mission: The gallery aims to preserve and tell the stories of Cleveland's rich music and cultural history via the lens of photography. In practice, this can include burlesque photos; raw and gritty snaps encapsulating the city's vibrant modern punk rock scene; and a variety of awe-inspiring live and posed professional concert shots captured by the city's many hard-working shutterbugs.

Brunch

Sure, everyone knows that the Beachland is one of the premier places to catch a concert in Cleveland. But the Sunday brunch in the Beachland Tavern also ranks among the best in the city, especially if your Saturday night was a wild one. The vegan-friendly menu contains filling fare such as homemade biscuits smothered in gravy and strong bloody marys, while a rotating cast of DJs spins good tunes to make your hangover seem like a distant memory.

Shop

Well before the vinyl boom, Blue Arrow Records set up shop on Waterloo Road and started slinging wax to discerning music customers. Now that records are all the rage, the well-stocked store is a crate-digging heaven full of rarities and staples alike. Despite its name, Blue Arrow carries a small selection of CDs, books and magazines—although, best of all, the store is also home to several adorable cats, who aren't shy about cuddling up to customers as they look for a deal.

Shop

Retro fiends saddened by Big Fun shutting its doors can sleep a little easier at night. That's thanks to the existence of STAR POP Vintage & Modern, which resembles the kind of treasure-crammed toy stores popular during the '80s or '90s. In fact, the vintage-leaning threads and tchotchkes hit the nostalgia bull's-eye—whether you're looking for Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure-themed action figures, 8-bit NES games or that perfect, worn-in throwback tee.

Learn

You're never too old to learn a new craft. That's especially true thanks to the arts classes offered by two Collinwood gems, Praxis FIber Workshop and BRICK Ceramic & Design Studio. The former offers all-ages night classes in weaving, fabric dyeing, and the knitting machine. The latter offers ceramics-related classes, including a Friday night potter's wheel class that offers individualized instruction and the chance to make several souvenirs to take home.

Eat

Cleveland has no shortage of places to dig into hearty comfort food. However, the Standard is better than most at whipping up the kind of satiating, belly-busting meals for which the city is known. Start with an appetizer of plump Arancini or smoked Slovenian sausage; throw in a bowl of gooey mac and cheese or short rib stroganoff; and finish things off with a decadent dessert or frosty draft beer.

Eat

Don't let the minimal menu at this Trinidadian restaurant fool you: Every dish on the menu is delicious, authentic and worth a try. There's house-recipe roti stuffed with curried chicken or tofu (or, on a similar note, the bus up shut—a.k.a. paratha roti, a traditional bread with similar fixings) and favorites such as Caribbean nachos. Callaloo also has live music on the weekends, so stop in for a drink and soak up the atmosphere.

Drink

Collinwood residents looking for a java jolt have a dynamite place to call their own, courtesy of a café run by the small-batch local roaster Six Shooter Coffee. Opened in 2015, the comfy space offers the all-important free Wi-Fi with a purchase—which is easy to do, between the kombucha on tap; bagels, vegan treats and pastries sourced from local bakeries; and, of course, a comprehensive coffee menu.

Dance

Who says polka music is going the way of the dinosaur? Certainly not Collinwood—and definitely not the Slovenian Workmen's Home, whose Waterloo Ballroom is known to host Sunday afternoon polka dances with local musicians, food and a cash bar. Check their Facebook page for the latest schedule. Oh, and as an added bonus: The Slovenian Workmen's Home also holds popular (and delicious) Friday fish fries, even when it isn't Lent.

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