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A Day at the West Side Market in Cleveland

January 17th, 2009

Yesterday, Mr Chiots had a meeting in Cleveland, so I took advantage and tagged along so I could go to the West Side Market.

The WEST SIDE MARKET, Cleveland’s oldest publicly owned market, began in 1840 when JOSIAH BARBER and RICHARD LORD gave OHIO CITY (CITY OF OHIO) a tract of land at the corner of Pearl (W. 25th) and Lorain streets with the stipulation that it always be kept as a public market site. Additional gifts of land enabled the marketplace to expand, and in 1868 the wooden, 1-story Pearl St. Market was erected on the site. As the city’s population increased, the markethouse became inadequate. In 1902 the city purchased a site for a new market across the street from the old one. A new $680,000 markethouse designed by the firm of HUBBELL & BENES was dedicated in 1912–a massive yellow-brick building with an interior concourse providing room for 100 stalls, an outdoor arcade with 85 stands, and a large clock tower.

Going to a market like this is much different than going to a supermarket. People aren’t here to get the latest tasty boxed pre-made product made by company X. They’re here to get fresh ingredients to make delicious homemade meals.
The air is filled with respect and appreciation for good quality ingredients. The inspiration starts in the parking lot when you pull up to the beautiful old building with the big clock tower. It’s a beautiful building full of charm, just the way a market should be. No sale banners or carts in sight, just fresh food and a lot of reusable shopping bags.
It is also evidenced in the produce wing outside. All the fresh ingredients are lined up to show off their best qualities. Salesmen arrange their produce to look it’s very best, taking pride in their wares.
There were potatoes of all shapes, colors and sizes; organic garlic and onions, shallots, lettuces, and exotic things from from afar. I saw kumquats, star fruit (carambola as we called them in Colombia), lemons, limes and every other kind of citrus; along with some delicious earthy mushrooms, shiitake, portabela and a few other kinds, just waiting to me make into the mushroom bourguignon I saw on Smitten Kitchen yesterday. You’ll be able to find pretty much any ingredient you need, whether you’re making humble comfort food or an exotic ethnic dish.
Once you head inside the building, you’ll be greeting by beautiful architecture that seems to silence the hustle and bustle of the crowds below. After you’re finished admiring the building, it’s on to the stalls to see what everyone has in stock today.
You can choose from all kinds of meat not available at your neighborhood grocery store, like rabbit, goat, buffalo, ostrich (and I’m sure there are a few more); there is also the usual beef, pork and chicken galore. Any kind of smoked, cured lunchmeat or sausage can be found at the various stalls. Some apple cured bacon and ham made it into my bag.
You can buy sea creatures big and small, from fresh water lakes to the depths of the oceans; all strange looking creatures to be sure. I was hoping to buy a few things to make bouillabaisse, but I’m too busy for the next few days, so I had to leave that for my next trip.
One side of the market is filled with cheeses of all types; smoked, aged, yellow, white, green and blue. Many had odd names, but a few familiar ones could be found. You can buy fresh local milks, from pastured happy cows, along with yogurts and butters from near and far. They even had goat milk cheeses and butter from a small goat farm on the outskirts of the Cleveland. Some delicious aged provolone was a perfect match to the apple cured ham.
The bakery stalls were brimming with crusty artisan breads, bagels, cookies, cakes (even a double stout Guinness chocolate cake) and every kind of sweet confection you’ve ever dreamed of. A few rustic country baguettes were the perfect accompanyment to our ham and cheese for our lunch on the go.
Since I love to cook and use local quality ingredients this place is right up my alley, but even for the non-foodie it’s a fascinating place to visit. If you’re ever in Cleveland head on down to the West Side Market, you’ll be in for a treat.

We always try to find the local fresh markets when we’re on vacation in other parts of the country or the world. Pike Place Market is Seattle is a wonderful place, as is North Place Market in Columbus, and Findlay Market in Cincinnati. Whenever you find the local market, you’ll be in for a big treat. You may even find something exciting like the cayenne or salty caramel ice cream you can find in Columbus at Jeni’s Ice Cream.
Mr Chiots and I took these photos of the Pike Place Market in Seattle on our honeymoon 11 years ago.

Is there a market like this close you your home? Do you visit it frequently? If I’m ever in your area I’ll be sure to check it out!

8 Comments to “A Day at the West Side Market in Cleveland”
  1. Judy on January 17, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Oh, what a beautiful place. I so wish we had a year round market here. Our usual spring/summer/fall farmer’s market is actually located on the lower level of a parking ramp, nice when it’s raining but not visually appealing other than the produce. When we lived in Richmond, VA they had a beautiful open air market near downtown that we loved to frequent.

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  2. Kelly on January 17, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    Beautiful pictures Susy – so many wonderful colors and shapes – the market looks GREAT!

    Reply to Kelly's comment

  3. Michael on January 18, 2009 at 1:18 pm


    If you ever make it back to Seattle, you should check out some of the weekly neighborhood farmers markets that take place throughout the city. I think they provide an even better venue than Pike Place Market for farmers to sell direct to the public. My favorite is the Ballard Farmers Market, because Ballard is my neighborhood and it operates year-round.

    You can check out these websites:



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  4. Susy on January 18, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    Thanks Mike, I sure will. Mr Chiots and I hope to go back soon for a visit (we have been twice). Thanks for the website, I’ll make sure to bookmark those in my travel folder.

    The last time we went to Seattle, we went to all of the non-chain ice cream shops listed in the top 10 list. We made it to some great little ice cream shops in a few very interesting neighborhoods.

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  5. Mangochild on January 19, 2009 at 4:30 am

    I wish I could come visit that market! We have a year-round market in New Haven, CT that is quite large in the summer and even a decent size in the winter, but nothing like those pics that you’ve posted. Info is here:
    You’re right, the atmosphere of markets like these is so different from the supermarket “in out product X” mentality. Almost as if the food takes on its own life to grab the people. Food doing the inspiring with its freshness to decide the meal if that makes sense.

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  6. warren on January 19, 2009 at 10:34 am

    I have been to Cleveland lots but I never knew you had sun there! I have never seen it, especially in the winter! Congrats! Looks like a great day!

    Reply to warren's comment

  7. Susy on January 19, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Oh yes Warren, we don’t see much sun in the winter here in NE Ohio. On this day it was sunny but the temp was -13. BRRRRRRR.

    Reply to Susy's comment

  8. Krista on January 19, 2009 at 2:39 pm feel a field my future. Bryant is preparing for college auditions ..these days we go to Cleveland weekly.. for acting and voice… now mom has …some place new to go! yipee! Thanks for this post, I love it!

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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