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Two Days In Cleveland {Road Trip Roundup}

Last weekend, Alex, Lil and I travelled to Cleveland for a quick getaway. In a matter of 48 hours we dined at Noodlecat, cooked yakitori with Chef Jonathon Sawyer, visited the Great Lakes Science Center, stayed in a very interesting Marriott Residence Inn hotel, shared a late night bite at The Greenhouse Tavern, explored the Cleveland Natural History Museum, and ate at Great Lakes Brewing Company Brewpub. I did not intend to write about our experiences so I left the big camera in the hotel room and just enjoyed the days. But too many things were too great not to share, so I illustrated this recap of our trip with phone pictures. Enjoy!

noodlecat bar with Japanese toys


(comments by Alex and Lil)

1. Very fun quirky restaurant. Lil loved the Noodlecat logo. 2. Service was excellent and the wait-staff was very kid-friendly. 3. The food was creative and yummy. I very much liked the miso bbq chicken wings and Lil loved her soba noodles with butter and poached chicken. 4. My udon dish was very well done and nicely spicy even though udon is somewhat unappealing to me personally. 5. The restaurant is very convenient to downtown hotels and other attractions. 6. The Greenhouse Lager (by Great Lakes Brewing Company) is a very nice crisp and clean lager. It went very well with the spicy fare.

Science Center

(comments by Alex and Lil)

1. It was a very easy walk from the downtown restaurant and hotel area. 2. The reciprocal membership with COSI was a very nice thing to have as we were able to explore the museum for free. 3. We were there late in the day so quite a few things were closed. Also as it is winter, the outdoor exhibits were not open. 4. The second floor has a discovery area with dozens of different displays. These range from sound-based to motion or light based. Simple circuits are explored and magnetism is presented in an approachable manner. 5. All of the exhibits allow you to interact and experiment with the setups. 6. All of the exhibits are easily child-accessible. 7. There is more than enough there to keep adults occupied as well.

freshstreet yakitori rachel tayse jonathon sawyerfreshstreet yakitori rachel tayse

Freshstreet Japanese Festival

While Alex and Lil dined and museumed, I made skewer after skewer of tongue, short ribs, chicken thigh and scallion, pork belly, and pork cheeks in the back of the Noodlecat kitchen. I helped Kenny and Misako from Freshstreet transform the front of the house into a Japanese street festival feel with Japanese masks, toys, hand-written signs, and games.

When guests began to arrive, I grilled skewers over bincho-tan charcoal with Chef Jonathon Sawyer, one of Food & Wine Magazines’ Best New Chefs and recent Iron Chef contestant. We chatted a bit as we cooked but mostly worked to be sure the yakitori skewers were at their best for the party-goers. I had a blast!

Read Columbus Crave and Kristian's post for more pictures of the food and decor. Thanks to Bethia Woolf of Columbus Adventures for sharing the pictures above.

Greenhouse Tavern

After service and clean up, I was tired but wanting to wind down from the night. I met Jason, mastermind behind Thunderkiss coffee, and his wife Emily at the Greenhouse Tavern bar. Though I had munched on several yakitori skewers, I left room for a midnight snack. GHT's gravy fries did not disappoint. Thick, black pepper-spiced gravy smoothered the hand-cut fries and hand-made mozzarella curds. If anything there was too much gravy, but it's hard to complain about something so delicious.

The thorough and soft-spoken bar manager (I'm sorry I didn't catch his name) made me the best French 75 I've ever tasted with Cleveland's own Tom's Foolery Applejack. The drink, as well as conversation with him about the state of Ohio spirits, was just what I needed to relax after a busy day.

Residence Inn Downtown

Alex is a Marriott gold star super elite fancy pants reward member, so he naturally selected a Marriott brand hotel for the night. For family trips, he usually chooses the Residence Inn brand because they have a mini kitchen, snacks, breakfast, and often a door between bedroom and sitting area so the adults can chat after kid bedtime.

The Cleveland Downtown Residence Inn was a bit difficult to find but turned out to be a hidden treasure. It is a renovated century old hotel that spans a whole city block. This hotel had stained glass windows, antique marble walkways, and an open shopping arcade.

Thanks to Mr. Points and a slow night, the manager upgraded Alex to the largest room in the hotel. The square footage was nearly as large as our whole house! Lil was delighted to occupy her own bedroom and bathroom. The manager even let Alex know that no one was staying in the adjacent rooms so Lil could run around if she wanted to. (And you know she did!)

Even without the upgrade, this Residence Inn is a recommended accommodation: it has the beauty of a vintage city hotel with all the modern amenities a family could want. Plus, it's in the middle of everything - one can walk to the stadiums, science center, and both Jonathon Sawyer restaurants.

climbing stegasaur natural history museum

Cleveland Natural History Museum

The Cleveland Natural History Museum is nestled behind a brass stegosaurus, life-size Linnaeus likeness and oversize sundial on University Circle. When we finally entered the museum after thirty minutes of viewing the outdoor sculptures, we were greeted by a staff person holding a tame opossum. You might remember how we feel about opossums, yet we all pet Daisy and studied her prehensile tail.

We wandered into the hall of Humans & Nature next. This was a brilliantly designed collection of taxidermy animals alongside geographically paired human artifacts. Lil enjoyed the dioramas while Alex and I stood slack-jawed at the quantity and beautifully displayed variety of creatures. We studied Balto up close, one of our favorite characters from modern history.

Lil, Rachel and balto at cleveland natural history museum
Next up we took in the human evolution exhibit. Again we were stunned at the thoughtful presentation of information - this exhibit, more than any other I've seen on the subject, simply conveys the evidence and process of evolution.

Thanks to the unseasonably warm weather, we were able to spend a half hour enjoying the outdoor Wildlife Center. Populated with wild creatures that can be found in Ohio, we were able to see raptors, river otters, and mammals up close. We especially enjoyed communicating with the two crows, birds that for some reason avoid our very dense neighborhood. This area reminded me of the Ohio State Fair ODNR wildlife exhibit without the fair food smell and crowds.

Finally we made our way to the cafe for lunch. Here is where the museum fell flat as the choices were limited to lunchmeat sandwiches, fries, uninspired salads and soda vending machines. We were very hungry but didn't want to spend usury rates for something we wouldn't enjoy, so we mired in indecision. Lil had a little bit of a breakdown.

Fortunately, a travelling exhibit of Antarctic photographs calmed us all down enough to make the decision to leave for another lunch spot. Before we left, we watched a portion of a TedX talk by the photographer Paul Nicklen about his amazing encounter with a seal.

Great Lakes Brewpub

Knowing we were all very hungry and wanted a restaurant with healthy options, we opted for a known quality restaurant, Great Lakes Brewpub. This was our third visit to Great Lakes Brewpub in the last decade.

The wide menu features plenty of from-scratch recipes we wanted to try. We started with the charcuterie and cheese plate. Filled with treats from the nearby West Side Market and in-house cured compliments, the plate was a winner and served as Lil's lunch. I tried the vegan burger and salad, both of which were lacking in enough textural variety to make them exciting but amounted to a filling and healthy meal. Alex chose the special, a Cuban sandwich and excellent Parmesan crusted fries.

Our trip was a whirlwind two days that did more to fill us with desire to return than to come home. We want to go back in the spring when we can finish exploring the Natural History Museum, see the outdoor exhibits at the Science Center, visit the art museum, and perhaps check out the new aquarium.

We have to conclude that Cleveland rocks! Have you ever been? What do you enjoy in CLE?

Noodlecat Restaurant 234 Euclid Avenue Cleveland, Ohio 44114 216 589 0007

Great Lakes Science Center 601 Erieside Ave. Cleveland, OH 44114 (216) 694-2000

Residence Inn Downtown Cleveland 527 Prospect Avenue East Cleveland, Ohio 44115 USA 1-216-443-9043

The Greenhouse Tavern 2038 E 4th Street, Cleveland, OH 44115 216-443-0511

Cleveland Natural History Museum 1 Wade Oval Drive University Circle Cleveland OH 44106-1767 U.S.A. 216.231.4600 | 800.317.9155

Great Lakes Brewing Company & Brewpup 2516 Market Avenue Cleveland, Ohio 44113 216.771.4404