Cleveland, Ohio has seen more highs and lows than most places in the world. It’s been called “The Mistake by the Lake” by those who choose to focus on its hard times, and it’s been called “The Rock and Roll Capital of the World” by those who focus on the city’s positives. Indeed, few American cities embrace contradictions like the Sixth City. Cleveland made its way through the tough times of the 1970s and 1980s, and it’s now one of the brightest spots on the Great Lakes.
Tremendous economic revival in Cleveland has been boosted by the redevelopment of the lakeshore, significant investment in both industry and the arts, and of course, the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in the mid 1990s. Still, the city is dogged by some negative impressions. Clevelanders know that living in a place that’s seen such highs and lows imparts a certain knowledge in its natives and residents. They are a bit more hale and hardy, a bit more wise economically, and even a bit tougher than the average American. Here are ten things only people from Cleveland understand
1. If you stay loyal, your sports teams will reward your loyalty…eventually.
Being a fan of one or any of Cleveland’s professional sports teams is often a thankless job. Let’s start with the Browns: the NFL franchise has had a dismal record in recent memory, with no playoff wins, let alone championships. The Cleveland Indians baseball team has fared slightly better; after a 1948 World Series win, the team went through a long dry spell before a good run in the late 1990s and an American League Pennant in 2016. Finally the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA team was a source of heartbreak for many years, with several losses in the finals before winning it all in 2016.
2. They’re still calling it The Jake.
Jacobs Field was built in Cleveland in 1994. Clevelanders quickly began referring to it as “The Jake,” and until 2008, it was the home field of the Cleveland Indians. The site is still where the Indians play ball, but the team sold the naming rights to the stadium to Progressive Insurance, and starting in the 2009 season, it was officially renamed Progressive Field. Old habits die hard, though, and you’d be hard pressed to find a Cleveland native who refers to the ballpark by it’s official name. It’s The Jake — period.
3. Winter isn’t just a season — it’s a way of life for half the year.
You’re not likely to encounter a hurricane in Cleveland, or an earthquake, but blizzards in the winter months are a common occurrence. It gets pretty cold, often below the freezing point. Plus, there’s lots of snow, thanks to lake effect from Lake Erie, and it can total 100 inches or more on particularly rough years. And while such extreme cold may sound miserable to those who aren’t from Cleveland, natives just put on their woolies, strap on their boots, zip up their parkas, and go about their lives.
4. Michael Symon may be an Iron Chef, but he’s also responsible for putting Cleveland on the culinary map.
The James Beard Award winner is a Cleveland native, and he stuck to his hometown when it came time to open his own high end restaurant. He owns several well regarded eateries in the city, including Lola, Lolita, and The B Spot, a burger joint. Yes, he’s branched out to other cities, but unlike many celebrity chefs who head to New York, Orlando, or Las Vegas, Symon chose an equally hardy midwestern city: Detroit. The man can cook, and he’s proud of his roots.
5. Life is too short to drink bad beer.
Bud, Miller, Coors: step aside. With more than 15 small breweries in Cleveland, mass produced beer doesn’t stand a chance. There’s the well known Great Lakes Brewing Company, but there’s also lesser known micros like Rocky River Brewing, Buckeye Brewing, and a dozen more. In fact, residents of the city loves beer so much that there’s a Cleveland Beer Week each October, featuring tastings, socials, pub crawls, and more. In Cleveland, good beer isn’t just an option — it’s a way of life.
6. A Polish Boy is not a small child from Warsaw.
Cleveland’s unofficial signature dish is a Polish Boy, a sloppy mess of a kielbasa sausage served hot dog style on a bun and topped with hot sauce, coleslaw, and French fries. Yes, the fries go on the bun. It’s a total diet killer and a cholesterol bomb, but it totally hits the spot. It’s lunch or dinner when you’re craving salt, it’s perfect for drunken late nights, and it’s been known to help cure a nasty hangover. Just be sure to order it by name, because when you say the words “Polish Boy” in Cleveland, no one will think you’re talking about a young male of Eastern European descent.
7. Everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.
About 10% of Cleveland’s population identifies as Irish, but on St. Patrick’s Day, that number is significantly higher. The city hosts a huge parade on March 17, and restaurants and bars in the downtown area are usually serving up tons of beer and corned beef. If you find yourself in Cleveland in mid-March, wear your best green and put on your lucky hat: this is one city that knows how to properly honor Ireland’s patron saint.
8. Cleveland is really Music City, USA.
Yeah yeah, we know that Nashville has laid claim to that nickname, but when it comes to Rock and Roll, that most American of musical genres, Cleveland is where you want to go. The phrase itself was first uttered in Cleveland, and the first rock and roll show was held there as well, but most importantly, Cleveland is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. So forget Nashville, forget Detroit, and forget New York and LA; if you want some real rock and roll, head to Cleveland.
9. That Cleveland Rocks song wasn’t written by Drew Carey.
It’s fun to sing along with, and most of the world knows it as the theme song to the later seasons of “The Drew Carey Show,” but “Cleveland Rocks” was actually first released in 1979. Written by Ian Hunter (formerly of Mott the Hoople), the track is an uplifting and raucous paean to the city, penned at a time when people were pretty down on it.
10. It’s no longer the Mistake by the Lake.
Cleveland is truly a great place to live, with a vibrant downtown, thriving economy, and a surprisingly affordable cost of living. It offers everything you could want from a big American city and then some, with minimal drawbacks.