Saturday, February 6, 2016

Welcome to Cleveland with Westin Downtown

After a major renovation, The Westin Downtown Cleveland offered to flew me to the Ohio city to write about the hotel.

It had been years since I had even been there, and I was anxious to see what the city was doing in preparation for the 2016 Republican National Convention, so it didn’t take me long to accept the opportunity.

It was my first time flying into Cleveland and I quickly learned that this town has its priorities straight. It’s all about the food and the music, with top chefs producing the former and music’s most famous museum hosting the latter.

A sign greeted me the minute I walked out the door of the airport announcing the 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Exhibit. (The 2016 Exhibit will be up soon and I look forward to seeing it.)

As much as I would have loved to go straight there, I was waiting for my ride from Christopher Moore of the Cleveland Tourism Board.

I made a quick stop at The Westin Cleveland Downtown to check into my room. The hotel is indeed impressive, with over 1,500 works of art added during its $20 million renovation.

My one-bedroom suite was also magnificent and offered breathtaking views of the Cleveland waterfront.

The living room was modern and well-equipped for business or pleasure.

The only thing I didn’t like was something I’m seeing all too often in hotels – the lack of a bathtub. I will never get used to this trend.

I had a little while to unpack before Christopher picked me up for lunch.

I had hoped to get in touch with Michael Symon, who had told me to come visit Lola when I interviewed him, but he was not available and Christopher suggested I might like Greenhouse Tavern. He was not wrong.

Greenhouse Tavern was, ironically, right next to Lola on East 4th street. This pedestrian-friendly street is closed to traffic and open to outdoor seating for fun restaurants, music, and comedy clubs.

Jonathon Sawyer had won a James Beard award for Greenhouse Tavern, with indoor and outdoor seating and a very relaxing feel.

A cocktail seemed appropriate to start and I made a great choice ordering the Pineapple-Chili Margarita. It was flavorful, but not overly spicy.

Everything on the menu looked wonderful and I took some ques from my host.

For an appetizer, we shared orders of the Crispy Chicken Wings Confit, a beet salad, and Pomme Frites, both of which were excellent. Then it was on to the main dish.

The Pulled Barbecue Mushroom sandwich has been recognized throughout the country by vegans and vegetarians. With the barbecue sauce and Carolina coleslaw is sounded amazing.

I did keep it out of the vegan category by adding some cheddar, but it’s hard for me to turn down cheese on anything.

After lunch, I decided to walk back to the hotel so I could explore the area a bit.

I really liked East 4th Street and knew I’d like to come back some time to enjoy a night of exploring the Martini Bar, Lolas, and a show or two.

I took a walk through The Arcade. At first I thought it was some type of entertainment venue, but I soon learned it was more of a mall, with shops and restaurants, in a historic building.

I then went through the 5th Street Arcade, where I enjoyed browsing through the smaller shops – and picking up some treats at Colossal Cupcakes.

My chocolate with cream cheese frosting cupcake didn’t last long when I got back to the room.

I got some work done and then headed down to the Urban Farmer, the restaurant at The Westin Cleveland Downtown dedicated to locally sourced food.

I often sit at the bar when dining alone and this one was very friendly. I was overwhelmed with choices, starting with the cocktail menu, but I didn’t have to drive and I had nowhere to go, so I figured I’d take my time.

My first libation was the “Devil in a Blue Dress.” It is made with infused Mount Gay Rum with blueberries, lavender, simple syrup, and soda. I loved the fruit and floral combination.

There were so many things on the menu that sounded delicious I decided to order a few small things rather than a full dinner.

I didn’t realize my “small” dishes weren’t quite so tiny, but I did my best not to leave too much.

The vegetable salad was a fresh, unusual, and tasty start. It was followed by a creamy mac and cheese, and a cheesy broccoli kohlrabi au gratin.  
It’s rare that I turn down dessert, but I was just too full. Besides, I had another chance to eat at Urban Farmer the next day.

I went up to my room and watched a bit of television before dozing off to sleep in my Westin Heavenly Bed®. It wasn’t easy as I was quite excited about my upcoming private tour of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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