Cleveland’s West Side Market by Cleveland writers Laura Taxel and Marilou Suszko.

Cleveland’s amazing West Side Market turns 100 years old and celebrates tomorrow with a great big bash of chefs and food. Greenhouse Tavern’s Jonathon Sawyer had it right when he called it “a cathedral of meat.” Right on! The building itself, completed in 1912, one of the few municipally owned and continuously running markets in the country, is flanked by vegetable venders. Cheese and dairy run the inside north wall. Nuts and prepared food and pastry run the southern boundary. Kate’s Fish on the eastern side of the market sells pristine fish. Near her, I buy coriander seed, curries, and pink salt from Narrin Carlberg’s amazing spice booth. French lentils and other spices are on the west side of the cathedral, across from Sawyer’s Noodlecat, selling steamed buns and fresh ramen. Can we just take Sawyer’s lead and call it Cleveland’s West Side Cathedral?!

Bourdain wouldn’t come to Cleveland and not visit Cleveland’s Cathedral of Meat.

I’ll be demoing bacon curing and cooking at the Fabulous Food Show next week (I did a video promo at the market). Where did I get my pork belly for next week’s demo, where I’ll be showing how curing your own bacon can save the world? Pinzone’s pork and beef stand in the southwest quadrant; I asked the guy to cut me up some pork bones to make stock for the ramen I bought at Noodlecat while I was there (Ohio City Pasta, across from the Noodlecat booth, developed the ramen, udon, and soba—fabulous!). It was the first time ever I’d gone there and not seen Tony Pinzone actually there (it was lunchtime). I don’t know where else you can buy fresh rabbit in the city, or lamb hearts. West Side Market.

The West Side Cathedral is one of the reasons I love, love, LOVE Cleveland! Bourdain was astonished. Mike Pardus’s jaw dropped. “This is like something you’d see in Vietnam,” he said of the teaming, packed market on a Saturday morning. Veteran Cleveland writers Laura Taxel and Marilou Suszko tell the whole story in their new book Cleveland’s West Side Market: 100 Years and Still Cooking, the beautifully told story of the market, from its conception to its building (at the time, because bathing and laundry were not easy, developers considered building baths), to the people who make it come alive every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday mornings before sunrise. I found the book not just fascinating but deeply poignant. This place is so rare, and so important to the city, as are other amazing public markets, in Detroit, Philly, and Milwaukee. Doubt their importance to the shape of a city? Have a look at the Project for Public Spaces, which formed to prevent Seattle’s Pike Place Market from being demolished—yes, it was a breath away from being torn down. Just look at that place now!

I’ll be cooking at the gala tomorrow night, my go-to East Carolina BBQ, with thanks to the indefatigable Greenhouse sous, Brian Goodman. Chris Hodgson claimed to be smoking the shoulders in the country’s biggest smoker (he failed to post pix on Twitter, damn him). He’ll be cooking, so will Sawyer, Michael Symon, Eric Williams, Paul Minnillo (Paulie’s son, Michael, is the French Laundry’s GM and unofficial mayor of Yountville—come back home, Michael!), and many more Cleveland chefs. Five of the chefs from the East Coast got so hammered by Sandy they’ve had to deal with their downtown restaurants and cannot be here. But the amazing April Bloomfield and Jonathan Waxman, one of America’s culinary godfathers, will be here, as well as Chicago’s fabulous Paul Kahan. These are three of my favorite chefs of all time, period, hands down, and Cleveland is lucky to throw rose petals at their feet as they stroll into our unsinkable city.

Thank you all, and Happy 100th Birthday, West Side Market, a genuine cathedral of food in the heart of this great country!

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© 2012 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2012 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.




9 Wonderful responses to “West Side Market’s 100th B-Day!”

  • john phipps

    My Saturday morning ritual is a latte at Victrola Coffee and then to Pike Place. Produce at Frank’s Quality Produce and meats from Don & Joes.

  • Carri

    I am so glad my friend Jenny brought me back to the market last week on my visit to C-town, I was again trying not to hyper-ventilate as I walked through, my senses being assaulted by all the amazing choices. It is a magical place…No, toto we are not in Alaska any more! What a great visit, as always, Cleveland did not fail to entertain and impress!

  • Dave Polak

    Thanks for the nice tribute to one of Cleveland’s gems. My grandfather shopped there, my dad still shops there, and I’ve been going there since I was a kid. That is true about Pinzone’s, who has been our pork and beef vendor for ever, Tony is always there. I don’t think I could live in a city without something like the West Side Market. That is part of the reason I’m still here.

  • Dave

    Loved this entry and the tribute. Michael, I don’t want to take away from the celebration of Cleveland’s West Side Market, but reading this reminded me of Toronto’s market. They sound so similar. Have you ever been to Toronto and their downtown City Market? I lived there in 1996-2000. Not sure how it’s doing now but it was amazing then.

  • allen

    My only exposure to Ohio was a landing at Wright Patterson AFB, just enough time to have a smoke. It was 1990 during Desert Storm, one of many trips across the pond, and I recall it was so windy, all the smokers were desperately trying to get there fix before getting back on the plane, cupping there hands and cussing, while I casually walked up with one of those wind proof lighters and lit my smoke with one hand.
    The look of amazement and desperation as they all franticly borrowed my lighter, quickly passing it back and forth while I enjoyed my smoke.

    And one tough guy kid in my boot camp from Cleveland, who told me how to hold a knife for a knife fight. Something he learned from the Puerto Ricans from some side of Cleveland, not sure which side as it was so long ago, and that was a skill that I have never used in the last 30 years and does me no good when I slice my finger on a cutting board, and I am the opposite of tough guy. Marshmallow guy is more like it.

    That Iron chef Symon is always at that market on his show, Symon’s Suppers. I get a kick out of him, after a cut from a commercial, peeling one half a shallot and throwing it into a massive bowl of shallots already peeled, stating: “Im just finishing up peeling my shallots”
    That is some Foodnetwork BS!
    I peel one shallot and it takes me forever to peel that pesky skin off, I use them in a dish they will stand out in, but not in a pot roast. I love that show and he’s a great chef, his dad worked graveyard, and his books are great, but any normal chef would use an onion. Doesn’t even have to be red. If you want it sweeter, use something sweet, sugar or honey! The roast he made looked fantastic, and he made a great giardiniara sauce. And a friggin Negroni!
    Speaking of Negroni’s it’s FRIDAY!

    Sorry about the rant, you both make Cleveland look very appealing, I think I could live there, the access to both NY and Chicago, easy drive to farm country, that great bar and that market. I would love to visit that market.

  • allen

    Post limocello:
    that fckn mrkt, I wld luv 2 visit that market, & that bar! Goddam limonfriggincello!
    Fubar! Google that shit mofo’s! Fubar! Yup!

  • Cheryl

    I’m blessed enough to shop at this market almost every Saturday morning. That’s Joe, Tom & John Boutros on the cover, 3 of my favorite produce guys! To have so many choices and to walk up and down, talking to owners/vendors who know me by name, who will go that extra mile for me to make me look good to my clients is priceless to me. While I cannot partake of tonight’s festivities, I can and will continue to celebrate the market by simply shopping there and supporting the vendors I love like family. Just one more reason to be so proud of the city I love. Thanks for another great article Michael.

  • Debbie Q

    That is one of our favorite places to spend a Saturday morning. We load up on Ohio City Pasta, visit “Fritter Mountain” and have lunch at Steve’s Gyros as well as buying all sorts of other marvelous meat products.


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