In early May of 2011, Carl and I went on a short, whim-fueled jaunt to Cleveland, OH. It would turn out to be our last vacation as a family of two, since we found out we were expecting Iris less than two months later. Looking back, it was the perfect hurrah of our early married/sans baby life.
I’d ridden the interstate through Cleveland dozens of times as a youngster on my family’s insane but memorable annual drive to Florida, and Carl and I had made one lightening quick trip to Cleveland when he had family living there and we were needed for a little uncle and auntie babysitting day (involving a trip to the Cleveland Zoo, which is well-kept and worth the doing). But I hadn’t really been to Cleveland. I didn’t have any particular feelings for Cleveland.
And, apart from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I couldn’t have told you anything notable about Cleveland. Speaking of, in my humble, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: most overhyped and least worth doing of Cleveland attractions. Carl and I visited because it seemed obligatory and we have a sort of warm family regard for classic rock (that is at least an informed regard on Carl’s part since he knows actual lyrics to actual songs and purely in-law respect on mine. I’ve heard of the Rolling Stones. But that’s about it). We spent the whole visit talking about how we would run the museum if we were in charge, which is a fun way to spend an afternoon but not exactly worth the admission price.
We loved it. We stayed slightly outside of Cleveland, because it was much cheaper and also because it was less than a mile from Cuyahoga Valley National Park. We spent a long afternoon hiking, looking at waterfalls, scrambling around amazing rock formations, and peeking into pitch-black caves. It was early spring and the trout lilies were out, flashes of green and yellow against the brown forest floor. Fresh and cold and invigorating. Someday, we said, we should come back. There’s so much to explore. The park is much too big for one day.
But that’s all we had.
We had a walking tour of downtown Cleveland planned for the other day—the charming, old, artsy part and also, accidentally, the urban, business, bitterly-windswept part, where we ended up taking refuge in an indoor galleria, empty except for a few middle-aged women having coffee.
As soon as it was remotely appropriate to think of dinner, we scuttled off to our true destination: Lola. The upscale restaurant of celebrity chef Michael Symon. It’s not that we have any sort of personal adoration for Symon, but we’d been watching Iron Chef America that winter, and after you listen to food critics describing how amazing the food is week after week, you start to wonder if it’s really that good. We decided we would go to an Iron Chef restaurant someday and find out for ourselves. Turns out Cleveland is much closer than New York.
Also turns out: it’s pretty delicious.
So when Carl saw a recipe the other day for one of the specialty burgers served at Lola, he was pretty sure we had to try it. Immediately. It’s a beef burger on an English muffin with aged cheddar, pickles and pickled onions, and a fried egg. There’s a spicy, house-made ketchup at the restaurant, but we’re not quite that awesome. A first foray into homemade English muffins was enough of an adventure for one day, I decided.
Pretty delicious, we decided. Although after putting away a quarter pound of beef, a fried egg, and a huge slab of cheddar apiece, we didn’t stay vertical much longer than Iris that evening.
But a nice way to end the weekend.