Few cities know the highs and lows of sports fandom like Cleveland does. And let’s be real: Mostly it’s been lows. Deep, indecent, bone-chilling lows. (We see you, Browns fans.)
In recent years, though, the Indians and Cavaliers have fielded top-tier teams in MLB and the NBA, respectively. Their success has brought new energy to the downtown area where both teams play their home games, as well as to surrounding neighborhoods. Get in on the hopeful vibes on game day at these bastions of comfort food and local brews.
Before crowds fill Progressive Field for an Indians game or Quicken Loans Arena to watch the Cavaliers, they descend upon East 4th Street, the pedestrian-only heart of downtown. They come because it’s only blocks from the stadiums — and on game days it’s livelier than a Corey Kluber curveball.
Also, they come because it’s where some of the city’s best chefs braise, roast, bake and otherwise ply their trade in ways that make Cleveland a culinary hot spot. Michael Symon‘s Lola Bistro and Jonathon Sawyer‘s The Greenhouse Tavern anchor the restaurants, many of which feature outdoor seating so you can eat while watching the Tribe or Cavs jersey-wearing masses go by.
Don’t be fooled by the “Caribbean cantina” theme. The Thirsty Parrot lives and dies with the Indians. Beyond special events and a Cavaliers game here and there, it only opens on days when the Indians play home games. Pregaming starts well before first pitch. For weekday-evening games, bartenders start pouring pitchers by 3 p.m.
The food menu won’t remind you of the Caribbean, either. Wings, burgers and other sports bar fare dominate. But you’re not going here for the food. You’re going to absorb the energy of rabid fans and to relax on the vast patio. And you’re going for the location, which is so close to Progressive Field you can hear the sounds of the stadium.
How about traveling to the game in a bus that runs on vegetable oil and is known as the Fatty Wagon? Eat, drink or buy something at the Great Lakes Brewing Co. gift shop and then cough up another measly $1 for a ticket to ride the eco-friendly shuttle 1.6 miles from the Ohio City location to Cavs and Indians games.
It’s a perk for those who want to pregame or postgame amid some of the city’s most celebrated beer and colorful Cleveland history — “Untouchable” Eliot Ness drank at the bar that preceded Great Lakes in the space. Swig the always-available Eliot Ness Amber Lager or imbibe one of the rotating pub-exclusive brews.
If it’s quality beer you seek, but you want to drink it someplace closer to the game, open a tab at City Tap. (It’s about a block away from the stadiums.) Choose from 44 beers on tap and more than 50 others in bottles and cans, with local and regional favorites representing. Happy Hour specials make it a good place to pregame. Postgamers indulge in the late-night menu.
City Tap also makes for an excellent hang during the game, with abundant TVs, a menu bulging with burgers and the Monday through Friday power hour (8 p.m. to 9 p.m.), where almost all drafts and bottles cost just $3. Follow City Tap on Twitter to get in on the daily $3 beer specials.
For the sporty — but not the jersey wearing, rah-rah, over-served kind of sporty — among us, there’s Forest City Shuffleboard. This low-key spot in Ohio City, about 2.5 miles from downtown, taps into a more mellow side of the Cleveland sports scene: shuffleboard. Glide your puck on one of seven shuffleboard courts (five inside, two outside) or on one of two tables.
Shuffleboard players also work up a thirst, and they’re covered here. Drinks run from cheap beer in cans (PBR, Old Milwaukee) to specialty craft cocktails (Osaka Mule, Franklin Boulevardier), with plenty of local brews in the mix. The food is downright local, too. Owner Jim Miketo turns Forest City’s kitchen over to local chefs for monthly pop-up restaurants.