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West Side Market an Organic, Family Experience

by Ben Gleason

The West is the Best: The West Side Market offers an exhilarating shopping experience for lovers of all foods. (photo courtesy of

Between the acres of asphalt that make up every city, there are always reminders that there is plenty of green space outside city limits. In Cleveland, this exhilarating reminder comes every Saturday at the West Side Market in Ohio City, a stone's throw away from downtown Cleveland. The market - envision fresh bread, meats and pastries that almost continue forever under one roof about a block long - is the closest to a New York experience you can have without hightailing it back to The City.

You can get just about anything you want, but you have to be willing to elbow your way through the packed crowd to get it. The biggest crowds are on the weekend, when people flock in from all different parts of Cleveland to get the freshest delicacies.

The thrill of the West Side Market is more than finding the lowest prices on mangoes, calf's liver or Alaska salmon. Anyone can have a good time just by escaping the bubble of Oberlin. Even a trip to Midway Mall can be exhilarating for the vastly bored. But there is a visceral sensation that you get once you set foot in the West Side Market. The market, which has been around for 87 years, reminds Clevelanders that their small city is culturally diverse and is filled with rich history.

That first step into the Market, no less critical than Neil Armstrong's jaunt across the moon, reminds you that for every paper, exam or art project you screw up, there's always that solitary moment when you are truly pure again. Innocent, apolitical, happy. Just being the anti-Oberlin student for a second as you step into a world where the only thing that matters is the excitement of the place.

My first trip to the West Side Market took place over the summer, on my Pre-Orientation Program for first-year students. With my co-leader, senior Katie Hamilton, we eagerly herded our six students into the wiles of the Market. With an agreement to meet back in an hour, we had yet to understand what heady pleasures we would unleash their minds.

Quickly, though, we became accustomed to the many thrills. Jumping between the endless tables of delectable pastries, Katie and I decided to treat our POPers to what would ultimately become our downfall, the infamous Grasshopper Pie. The Grasshopper, a reckless pie combination of sugar, mint and chocolate, attacked the delicate sensibilities which attracted us to the Market in the first place. Luckily, we didn't indulge in the Grasshopper in public, for I'm sure that the massive sugar intake would've caused immediate diabetic attacks in the middle of the crowded public market. Lest I get off the track, I'll get back to descriptions of the actual Market.

One of the most enticing features of the West Side Market is the endless variety. In summer months, there is an entire rear section to the Market, where many fruit and vegetable vendors peddle their fresh wares inexpensively. Katie and I marveled at robust watermelons, bursting with their August ripeness. The kiwis were no less amazing. The corn, fresh from the Ohio cornfields, was not only priced inexpensively - even though Ohio was in the midst of a drought - but the selection was impressive. They had sweet corn, semi-sweet, white-and-yellow and other fine varieties.

My first visit to West Side Market will certainly not be my last.

The West Side Market is located at the corner of W. 25th and Lorain, about a five minute drive from the heart of downtown Cleveland. The Market is open throughout the year on Mondays and Wednesdays from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. During certain holidays, the Market makes minor changes to the schedule. If you have further questions, call (216) 664-3386.

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Copyright © 2000, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 129, Number 12, December 15, 2000

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