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Quirkier Cleveland

A glimpse into the true heart of the city

Why is it that promoters of our fair burgh always make it out to be such a charming, whimsical place? The Free Stamp! The Polka Hall of Fame! The Christmas Story house, museum, lamp, snowsuit, BB gun and tongue-sucking flagpole!

Not that we mind these silly sidelights. After all, Positively Cleveland has to have something to be positive about. But these tourist bonbons don't get at the soul of the city, the grit of urban life on the Cuyahoga, the mettle that makes Clevelanders stand proud amid the ruins.

We're not only proud; we're grateful for our heritage on this Thanksgiving holiday, and happy to share it with our readers.

Bon appétit!

HOUSES OF CUISINE

Cleveland is now celebrated as a culinary destination, boasting renowned restaurants, famous chefs, a century-old food landmark in the West Side Market, and the first Melt, which by the time these words reach print should have 134 outposts across the United States. The city's true dining tradition, however, is in the cheap, the easy, the unspecial, the greasy, the stuff you can make at home but are too lazy to put together, comestibles that are made of unidentifiable animal parts. The guy behind the counter isn't going to tell you which ones, and you're not going to ask.

Hot Dog Corridor

You can get gourmet sausages just about anywhere in town these days, with every nationality offering its own take on the cased-meat game. But a plain hot dog —unrefined, simple, with no fancy or exotic toppings — is becoming harder to find. The last mecca is a stretch along Lorain Ave. between West 40th and 50th Sts., where you'll find Old Fashion Hot Dogs and Steve's Lunch. Chili, cheese, mustard, ketchup, relish, onions: That's all you need, if you need any of them at all.

Charlie's Dog House Diner

Where else can you scarf down corned beef hash, famous waffles, and other diner staples in a small shack that literally looks like a doghouse? Nowhere, that's where. Once you walk through the doors at the corner of Broadview and Brookpark Rds. and the novelty of the exterior is a few steps behind, you'll find friendly folks, cheap prices, and delicious food. But most importantly, you'll remember dining in an oversized doghouse.

The Big Egg

The second iteration of The Big Egg now serves the drunk, the lonely, the broke, and the hungry on Detroit Ave. just before the trendy Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood blooms into hipsterville. It may have been sleazier and scummier -— but yummy! — back in the day, before closing up shop in 2000 over some pesky health violations. But the new version, sans health code violations, is still a local legend, filled with a delightful mix of late-night heathens.

—Vince Grzegorek

FOLK ART

Blue-collar Clevelanders have never been shy about expressing themselves, and they don't need a fancy museum in University Circle to show their work. From the many fine examples of street art scattered throughout the city, here are a select few.

Biggie's Food Mart

Located at East 55th and Cedar, this is more than a convenient spot to top off the tank on a run to or from downtown. It offers all the amenities of an urban mini-mart and gas station, wrapped in eye-catching murals. Owner Palestinian-American Brahim "Abe" Aya has covered his walls with everything from superheroes munching snack foods to pictures criticizing the US's relationship with Israel. He even weighs in on local politics, posting an electronic sign earlier this year urging drivers not to vote for Tim McGinty as county prosecutor.

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