West Side Market

Designers: Benjamin Hubbel and W. Dominick Benes (architects) | City: Cleveland, OH | Project Type: public market, cultural center
Date Visited:

Location: 1979 West 25th St Cleveland, OH 44113
Size: nearly 30,000 sq ft with a 137 feet tall clock tower
Cost: $734,890.72 (in 1912)
Official Opening Date: 1912

Serving up cuisines and delicacies from around the world, from Chilean sea bass to Lithuanian sausage, West Side Market is Cleveland’s oldest publicly owned market and one of the top destinations in Cleveland for visitors and residents alike. And this year, the market’s also been holding special celebrations for it’s 100th anniversary, in 2012.

Designated as one of the 10 Great American Public Spaces of 2008 by the American Planning Association (APA) and as the “Best Food Lovers Market” by the Food Network in 2010, West Side Market is beloved for its sights, smells, engaging atmosphere, and tremendous ethnic diversity. Last year, the bustling marketplace attracted over 1 million visitors. This year, it hopes to draw in even larger crowds as the market celebrates its year-long centennial celebration.

Featuring over 100 vendors under a beautiful 44-foot high Guastavino tile vaulted ceiling, this grand terra cotta and granite building is a beautiful exhibit of classical architectural and anchor for the community.

I visited this market twice; once on a less-crowded Wednesday, and the second trip during their bustling Saturday market as the last stop on a urban farms and markets tour with the International Public Markets Conference. I’ve been to several public markets such as Lexington Market in Baltimore City and the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto, but what sets Westside Market apart is their dedication to being a marketplace. The amount of ready-to-eat food is fairly low at West Side Market as compared to many touristy public markets. Many of the vendors sell produce, meats and seafood that is meant to be bought fresh at the market and taken home to be cooked. In fact, unlike St. Lawrence Market which offers a wide range of seating options, West Side Market’s only seating is upstairs on a viewing balcony. This felt like a more authentic market experience, which I found really appealing; oftentimes my market experiences consist of rows of ready-to-eat food stands. Although, as a traveler, since I didn’t have a car or a fridge this meant that my food options at the market were rather limited.

And another aspect of the market that surprised me–but is also making me look back at my other market visits as rather sterile experiences–was the amount of raw meat on display. This is definitely no place for vegetarians or the squeamish, but as a meat-lover, I was pretty entranced by the view. I used to think that the idea of knowing your neighborhood butcher and the origin of your meat was of a bygone era, or at the very least, reserved for people of a certain income bracket. But my views are changing. Just being in the market and watching people purchase food like pork, oysters, and produce sourced from areas that they knew about, from farmers they may know personally made something click in my mind. Knowing what exactly you are feeding your body, not to mention the sense of community that is built through the purchase of food from local sources, can be such rich and fulfilling connections to make that I’m kind of at a loss as to how this revelation escaped me for so long.

Since I was leaving the next day, I ended up getting a honey-flavored smokie (to munch on as I explored the market), delicious Challah bread and some really sweet and flavorful pulled pork from the Pork Chop Shop to take home. I actually devoured everything so quickly that I forgot to take the pictures!

One Response to “West Side Market”

  1. zaw says:

    Seafood is really expensive in the midwest…:(

    I really like the layout of the market though.

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