west side market

A few weeks ago my mom and I took Natalie to her first visit to the West Side Market (Metromix wanted a story on some favorite stands). I still remember my first visit to the market during a second grade field trip. I remember thinking it took forever to get there and that we must be in another state (I went to grade school in Solon – 30 mins tops). Once inside, I was mesmerized by all the people. That didn’t last long when my eyes wandered over to a counter where I saw a cow’s tongue and was thoroughly disgusted for the rest of the trip. My only purchase that day? Candy cigarettes. I think the whole class walked out with a pack. I blame this one instance on my on my 10 year smoking habit that I happily kicked five years ago (seriously – how were we allowed to buy candy smokes and how were these even marketed in the first place?).

Since that initial trip, I’ve made countless visits to this wonderful institution in our fine city. I’ve always been drawn to the market. My great grandfather came to this country from Sicily when he was 13 and started selling produce on a wagon downtown. Years later, he would open Paolo Volpe and Sons produce in the Northern Ohio Food Terminal. He never had a stand at the market per se, but I know he was friends with many of the vendors and I can picture their encounters when I walk the aisles.

When I lived in Cleveland Heights and later downtown, I was a regular shopper. And when my brother was in the trauma wing at Metro, the market became my 20 minute daily breather during those long two months.

Today, we don’t get down nearly as much as I’d like, but when we do, I’m still in awe by its rich history, glorious contents and the people. And while Natalie has no idea if she’s at the West Side Market, Heinen’s or our kitchen, one day she will and I’m excited to bring her on what will surely be many trips to market and watch her reaction when she first discovers cow’s tongue (we’ll pass on the candy cigarettes, though I can’t imagine they are still made).

Click here for my West Side Market photo gallery and to learn a bit more on some of my favorite stands.


  1. Steve Shoemaker
    Posted May 16, 2009 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Very nice writeup Michelle. If I’m in town on a Saturday I always feel out of sorts if I don’t make it to the Westside Market. I’m not originally from Cleveland but I think that the market is simply a treasure. I know so many people who live here who say that the market is great but I haven’t been there in years. Perhaps your photo’s will remind them what they are missing.

  2. Russ
    Posted May 16, 2009 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Last I checked, they still have the candy cigarettes. Takes me back.

    Did my weekly visit this morning, live about 4 blocks away.

    I’ve heard the Food Terminal is the reason the market survives, while the market in other cities like Pittsburgh have folded. Thanks for the link!

  3. Heidi Robb
    Posted May 16, 2009 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Gah, those candy cigs tasted like chalk – the real things are/were so much better!

    Nice write up and pics!

  4. Anonymous
    Posted May 17, 2009 at 3:20 am | Permalink

    I take Ben down there every two or three weeks. We usually go down on Monday and go get a cup of coffee…get him a cup of juice….go see Dion or Diane over at Irene Devers and get cheese and crackers….walk over and get smoked bacon from Dohars…pasta from Gary at Ohio City….sausage or chicken from Whitikars and then outside to get produce from basketeria. It’s the same walk and routine everytime but we love it!

    I can’t wait until he really gets it!


  5. gazer
    Posted May 17, 2009 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Oh, the candy cigarettes are definitely still there.

    I’m a huge fan of the Basketeria. Unfortunately, most of the produce on the longer leg of the vegetable stalls might as well come from Giant Eagle.

    Turn the corner though, and things are nicely different.

  6. Tricia L Chaves
    Posted May 17, 2009 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    Nice pictures. I wanted to share my Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video. It's a Cleveland international restaurant tour, and I went to one of my favorite stands at the WSM–Judy's Oasis.

    If you like this video, help make it a finalist! Give it 5 stars & send it to your friends.

    So funny…Me & my dad did the video together on Friday (he was the cameraman) with a $75 Sony digital camera…


  7. Jacquie
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    I always have to take my kids into the Mediteranean store for some European chocolate for behaving.

  8. Avenue Cleveland
    Posted May 20, 2009 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Memories are definitely developed here and I hope we all continue to support this gem – gift we have!

    Speaking of memories, I had my first ever pomegranate bought from here! Oh those red spots on my shirt and fingers not to mention the seeds I’d spit… I was maybe 6? Good Times!

    But like you I have neglected my duties to support as often as I would like. Seeing that I live on Shaker Square I tend to feed my fetishes at the farmers market every Saturday and making only one or two trips a month to the Westside market. You’ve inspired me, however, to up the ante!

  9. michelle v
    Posted May 20, 2009 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts and memories. I can’t believe they still sell/make candy cigarettes!

  10. Craig Can't Dance
    Posted May 22, 2009 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    I loved the chalk candy cigs. I would light the end and it would smell like s’mores. sadly when i bought a pack a few months ago they are now a log of gum wrapped in plastic that looks like a cig. if you blow into them, the powder between the gum and wrapper shoots out in a puff of ‘smoke’ Love the blog

  11. Pittsburgh is for Man Lovers
    Posted May 27, 2009 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I can’t believe no one’s mentioned Frank’s Bratwurst. As a CLE native and current DC resident, the one place I stop when I am back home is the little stand on the far end (on the W.25th side)for the best sausage ever made on God’s green earth. The veal bratwurst is the mildest and most flavorful collection of lips and a-holes ever concocted.