As a Northeast Ohioan for all my life, I can truly say that Northeast Ohio has it going on.
I grew up in Boardman, a suburb of Youngstown, Ohio and got to enjoy some of the amazing things only a Rust Belt City can truly appreciate. After completing a Master’s degree, I moved to Cleveland where I worked for a regional organization that truly enabled me to take in all of Northeast Ohio. Here are some of my favorites:
There is not a better place for dinner in downtown Youngstown than MVR. It is a classic Italian joint with the best “hot chips” and Tressel tortellini anywhere – an ode to the famous Jim Tressel. Every time I head back to Youngstown to visit friends and family, MVR is on my list followed of course by the best martinis I have ever come across at Imbibe…a martini bar that features over 100 different flavors. If you are looking to spend a night on the town, I highly recommend the cocktails here. Some of my other favorite spots in Youngstown include the Draught House for a cheap beer or V2 for a glass of wine. During the day, Youngstown has plenty to offer as well. Mill Creek Park boasts Lanterman’s Mill, an old mill that produces meal and flour, Fellows Riverside Garden, which features some of the most amazing horticulture you have ever seen and Glacier Lake, which is simply breathtaking.
A short drive away is my hometown – Boardman – home to me and Bernie Kosar. Boardman has everything and it is almost all contained to one street, Route 224 – a shopper’s paradise and a traveler’s nightmare. A mall, shopping plazas, parks, restaurants, movie theaters, etc. flow down Route 224. The places you have to go to in Boardman are for eats – House of China for some of the most amazing Chinese food one can find in Ohio – try the General Tso’s. Oh and due to Youngstown’s rich culture, there are tons of ethnic restaurants.
One of my favorites is Nicolinni’s – superb Italian. It truly doesn’t matter what you order here as everything is amazing and is accompanied by their homemade bread and garlic dipping sauce and salad with homemade dressing – both have a tendency to leave me speechless or maybe asking for more.
While in Boardman, you should take in one of the city’s three movie theaters including what my friends and I call the “cheapies” offering new movies for as little as fifty cents a show. Oh, and did I mention that these three theaters are probably less than two miles apart? And perhaps, the absolute best thing about Boardman – Handel’s Ice Cream – hands down the best ice cream on the planet – just ask any celebrity.
In my new hometown of Olmsted Township, I live in a suburb that is rich in history and only a short drive to downtown Cleveland. As a West Sider since moving to Cleveland, I feel like I have found a few gems. The Rocky River Reservation is amazing for a nice walk or run. I also love shopping at Crocker Park and Great Northern mall – between the two you have just about every store you could ever want. My favorite new store since moving to Cleveland has to be Trader Joe’s. It has something for everyone, yet with an interesting twist. My husband and I have found a pizza place that we adore – Sweet Basil in Westlake, but come early because it’s not so much of a secret anymore.
Then when I am looking for something quaint, I travel a few minutes down the road to Grand Pacific Junction in Olmsted Falls complete with stores, restaurants and my favorite, Clementine’s. Clementine’s is a tea house with amazing dessert and you must go for a traditional high tea.
After visiting the Junction, walk down the street to see the Falls, where you can actually walk all the way out onto them…pretty neat. Swings and Things is a mini family amusement park filled with go-karts, bumper cars, miniature golf, batting cages and an arcade for when I want to be a big kid.
And if you want to relax and just munch on something sweet…try Mitchell’s ice cream. It is no Handel’s, but for me it is a close reminder of home.
Ashley Basile Oeken is the Executive Director of Engage! Cleveland, an initiative to attract and retain young professionals in the Greater Cleveland area. Ashley moved to Cleveland almost five years ago from her hometown of Boardman. She resides in Olmsted Township with her husband Aaron. She is an avid baker and community explorer.