june’s ohio adventure

for those of you who know me well, you’re probably wondering to yourself, “who is this june?  is she a long-lost high school friend?  is she a college acquaintance she’s reconnected with nowadays?  is she a new coworker she’s kindly befriend?”  well, i hate that this isn’t more exciting, but june is what i named my lovely rental car for the week!  ladies and gentlemen, i introduce to you june, the 2016 grey chrysler pacifica!  isn’t she a beaut?!

the name hit me like a ton of bricks as i was weaving around winding suburb roads and channeling my inner mom, specifically my inner barbara billingsley.  i mean, it really is quite empowering, navigating this sturdy, speedy, and functional vehicle around town.  i felt like i could rule the world!  anyway, june and i became besties last week in ohio while i was up there for work and some personal traveling.  and, in an effort to spice things up on my solo trip, i decided to blog about all our adventures.  our first stop?  dayton.

since i’d flown into columbus, we had a short-ish drive westward to the hotel.  after about an hour and a half to stretch her legs on that pleasant cruise, i let june rest after checking into the hampton inn and, since i was now needing some fuel, i ordered myself some piping hot pizza from marion’s piazza.  i wasn’t necessarily in a pizza mood, but it was recommended by the hotel concierge and it was within walking distance, so that was enough for me.

the staff at marion’s were perfectly pleasant and ready to make recommendations for a shameless out-of-towner.  to satisfy my own desire to at least be partly healthy, i started with the dinner salad and house italian dressing.  now, honestly, this dinner salad wasn’t anything special at all.  although i didn’t actually see them prepare the salad, i’m convinced they probably just ripped open a bag of salad mix, dumped it in my to-go container, and called it a day.  it was so dissatisfying that it didn’t even deserve a picture!  however, at least it was the green in my meal, so does that count for something?

as for the pizza, it thankfully was an entirely different story.  per the cashier’s suggestion, i ordered a 9-inch pepperoni pizza with double cheese.  i was worried about the size, but the disappointing salad made it easy to power through almost the entire thing without batting an eye.  the pepperoni was zesty and generous and the double cheese was definitely the right call.  based on the minimal ohio-style pizza experience i’ve had, i’d say, “well done, marion’s!”

the next night i was very excited to satisfy one of my local ohio cravings, which meant a trip to skyline chili!  june and i made an absurdly short drive one road over, so short that i should have walked.  but hey, after standing all day and training some very enthusiastic clients about procurement software, i figured i deserved a little relaxation, and so did june!

while june chilled in the parking lot, i bellied up to the counter and started out with a garden salad with balsamic vinaigrette.  i know, again, it might sound silly that i’m trying to be “healthy” before consuming massive quantities of chili and cheese, but i think i should at least get some credit!  and, i can thankfully report that this salad was much better than what i got from marion’s.

and did i mention the oyster crackers…!

after finishing the salad, i was ready to order my cheese coneys.  now, it was quite the dilemma, trying to choose between them and the pasta, but i realized it was impossible to resist these cute little guys!  i took my time, happily munching away bites of bun, dog, mustard, onions, chili, and cheese.  the starter salad along with two coneys was more than enough to fill me up, and i left skyline a very happy and full customer.

eventually we were at least mid-week, and before heading back to the client i stopped for a quick caffeine kick.  now, my goal when i go out of town typically is to only eat foods i can find there, basically something i can’t get back in atlanta.  well, sometimes there is an exception, especially when there’s a starbucks on the right side of the road on your commute to the office…it just works out that way every now and then!  so, it might not have been a local joint, but could we consider it local since it’s the local starbucks…?  sure!  i think june can be on board with that, and i bet you can, too.  my venti hazelnut latte and bacon gouda breakfast sandwich were the perfect pick-me-up.  🙂

human fuel!

after another productive day on-site, i closed my laptop and took june over to centerville for some dinner.  for the better part of the afternoon i’d been in the mood for a refreshing margarita, so mexican cuisine sounded like a good idea, and after checking things on my reliable yelp app, i decided to try out chiapas mexican grill.

since the ohio summer wasn’t quite as sweltering as things back in georgia, it was pleasant enough that i got to enjoy my dinner outside.  i quickly ordered a strong and tasty margarita, some chips, salsa, and a healthy helping of guacamole.

although i’ll admit the guacamole was very, very creamy and flavorful, the star of the show really was the tamale i had.  someone on yelp had posted rave reviews about tamales, so i insisted on giving it a try.  somehow tamales have become my favorite mexican dish, which means i almost always order them when they are on the menu.  this tamale was pretty mild, which worked for me but might not work for you if you prefer a little kick.  the chicken was moist and the mole sauce was delicious, but the best part was the masa.  the masa had a rich texture but wasn’t grainy or heavy.  i scraped every last morsel out of that corn husk that i could!  so far, this one was probably my favorite meal of the trip.

after finishing up the work week in dayton, i was ready to head northward to cleveland.  seeing as how i’ve marked cincinnati and columbus off my visit-list in previous trips, it only made sense to check out cleveland, too.  before hopping onto i-71, though, i needed to make a quick stop.  i had realized in packing my suitcase to leave that i hadn’t packed enough outfits for the weekend.  oh darn, how unfortunate!  so, june and i really did make a quick stop at the local target to pick up some essentials.  a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do!


once we finally hit the open road, it was a smooth ride, and before i knew it we were at our next cozy hotel just outside cleveland in independence, ohio.  after checking in at the front desk, i spent the rest of friday night resting and refueling and researching the forest city.  with really only one day to explore, i needed to make the most of my visit!

with no time to waste, i woke up bright and early on saturday morning and hailed a lyft into downtown cleveland.  i had considered bringing june along for the fun, but the thought of having to potentially parallel park her in an unfamiliar city and move her around multiple spots throughout the day didn’t sound like the best idea.  so, june chilled while i started my day with some late breakfast.

after searching high and low online for a good breakfast spot, i finally settled on the hot and new zaytoon lebanese kitchen.  although there didn’t appear to be any customers in there on a saturday morning around eleven, i pressed my luck and was grateful i did.

this sparkling clean restaurant was bright and airy and very welcoming with the kind service.  i mentioned to the cashier this was my first time here, and she was quick to recommend the lamb and egg pita without much hesitation.  as a personal favorite of hers and the locals, it didn’t sound like i could go wrong.  i paid, thanked her kindly, and took up a stool at the bar.  it was the perfect opportunity to do some morning people watching, and i enjoyed seeing lots of folks already out and about with little ones, yoga mats, and sweet little pups out for their daily stroll.

my fresh-to-order pita was ready pretty quickly, and i was so intrigued when i grabbed the tray from the chef.  i had never had a lebanese pita and was excited to now have the opportunity!

it might not look like much good could be wrapped up in that tin foil, but i was pleasantly greeted with unusual flavors and tender lamb each bite after each bite.  even though i was pretty ravenous to kind of power through this thing, i made sure to slow down and really savor each piping hot mouthful.  the lamb combined with the egg and the homemade pita bread was pretty irresistible, and i was not ashamed to scrape up every bite i could find.  all i could think as i sat there enjoying my breakfast with the chill music playing over the speakers is how good that pita would be with some homemade hummus.  mm, i bet it’s worth coming back for another time!

after i finished up the pita, i started my foot journey out on the bright streets of cleveland.  the weather was incredible and almost unbelievable for this time of year and i took my time moseying along while enjoying the warm sun and generous breeze, which thankfully stuck around all day.  and since i wasn’t quite ready to make it to my next destination just yet, i took a detour and grabbed myself something sweet from yum yum’s of cleveland.  i know!  isn’t that name just the cutest!  after something so savory over at zaytoon, a hot fresh donut sounded like the perfect treat to top off my morning.

now, the cashier seemed a little caught off-guard when i cheerily shared with him i was an out-of-towner and that i was interested to give their local donuts a try.  he honestly returned my excitement with a little bit of annoyance, so i tried to make it easy on him and just asked him to tell me what some of their most popular donuts were.  once he realized that’s all i was going for, he suggested i try the sour cream cake donut and then added a chocolate glazed one to my bag as well.  at a little over a dollar a piece, i would have bought a dozen donuts for the whole shop!  but, since i had places to go and people to see, i just grabbed the bag and made my way toward the lake.  you see, since there isn’t a ton of seating at yum yum’s, i followed 9th street up and just plopped myself on a bench at willard park.

since the sour cream donut came so highly recommended, i gave that one a try first.  after the first bite, though, i realized i was not at all going to want to eat the whole thing.  the problem was that there was way too much sugary icing for the very little bit of actual donut there was.  i think i had only three bites, not even half of it, when i decided to throw in the towel.  i then crossed my fingers that the chocolate glaze would be better and, wow, it was loads better!  there was just the right ratio of rich chocolate glaze to donut and i finished it off with no complaints.  the only thing that was missing was a hot cup of coffee to balance all the sweetness, but it wasn’t a bad way to spend a couple of bucks.

i took my crumbled up bag to the nearest receptacle and then strolled around this peaceful little part of town.  what is most eye-catching about this tiny park, though, is the monstrous free stamp structure right in the middle of it!  from what i can find online, the free stamp took ten years to erect, from commission to conception to completion.  artists coosje van bruggen and claes oldenburg had to endure some political hurdles during the structure’s design and build, but its final orientation on its side has become a popular photo opp for locals and visitors alike.  as one can imagine, the word “free” has endless and unique meaning to everyone who passes by and is certainly a good conversation piece if nothing else.

now that i was all sugared up and ready to go, i finally made it to the rock and roll hall of fame and museum!  affectionately known as “the rock hall” by locals, my mom and dad highly recommended i make the time to go because they had such an incredible experience when they came here themselves a few years back.  well, with nothing else to do on a gorgeous cleveland saturday, i spent three very worthwhile hours exploring this pretty awesome place.

with so much to take in across six floors of exhibits, i started on level one, familiarizing myself with the hall of fame and museum itself.  i think something that caught my attention most is the fact that an artist does not become eligible for nomination until 25 years after their first record releases.  25 years!  that’s crazy!  in addition to artists, there are inductions for three other categories of contributors and influences around the culture of rock and roll music.  pretty neat, right?  what was even neater was the list of inductees for 2017.  you go, tupac!  congratulations, joan baez!

i could honestly talk your ear off for a solid hour or two about my visit to the rock hall.  however, i don’t want to spoil all the fun for you in case you get to go yourself!  so, i’ll highlight really quickly some of the favorite things i saw and learned during my visit.  if you’re any kind of music lover, coming to the rock hall should feel like a privilege and almost a duty so that you can discover the history of musicians and movements that paved the way for the music of our past, present, and future.  this place is kelsey approved!

  • there were serious revolts and criticisms of the rock and roll genre of music when it first hit america.
  • the beach boys were inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame the year i was born. aaawww!
  • there is currently a 30-minute film in the museum that shows emotional and truly groundbreaking highlights from dick clark’s american bandstand.  that thing nearly brought me to tears.
  • 2017 is the 50-year anniversary of rolling stone magazine.
  • live radio broadcasts are still hosted from the rock hall.

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now that i had spent the majority of my afternoon inside the museum’s many walls, it was time for me to soak up some rays on cleveland’s coast.  it was my first time ever setting eyes on lake erie, and i must say from the relaxing walkways of voinovich bicentennial park it was quite a sight!  the weather was so perfect that i stuck around to even watch a company’s family outing and their friendly games of kickball.

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by this point in the afternoon i still had several hours to kill before my evening festivities.  since june was back at the hotel and i didn’t want to worry about anymore cab rides than i had to, i was back to strolling around town, seeing what kind of trouble i could get into next.  well, thankfully no trouble found me while in cleveland, and wouldn’t you know the luck that i ended up walking right past The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist just in time for their 4:30 p.m. vigil.  the inside of this cathedral is just as beautiful outside, and i was thankful to have a peaceful resting place for both my body and my mind, even if just for a little while.

with a full spirit it was now time to fill my belly as well.  so, i pulled up the map and headed west a few blocks to go try out barrio.  this local taco joint was recommended actually by a young gentleman rob who used to play baseball with my brother clark, and i always take suggestions from family and friends very seriously.

this place was already packed full with a line out the door, and even though eating by oneself may not always be the ideal situation, it’s perfect for nights like this when you can squeeze yourself into the lone barstool to order dinner and drinks.  although busy and buzzing, the bartender in my section tended to me quickly with a glass of water and their house margarita.  and, because i was in no hurry, i helped myself to some chips and salsa and a deep bowl of queso.  the thick crunchy chips carried the zesty salsa and creamy queso well, and i probably could have just stopped there.  but, after chatting it up with a local couple, they convinced me that i couldn’t leave without also having a taco, so i gave in despite my better judgment.

the whole bit here at barrio is that you can build your own taco.  you fill out a card with what kind of tortilla you want, what meat/protein you like, and then all the toppings you want to finish it off.  in theory this sounds like a pretty good idea because so many restaurants these days make it easy to make your food truly yours.  unfortunately my taco experience at barrio was not a good one at all.  the problem is that you start going down this list of ingredients and, for me, just start checking off all the stuff you like.  so, even though i like braised beef, cabbage, cheddar cheese, grilled peppers and onions, and cilantro pesto, all of those things together in a single bite are no bueno at all.  it’s probably pretty obvious i wasn’t pleased seeing as how i picked this taco apart and pathetically left most of it in the tray.  i even tried to wash it all down with a swig of margarita, but it was too sweet for my taste and only added insult to injury.  guess next time i’ll probably stick with beer and perhaps try one of their chef-inspired tacos that do all the thinking for you.  even though a couple of the things i ordered weren’t up to par for me, i still really liked the atmosphere at barrio and couldn’t get enough of that queso!

after paying the tab and scooting out, i spent a couple more hours checking out the local sights of cleveland.  i honestly really enjoyed all the things i’d seen and done so far in my very short visit.  the city streets were clean, the roads were flat, and the unusually pleasant weather all made for a pretty great day.

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i was having such a good time that even a stroll through the peaceful and beautiful erie street cemetery couldn’t bring me down!

now, at this point i bet you’re just tired from reading about all the sightseeing and eating i’d done.  however, i implore you to hang on just a little bit longer because now the real excitement was just arriving!  in my research the night before, i had stumbled onto the playhouse square website.  with a name like that it’s hard not to click and look around, and i could hardly believe my eyes when i saw what they were putting on in the theater district the very same night i was in town:  a silent disco!  a what, kelsey?  a silent disco, i tell you!  a silent disco is an event where all the attendees get a set of headphones that light up.  then, there are usually three different “channels” of music you can change among with a little switch on the headphones.  sometimes the different channels are controlled by live djs, for example, but tonight playhouse square simply had three different radio stations playing.  the green station was rat pack music (think frank sinatra, michael buble, etc…), the red station was pretty much a rock and roll mix, and the blue station played electronic dance music (known as “edm” by the young kids these days).  so, the idea is that without any loud speakers and noise disturbances people can hear the music they want to hear and dance along.  genius, right?!

i was so stoked for this experience that i was the first person to actually arrive and claim a pair of headphones.  i bopped along with the edm station for the first several songs, just enjoying the cool night air and the energetic atmosphere of the plaza.  as the nearby theaters got out, though, folks came flocking over to the stage to see what all this dancing was about, especially with no music to be heard!  before too long, there were dozens of people dancing with their friends, dancing with strangers, just dancing out in the night!  i couldn’t help but smile as i looked around and saw such a diverse crowd coming together and reacting to the different colors of headphones they saw around them.  sometimes i would change stations if i saw one color that seemed really popular with the other people.  other times i would jam out to some heavy metal while couples slow danced with one another.  regardless of who was listening to what, it made my heart so happy that the incredible blessing of music in our lives is what was bringing us all together.  i guess i should have seen that theme early in the day, right?  🙂

the silent disco was the perfect way to end my whirlwind day in cleveland, and although my visit was honestly much too short, home was calling my name, and if i’m being truthful, i would say that by sunday morning i was ready to head back south anyway.  so, june and i packed up, gassed up, and enjoyed the leisurely drive back to columbus.  since my flight wasn’t until later in the afternoon, i ended up having just enough time for one more foodie stop.  what luck!  my coworker mario had suggested i check out a place called thurman’s if my schedule allowed it, so thurman’s is what june and i punched into the gps once we got into town.

as i cruised down thurman avenue, my eyes were peeled trying to find the place.  between dodging parked cars and not running red lights, i eventually spotted the unassuming awning for the thurman cafe.  and then, after rounding the block several times, i eventually found a place to park june.  most of the parking for thurman’s appears to be streetside, and even though i did spot what appeared to be a small lot behind the restaurant, there was too much junk in june’s trunk for me to even consider parking there.  love you, june!

my first few steps inside thurman’s revealed to me a few immediate things:  that thurman’s is definitely a dive place, that thurman’s is definitely a local favorite, and that thurman’s is a welcoming place.  each staff member i encountered during my visit was very kind and polite.  that’s definitely a good start, especially for an out-of-towner.

there was space at the bar, so i scooted on over right away.  the bar stool wasn’t so tall that i had to hop up to sit on it (which is nice when you’re not tall, like yours truly) and there was a foot rest within reach for my weary feet.  i ordered a glass of ice water and started to peruse the menu.

first of all, this menu is huge!  even though thurman’s is known for their colossal burgers, they’ve got something on the menu for nearly anyone.  however, since mario had recommended this place for the burgers, that’s the page i flipped to, and this section is quite lengthy itself.  mario had pointed out a couple of his favorites to me when we had been chatting, but my eyes couldn’t stop looking at and thinking about the johnny burger.  even though i do love bacon, it’s the horseradish cheese that got my mouth watering.  so, the johnny burger it was!

i placed my order and sat quietly, taking in the sights and sounds of thurman’s.  i loved getting to listen to the employees as they buzzed around customers and each other to grab drinks and place orders.  their patter among the group was great, and they came off as a little work family all their own.  i could see how it would be easy to become a repeat customer with a good vibe like the one at thurman’s.  and i can only imagine the energy on an ohio state game day!

eventually my eyes started spotting plates as they were brought out to other customers.  mario was not joking when he had told me these burgers were huge.  i was suddenly very thankful that i’d only had a banana and a cup of coffee for breakfast so that i’d have room for a big lunch.  now, i really would have been in business if i’d only worn my elastic pants…

anyway!  eventually the johnny burger was placed in front of me, and i immediately went ahead and mentally admitted defeat.  there was no way i’d be able to eat that whole thing!  however, i’d say i made a pretty good go of it.

i had ordered the johnny as it came on the menu, only making one tweak to have it cooked medium instead of medium-well (which is the “default”).  as i took my first bite, i realized i was in trouble.  the burger was so good that i wanted to eat the whole thing!  after a very guilty week of eating out every day, the last thing i needed to do was stuff my face with juicy ground beef, thick and salty bacon, and rich, creamy, dripping horseradish cheese.  but, sometimes you have weeks like this and you just have to roll with it.  so, it was very easy for me to make quick work of that first half.

as i started getting into the fresh french fries and second half of the burger, i knew i was going to switch up my approach.  so, in true tori fashion, i took off the buns and went just for the patty and toppings with my knife and fork.  no offense to the buns, but when i only have so much room in my stomach, i’ve got to prioritize!

as i began to slow down, i started noticing that things in thurman’s were picking up.  clearly i’d made a good call in unintentionally arriving before the sunday lunch crowd.  there were mile-high burgers everywhere, including the double-decker burger that the fella next to me had ordered.  it honestly just looked like it was too much, and at the end of it all, he ended up taking half of it home!  whatever, bro, lol.  i mean, i probably would have only eaten half of mine if i’d had the option to take it home, but since i was going straight to the airport, that wasn’t exactly an option.  so, i ended up leaving the tiniest bit of burger and bread on my plate, but i still think i did pretty alright!

i very slowly strolled back to june and rolled myself into the driver’s seat.  i was desperately in the mood for a nap, which i suppose was a good thing since i was getting to the airport early and would have plenty of time to rest my head.  i pulled up my final set of directions for the week, pulled out of my spot, and let june safely navigate us to the rental car return.  as i unloaded my bags and was given my receipt, i had a bittersweet moment of goodbye with june.  surely she’ll remember all the fun we had across ohio, and surely our adventure is only one of many more to come.  🙂

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