Foodie Finds: Cleveland's West Side Market

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“No caramels, hard candies, hard fruits or vegetables, or even hard-to-eat meats like beef jerky, bubble gum…” My middle daughter let out a  gasp as the orthodontist read off the list of foods that were now verboten since her shiny braces went on (with pink and purple rubber bands).


“What, do you like bubble gum?” asked the orthodontist. I smiled — I  knew it wasn’t the bubble gum that elicited her reaction.


“No…beef jerky,” she said, then added, since the orthodontist looked confused, “The West Side Market has the best beef jerky and now I can’t have it anymore.”


Until that moment, my tween had few complaints about braces. But she’ll pass up a whole stack of cookies for one strip of J+J Meats’ beef jerky, located at stand B-6 at Cleveland’s oldest publicly owned  food market.


The West Side Market is located in the Ohio City section of Cleveland, across the bridge from the more touristy  side of the city that includes the Browns Stadium and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Open four days a week, including Saturdays, the architecture of the building itself reminds me of Grand Central Station. And the vibe of the place, with the constant flow of people and energy, makes me think of New York’s main train station too.


Cleveland's West Side Market



The market is made up of two sections — the outer produce market, called the ‘fruit and vegetable arcade,’ which is enclosed but separate from the indoor part. The inside market is where we spend most of our time.  Vendors there pride themselves on offering the finest quality prepared  foods and fresh pasta, meat, seafood, spices, candies. The market dates back to the 1840s, but was officially dedicated in 1912. This year marks the 100th centennial of this gastronomical mecca.


When our family went to the market for the first time a couple years ago, we filled our insulated carry bag with all sort of foods to sample. My husband chose J+J’s beef jerky, which is apparently a favorite of Cleveland chef Michael Symon. I opted for pecan rolls from Theresa’s Bakery. We also picked up fresh-made Asiago cheese ravioli and lobster cream sauce from Ohio City Pasta. I snagged some macadamia nut cookies from Grandma Freda’s, while my husband couldn’t resist the veal brats from Frank’s.


As you might expect, getting my kids to take bites of Grandma’s cookies was no problem. But the jerky? My middle daughter insisted, “I  don’t like jerky, dad!”


“Have you ever tried it?” he asked.


“Well, no. But it doesn’t look good,” she answered.


Now, we have a rule around our house: You don’t have to like something, but you do need to give it a try. My husband reminded her of that and then offered her the smallest sliver of beef jerky.


She took it begrudgingly at first and socked it into the side of her mouth. She chewed quickly at first to show us just how awful it was that she had to eat it. Then her mouth started to move more slowly.  “Huh, that’s not so bad. Can I try another piece?” And so began my daughter’s love of beef jerky. Each time we go to the market, we try to pick up a few new foods for our kids to try. Some foods have been hits, like gyros, monk cake, falafels. Other foods, like the cilantro-lime linguine, chicken sausage, and even the chocolate bacon, have gotten so-so reactions from my crew.


Gough Family, my kids eat squid



If you’re looking to inspire your kids to try new foods, why not look for an indoor or outdoor market near you?


Find out more about our family’s favorite West Side Market food vendors at



Kristen J. Gough is the Global Cuisines & Kids Editor for Wandering
. She shares her family's adventurous food experiences--and recipes--at




All photos courtesy and copyright Kristen J. Gough