Great Escape: East 4th

While downtown Cleveland has been buzzing with activity since the Horseshoe Casino opened this spring, there are other neighborhoods nearby that have, for years, been a thriving destination for a fun night out. East 4th Street is perhaps best known as the home of Iron Chef Michael Symon’s flagship restaurant Lola’s, which is reason enough to venture downtown. However, many don’t realize the variety of dining and entertainment options available on this chic street.

If you’re looking for something to do on a quiet, sunny weekend day, East 4th and Yoga is the place to be. Saturday mornings feature complimentary yoga classes starting at 10 a.m., with free valet parking on location. After class, pop into Erie Island Coffee Co. for a sample of its five specialty artisan-roasted beans. Traditionally trained baristas craft lattes with intricate artistic patterns, and there is plenty of seating and ample outlets for setting up a computer to work or to just shop online. If the coffeehouse scene isn’t for you, instead head to CLE Clothing Co. to browse its unique and fun Cleveland-themed items. From the comical “(216) Respect the Code” shirts, to the cliche (but still amusing) “Cleveland Rocks” logo, to unique Indians, Browns, and Cavs apparel, you’re sure to find something to admire. While there is plenty to do during the day, East 4th Street comes alive in the evening hours. For music fans, House of Blues offers a variety of local and nationally recognized groups. Standing-room tickets on the main floor are great if you’re looking to dance the night away, while seating in the balcony is perfect for relaxing with a glass of wine. Dine at the restaurant or bar before the show (corn bread with maple butter is a personal favorite) for early entrance to the concert venue.

For groups, The Corner Alley provides food, drinks, and fun for a reasonable price. Twelve lanes of upscale (read: clean, modern, and stylish) bowling require early reservations, with waitresses for each lane to offer delicious food from the attached 4th Street Bar & Grill or Corner Alley’s Martini Bar. This venue also offers private party space (including private lanes and bar) for larger events.

For a first date, Hilarities is a great way to break the ice. In one of the largest made-for-comedy-only theaters in the country, customers enjoy national stand-up comedians with reasonably priced tickets, including some dinner and a show packages. Pickwick & Frolic, associated with Hilarities, is the perfect spot to unwind after a show. This venue hosts Ohio’s only champagne bar (ideal for girls’ night out), an award-winning martini bar (when you’re channeling James Bond), and a murder mystery dinner theater (on par with any in the country).

Although East 4th Street offers days’ worth of entertainment, the dining options are even more numerous. Featuring both locally and nationally renowned chefs, foodies enjoy innumerable delectable dishes from a traditional Irish pub (Flannery’s) to modern rustic Italian (Chinato) to creative Vietnamese dishes (Saigon). Zocalo features fresh Mexican-inspired items and the largest tequila menu in Cleveland. If homegrown is more your speed, check out The Greenhouse Tavern, the first certified green restaurant in Ohio.

Valet parking ($8 plus tip) covers the entire evening, with convenient location on site. Every dining and entertainment option could not be included given the scope of this fun neighborhood, so head to East 4th Street to experience the original downtown hot spot for yourself.

— Kelsey Larson —