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15 Places in Ohio You Must Visit in 2016

Making favorite lists is terribly hard, but with the new year already upon us it only makes sense to reflect on where we’ve been in 2015.  So although nearly impossible, I’ve tried my best to whittle down a list of favorite Ohio spots into a mere 15.

Disclaimer: 15 could’ve easily turned into 50 and there’s no rhyme or reason to the compilation, just simply locations across Ohio that we thought are swell.

Close Quarters in Avon Lake, Ohio:  With around 20 bar stools, this tiny bar certainly lives up to its name but makes up for what size it lacks in character.  Packed to the gills with wacky memorabilia and old-school patron polaroids, there’s hardly a blank spot on the walls.  If you’re lucky enough to find the charming proprietor present, he’ll take an aforementioned polaroid of your mug, affix it to the wall and further cement you into Cleveland tavern lore.   Make sure to try the chicken wings, which are contest worthy and wash it down with a cold beer from their surprisingly large selection.

CloseQuarters

Katalina’s in Columbus, Ohio:  The state capitol doesn’t lack delicious breakfast spots, but Katalina’s in Victorian Village is the cream of the crop.  Superbly charming with excellent outdoor patio space and locally-made goodness, I only have two other words for you: pancake balls.  Seriously, their signature item is made with local stoneground flour, ridiculously tasty and filled with things like Nutella, dulche de leche and pumpkin apple butter.

Catalina's

Shisler’s Cheese House in Orrville, Ohio:  This old school cheese house is perfect.  From Rita, the story-filled owner to the mazed aisles of homemade trail bologna and countless local treats, it almost feels like a shop that could’ve existed on the Frontier.  Rifling through more cheese in a year than you’ve probably ever laid eyes on, I’m guessing the folks at Shisler’s rarely get stumped playing cheese trivia.

Shisler'sCheeseHouse

Loganberry Books in Shaker Heights, Ohio:  My first visit to this glorious gem of a book store was to hear avid budget traveler, Nomadic Matt, speak to a small group of folks about travel hacking.  Independently owned and operated in the historic Larchmere neighborhood, Loganberry boasts over 100,000 volumes, which is staggering for a bookstore of this size — And we’re not talking Books-a-Million, as this place is meticulously curated with new, used and rare books of all genres.  Plus any bookstore with Oriental rugs and wandering cats is fine by me.

Loganberry Books

Porco Lounge in Cleveland, Ohio:  Located between the historic neighborhoods of Tremont and Ohio City, this Polynesian pleasure is where patrons come to get their tiki fix and escape from the traditional midwest day.  Fine spirits, fresh squeezed juices and house made mixers are intricately meshed together in a lush atmosphere to create potent, delicious libations that would make Don the Beachcomber proud.  My favorite, trying to get through all the levels of Painkillers.  But if you’re really feeling randy, go for the Tiki Bob’s Concussion — Careful, you’re only allowed just one.

PorcoLounge

Tony’s in Athens, Ohio:  Hailing from Ohio University and fresh off a recent trip down memory Tonyslane, it’s imperative that I include at least one of my 57 favorite places in Athens.  Tony’s must be that place.  If you’re looking to relax with friends, throw some darts and have a drink in a quintessential college bar, there’s no place better watering hole.  Grab a Hot Nut shot and treat yourself to some nostalgia old boy.

Johnny’s Little Bar in Cleveland, Ohio:  Best bar in Cleveland. Johnny'sLittleBar That is all.  Oh yes, and try the burger in this tiny alley beer joint.  My grandmother always refers to good bars as “beer joints” and I feel only the best taverns deserve such a timeless moniker.  Johnny’s definitely does.

Hocking Hills in Hocking, Ohio:  Arguably one of the most picturesque places in Ohio, it’s nearly impossible to snap a bad photo here.  Walking around with your pup for a day at Hocking Hills almost feels like a form of mediation — Soothing waterfalls and earthy caves set amongst lush vegetation bring about something everyone desperately needs after a week at the office: peace.  Don’t care much for relaxation?  Zipline over the canopy I’ll be mellowing out in.

HockingHills

Catawba Island Brewing Co. in Catawba Island, Ohio:  Convert an old marine storage facility into a really cool brewery, dish out some tasty craft beer and you have yourself a pretty sweet establishment.  Sweaty summer day?  Try the excellent Whitecap Wit and if you time it right, maybe you’ll get to taste their oddly delicious Habanero Hefeweizen.

CIBC

Old Forge Cafe & Creperie in Put-in-Bay, Ohio:  Beside being the best island in the world, Put-in-bay has an array of places we could’ve included in this list but had to withhold for the sake of brevity.  Honestly, best island in the world — Pretty sure it would hold up in court.  Okay, now that I’ve professed my love for South Bass Island, to the Old Forge.  Their carefully crafted crepes (say that three times fast) taste wonderful on their own, but when you combine the unique atmosphere of a historic island blacksmith shop that’s been brought back to life, they taste even better.  Plus they have an outdoor, Key West-ish garden bar with a phenomenal beer selection.  Go here next summer.  Just hop on the Miller Ferry and go.

OldForge

Volstead Bar in Sandusky, Ohio:  If you fancy yourself a cocktail connoisseur then this place is the nines.  Housed in an old brothel called the Green Door, the Volstead Bar is a perfectly executed throwback to the days when Al Capone toted illegal booze and bar patrons took immense pride in what they imbibed.  With 24 seats, zero televisions and a no-cell phone suggestion, the cozy confines are excellent for those important conversations you were thinking about having at that last bar.  Try my favorite if you like bourbon, the sazerac.  If you don’t like bourbon, then you’re dead to me.  Kidding, kidding…try the popular French 76, the English derived Pimm’s Cup or the classic Aviation.

VolsteadBar

La Dolce Vita in Cleveland Ohio (Little Italy):  Right in the heart of Little Italy, which is a very distinctive area as a whole, La Dolce Vita personifies what true Italian food and Mediterranean atmosphere is all about.  Go for the street side cafe seats outside if the weather’s nice, however the inside of the establishment is just as unique.  You can’t go wrong with the Eggplant Del Giorno for an appetizer and as for the main course, my vote goes to the Veal “Pavarotti” in a marsala wine sauce.  One more thing and I’m willing to live with the finality of this statement, their sangria is the best I’ve ever had.

LaDolceVita

JAFB Wooster Brewery in Wooster, Ohio:  There’s a good chance you’ve seen their beer if you’ve been to a Cleveland Browns game and probably a greater chance you’ve had three or four considering that’s usually what it takes to stomach our beloved NFL franchise.  Ultimately though these fellas are much more than just one canned beer — These Wooster natives are brewing up some ridiculously tasty beverages, as evidenced by their recent silver medal at the Great American Beer Fest for their Rain Delay IPA.  My favorite?  Step Up Pale Wheat or the Mean Bourbon Bean Stout.  Ultimately it doesn’t really matter which brew you choose while you’re here, I haven’t had a bad one yet.

JAFB

Fatheads Brewery in North Olmstead, Ohio:  If JAFB is considered an up-and-coming brewery then this place would undoubtedly be considered an old Ohio staple.  Year in and year out their beers are awarded gold medals at every competition imaginable and somehow just keep getting better.  Beers like the Sunshine Daydream Session IPA and the Hop Juju Imperial IPA tend to be my go to’s, but much like JAFB it’s nearly impossible to find a sub-par beer.  Make sure to bring your appetite though, as their delicious array of signature sandwiches are sure to be bigger than your head — Unless you have an abnormally large dome, then maybe not.

Fatheads

 

The Village Pump in Kelleys Island, Ohio:  Kelleys Island unapologetically does its own thing and that’s cool.  From remote white sand beaches encompassed in limestone piers and 20,000 year-old glacial grooves, to island wineries, breweries and character-laden taverns, this picturesque Lake Erie island is as unique as it is fun.  With the Village Pump, there’s a huge emphasis on “character-laden tavern” part of that description as you’ll soon find out after receiving the obligatory high-five from Gary, proprietor of said establishment.  Start off with a cup of clam chowder, followed by a perch sandwich and wash it all down with their famous Brandy Alexander — that’s Kelleys Island lunch perfection right there.  And if you’re feeling adventurous, head to the bar and shoot back a storm cloud.

VillagePump
Photo courtesy of The Village Pump

Is there a place in Ohio that just has be on this list?  Please share below or on twitter @ItsAlwaysOhio.

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Wooster is the Coolest (And Tastiest) Town in Ohio You Haven’t Been To

We’re dead serious, this place is cool. Like, really cool. Of course the College of Wooster ArtKeyholeresides here, a lovely place it seems to get an education, but that’s far from the coolest thing in this burgeoning little town. Although it should be known that the students do inject a nice bit of positive, youthful energy into an already spirited city.

So first things first, that vibe. Almost european in feel, you immediately get the sense that something unique is happening in Wooster. A look of pride and concerted effort is evident on everyone’s face, as if they’re stoked to see what they’ve created here.

LuckyRecords

Places like Lucky Records, an invariably cool local vinyl shop that sells new and used EP’s in addition to servicing and maintaining record players, is the kind of place you’d only expect to see in a large metropolis, not a small town the edge of Amish country. It’s also the perfect compliment to the local music scene here — Jazz festivals and music events happen all the time, highlighting the diversity in arts that Wooster brings to the table.

Secondly, the food. Oh my goodness the food. It’s almost tough to explain because the options here are nearly endless, but we can certainly try.

LocalRoots

Starting with Local Roots is probably a good idea, as it kind of sets the tone for the culinary scene here in Wooster. This co-op/community
center focuses on organic groceries and locally sourced fare, all while acting as a cornerstone within the community.

Louies

Then there’s places like Spoon Market where the menu comes on butcher paper, the deli sandwiches are mouth-watering and the smoothies are perfect for a midday uplift. Louie’s Local Meats resides in the rear of Spoon, where Adam Nussbaum, the prodigal meat vendor specializes in slicing up meat the old-school way. Starting with carcass meat and breaking it down himself leads to some unbelievable gourmet sausages and super fresh hamburger.

Since meat is on the mind, let’s head across the street to City Square Steakhouse. Heavenly steaks and ultra-fresh burgers are the specialty here and labeling them as a ‘specialty’ is putting it lightly. Most of their beef is sourced locally through Certified Angus Beef, whose headquarters are not far down the road. Try an Ohio-sourced center-cut ribeye steak from these guys and you may just ruin your local steak joint back home. City Square also makes it a point to offer several Ohio-made beers on tap.

JAFB

JAFB Brewery, which stands for Just Another F****** Brewery (one of the best brewery names ever created), is also just down the street and has continued to take home medals for their craft from the Great American Beer Fest in Denver, Colorado. Mean Bean Bourbon Stout or their prized Rain Delay IPA? It really doesn’t matter, these guys make incredible beer.

Motts

Back to the topic of Wooster having establishments that usually only appear in a sprawling metropolis, there’s Mott’s Oils and More. The containers of infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars seem to go on for days in this unique place and akin to the amount of oils they offer is the sheer knowledge of the staff. So if you’re looking to put a healthy spin on your favorite dish at home, look no further.

And lastly, Wooster sits on the edge of Amish country in Wayne County and needless to say this presents a lot of other very fun opportunities.

Shislers

Let’s see, if you’re into rare and gourmet cheeses then Shisler’s Cheese House is an absolute must. See if you can find Rita for a conversation, she’s a character and just extremely fun to talk with. Just down the road is the very small town, or rather intersection of Kidron, Ohio, where Quince Cafe & Bakery and Lehman’s reside.

Quinces

Quince will serve you some of the best, locally-made desserts you’ve ever tasted while Lehman’s will show you how to make your own — The place is almost 3/4 mile long and has every old-style item one could ever imagine.  Put it this way, if the power ever goes out you’ll wish you would’ve bought more at Lehman’s.

Not sure where to stay? The St. Paul Hotel in downtown Wooster is a revelation. Heated bathroom floors and spacious showers will have you singing before starting your day. StPaulSignContemporary and comfortable, this spectacular boutique hotel is worth every penny.

While it would most certainly take a lot more pages of to cover everything that makes Wooster, Ohio cool, I think we covered some of the great parts. Of course if you want to find out more, go explore for yourself. You won’t be disappointed!

Have something to add about Wooster, please share below or on Twitter @ItsAlwaysOhio.

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