Kielbasa! You’ll never see so much kielbasa in your life—smoked, fresh, double-smoked, Hungarian, Polish. There’s an orgy of beautiful meat at the West Side Market: One stand is called the Pork Chop Shop.
There are gorgeous edibles of all kinds. The market hall is crammed end to end with 100 stalls: butchers and bakers, fishmongers and cheesemongers, spice sellers and rice sellers. Greengrocers line the arcade alongside the original building.
Cleveland’s West Side Market may be North America’s finest indoor food hall, the equal or better of Philly’s Reading Terminal Market, the Lancaster Market, and Montreal’s Jean Talon. A food market has operated at (or next to) this location since 1840, but the current building—including clock tower—went up in 1912, and has been renovated and improved repeatedly ever since. Its barrel vault and vast windows give the market an airiness and spaciousness, even when it’s crammed with shoppers. The steer’s head carved into the northern pediment may be a poignant thank you to the animals that have helped stock the market and feed Cleveland for a century.
Know Before You Go
None of the places take card besides select ones ONLY if you get a certain amount of items, so bring lots of cash!
The produce section is full of vendors trying to rip you off so they can make more money for produce that you can get fresher and some grocery store nearby, so it's not recommended to shop in that section, but the other building with all the stands with meat, fish, baked goods, ect. are safe to shop at and have amazing quality.
The parking is free for the first hour, so if you're thrifty and don't have a cheaper alternative way of getting there, you might not want to take as much time as usual if you're a slow shopper. Also, if you use the parking lot, and you are able to do this, please park near the back of the lot near the beer garden, as people are always cramming in the front of the lot near the door, but even when it gets super busy, there is always at least one empty row in the back.
Speaking of the door by the parking lot. This door goes to the produce section. If you want to go to the main market, you just walk down until you see a door in-between the vendor stands to your left. When you get outside, it will lead to an alley that looks like it could probably hold two cars side-by-side. Just walk down until you find an open door and then you'll make it to the main market.
If you want to grab a quick bite, at that door, if you go all the way down to your left, you'll find the rest area. If you keep going straight, you'll come across a slow, little, and charming restaurant that sells hotdogs. Like the vendors, they don't take card, so don't forget your cash! After you order your food, inside there is a table you can eat at while standing, but if you want to eat there but are unable to stand a long time, they do have stools. If that's not your thing, if you go through the door the opposite side you came in and cross the street outside, you'll make it to a small park that hosts events like the Bazaar that comes around once every summer weekend. There, you can sit at a picnic table and watch the pigeons as you eat. There is also spaces for anyone using a wheelchair with single person seats in-between so you can eat alongside family and friends who aren't in a wheelchair.
My favorite stand there has to be Kate's Fish, which is known for having the best fish in the Cleveland area. They have gotten into a bit of trouble after speaking up about the poor conditions at the market, so make sure you plan your trip soon so you don't miss them!
If you have a dog and think they've been a good boy/girl and they don't have any health issues that keep them from enjoying this next tip, you should head over to Jim's Meats. There, they sell marrow dog bones, but they run out quickly, so I suggest going to the market in the morning. Also, while you're there, if you're a meat lover like me, you should also check out their selection of meat, and especially their burger patties.