CLEVELAND, Ohio — The West Side Market itself has been a jewel of the city since first opening to shoppers in 1912. But the West Side Market Cafe is worthy of its own trip.
It’s a truly authentic Cleveland experience — one of those places where it’s difficult to find yourself not talking to strangers and asking the staff for recommendations.
Drinking cold beers in the morning is a thing here, too, and you’ll spot plenty of diners with Miller Lites and Yuenglings sitting next to their plates. It’s not only acceptable, it’s encouraged. It’s all part of the restaurant’s mission, which is making people feel at home.
The staff treats you like they’ve known you forever. You’re immediately asked if you want coffee or a beer as if you were going to an old friend’s house to catch up.
The West Side Market Cafe isn’t about serving trendy food or having the most Instagram-friendly aesthetic. It’s about good food — and leaving happy and full.
Stepping into the cafe feels like going back in time; worn subway tile on the walls and old bar stools play into that. But it’s also due to the overwhelming amount of Cleveland memorabilia everywhere. It’s like walking into a museum of the market that you are allowed to eat and drink at, which is a marvel in itself.
The food is simple, but top-quality ingredients from the market transform dishes into something memorable. Many are probably things you could make yourself, but it just feels more special coming from a kitchen that feels like it makes every dish with love.
A good example: the breakfast sandwich. The pillowy roll melts together with a thick slice of cheddar cheese and a fried egg, but what really makes this sandwich stand out is the bacon. Its sweet and savory taste is amplified by how thick it’s cut. It’s a hearty meal without being overwhelming.
If you’re looking for hangover food, look no further than the Hot Mess. It starts with a base of home fries topped with cheesy scrambled eggs and bacon. To make it the mess it really is, the entire thing is smothered in smoky sausage gravy. There is absolutely no way to look attractive while eating this, so just dig in and enjoy all the flavors of breakfast thrown onto one plate.
You can’t talk about eating breakfast at the West Side Market Cafe and not mention the their insane Bloody Marys. The classic comes with an olive, cheese, pickles and more for a topping. Aside from the drink’s aesthetic impress, it’s downright delicious. It’s the perfect balance of vinegar, pepper and tomato flavor that should be considered for bottling and selling.
The Hungarian Hash is Cleveland on a plate. It’s smoked kielbasa adds so much flavor to the potatoes and onions. To make it even more gluttonous, a poached egg and Hollandaise sauce is added. It’s a gigantic portion perfect for sharing, and also is one of those rare breakfast dishes that makes for great leftovers.
If you’re on a hunt for amazing chicken and waffles, these are nothing to get too excited about. The chicken disappoints for lacking the crispy skin you look for in fried chicken, but the cornbread waffle does transform the dish into something more savory. The stand-out on this plate is the indulgent honey butter that pairs perfectly with the waffle.
The wraps here are nothing special, but the homemade salsa takes them to the next level. The chorizo wrap is filled with high-quality meat and cheese that’s almost addicting to eat, and the black beans are a nice touch. Also, the vegan wrap is surprisingly filling with the addition of both tofu and a medley of roasted vegetables that are amplified when smothered in that amazing salsa.
The banana bread French toast with peanut-butter drizzle is what dessert-for-breakfast dreams are made of. The drizzle really just adds to the overall flavor. Even if you order something else on the menu, get this for dessert to share with the table.
The West Side Market Cafe is a perfect diner because it knows how to cater to Clevelanders. It’s a place that feels like the communal kitchen for the city, where anyone can come in for a cup of coffee and some good conversation. Whether its factory workers grabbing a bite before their shifts or tourists looking for a taste of true Cleveland, the Cafe has its doors open for anyone who wants to enter, and you definitely should.
More on the West Side Market Cafe
- The West Side Market Cafe also has an extensive brunch and lunch menu including sandwiches, salads, pierogies and more.
- Unlike the Market, the Cafe is open seven days a week.
- The Cafe also offers to-go orders, which is a popular feature at breakfast for people on-the-go.
Where: 1979 W 25th St., Cleveland
Hours: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday and Wednesday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
Prices: Breakfast entrees $7-11, drinks $6-10, appetizers $5-10, lunch entrees $7-11
Credit cards: All major
Cuisine: American diner food
Accessibility: Good, one floor, spacing between tables
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