Tag Archives: Happy Dog

Movies + Menchie’s + Party Animals = A Perfect 31st

Reminder: Today and tomorrow are your last chance to enter the Locavore Giveaway. Enter to win 2 tickets to a night of local food, wine and chocolate to benefit the National MS Society’s Ohio-Buckeye Chapter.

Birthday Drinks at B-Spot

Birthday Drinks at B-Spot

Later this week Scott and I hit the roads to see our families and attend the Baltimore Comic Con next weekend.

The only thing I dislike about going on vacation (besides missing events like Taste of the Browns when I’m out of town) is all of the prep work needed before we leave. The packing, catching up on projects, writing and scheduling blog posts for when I’m away.

Don’t get me wrong – it pays off in the end because I can go away with a little less on my mind. It’s just that I sometimes feel like I need a vacation for my vacation.

Fortunately, we took a little break this past weekend to celebrate my birthday and relax before the busy-ness really starts up this week.

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Happy Dog: My Christmas Miracle

Just one of the reasons Happy Dog never fails to brighten my mood.

As I mentioned in my last post, I had been feeling a little down earlier this week – overwhelmed and definitely not in the holiday spirit. So, in hopes of brightening my mood and forcing myself to forget about the holidays for a few minutes, I made plans for dinner with an old friend — Danielle from Namaste or Should I Go.

Danielle moved to Cleveland a few months back to help open up Ohio’s first Bikram Yoga Studio (which you can learn more about by reading her guest post). Life had gotten away from both of us so it had been a while since we had hung out, and I knew her always-effervescent personality would help light up my week. 

I also knew just where we could go – my favorite place to bring guests and people new to Cleveland: Happy Dog!

Besides just wanting to show off one of my favorite Cleveland spots, I had another reason to stop by Happy Dog as they recently refreshed their toppings menu and I wanted to try out some of the new flavors.

Unfortunately, I almost didn’t make it. Due to some car issues, girls’ night out became girls’+Scott night out. But, in a continuing attempt to look on the bright side of things this week, that did mean I got treated to dinner thanks to the Happy Dog gift card Scott got for Christmas.

So enough about me – onto the new toppings!

To kick off the Twelve Days of Christmas Happy Dog announced 10 new toppings: Jamaican jerk mustard, wasabi aioli, everything bagel cream cheese, Buffalo wing hot sauce, cucumber dill yogurt tzatziki, Guinness sauerkraut, caramel applesauce, French’s Original fried onions, sloppy joes, and pepper jack cheese. Additionally, 2 oldie-but-goodies are getting an update as Happy Dog is going to start making the chunky peanut butter in house and using a new cheddar cheese.

Of course, with the new menu some flavors had to go away. R.I.P. raspberry crunch mustard, saffron aoili, creole remoulade, killer steak sauce, Polish cwikla, vodka sauerkraut, Spaghetti-O’s, bok choy stir fry, Fritos, and Gouda.

Here’s the full menu with all of the updates:

I’m always a little nervous when Happy Dog is about to announce a new menu because I don’t want to lose my favorites (Scott’s still mourning the loss of putting potato chips on his bacon-egg-and-cheese hot dog). And this time, two of my favorites – the bok choy stir fry and Gouda – had to hit the road.

However, there are so many amazing toppings on the Happy Dog menu that I always know I can find an alternative, and worst case scenario, I can hold out hope that a lost topping will make a triumphant return like the cucumber dill yogurt tzatziki did.

(Now, if it was the Marcella’s grape jelly and chile sauce, that would be a completely different story…I don’t want that to ever go away because it’s the perfect sauce to dip their fries in.) 

Although I do get a bit apprehensive about losing toppings, I love trying the new ones. I have a bad habit of getting stuck in my ways so experimenting with new options is always refreshing.

This week, I wanted a lighter taste to my hot dog, so I tried the cucumber dill yogurt tzatziki, sliced roma tomatoes, greek feta cheese and (because I can’t be 100% healthy) French’s Original fried onions. Although the structural integrity of my hot dog was extremely compromised by the tomatoes (that’s what the fork and knife are for), this was a winning combination.

It was a smooth, fresh flavor that I really enjoyed.  And depending on the mood I’m in the next time I’m there, I may have to try those toppings on the Vegan Sausage. I think the spice in the sausage will add a nice zesty balance to the mix.

Underdog, now open Tuesday - Sunday, 4pm to close

The toppings aren’t the only changes going on at Happy Dog right now.  Over the last several weeks, they’ve been busy opening up their downstairs space, aptly named Underdog.

Sporting pinball machines, 80s video games, a shuffleboard table and a projection TV, it’s the perfect place to escape if you need a break from the music in the upstairs bar.

In a continuing effort to expand their wide range of events (which already features things like Classical Revolution, DJ Kishka’s Polka Happy Hour, the Ohio City Opry and countless bands), they’re planning to feature some writers events on the second Tuesday of the month, pinball and shuffleboard leagues for Wednesdays, and local filmmaker and video artist events in the Underdog space.

And! On Thursday nights only in Underdog, if you’re one of the first 24 to order it, you can try one of their burgers. I love my Happy Dog hot dogs, but I may need to try one of these out. 

I confirmed with Sean W. at Happy Dog that Underdog is now open Tuesday – Sunday, 4pm-close.

If you’re making holiday plans, note that Happy Dog will be closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for a well-deserved break, and on New Year’s Eve they’re closing early (so the Underdog space won’t be open).   However, on New Year’s Day, Biscuits N’ Gravy Brunch is back! I’m thinking this will be how I kick off 2012.

Honestly, Happy Dog never seems to fail me. From the good (and cheap!) food, to the drinks to the amazing service, they make it easy to love coming back.  Needless to say, hanging out, trying a new flavor combination and catching up with Danielle’s adventures in bikram was the break I needed to reset and cheerfully get through the rest of this week.

This is my last post til next week so if I don’t see you off-blog before then, enjoy your Yule, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus or however you decide to spend your weekend. I know I now will!

Happy Dog Stage at Open Air in Market Square – Ohio City

Scott contemplating how awesome it is to listen to DJ Kishka outdoors

If you were to ask me what my favorite ‘Saturday morning’ activity is in Cleveland, I’d be hardpressed to pick just one.  However, if I was really forced to, I would have to go with visiting Ohio City.  The Westside Market is swarming with activity and in general the neighborhood is filled with great people-watching opportunities.

One of my top Ohio City memories was last August’s Cleveland Sketch Crawl at Open Air in Market Square.  Each Saturday in the summer, local vendors gather on the cobblestoned Market Ave.  outside of Great Lakes and Flying Fig. Throughout the day, you can stroll through the street, lounge on one of the stone benches and listen to the bands that are performing that week. 

This summer, Ohio City Incorporated – in partnership with Penzeys Spices and Room Service – has grown Open Air in Market Square into “Cleveland’s Artisan Outdoor Market .” And to reinvigorate the music lineup, Happy Dog was brought in to book entertainment for the Happy Dog Stage at Open Air. Given their ability to put together awesome concerts and events like Polka Happy Hour and Orchestral Manouvres, Happy Dog was the perfect pick for this.  

Mermouse House performs at the Happy Dog Stage at Open Air

Of course, if Happy Dog’s going to be involved, there’s no surprise that DJ Kishka would be on the lineup (thankfully) and a couple Saturdays ago we headed down to enjoy our favorite polka dj. 

Mermouse House opened the day. Until recently, they were called Kyodai Brass and are a Slavic Soul Party-inspired band. Three of the (many) reasons Scott and I loved this group:

  1. They’re a Serbian band and Scott’s part Serbian, which is an aspect of his heritage I’ve loved learning about
  2. As former Sousaphone and Drum players, respectively, Scott and I really loved the sound Mermouse House produced
  3. They didn’t stick to just traditional-sounding brass band songs, playing their own take on a tango which was the highlight of their set for me. 

After Mermouse House, DJ Kishka took to the stage in his trademark lederhosen and beard.  He played a number of favorites like Ice Cubes and Beer and Cleveland’s a Polka Town, and there were a few I hadn’t heard before .  As always, he engaged people who were enjoying the show and even those just walking by.  I particularly got a kick out of the guests who were dining at Great Lakes Brewing Company that walked a few steps to the patio’s gate (next to where Kishka was set up) and made requests.

Who Stole the Kishka?

Chardon Polka Band closed that day’s lineup.  Unfortunately, Scott and I had to leave before they started playing. After reading about them when they played Dyngus Day, I’ve wanted to see them play for a few months but keep missing shows.  I can’t wait to hear their punk-rock blended with traditional polka sound, and with an album called Pirates Women and Beer, they had me at ‘Pirates.’ 

The nice thing about the Happy Dog Stage at Open Air is that if you’re someone like me who doesn’t like crowds, you can walk around, casually enjoy the music and have a lot of room to breathe.  And when we weren’t sitting on Market Square’s wall or over at Koffie Cafe, we were stopping by some of the vendors.

Scott bought me a handmade birthday card from the Salty not Sweet table (less than a month til I get to see the card he picked out!) and I bought myself my new favorite necklace: a bronze-colored, owl-covered pocket-watch on a chain. 

My new favorite piece of jewelry from Salty Not Sweet's booth

We also stopped by the Garage Bar‘s Saturday garage sale and the Glass Bubble Project where we picked up a beautifully eclectic, handblown tumbler.  We didn’t have a chance to come back and check it out later in the afternoon, but were told they offer public glass-blowing demonstrations when it’s not too hot out. 

Since no trip to Ohio City on a Saturday is complete without a stop at Westside Market, we dashed in, replenished our orzo supply and picked up some anchovie-stuffed and prosciutto-stuffed olives to enjoy at home.

Tumbler from Glass Bubble Project

Open Air in Market Square continues until September 3rd and Happy Dog is bringing great music each weekend to Ohio City.  You’ll find the full list below and can like Happy Dog Stage at Market Square on Facebook for more details:

  • 7/30 – Filmstrip (Alternative Rock) 2 p.m.; Nights (Alternative Rock) 3 p.m.
  • 8/6 – Eli the Neighborhood Musician 11 a.m.; Brian Olive (Indie/Blues) 3 p.m.
  • 8/13 – Radio People, Imaginary Softwoods + DJ Sets by John Elliott and Sam Goldberg (Electronic) 12-4 p.m.
  • 8/20 – Library Time (Garage) 11 a.m.; Beatles Cover Band 2 p.m.; Bill Fox (Indie/Folk) 3 p.m.
  • 8/27 – Chris Allen (Folk/Rock) 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • 9/3 – Prisoners (Garage) 12:30 p.m.; Founding Fathers (Indie/Alternative) 1:30 p.m.; Herzog (Alternative Rock) 3:30 p.m.

Clue Into Cleveland: Weekends Edition

My parents discussing model trains with a volunteer at the Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum - one of our stops during their whirlwind weekend visit.

When it comes to the weekend, I typically don’t need an excuse to go out and explore. Honestly, I’d say my biggest problem is forcing myself to stay home and do things around the house that need to get done (like this weekend’s project: clean the garden).

Because of this, when I have friends or family in town, I go into Clue-Into-Cleveland overdrive – trying to hunt down places and events in Cleveland that align with each person’s interests.  Suffice it to say, when my parents told me they were coming into town this past weekend, we packed their short visit full of Cleveland fun.

With another weekend kicking off tomorrow, I figured I’d share our adventure in case you were in need of some more ideas.  Fortunately, with the exception of a couple items on the list, a lot of these places are things you can visit anytime of year.

And while we’re on the subject … Where do you like to go on the weekend? I’m always looking for new places to try out so leave a comment at the end of the post with your suggestions! I enjoy mini-roadtrips so even if it’s not in Cleveland-proper, shoot me a line with your recommendation.


The Ohio Pinball Show

Scott, my parents and I started the weekend off by driving out to Cuyahoga Falls on Saturday morning for the 7th annual Ohio Pinball Show. Growing up, my parents had a jukebox and Chicago Cubs pinball machine that I would spend hours playing on.  Along the line, I inherited my parents’ love for the lights and noise of the machines.

We shareed this mutual love with Scott at the show, which offered all-day free play on over 100 machines. For a few hours, Scott and I hopped from a few of the more antique machines to our personal favorites – Dr. Who, Twilight Zone and Last Action Hero. Meanwhile, my parents talked to the vendors and found the jukebox manual they had been searching a long time for. We even happened upon the Die Hard arcade game and played a few levels.  Definitely a winning start.

Saturday's special at Great Lakes Brewery was a corned beef sandwich with cabbage and a fried egg. Paired with a stout, their chips, and beer-cheese sauce, this was a perfect lunch.

Great Lakes Brewing Company and Ohio City

Playing that much pinball made us hungry, so we took my parents over to Ohio City. After showing them West Side Market and a few of the neighborhood’s sights, we decided on Great Lakes Brewing Company for lunch. Since watching Robert Stack in the Untouchables as a child, my mom’s had a fascination with Eliot Ness. And recently she’s been reading up on his days in Cleveland. Even though they’re only rumored to have come from his gun, the bullet holes at the Brewery were on my mom’s list of something to see.

We not just got to see that, but we enjoyed GLBC’s sandwich of the day – delicious corned beef with fried egg, as well as their mac and cheese. My mom who doesn’t really like beer discovered she loved their Porter, and after sampling a bottle of beer named after my mom’s favorite Prohibition agent, my dad was drinking Eliot Ness the rest of the weekend.

My dad quickly brought himself up to speed on the rules of roller derby by reading the Burning River Roller Girls' program.


Burning River Roller Girls

Saturday was capped off with the specific reason my parents chose this weekend to visit Cleveland: Burning River Roller Girls. After talking up roller derby for the last year, my parents were determined to see a match. For Saturday’s doubleheader, we sat right behind the players’ benches. This was the first time we’ve sat on that side of the arena and so close to the action. It gave my parents a really great perspective of what was happening on the track and we were able to watch the coaches and players in between jams calling line ups and plays.

Although there’s no derby this weekend — the BRRG have a second match this month on April 30th when the Steamers take on the Rolling PinUps and the Hellbombers take on the Hardknockers.

At the Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum in Mentor, you can not only watch but also play with a couple aspects of their platform. The pictured button allows you to operate the pushcar.

Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum

After seeing a mention on Positively Cleveland’s blog about the Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum, we knew this was a can’t-miss stop for my parents’ weekend tour. Collectors of the American Flyer gauge trains, my parents are always interested in anything to do with model trains (and with Scott’s and my burgeoning HO platform we’re right there with them).

The Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum is based out in Mentor – perfect for a leisurely Sunday drive. Its 19,000 square foot facility houses 26 different gauges of trains on tracks that are constantly growing and changing. So even if you’ve been before, go back because you’re apt to see something different.

One of my favorite things about the Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum were the humorous touches, including this show down between a little green man and the military.

Regardless of whether you collect model trains or have children who enjoy toy trains, I highly recommend visiting the Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum. Building and maintaining these platform layouts is an art that the volunteers at Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum have worked hard to develop. Additionally, they know how to have fun with the platforms – with a number of non-realistic elements thrown in for good measure (my favorite was the little green men invading the military airport).

However, as we learned when we were there on Sunday, the Museum is suffering the same problem a lot of other non-profits are – due to government cuts, a number of grants have been withdrawn. Between this and the museum’s policy to offer free admission, they’re in the unfortunate position where they need donations to stay open.  They are running a single-donation and annual pledge campaign right now — so if you are able to support them, check out their website to donate: www.wrmrrm.org.

A favorite weekend (and weekday) haunt of mine: Gordon Square's Capitol Theatre.

The Capitol Theatre

By this point in the weekend, we were ready to take a break from being on our feet so often so we headed over to one of my favorite movie theaters: the Capitol Theatre in the Gordon Square Arts District. This wasn’t just on our list because their Midnight Cult Classics and Sunday Classics & Brunch series make it an awesome weekend haunt, but also because they were showing Kill The Irishman, the film about real-life Cleveland mobster Danny Greene.

This movie has gotten a lot of accolades and they’re all well-deserved because the cast did a bang-up job in their portrayals (lame puns strike again). As usual, Walken, D’Onofrio and Val Kilmer were fun to watch. And Ray Stevenson – who I loved in HBO’s Rome and can’t wait to see as Volstagg in Thor – managed to make Greene both sympathetic and menacing. Even though it was filmed in Detroit and not Cleveland, all four of us loved the movie and enjoyed the news clips of Cleveland in the 70s.

The new addition to my Happy Dog playbook: Pineapple-Ginger-Currant Chutney with Bacon, Gouda and Bok Choy.

Happy Dog

This brings us to our last stop on my parents’ trip — the one place my mom always asks to visit when she’s in Cleveland: Happy Dog.  Hot dogs are high on her list of favorite foods and Happy Dog has the dish down to an art form.  So much so that my parents and I ordered 2 hot dogs each.  I even got my mom to try the Blueberry Ale they have in bottles there and my dad stuck with his newfound love – GLBC’s Eliot Ness.

While I love brie with garlicky escarole and marcella grape jelly/chile sauce on my dog, I experimented during this last visit and paired their pineapple-ginger-currant chutney with bacon, bok choy and gouda. I might mix up the cheese next time, but the chutney and bacon combo was like a hawaiian pizza on a hot dog — but even better! I’m glad to have added a new combo to my Happy Dog playbook.  


Hands down, this past weekend was one of my favorite visits with my parents. And I can credit that in part to our shared love for exploring Cleveland. Although I’m sad they’ve headed home to Virginia, I’m glad the experience reminded me how #HappyinCLE I am to live here. 

I hope you find your weekend – and weekday – experiences equally enjoyable!

Happy New Years Cleve from Clue Into Cleveland


The entire New Years Cleve gang after our visit to The Christmas Story House.

New Years Cleve started last year in Manny Brown’s, a bar on Philly’s South Street. It was New Years Eve; Scott and I were in Philly visiting family and friends. We had recently moved into our house and were telling our friends from college about it.  This was months before I started Clue Into Cleveland.

While we were huddled around the table, we talked about having people out to Cleveland to stay at the house. When we realized the next New Years Day fell on a Saturday and would be recognized by our various employers on the Friday, we discussed celebrating the extra long weekend in Cleveland – jokingly calling it New Years Cleve. Flashforward a year (give or take a few days) and we had four houseguests pull into our driveway after an 8-hour drive ready to take on Cleveland for a few days.

When I have guests in town, I usually like to put a few ideas together based on their interests. If they like art, we have a number of larger museums and smaller galleries to take them to; food, there are plenty of restaurants; theater and film, the Cleveland Cinemas, PlayhouseSquare, and a myriad of other theater companies.

Matt's sketch of himself enjoying a Happy Dog hot dog. (photo by Matt and Lish)

However, our first stop was a no brainer.  I took them to the one place I typically take all visitors: the Happy Dog. It has excellent choices for food and drink, prices that don’t hurt your wallet, vegan options, music, and most importantly a laidback atmosphere (especially if you’ve just driven 8+ hours and want to relax).  When we got there last Thursday, we ordered a round of PBRs and our hot dog creations. I had my usual favorite: marcella’s grape jelly and chile sauce, baked beans, garlicky escarole, and brie. However, I also branched out a bit, trying garlic-tomato-basil jam and “alien” pickle relish with my fries. So that they could get a taste of polka, Scott played a few songs from DJ Kishka’s album in the jukebox. Not surprisingly, a few new fans were won over.

After a night of playing Clue, we woke up early the next morning and ventured over to The Christmas Story House in Tremont. My friend Angie is a fan of the film, and considering the tickets are only $8, we couldn’t really pass up the pop culture/kitsch appeal. This was all of our first times visiting the house, including mine. And there’s another post that needs to be written about it at some point.  However, it was a very interesting look behind the scenes of the classic holiday movie. Also, Ian Petrella (the actor who played Randy) is wrapping up his stay at the Christmas Story House and was there meeting fans and signing autographs for anyone who wanted to pick up a unique souvenir.

Our final stop in our New Years Cleve tour before heading home was the West Side Market. Instead of going out for the night, we stayed in and made a dinner featuring food from the Market.  Thanks to everyone on Facebook and Twitter who suggested their favorite West Side Market stands.  We had a number of options of where to go when we got there. Being New Years Eve, the parking lot was the craziest I’ve ever seen it. However, we got in and out with what we needed thanks to the efficiency of everyone working there that day.

Meeting Ian Petrella (Randy from Christmas Story) at the Christmas Story House.

With all of the great options at West Side Market, it was no surprise that dinner was delicious. We started out with some cheese, sausage and olives, as well as two kinds of dip thanks to Lish and Matt. Our main courses consisted of sweet potatoes and pork garnished with apple, onion and spices, as well as parmesan tilapia (thanks, Angie and Jess). We finished with Theresa’s cannolis for dessert.  The meal was topped off with wine and – what else – some Great Lakes beer.

While it was the first New Years Eve in a long time that I spent at home, those two days were a most fitting end to 2010. Since starting Clue Into Cleveland last March, I’ve explored Cleveland more than any other city I’ve lived in in the past.  And although I loved living here before I started blogging, I’ve enjoyed learning how much more there is in Cleveland than I ever expected.  Getting to share my favorite places and discovering new ones with my friends was a delightful way to start 2011.  At midnight, we even got in a little ‘mumming’ in our front yard – in honor of the one Philly New Years tradition that can never be replaced: the Mummer’s Day Parade.

Happy New Years Cleve — I hope you had a great end to 2010!  I’m looking forward to the new year and everything it’ll bring for Cleveland.

We ended the evening by sharing a little 'mumming' with Cleveland - a tip of the umbrella to a great Philly tradition. (photo by Lish and Matt)

The Happy Dog and DJ Kishka's Polka Happy Hour — finally!

Located at 5801 Detroit Ave. in the revived Gordon Square Arts District, The Happy Dog is one of my top three places overall to take people new to Cleveland.

I’ve wanted to write a blog post about The Happy Dog ever since I started blogging about Cleveland in March. Located at 5801 Detroit Ave. In the revived Gordon Square Arts District, this corner bar is quintessential Cleveland and one of my top three places to take people new to the city.

With an excellent list of draft and microbrews that they’re continuing to build on, consistently friendly service, and a solid mix of live music, there’s reason enough to go. However, what sets The Happy Dog apart as a unique Cleveland experience is in the name. Last October,  Eric Willams, the chef and owner of Momocho, came into the mix with the idea of streamlining the menu to offer just hot dogs, veggie dogs, tots and fries.

The image I will always associate with The Happy Dog -- Scott eating his 'heart-attack-in-a-bun' (hot dog, egg, bacon, cheese)

The quarter pound dogs created by Blue Ribbon Meats specifically for The Happy Dog and Field Roast vegan Italian sausage dogs are the canvas on which patrons can create their inexpensive masterpieces. With over 50 toppings (newly updated in August), you can mix and match to your heart’s content.  For the traditionalist, the black truffle honey mustard, sliced gouda cheese and chorizo chili is a great spin on the classic chili dog.  There’s also Scott’s favorite heart-attack-in-a-meal: fried egg, sliced cheddar and bacon.

But don’t stop there – other options that come highly recommended from my visits include raspberry crunch mustard, warm pineapple-ginger-currant chutney, baby bok choy coca cola stir fry, garlicky escarole, and marcella’s grape jelly and chile sauce.  The best part about create-your-own hot dogs — it’s completely up to you and always unique. It also pays to be indecisive at Happy Dog — dogs cost $5 with as many toppings as you’d like; tater tots and fries are $2.50 with your pick of sauces (bacon, either of the chilis, any of the cheeses and fried egg can be added for only $1 more).

To pair with your hot dog, there’s over 75 beers, including more than 20 on tap and a variety of domestic, craft and import beers. My favorites include their Dogfish IPAs and Ale, their selection of Eastern European beers, and my number 1 choice – the Sea Dog Blue Paw Blueberry Ale from Bangor, Maine (I’m a sucker for fruit flavored ales). There’s also liquor, wine and – if you don’t want alcohol – Frostie Root Beer, Blue Cream Soda, Orange and Grape sodas.

Any place with three pinball machines and an Elvis lamp (not pictured) is a winner in my heart.

If I love The Happy Dog so much, why have I waited this long to write about it? Two reasons, I guess. First, I’m not the greatest food writer. I know what I like (beer and hot dogs with a combination of housemade toppings) and why I like it. However, I’m not that good at describing how the rasberry crunch mustard, baby bok choy coca cola stir fry and gouda combine to form a subtly sweet taste that perfectly complements the beefy hot dog. Really…what did I even mean by that?  There are plenty of bloggers and food critics out there who can describe food like a beautiful painting, but my talents fall short in this area.  Of course my inability to express myself artfully just means you’ll need to go to The Happy Dog to find out how amazing rasberry crunch mustard+baby bok choy+gouda really is.

The second reason I’ve waited is that I first wanted to attend one of The Happy Dog’s most celebrated evenings of entertainment – their semi-regular Polka Happy Hour hosted by DJ Kishka. When I first heard about The Happy Dog, Polka Happy Hour was synomonous with it. However, every Friday it was being held, I was either out of town or had tickets to something else.  Except this past Friday. I placed it on my calendar a month ahead of time so that I could specifically make it. My only disappointment of the evening — the fact that I haven’t been able to go sooner.

Scott and I walked in the door around 7pm (it starts at 6, runs til 9).  I’m glad we got there when we did because the few seats left at the bar were filled within another 15 minutes.  I’m also glad we walked in right behind another couple since DJ Kishka at his station by the door managed to fondly heckle almost everyone who entered or left while he was performing.  However, any heckling is part of the whole ‘DJ Kishka’ experience – complete with lederhosen, alpine hat, and beard.

DJ Kishka entertaining a packed bar at Polka Happy Hour

Add on the occasional accordion playing, dancing on tables, and rim shots and you have the perfect complement to the polka records he played for three hours. There was some classic polka and crowd favorites like ‘No Beer Today’ and ‘Ice Cubes and Beer’ and Happy Dog was as packed as I’ve seen it. The best part is that the audience was an awesome cross section – from 20-somethings to older generations. Tshirt-and-jeans to business suits.  It didn’t matter who you were, everyone was united under the 1-2-3/5-6-7 beat of the polka and Kishka’s rallying cry of ‘Drink Up, Idiots!’

The next Polka Happy Hour isn’t until October 1st. However, there are plenty of other events going on at The Happy Dog. Besides a healthy combination of local and national music acts, this Friday is the Ohio City Opry Happy Hour (Clinton J. Holley djs old country classics – both myself and my parents are huge fans) and next Wednesday is their beer and food pairing event. However, even without a concert or polka happy hour, The Happy Dog stands on its own as my favorite corner bar to go to – not just in Cleveland, but pretty much in any city I’ve lived.

If you haven’t been to The Happy Dog yet, grab a hot dog with toppings piled on, a basket of tots, a beer and follow DJ Kishka’s advice: Drink Up, Idiots.  And if you have already been there? Go again. It’s always worth it.

The Happy Dog 411:

SIDE NOTE: Apologies for the 2nd two photos’ quality. I forgot my camera at home and only had my camera phone on Friday.  Hopefully the next time I go to Polka Happy Hour, I can actually get some good shots.  The 1st two photos were from a previous visit when I did have my camera.

Labor Day in Cleveland – 3 Days of Festivals, Food and Fun

With Labor Day comes the unofficial end of summer. Even though the Fall Equinox is weeks away and there seems to be no end in sight to the stifling heat, Clevelanders who want to grasp that last bit of summer have a huge variety of festivals, parties, and other events to choose from this weekend.    

The Rock Hall celebrates its 15th Anniversary (from rockhall.com)


Kicking things off this weekend is the Rock Hall Ball. On Friday, Sept. 3, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is celebrating its 15th anniversary with a party from 8:30 p.m. – 2 a.m.  Live bands and DJs will perform, including soul singer Eli “Paperboy” Reed, alternative rock band Foxy Shazam and DJ Tommie Sunshine.  Two levels of tickets allow flexibility in cost. Platinum tickets ($55 member/$65 non-member) include access at 8:30 p.m., hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine until 12:30 a.m. and entertainment until 2 a.m. Vinyl Tickets ($15) include access at 10 p.m., cash bar and entertainment.    

Labor Day will also feature weekend-long festivals such as:    

  • Labor Day Oktoberfest – At the Berea Fairgrounds will be the 6th Annual Labor Day Oktoberfest. From attending previous Oktoberfests, I recommend indulging in this weekend of oompah bands, brats and beer.  In addition to the food and the beer, years past have had merchants and other organizations promoting a variety of ethnic backgrounds. New this year – the Cleveland Pops Orchestra will perform Beethoven’s celebrated Fifth Symphony.  I’ll be dusting off my alpine hat and putting on my polka-dancing shoes for this.
  • Cleveland Air Show – As the photo in my last post showed, I love attending air shows, and Cleveland’s annual celebration of flying machines at Burke Lakefront Airport is listed as one of the 101 Best Aviation Attractions. Although it runs Sept. 4 -6,  if you’re downtown this week, you can see – and hear – the jets and planes practicing.  Nearby businesses and museums will also be hosting ‘Watch Parties’ including Reddstone’s When Pigs Fly Block Party on Sunday and the weekend-long William G. Mather Air Show Deck Party at nearby Great Lakes Science Center.
  • Taste of Cleveland – The other major downtown festival this weekend is the 15th annual Taste of Cleveland which will feature national entertainment acts and regional food traditional to Northeast Ohio. In addition to the 30+ restaurants that will be at the event, there will be the American Wine School Tasting Bar and cooking demonstrations such as the “Cooking with Kids” parents/children class, the Ohio Natural Gas Ultimate Backyard Kitchen and the 7th Annual Time Warner Cable Mayors’ Dessert Cup Challenge. One of the entertainment acts Scott and I are most looking forward to: “Weird Al” Yankovic on Friday night. What can I say? We’re UHF fans.

Der Glockenspiel - an actual working clock - is one of the attractions at Oktoberfest (from clevelandoktoberfest.com)


If festivals aren’t your thing or you’re looking for a one-off event this weekend, there are other options including:    

  • The Cleveland Orchestra and Joffrey Ballet – On Saturday and Sunday at 8:30 p.m., the Joffrey Ballet returns to the Blossom Music Festival. The Ballet  joins Conductor Tito Muñoz and the Cleveland Orchestra in their presentation of Reflections (choreographed to music by Tchaikovsky), Tarantella (choreographed to Louis Gottschlak), and Pretty BALLET (choregraphed to Bohuslav Martinů). 
  • Cedar Point – Labor Day Weekend is the last weekend to visit the Soak City Waterpark in 2010. It’s also the end of Cedar Point’s regular season. Starting on Sept. 17, the park will open back up for Halloweekends.
  • Aut-O-Rama Drive-In – This weekend, audiences at the North Ridgeville drive-in movie theatre have their choice of a kid-friendly double feature with Toy Story 3 and Nanny McPhee Returns  or cult-classics-to-be Machete and Piranha.
  • The Happy Dog – DJ Kishka’s Polka Happy Hour is back this Friday from 6-9 p.m. (if you can’t make it to this one, he’ll also be at the Happy Dog on the 17th). After DJ Kishka, Adam Tanner and Mark Jackson of North Carolina’s Twilite Broadcasters bring their two-part harmony vocals and acoustic accompaniment to the Happy Dog from 9 p.m. til midnight.
  • Cleveland Polka Association Picnic – The Cleveland Polka Association’s B.Y.O.E. (Bring Your Own Everything) Picnic takes place on Monday, Sept. 6 at  St. Sava’s Picnic Grove (2300 West Ridgewood Drive, Parma). Gate opens at 2 p.m., musical performances run from 3-7 p.m. including Canton, OH’s Polkatones. (More information or large table reservations: 216-661-5227)

The Aut-O-Rama Drive-In presents Machete and Piranha (from autoramadrivein.com)


Fortunately, it’s a three-day weekend, which means plenty of opportunities to experience your share of these end-of-summer events.

Rare Birds, Polka Happy Hour and Hot Dogs This Friday

Located at 5801 Detroit Ave., Happy Dog has mastered the art of the hot dog.


Although I’m looking forward to going on vacation, I’m disappointed that I’ll not only miss Saturday’s Sketch Crawl, but also the DJ Kishka Polka Happy Hour AND Rare Birds shows this Friday at The Happy Dog.  

Scott eating a Hot Dog with Potato Chips, Bacon and an Egg


The Happy Dog is worth a future blog post all its own for its sheer awesomeness.  Located at 5801 Detroit Ave. in the Gordon Square District, it has truly mastered the art of the hot dog.  Options range from tasty quarter-pound all-beef hot dogs to homemade falafel and Field Roast vegan sausage (for those who would rather go meatless). And although I’m a carnivore at heart, I can attest from personal experience that the falafel is ridiculously good.  However, the choices don’t stop there — as there are over 50 options for toppings.  

With all of the choices, you can mix and match to your indecisive heart’s content.  For the traditionalist, the black truffle honey mustard, sliced gouda cheese and chorizo chili is a great spin on the classic chili dog.  Or you could give yourself a heart attack with Scott’s favorite: potato chips, egg, and bacon.  And of course, for the truly adventurous, there’s always fruit loops, peanut butter and marcella’s grape jelly and chile sauce.  But that’s the best thing about create-your-own hot dogs — it’s completely up to you. Add on any of the 75+ beers they serve, as well as a side of fries or tater tots with their own substantial choice of toppings, and you have the makings for one of the more unique dining experiences in Cleveland.  

In addition to the food, this Friday at Happy Dog is shaping up to be an awesome night of entertainment.  First, from 6-9pm, there’s DJ Kishka‘s Polka Happy Hour. With three hours of polka music, DJ Kishka’s Happy Hour is something I’ve been trying to get to for months without any luck – since the last few times he’s been scheduled to perform, I’ve been unable to go. Nonetheless, everything I’ve heard about him is fantastic. A post on 52 Weeks of Cleveland talks about both DJ Kishka’s show and Clinton J. Holley’s Ohio City Opry (another regular at Happy Dog whose classic country music I have been able to enjoy).  

The Rare Birds - Rusty Boyer, David Leland Horton and Neal Campbell.


After polka, Good Touch Bad Touch and The Rare Birds perform from 9 til midnight. The Rare Birds are a local band featuring a friend of mine, Rusty Boyer, on guitar, as well as David Leland Horton on drums and Neal Campbell on guitar. Fans of the group Doctor Teeeth will recognize Rusty and Dave who also perform in that band. With a heavy soul and garage-based sound that’s coupled with layers of harmonized vocals from all three musicians, The Rare Birds are definitely worth checking out on Friday as they perform a couple of Hank Williams and Neil Young covers in addition to their own songs.  

However, for all you Rare Birds fans who are like me and can’t make it to the show on Friday, there’s no cause for alarm since they are also going to be performing on June 13th in the Rock Hall’s Chef Jam. Chef Jam looks to be yet another powerhouse combination of great food and Cleveland music, and I can’t wait until I get back home for it.  


The Happy Dog 411:  

The Food

The Music
DJ Kishka Polka Happy Hour
The Rare Birds