2009 Best of Cleveland: Oddities

Bathroom to Write on the Walls
Garage Bar

1859 W. 25th St., Cleveland
(216) 696-7772

Let’s be honest. Writing “I heart Johnny” on the bathroom wall is immature, albeit oddly entertaining as we girls dance from one foot to the other in the never-ending bathroom line. And yet we’ve all found ourselves in that perfect stage of drunkenness where it seemed side-stitchingly funny to write your best friend’s phone number underneath “For a good time call ... .” Re-live those days of careless fun at Garage Bar in Ohio City, where the women’s bathroom walls have been covered with chalkboard paint, turning the two-stall restroom into a blank slate for your graffiti fun. The bar provides a colorful assortment of chalk; you provide a colorful assortment of literary entertainment.

Vintage Cop Car
Chagrin Falls Police Department’s ’57 Chevy

21 W. Washington St., Chagrin Falls
(440) 247-7321

It’s the perfect cop car for a perfectly cute, classic town. The Chagrin Falls Police Department’s ’57 Chevy has added vintage flash to the village hall parking lot since 1996. “It’s fun,” says chief Jim Brosius, who’s driven it. “It doesn’t have air-conditioning, but it’s a nice driving car. It has a real V-8 sound to it.” The car has cruised through the Blossom Time Parade, Solon Home Days parade and local classic car nights, and it added a time-warp feel to John Carroll University’s class of 1957 reunion. Its authentic ’50s-era police accessories include a single oscillating bubble light, a Sireno siren and a two-channel Motorola police radio. No, the police don’t use it to patrol and catch crooks — it has no cage, and “no one would take it seriously,” Brosius says — but village residents wave, smile and point when the police drive it through Chagrin Falls for events. “It promotes the village,” the chief says. “It gives us sort of a friendly touch.”

Lawn Decoration
Inflatable Images

2880 Interstate Parkway, Brunswick
(330) 273-3200

He stood on the field at the Super Bowl for five straight years. He even has a cameo in this year’s version of the best sports video game franchise ever made — Madden NFL 10. So when your wife asks if you really need that huge inflatable Browns player on your front lawn on Sunday afternoon, you can tell her, “Hell yeah; if it’s in the game, it’s in my yard.” (OK, maybe don’t say that.) Originally, Brunswick-based Inflatable Images’ 25-foot-tall “Tiny” character was sold directly to NFL teams for use in their stadiums. Then it was featured during pregame at the Super Bowl (which is likely how it got picked up for Madden). This season, an 8-foot-tall Tiny and his 5-foot-tall cousin Bubba (at right), who’s crouched in a three-point stance, are available in every NFL team’s colors. So no matter how the Browns play this season, you can be the Super Bowl champ of your next tailgate or game-day party.

Public Service Sign
“Put Your Junk in Your Trunk"


No, the Downtown Cleveland Alliance isn’t talking about those assets with its “Put Your Junk in Your Trunk” signs throughout downtown. The tongue-in-cheek slogan is meant to deter car break-ins with a funny reminder to put your “junk” such as laptops, briefcases and iPods out of sight. “It’s catchy,” says Mark Lammon, special projects manager for the DCA. “It makes people turn.” The DCA borrowed the rhyming line from downtown groups in Columbus and Cincinnati, designed the signs and posted 250 of them around town this past April under an agreement between City Hall and downtown lot owners. “To someone walking down the street, it’s not worth it to break into a car to get nothing,” Lammon explains. “There has to be something to steal.”

Store Facade
Dave’s Cosmic Subs

9 River St., Chagrin Falls
(440) 247-9117

Wild whirls of teal, yellow and lime are just what Dave Lombardy, owner of Dave’s Cosmic Subs, wanted when he decided to give his flagship location in Chagrin Falls a look that matched the personality of his restaurant’s ’60s rock ’n’ roll vibe. The originally muted red storefront now stands out so much that Lombardy says he’s noticed tourists taking snapshots of the brightly colored facade. It’s psychedelia at its finest, even without the original peace sign, which he modified after learning it violated a town ordinance prohibiting symbols on buildings. “[My goal] is not just to serve a sandwich, but to be a memory of that time,” he says. “It’s about stories.”

Dog Wash
EZ Clean Car Wash

32583 Center Ridge Road,
North Ridgeville
(440) 353-3067

Think self-serve car wash, but for your hound, not your hatchback. At EZ Clean Car Wash, you don’t have to worry about accidentally waxing Fido. Drop your dog in the waist-high stainless-steel tub and start the wash cycle: Just like the hoses on the other side of the building designed for your ride, you simply insert your money (there’s a $6 minimum) for a premixed solution of warm water and soap. Choose from a series of pet-friendly treatments, including shampoo, condition, flea rinse, disinfectant and blow dry, though you have to work against the timer. It’s the perfect solution when you’re tight on time and money, and you can clean your ride in the same trip.

LorMet Credit Union

216 N. Main St., Wellington
(440) 647-1999

We’ve all heard of a cash cow, but how about a cash horse? Well, saddle up and drive to the LorMet Credit Union in Wellington to experience the world’s only horse-drawn ATM. The statue of a horse pulling a buggy was the brainchild of LorMet president Dan Cwalina back in 2000, right before the opening of the credit union’s branch. He wanted to install an ATM evocative of the rural town’s turn-of-the-century ambience. “It’s just something that we thought would be kind of cool,” he says. Cwalina solicited the help of an Amish carpenter to build the authentic plywood buggy — modified slightly with a hole for the ATM screen. That horse dressed in a leather harness may seem eager to gallop off, but it’s really just an airbrushed statue. “It’s amazing how many dogs bark at the horse because it’s so lifelike,” Cwalina laughs.

Cheap Lobster Dinner
Harry Buffalo

18605 Detroit Ave., Lakewood
(216) 221-1313

Insert $2 into the machine. You’ve done this plenty of times before, hoping to snag a stuffed animal for your kid. But this isn’t child’s play. You’re going for a real animal. And if you get it, they’ll cook it for you for free. Use the joystick to creep the claw backward and line it up just right. Then position it over your prey. Be sure to look him in the eye as the claw drops. “Personally, I think it seems cruel,” bartender Jennifer White concedes, crinkling her nose a bit. The claw comes up empty. “The trick is to snag him under its armpits.” OK, so hunting for a lobster with a claw machine doesn’t scream classy, but the game at Lakewood’s Harry Buffalo couldn’t be cooler. Insert another $2. “I hope this story doesn’t get PETA to come back again,” she adds.

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