Week 22: Beachland Ballroom and Tavern

Sometimes a biscuit is so powerful it awakens a renaissance within a community. We've seen the super hero move before----- restaurant, coffee shop, hotel startup-entrepreneurial-die-hard-natives take advantage of the real estate deals in the grittier, less traveled by parts of town and start a revolutionary new business haven, earning its own portmanteau or slang name. That is exactly what co-owners of Beachland Ballroom and Tavern, located in North Collinwood, of Cleveland, Ohio when their biscuits took "Beachland" by storm. Okay, it wasn't just the biscuits; it's the biscuits and jams. 

We know what you’re thinking. Yes, Beachland is less than ½ mile from the beach, but the name really harkens to the bygone age when the park Euclid Beach (1894-1969) was up and running. "Beachland" is actually a colloquial nomenclature given to the entire North Collinwood neighborhood in those days. The street where Beachland Ballroom resides, Waterloo, is a run-down, shell of a street left when the immigrants of the area vacated and where crime was attempting to sneak its way in. This is the scene of the Ohio biscuit. Yeah, it's a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll. 

Now it wasn't a coffee shop or restaurant or hotel that revitalized Beachland like one might expect. This is Ohio, home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after all. So, co-owner Cindy Barber, picked her site and called in co-owner Mark Leddy to do the booking and opened a music venue like Cleveland had never seen but always needed. And then times, they were a-changin'.  

The space was originally a Croatian Liberty Home for numerous social political fronts. Equipped with a ballroom and tavern from the get-go (kitchen and bar are to be added later) the structure had a leg up on the venue competition; it was actually designed with music in mind. When being interviewed Leddy praised the building, stating, "in Cleveland, almost all of the spaces are not made for music at all." Though the space may not have heard the Croatian folk music in many decades, it has been home to just about every genre in between. Beachland Ballroom is continuously heralded for its exceptional acoustics, sound system, and hospitality. The inside of the venue stayed as true to its roots as possible. A wall of bucolic murals depicting scenes of Croatian immigrants dancing and playing remain, amongst a gaggle of fluorescent beer signs lining the goldenly neutral walls, not including the reddish orange wall that reads Liquor in important marquee letters.


The walls are eclectic, the people are eclectic and the music is eclectic. The White Stripes played here before moving onto larger venues, and the Black Keys played their first show ever on the Beachland stage. Music and art and food all have a place in this revolutionary space, and the people of Cleveland have definitely noticed.

The only thing more packed than their venue on any given show night is the flavor in the food. Just like rock 'n' roll, brunch is not a meal, it's a life style. Not surprisingly, Beachland Ballroom treats brunch like its really intended, for the bedraggled late risers and shaking off the night before (probably spent attending a show at the venue) and no pretenses. Opening the doors at 11:00am, the lights are dim and the dress is all occasion, including pajamas. Parties of all kinds, shapes, and sizes filter in through the doors and sit at tables spread around, some even placed on what will become the stage later that day. Conversation fills as much of the room as the DJ and his quiet tunes filters through, allowing the perfect soundtrack for the late breakfast. 

“We always had food service at the Beachland because we have to feed the bands,” Cindy Barber explains in a prior interview. So, it only seems natural to progress into feeding the audience as well, we assume. The menu, though sticking with some steadfast staples, has gone through what many bands do, some experimentation, some improvisation, and some transitions. Today, it has resulted in a widely popular brunch with colorfully named colorful drinks such as the Bloody Ninja and Neil Diamond's Cuff Links. The food too, has changed with the times which caters in a menu featuring fun for carnivore, vegetarian, and vegan friends. With that kind of menu brings in locally produced and farm products, which is always a huge plus. 

So imagining the crowd having eggs and shots simultaneously, this is where the Ohio biscuit was born. That’s not the only twist you should expect, intriguing food and classics make their home on the menu like smoked salmon and latkes and, of course, the Deep South Biscuits and Gravy. The biscuits are big and fluffy and they sure are generous with the amazing gravy (can be made vegetarian with mushrooms). When people eat this meal there is an immediate declaration to come back and order it again next Sunday. Always warm and always ready (if you get there between 11:00am and 3:00pm).

This is not just the biscuit of Ohio because it is delicious and worth crawling out of bed for, but because it comes from a place that is truly Ohio. There isn’t a week that Barber and Leddy are not thanked by locals for their contribution to the community and local culture. The Beachland Ballroom and Tavern has changed the music scene for Cleveland forever.

So, make your way to Waterloo. As the locals say when giving directions, it’s the street that has Beachland on it.