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Visiting ‘A Christmas Story’ House? Here’s Where You Should Eat

You came for the tour, now what? Here’s your guide on where to eat and how to get the most out of Christmas in Cleveland this year.
by Eric Gibson | November 18, 2023

In 1983 it was considered a sleeper but now, four decades later, the cult classic that runs nonstop every Christmas Eve has become a vibe.  

A Christmas Story turns 40 today.  

A yellow and green victorian house with snow and a car in the drive.

For some, this is the Christmas movie. It’s a movie that reminds us of that feeling we had as kids, wanting beyond anything that one toy, and getting it.  It is a movie that encompasses being a kid.  Growing up, doing silly kid things, the weirdness that is our families.  It’s all there. Even the daydreams.  We totally did that.  

And for a select crowd, they want to see the house where Ralphie grew up.  

This is a guide for those people who have come from far and wide to buy their own leg lamp, bathe in nostalgia, and eventually get hungry.  

So where do we eat on our A Christmas Story House vacation? Let’s tuck in. 

Early Riser? Start With Coffee and a Donut From Terrapin Bakery

Terrapin Bakery, right at the mouth of Tremont, is one of those places you hope to find when Googling “amazing bakery with mouthwatering donuts and giant burritos.  Near me.”  This is that place. 

Food menus on a colorful wall.
Endless options at Terrapin. | Vittles&Nosh

In the display case are made-from-scratch sweet treats like ho hos, oatmeal cream pies, and cinnamon rolls. Absolutely massive cinnamon rolls. And tray upon tray of beautifully hand-crafted donuts, assuming you get there early enough.  They’ve been known to sell out fast. 

On the coffee side of things, they have the hits you’d expect, with flavored syrups and non-dairy milk choices, all proudly local.  

There’s something festive about a hot chai, a vanilla glazed donut, and A Christmas Story.

There are breakfast sandwiches (on brioche) and mammoth breakfast burritos for those who come hungry.  Two-pounders, easily.

You Absolutely Cannot Miss The Rowley Inn For Lunch or Dinner

Across the street from the House is a bar in a hundred-year-old building, and basically the keystone to the whole neighborhood.  During the movie’s filming the upstairs was used for wardrobe and makeup.  Extras would post up at the bar waiting to be called in, and even Darren McGavin, the Old Man himself, was rumored to have warmed a bar stool at the Inn.  

But instead of just being a kitschy dive bar that cashes in on its ties to the movie, The Rowley Inn outdoes itself.  Hard.  

Across the street to one of the best gastropubs in the city. | Vittles&Nosh

At first glance, the place can be a little intimidating.  

People crammed in elbow to elbow, a wait to get a table, and the staff rushing around like mad, churning tables and delivering food. But after a minute, it all comes into focus.  Laughter erupts from a larger table.  Glasses clink and a shaker rattles. The red walls and warm wood furniture feel safe, inviting even.  Instead of being a stranger in someone else’s living room, we’re welcomed in heartily.  

And then there’s the food.

The Rowley Inn boasts an incredible menu, full of “dishes with a Cleveland twist”.  Open seven days a week, serving everything from brunch to dinner, so you can get a cocktail at dawn and not be judged or have happy hour with friends, and still not be judged.  

We’re partial to the Burnt Ends Sandwich, the Rowley Cubano (we approve!), and the Loco Moski – a Cleveland take on a traditional Hawaiian dish. 

But since you’re here for A Christmas Story, you might as well get the meatloaf dinner and eat it Randy-style.

Get Your Dive Bar Vibes at Clark Bar

In a sea of hole-in-the-wall dive bars found in Cleveland, the one closest to the A Christmas Story House is the Clark Bar. 

Here the drinks are cheap, the food is made in-house, and the bar stool you’re about to plop in probably belongs to a regular.  In the truest sense of the word, Clark Bar is a dive.  It doesn’t try to be kid-friendly, hipster, or pretentious.  

Clark Bar just is.  And it has been that way for almost a hundred years.  A Cleveland kind of bar.    

Clark Bar’s no-frills entrance. | Vittles&Nosh

Something To Remember – From Cleveland Locals

The A Christmas Story house is in the middle of a rust belt blue-collar neighborhood, complete with real-life people living their real-life lives.   

So when we all pour out of the tour bus and herd through the cars parked streetside, we must keep a few things in mind.  Here’s some pointers from the locals.

  1. Driving in?  Don’t block a driveway.  Ever.  You might just be popping into the gift shop or snagging a quick selfie at the porch, but slamming your flashers on and running across the street is probably the exact time someone leaving is already running late for work. And you just parked in front of their driveway. 
  2. Use the crosswalk.  Yes, it might be easier to cross right here, the street isn’t very busy anyway.  But just as you poke your head out and start to dart across to get a better glance at that leg lamp in the window is also the moment someone turns the corner and greets you with a bumper-to-body kiss.  Eyes up and look both ways, friends. 
  3. Remember, people live here. As the season turns to winter, Clevelanders get the blues.  And in Cleveland, winter goes on forever.  So be polite and remember these are homes and people live here. Show a little compassion and understanding, especially if you actually get to see the sun during the winter months. 

Want Even More Christmas Spirit? Northern Ohio knows how to Christmas.

A yuletide pilgrimage isn’t complete without the whole picture.  You’ve made it this far, either from afar or down the road, but there’s more cheer to be had.  Here’s the Vittles&Nosh guide to Christmas in the Land. 

A peak at one of the many window displays at Castle Noel | Castle Noel

Castle Noel. Get the rest of the story from A Christmas Story and just about every other holiday movie at the year-round Christmas destination just a short drive south in Medina. Not only will you get to take your own ride down the Higbee’s Slide, but you’ll also see authentic New York  City window displays, Jim Carey’s Grinch Costume, and so much more.  Expect long lines and limited reservations as the holidays get closer.  

After your trip through Castle Noel take a stroll along Medina’s town square for some small-town shopping, a hot chocolate from Cool Beans, and a beer in the vault at PJ Marleys.

Wild Winter Lights. Cleveland’s Zoo is just as proper as the big boys in San Diego or Columbus, and they throw one heck of a light show party during the holidays.  Walk or drive through the displays that wind their way through the zoo grounds rain, snow, or shine and this year features two light and music shows, a fifty-foot tree, and Santa’s Workshop that has meet and greets with the big guy himself.  

Grab a Great Lakes Christmas Ale at a kiosk, tighten your mittens, and hope for a little lake-effect snow as you walk the winter wonderland.  Unless it’s cold, then ditch the beer, drive through, and meet us at Rowley Inn.  

Festival Of Trees at Playhouse Square.  Cleveland is home to a few things the locals are proud of: pierogies, sports teams, and amazing theater.  Playhouse Square is where the latter lives, and each December they open the doors for a brief few weeks to the public to view beautifully decorated tree upon tree upon tree.  

The event is free and tops off a swanky night on the town or before a show.  And if you’re doing the Christmas Grand Tour, head to…

A beautiful christmas tree
The Festival of Trees | Playhouse Square

Public Square and Downtown.  Like any proper downtown, The Land has a skating rink, a billion lights, and an original Higbee’s window display at the JACK casino building.  And it’s only minutes from the A Christmas Story House and Rowley Inn (yup, we kinda like the place).

While down here, check out East 4th Street for hot spots like the House of Blues and Mabel’s BBQ, or keep the Christmas spirit coming with a stop at the Kringle Inventionasium in Tower City. 

Go hardcore and meet the Keeper Of The Keys.  We’ll let you do your own research on this one, but for those who know who Mr. Jingaling was, this is big news.  Cleveland Christmas royalty, albeit a little creepy.  If you want to meet this elf, you can find him around town in December.  

That’s a wrap!  If your holiday plans include a tour of the increasingly famous A Christmas Story House, then come hungry.  And don’t just stop at Ralphie’s house and the gift shop and scoot out of town.  Stick around to soak up some proper Christmas spirit.

Now it’s your turn! Got a fantastic Christmas tradition you love? Have some food attached to that tradition? Let us know in the comments below your favorite Christmas traditions, whether it’s watching ‘A Christmas Story ‘over and over again, avoiding family, or eating Chinese. Give us your best traditions and food for the holidays.

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