Nothing like a good bridge to really appreciate a beer.
Though the sign on the wall says “Hooples,” the official name for this Cleveland dive bar is Major Hooples, a far classier moniker befitting the gentleman drinking on the site’s (non-interactive) web site. Opened in 1981, the location is the hero at Hooples, a two-story building at the bottom of a hill that slopes toward the Cuyahoga River.
Strategically positioned, the bar’s windows overlook the river, the steel lift bridge across the street and the city of Cleveland itself, offering visual stimulus day or night, fitting the typical post-work crowd that has been coming to the bar for 20 years. Something about the orientation of the space feels like the bar is going to slough off into the river at any moment, joining the boats slowly ambling through the river.
Inside, the narrow space is packed with content, including the Cleveland dive bar requirement, a vintage bowling machine toward the back of the space. The path back is basically one narrow corridor from front door to dart board, with some sporadic seating along the way and a short bar lining the windows out onto the river. The area adjacent to the front door is bathed in red from the “Hooples” neon light above.
Thought it might seem at first glance impossible given the narrow stature of the space, bands are featured periodically, adding to the neighborhood watering hole vibe that comes with the neighborhood location despite proximity to Ohio City, the Cleveland Flats and other less casual areas. Food is often but not always available, the bartender likely pulling double duty as chef on weekday nights.
An impressive back patio unfolds from the rear door of the bar, striking in its location under a bridge overpass. The stage lives here, in addition to a collection of black metal tables and chairs that extend the scenic views inside to the patio area. On the right evening night, Indian games are projected onto one of the supports to the bridge above.
For a view as impressive as the one from Hooples, it would be easy to tolerate a more expensive, less casual option, but the bar has been serving neighborhood drinkers for 40 years and has held strong to the unassuming ambiance that comes with a local, Cleveland cast of regulars. That an overpass-adjacent patio is included in the deal makes it feel almost too good to be true.