The Best of Cleveland 2007 Entertainment

Taste of the islands, giveaway, cult film showcase, cover band, minibar, power hour, late-night, roadhouse, underground spot, drink special, rum bar, under-the-radar venue, futbol bar, monthly event, nightlife, free art and cheap eats

If Put-in-Bay is a wannabe tropical island getaway, then Put-in-Bay Lakewood is a wannabe wannabe. All we know is that we wanna be there. An inflatable Jet Express hangs overhead as partiers of all ages eat, drink, sing, dance and make merry in the tradition of Lake Erie’s hip South Bass destination. From the simulated treetop canopy to the docked boat seating to the confetti cannon that intermittently bursts forth with colorful bits of enthusiasm, you’re reminded that this is not your typical mainland watering hole. Four nights a week, the owners bring well-loved Cleveland musicians and island mainstays to a central stage perched atop the large, round bar.; 18206 Detroit Road, Lakewood; (216) 228-1442

News flash: C.C. Sabathia was born in 1980. Luckily he has a sense of humor. So when the Indians front office decided to host a ’70s-themed weekend, they nominated C.C. for the giveaway prize. Thus, every fan who attended the June 2 game against the Tigers received the grooviest gift of the year: the Sabathia ’70s Disco Bobblehead. Decked out in an Afro, bell-bottoms, a red vest and a gold chain, the pitcher strikes his best John Travolta “Saturday Night Fever” pose like a disco-scene pro. “If I grew up in the ’70s, I would completely wear the same thing,” he says. “People like the ’70s because there really wasn’t a lot of stress. It was about people partying and having a good time.”

We used to have just two movie choices: Head to the overpriced omniplex for a mediocre new release or stay home and work through the Netflix queue. Finally, we have a third option: Grab a bunch of friends and some togas (for “Animal House”), bowling shoes (“The Big Lebowski”) or plenty of flair (“Office Space”) and head to the Cedar Lee Theatre the first Saturday of each month. At 9:30 p.m. and again at midnight, the Cleveland Heights cinema extraordinaire presents its cult films series, treading ground only “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” has dared to tread and banishing movie mediocrity, if only for a night. That’s a pretty impressive feat for just $5 a ticket. But fear not: If it’s the Time Warp or nothing for you, “Rocky Horror” still screens at midnight every month, too. Next up: “Evil Dead 2” on Oct. 6.; 2163 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights; (440) 564-2030

Eighties cover band L80s Nite does the usual rockin‘ retro set list, playing classics from Blondie to Earth, Wind & Fire, from Rick Springfield to The Outfield (OK, they had one hit song). But these guys have more than mad music skills — they offer an unparalleled entertainment factor. During select shows from Cleveland to Pittsburgh, the four band members rock a Napoleon Dynamite show, decked out as characters from the cult-classic film: time-traveling, ’80s-obsessed Uncle Rico on drums; tacky, wig-wearing Pedro on bass; Kip in tall socks and high-waist shorts on lead guitar; and, of course, a frizzy-haired Napoleon in a “Vote for Pedro” T-shirt on lead vocals. What other band could sing “Eye of the Liger” and get away with it? When not decked out in Napoleonic garb, the four members of L80s Nite hit the stage in white button-downs and skinny ties. But no matter how you catch them, you’re in for a flippin‘ sweet time.

There are only a handful of seats. But if you want an up-close view of Hudson’s Downtown 140, grab a chair at the restaurant’s cozy bar. Nosy foodies looking for cooking pointers will enjoy their peek into the kitchen (grab the two seats on the left end), while those looking to hone their home bar skills can watch the bartender mix all of the cocktails — mojitos, Long Island ice teas, vodka tonics, you name it — for the dining room patrons. Sitting here, you can order from the restaurant’s full menu, and the harried bartender is attentive to your needs (on our visit, he was quick to steer us toward the best of three similarly priced Pinot Noirs on the list). Of course, the gods of good timing have to be on your side, but if these seats are open, don’t pass them up.; 140 N. Main St., Hudson; (330) 655-2940

It’s a Wednesday afternoon and WMJI morning host John Lanigan is perched on a bar stool at Bar 12-21 in Morton’s The Steakhouse. Its daunting boys-club style and influence is nearly enough to send us scurrying back to a beer-and-wings joint, but then we’d be missing out. It’s a Cleveland myth that this legendary restaurant is accessible only to movers and shakers willing to shell out a pretty penny for a double-cut filet with béarnaise sauce. During happy hour (5 to 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday), gourmet Bar Bites are only $4. The mini-filet sandwiches are built with a soft sesame roll, steak worthy of the Morton’s name and fancy mustard sauce. The colossal shrimp cocktail is a steal at $2.50 a piece. But remember, power hour is not a license to lose your manners and start grubbing carelessly. After all, this is Morton’s. The Avenue at Tower City Center, 1600 W. Second St., Cleveland; (216) 621-6200

Long after other bars have discontinued their drink specials and binned the salty snacks, Lolita’s happy hour is just hitting its stride. And frankly, that’s when we need it most. When the hour’s late, in-the-know night owls pop into this Tremont hot spot for nominally priced nightcaps and bargain bites. On weeknights from 9:30 to 11 p.m. and weekends from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., a fiver will land you delectables including The Beta, a blend of ginger-infused vodka and fresh lime juice; Michael Symon’s mac and cheese; or a half-pound, Kobe-beef hamburger topped with cheddar, bacon, onions and a fried egg. 900 Literary Road, Cleveland; (216) 771-5652

With only three tables at ZZ’s Big Top, there’s lots of room for games: a dart board flanked by approving plaques from the Cleveland Darter Club, an ancient mini-bowling game that attracts teams whose names all have two Zs in them (Rolling Stonzz, Guttermindzz) and a pool table with a pre-no-smoking-era sign: “No butts on the table, cigarettes or the other kind.” Situated, fittingly, at an intersection, and not so fittingly just past a bunch of pristine new subdivisions, ZZ’s is a holdout from Avon’s rural past, the most down-to-earth roadside bar in Greater Cleveland. The burgers are still just $4, the wings extra-spicy. Clydesdales rotate in a big, flattened-globe Budweiser light. Heartland rock fills the jukebox — Springsteen, Seger, Petty. And, of course, the first disc is “ZZ Top’s Greatest Hits.” 35015 Detroit Road, Avon; (440) 934-9230

At Bela Dubby, things are done the way the owners want things done. And for that, we love them. By day, it feels like a coffee-shop-slash-
gallery, with fair-trade coffees and teas and regularly rotating art. By night, it can feel more like a laid-back bar, with offerings that include an IPA from Brooklyn, N.Y., we haven’t seen anywhere else on tap in Cleveland. Owners John and Jill Crino created the place when they moved here after a decade in New York. “We wanted to open a business that was a place to drink beer, be social and experience art,” Jill Crino says. “People walk in all the time and say, ‘What is this place?’ ” The live music spans many genres, so it’s a guarantee that those who like one band will loathe another. Mondays are comedy night, with some hidden treasures and some real stinkers. Then, just when you think it couldn’t get any odder, you look around and realize: Day or night, it’s kid-friendly, too. 13321 Madison Ave., Lakewood; (216) 221-4479

Pour us a healthy shot of Captain Morgan’s and a splash of pineapple juice. Don’t skimp on the Ketel One or the orange juice. How about a cherry and a couple limes to cap it all off? And, by the way, we’re down to our last couple dollars. Scorekeepers Bar & Grill is happy to help out budget-conscious patrons every Friday night, during the $2 Name Your Drink special. From Patrón to Crown Royal, straight up or mixed up, it’s all just $2 from 9 p.m. till last call. Nothing is off limits –– all bombs, liquor and 20 beers on tap are included. Hit the Web for a stumper recipe if you want, but they’ve seen your kind before — and it’s not gonna faze them. 6395 Pearl Road, Parma Heights; (440) 743-7646

Readers Poll: Best Indians Player
Grady Sizemore
The two-time All-Star center fielder says he leads a boring life, but once he steps onto Jacobs Field it’s anything but. From diving catches to stealing bases, Grady Sizemore has won the hearts of baseball fans thanks to a pretty amazing highlight reel (and his Hollywood good looks). A film junkie, Sizemore — who has been known to claim that he has every movie ever made — loves to catch a flick on the big screen, too. “I try to go as much as possible to see movies at the Regal Cinemas at Crocker Park,” says Sizemore, who names “Transformers” and “The Bourne Ultimatum” as recent favorites. Don’t look for him in the concession line though. “Crocker Park has so many great places to eat that I usually go out afterward.”

Readers Poll: Best Browns Player
Brady Quinn

Though he started the season holding a clipboard (and infamously missed the first 11 days of training camp in contract holdouts), Browns quarterback and first round draft pick Brady Quinn has quickly become the fan favorite. He’s already got his own fan club (The Brady Bunch) and his jerseys are flying off shelves all over town. Between practices and workouts, Quinn is just beginning to discover some of his favorite places in Cleveland. “I really enjoy eating at XO Prime Steaks downtown,” says Quinn. “They have great steaks along with a great

Paladar Latin Kitchen slid luxuriantly into the former Bossa Nova space this past August. It didn’t carry the hype of Symon’s Lola or the kitsch appeal of Melt. Instead, this brainchild of Andy Himmel (the 27-year-old behind Boulevard Blue) arrived nonchalant and confident, with a hot, young staff and a whisper of island aesthetic: dark wood floors, delicate red scrollwork on the ceiling, two guitarists and a bongo player. But it’s the rum that transports us. Rum the way other restaurants are doing tequila — offering flights and definitions. Rum the way only yacht clubs seem to understand. Mount Gay, of course. But 11 varieties of Cruzan? Gosling’s Black Seal? A $40 shot of Pyrat Cask 1623 from the West Indies? Another round of Cuban Manhattans for everyone, please. We’re just getting settled.; 28601 Chagrin Blvd., Woodmere; (216) 896-9020

To really brush elbows with artists on the verge of the big-time (and do it as cheaply as possible), you need to go to The Winchester Tavern and Music Hall in Lakewood. This beer-and-a-shot joint has a bar suitable for any gritty rock ’n’ roller, but the real draw is the more than 4,000-square-foot music hall. The schedule is booked with acts hoping to head to stardom, including local favorite Anne E. DeChant, plus musicians who’ve been there and done that, and can share their stories — like Pete Best, the original drummer for the Beatles. In August, Anya Marina played the Winchester for just $7 a ticket. The up-and-comer has had songs on ABC TV’s “Grey’s Anatomy” and MTV’s “The Real World.”; 12112 Madison Ave., Lakewood; (216) 226-5681

Since soccer is the world’s most beloved sport, the best places to watch it should feel like you’ve stepped into another country. And the Old Angle Tavern does, with its stone-colored décor and classic wooden bar evoking the pubs of Ireland. Above the mantel, a wide flatscreen TV shows soccer or rugby on the Irish channel Setanta Sports. Stop by on Saturday or Sunday nights, when Setanta replays that Saturday afternoon’s English Premier League games. The bartender’s favorite teams? The Blackburn Rovers, he says, or Newcastle — in honor of the brown ale, one of five British and Irish beers on tap.; 1848 W. 25th St., Cleveland; (216) 861-5643

From Tremont, the original eclectic Cleveland neighborhood, we have come to expect the unexpected: food with edge, art with bite and urban characters with real crust. Positioned somewhere between a block-long gallery opening and a Professor Avenue (and points thereabouts) street party, the Tremont Art Hop is a monthly, Friday night saunter that allows the fresh-from-their-desks, bridge-and-tunnel crowd to mingle with chain-smoking artists and the gallery owners who love them. Think family dinner at the Warhols.

Sitting outside the slate-blue barn, overlooking a tangle of trees, warmed by the glass stone fire pit, we sipped our Pinot Grigio, ordered a bowl of Charleston she-crab soup and thought, This is much nicer than eating on an actual farm. Such is the charm of alfresco dining at Henry’s at the Barn, an 1830s building salvaged, relocated and spruced up to white-tablecloth perfection. Besides, do farmers have the time to make caramelized Vidalia onion soup with a hint of Jack Daniel’s and topped with buttermilk bleu cheese croutons? Would they wrap a filet in maple bacon and serve it with crab succotash? Henry’s — and its seven-table, semi-secluded patio — succeeds because it combines stone-barn charm with scrumptious, Southern, Low Country cuisine.; 36840 Detroit Road, Avon; (440) 934-6636

For a long time, East Fourth Street was an oddity. It was the next-big-thing entertainment district, but had just two tenants of note: an elegant rock ’n’ roll club and a sprawling restaurant and comedy club. Cool enough, but the many vacancies made you wonder if the reality would ever live up to the hype. Then, Michael Symon’s second incarnation of Lola opened last October, kicking off a year of growth that has made the street unrecognizable to anyone who hasn’t visited lately — a hip bowling alley, a Mexican restaurant and more have cropped up in MRN Ltd.’s 500,000-square-foot, car-free nightlife destination. Perfectly located for pre- and postgame Cavaliers and Indians foot traffic, East Fourth Street may prove to have no off-season.

Art should be free for all to enjoy. But often, the business of running a gallery (“struggling” doesn’t just apply to artists) gets in the way. Not at Cleveland State University Art Gallery. It doesn’t charge admission or rely on the sale of artists’ works. Thus, curators can showcase oversize works and installations that may not be commercially viable. Local artist Anne Kmieck’s mixed-media installation “Naming the Rose” debuted this past spring and dealt with the far-from-saleable issue of human rights offenses. In it, waxed garments hung on clotheslines, representing living conditions in the Mexican barrio. The gallery features more than a dozen exhibits per year. 2307 Chester Ave., Cleveland; (216) 687-2103

This isn’t your ordinary happy hour pub grub. Blake’s Seafood Restaurant & Bar in Crocker Park offers black-shell mussels, an open-faced, seared-salmon sandwich, a hearty, half-pound cheeseburger (with fries!), a Margherita pizza with fresh tomatoes, and crunchy bruschetta — each for just $1.95. We’ll pause briefly while you catch your breath, but not too long (happy hour ends at 6:30 p.m.). We realized this at 6:13 and nearly hyper-extended an elbow trying to flag down a server. Then we calmed our nerves with a pint of $1-off Dortmunder. 9 Main St., Crocker Park, Westlake; (440) 892-3474

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