When Waterways Inc. proposed a passenger ship from Detroit to Cleveland in May 1954, they noted a few peculiarities needed to be resolved. To begin, right in the middle of East Ninth Street Pier, “somebody’s got a hamburger joint.”
Captain Frank’s Sea Food Restaurant — or Lobster House, depending on the season — did serve steaks alongside primarily nautical fare, from a king crab a la Rockefeller dish to Cuban-influenced scampi drenched in a garlic sauce.
Frank’s literally was accessible by land, air and sea: Even for a German U-505 submarine docked at Frank’s en route to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. Once Lake Erie drowned the sun, entertainers roved to the rollicking haunt. Among them Nelson Eddy, Judy Garland, Flip Wilson and Stevie Wonder.
The owner of the lease that “never seemed to expire” was Frank Visconti. He immigrated to Cleveland from Palermo, Italy, in 1914. He became the discarded boat depot’s proprietor in 1953, netting an agreement with the city to repair $30,000 worth. Visconti eventually sank more than $60,000 into the restaurant.
For 36 years, Captain Frank’s survived talk of lakefront development, dredging, city council squabbles and water-bound motorists. Its allure dissolved after Visconti died in 1984. In 1989, new owner Rudolph Hubka, Jr. declared bankruptcy, owing the city alone $41,000. The building was demolished for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. Today, Nuevo Modern Mexican floats the old address.
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