Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Kramerbooks & Afterwords – DC landmark perfect for browsers and brunches

Eric likes to read a lot so I wasn't surprised to hear that they visited a bookstore when they were in DC.  I have my own form of reading...watching the birds and squirrels outside the window.

Kramerbooks & Afterwords on Dupont Circle
The Afterwords Café
      Kramerbooks & Afterwords seems part of what may soon be a bygone era:  the independent bookseller with a café.  It’s adjacent to the Dupont Circle metro station (a long escalator ride) and very convenient to the fun of that area.  The bookstore is a vibrant place, well stocked, with a strong focus on both travel and politically themed non-fiction.  The Café & Grill opened in 1976 as the country's first bookstore and café.  Neil started visiting in the 80's when his friend, Tom, moved to DC and has made it a must stop with every return trip.  On this night, we were meeting our friend, Jessi, who moved to the area to attend Georgetown University.  She was very familiar with our choice and actually uses it

Sunday, May 29, 2011

701 Restaurant — Contemporary Elegance

I'm beginning to learn all about elegance.  Actually, most of the time, I think I'm one elegant cat!  Here's my official portrait being submitted to the National Portrait Gallery in DC.

"Elegant Cat" by Clawed Monet III
      We chose 701 because it’s part of the same DC restaurant group as the Oval Room, which was booked for that night.  (It’s a group similar to the Buckhead group in Atlanta).  The main draw for us was that 701 had a $30 pre-fixe theatre dinner menu which, when added up à la carte, would have been around $50 otherwise.  Dale wasn’t as hungry since we’d had a late lunch, but food hasn’t stopped us in the past and we decided not to let it do so this time.

Lounge Area
      We arrived around 5:20 and were seated in the lounge area.  It’s an aqua and chocolate dream cloud of a space (Candice Olsen of Divine Design and Candice Tells All would see her influence here) with new age techno lite music (the aural equivalent of color field painting).  It’s very soothing and the staff is both attractive and gracious (that’s a killer combination and less likely than one might think even in an upscale restaurant).  

The Contemporary Dining Room
      Dale ordered a glass of the house Riesling, which I thought was as sweet as a Gewürtztraminer, with a slight effervescence that she hadn’t expected.  The restaurant generously gave us a short flute of

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Arlington Cemetery and Some DC Culture: DAY THREE

See the companion stories "Walking Our Way Through DC: DAY ONE" posted on 5/21/2011 and "DC Museums and Memorials: DAY TWO" posted on 5/25/2011

Neil and Eric have a little more to tell about their DC trip.  It's not that I'm bored, but I'm exhausted just listening to all that they did!  

      We were ready for a day that would be more relaxing.  Our original plan was to take a tour of the Library of Congress.  I had been there in the past and Dale didn't have much interest.  Eric's passion for books put it high on his list, but we were all on overload.  Dale mentioned she would like to see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery.  It was a convenient Metro ride to the Arlington Cemetery station so it seemed like a plan.. 

President Kennedy's Gravesite
and the Custis Lee Mansion
      A short walk from the station brought us to the Visitor's Center.  The Tourmobile operates several live narrated tours of the DC area via open-air trams, including a riding tour of Arlington Cemetery.  We boarded the tram and were off for the first stop at the Kennedy gravesite.  The hillside is at the bottom of the Custis Lee Mansion and overlooks DC and the National Mall.  The graves of President Kennedy and Jackie are here along with Patrick, their infant son.  Also on the grounds are the final resting places of Robert and Ted.  I recalled the time we took a road trip shortly after President Kennedy's assassination.  My grandmother, who had never been out of Ohio, wanted desperately to visit his gravesite.  We drove past Arlington several times, and could actually see the grave, but couldn't determine the correct exit from the roadway (roads in DC can be confusing).  Unfortunately, we retuned home with Grandma Beach's quest being unfulfilled. 

Arlington National Cemetery
Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
      We drove through parts of the rolling hills covering some 250,000 graves before coming to the Amphitheater and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  The Changing of the Guard is probably the most meaningful

Friday, May 27, 2011

Downtown Cincinnati: All About the Festivals

I'm feeling antsy hearing Eric and Neil talking about all the festivities about to happen.  I wonder if I need a new party hat?

      Cincinnati is known for its festivals – both in the city itself, in its suburbs, and in various communities in northern Kentucky.  Two biggies are coming up quickly.  

Taste of Cincinnati on Fifth Street
      The first is the 32nd Annual Taste of Cincinnati running May 28 – May 30.  It’s held on Fifth Street between Race and Broadway and, to be honest, it’s about moderate food and lots of beer.  The music’s pretty good, depending when you go, with dancer and singer Mark Ballas of Dancing with the Stars performing at 5:30 on Saturday.  The food adds up when you begin thinking about what you’ve just eaten for between $1 and $5.  Most of the restaurants are middlebrow, though locally owned.  P&G has become the sponsor with over 40 restaurants serving.  A lot of them are new to the scene, so if you haven't been there for a few years it won't seem like the same old same old.

      The second festival is the Cincy Fringe Fest.  This is in its 8th year and has been pretty much run by Know Theatre.  (This would be a great time to support Know Theatre for bringing this type of experimental performance to our city).  It runs at various venues in Over-the-Rhine and downtown from May 31 – June 12.  There are some great performances during this as well as interesting stuff and then things that shouldn’t be allowed in front of a paying audience, but somehow get on anyway.  A number of interesting performers are returning, though it also feels like a Fringe tour – some of the acts go from festival to festival so it doesn’t seem too attuned to the local talent.  And, honestly, the local talent has been the better to best in the past.  I will not, however, sit through one more coming-of-age-and-coming-out monologue because they’re pretty stale at this point.

      Hold the date for the weekend of September 22 – 24 for Midpoint Music Festival, the second largest in the nation after SXSW (South by Southwest in Austin).  There are always amazing musical groups – unsigned by major labels.  Last year, organizers decided to guarantee more attendance by going after some pretty legendary names.  Tom Tom Club was awesome, performing both their own songs and a couple of Talking Heads classics.  We also saw local country stalwarts Magnolia Mountain perform a beautiful set and Mojoflo from Columbus, who were like Parliament/Funkadelic crossed with Average White Band and led by the heir to Gladys Knight.  That set about blew the roof off.  Everyone can tell stories about the talent and what shoulda, coulda happened to them.
If you can't wait until September, MPMF presents emerging artists every Friday from June 3 - September 2 on Fountain Square.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tradition Reigns next to the Treasury at Old Ebbitt Grill

Everyone assumes that I like fish.  Actually, I think I have a little Westside Cincinnatian cat in me as I really don't care for it.  I much prefer a nice chicken entrée.

Dining Room and Bar with Etched Screens of DC Landmarks
Entrance to Old Ebbitt Grill
     Every city has that older restaurant with the clubby feel, the power brokers casually meeting in the corners while tourists feel special to be there, food that is traditional, but well-made, and usually served smartly.  The 21 Club in New York, Lindey’s in Columbus, the Broker group in Denver, the original Morton’s Steakhouse in Chicago, and Galatoire’s in New Orleans all fit that bill, but perhaps the oldest (1856) is the Old Ebbitt Grill in DC, across the street from the Treasury and a couple of blocks from the White House.  We’d eaten there a decade ago and a good friend goes there every time he’s in DC.  (He ran into John Travolta there once, but that’s

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

DC Museums and Memorials: DAY TWO

See the companion stories "Walking Our Way Through DC: DAY ONE" posted on 5/21/2011 and "Arlington Cemetery and Some DC Culture: DAY THREE" posted on 5/28/2011

Neil and Eric are still talking about their DC trip and I'm still listening.  

National Mall with
the Washington Monument

      Legs and feet rested, thanks to some Advil®, we started our tour from the Smithsonian Metro station located conveniently in the center of the Mall.  
Rotunda of the National Museum of Natural History
The Hope Diamond
We headed for the National Museum of Natural History. Just like its name, it encompasses almost anything to do with nature in our universe.  Dale wanted to see the Hope diamond (we had an interest also), on view after an online vote to select a new mounting design.  It's a much better display than in previous visits and the current setting, "Embracing Hope", is definitely a winner.  Don't miss the rest of the gem exhibits that flow through several rooms.  That was our only interest for this visit, but there are numerous archeological finds in this popular museum. 

      Next door is the National Museum of American History.  Another of the Smithsonian Institutions museums, there's everything from Kermit the Frog to Abraham Lincoln.  It's my favorite because everywhere you turn, there's something familiar to our American culture.  

      We started with the First Ladies' Gowns, a newly designed exhibit that not only showcases the designs worn to the Inaugural Balls but also gowns, accessories, artwork, and mementos from other cultural events.  It's a walk through history via fashions of the times.  The showcases now allow for up close viewings showing off the couture details. It's a wonderful tribute to the First Ladies but in some cases you'll leave wondering, "What were they thinking wearing that?"      

Michelle Obama's Inaugural Ball Gown
      There's a small and powerful exhibit simply titled "1939".  It was one of those years (in this case the Great Depression and a looming World War) when everything seemed to come together leaving a lasting impression on history.  Entertainment is represented with

Monday, May 23, 2011

Montmartre: DC’s answer to the Left Bank in Paris

Eric and Neil talk about France all the time.  When they told me about their brunch at Montmartre, everything was "oui, oui" (I've been practicing my French).

Outdoor Seating at
Montmartre on Capitol Hill

      We’d made some plans for Sunday Brunch in DC, but the restaurant was farther than we liked from the Capitol and the Smithsonian.  Neil looked up the top restaurants in DC and chose Montmartre, which is French and located southeast of the Capitol.  This is a diverse, gentrifying neighborhood that displays a vitality synonymous with the Left Bank.  It was packed, though the hostess moved quickly through the list (what was supposed to be 30 minutes was actually 15) and the service was friendly and brisk without ever making diners feel rushed, which is a feat in itself. 

The Bustling Interior of Montmartre
      Dale ordered the Quiche Lorraine, prepared traditionally with bacon and Swiss cheese.  It really seemed French because it was made with a thick, but flaky, crust and the egg custard tasted as if we were in Paris.  This was also the case for Neil’s Eggs Benedict with spinach, Hollandaise sauce, and pancetta.  It was the sauce that tasted authentic and I’m guessing it’s because they use French butter. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Walking Our Way Through DC: DAY ONE

See the companion stories "DC Museums and Monuments: DAY TWO" posted on 5/25/2011 and "Arlington Cemetery and Some DC Culture: DAY THREE" posted on 5/28/2011 

Dexter enjoying some quiet times at home
Neil and Eric have been in DC this week, along with Neil's niece Dale.  I stayed behind to look after the house.  They know I like being in charge.  Alexa, our neighbor, visited me from time to time.  She's great and I'll miss her when she leaves for college in the fall.  The guys are all wound up, so it may take several days to hear all their stories.  We'll start with what they did the first day.  

      It all started several months ago when Eric's colleague, Judy, gave him a newspaper article announcing that the Kennedy Center would be doing a new production of "Follies" by Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman (see our review posted 5/19/2011).  The two of us had always wanted to see this musical (which is rarely produced) so it seemed obvious that we check the run times with our schedules.  There was one week we could work with.  We decided to ask my niece to join us and she accepted.  Now it was time to put an itinerary together that would allow us to visit some favorite spots as well as some new ones, mostly revolving around where we would be eating.  We had not been to DC together since 1998 so the World War II Memorial was at the top of our list.  Eric had never been to the Library of Congress.  Dale was up for whatever we wanted to see. We chose a hotel in Alexandria that was close to the Metro as we didn't want the hassle of a car.  The DC subway system (now 35 years old) is one of the easiest to navigate and definitely economical. 

      Capitol Hill  After checking into our hotel, our first stop was brunch.  We had chosen a French restaurant, Montmartre (see our review posted 5/23/2011), in the Capitol Hill area.  We boarded the Metro for the Eastern Market station.  The neighborhood was bustling with a mix of young couples, strollers, pets, and intellectuals.  After brunch we headed up 7th Street SE past boutiques in townhouses to the Eastern Market.

Boutiques Along 7th St. SE on Capitol Hill
A Book Fair at the Eastern Market

What looked at first to be a protest was actually posters and handouts for a Book Fair in the North Hall.  We entered the market to spectacular flower shops and food vendors.  Turning the corner, Spike Mendelsohn of Top Chef fame was giving a lecture.  Well-noted authors were gathered behind tables and autographing their works.  Eric couldn't resist.  
House and Garden on Capitol Hill

      A walk down Independence Avenue took us past renovated homes as well as those in transition.  The Library of Congress was within our view.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bridesmaids Blasts

Neil and Eric were talking about going to a wedding, or some such thing.  
I wasn't really paying attention as 
I just wanted to take the afternoon off and hunt.

      Kristen Wiig is a fabulous babe because she’s smart, hilarious, and sexy.  She took some getting used to on Saturday Night Live because her recessive style seemed to be out of sync with the rat-tat-tat testosterone rhythm of that show.  However, after seeing her for a season on that show, Neil and I wanted to see her more.  After two seasons, I couldn’t imagine SNL working without her.  She was unique in Knocked Up because she didn’t play obviously for laughs, though I wasn’t sure about her in Adventureland.  However, in Paul earlier this year, she was delightful as a Fundamentalist campground owner and never patronized the character. She and Annie Mumolo have written a classic comedy with a major role for her and she delivers a major performance.  This is a star comedy breakout performance on a par with Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde or, to go further back, Goldie Hawn in Private Benjamin or Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday.

      Bridesmaids undercuts our expectations and, in doing so, goes deeper, darker, and funnier.  It seems like it’ll be a cute comedy about female friendship or a raucous female version of The Hangover with a final setting in Vegas.  It’s neither.  It’s an honest look at what it means to be BFF and the envy and despair that can envelop a decent person when her life isn’t working out on any level and she knows that she’s partly to blame, but cannot easily find a way out.  Her life has become yet another fallout from the continuing down turn in the economy.  That makes it sound like a downer, but it isn’t.  It’s about struggle and the small things that can turn around a life.  Even though it was probably filmed mainly in California, a lot of it really does look like Milwaukee, suburban Wisconsin, and Chicago.  Yes, there’s a wedding at the end and, yes, a number of couples get connected by the end and, yes, there are even shots of darling puppy Labradors.  However, the wedding is tempered by its over the top tackiness, the couples have been through the rudest types of ups and downs, and the puppies – well, the puppies are just darling, though the movie keeps it real by showing the difficulty in house training them. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Follies at the Kennedy Center: An Almost Perfect Production of a Masterwork

      If you care about American musical theatre and you can get to Washington DC in the next month, you have to see Follies at the Kennedy Center.  It’s a masterwork, but it’s tough and uneven, the bastard child of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel and Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  Usually, the focus has been on the dark and depressing aspects of James Goldman’s book, rather than that the characters have endured and will somehow find a new beginning for themselves.   The score is a marvel, covering Tin Pan Alley, Viennese operetta, the Great American Songbook, and the conceptual, recitative style that Stephen Sondheim pioneered with Anyone Can Whistle.  It’s light, charming, ruminative, emotionally complex, ambivalent, and enraged and that’s not counting the lyrics.

      The set up is a reunion of performers, primarily showgirls, from the Weismann (à la Ziegfeld) Follies of the 1910s – 1940s, just before the old theatre is about to be torn down for a parking lot in 1971.  Most of the supporting characters (this is a cast of 43) are either the performers at the reunion or the chimeras from their past at their prime.   The four major characters are two couples, best friends thirty years earlier, who are uncertain whether they married the right people or pursued the careers that suited them.  This is rarely performed because the cast is everything – it has to be seasoned and there needs to be former stars in it.  This production has current stars (musical theatre superstars) and a deep bench of mature talent, part of the reason that it cost $6 million.  

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Two Parks Floating High Above the City

When Neil carries me around the house (mostly when it's time to go to bed at night), I get the sensation of floating through the air.  It's not the same feeling when Eric holds me.  It sometimes seems like he's going to drop me at any moment.  Oh, boy!  Luckily, I'm always one step ahead and prepared to be set free.

Bellevue Hill Park

The View of Downtown from Bellevue Hill Park
     Bellevue Hill Park, off of Ohio Avenue in University Heights near Clifton, offers arguably the finest view of the city from the Ohio side.  The photogenic panorama is not the only star of this city gem, however.  The striking pavilion structure is reminiscent of a later Eero Saarinen design, though actually conceived much earlier by architect R. Carl Freund who was the mastermind behind some of Cincinnati's most imaginative Park buildings.  Created from concrete forms, the canopies rise from the ground connecting to one another and casting a lacy shape over the walkway around the driveway.  Built in 1955, the building functioned as a bandstand and dancing area.  Now it's a peaceful escape from the sounds of the city while still feeling nestled within it.

The Pavilion with the Downtown Skyline Beyond

Devou Park

A View of Cincinnati from the Drees Pavilion
      Devou Park in Covington, KY is located in the hills overlooking Cincinnati and Covington.  It affords the best view of both cities from the Kentucky side.  Once an estate, the park is now home to a golf course, bandshell, tennis, fishing, walking trails, and picnic facilities.  The Behringer-Crawford Museum is within the park and exhibits local history through the collections of a world traveler.  The Drees Pavilion was constructed in 2003 and offers an incredible facility and backdrop for weddings and special events.  It's a fabulous park no matter what your needs may be for a day.

The View of Cincinnati and Covington from Devou Park

The Behringer-Crawford Museum

Friday, May 13, 2011

25 The Musical Hits a Flat Note at Ensemble Theatre

It's been hot the past couple of days so when Neil and Eric said they were going to Ensemble Theatre for the evening, I decided to stay in the house where it's cool.      

      Ensemble Theatre (ETC) is celebrating its 25th anniversary in Over-The-Rhine, which is a tough ass, crime ridden neighborhood just north of downtown Cincinnati that has been experiencing a new infusion of economic and cultural vitality due, in no small part, to the patience and guts of ETC and its mesmerizing Artistic Director D. Lynn Meyers – one of the great citizens of Cincinnati.  Gentrification is a double-edged sword: new businesses and wealthier residents can create new and safer legal opportunities for a neighborhood, but driving out original residents over time also dulls the character and details of what made the area interesting in the first place.

      ETC has been billed as “your premiere theatre” because Lynn Meyers has brought so many regional and first out of the gate shows (within a few months of their New York premiere) to Cincinnati that she’s disproved Mark Twain’s dictum wrong (“I want to be in Cincinnati at the end of the world because it’s ten years behind the times”) with every season.  David Kisor’s annual pantomimes have been charming and progressive with genuinely lovely songs.  Lynn Meyers’ direction has been clear and elegant.

How to Host an Oprah Finale Party

I would love to meet Oprah.  Lucky Neil did!  I can only continue to dream of that day.  I know we would become bff's.  Plus, she really adores her pet companions.

      With Oprah slated to turn out the lights (just a few days after some religious sects believe the world is coming to an end), it's time to think about how you'll celebrate such a momentous occasion.  On May 25, 2011 the queen of all daytime programming will take a final bow to her fans in 145 countries worldwide.

       So how does one salute television's top-rated talk show host for the past two decades?  Will you have your OWN (sorry about the pun) party to celebrate the finale?  Here are a few suggestions for hosting a celebration.   
• Our friend Rose chose Oprah as her Christmas theme a couple of years ago and placed cut-outs of the iconic personality all over their tree.  It's not the holidays, but it's one way of paying homage to this special lady.  There are plenty of images on the internet and placing them as a focal point in your home (around an entryway, on the mantle, as a centerpiece, etc.) would be a simple way to create impact.  
• Make bags of your "favorite things" to give as gifts to your guests.  Or, have your guests bring one of their "favorites things" wrapped (you can place a dollar limit) and do an exchange.
• Mark the occasion by starting a Book Club.  Oprah will certainly leave a legacy with this popular segment that she began in September 1996.
• Food, as we all know, was a focal point of many an Oprah show.  This makes for the perfect time to serve some of her favorites, including Graeter's ice cream.

      However you mark the last original telecast, it will certainly be a day for many memories.  I visited the Oprah show back in 1992.  The theme that day was "Wives of Men in Prison".  Not exactly the show that I was hoping for (I was thinking more of seeing a star like Barbra Streisand), but a fantastic memory nonetheless.  I recall Oprah taking off her shoes at the end of the taping and standing to greet all of the studio audience that day.  It's a ritual she repeats daily.  You can't hope to meet anyone that will make their guests feel more comfortable than that.  And that is one of the reasons for her great success.  

      Congratulations, Oprah, and many more years of making us love you even more!

Especially for pets:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Aglamesis Brothers Makes Cincinnati’s Best Ice Cream

Mmmmm, everyone loves ice cream.  I’ll lick it up if it’s put in front of me, though I don’t ask for it like I do milk foam.  Neil and Eric went out for ice cream while I checked out some friends in the neighborhood.  I met their friends when they dropped them back at our home.

      Lin and Steve had set up an evening out with us a few weeks ago and it was the perfect way for us to celebrate a nice spring evening since it involved good friends and the great ice cream of Aglamesis.  Every city has its local ice cream parlor that’s usually family owned and operated and may have a couple of locations, but isn’t franchised.  Oprah made Graeter’s famous as one of “her favorite things” a few years back, but the weak economy, an inconsistency in choices between different stores, and probably a few too many locations has led to the three northern Kentucky Graeter’s being temporarily closed.  

1913 Interior of the Oakley Aglamesis
      Aglamesis has been around since 1908 and they’ve followed an old-fashioned business model that has kept them successful.  There are two locations.  The original is on Madison Road in the heart of Oakley Square and the other is in a strip mall, anchored by Kroger, in Montgomery on Montgomery Road.  They make their ice cream “the sincere way” using the French pot method.  I don’t know what that means, but it tastes like the dream version of what people think their homemade ice cream tastes like.  The focus is on the flavor and it’s intense.  Though there’s butterfat in it, there isn’t that over-creamy, overly thick texture of some other brands.  They make all the sauces and the chocolates.  

Ice Creams Clockwise from the Bottom Left:
Raspberry Hot Fudge Sundae, Two-Step Sundae,
Double Chocolate Chip, and  Hot Fudge Caramel Sundae
      Each time we’ve gone there with people for their first time, someone has usually said that it tastes like they imagine ice cream is supposed to taste.  That’s the reason we think of it as a legend in Cincinnati.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

There's a History Lesson at Tower Hill Park in Ft. Thomas, KY

I'm really in to protecting our house, especially at night.  Sometimes I stay downstairs and watch out the window 
Dexter on Duty
overlooking our driveway.  There is always something scurrying around.  If I could only unlock the door and get to them!  Instead, I just fall asleep and bat them around in my dreams.

Vintage Postcard of Soldier Drill

      We were looking for something new to explore when Eric thought of Tower Park in Ft. Thomas, KY.  Just across the river, we headed there on a Sunday afternoon.  The park is part of a U.S. military compound that still serves as a U.S. Army recruiting center and reserves base, as well as a V.A. Hospital.  

The 1890 Water Tower
Veterans' Memorial and Original Military Housing
      At the entrance stands a 90-foot functional water tower built in 1890 as a memorial to Spanish-American War veterans.  The two cannons are remnants of the war captured in the Havana Harbor.  Driving through, it's apparent that the park offers an abundance of recreational facilities.  There are several sporting fields and courts modified from the military operations there.  A mountain bike trail is unique and requires some experience due to the severity of the terrain.  In addition, there are picnic shelters and a new amphitheater being constructed.  On the property are military personnel homes now on the National Historic Register, many of which were sold to private owners in the transfer of property from the government.  At the end of Alexander Circle are the impressive former officers' homes and a view of the Ohio River valley.  Tower Hill Park is a walk (or drive) through the history of our area as well as an escape for future generations.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Cleveland's Melt Bar & Grilled Lives Up To Its Reputation

Eric and I have been bonding this week.  He chases me around the house when he gets home from work.  I like that!

      My only request while visiting Cindy and Will was to visit one of the top restaurants in the Cleveland area. (In this case, "top" meaning casual dining.)  So, we went for the favorite and visited Melt Bar & Grilled in Lakewood, the number one pick on Urbanspoon's website.  The two of them had heard the wait can be tremendous so we headed out on our 40 minute ride to arrive there by 11 a.m. for the lunch opening.  There were a few people standing out front when we drove past a few minutes before 11.  We parked in the back lot and went in the rear entrance to a wild collection of memorabilia and kitsch.  

Entrance and Shop at Melt in Lakewood, OH
Bar with Lighted Holiday Figures
      The restaurant was sparsely filled when we arrived.  Had the hype worn thin?  We were greeted by our server, Leah, who had both a sense of humor and a vast knowledge of the offerings.  The menu is printed on the backs of various record albums and it can be intimidating with its variety and descriptions.  I had viewed their website and immediately went to the Westside Monte Cristo.  It's my favorite sandwich, so my decision was made.  Cindy chose the Smokey Russian and Will the Gyro Melt, a new menu addition.  All sandwiches are served on fresh baked bread with hand cut fries and sweet slaw.

Westside Monte Cristo