Fairlawn flop . . . Jones says he's glad to be back in the Big City after his failed attempt to bring alternative upscale dining to Fairlawn. The chef felt unappreciated in his hometown, where stolid (not to say stodgy) dining rooms like Ken Stewart's and the Diamond Grille still rule the roost, and popular acceptance of the fresh and contemporary has been slow in coming. "The people who came down (to Grappa) from Cleveland liked what I was doing," Jones muses. The locals? Apparently not so much.
A novel idea . . . Guys with ladders and steel-toed boots were still tromping in and out of Joseph-Beth Booksellers (13217 Shaker Square; 216-751-3300) last week, as the 36,000-square-foot bookstore got its finishing touches. But inside Brontë, the store's pretty bistro, the ladies who lunch were nibbling on quiche, pear and blue cheese salad, and fettuccini with spinach cream sauce. The sit-down restaurant takes up prime corner space on the store's main floor and offers an impressive view of Shaker Square through its tall, arched windows. Inside, the substantial lunch menu runs the gamut from the aforementioned salad ($6.50) to the manly Joe's Beef Burger with a side of freshly made Red Bliss potato salad ($6.95); vegetarian chili, soups, and a fascinating-sounding smoked-salmon-and-chive-cream-cheese strudel (a $4.95 appetizer) are other possibilities. During our lunch visit, not long after the facility opened, service was well intentioned but awkward, and flavors seemed unnecessarily subdued; as the staff and kitchen work out the kinks, Brontë may well grow into its potential as a pleasant respite from an afternoon of shopping. Besides lunch (11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily), the bistro serves dinner beginning at 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Reservations are not accepted. The attached Brontë's Café Express offers the standard coffee drinks and pastries throughout the day, beginning at 6 a.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. on weekends.