Those folks lucky enough to have snagged a table lean back and gaze at the less fortunate, who are perched on the (gasp!) concrete steps of the courtyard at the Cleveland Museum of Art. As a blue-jacketed jazz quartet plays "It Had to Be You" at the far end of the sun-dappled space, outdoor chefs dish up shrimp, burgers, and pasta on chic little black plates. If the aroma of the Chicken Andalus on the grill doesn't hook you, then the mellow downbeat of the jazz band will.
"The mood is very relaxed," says Anita Peeples, a storyteller at the museum's Summer Evenings, weekly programs of artfully presented entertainment and food. "People come here to let their hair down. It's a great way to unwind, after a hard day at work."
Judging by the number of people in attendance, there are plenty of Clevelanders who have had a rough day at the office. A freshly coiffed fiftysomething blonde gestures, her diamonds flashing, while a few feet away, two college boys lean on a stone lion, laughing at each other's jokes. Even the step-sitters seem comfortable: the men in their shirtsleeves look happy to be away from the office, and the women are too busy enjoying their pear crepes to care where they're seated.
"It's almost a nightclub kind of experience, but in the most beautiful place," says Bill Prenevost of the art museum. "There's just a wonderful variety of things to do."
Assuming, of course, that you enjoy more highbrow forms of entertainment. Besides dining alfresco and listening to a string bass keep time to a swing tune, you can stroll into the museum to hear pro storytellers spin tales about headless giants or watch international flicks on the big screen, all the while rubbing shoulders with other folks who love nothing better than further refining their refined sensibilities.
And if all else fails, there are always the pear crepes.