The beleaguered Gateway District, which struggles to attract diners when its sports venues are silent, is scheduled to get a major fun infusion. Pickwick & Frolic, an ambitious 27,000-square-foot entertainment complex at 2035 East Fourth Street, is expected to debut in November, with a 425-seat Hilarities Comedy Club, a 150-seat cabaret/dinner theater, a cocktail lounge with seating for more than 100, and a 174-seat restaurant, serving what owner Nick Kostis calls "rustic American cuisine." The casual, no-tablecloth dining room will come with an open kitchen, a stone oven, and a focus on big portions of familiar foods like wood-fired meatloaf, seafood, steaks, and rotisserie chicken. Other house specialties will include black-bean chili, skillet corn bread, gourmet pizza, and classic Caesar Salad, tossed tableside. Breakfast and lunch will also be served. A separate sandwich-and-salad station, where office workers can score a made-to-order lunch to eat in the restaurant (with no tipping) or to take back to the workplace for an afternoon of multitasking, is likely to be a draw.
Lucky Dog . . .
Speaking of Gateway, Jo Jo's Colony Tavern recently opened at 503 Prospect Avenue, inside the Colonial Marketplace, in space formerly occupied by Wallaby's Brewing Company. The handsome interior, with a view into the Colonial Arcade, is all brass and frosted glass, with a large island bar, an open kitchen, and seating for as many as 250. Executive Chef Robert Trevisanutto did time at Sammy's, the Terrace Club, and the Browns Stadium before embarking on this adventure with operating partner Paul Glatt, and together they have assembled a menu of well-executed sandwiches, steaks, chops, and bar noshes. A lunchtime visit netted us an enormous breaded-grouper sandwich, crunchy outside and juicy within, served with zesty red-pepper aioli and a tangle of slender, skin-on french fries, reasonably priced at $6.50. And homemade New York-style cheesecake ($5), with a crisp graham-cracker crumb crust, is among the best downtown has to offer. Dining-room hours are 11:30 a.m. through 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with the bar open later; the tavern is open on Sundays only if there is an event in Gateway. As for the restaurant's namesake, Jo Jo is Glatt's pooch, adopted from an animal shelter. Good dog. Sit. Eat.
Touchdown . . .
If there was any doubt about it, last week's sold-out Taste of the NFL's Cleveland Browns Celebrity Dinner firmly established the event as the city's premier food-related fundraiser. Now in its third year, the affair is a class act, from the complimentary valet parking to the exclusive setting in the OfficeMax Club Lounge to the extraordinary food, supplied by Cleveland's best restaurants. Among our favorite small bites were Jon Bennett's (Moxie) buttery crescents of foie gras terrine, perched atop a wedge of toasted brioche and topped with sweet-tart plum preserves; Donna Chriszt's (OZ) plump pot- stickers; and Paul Minnillo's (Baricelli Inn) succulent duck-and-goat-cheese ravioli. Between rarefied sips and sups, the well-dressed guests, who had anted up $150 per ticket, hobnobbed with local television and radio personalities and current and former Browns players, including the legendary Jim Brown (who was seen shaking hands, but refusing requests for autographs). More than 1,000 guests attended, raising more than $80,000 for the Cleveland Foodbank. Start saving your pennies now, and plan to attend next year.