When Moxie producers Brad Friedlander and Craig Sumers finally brought down the curtain on their long-running Cleveland Heights restaurant, Lopez y Gonzales, in the spring of 1998, they knew that someday they would launch a revival. Now, that day is about to dawn: Look for Lopez, the duo's newest endeavor, to open before the end of the year at 2196 Lee Road, in the former Yorkville Café space. "It's sort of like remarrying your ex-wife," says a clearly delighted Sumers. "We are thrilled to be returning to the neighborhood." The expanded and redecorated restaurant will have 135 seats, including an outdoor courtyard, and will feature the same type of authentic, upscale Mexican fare as Lopez y Gonzales, which opened in 1979. No plans to have that restaurant's former chef, Rick Bayless, do a guest stint at the grand opening, though. The award-winning chef and cookbook author is presumably too busy running his top-rated Chicago restaurants, Frontera Grill and Topolobompo, to stop by for the festivities. Also on Friedlander and Sumers's to-do list is a new spot adjacent to Moxie, scheduled to open next spring. The working title of this particular scene-stealer is Brioso, Spanish for "vitality." Caribbean and Latin fusion fare will have the starring roles.
Keep your shirt on . . .
Among the recently announced changes at Johnny's Bistro (1400 West Sixth Street, 216-774-0055) is one that is sure to have the men breathing easier: Jackets are no longer de rigueur. Owners Joe Santosuosso and Paul Anthony hope that little policy revision -- along with the new cost-conscious bistro-style menu -- will make the drop-dead-gorgeous dining room (formerly one of the city's most expensive) more appealing to a younger, casual crowd. The approach seemed to be working on a recent Friday, when the place was hopping with enthusiastic eaters of all ages, many of whom had left their best bibs-and-tuckers on the bedpost. It was a treat to settle ourselves in front of a bowl of cold, creamy vichyssoise ($4.50), the silken potato-and-leek soup that has all but disappeared from local menus. And a simple but luscious Croque Monsieur ($12.95), a batter-dipped grilled sandwich of Parisian ham and Gruyère, topped with béchamel sauce and sided with skinny pommes frites, had us dreaming of sidewalk cafés (although we were disappointed it hadn't been prepared in the traditional scallop-shaped grill). Salade niçoise ($18.95), pristine greens decked out with two ample filets of medium-rare tuna, hard-boiled egg, potato wedges, onion, haricots verts, and zesty little niçoise olives, made a light yet satisfying meal. And mild, meaty country pork pâté ($8.95), served with the traditional cornichons, whole-grain mustard, and sautéed croutons, was fantastique. Add a couple of glasses of French wine and a shared dessert, and it is now possible to eat wonderfully here for around $75 a couple -- and that doesn't even count what you'll save on dry cleaning.
Hit the Deck Fest . . .
What's that you say? Summer's almost over, and you still haven't made it to one of Pier W's Deck Fests? Fortunately, you've got one more opportunity. The season's final party at the pier will be this Saturday, August 25, from 2 to 6 p.m., with samples of more than 50 wines, hot-off-the-grill hors d'oeuvres, and a silent art auction. Admission to the rain-or-shine event is free, with a modest charge for food and wine; no reservations are required. Pier W is at 12700 Lake Road in Lakewood; call 216-228-2250 for more information.