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.