To the list of our favorite alfresco dining locations -- which includes the secluded courtyard at Gamekeeper's Tavern (Chagrin Falls), the intimate garden at Baricelli Inn (Little Italy), and the urbane sidewalk caf´ at Mise (on Clifton Boulevard) -- we have added the scrumptious patio at Willoughby's Lure Bistro. From its Caribbean-blue indoor-outdoor carpeting to the vintage brick buildings that surround it, the 68-seat open-air dining room exudes style and charm. There are the tidy flower boxes . . . the little fountain . . . the large overhanging tree branches . . . and chic seating, which, beyond the handsome glass-topped tables and cobalt-blue market umbrellas, includes two long leather-look banquettes for a real touch of outdoor class. And, of course, you know better than to think that owners Nick and Giovanna Kustala have overlooked food in exchange for style. This month's patio specials include all-you-can-eat steamed mussels on Mondays, all-you-can-eat sushi on Tuesdays, live island music and lobster on Wednesdays, and a DJ spinning acid jazz on Fridays (steamed clam night) and dance and house music on Saturdays (the time for snow crab dinners).
On the regular spring menu, you'll find favorites like raw oysters, beef carpaccio, and Kustala's signature Potato-Crusted Sea Bass, along with new attractions like rare roasted Black & Blue Blue-Fin Tuna, rubbed with Creole spices and served with sticky rice and Asian vegetables. And if you're looking for a deal, check out the Monday through Friday 4 to 6 p.m. early-dining menu, a "two for $25" collection of entr´es like seafood fettuccine, cedar-roasted salmon, and tenderloin medallions with salad, rolls, and butter. Find Lure Bistro at 38040 Third Street in downtown Willoughby or dial 'em up at 440-951-8862.
The menu at the Metropolitan Café (1352 West Sixth Street, 216-241-1300), already a tasteful assortment of fish, flesh, and fowl, has been expanded to include a half-dozen moderately priced pasta dishes. Chef Robin Wilkins developed the alternative entr´es -- dishes like Penne Chorizo with spicy sausage, peppers, arugula, and roasted roma tomatoes ($13.95); orecchiette tossed with julienned spring veggies, feta cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes ($12.50); and Pasta Rags: torn pasta sheets topped with grilled portobellos, asparagus, crisp bacon, and a roasted garlic cream sauce ($12.95) -- to make the sleek dining room more affordable for families and downtown regulars. In addition, Wilkins has spiced up the regular offerings with two additional specialty pizzas (chorizo and pesto) and a Creole-style Veal Zarina, with red beans, rice, and crawfish sauce.
Todd Thompson, wine and beverage manager at Pier W (12700 Lake Avenue, Lakewood; 216-228-2250) and grapey guru to the thirsty, will be on the road this summer, spreading the Gospel according to Bacchus. Thompson's employer (and Pier W owner), Cleveland-based Select Restaurants, has asked him to take his popular series of wine classes -- long a hit in the Cleveland market -- to the company's other properties. Thompson's odyssey begins in June at Parker's Blue Ash Grille in suburban Cincinnati and will continue in August and October. It's not too late to catch him on the Pier, though: His class on "Wines That Never Heard of You, Either," a bargain-hunter's delight, is scheduled for Monday evening, May 21; "Grapes and Plates," a food and wine pairing, is on Tuesday, May 22. Classes cost $25. Call for reservations.