[intro-text size=”25px”]Autumn in the Flats newly redeveloped East Bank is not a place for the fair or dainty. Structures of concrete and glass provide little protection from the biting gusts that sneak beneath the collars of jackets and the cold that seeps through the leather of boots. But still, there is life in the restaurants that inhabit the recently established downtown destination. After all this is Cleveland, few among us fear such conditions. But perhaps they should. Perhaps they would, if they knew the fury that awaits the unworthy at the hands of Cleveland’s oldest creature.[/intro-text]
The Flats East Bank is (purportedly) built on the site of the original Cleveland settlement, later industrialized, and now finally, gentrified. This is the act that will doubtlessly draw the ire of the Lake Erie Monster. It is audacious to tread on the ground of our forerunners, the first of us to say, “Fine. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it the right way. I’ll do it the hard way. I’ll do it my way” the sentiment that made us the city we are. That boldness requires tenacity.
Rising from the mouth of the Cuyahoga, one of the first businesses the Lake Erie Monster would see is Punch Bowl Social. Standing proudly in the front of the development, the bar cries out “Come! Drink! Converse!” But the message and the actuality seem incredibly disparate. The massive space houses bowling alleys, arcade games, and three bars that give guests multiple distractions from one another. It also appears that they are attempting to lure hipsters with an eclectic, kitschy décor and bartenders sporting floppy hats and suspenders (not that there’s anything wrong with floppy hats or suspenders). But it’s not the atmosphere that would infuriate the Monster. It’s the drinks.
The many eyes of the Beast would watch and the staff forgoes hospitality, serves a Pegu Club, missing its characteristic bitters and a Boulevardier with only a hint of its defining ingredient, Campari. It would hiss as a bartender answers “sure why not” when asked the correct recipe of a cocktail. One cry from the beast would clear the place and send staff and patron running for the parking lot. But surely, as they watched the near imminent destruction of their livelihood, their labor, at least one hero would arise and try to appease the beast? Unfortunately, however, I don’t believe anyone would. Punch Bowl Social would be destroyed by the Monster. Cleared off the coast. No one would weep however, because they never put their hearts into it in the first place.
As the wrath of the Beast grows, its blood lust ignited, the next target would have to be Alley Cat Oyster bar. Sitting truly on the waterfront, Alley Cat is the newest effort of Cleveland Restaurateur Zack Bruell (Chinato, Parrallax et cetera). Between the catch of the day menu, a broad selection of oysters and a draft menu featuring local breweries, the Lake Erie Monster, might have to pause before it continues its rampage. But Alley Cat would need to act fast. An offering must be made.
The kitchen and service staff move like a well oiled machine, first bringing bread baked in house and then a Speed Merchant IPA. But the first thing that would truly satisfy the Ancient One is a plate of three varieties of delectable oysters, which taste incredibly fresh. Following quickly is the catch of the day, cod with an amazing parsnip puree that may be the best way parsnips have ever been consumed. Finally, the Grilled Octopus with succotash and smoked paprika aioli is incredibly flavorful. Looking down on these offerings the Lake Erie Monster would return to the depths from which it came, satisfied that someone in the Flats East Bank is trying to do it right. But be warned, if you come to our shores trying to capitalize on a fad and make money the easy way you will not last long in this city. What has made us great and what will continue to keep us great is simple. If you do not have heart, you will not survive.