Saturday, January 26, 2008

In Which I Pretend To Be Both Theatre Critic And Foodie

Hop, skip, jump and scamper your merry little way over to a theatre if possible and see Avenue Q. “What’s Avenue Q?” you may ask your monitor at your home or office, perhaps to the puzzlement of nearby bystanders. Well, the best way I’ve been able to explain it is: Its Sesame Street meets Rent, only less pretentious.

Seriously, its got puppets who swear, get drunk and make hot puppet love on stage. I’m just saying, is all. But it is good toilet humor. The writing is sharp, the songs are at the same time hilarious, original and poignant, and the damn thing’s got heart. So yeah, I definitely recommend the show. Honestly, with songs like “The Internet is For Porn” and “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist,” how can you go wrong?

So with a Broadway show like that, me and the usual gang of idiots who saw it were hungry afterwards. Denny’s is pretty damn low on the classy totem pole, and IHOP is just plain disgusting for cardboard, so why bother with offal when for a few dollars more you can hit up a local, independent joint.

Said independent joint was Lolita, located in Cleveland’s quasi-artsy, quasi-trendy Tremont neighborhood. Lolita is a restaurant owned by Michael Symon, who you might actually have heard of thanks to the Food Network’s recent Next Iron Chef competition. Lolita’s got a bigger sister downtown called Lola, which is swankier and (by nature) more premium prices. Haven’t been there yet.

Back to Lolita. After parking on the street, the four of us entered from the bitter Cleveland cold and waited a few minutes looking over the menu before a table cleared. The wait wasn’t long at all actually, The place is actually quite big, but cozy. The lighting is dim enough to be intimate, but not enough to hide what it is you’re eating.

I’m kind of tired, so I’m not going into full blown narrative mode here. The food: The list of appetizers is very long and packs a lot of variety. Three were ordered and basically tasted in roundtable format. Chicken Wings. Yes I know, why go to a nice place and order wings? Well, the wings were very good and involved cilantro and chiles and packed a sizable kick to them. Next. Crispy Chicken Livers. That’s what I ordered. Breaded and served with mushrooms and (I think grilled onions) the livers tasted awesome and just about dissolved in your mouth. Well, not “Your” mouth since “you” weren’t there. Third: Pork Cheeks. Soft and about as tender as you can get, with a thin layer of sweetness on the outside. The appetizers were awesome and worth the trip themselves.

The main course: Pizza. What I call “European” style (since that’s what it was like when I was in Europe). About 12” in diameter, thin crust and with decidedly different toppings than the standard fare. The pizza we didn’t share with each other. Mine was the lamb sausage with arugula and feta cheese, it was nice. Other pizza toppings included specialty cured meats and duck.

Lolita, definitely plan on going back there again sometime and ordering one of the main entrees. If you’re in Cleveland and looking for a quality meal in a great atmosphere at a very reasonable price, Lolita is definitely one of the places I would recommend.

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