In this weekly feature, C-Notes stretches your dollar at restaurants around the region, because with gas prices waging war on your wallet, every little bit helps. This week …
The Fairmount Martini and Wine Bar
2448 Fairmount Boulevard, (216)229-9463, http://www.thefairmount.net/
What $13 got us:
A Raspberry Ice martini and a grilled chicken pizza
What else $13 can get you:
Any of the menu martinis and certain beers, pizzas for $6.50 and a few menu items
Come for the drinks. But eat first. ...
Call it Sex and the City Syndrome—the overwhelming desire to sip a sassy cocktail after work. But we know, from the show and from experience, that ‘tinis are best served to a full stomach. So I was intrigued by the Fairmount Martini and Wine Bar’s promise of a gourmet kitchen accompanying their fully stocked bar. And best of all, they offer a happy hour every weekday from 5 until 7.
They have a lusciously large menu of martinis, wines, and beers. But when I arrived on a recent weeknight, the deals were rather limited in scope—menu martinis were discounted to $6.50, and select beers were $1 (on this visit, it was Labatt.) No wine deals were included. But for all of the high-end ingredients and expert mixology that goes into the martini, $6.50 seemed a fair price, so I ordered up the Raspberry Ice martini.
As the barkeep pulled my glass out of the chill chest and freshly mixed my drink, I surveyed the space. Regrettably, it was too brisk to brave the sizable, fetching patio, so I instead enjoyed the warm wood and soft fixtures of the inside bar. Surrounded by small tables, the bar area is flooded with light from the picture window. A mix of after-work types and obvious regulars happily co-mingled, with an occasional hipster making the pilgrimage from Coventry.
Comprised of Finlandia Wildberry, Limoncello, cran-raspberry and Chambord, the Raspberry Ice martini is a pretty, dusky pink set off nicely by the cheerful lemon. It tasted sweet and smooth at first, exactly like a raspberry lemonade—but upon swallowing, a wallop of booze hit me. These tasty ‘tinis are dangerous.
As for food, the expensive apps menu affords few opportunities for the $13 diner, but fortunately, all pizzas are bumped down to $6.50 during happy hour. I went for the grilled-chicken pizza. It’s a sauceless job, mounded with mozzarella, roasted tomatoes, and grilled chicken breast. But the cheese was one-note and overwhelming, and the grilled chicken a boring rendition. Some more generous seasoning would have gone a long way. And the roasted tomatoes were an alarming shade of black. I understand that charring tends to blacken things, but these looked sickly and dangerous. I barely managed one—squishy, unpleasant—and scraped the rest off. The crust—deep-dish style, nicely crisped, and with a pleasing olive-oil note—was solid, but not a savior.
One companion fared slightly better with his portabella pizza. The mushrooms were flavorful, but the cheese—so overabundant on my pizza—offered spotty coverage on his pie. The sauce wasn’t memorable. Another companion went with a veggie edition, featuring red peppers, spinach, artichoke hearts, and mozzarella. But his crust—the redeeming quality of the other pies—was soggy.
The uneven eats were surprising, given the tastiness of their ‘tinis. And it’s possible that other menu items far outstrip their pizza-brethren, but it’s hard for a $13 diner to tell, if they’re looking to have a drink as well. I’ll definitely be back next time I’m feeling all Carrie Bradshaw-like, but I’ll eat beforehand. --- Tori Woods