Following a weekend of private events, Alley Cat Oyster Bar (1056 Old River Rd., 216-574-9999, alleycatoysterbar.com) will open to the public on Monday, making it the first new restaurant to open in Phase II of Flats East Bank. It joins the currently operating Willeyville, Lago and Ken Stewart’s, and will soon be followed by Flip Side, Crops Sticks, The Big Bang, Punch Bowl Social and others.
Alley Cat, Zack Bruell’s 10th Cleveland restaurant, boasts a prominent perch alongside the Cuyahoga River. The attractive restaurant – described by Bruell during a recent walk-thru as “industrial grunge” – features a wall of garage door panels that open up alongside the river, creating an open-air dining room. Patios on two separate levels feature unobstructed views of water, bridges and marine traffic.
All told, the eatery seats around 350 guests, though it appears much smaller than that. Low-slung ceilings, matte finishes and a wide footprint give the space the feel of a casual pier restaurant. A wrap-around bar seats about 30, where guests can order fresh-shucked oysters from the oyster bar. The full bar is heavy on white wines, beers and Bruell’s take on the michelada, the Mexican refresher of beer and spices.
“This is my take on a California shore restaurant, with Southern California and Mexican influences,” Bruell says of his latest eatery, which joins Parallax, Chinato, Table 45, L’Albatros, Cowell & Hubbard, Kafeteria and Dynomite in his vast portfolio.
Bruell’s chef de cuisine is Trent Love, the former executive chef at Urban Farmer. He oversees a menu that features a dozen appetizers, an equal number of entrees, and ever-shifting Catches of the Day. The majority of them are built around fish and seafood, naturally. Starters range from $8 to $15 while entrees run from $15 on up to $60 for a whole grilled lobster.
“The point is you don’t have to spend a ton of money here,” Bruell says.
Appetizer highlights, in addition to the raw oyster selection, include New England clam chowder, crab cakes made from king crab, and ceviche served with tostones. For the main event there’s a lobster roll, of course, stuffed with butter-poached meat and topped with a spicy aioli. Also on the bill of fare is grilled octopus, seafood quesadillas, king crab legs and a perch sandwich. For landlubbers, there’s fried chicken, steak and roast chicken.
Alley Cat will open serving dinners only, with lunch and brunch to be added a week or so down the road.
Looking at the beehive of activity currently taking place in the Flats, it’s getting hard to even picture the grungy Flats of old. That’s appropriate, says Bruell, who is bullish on the whole development.
“This is a different Flats from before,” he says, staring across the river. “People are living downtown now.”