Side Dish

No Starving Artists Here

When it comes to talent, some folks seem to be on a first-name basis with the Muse. Take, for example, West Siders Todd Thompson and Bridget Ginley. When this husband-and-wife team aren't at their "real" jobs -- he as Wine God and assistant manager at Pier W, she as admissions counselor and recruiter for the School of Visual Arts in N.Y.C. -- the couple nurture a crop of emerging midwestern artists at their Tremont gallery, Studio 615 (615 Jefferson Avenue, 216-579-1928). Ginley, a painter with a fine arts degree, and Thompson, who earned a bachelor's in English, met at Kent State University and worked their way through college in a number of area restaurants, including Great Lakes Brewing Company, Parker's, and Lola, where they developed their palates and their culinary skills. Bridget even helped create the unique painted walls at the former Diamondback Brewery and Café I-90, "and a few other restaurants that lasted about 15 minutes," she jokes. Today, they combine their artistic sensibilities and hospitality backgrounds by serving up finger foods and fine wines at their gallery during Tremont's monthly Art Walk, an idea they hope will catch on with other gallery owners. Although each Art Walk means hours spent in her kitchen whipping up cheese twists, garlic breads, dips, and tapenades, Ginley says she wouldn't have it any other way. "Our guests are real people who appreciate good art and good food, and who enjoy the down-to-earth scene in Tremont," she says. "That's one of the things I really like about Cleveland." (The next Tremont Art Walk is June 9; Ginley's works will be featured at Studio 615 that evening.)

Chriszt will come again . . . Award-winning chef Donna Chriszt is scouring the city for backers for a new Tremont project. After the roller coaster ride of the past few weeks -- culminating in her abrupt departure from Woodmere's J Café -- the kitchen magician may also be preparing to accept an interim position at a University Circle spot while she continues her fund-raising efforts.

Brewbeaten . . . Developer Bart Wolstein's House of Brews (1087 Old River Road, in the Flats) closed its doors last week. The struggling restaurant and microbrewery started out as a Boston-based John Harvard's Brew House, but corporate heads shut it down last year after it turned in a "disappointing performance." House of Brews opened in September, with most of the same staff and an increasingly schizoid menu of bar food and upscale dinners; CIA grad Seth Kaspy had just signed on last month as executive chef, with hopes of turning the failing restaurant around. Former General Manager Derrick Bryant, now at Wolstein's Bertram Inn and Conference Center in Aurora, wouldn't speculate on the reason for pulling the plug right at the start of pub-crawling season. "But when you are doing maybe 20 or 30 lunches each day, and maybe 40 dinners, that's not enough to support a 15,000-square-foot space," he noted. Sources say present GM Carl Hamilton is hitting the road for Chicago, and Kaspy may be considered for a position at the Bertram. Expect Wolstein to look for new tenants.