Urban Makeovers

Two arty eateries ratchet up the ambition.

Le Oui Oui Cafe
There's nothing quite like the hands-on involvement of an ardent owner to help a business reach its potential. So we can't wait to see what develops at two of our favorite underachievers -- Le Oui Oui Café (1881 Fulton Road, Ohio City) and Artefino (1900 Superior Avenue, in the Tower Press Building) -- now that passionate new owners have taken the helm.

In Artefino's case, the art gallery/café was taken over by Tower Press owners Dave and Karen Perkowski in late November. Since then, Karen has expanded the hours, overhauled the menu, hired an art coordinator to manage special events, and brought in an executive chef.

"I'm a food snob," Karen admits, "and I really want to improve the food and turn this place into a true neighborhood destination." To that end, she's put chef Zac Gorrell, formerly of Tommy's on Coventry, in charge of developing a crop of out-of-the-ordinary soups and stews to supplement the existing menu of salads, sandwiches, and coffees.

Karen is also developing a children's menu and adding a kid-sized seating area, complete with toys; by spring, she hopes to offer Saturday-morning activities, along with outdoor tables for Mom and Dad. "Artefino is a great concept," she says. "It just needed someone who would give it some loving attention." Hours are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Across town at Le Oui Oui Café, the city's only French-style crêperie, former marketing guy Mike Crowdes took over at the beginning of January. (Francophile and free spirit Denajua launched the tiny spot in 2004; word has it she has since retreated to Paris.)

So far, Crowdes has expanded the all-French wine list, tinkered with the menu, and lengthened the café hours. (The spot now opens daily at 6:30 a.m. for coffee, then serves weekday lunch, weekend brunch, and dinner Tuesday through Saturday.) He's just added custom-made Woo City vanilla-lavender ice cream to the dessert list and hopes to incorporate homey bistro standards like braised rabbit and slow-roasted chicken.

"Cooking is my passion," Crowdes says. "No skimping, no substitutions, and top quality, all the way."

The biggest change, though, will come in March, when the café moves up the street to 1887 Fulton, to space that will double the restaurant's capacity and include a small bar.

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