The three-block stretch through picturesque downtown Willoughby is already something of a Restaurant Row, with culinary alternatives that run the gamut from old-time burgers-and-booze joints to upscale coffee houses, an Italian fine-dining spot, and one of the area's most popular microbreweries. Now, Awakenings (4140 Erie Street, 440-269-8174), a pleasant little juice bar/veggie palace/bookstore, is adding its own distinctive flavor to the mix. The project of business partners and former brothers-in-law Abraham Klein and David Beifuss, Awakenings opened quietly at the end of April, with a modest menu of freshly squeezed juices, nutritional fruit smoothies, vegetarian sandwiches, soups, and chili, and breads from Mentor's Great Harvest Bread Company. Nothing fancy here: Plates and utensils are plastic, napkins are paper, and seating is either at the juice bar, at one of a handful of brightly painted tables, or in warm weather on the sidewalk. But the food and drink are refreshing, the atmosphere is upbeat, and it doesn't take much to get Beifuss going on the reported nutritional benefits of liquefied wheat grass, which he will be more than happy to squeeze for you on the spot and serve up in one-ounce shots. (The organically grown grass comes from Pure Intentions Herb Farm in the Cuyahoga River valley and reputedly contains sky-high levels of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and chlorophyll.) In addition to the inexpensive edibles, the shop also carries a number of books on alternative health care topics and will eventually host a series of guest speakers. Awakenings will mark its official grand opening during the weekend of June 30; among other draws, Cleveland-area nutritionist and exercise physiologist Helene Berk will be on hand to talk about her book, Be Lean, Healthy, and Energetic.
Willoughby's further allure . . . Chef Nick Kustala has temporarily abandoned his sauté pan in favor of a sledgehammer, as he and his crew work long hours transforming an old taxicab garage into something a good deal hipper. Kustala, who, with his wife Giovanna, also owns Lure, Bratenahl's first-rate dining destination, promises his new Lure Bistro (38040 Third Street, Willoughby, 440-941-TUNA) will serve up the same extraordinarily fresh, multicultural seafood creations in a more youthful, energetic setting. Among its attractions, the 100-seat space will feature both a raw bar and a sushi bar, a 360-gallon saltwater tank, and the same curvy blue banquettes that looked so smart first in Marlin Kaplan's Lire, then in Carl Quagliata's Tuscany 55. ("Marlin paid thousands of dollars for them," Kustala said with a wicked chuckle. "I got 'em for 50 bucks each.") The acrylic bar top will be filled with crushed glass and colorful fishing lures that Kustala has brought over from the Bratenahl location, and he hopes to continue the tradition of rewarding lure-bearing customers with half-priced drinks during certain nights of the week. ("You never know, wink-wink," he said. "The lures people bring to the bistro may end up at yet a third Lure location someday.") The new spot will be open for dinner only, until 1 a.m. on weekdays and 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, with a DJ spinning techno-rock and acid jazz late into the night. Look for this little Tremont-on-the-Lake to open soon after the Fourth of July holiday.