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Friday, December 22, 2017

Swensons in University Heights Opening on Jan. 8

Posted By on Fri, Dec 22, 2017 at 11:33 AM

PHOTO VIA KRYDEN_ ON/INSTAGRAM
  • Photo via kryden_ on/Instagram
Update: Things are already looking up for 2018. Swensons officially opens its long-awaited location in University Heights on Cedar Rd. (next to Jack's Deli) on Jan. 8. May the new year be filled with Galley Boys for everyone.
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(Updated 6/22/17): After much speculation, Swensons Drive-In is coming to University Heights, and could be open within the year.

In April, Scene broke the news that Swensons had plans to open an eighth location, this one in the Cleveland area. Now, with the approval of the University Heights City Council earlier this week, LeBron James' favorite burger joint is officially coming to the east side.

The soon-to-be-built retro-inspired building will sit next to Jack's Deli, at 14510 Cedar Road.

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(Original Post 4/6/2017):“Service” isn’t often a concept that comes up when discussing fast food restaurants. In fact, the entire foundation of the category is based on reducing labor costs by eliminating servers.

But park your car at any of the Swensons Drive-In locations and you actually will feel appreciated – important even. Quicker than you can roll down the window, a zealous, dutiful and genuinely cheery waiter – here called “curb server” – is at your beck and call, handy with a menu for the rare customer who doesn’t already know what he or she wants.

“White tablecloth-level service,” CEO Jeff Flowers calls it without a trace of hyperbole, despite the fact that customers dine in parked cars.

That level of service, coupled with the quality and freshness of its product, is how this Akron-born institution has managed to survive and grow alongside behemoths like McDonald’s and Burger King. Since Wesley "Pop" Swenson opened his first drive-in, in 1934, the regional chain has grown to seven locations.

But unlike those zippy curb servers – whose official rallying cry is “Sprint and smile!” – the organization does not move quickly. In fact, Swensons has not added a new location since the Seven Hills shop opened in 2001, and there has been zero desire to breach the I-480 boundary.

Until now.

“We’re definitely working hard to get some new sites open in Cleveland,” says Flowers, a former curb server himself. “We’re slow, we’re methodical, and we’re going to make sure we do things right.”

Flowers says that until very recently, he and Steve Thompson, owner since 1974, frankly didn’t believe that a market for their product existed outside of the Greater Akron area. That changed in July of 2013, when the Swensons food truck first rolled onto the scene.

“We’ve always looked at ourselves as an Akron organization,” notes Flowers. “But when we first put the food truck out, it really became apparent that there’s a strong market for us up there – coming up and doing the Walnut Wednesdays, not to mention the Cavs, Indians and Monsters playoff games.”

If the truck managed to unearth a heretofore silent fan base, it also reinforced the fact that the Galley Boy is by far the most popular menu item – both on the truck’s streamlined menu and the restaurant’s standard one. The twin 3-ounce patties, which are house-ground and hand-formed daily at the company’s commissary, come topped with cheese and a pair of “top secret” sauces. Each bundle of love is swaddled in wax paper and garnished with a toothpick-stabbed olive.

But Swensons’ menu goes well past the Galley Boy. In addition to single, double and triple burgers, there are hot dogs, Sloppy Joe, fried bologna and fish sandwiches. There is also pulled pork, grilled cheese, egg salad and a shrimp dinner, believe it or not, paired with sides like onion rings, fried mushrooms and “potato teezers.” All of the above gets washed down with one of literally dozens of phosphates, milkshakes and soft drinks, including the odd but loveable California and Florida concoctions. The mile-long menu is the antithesis of the modern, succinct fast food roster.

“Quite frankly, the menu might be slightly bigger than it needs to be,” admits Flowers, who adds that having something for everyone has been essential to the brand’s success.

Flowers reports that the organization is actively looking at locations on both sides of town, and it hopes to have something in the works – if not open and serving Galley Boys – before the end of the year. But given the unique nature of the operation, finding ideal spots is more challenging than the typical strip-mall eatery. Unlike most fast food joints, Swensons shuns soulless drive-through windows in favor of the more relaxed drive-in format. And unlike contemporary drive-in chains like Sonic that utilize faceless squawk boxes, they employ living, breathing human beings to do the job. And because every one of those curb servers is a full-time college student, proximity to universities is key.

Thanks to schools like Cleveland State, John Carroll, Baldwin Wallace and Case, Cleveland is ideally situated for multiple locations, Flowers admits, but given the company’s history of measured expansion, we shouldn’t expect a spate of openings.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to show more than Akron what Swensons is all about,” says Flowers. “Hopefully we can get another couple restaurants open in Cleveland, but we’re not going to damage the brand. There’s too much that is important and that has allowed Swensons to be around for the last 83 years to duplicate like wildfire.”

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Woman Who Pulled a Gun On Ohio City Barber After Son's Haircut Took Too Long Sentenced to Six Months in Prison

Posted By on Tue, Oct 10, 2017 at 2:18 PM

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Update: Andrea Smith, 31, who you might have last seen on surveillance video from the All-State Barber College in Ohio City pulling a gun on a barber, was sentenced this week to six months in prison. She'd pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charge of aggravated menacing and a fifth-degree felony charge for carrying a concealed weapon.

Smith told the court that the prevailing narrative — that she pulled the gun on the barber because he was taking too long to cut her son's hair — was wrong. She said it was because the barber had "insulted her parenting."

"He came up to me four times about my son moving in the chair," Smith said, according to Cleveland.com. "That's what it was. I'm not that type of person. I did not just go up to him and point a gun at him and say 'you're taking too long.'"

Prosecutors and the judge weren't exactly buying the explanation, which didn't justify her actions anyway.

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(Original story 4/28/17): One woman grew impatient when her son's $6 haircut went longer than expected at the All-State Barber College in Ohio City two weeks ago. And then she did what anyone does when they're impatient: She pulled a gun on the barber cutting her 7-year-old son's hair, a police report said.

"I got two clips. I'll pop you," she allegedly said while pointing the gun at the barber.

All of this came to a head after the woman complained loudly multiple times about how slow the service was — although hair schools aren't exactly known for their speed. When the manager came over to investigate, that's when the weapon came out of her purse (as seen in the store camera footage above).

Eventually, after another barber came over to appease the situation, the handgun was put away and the haircut was finished.

Police are currently trying to track down the woman depicted in the video.

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Former East Cleveland Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Sexually Assaulting Two Women With Sex Toy During Traffic Stop

Posted By on Mon, Sep 11, 2017 at 3:24 PM

CUYAHOGA COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT
  • Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department

Update: Former East Cleveland police officer Kenneth Bolton Jr. reached a plea agreement with prosecutors in advance of a trial for sexually assaulting two females during an illegal traffic stop. He was fired by the department earlier this year after admitting to numerous misdemeanors and felonies stemming from an illegal traffic stop of two women during which he assaulted them with a sex toy he found in the vehicle.

In exchange for ducking a kidnapping charge, Bolton pleaded guilty to felony gross imposition and a civil rights misdemeanor.

He'll be sentenced on October 16.

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(Original story 4/14/17): Cuyahoga County prosecutors say that 49-year-old Kenneth Bolton Jr. sexually assaulted two females with a sex toy during an illegal traffic stop in February. The East Cleveland police officer was fired by the department last month after he copped to violating "numerous misdemeanor and felony laws," according to a termination letter from East Cleveland Police Chief Michael Cardilli.  

Bolton allegedly pulled over the two women, both in their early 20s, about 30 minutes after he heard that they'd been pulled over and cited by another officer. During the illegal stop, Bolton allegedly found a sex toy in the car and used it to sexually assault both women.

A Cuyahoga County grand jury brought charges of gross sexual imposition, abduction, and civil rights charges.

He'd been with East Cleveland for 16 years and faces up to 10 years in prison. An arraignment is set for Monday morning.

It's the first civil rights case brought by new Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley's newly formed Civil Rights Unit.

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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Former Cuyahoga County Jail Guard Sentenced to Two and Half Years in Prison for Dealing Heroin, Cocaine, Ecstasy

Posted By on Tue, Sep 5, 2017 at 11:03 AM

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Update: Brian Salters pleaded guilty to a host of offenses last week including drug trafficking, possession, and carrying a concealed weapon. The former Cuyahoga County jail guard was arrested back in April after officers with the Cleveland vice squad witnessed Salters, who'd been with the jail since 2013, making hand-to-hand drug sales. He also had marijuana, heroin, cocaine and ecstasy in his possession at the time of the arrest.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judge Nancy McDonnell sentenced Salters to two and a half years in prison, to be served at the Lorain Correctional Institution. He'll also fork over a $5,000 fine.

***

(Original story 4/24/17): Brian Salters, who's been a corrections officer at the Cuyahoga County jail since 2013, was arrested earlier this month by Cleveland police officers with the fifth district vice squad.

Arrest records show that Salters was caught with marijuana, heroin, coke and ecstasy, and that officers witnessed Salters doing hand-to-hand exchanges.

He's on unpaid leave from the county after charges were brought for drug trafficking. He was briefly in custody at the very jail where he worked but has posted bond.

Salters is the second Cuyahoga County jail officer caught up in drug investigations this year. Previously, Kamara Austin was arrested for allegedly smuggling heroin into the facility for an inmate.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Boiler 65 in Detroit Shoreway is Now Open

Posted By on Tue, Jun 13, 2017 at 2:25 PM

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Update: Hey seafood fans! The long wait for spicy boiled shrimp, crab, lobster and crawfish is over. The Boiler 65 has opened. Grab a bib and check it out.

Here's the original story that Scene published back in April:

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When Boiler 65 opens in Gordon Square in a couple of weeks, it will be the third such “seafood-in-a-bag” restaurant to enter the Cleveland market in two years. The first was Boiling Seafood (2201 Lee Rd., 216-459-7777, boilingseafoodcrawfishoh.com) in Cleveland Heights, which will soon be joined by Seafood Shake (1852 Coventry Rd.), a large eatery currently taking shape in the old Winking Lizard space on Coventry Road.

According to general manager Tre Jones, the Boiler 65 is on track to open the first week of May.

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The owners are Lawrence Harris and Srey Ny, a refugee of Cambodia who grew up in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. The pair visited numerous similarly styled eateries throughout the country in preparation for this project. Boiling Crab, the most popular of the bunch, is approaching 20 locations out west.

Sometimes referred to as Cajun-style seafood, boiling seafood, or even the less-than-tantalizing “seafood dump,” these fun spirited restaurants have been proliferating across the nation after originating down south and out west. All feature seafood – almost always shellfish – that is steamed and then tossed in a bag with spices and delivered to the table. Diners can “dump” the contents of the bag directly onto the wax paper-covered tables or pluck it straight from the bag. Staffers provide diners with plastic bibs and gloves in an attempt to keep things clean, but many people prefer to eat with their hands. Tables are outfitted with buckets for the discarded shells.

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While similar to a Louisiana crab boil, these concepts differ with respect to seafood and spice. The seafood options extend well past the traditional crawfish found in Cajun Country, and the seasoning often swaps the Old Bay for spicy Asian-style spice mixtures.

The roomy 150-seat restaurant has been under construction for nearly a year and has been in the planning phase for even longer. It occupies a large portion of the St. Helena Romanian Byzantine Catholic Church building in the heart of Gordon Square.

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“It’s been a long road,” Jones says. “When we started it was just a big open room. We had to build walls, build different levels with a ramp, make the furniture… It’s so fulfilling to see it all come together.”

Meals will be built around crawfish, whole crab, head-on shrimp and lobster, which is steamed and tossed with a choice of flavors and spice levels. Flavors range from Cajun to lemon pepper, and the spice levels from mild to incendiary. Bags usually also contain andouille sausage, corn and potatoes. Fried fish like shrimp, catfish and even lobster tail are on tap for those prefer it.

Boiler has a bar and large side patio.

Despite the fact that the restaurant will be specializing in seafood, Jones wants guests to know that this place will be anything but fancy.

“We’re trying to provide a very fun, comfortable environment that people will want to come back to,” he says. “You can come in and be comfortable and just enjoy a bag of seafood. We’re dying to meet everybody and have them try our food.”

The Boiler 65 will be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, serving as late as 1 a.m. on weekends.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Now Open: Forest City Shuffleboard Arena and Bar in Ohio City

Posted By on Tue, May 30, 2017 at 3:35 PM

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Update: ICYMI,  a quick note that Forest City Shuffleboard opened its doors last Friday. The place is spectacular. Read all about it below and then get down there soon. They're open 4 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday; 4 p.m to 1 a.m. on Fridays; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturdays; and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays.

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(Original story 4/27/17): After nearly a year of construction, Jim Miketo is putting the finishing touches on Forest City Shuffleboard Arena and Bar (4506 Lorain Ave.), a gorgeous new entertainment option on the Ohio City-Detroit Shoreway border. A complete gut-and-rebuild job on the former Supermercado Rico building on Lorain at W. 45th has produced a spacious, but comfortable social club with indoor shuffleboard, bar and kitchen. The business is on track for a mid-May opening.

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Miketo, a Cleveland native and graduate of St. Eds, lived in New York for eight years. It was there that he visited Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club in Brooklyn and became enamored by the game and its followers.

“When I went there I was like, What are kids in their 20s and 30s doing playing shuffleboard?” he recalls. “And there are two- to three-hour waits every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.”

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Miketo opened his first indoor shuffleboard club near Marblehead in 2015, but he was thrilled to have the opportunity to expand into his hometown. Not many buildings can accommodate indoor shuffleboard courts, or come with enough adjacent space on which to expand. Miketo got both, and ended up with a spacious 7,500-square-foot main floor when all was said and done.

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“One of the big challenges we had, because it was such a big space, was to make it all feel connected – the bar and shuffleboard arena,” he says.

He and his wife Kari obviously have an eye for design. The resulting spaces are warm, cozy and interconnected, with burgundy and goldfinch paint colors pairing nicely with the exposed brick. Large openings unite the barroom with the arena, while new windows connect the indoor with the outdoors.

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The “vintage varsity” theme is consistent throughout the space, with collegiate-style details like original baseball stadium seating, an old but functional scoreboard from Magnificat High, bleacher-board backbar, high-tops fabricated from basketball court hardwood, and a jumbotron that will hang from the rafters.

While the gymnasium-like atmosphere might provoke flashbacks for weaklings, Miketo says that shuffleboard is a game for all ages and abilities.

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“It’s shuffleboard; everybody here is an all-star.”

There are five indoor and two outdoor courts. The 60-by-10-foot areas of play are constructed of raised poured concrete that is sealed and glossed with glass beads. One-on-one or two-on-two games are played up to 75 points. The courts are rented by the hour. Seasonal leagues will take place throughout the year, and regular play will be first come, first served, although large groups can reserve ahead.

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A 30-foot-long maple and black walnut topped bar will serve 20 drafts, draft cocktails, and other beverages “that hearken yesteryear.” A fully equipped kitchen space, with service windows accessible from both inside and the outdoor patio, will be staffed by a rotating roster of local talent at all times.

“We’ll try and highlight all of Cleveland’s great restaurants and up-and-coming chefs,” says Miketo, adding that options likely will include empanadas, pupusas, barbecue and many others.

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The main bar area features communal tables, benches and custom-built 22-foot tabletop shuffleboard games.

Out front, the two outdoor shuffleboard courts will be flanked by a patio topped with green athletic turf keep the sports theme consistent. Miketo intentionally wanted to bring the activity right up to the sidewalks on Lorain as opposed to sequestering it indoors.

“We want to try and drive foot traffic down this way, so people can see us playing shuffleboard,” he notes. “It’s such a cool neighborhood down there. It has such a unique fabric, and as the community continues to grow and expand, I want to be a part of it.”

Before shot of the building
  • Before shot of the building
Present-day shot of the building
  • Present-day shot of the building
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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Ukulele-Strumming Singer-Songwriter Jeremy Messersmith Brings His Micro-Tour to Town Today

Posted By on Sat, Apr 29, 2017 at 7:59 AM

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Ukulele-strumming singer-songwriter Jeremy Messersmith recorded his last album, 11 Obscenely Optimistic Songs For Ukulele: A Micro-Folk Record for the 21st Century And Beyond, in a single day and even made a music video for each song in a day's time as well.

A press release describes the album as "ridiculous songs about kittens, world peace, flying cars and the transformative power of love." Messersmith's micro tour, "15 minutes of unamplified music in a scenic and notable public place," comes to town today. Attendees are encouraged to bring an instrument and sing along if they like.

Continue reading »

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