By Shanna F. Jones
The Alleycat Oyster Bar is advantageous in being located in arguably the most beautiful spot in Cleveland, the Flats, where Allen Ginsberg’s famous beat poem was set. ‘Triple towers smokestacked steaming in blue nite buildings in water, the shimmer of that factory in the blackness.’
A lot has changed since June 1966. The industrial wastelands and smoke-billowing factories of the Flats have given way to regeneration and recreation. Instead of sooty railroads and imposing locomotives, today you’re more likely to find works of art, gourmet restaurants, couples strolling next to the river and families sunbathing on the decks of their speedboats between the viaduct and Whiskey Island.
Directly on the river, the Alleycat Oyster bar is the perfect spot to watch the sunset while sipping a cold glass of French sauvignon blanc. One side of the restaurant is completely open so it’s possible to position yourself as close as humanly possibly to the river without actually getting wet, which allows a pleasant evening breeze to circulate while you dine.
The winelist is extensive and boasts fine wines from across the world. From its deep red Italian Pinot Noirs to its sparkling brut rose from Napa, the wines have all clearly been carefully chosen with refined seafood and meat dishes in mind.
The menu is mainly seafood, and it’s unbridled boldness with fusing local and world flavours together makes it spectacular. New food trends are paired with homely traditional American dishes makes to make the best kinds of comfort food.
To start, the clam chowder is thick and delicious with crusty bread to serve. Mussels come ‘BLT’ style with chunks of bacon and a tomato broth. The fried calamari, a staple in any self-respecting seafood restaurant, comes served with Korean kimchi, a taste fusion revolution. Its also worth noting that the oysters here come stuffed with watercress, chicharron, fontina and breadcrumbs.
On the main menu, the seafood offering is so wildly extensive and varied, there’s enough to make the eyes of anyone bigger than their belly. There’s grilled octopus with succotash, Maine lobster roll, alaskan 18lb crab, seafood quesadilla, Mexican seafood chopped salad and the surf-n-turf burger. If that wasn’t tempting enough, the restaurant has an impressive ‘catch of the day’ list that regularly includes crab-crusted sword-fish, grouper-cheeks, halibut collar and fried whole fish with edamame mash.
The side dishes add an extra kick of home cooking comfort, if you didn’t have enough already, with succotash, stewed hominy and green beans. And then there’s the individual oyster menu. Great White, Fanny Bay, Bras D’or or Blue Point,;oyster connoisseurs will be pleasantly catered to.
The food at Alleycat is consistently delicious, and the flavours are enough on their own without condiments, but for a splash of Tabasco. Alleycat Oyster Bar has a sophisticated vibe, but that doesn’t make them above doing brunch. Between 11.30 and 3pm at the weekends, crab benedict, chilaquiles and peanut butter with banana French toast will set you up for a stroll along the river, taking in the old with the new as the signs of old industry and tradition colour the landscape as much as they do the food.
Shanna is a British freelance journalist covering travel and international human rights. She craves the freedom of hiking and camping in the rain just as much as the luxury of silky hotel sheets. Follow her on Twitter: @ShannaFelicia