Category Archives: Avon Lake

In My Backyard: Cafe Melissa and Two Bucks Avon Reviews

Cafe Melissa Avon Lake, Ohio - Narwhal Mural

I should’ve known I’d love Cafe Melissa as soon as I saw the narwhal in their mural

Although I’ve lived in Avon Lake for three years, until recently I had only one or two suggestions for where to take people to eat.

I was more likely to drive downtown or even the far Eastside to dine out. It was easy to see the chain and fast food restaurants and overlook my suburb’s local gems.

Then Scott and I went to Strip Steakhouse in Avon which jumped to the top of our Cleveland restaurants list and motivated us to start exploring our backyard a bit more.

Our curiosity has been rewarded not just with special occasion restaurants like Strip, but dining that’s good for any budget in Avon and Avon Lake.

Next time you’re out my way, here are 2 places we recently checked out that we’d recommend:

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Some Enchanted (Holiday) Weekend

Although this weekend was partially about catching up on my to-do list, it was also time to celebrate the beautiful Cleveland summer we’ve been having and the Fourth of July.

There is something to be said about Independence Day. Even for just a few days, we forget our disillusionment with current politics and celebrate the history we share and potential for our country’s future.

And what better way to celebrate than with a bit of Americana finished off with some community fireworks?

The Aut-O-Rama Drive-In: Our First Stop this Holiday Weekend

On Saturday night, Scott and I started our holiday weekend by heading over to the Aut-O-Rama Twin Drive-In in North Ridgeville. 

Having a drive-in movie theatre in Cleveland’s backyard is one reason why I think this city is the best. A hidden gem, it’s a short ride to neighboring Lorain County.

Considering that there are only a few hundred drive-in theatres left in operation, we’re lucky that the Sherman family (who originally opened the Aut-O-Rama in 1965 and whose third generation is still operating it today) are keeping this Mom-&-Pop Americana tradition alive.

Camping out at our car with a tasty spread from the concessions stand.

This was our second time at the drive-in.  Last year, we checked out a double feature of Machete and Piranha 3-D — homages to grindhouse and monster movies perfect for the drive-in. This time, we went for Cars 2 and Green Lantern.

There are two screens at the Aut-O-Rama and every week each screen shows a different double feature. With tickets costing $9 to see 2 movies, the Aut-O-Rama is above and beyond a good bargain.

It's almost show time as all of the cars line up at the Drive-In's two screens

However, it’s about more than the price of seeing a movie. Going to the drive-in is also about sharing in a classically American experience that has been part of our culture for 78 years.

Sure, changes have been made. For instance, there are no more speakers to hang on the car, but full stereo sound through two FM stations, and their selection of food is always expanding (my favorites include pickle chips, corn dogs and hummus). Regardless of the improved amenities, though, you feel transported to a simpler experience that can at times be more engaging than any modern multiplex.  

Scott and I started our evening enjoying food al fresco and watching Cars 2 from our camping chairs. When Saturday’s thunderstorms kicked up, we quickly jumped inside the car. Although the lightning bolts and roaring thunder made Pixar’s latest a more riveting movie, nothing could save Green Lantern.

 

Scott patiently tunes our radio to the drive-in movie station

Thankfully, another plus of the drive-in meant that I could curl up on the backseat of the car and sleep while Scott endured the rest of Green Lantern (apparently, I didn’t miss anything). And while I would have left a modern multiplex frustrated to pay for an overpriced ticket of a dreadful film, the overall experience of the Aut-O-Rama made up for it.

The Aut-O-Rama is a first-run theatre open from the beginning of April until the end of September. Between Memorial and Labor Days, it’s open 7 days a week and at the beginning and end of the season, open Friday through Sunday. 

If you want to keep track of what shows they’re featuring each week, I’ve found signing up for their once-weekly email is really helpful (plus it always includes a coupon for deal-seekers like me).

The community gathered at Miller Rd Park on Sunday for Avon Lake ArtsFest

On Sunday we packed our car up again with blankets, a picnic and our bocce ball set (fortunately the folding chairs were still there from the night before) for Avon Lake’s annual ArtsFest.

This is the third year the Fourth of July celebration has taken place on Lake Erie at Miller Road Park.  Organized by the Avon Lake “Friends of the Park,” the day is filled with hanging out on the beach or fishing off the pier and enjoying games and other community activities in the park.

When I think about Fourth of July growing up – spent cooking out with neighbors on the Chesapeake Bay, the lakeside ArtsFest is the closest I’ve come to the same feeling.

After checking out the tents filled with local artisans and businesses, we picked a spot near the park’s mainstage and set up camp. While enjoying the paninis, salad, and snacks we had picked up from the grocery store (tastily complemented by that morning’s delivery of pickles from Kliːvlənd Pickle Works), Scott and I relaxed in the sun and listened to a full day of musical performances.

Earlier in the day, beach-goers and boaters enjoyed the lake

After their appearance at the Duct Tape Festival, a major ArtsFest draw for us was seeing the Smoking Fez Monkeys. In addition to a few of the songs that won us over at their Father’s Day concert, we heard a couple new favorites we missed in June - including Codfish Ball and Shimmy Like My Sister Kate. 

When the Smokin Fez Monkeys wrapped, TrueNorth Chorale & Symphony took the stage for a pre-fireworks show. This year they presented A Grand Night for Singing, featuring the music of Rodgers & Hammerstein.

Rick Fortney, the Founder and Artistic Director of Lorain County’s multidisciplinary arts organization, led the skilled singers and musicians in classic American musical numbers like Maria, Honey Bun and Some Enchanted Evening (which I took inspiration from for the name of this post). Having both contributed to a few Rodgers and Hammerstein productions in high school, Scott and I found ourselves singing along to more than a few of the numbers.

The Smokin Fez Monkeys performing before the TrueNorth Symphony

However, this was just a warmup for TrueNorth’s concert of patriotic music and fireworks. Due to the wind, things started a little late so we were treated to a preview of their staging of Big River which opens July 15.  After a few songs from Huckleberry Finn, Jim and Pap Finn, the crowd that had filled the park finally got what they patiently waited for as we counted down to the fireworks.

For me, there’s nothing that compares to Avon Lake’s fireworks. It may not be as large as the Boston Pops spectacle on TV, but I love being able to sit right under the lights while looking out at the lake and seeing it lit up with their reflection. With the symphony’s music swelling in time to the explosions, it was an enchanting experience that made me marvel at the city and country I call home.

Aut-O-Rama / ArtsFest 411:

Cleveland Fish Frys: They're De-Lent-cious!

Map of Cleveland Fish Frys from ClevelandMagazine.com

      

Growing up Catholic, we weren’t allowed to eat meat on Fridays during Lent. As a kid, I actually didn’t  mind this too much. I liked the tuna fish sandwiches my mom would pack for lunch and my local church would host a soup and sandwich night where everyone in the parish could get a dinner that met the Lenten guidelines. I remember enjoying not just these Friday meals but also being able to run around in the Church hall where the dinners were held.      

As I grew up, though, the charm of skipping meat on Fridays started to wear thin if I went out to dinner and had problems finding something meatless and appetizing on the menu.  Plus, I missed the community-feeling the parish dinners always held for me.      

This changed when I moved to Cleveland, which seems to transform into ‘The Land of a Thousand Fish Frys’ during Lent. No more am I found wanting for an alternative to meat on Fridays. Everywhere I turn there’s either a church or a restaurant offering some sort of Fish Fry or Lenten menu. From pierogies and potato pancakes to coleslaw and macaroni and cheese, my mouth is usually left watering from the options. And then of course, there are the fish.  Fresh perch and walleye lightly breaded or battered are the most common options. And no matter how you like it – plain or seasoned with a bit of lemon, tartar sauce or malt vinegar, you can’t really go wrong.      

Fish Frys seem extremely popular not just in Cleveland but also throughout the entire midwest region. I’d take a guess that the area’s close proximity to the Great Lakes and their freshwater fish is one of the reasons for this. Because of their popularity, it’s easy to sample at least a few Fish Frys each Lent.      

Jake's on the Lake - Home of Great Food Year Round, and a Particularly Tasty Lent Menu

 

Many Fish Frys are sponsored by local churches and can be used as fundraisers or activities for that church’s community.  For instance, a couple of weeks ago I attended the Annual Fish Fry at St. Joseph’s Church in Avon Lake which was sponsored by their school’s 8th grade class.  So I was able to not only get a tasty serving of fish, cole slaw, fries, dessert and orange soda (which definitely brought me back to childhood!), but also contribute to a good cause.      

However, local restaurants and bars get in on the action as well.  This past Friday, I tried out the Lenten menu at Jake’s on the Lake (again, in Avon Lake) and was very satisfied. Of course, this wasn’t too surprising since they always serve up delicious food from Haas’ 4 Way Chili to a French Dip with Green Peppers Sandwich to an incredible Pasta with Sausage, Blue Crab and Mushrooms dish they had on their specials menu last week.      

For Jake’s Lenten menu, we started with their potato pancakes as an appetizer. The 2 pancakes with sour cream offered a very large and tasty starter.  And while Scott ordered the all-you-can-eat beer-battered fish fry (and he ate a lot of it!), I ordered the herb-battered fish.  At five pieces, it was the perfect size for my slightly smaller appetite and the light-breading was delicious. The batter was light enough that the taste of the fish did not get lost in it.      

Fish Frys in the Cleveland area are typically held each Friday during Lent and can be found in almost every neighborhood of the city.  A guide to Cleveland Fish Frys was created by ClevelandMagazine.com. It has a search function based on different preferences (such as region, the type of fish served, and whether pierogies or alcohol are served) – making it a lot easier to finally get my Friday Fish Fix!      

      

Fish Frys 411:     

Jake’s on the Lake (offers a special Lenten menu)
Standard Menu
Hours and Location
About Jake’s
      

Search for a Fish Fry at ClevelandMagazine.com
Fish Fry Guide