Nick Kostis is the “Mayor of East Fourth Street” and owner of Pickwick & Frolic.
You opened Pickwick & Frolic in 2002. Can you talk about what East Fourth was like before and what it is like now?
Essentially, East Fourth Street was originally a very charming street, a throwback to an earlier era of Cleveland history when downtown was a hustling, bustling, growing metropolis. Then, the area was home to the Euclid Avenue Opera House, which established early a theater district. What we know as PlayhouseSquare was developed as movie palaces, as they were called then. This was that kind of a street and in the ’60s, it fell on hard times. It became a seedy little street, but had great charm nonetheless. When I came here, it was a row of wig shops and pawn shops, which characterized and stereotyped the street. It was reclaimed about 25 years ago and, after I opened the club, it was at a time when the street was embarking on a transition and the re-gentrification of a very charming street.
What inspired you most about East Fourth?
What inspired me most was the history and lure of Short Vincent. From the early ’40s up until the late ’50s and early ’60s, Short Vincent was the downtown late night entertainment district for people in the region. East Fourth was the last remaining street in the city that had the chance to recapture that spirit. The street was like pioneering. You had to bring people back.
Creating a destination worthy of folks to get in the car and come in from the suburbs and be downtown in a new atmosphere was a challenge. Our venue, of course, does that by marrying great food with great entertainment, and we’re the first to do that, especially on the scale that we undertook, with 7,000 square feet. It’s a cabaret room, it’s a showroom, it’s a martini bar, it’s a champagne bar and, most of all, a great restaurant.
Has the street exceeded your expectations?
I signed my lease in 1998. It took us that time to work out the details and permit process. It took us another 23 months to build it out. It was quite a journey and driven more by passion than good sense. The street has developed along the lines and very much akin to what was just a dream on the part of not just me, but also the developer. The street offers another kind of experience. It’s not just for one demographic. It appeals to a wide demographic.
What do you like best about the city?
I love this town because it has a certain kind of grit to it. I think there is something heroic about a city that stands on its own and comes from a hardworking, industrial and honest background. There’s something real about it. It’s not something that was created overnight. It’s not a phony façade. This is all real stuff. You can’t recreate this. I also like the sense that we are re-establishing the city based on who we are and not who we are trying to emulate.
I know Pickwick is always adding new shows and features. Anything planned for the future?
I like trying things. There’s only one place like this. I’ve been all over the country and there’s not another place like this one. We hear this from our out of town guests all the time. I will just say stay tuned for some new surprises. We are revamping our menu, and we’ve started a USDA-certified Angus beef program. Only eight percent of the beef in the country meets this standard. Only one brand of Angus beef is certified and that will be our meat program. There are ten quality standards that set this brand apart. In the way of entertainment and amenities, we added the champagne bar and we have a new video presentation in the bar. It’s an additional attraction to that room. We’re working on shows in the cabaret room and we are doing our fourth edition of murder mystery. I have something else coming that I’m working on, but I can’t say what it is. It’s a throwback to a former type of entertainment that was very popular and that I now think is going to experience a resurgence. It’s a tasteful tribute to that era of the ‘20s and ‘30s when there was variety and vaudeville and burlesque.
Q+A with Jeff Niesel
As a Clevelander, I never gave the popularity of clambakes a second thought. But, just like Sweetest Day (a candymaker concoction that is apparently only really celebrated widely in the Great Lakes region and some the Northeast United States) or referring to Coke and Pepsi as “pop,” clambakes are a regional thing. Perhaps due to many of our New England roots, Clevelanders love to gather with friends and family over a meal of clams, chicken, sweet corn and potatoes. Whether it’s a big backyard bash or a gathering at one of the many local restaurants serving up the essentials, when the weather just begins to turn chilly you’re certain to find a clambake happening somewhere in Northeast Ohio.
CLEVELAND PLUS RESTAURANTS HOSTING, SERVING OR CATERING CLAMBAKES:
Tick-Tock Tavern – 11526 Clifton Boulevard, Lakewood / 216.631.6111
Don’s Lighthouse – 8905 Lake Avenue, Cleveland / 216.961.7000
Blake’s Seafood Restaurant & Bar – 9 Main Street, Westlake; 440.892.3474
Pickle Bills – 101 River Street, Grand River; 440.352.6343
Mavis Winkle’s Irish Pub – 5005 Rockside Road, Independence; 216.525.0770 + AND 8700 Darrow Road, Twinsburg; 330.405.3663
Thirsty Parrot – Let the Thirsty Parrot host your clambake. 440.356.7202
Sundays through September 27, Pickwick and Frolic Anniversary Clam Bake @ Pickwick & Frolic Restaurant and Club –2035 E. 4th Street, Cleveland / 216.241.7425
Join Pickwick and Frolic as they celebrate their seventh anniversary with a clambake every Sunday through the month of September. Admission is just $7 and the event runs from 4-7pm.
Fridays & Saturdays through October 11 – Clam Bake @ The American Tavern & Eatery
28020 Miles Road, Solon / 440.349.3736 Cup of Clam Chowder, 12 steam clams, clam broth, corn on the cob, sweet potatoes, chicken breast ($20.95), sirloin steak ($24.95) or crab legs ($27.95)
September 18 + 25, 2009 – Clam or Steak Bake @ Debonne Vineyards
7743 Doty Road, Madison / 800.424.9463
Dinner includes a dozen clams or 14 oz. steak, ½ chicken, New England Clam Chowder, sweet potatoes, red skin potatoes, corn on the cob, salads, chicken broth and bread & butter. Make reservations at least five days in advance because this is a pre-paid, non-refundable ticket event. $25.95 per person.
September 18-20 – Clambake Weekend @ The Winking Lizard (Bedford Heights)
September 19 – Fall Clam Bake @ Tree Top Café at The Inn & Spa at Honey Run
6920 County Road 203, Millersburg / 800.468.6639
Hearty clam chowder, whole Maine lobster with fresh drawn butter, roasted half chicken, one dozen little neck clams, corn on the cob, sweet potatoes, cole slaw, soft drinks. $65/person. Seating from 6-8pm. Reservations required.
September 19 – Oberlin Inn’s Clam Bake Murder Mystery Package
7 North Main Street, Oberlin / 440.775.1111
Package includes: Overnight accommodations, clams, chicken & sausage and a murder mystery. Cash bar available. Outdoor event. $78 per person. Call for reservations.
September 19-20 – Firehouse Clam Bake & Food Extravaganza @ Old Firehouse Winery
5499 Lake Road, Geneva-on-the-Lake
September 25-26 – Clam Bake @ The Mustard Seed
3885 West Market Street, Akron / 330.666.SEED
4-9pm. Call for details and reservations.
September 25-27 – Clambake Weekend @ The Winking Lizard (Macedonia, Peninsula, Mentor, Avon, Brunswick, Canton and Fairlawn)
September 26 – Put-In-Bay Fire Department Clam Bake @ Put-In-Bay Fire Station
Volunteer Fire Department Island Style Clam Bake. Call 419.285.7805 for tickets.
September 27 – Great Western Reserve Clambake @ Lake County History Center
8610 Mentor Road, Kirtland / 440.255.8979
Dinner includes clam chowder, clams, bar-b-que chicken, ribs, corn, sweet potato, cole-slaw, rolls and butter and dessert. Open 1-5pm, serving 1:-3:30pm. LCHS members $28/ non-members $33. Reservations required.
October 2-3 – Clam Bake @ The Mustard Seed
3885 West Market Street, Akron / 330.666.SEED
4-9pm. Call for details and reservations.
October 8-9 – Gourmet Clam Bake @ Chez Francois Restaurant
555 Main Street, Vermilion / 440.967.0630
Farm-raised Littleneck Clams from Virginia and Prince Edward Island mussels from Nova Scotia, lobster caught off the coast of Massachusetts and Bell & Evans Free Range chicken from Pennsylvania. Top-quality, fresh and prepared just right.
October 10-11 – 2nd Annual Fall Fest & Fine Art Fair @ Crocker Park
25 Main Street, Westlake, Ohio / 440.871.6880
The event features a clam bake, a special fall farmers market, music, dancing and more. The highlight of the event is the 99 juried artist booths on Main Street.
October 11 – Inaugural Fall Clam Bake Scramble @ Blue Heron Golf Club
3225 Blue Heron Trace, Medina / 330.722.0227
12pm Shotgun, 4-player Scramble. $35 for dinner only. Open to the public.