If you need to find me this summer I’ll be at Alley Cat Oyster Bar. It’s definitely my favorite spot on the East Bank, if not one of my favorite spots in Cleveland. I’ve spent A LOT of time here, along with an ass load of money- I actually have no idea how I’m not part owner or how I at least don’t own my own table. #SummerGoals
While I’m working on a plan to achieve my summer goal, you can read through and figure out if this is a place you need to be (it is).
Parking– If you drive to Alley Cat you’ll need to park in a pay lot by FWD or valet. For my fellow city folk, obviously walk or Uber and NOW we can take the water taxi!
Atmosphere– I got to take a tour of Alley Cat before it opened and as soon as I walked in I was obsessed. You will never not have a good table! There’s a modern, industrial feel which makes it trendy, but also very Cleveland-y. Glass garage doors line the entire back wall and they open up to create an open-air dining space, sitting here in the summer is as close to perfect as you can get. While you may think this place wouldn’t do so well in the winter because it’s on the water and frigid AF, it’s actually one of my favorite winter dinner spots too. Sipping a glass of wine and watching the snow fall over the lake is my kind of heaven. This place is filled with good vibes and great views.
- Make a reservation.
- If you’re on a date or want to go out with someone to have a more intimate evening, ask for a table on the small patio on the 1st floor. There are a handful of tables away from the hustle and bustle, it’s calm and quiet.
- If you want to be a part of the action, ask for a table on the larger patio outside.
- Before or after dinner, make sure you grab a drink at the bar outside on the 2nd floor. Walk around, mingle and enjoy the view!
- If you have an event there’s a private room upstairs, the view is to die for. The real bonus here is that if it’s a work event and you have an asshole coworker, water has a calming effect!
Dress Code– You’re going to spend some money, let’s try to look the part. Jeans are fine, but dress it up!
Cost– If you’re on a budget this is not the place for you. I can’t say that the pricing is too outrageous, you can definitely have a good meal for under $20. But if you’re going to do it right, and by right I mean drinks, oysters, appetizers, main course- plan on AT LEAST $50 a person. I’ve gotten that rule in my head every time I go, sometimes I surprise myself and spend less, sometimes I surprise myself and spend much, much more. The danger is that this is a great atmosphere and if you’re having a good time you’re going to stay and order more drinks and more food. YOLO!
Bathrooms– There’s one small bathroom downstairs, it’s just one stall. Go upstairs, there are bigger bathrooms, everything is very clean and always fully stocked. There’s an elevator for anyone that has mobility issues.
The Talent– This is my favorite “talent” spot on the East Bank, if not all of Cleveland. My extensive observations have lead me to believe that at least 98% of Alley Cat diners probably send grammatically correct text messages. This is a group I can get behind. As for the age range, you’re looking at 30+. For anyone in their young 20s, this is not going to be your spot. I have two 22 year old nephews and they’re going to Alley Cat for family dinner night, not to hang out with friends and shoot the shit over a glass of Bordeaux.
I’m actually pleased with the demographic as it’s more of the (refined) business professionals. I also have to say I’ve seen more (of what I assume to be) singles sitting at the bar that look like people you would actually want bring home to mom.
Honestly, if you’re a single guy who’s not creepy, GO TO ALLEY CAT! In the summer you’re going to find AT LEAST 10 tables full of lovely ladies drinking bottles of wine complaining about not being able to find any single, decent men in Cleveland (not that I know anything about that -__-). Get in there, bro! Here’s your chance to show them you’re not just another mistake by the lake!
If you’re a single girl who’s not a selfie obsessed, stage 5 clinger, GO TO ALLEY CAT! I’ve seen more and more single guys sitting at the bar during happy hour or after dinner when their married couple friends return to the suburbs for last call at Applebee’s. Get in there and pull an Elle Woods! Drop an oyster, bend and snap! $3.00 for a lifetime of happiness, that’s what I call a good investment!
Service– There were some issues when the restaurant first opened. I was told it was a fairly green staff and they were much busier than they anticipated when they first opened, that combination definitely led to some problems, long wait times, slow service, etc. (Why is anyone ever surprised by that?) They needed time to work out the kinks and find their rhythm- they found it. I’ve always liked my waiters and waitresses and have found them to be very knowledgeable about the menu. I always ask my server’s opinion, from favorite, must try items, to dishes that are best shared with the table. My friends had some complaints and were annoyed that some servers didn’t know the differences between the oysters. I hate writing that because it sounds super snooty, HOWEVER, between the price points and the fact that this is actually an oyster bar it’s completely reasonable to expect each server be well versed on all aspects of the menu.
Food– Zack Bruell is the man behind this waterfront gem and if you know anything about the local cuisine, he’s one of the leading chefs in Cleveland. If his name is attached to a restaurant, it WILL draw a crowd. You will no doubt come here and have a good meal, but I have to say I’m more obsessed with the atmosphere than I am the food. I’ve eaten here now a countless number of times, and while I like what I’m eating I do think the entire menu needs a swift kick in the ass.
I’ve had a number of things on the menu from appetizers to main courses and the food is good, but this is Zack Bruell, the food should be GREAT! The hush puppies are bland, the calamari is missing that one thing, and the scallop and risotto dish was definitely the worst thing I’ve had.
Scallops aren’t regularly on the menu, so when I saw them I didn’t even care that they came with a $40 price tag, I was at Alley Cat and I knew it would be good. When I took my first bite I had the same feeling my college roommates had when they poured a bowl of Lucky Charms only to find that there were no marshmallows (sorry, guys), it was one big letdown! The risotto missed the mark and while the scallops were perfectly seared, they were way over salted. A dish that bad was definitely uncharacteristic, I figured it was an off night and when I went back a few weeks later, scallops were no longer a dinner option. I was kind of bummed because that dish had potential, I would actually love to see a shrimp and/or scallop entree have a permanent place on the menu.
While there are some things that need some attention, there are two items that I have to have every time I go- the shrimp stuffed peppers and the lobster roll. Warning on the shrimp stuffed peppers, they are spicy! The peppers are small, halved and filled with shrimp and magic. The lobster roll is the perfect size, it’s filled with huge chunks of lobster and you get a side of fries, by far my favorite thing. Some of my friends and I have wanted to try new entrees, but we can’t get away from the lobster roll.
- Try an Elderflower Fizz and swap the vodka for Hendricks. (I personally think that drink should be a happy hour special and it should be called the Mad Queen- I just want a drink named after me.)
- Go with a group and order a bunch of shareable plates. It’s a great way for you to try quite a few different things on the menu to see what you like.
Brunch– Alley Cat now serves brunch from 11:30-3:00. I have yet to try it (will update once I do) but I can’t wait! I was just looking at the chilaquiles on the menu- pulled pork, shrimp and a fried egg?! Someone cue Julie Andrews because these are a few of my favorite things!
Kid Friendly– You probably want to get a babysitter for your toddler. Pairing your tiny drunk with a $60 plate of food isn’t exactly my idea of a winning combo. However, if your child is older, this would be a cute spot for a daddy daughter or mother son date.
Final Thoughts– Alley Cat Oyster Bar is without a doubt my favorite spot on the East Bank. If I actually went on dates, I’d want to go here. It’s also a great place to hang out with friends, wine and dine clients, treat your out of town guests, or a nice place to celebrate special occasions. I seriously can’t wait for it to get warm. I want my spot on the patio, I want my lobster roll and I want my Mad Queen with extra bubbles (I think it’s going to catch on #trendsetter)!
As part of my final thought, I have to give a suggestion to Alley Cat and it’s this, add a lounge area by the upstairs bar. In the countless hours that I’ve spent here people-watching, patrons are grabbing drinks and wandering outside with nowhere to go, everyone looks around awkwardly to see if it’s ok if they’re standing where they’re standing. Create an inviting space that allows people to sit/stand around and hang out. People are staying-put after dinner too, which isn’t helping your servers turn tables. I’d happily have dinner downstairs and then move to the bar upstairs if I knew there was a unique space with a relaxed, social vibe. Get the fancy patio furniture you see on the front of Crate and Barrel magazines, some high tops, some big plants because HGTV would probably recommend that, and voila- you’ve solidified yourself as THE place to be on the East Bank.
In preparation for your visit, don’t forget to take a look at their website and check out their menu! http://www.alleycatoysterbar.com/