As an adult who occasionally enjoys a post-work aperitif, I’m generally down with any bar and/or restaurant that has a good happy hour.
Sometimes it’s quantity (say a five-hour window with decent specials), and sometimes quality (maybe two hours, but with really good deals on drinks and heavy appetizers). And some places are smart enough to offer a combination of quantity and quality.
Kingfish is one of the newer spots on the ever-evolving landscape known as Restaurant Hill at Montrose in Copley Township. The seafood-heavy restaurant with a nice bar is owned by a team of industry veterans who run the popular Blue Point Grille in Cleveland and several other places, and the expertise comes through in the relaxing environment and knowledgeable, friendly service.
The decor is understated with gently eyeball-massaging blacks, deep blues and grays. The bar area, where happy hour happens, is a healthy size and surrounded by comfy booths, which can fill up quick, so don’t dawdle.
The regular menu is about par for the course for an upscale surf-and-turf restaurant, with an extensive and varied wine list, daily deliveries of fresh food and super-classy muted lighting. Many of us regular 9-to-5ers would likely consider it “kinda pricey” with $22-$65 entrees that all sound like delicious dishes in which I’d love to bury my face (anyone wanna go halfsies on the awesome $75 seafood tower?). There’s also a small vegetarian menu with vegan options.
The secret to enjoying the fancy atmosphere and service minus the “pricey” part is going during the 4 to 6 p.m. weekday happy hour, when the most expensive item on the modest but flavor-packed 12-item menu is $6.
Yes, $6 gets you six wonderfully fresh and tasty Blue Point oysters ($1 each) or you can go big for $1.50 each and get the boutique oysters, which come from various rotating spots around the country, as well as littleneck clams for 75 cents. The staff knows the menu, so if you’re an oyster/clam newbie, they can help you understand that delicious, slimy thing you’re about to suck down your throat.
If 4 to 6 p.m. on weekdays doesn’t fit your schedule, here’s the real secret. On Sundays, happy hour goes from 1 to 8 p.m. Now that, dear readers, is a true, kick-ass happy hour!
“No! Don’t tell people, don’t spoil it for us!” patron Anita Hecky jokingly (we think) implored.
Friends Monica Schneier of Fairlawn and Debbie McVicker of Stow were hanging out at the bar with their menfolk, enjoying a few drinks and their mutual favorite, the lobster bisque: “It’s got a creamy texture to it and it is good!” Schneier testified.
“It’s a really good happy hour and it’s becoming a popular bar. Just look at all the people,” she said.
Kingfish’s bar is a definite hot spot for lovers of fresh seafood and upscale atmosphere on a reasonable budget, although you might surprise yourself at how many $1 oysters you can put away.
Call of the mermaids
Now, if I may briefly digress.
Kingfish didn’t invent this practice, but it does adhere to one of the seemingly standard bar/restaurant conventions that has long been a big pet peeve of mine: Men’s room décor.
Look, I’m a sometimes happy and reasonably healthy red-blooded American male. But I’m tired of going into a men’s room and being greeted by (often) tacky photos of (often) bleached blonde and faceless women, or their derrieres, in electric yellow thongs or some other skimpy outfit.
They’re often wearing sunglasses — I guess because if you see their eyes you’ll have to acknowledge them as people — and they’re lounging on a beach, or leaning uncomfortably over the front end of a Lamborghini, or seductively straddling a gigantic, clearly branded beer bottle that’s spouting foam (real subtle, that one), or some other corny, sexist junk.
In all cases, when I’ve asked my female counterparts about the decor in the ladies room, it’s something benign like bland, inspirational, faux-Oprah quotes, random pieces of still-life art, or cat poster variations telling women to “just hang in there!”
It’s outdated. It’s sexist toward both genders and all the many options and orientations betwixt and between. I get that men are in many ways simple creatures who generally respond well to basic visual stimulation. But I assure you, bar owners and restaurateurs of the world, that we can go to the bathroom, relieve ourselves and still return to inhale more of your fine food and booze without being surrounded by random rears while standing next to each other at urinals.
At least in Kingfish’s case, the ladies in the men’s room are pretty cool-looking artistic renderings of thematically appropriate, topless, long-tailed mermaids, seducing patrons into getting that seafood tower. (Seriously, text me. It’s got Deviled Lobster Cocktail!)
I couldn’t check, but I sure hope the ladies room walls are covered in sexy, shirtless, beefcakey mer-dudes with come-hither looks.
Men’s room décor aside, Kingfish is a really good place to have an affordable but still upscale eating and drinking experience without draining your money tank.
Malcolm X Abram can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3758. Follow him on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1lNgxml or on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ .