Monday, February 06, 2012

Flexibility Is My Middle Name

Back in my days in the office, I remember Husband (the Boss) often claiming "Flexibility" was his middle name. Other employees would look at him with a slight amount of scepticism, but as the boss, he was allowed to make the claim. Over the weekend, flexibility was his middle name.

Today is Husband's birthday, but Eustacia can't be here on a weekday, so she asked that we drive up to her dorm and have dinner over the weekend. We picked her up Saturday evening, and then did what we usually do. Where do you want to have dinner? Don't make that my decision, where do you want to go? I don't know, what are the options?...all the while, you're driving around aimlessly until all the restaurants are full to the brim, and you're left with the food court at the mall.

To head that off as quickly as possible, I suggested we go to Crocker Park, which is just about 15 or 20 minutes from Eustacia's school. Crocker Park is one of those fake towns, shopping centers made to look like villages, with condos above the stores and a Trader Joes, restaurants, a fitness center and a movie theater. There are streets and sidewalks and street parking, and you could easily forget you're at a mall until you realize the whole "town" is built around the purpose of buying stuff. An entire intersection can smell like Abercrombie and Fitch, and you don't live above a shoe repair shop. You live above Coldwater Creek.

All of these places have the same restaurants—PF Changs, Brio (which has really great carpaccio, by the way), Chipotle and The Cheesecake Factory. Both Brio and the Factory had wait times of 75 minutes on Saturday, but we left our names at the Factory anyway. Then we went back out to the street and wondered what we do to kill all of that time. We were hungry and cold, and we didn't want to shop, so we aimed for Barnes & Noble where there is a Starbucks. We would hang out there until time for dinner.

But then Husband, being flexible, had a great idea. Let's go to the wine bar, 87 West, down by Dick's Sporting Goods instead. It had proven to be a great place to kill time during the summer, when you can sit out on the lawn and people-watch. Maybe it would be just as welcoming during the winter. We found a table and ordered drinks and a couple of small plates. 87 West has a small plate menu. Appetizers, basically, but they don't lead to entrees, so you call them small plates.

We were so comfortable in this spot in Fake Town, imagining we were actually at a neighborhood bar, that we decided to skip The Cheesecake Factory all together and just settle in. We ordered two more small plates to share, and then we ordered dessert and coffee, enjoyed conversation and laughs and nibbling on cheese and hummus and smoked almonds and tuna tartare stacked with avocado in a tasty cream sauce. The meal turned out to be one of the best we've had in quite a while.

So, if you're ever at Crocker Park northwest of Cleveland and looking for a lovely place for dinner, go to the wine bar, 87 West. And make Flexibility your middle name.

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