CLEVELAND — In honor of Pickwick & Frolic's 20-year anniversary, WKYC stopped by to congratulate owner Nick Kostis. Although he launched Hilarities comedy club nearly 40 years ago, it wasn't until he relocated that business to East 4th Street that the restaurant was born.
Kostis was one of the very first operators to open on the street, thus paving the way for future bars, clubs and restaurants. Doug Trattner happened to visit Pickwick during its earliest days, back when he was covering restaurants for the Cleveland Free Times. Of course, he still had the menu tucked deep into my collection and he showed it to Kostis.
Check out Doug's latest review:
Pickwick & Frolic Restaurant and Club
ADDRESS: 2035 E 4th St., Cleveland
On this visit, we chatted with chef Jon "JT" Taylor as he prepared a few signature dishes. If you order steak sandwiches at most restaurants, you'll likely get an inferior cut or a few slices of something of better quality.
At Pickwick, the chef starts with a six-ounce filet, which gets cooked over a real wood fire. It gets tucked into ciabatta roll, topped with gruyere and cabernet onions, and served with hand-cut fries.
The chefs also prepared a spicy Jamaican jerk-style half chicken with maple roasted sweet potato, blue cornmeal crusted walleye with seasonal vegetables, and a vegan spaghetti and "meatballs" starring spaghetti squash and lentil, black bean, and chickpea patties.
Like the comedy club, champagne bar, and cabaret room, Pickwick is a theatrical space well worth visiting.
PRICE RANGE: $$$ (out of 5 $s)
TOP THREE REASONS TO VISIT:
- Fun atmosphere
- Entertainment, from the shows of the evening to the open kitchen showing off the food as its cooked
- Elevated comedy club faire that may surprise you
"Dining is like romance," Kostis said, "so we like to provide a comfortable atmosphere, with choices that are comfortable choices for you because you recognize them, done at a very high quality."
Despite a remarkable 20-year run, Kostis says Pickwick is not without its challenges.
"No one is where they were, that I know of," he explained, alluding to the impact of COVID-19. "Help is still a challenge. At one point before the pandemic, we had 80 people working here, and we were open almost seven days a week. We went down to six, but since COVID, we've barely touched 35 employees."
So what might modern-day Kostis say to the Kostis of old 20 years ago?
"I think I would have to say, 'What the heck were you thinking?' right?" he answered. "That's what I would say. I'm just one of those people; I hate to give up on anything. I thought if we were going to be what I had in my head to be, I had to see it through.
There were a lot of places along the road where you think, 'Well, I could shave this, I could cut this.' And I thought, 'Nope, it won't be what it's supposed to be, what it's telling us to be.' This place took on a mind of its own."