In Drinking Stories, Bridget Callahan and Sarah Sphar go to a bar, have a few drinks and talk about them. For this installment, we visit Fracas in Cleveland Heights' Coventry neighborhood to see what's become of the old Centrum Theater space.
Bridget: The first thing about walking into Fracas is that you cannot shake the feeling you are about to walk into a movie. Even though you know you are going into a restaurant to meet your friend, the trip down the old Centrum Theater hallway, and then that entrance into a huge space with a beautiful curtained stage creates a quick emotional rush, which will linger with you long after you sit down at the table. I kept expecting a big band orchestra to start tuning up, or men in panama hats with violin cases to walk in. I was also awfully glad I had worn a dress.
Sarah: The space really is grand, and hearkens back to supper clubs and nights at El Morocco. I kept expecting the curtains to part and reveal a row of men in top hats and tails, or a lady to be lowered in on a swing. I was surprised how warm and lovely the room is, in spite of the scale. The ceiling is so high, you'd think it would feel empty and cold, but it doesn't. There's almost no evidence of the former occupant, Johnny Malloy's, either. This room and this restaurant were all about texture to me: the velvet theater curtains, the polished wood, the creamy drink, the velvety pumpkin soup. It was a very tactile evening, right down to the name of the first drink we tried, the Satin Lady - house-infused vanilla vodka, Kahlua, Frangelico and cream.
Bridget: It was really sweet, much sweeter than I. I should have expected that of course, it wasn't like I couldn't tell what it would taste like from the ingredients. Don't get me wrong, it was good. But I definitely overestimated my desire for sugar that evening, so I downed it pretty quickly. It was sort of like that time your friend made you a White Russian, and you drank it to be nice even though it gave you a cavity.
Sarah: I didn't think it was terribly sweet, but I'm not sure if the same person mixed both drinks. I wasn't put off by the sweetness, but then I'm a sucker for the word "Frangelico." I see it and develop menu blindness, like the prospect of hazelnut anything just becomes impossible to ignore. It was just the right amount of creaminess, too - not too viscous or cloying. Satiny, in fact, as the name implies. It suited the atmosphere of the room very well, it even looked good just sitting on the table.
For the next round, we diversified. I ordered the Kentucky Lovin' because I love a bourbon drink. Made with muddled mint, Jack Daniels, a cherry, sugar and a soda topper, this drink was strong. Put you in a cab strong. Laugh all night at your own jokes strong. I left two-thirds of it sitting on the table because I would have immediately needed a nap if I'd finished it. A nap or a driver.
Bridget: We both need a driver, that's for sure. We should hire one, though it would probably be terrible news for my liver. Anyone want to be the Official Drinking Stories Driver? Anyway, I thought the Mexican Hot Chocolate was going to be an actual hot chocolate served in a mug. Also, actual Mexican hot chocolate that's thick like pudding is a favorite of mine. I was curious about how they would manage an alcoholic pudding drink.
I have faith this can be done, but what actually came out was served in a martini glass, and it was fantastic. Cayenne pepper on the rim, not creamy at all, but this extremely chocolatey mix, with a spicy chocolate truffle as a garnish, which I mistakenly thought was a chocolate covered cherry when I bit into it. Surprise! That was kind of awesome. I think I even made a face of "OMG chocolate." (That is an actual official face. Ask your girlfriend.) I would go back again just for this drink.
Sarah: I'd love to go back to Fracas. We had great service, and I'd like to stay for dinner and see what the room is like when it's full with a weekend crowd and some live music. I'm excited the space is being used in this way and that it somehow lends itself to the purpose. On Coventry, you're never too far away from the foot traffic and the cars and the Grog Shop, but at Fracas, you go a little off the grid and forget about all of that noise and commotion. It's a nice bonus.