A Unique Cleveland Venue

Named after the Dublin Red-Light District in James Joyce’s Ulysses, Nighttown, possesses the ambiance of turn of the century New York restaurants.  Leaded, etched, and stained glass, combined with a collection of memorabilia from earlier eras decorate the six distinctly different dining rooms and three active bars.  Since opening day, February 5, 1965, the menu has been a model of consistency, while always evolving as food trends change. As we enter into our 50th year of business, Nighttown continues to be a top Cleveland dining and entertainment destination.

Walk into Nighttown at just about any time and you’ll find corporate titans, doctors from nearby Cleveland Clinic and University Hospital, Cleveland Orchestra members in tuxedos seated next to the patrons they just entertained, as well as college students from Case Western Reserve University, neighbors stopping in for a quick bite, lovers on dates, pre and post-theatergoers, people from all over the world traveling on U.S. State Department junkets and writers who are terribly flattered when someone mentions the fact their face is on a plaque in the Cleveland Journalism Hall of Fame (which just happens to be located at Nighttown).

This discerning, eclectic mix of people eat from a menu regarded by most as remarkably consistent and served by a wait staff who remembers many of their names (or tries to, at least) at this white tablecloth venue. But this group of people are best fed by the entertainment provided sometimes seven nights a week from a tiny stage in a crowded room evoking now-gone Short Vincent in Cleveland or other intimate venues in Manhattan. But Nighttown isn’t a re-creation or faux anything. Nighttown is the real deal. It’s a real joint where, if you were lucky enough to be there, you could have sat in front of the Count Basie Orchestra so close that the trombone would’ve bopped you in the nose. Or maybe you saw Freddy Cole, Jane Monheit, John Pizzarelli, Brian Auger, Ann Hampton Callaway, Tommy Tune, Basia, Cyrille Aimee, Esperanza Spaulding, Dick Cavett, Dick Gregory, Eliane Elias, Renee Rosnes, Stevie Wonder or John Legend look you right in the eye as they sang or spoke from just a few feet away.

A brief history: The building that houses Nighttown was built in 1920. There were four separate stores on the first floor and apartments above. On February 5, 1965, John Barr bought one of the middle storefronts, the Silhouette Lounge (then, a one-room, 40-seat joint with a Formica-topped bar, run by mob-connected Cadillac Amusements), and renamed it Nighttown. Shortly after, he absorbed another storefront, the Cedar Hill Diner, into Nighttown. A few years later, he purchased Sam’s Beauty Parlor and finally, on the east corner of the building, Heights Travel, merging all four storefronts into Nighttown. Somewhere early along the line, Barr brought in Bill Gidney to play the upright piano, launching Nighttown as one of Cleveland’s premier music venues. Brendan Ring purchased Nighttown from John Barr in 2001, later adding the three outdoor dining areas. In 2007, Nighttown became the permanent home of the Press Club of Cleveland’s Cleveland Journalism Hall of Fame. Fifty years later, Nighttown is one of Cleveland’s dining and music meccas – and, we think, perhaps the largest restaurant in Greater Cleveland, based on seating capacity.