Rockefeller's adds music to its menu

Kevin Richards, Brad Smedley and Bryan Thomas of Hot Djang! performing at Rockefeller's. Photo by Rae Smedley.

If you’re looking for a place to hear live music, there’s a new venue in Cleveland Heights. Rockefeller’s, the restaurant in the historic Heights Rockefeller Building at the corner of Mayfield and Lee roads, now presents live music every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.

The focus is on jazz and blues, and some artists—including Hot Djang!, Anita Keys and Tom Letiza—appear every month. “We’re getting good turnouts for the music,” said Mike Adams, the restaurant’s owner. “There’s a nice eclectic mix of live music in Cleveland Heights, with the Grog Shop, the Wine Spot, Nighttown, and now us. It’s great for Cleveland Heights to have this mix of music.”

Adams, who is 43, opened the restaurant in 2011. Prior to that, he was an attorney for a medical-records firm. He grew up in New Jersey, then attended Kenyon College in Ohio. His wife, Mazie, grew up in Cleveland Heights, and after they married, they moved here. Adams said he has had a “lifelong interest in how restaurants operate.”

The restaurant is located on the second floor of the building, in a space that, from 1930 to 1998, was occupied by a Cleveland Trust bank and, later, a Key Bank. It’s a strikingly beautiful space, with medieval arches, a hand-painted ceiling and leaded glass windows. The bank’s vault doors still take up part of the room, serving as the entrance to the kitchen’s prep room.

After the bank closed, John Barr, who owned the building, used the space as a party center. In 2010, he sold the building to Jim Barle, who also owns Barle Soup and Sandwich, located on the lower level.

It was after Barle bought the space that Adams decided to open the restaurant. “I had to go through a lot of work to get the space ready to open,” he said. “But it worked out great in the end.”

Adams hired Jill Vedaa, who previously worked at Lola and the Flying Fig, as his executive chef. “She had a strong culinary background, and she created the menu and the wine list for me,” Adams said. The menu changes seasonally so the entrees can always be made up of freshly grown ingredients. The restaurant gets its bread from the Stone Oven, and the ice cream comes from Jeni’s in Columbus. Some dishes, such as calamari and mussels, are available year-round.

Rockefeller’s offers late-night specials on Friday and Saturday nights, from 10:30 p.m. to midnight. Those include panini sandwiches, house chips with wasabi dip, macaroni and cheese, and cheese boards. Music is provided by deejay Noah Peele during these later hours.

In addition to adding music to the restaurant’s offerings, Adams also hired a new general manager, Robin Schulze. She runs the front of the house and books the music, while Vedaa is in charge of the kitchen.

Adams has three children—Charlie, 15, David, 12, and Cecilia, 10—and lives off of Mayfield Road. All three children attend Heights schools, and Adams loves the city.

As for the music, Adams said the public’s reception has been great. “It’s become very popular,” he said, “and we often get e-mails asking when the different groups are coming back to play.”



3099 Mayfield Road, Cleveland Heights

Tuesday through Thursday, 4–10 p.m.

Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m. to midnight

James Henke

James Henke, a Cleveland Heights resident, was a writer and editor at Rolling Stone magazine for 15 years. He is also the author of several books, including biographies of Jim Morrison, John Lennon and Bob Marley.

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Volume 7, Issue 4, Posted 10:50 AM, 03.18.2014