Mike Wendt, Production Coordinator of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission. Photo by Brandon Baker.
SOURCE: Cleveland.com | Peter Chakerian, cleveland.com
January 20, 2024
CLEVELAND, Ohio—Growing up in Cleveland in the 1980s, Fridays were all about the PD Friday! Magazine.
I looked forward to it all week, not just because it yielded all the entertainment news fit to print, but because it had all the movie listings.
There was something exhilarating (intoxicating?) about learning what new flicks were playing the nearby multiplex and knowing I’d be taking some of them in.
A couple “city limits” signs away, Mike Wendt was having the exact same experience — albeit on a considerably deeper level. So gripped by film and visual media as a kid, he ended up studying Media Production at the University of Akron and working for a movie theater during his time in college.
More than your average “film fan,” Wendt wanted to be in the thick of it all from behind the camera, behind the screen, behind the scenes. And now he is.
If you’re a Northeast Ohio film buff, Wendt is likely a familiar face to you. On any given night, you’ll find him at an advance screening, special presentation, a regional film festival or at the Cleveland Cinematheque or Nightlight in Akron. Or taking in a flick wherever he can. That’s his business. That’s what he does.
He’s also a director, producer and location manager/scout who currently serves as the Production Coordinator for the Greater Cleveland Film Commission and he has worked on many films, including “Captain America: The Winter Solider,” “Fate of the Furious” and “My Friend Dahmer.”
Wendt’s first feature documentary entitled “The End of The World as We Knew It” examined Cleveland alternative radio station WENZ-FM 107.3 “The End.” It was later selected for the 33rd Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF).
As part of GCFC, Wendt was a key driver in the 40th Anniversary celebration around “A Christmas Story” that took place late last year. Now that the writers’ and actors’ strikes have concluded, he and his affiliations have a lot of film things percolating.
“I can’t say anything right now,” Wendt laughed. “I know that that doesn’t make for good reading, but there will be more news on those fronts soon. Plus, I’ve been putting the finishing touches on a documentary about filmmaker Robert Banks, which I’m honestly pretty excited about.”
When we caught up with Wendt this week, he was able to speak a little more freely about his favorite area dining favorites. “They’re not ‘super high-class or anything — and not a surprise to anyone who knows me —they’re just good eats. It’s the little things!” he said.
Those picks are “ready for their close-up, Mr. DeMille.” Here they are, in his own words:
Pulled Jamaican Jerk Chicken Nachos at ABC the Tavern: One of my favorites. I love the Caribbean vibe. It sounds strange when you see it on the menu, but they’re so good. There are times when I will absolutely go out of my way to get them on my way home from something. I’ll even call ahead, order them in advance . I have a night where I must do an event or something, I might sneak in there. The pineapple salsa, parsley crème fraiche — it’s like a whole vibe. And I’m all there for it! 1872 W. 25th St., Cleveland. 216-861-3857, abcthetavern.com.
The Pink Hawaiian at Geraci’s Slice Shop (and a Noble Beast nod): Our offices used to be in the WKYC Channel 3 Building, but now we’re in the Leader Building — and that makes a lot of great food walkable. Of all places that are walkable, I’m really enjoying Geraci’s Slice Shop. I just love the ‘80s aesthetic of that place. I kind of have this longing for nostalgia; anything 80s or 90s, and so when you get your placeholder card and it’s like Arnold Schwarzenegger as “The Terminator” or something, it brings a big, goofy smile to my face. And yes, I love the Pink Hawaiian. Pineapple on pizza. You know, I could have easily put Noble Beast on this list too, for all the time we’ve spent there, when the office was across the street. Love those guys, too! 5th Street Arcades, 603 Prospect Ave. E., Cleveland. 216-202-2775, geracissliceshop.com.
Corned Beef Hash at George’s Kitchen: The other nostalgia spot because I grew up just a few blocks away from it, is George’s Kitchen on Triskett. That place has that vintage ‘80s family restaurant thing going for it. Great home cooking. Been a staple in my family for a long, long time! Big breakfasts and that corned beef hash. Even though I don’t live in that neighborhood anymore, I will go out of my way to visit. Absolutely adore that place, and the fact George still sits at the front and greets you when you come in? That’s the kind of thing you don’t really get much anymore. 13101 Triskett Rd. Cleveland. 216-671-0430, georgeskitchen.food-ts.com.
The Butcher Burger at Butcher & Sprout: We live in Cuyahoga Falls and Front Street is a thing — there’s a few good restaurants there, a lot going on. I’ve got to give a shout out to Butcher & Sprout. It’s a super-nice burger place; I would suggest the Butcher Burger, which has bacon and barbecue sauce on it. [Writer’s note: shocked he didn’t pick the “You’re My Boy, Blue!” burger, a nod to “Old School,” but we’ll let that pass]. Great energy there; we probably go at least once a week. Grass-fed beef, house fries. Good stuff. 1846 Front St., Cuyahoga Falls. 330-801-0009, butcherandsprout.com.
Bourbon Chicken at Kelly’s Cajun Grill in Tower City: OK, last one. Now with this one, , this one is just one of those spots that let’s just say it may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I absolutely love it. I think it comes from all those years of doing the Cleveland International Film Festival there. It’s “Asian cuisine,” Americanized food-court style, of course — certainly not upscale dining by any measure, but an economical meal that evokes all kinds of nostalgia for me. No judgment! Even just walking into Tower City brings back that whole time period for me. Bourbon Chicken was my go-to. 230 W. Huron Rd. #7244, Cleveland. 216-687-8055, towercitycenter.com/directory-list/kellys-cajun-grill.
If you like food and drink –- and who doesn’t? — we’re breaking new ground with our lively new podcast about dining and drinking in Greater Cleveland. Hosts Josh Duke and Alex Darus crackle with their fun talk about the latest foodie happenings, joined by the most in-the-know experts in town, Marc Bona, Paris Wolfe and Peter Chakerian. It’s called DineDrink C-L-E and you can find it anywhere you download podcasts. Give it a listen and get your mouth watering. For more info, go to cleveland.com/topic/dinedrinkcle.