The celebrity hangout with theater audiences for 125 years

Over time, Clevelanders have enjoyed a variety of excellent restaurants. People of a certain age will remember Weber’s Downtown, Herman Pirchner’s Alpine Village on Playhouse Square, and the New York Spaghetti House on East 9th Street.

Otto Moser 1938 One of the best known and most enduring was Otto Moser’s, which was once located in Cleveland’s original theater district on Sheriff Street. The facility opened in 1893 when the Euclid Avenue Opera House was practically across the street.

Built in 1875, the Opera House was the heart of Cleveland’s theater district for years. When the theater converted from gas lights to electricity in 1885, it was one of the first theaters in the country to make the transition. Destroyed by fire on October 24, 1892, the theater was rebuilt over the next eleven months. By 1922 it was replaced by the Hanna Theater.

Otto Moser’s clients were a number of turn-of-the-century theater stars. This included entertainers such as John Barrymore, WC Fields, George M. Cohan, Lillian Russell, Fanny Brice and many others.

Located in the Krause building, which still stands today, on the spot that became E. 4 in 2044th St. in 1906, when Cleveland’s north-south streets gave up their names in exchange for numbers.

A fixture there for almost 50 years, Otto Moser himself held court at the bar until his death in 1942. By then, the bar had adopted the decor that was his trademark.

Interior of the Euclid Avenue Opera House 1885The theatergoers left autographed photos. Over time, they covered the walls and sparked many a conversation among the guests in the stands.

A large elk head named Bullwinkle watched over diners for years, and the sandwiches served there were legendary.

After Moser’s death, two long-time employees – oddly enough, both were called Max Joseph – took over the business and continued to run it with minor changes. This became a challenge when the theater district moved east to Playhouse Square in the 1920s. Close ties with theater audiences remained, and the restaurant was regularly closed to the public for a day or two to host private performances.

Over time the East 4th The location on the street became a liability and the owners decided to move away from where Otto Moser had called home for more than a century.

In 1994, the restaurant moved east along Euclid Avenue to the Bulkley Building. On move day, Bullwinkle the Moose, 1,200 autographed photos of theater and sports celebrities, and 39-year-old veteran waitress Norma Bunner moved to new quarters that offer three times the space and proximity to Playhouse Square.

If E. was 4th Street, Fourth Street was where Otto Mosers can be seen on the left.A huge success at its new location, 10 years later Norma was still there overseeing the lunch service.

All things must come to an end. Otto Moser’s came to an end in 2018 after 125 years of continuous operation, making it the longest-lived restaurant in Cleveland, a record likely no other establishment will ever surpass.

Today, the Republic Food and Drink stands on the site of the former Otto Moser – a homage to his predecessor by with many original signed photographs by Otto Moser.

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