Architectural Justice Gallery and Café

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James and Darlene Justice have transformed the corner of Pearl and Royalton Roads into a haven for lovers of fine cuisine, inspired art and dazzling design. (Photography by Benjamin Margalit)

By Patricia Nugent

Transport yourself to a romantic, turn-of-the-century European café, with marble tables and white brick walls, ornate glass chandeliers and tantalizing fare.

James and Darlene Justice opened Architectural Justice Gallery and Café last year as an homage to the countless cafes they have been inspired by from around the world.

Though everything appears to be authentically historic, it’s actually quite new.

It Started with a “For Sale” Sign
James and Darlene also own Architectural Justice in Medina where they specialize in granite and remodeling.

One day they were out for a drive and saw a “for sale” sign at an old gas station adjacent to Strongsville’s historic district, at the corner of Pearl and Royalton Roads. They bought it, tore it down, and—along with their dream team of designers and artisans—went a little wild.

“Before breaking ground on the new building, I turned to our experience traveling for architectural inspiration,” says James.

“I re-created its ornate columns and arched windows and metalwork reminiscent of 1930s grandeur and elegance. You’ll find here elements of classical, baroque, mid-century modern and art deco styles.”

For instance, the winding staircase is carved entirely of black Italian marble. James designed the veining to wind up the stairs in a path. Another architectural feat James is proud of is the 10-foot revolving front door, which is topped in Brazilian granite and is lit from above. (“You have to see it at night to appreciate it fully,” he says.)

“In all, we brought in more than 30 tons of marble and granite from all over the world,” says James.

Separated by 16-foot sliding glass doors that run on old train car bearings, the Test Kitchen features an elegant long marble table, and James reports it’s a charming venue that has hosted showers, family reunions and corporate functions, in addition to the in-demand cooking classes. A wall of hangar doors disappears above and opens onto a delightful brick patio.

Three focal points of massive prints depicting gates and buildings overlook all the action in the main café.

Shop for That Something Different
Roughly half of the two-story, 4,000-square foot building is devoted to the Café and Test Kitchen and half to the Gallery, where people can shop from an eclectic array of locally made jewelry, lighting, bespoke furnishings and home décor items that are truly unique. There are also many CLE-themed and Ohio-themed pieces ideal for gifting.

With the holidays around the corner, they are already selling hostess gifts that are conversation pieces, from whimsical wine bags ($8), to marble cutting boards with a metal strap ($32). And what writer wouldn’t cherish a classic leather-bound journal inscribed with a poem by Maya Angelou?

Classic Café Culture Cuisine
Under the super creative tutelage of award-winning Chef Leland Flanders, the menu includes European-inspired specialties such as tartines, liege waffles, flatbreads and charcuterie plates, or “social boards,” which feature your choice of aged cheeses and specialty meats.

“The Roma Tarte Flambee, or flatbread, is a favorite of mine,” says James. “The toppings are fresh and bright, including olive tapenade, artichoke, prosciutto, fresh mozzarella and herbs.”

Fitting in with the artisan vibe, all the ingredients are artisanal—from Ohio City Pasta and Rising Star Coffee, to Hartzler dairy products. The chef has a sweet spot for confections, too, and James says they have quite a following of folks who come in just for the delicate and delectable macarons.

Complementing the rustic fare is a nice selection of wines, beers and cocktails.

Architectural Justice Gallery and Café is located at 13593 Pearl Road, in downtown Strongsville. Hours are Sunday-Wednesday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Call 440-268-8646 or visit Follow the Gallery & Café on Instagram @AJGalleryCafe and on Facebook.