Thursday, August 05, 1999

Fairfield restaurant will serve tricks, too

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FAIRFIELD — When Ken Riley found the empty Jake's American Cafe, he waved his magic wand, mumbled something mystical and — poof! — the building turned into a new restaurant called the Abracadabra Cafe.

        Well, it happened something like that.

        When Jake's closed recently, after about two decades of operation, Mr. Riley, 40, had an idea that at least came to him like magic: He could rent the building and open a restaurant that features magicians.

        “I want to fill a niche that's not here,” he said. “The only magic restaurant in the region, that I know of, is Illusions in Indianapolis. We want something that's casual elegance. We want people to say, "That's our restaurant.' The servers and bartender will be able to do tricks. But if the food isn't good, then nothing will matter.”

        Abracadabra Cafe will open in October at 622 Riegert Square, in the Towne Square shopping center, off Pleasant Avenue.

        “The word is out already,” Mr. Riley said. “I got a call from a man in Middletown, a sign-maker and magician, who offered to perform magic tricks for us and make us a sign, too.

        “He thought the idea is exciting because there aren't a lot of restaurants of this type

        around. We'll have a house magician. He'll check on the talent of other magicians, and keep them fresh. We hope to even have an amateur night.”

        Mr. Riley and his partner, Rick Walkenhorst, conceived the idea after hiring a magician to perform at a fund-raiser in the early 1990s. Over the next few years, they refined the idea and searched for an appropriate building and community.

        “The restaurant gives us a way to blend our talents in business and hobbies,” Mr. Walkenhorst said. “We want to have a good time and give people one, too.”

        Mr. Riley knows only a few minor magic tricks, but said Mr. Walkenhorst is more accomplished.

        “We both love magic,” Mr. Riley said. “That makes our restaurant a labor of love.”

        He also owns Riley's restaurant in Greenhills, where he lives. Mr. Walkenhorst, also of Greenhills, manages the Greenhills Shopping Center and teaches real estate appraisal.

        Abracadabra Cafe will feature what Mr. Riley calls table-side magic.

        “There's a lot of magic talent right here in Greater Cincinnati,” Mr. Riley said. “In fact, its a magician's hotbed. Though I'm not a magician myself, I love watching magic tricks. I like to do the foolproof stuff — easy things to execute. I appreciate good magic, and I think the public does, too.

        “At our place, some people will see magic before they get dessert, and all our patrons will get some magic, unless they don't want to see it. '”


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