A look at what went on behind the scenes of the Crave cover photo shoot at The Top Steak House in Bexley.

It was an idea hatched over drinks, like all the best ones are: Why don't we throw a "Mad Men"-style holiday party at The Top Steak House? And then take pictures of it for the magazine? A better question: Why not?

It's a way to talk about holiday dining that's more fun than a list of the restaurants open on Christmas. It's a love letter of sorts to The Top, one of my favorite places to head when I need an escape from modern-day stresses. It's a "Mad Men" fix to help us get through the show's long hiatus.

But most of all, it just sounded like a blast. Dressing up in vintage clothes and running around The Top all day? Sign us up.

I've spent enough time in the straight-from-the-'50s Bexley steakhouse that all sorts of fun potential photo setups popped into my head. Quickly, I sketched out a stick-figure storyboard in pencil. Stick figures singing carols at the piano bar! Stick figures drinking Top Cappuccinos by the fireplace! And so on.

That was the easy part. As it turns out, organizing a fashion shoot for a food magazine is hard work. I enlisted local stylist Elizabeth Solinger of ESS Artistry to help with the details, of which there were many.

First, we had to find models. We hosted an open casting call at Surly Girl Saloon, encouraging Columbus foodies to come out (we're a food magazine, so we wanted models who like to eat!).

Elizabeth outfitted our models in vintage dresses, as well as accessories donated by Funky and Functional in the Short North. Rendezvous Salon on Campus generously offered to provide period-appropriate hair and makeup on the day of the shoot. (The hardest part turned out to be tracking down a Santa hat during the last week in September--which, in case you were wondering, is too early for most stores to put out the Christmas stuff.)

When we first ran our crazy idea by Jean and Denver Adkins, who own The Top, they didn't even flinch. Their cooperation and excitement ensured things ran like clockwork on the day of the shoot.
And all that hard work resulted in a gorgeous set of photos, shot by Will Shilling.

Here's a look at what went on behind the scenes that day:

Stylist Elizabeth Solinger doles out the vintage earrings, necklaces, tie pins and other accessories donated by Funky and Functional.

Crave editor Shelley Mann adjusts the tie of model Colin Northrup.

Aaron Bishara admires fellow model Josh Quinn's '50s-appropriate slicked-back hair

The models gather around the table for our faux holiday meal. They did get to eat the side dishes: au grautin potatoes, baked potatoes and roast asparagus.

If you've never been there, The Top is DARK inside. Special credit to Will Shilling and fellow Crave photographer Jodi Miller for lighting the place up enough to get all our great photos. Here, our cover model Erin Traxler lounges around the piano bar with fellow models Todd Mills and Joyce Goren.

Will Shilling doing his photography thing.

Lisa Ragland is a bit of a scene stealer. She's posing with some of our handsome guy models (from left: Colin Northrup, Todd Mills, Aaron Bishara and Josh Quinn).

And here's the Crave team with The Top's Denver and Jean Adkins.