After a disastrous 2020, the Cleveland restaurant scene bounced back in a big way this past year. Local diners (and drinkers) were treated to high-profile openings like Goma, Acqua di Luca, JoJo’s Bar, Last Page, Cloak & Dagger, Avo Modern Mexican, BrewDog, Immigrant Son and Cent’s Pizza. While many of the same Covid-related challenges persist, the coming year should be filled with compelling new entries as well.
By the time you read this, Indie very likely will be just days from opening. Owners Gabriel Zeller and Julie Mesenburg have reshaped the former Greenhouse Tavern space on East 4th into a shrine to independent music thanks to 100s of framed concert and tour posters. Diners can look ahead to Southern-styled foods, many shareable, along with music-themed brunches.
After a successful run as a ghost-kitchen concept, Doug Katz’s Amba is headed to the Hingetown neighborhood of Ohio City, where it is setting up shop in a former printing press. When it opens in the coming weeks, the slickly designed dining room will feature a bar and semi-open kitchen. A separate barroom will offer a different, more casual small-plates atmosphere.
For years, the historic United Banking and Trust Building in Ohio City had been home to Crop Bistro. Soon, it will reopen as Bartleby, a “modern supper club” from owner Morgan Yagi. Designed by renowned Cleveland architecture firm Walker & Weeks, the dazzling space features 35-foot ceilings, an original mural and a lower-level bank vault.
Rocco Whalen is relocating his 20-year-old Tremont hotspot Fahrenheit to the long-dormant John Q’s Steakhouse spot on Public Square. When it opens in late 2022, the restaurant will boast an 8,000-square-foot main floor and 4,300-square-foot second level with rooftop seating. Expect an even finer-dining version of the celebrated restaurant.
When Nighttown, the iconic Cleveland Heights jazz club and restaurant, closed in 2020, its future looked bleak. But stepping up to save the day was Gregg Levy, whose Red Restaurant Group announced that it would reopen the storied property after extensive renovations and infrastructure improvements.
When all is said and done, INTRO in Ohio City will offer residents and visitors three separate F&B options. Leaps and Bounds will be a stylish all-day café. Pioneer is a spacious, contemporary but casual sports bar serving wood-fired foods. And Jaja, a second-floor dining room featuring a retractable glass roof and airy patio, will serve small plates and steaks with a lounge-like vibe.
One of the last remaining marquee restaurant spaces at Van Aken District was snagged by the team behind Giovanni’s and Smokin’ Q’s BBQ. The 4,400-square-foot property, which is next door to Kindred Spirit, will become Paloma, a polished taco-focused Mexican restaurant.
There still is a lot that we don’t know about Cordelia, the restaurant that is presently taking shape in the former Lola space on East 4th Street. What we do know is that it will be operated by Andrew Watts of Forward Hospitality and is expected to open in spring.
Since it opened in 2017, Terrestrial has managed to get by with pop-up taco shops and weekend brunches. But in the coming year the Battery Park brewery will unveil a 70-seat full-service restaurant in an adjacent space, where chef Penny Tagliarina will prepare California-inspired farm-to-table fare.
After an 18-year run, A. Brendan Walton shuttered his popular Gateway District spot A.J. Rocco’s. When it reawakens in the coming year, it will do so next door in the former Huron Point Tavern/Alesci’s building, which is undergoing significant improvements. The full-service bar and restaurant will be casual enough to accommodate sports lovers but nice enough for date night.
Kyler Smith of Sauce Boiling Seafood Express fame is putting the finishing touches on Filter, his biggest move yet. The fine-dining, full-service restaurant will open in the former Take 5 Rhythm and Jazz space in the Perry–Payne Building. When it does, the restaurant will inject a much-needed dose of entertainment and nightlife into that corner of the city.
The Flats East Bank is getting a “chic, romantic and intimate” wine bar called Cherie. Partners Merrick Wolstein and Amanda Chamoun have gone to great lengths to create a European-inspired lair with lounge-style seating, banquettes and chandeliers. Guests can look forward to small plates to pair with the vino.
Any day now, Smokey’s BBQ and Saloon will bring the intoxicating scent of slow-smoked meats to the Flats East Bank. Chef James Baker, son of Al “Bubba” Baker, will be leaning on his years of experience when firing up the Southern Pride to make brisket, pulled pork, ribs, chicken and sausage. The meats will be joined by sides like mac and cheese, greens and baked beans.
Zdenko Zovkic closed his Warehouse District mainstay XO Prime Steaks, but soon we can find him down in the Flats, where he’ll be presiding over Jade. This ambitious Asian-fusion concept will offer guests three different experiences on three different levels. Moving up from the ground floor, diners will progress from street food and sushi to upscale dining and finally a stylish rooftop club.
Larchmere Tavern closed this summer after nearly 30 years. In the coming months, Michael Paley and property owner Louis Jacobs will open a cocktail-forward establishment they hope will be on par in terms of quality with the likes of Velvet Tango Room, Spotted Owl and Porco Lounge. There will be small plates to go with the spirits.
PonyBoys will bring modern Mexican fare to Chagrin Falls. Opening any day now, the 60-seat restaurant from industry vets Ryan Scanlon and Christian Kalinyak will offer “elevated Mexican street food.”
Solon-based operators Jay Leitson and Izzy Schachner (of 56 Kitchen and Birdigo) are at it again with Elle. Set inside the former Harvest Kitchen property, the “Bohemian-chic” Mediterranean restaurant will focus on bright, fresh and seasonal dishes, many cooked over a live-fire grill.
This year, Dan Deagan will attempt to replicate the success of his Lakewood Truck Park on the other side of town when he opens the Beachwood Truck Park. Apart from the architecture, a decommissioned fire station on Chagrin Boulevard, the setup and systems will be largely familiar to fans.
Other projects that Scene is keeping tabs on include Karen Small’s Juneberry, Northstar Café, Martha on the Fly, Mabel’s BBQ East, Choolaah in Ohio City, Anna in the Raw, and Pins Mechanical/16-Bit in Ohio City.