Tag Archives: restaurants

Cleveland Restaurant Week

9 Mar

Cleveland Independs is a group of locally-owned and locally-sourced restaurants around Cleveland and northeastern Ohio.  (See my previous post for more about Cleveland Independents.)  One of the big promotion events Cleveland Independents holds is the idea of a “menu fixé”.  Each resturant has a meal line-up of several courses for a fixed price.  The price varies slightly, but line-ups seem to run from $15 to $40, depending on the place and if it is a lunch or dinner line-up.

To be perfectly honest, researching how exactly to define the “Restaurant Week” concept was no easy chore.  I had to search each even individually to make an appropriate summary of the event.  This past “Week” has lasted for nearly 2 weeks and is the 6th annaul event.  After investigating past events, it appears as if this “Week” is often more than 7 days and occurs once in February/March and often again in November.  Its popularity has caused it to increase from a small amount of restaurants downtown with one meal line-up to over 50 restaurants with dinner and lunch specials.  To encourage customers, parking has been reduced to $2 downtown in past events.

The idea of Cleveland Restaurant Week is to encourage people to dine at local places to help stimulate Cleveland’s economy.  After reading some comments online, I can conclude that many, many Clevelanders look forward to this event and a large portion of them spend hundreds each time by taking their families out.  It’s a great way to bring the community together while simultaneously improving the Rust Belt city’s economic situation, one stride at a time.

The event current at the time of this article’s publishing is the 6th annual week, held March 4th through March 16th, 2013.  Restaurants are subject to change with each event, but all current event information and menus can be found at www.clevelandindependents.com under the Events tab and listing.

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The Greenhouse Tavern (GHT)

20 Aug

The GHT is an unexpected gem buried in the heart of Cleveland.  Located at 2038 E 4th Street in downtown, this locavore restaurant with its ever-changing French-inspired menu was the first certified green restaurant in Ohio.  The Sawyer family opened GHT in 2007 alongside their other restaurant, Noodlecat, operating by the following two principles: “the idea that the proximity of the farm and soil to a restaurant correlates to the quality of its food and that environmentally conscious or green business practices are fundamental.”  (For more about their mission, read this page http://thegreenhousetavern.com/press/GHT-SUSTAIN.pdf).  They got me with “green”, so I took my mom to try it out last night.

E 4th Street, where GHT is located, is a very quaint and attractive part of town.  The restaurant is not far down to the left when you walk off of Prospect:

We chose to sit outside on the patio.  The restaurant isn’t very big, so we were all kind of packed into the same space.  It made it difficult for private conversation as well as for waiters to weave around to us, but this is a typical patio experience.  The interior was decorated with a classy “eat local” flair and a lot of the tables had a wooden farmhouse furniture look.  My mom made a comment that the upstairs bathroom was a bizarre unisex set-up, whereas I checked out the one downstairs and found myself going right past the food preparation to get there.  Honestly, I felt a slightly uncomfortable arrogance while navigating the place.

Looking over the menu, I noted that the meals ran from $15 to $59, those being from the “thirds” section.  There were also a number of appetizers (“firsts”), smaller dishes (“seconds”), and sides (“halfs”).  We were given a libations menu and, later, a dessert menu, which came after our meal.  Being that I am vegetarian, I had only 9 options on the menu of 36 total items (these options are indicated by a radish symbol on the menu).  Two of the carivore dishes were sold out.  Although the “Warm Bread & Butter Board” is not listed with a radish, we decided to try that for an appetizer and I avoided the spreads with meat:

The grilled bread was much like the bread given when you sit down.  The house cracker had an interestingly soft and layered texture.  The country bread was our favorite: extremely fine, smooth, and warm.  The pain d’epi – the one braided like wheat tassels – was good as well, but a little tougher and not as fine.  I only tried the spreads on the two hearty breads, then ate the grilled bread and cracker on its own.  Certain spreads matched one bread better than another.  The spreads themselves were very interesting: one had chicken, which my mom said didn’t taste like chicken at all; one had beef, which she said was extremely beef-tasting; one was vanilla bean, which I liked a lot; one had lemon zest, which I also liked a lot even though it was very overwhelming; one was made from beets and was unusually sweet; the orange one, neither of us could recall what it was and it did not have a distinctive taste.  The spreads were good, but all they really were were bizarre butters.  The appetizer was $15.

For drinks, I tried a Chardonnay – which I love – and my mom had a classic apple cider by Luk, much like the traditional kind served in Montreal.  For my mom’s meal, she got the “Salt Cured Walleye Fettucine w/ fingerling potatoes, broccoli rabe, garlic, lemon zest & bread crumbs”.  Her first reaction was “How can you have potatoes with pasta?”  (This was latered seconded by an older gentleman behind us as he asked the same question.  Remember, you can hear others very easily when you’re so close together!)  Well, the did have potatoes in the pasta.  It was decent; I tried it as well.  My mom did, however, complain that the flavor overwhelmed the fish and that the red cayenne overtop was too spicy.  She picked off most of the flakes.  The dish was $21:

I went light and stayed with one of the “halfs”: “Ohio Corn w/ padron peppers, house made kim chi & lime” for $6.  I was baffled how I should eat it.  They literally served me an ear of corn quartered lengthwise.  My mom suggested I not eat the cob, so I sloppily chewed off the kernels while trying to hold the corn on my fork.  Don’t get me wrong – the flavor was great!  I really liked the lime and the spice.  But why was it on the cob?  We determined it was merely for presentation:

Finally, it was time for dessert.  We decided to share the “Johnnycake” (which is the Midwest and New England term for what I know better as a “hoecake”).  This Johnnycake (or hoecake) is just a cornmeal cake, then, for the dessert, they added “dolce de leche, cream curd, hominy ice cream & sea salt” for this $9 little dish:

Honestly, it was delicious.  Being from Pennsylvania, the first thing I thought of when I ate it was Penn State’s grilled stickies.  If you’re born into State College tradition, just understand that it’s got some kind of breakfast, cinnamon bun, can’t-quite’-put-a-finger-on-it taste of goodness.  However, it was extraordinarily small for the price and the waiter took ages to pick up our payment.

(from vesperbistro’s WordPress)

My honest assessment: GHT is an excellent idea.  I’m very supportive of restaurants who try to “go local” and who celebrate the locavore movement.  My one complaint with this movement, however, is that it seems to come with some kind of arrogance.  GHT tries very hard to be a classy place, but I don’t like the idea that “upscale” is always associated with “local food”.  The foods were also very unique but, unfortunately, they did try to combine a lot of flavors that often overwhelmed the dish itself.  To summarize my opinion, you don’t need to “class-up” local food to make a point.  It’s just food: the idea is that you’re doing right by the planet and supporting local farms.  The presentation was frustratingly a priority, but it is culinary art.  Besides, the food came out very quickly and was extremely fresh!  That being said, don’t be discouraged to give this place a try yourself!  I didn’t think it would appeal to kids, but there were families with young children dining while we were there. If you’re willing to pay $30-$40 for a good meal, come see what GHT is all about!

See for yourself: Check out this restaurant at thegreenhousetavern.com and take a look at the online menus!

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