Walking into Sawyer’s is a curious experience — the walls are bare, slick and stark white while the seating provides a deep blue pop of color suggesting a modern night out on the town. But everywhere you look there’s a jungle of green plants and shrubs that pay homage to Sawyer’s focus on an organic quality of life and makes the visitor feel like they’ve traveled someplace far and away. Don’t miss the rooftop patio in the summer with a full bar. “I can’t tell you yet — because [Sawyer’s is] so young — if it’s liberating or frustrating to have the freedom we have where we can be all of my training inspirations: a little bit Italian, a little bit French, a little bit Japanese and a little bit American,” says Sawyer.
After establishing Greenhouse Tavern as a downtown foodie destination, and opening Trentina, the highbrow Italian restaurant dedicated to foraging which closed last year, Sawyer has had success with dishes that have found a way into many must-eat lists across Cleveland. At Sawyer’s, you’ll find several of these famed foods such as Greenhouse Tavern’s crispy confit of chicken wings ($13) — but with an added upgrade. Here, they come in three flavors: traditional, a near-Szechuan hot style and a sweet lemon pepper citrus. “The ability to go back and mess with something 10, 12 or 8 years later and see it in a different light helps you as a cook realize that there are other things than a perfect dish or a perfect plate,” says Sawyer. “You just cook and hope to improve upon it every single day, and when you can improve on it 12 years later, that’s when you know it’s been worth your time.”
Sawyer’s new venture is largely fueled by a wood-fired grill that utilizes coal-fired cooking, smoking techniques and a chapa — an inch-thick slate of steel that rests directly on the coals — in a 6-tiered system in which various items — such as the grilled octopus ($12) with brown butter vinaigrette, chicory, pomegranate seeds and burnt shallots or the wood-fired burger ($14) with cheddar, a secret sauce, wood-fired Ohio beets and grilled pickled onions on a brioche bun — are all cooked simultaneously at different heights and temperatures. “We’ll have six different zones,” says Sawyer. “In terms of menu creation and flavor, it’s a huge advantage.”