Part of the reason The Greenhouse Tavern’s closure this month hit so hard was, of course, that the city was losing a groundbreaking restaurant that had just been named one of the country’s most influential restaurants of the decade by Esquire.
But just as strong was the despair of thinking that we might never again taste those famously crunchy, citrus-y, garlic-y and fall-off-the-bone confit chicken wings again.
Luckily, chefs Brett Sawyer (no relation) and Vince Thomascik, the Jonathon Sawyer disciples behind Good Company and The Plum, are honoring the landmark East Fourth Street restaurant by featuring the wings ($8.50 for 6 wings) at Good Company for a limited time.
“We’ve probably cooked hundreds or thousands of those wings, so we thought it would be a nice little tribute to Greenhouse,” says Sawyer.
Sawyer’s method is a little different, but the classic Greenhouse taste is still there. Instead of confiting, Good Company cures its wings and then steams them overnight, a process that adds moisture while still allowing the wings to achieve their signature crunch when dropped in a deep fryer. Then, the wings are tossed in a mixture of lemon juice, roasted jalapenos and crushed garlic, which is poured over the top with some scallions to finish the wings.
“It’s real simple, citrus, heat and then garlic for that aromatics on the nose,” says Sawyer. “But they were the only place in town to get that texture like that.”
In addition to filling the wing-shaped hole in our heart, Sawyer wanted to honor the restaurant’s impact on the local dining scene. The impact of The Greenhouse Tavern, a place where diners could experiment by trying a whole pig’s head or play it safe with an elevated burger or, of course, wings, on how Clevelanders dine today can’t be understated, says Sawyer.
“Before Greenhouse Tavern, no one was doing food like that,” he says. “Michael Symon made Cleveland an important place to eat. Jonathon Sawyer made it a modern place to eat by taking that high-end food and high-end ethos of fine dining and applying it in a more casual way.”
In addition to the wings, The Plum is also running the foie gras clams ($14 per half dozen) as a weekend special.
“It’s important to recognize the lineage of the food scene,” says Sawyer. “If it hadn’t been for Greenhouse, places like The Plum wouldn’t be able to do what we do because it takes steps to open people's mind. The Greenhouse Tavern was a big step to opening people’s minds in dining.”
Read More: To learn more about this iconic restaurant, which was named one of our Best Restaurants in 2016, check out our original 2009 review of the spot when it first opened or our 2010 profile of Jonathon Sawyer when the chef's restaurant was named Best New Restaurant.