Local chefs and bars are coupling up to bring innovative cuisine to a stool near you.
We know bars are great spots to hook up with someone. But local chefs and bar owners are taking that concept to another level by pairing carefully crafted menus with a frothy pint or cocktail. Chefs are able to test the foodie waters while local watering holes benefit from fresh, innovative dishes. "The bars are getting your name and your logo out there in other ways that you may have not been able to before," says Saucisson's Melissa Khoury. Here's a look at three pop-up restaurants and how you can snag a date with them.
Week link:You'll find chef Tom Madrilejos whipping up a selected menu of five dishes on Mondays and Thursdays at Tremont's the Spotted Owl. "Everything we have can be something that you can eat while you're drinking," he says. "A lot of things are crispy, savory, fried." Home school:The self-taught chef studied graphic design and illustration and then taught English overseas. While Filipinos make up one of the largest Asian populations in the United States, the culture is very underrepresented, says Madrilejos. "When you're home, you have to learn to cook or you're never going to eat that food ever again." Twist off:One of Carabao's most popular dishes is sisig, a boiled and grilled pork dish topped with raw onions and served with rice. "Ours is definitely not traditional by any means," he says. "It's a play on it." Flavor aid:Calamansi, the cross between a lime and a mandarin orange, is used in a lot of Carabao's marinades. "It's a flavor that's not really seen here at all," says Madrilejos. "The real goal is to introduce Filipino food to Cleveland."The Spotted Owl, 710 Jefferson Ave., Cleveland, 216-795-5595, spottedowlbar.com
TGIF:After working as the executive chef at Trentina, Brett Sawyer left in August to launch Plum Cafe and Kitchen next door to Platform Beer Co. in Ohio City. He's been experimenting with sandwiches, catfish nuggets and fried Brussels sprouts on Fridays at the small-batch brewery. "You want people to try your food," Sawyer says. "You want feedback."Junk food:Influenced by Skyline Chili's Three Way, the roasted pork sandwich is rubbed with cinnamon and cocoa beans, then topped with slow-cooked beans, onions and cheddar. "I use things that people wouldn't think of as an influence, and I try to make different flavor profiles," says Sawyer. Brain games:After a December catering event, Sawyer realized how much cooking at a bar has changed him. "I had to stop thinking about how many flavor combinations I can put on a bun and think about plating dishes again." Late plate:The day before his first pop-up, Sawyer came up with the popular beef cheek sandwich. "Sometimes I'm a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of guy," says Sawyer.Platform Beer Co., 4125 Lorain Ave., Cleveland, 216-202-1386, platformbeerco.com
Sunday funday:Penny Barend and Melissa Khoury, who started their hand-cured meat and spiced sausage butcher shop in 2013, bring a savory Sunday brunch once a month to Hingetown's Jukebox. "It's cool because it gives companies that don't have a brick-and-mortar, like ourselves, another outlet to reach people," says Khoury. Hash tag:Whether it's a porchetta hash, corned beef hash or pastrami hash, Khoury knows what this city likes. "[Our hashes] have been huge hits because you can't go wrong with meat, potatoes, a fried egg on top and a little sauerkraut," says Khoury. Main squeeze:Khoury suggests pairing Saucisson's chorizo breakfast tacos with one of Jukebox's mimosas made with juice from neighboring Beet Jar Juice Bar and Takeaway. "The acid and the sweetness from the juices really help mellow out the spiciness from the chorizo." Strip tease:Be sure to try Saucisson's maple-glazed pork belly or crispy fried pork belly. "You literally can use every bit of the animal and make it into something amazing," she says. "There's some really cool things you can make out of a pig." Jukebox, 1404 W. 29th St., Cleveland, 216-206-7699, jukeboxcle.com
Cleveland is a city of flavors. Classics from longtime restaurants and flashy new fare are both big parts of Northeast Ohio's ever-changing dining offerings. If you've ever wondered what to eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner, consider this the ultimate menu of bites to try out in the city and its surrounding suburbs. Don't expect to see any national chains here; these are tried-and-true Cleveland staples, reflecting the city's unique melting pot of cuisine. By Kate Bigam Kaput, Annie Nickoloff and Dillon Stewart