You know a restaurant is good when you can convince your friends to drive from the East Side to the West Side for dinner — and then they say the 40-minute trip was worth it.
That was my first experience at Thyme Table back in 2019 — just a few months after chef and owner Mike Smith opened his restaurant in Bay Village.
The unassuming, tiny brick building deceives what you’ll find inside: a cozy space with forest green walls, tin ceilings and art deco lighting that gave off serious tavern-meets-Prohibition vibes.
It’s what Smith envisioned as a place for friends and family to meet up and relax. He didn’t want it to feel pretentious. It should be warm. Dining here should be easy.
“You just walk in the door and feel comfortable,” he told me when I first interviewed him. “You want to come back and hang out.”
With a menu that’s just as welcoming — and has evolved over the course of Thyme Table’s first year, which Smith and crew celebrated on April 25 — diners are sure to find something that speaks to them just as I did on my first of many visits.
I originally fell for a childhood favorite reinvented: the loaded lobster tater tots.
A recipe that Smith whipped up in 15 minutes has led to one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes. Crispy tater tots (yes, the Ore-Ida tots your lunch lady doled out) are piled high and topped with lobster (Smith only uses that sweet, tender claw meat), applewood-smoked bacon, scallions, cilantro, a house-made cheese sauce and a chipotle aioli that kicks the dish up a few delicious notches.
“I think we’d have a revolt on our hands if we took it off the menu,” he said.
Smith isn’t afraid to take chances though, as evident by the house black pasta — made with charcoal, shrimp, fresh peas and a garlic-Parmesan sauce — that graced the restaurant’s opening menu, and a recent play on another childhood mainstay: peanut butter and jelly. But this time it comes in the form of a bone marrow topped with a pistachio butter and served with a side of strawberry-balsamic jam and warm buttermilk biscuits. It’s on my list of must-try dishes (and it should be on yours).
What makes Thyme Table special is a menu full of dishes that are still familiar, just reinvented. Classics — tweaked just enough to feel fresh and new.
“We’re trying to do really great stuff, but also keep it approachable,” he said. “There’s nothing [on the menu] that’s going to scare anybody away.”
But it’s not just Smith and his American-focused menu that sets this Bay Village spot apart.
Pastry chef Laura Jerina-Potts works wonders when it comes to desserts from chocolate brownie pot du creme to mixed berry crumble slab pie (that’s vegan and gluten-free) to house-made triple cream brie ice cream (yes, please).
Just as clever, the cocktail menu is thanks to bar manager Eric Scott, who is the mastermind behind fun twists such as the “Serious Problems,” a vodka- and passion fruit-based drink that arrives with a sidecar of rose wine. Be sure to ask him about the clarified milk punch (a milk-based liquor that involves a two-day process to make — it’s fascinating) and then drink it up in the “I Can See Clearly Now” cocktail. (You can thank me later.)
So, what started out as a neighborhood spot that Smith hoped would draw local diners in a few times a week has morphed into something else — a destination restaurant, a creative hub that serves up craveable food and this year’s Silver Spoon Best New Restaurant Winner.
“We end up getting people from Cleveland Heights, Hudson and Brunswick coming to the restaurant all the time,” he said. “Our intention was that Bay Village hasn’t had a restaurant like this, but it’s turned into more than that.”
When You Go: Thyme Table, 583 Dover Center Road, Bay Village, 440-617-6964, thymextable.com