There isn’t anything fancy about Larder. Chefs Jeremy Umansky, Allie La Valle and Kenny Scott serve takes on classic Eastern European deli fare: pastrami sandwiches, fried chicken sandwiches, pickles, salads, pastries and the like, all ordered at the counter and served in a small dining room in a converted firehouse in Hingetown.
But make no mistake: If Larder had opened in Los Angeles or Brooklyn instead of Cleveland, there would be a two-hour line out the door of the restaurant.
Not only is the food prepared to a national standard — all three of the chefs have worked in New York City, where Scott worked at Michelin-starred restaurants and Umansky studied under Sandor Katz, the godfather of the American fermentation movement — Larder has a kind of conceptual unity you almost never see in any restaurant, let alone one that has been open for less than a year.
This is probably why Larder was a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation Best New Restaurant in America award in early 2019.
“It’s just been a madhouse here,” says Umansky. “For us and the Cleveland community, we want to be the best that we can be. We don’t feel a specific level is good enough.”
Larder’s fried chicken sandwich ($9) is a microcosm of what makes it so special. Pieces of chicken thigh are brined in buttermilk and the fermented Japanese rice drink Amazake before being deep-fried. The chicken is dressed with a sauce made from mustard, mayonnaise, toasted yeast and fresh herbs and served with lettuce, onions pickled in Kool-Aid and house-made pickles. It’s all served on a house-made bun made with spent grain, buttermilk and Amazake.
It is probably the best fried chicken sandwich you will ever eat. Just about every single thing at Larder, from the root beer to La Valle’s peanut butter and jelly rugelach, is as built from the ground-up as that sandwich.
“I just try to think of what people want,” says La Valle. “People are pretty basic about what they want, so I try to keep it classic-ish and simple.”
1455 W. 29th St., Cleveland, 216-912-8203, larderdb.com