Michael Nowak’s European-inspired Black Pig made a big move in 2014, leaving its airy, modern spot on West 25th Street for a homey, historic house a couple blocks down Bridge Avenue with a wooden bar and brushed metal lighting that add a classic touch.
But chef and owner Nowak’s tweaks along the way — scrapping walk-in friendly dishes and adding toothsome pasta to the menu — have made the restaurant one of the city’s best.
Most recently, Nowak handed the Black Pig’s daily cooking reins over to one-time Trentina chef Dave Kocab, as the former concentrates on his Mexican concept Poca at the Ohio City Galley.
The changes haven’t altered Nowak’s approach to cooking, which the classically French-trained chef honed as one of the opening chefs de cuisine at Bar Cento.
“I just fell in love with using all parts of the animal,” he says. “The really kind of old-school stuff.”
That love shines on dishes such as Black Pig’s pork head nuggets ($10), crispy, deep-fried pig’s head croquettes which Nowak developed as an off-menu item at Bar Cento, or the snackable, dill-dusted pork rinds ($6).
While the tender pork chop ($26), served with spaetzle, turnip, grain mustard demi-glace and apple butter, is a consistent crowd pleaser, the corned chicken livers ($7), on the menu since the Black Pig opened in 2012, are the restaurant standout.
After being brined for a couple days, the livers are tossed in flour and caraway seeds, then fried and served with
beetroot mustard, all of which make them taste like something between fried chicken and a corned beef sandwich — and they’re entirely addictive.
“The idea is you take something people might be apprehensive about and bring in some familiar components,” Nowak says. “They say, ‘Wow this is new, but this is also something I’m used to.’ ”
2801 Bridge Ave., Cleveland, 216-862-7551, blackpigcle.com