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American Metzger: Robert Bladt of The Bier Haus 

Strongsville might have more of a reputation for strip malls and chain restaurants than great chef-driven eats, but Robert Bladt of The Bier Haus (17692 Pearl Rd., 440-238-2177, thebierhausbistro.com) is committed to turning the reputation on its head.

A graduate of Strongsville High School, Bladt studied culinary arts at Tri-C before earning his Executive Chef and Pastry degrees from the International Culinary Arts and Sciences Institute in Chesterland.

Bladt later traveled to Germany, where he worked alongside his father's uncle, a metzger, or butcher, learning the trade. "I didn't know any German, he didn't know any English," says Bladt. "If I screwed something up, he'd punch me in the shoulder, tell me to look!"

Bladt brought his passion for European cooking back home and opened The Bier Haus, a Euro-American style bistro, with help from his parents, Bob and Michelle, and sister Gabrielle. "I wanted to bring something back to my community, put my name out there," says the chef.

Admittedly, it took some time for Bladt to find his niche. "I was striving for Euro-American and pushing for all aspects of the European side," he explains. "I was doing Italian, French, Spanish, German -- my menu was all over the map. Everyone was expecting German. 'Why do you got meatballs?' they'd ask. I went through, refined, refined, refined. Got it down to the niche we have now. It's much better."

It's also given Bladt the chance to spend time doing what he loves best, being a metzger. The Bier Haus makes all of its own sausages, cured meats and charcuterie. "I love that craft," says Bladt. "To me, that's a true trade. If you're a metzger that's all you do, that's who you are.

Bladt's food menu changes two or three times a year around the seasons. His unique spins on traditional European foods results in dishes like bacon and sauerkraut fritters topped with ricotta and apple butter, or potato pancakes with smoked pork and red onion marmalade. There's a sausage plate overflowing with knackwurst, bratwurst, bacon-braised sauerkraut and potato dumplings. The chef makes a mac and cheese using spatzel, smoked Gouda and Bavarian ham, and tops it with a pretzel crust.

The Bier Haus draws an eclectic and diverse crowd, a point of pride for the chef. "We get guests in their early 20s – they love the craft beer and craft food," he says. "On the flip side, we get my grandparents' friends, older clients. They love the Old World style, the Slavic sausages, chicken paprikash and schnitzels. They know it's not extremely traditional but all the flavors with something a little new."

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