Restaurants, like homes and people, need an occasional makeover to keep them fresh, current and attractive. The best operators know that stale interiors and exteriors are about as appealing as a loaf of stale bread, so they open their wallets and invest on improvements. We checked in on some of the most interesting projects taking place in and around Cleveland.
When the Nano Brew crew took over the former Black Pig space next door, the goal all along was to retain the easy, comfortable charm of the place that guests had come to love. So when the time came to address the back patio, which expanded right along with the interior, management followed the same playbook.
"We approached this along the same line of thinking as the first expansion," says partner Mike Foran. "When we expanded into the old Black Pig space we said that the place needed to still feel like Nano. We are applying the same logic to the patio."
The exterior spaces were looked at as distinct, diverse areas — or rooms — and treated accordingly, with improvements made to enhance the use of each one. In the main patio area, the beer garden-style picnic tables were replaced with Amish-made tables and high-tops better suited to dining, which more and more people are doing. Custom-built furniture on the side patio was tailored to the trim footprint, making it easier for guests to move around. One set of narrow stairs made it difficult to access and enjoy the raised back bar, so new sets of entry/exit points were added at both ends. Another set of new stairs leads to the raised patio behind the old Black Pig space.
"There are so many cool nooks now to sit and people watch, be it the upstairs patio, the deck bar area, the main dining area right out the back door, the side patio...," adds Foran. "And with the new set of stairs you'll be able to do a big circuit of the whole space."
The redesign, which should be completed by the time you read this, netted a gain from 160 to 200 outdoor seats, each one coming with table service until 2 a.m.
"When you come into the same space every day, you really need to take a step back every now and then to take a fresh look," explains Karen Small, chef-owner of Flying Fig in Ohio City. "We're going into year 16, and I just want to stay current. You can't just be the same place with the same energy after all that time."
Not that she's complaining.
"I'm privileged to have made it this far."
It's been eight or nine years since the last major overhaul, so Small knew it was time to pull out the checkbook and get to work. Following the Fourth of July weekend, including the second annual vegetarian dinner that Sunday, the restaurant will close its doors for a week to facilitate the work.
"This is a wholesale cosmetic change to breathe some new energy into the place," says Small.
Walk in on July 10 and you'll see a much brighter restaurant thanks to a fresh coat of new paint, new light fixtures, and new upholstery on the bar booths. In the dining room, all new tabletops and chairs will await guests. New art throughout the space will tie it all together.
Small is using the redesign as an opportunity to retool the menu as well. She will expand the small plates and tapas section while trimming the entree selections to just a handful of items that will change more frequently.
"All of the sudden it's clicking and it's making me really happy," Small says of the small-plate trend, which she has been pushing for eons. "Small plates are where people put their heart, and you get to taste so much more."
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