If Reddstone offers any clues as to how the service will be at Town Hall, Fabio Salerno's as-yet-unopened Ohio City restaurant, then future diners should be very well taken care of. Over the course of two dinner visits, the almost exclusively female staff worked the busy brick-paved patio like a single-minded entity. Eager, perky, and genuinely enthused, the team made the leafy retreat feel more like a friend's backyard that a restaurant's back patio.
Originally opened in the fall of 2007 by chef Josh Kabat (who now runs Cleveland Pickle), Reddstone recently shut down, retooled, and rebooted in May under the new ownership of veteran chef-restaurateur Salerno. Given the success of the Battery Park neighborhood, where pricey condos continue to be built and bought, it's understandable that management would move to upgrade this weathered pub.
Much-needed improvements were made to the small, cramped dining room. The near-total overhaul includes a fresh crop of maple-slab tables, crisp paint, and an improved layout. The updated décor goes hand-in-hand with an updated menu that attempts to please both foodies and barflies.
Neighborhood regulars adore Reddstone for its easygoing vibe, meandering tree-shaded patio, and impressive catalog of craft beers. A recent all-star draft lineup included Sixpoint's Righteous Ale, Great Divide's Titan IPA, and Victory's Prima Pils. Wine lovers aren't treated so well, with only a meager selection of average wines from which to choose.
An eclectic, starter-heavy menu seems built for boozy grazing. A holdover of sorts from the old days, the Hong Kong noodles are a zesty tangle of pasta, Asian-spiced beef, crisp veggies, and a soft-cooked egg. Don't let its placement in the app section fool you: This is a full-on meal.
But not all selections were show-stoppers. More doughy than crisp, Reddstone's flatbreads are not the city's flyest pies. And at $14 for a plain tomato pizza, the price doesn't quite fit the product. But even average pie goes great with beer. We also happily devoured the slim and crisp kimchi rolls, a fun mash-up of Asian foodstuffs; we just wish they had had more of that funky fermented kick.
Luck landed us at Reddstone on a Tuesday for half-price wing night (formerly 10-cent wing night), reducing the cost of the meaty and pleasing treats from $9 to $4.50. We had the opposite reaction to a basket of tempura veggies, where poor technique wreaked havoc on the results. None of the battered and deep-fried morsels arrived with the characteristic crunch, and some, like the broccoli, had pockets of uncooked batter hidden in their nooks and crannies.
Nearly as disappointing was an order of soft tacos. With an explosion of creative preparations around town, Reddstone's version didn't quite measure up. The pork, shrimp, and chicken fillings in the taco trio were timid and forgettable, little improved by the predictable toppings of lettuce, cheese, and tomato. Worse, the flour tortillas arrived cold and stiff from the icebox.
More than half the menu is dedicated to starters and pizzas, with the remaining space reserved for sandwiches and burgers. Our burger, — the Reddstone — was big, bold, and beautifully prepared, piled high with good cheddar, bacon, and a runny egg. However, a toasted bun and crisper fries would have been improvements. Other burgers feature pineapple, ham, and onions, and sirloin, pomodoro, and pickled hot peppers.
Unfortunately, the Powerhouse sandwich did anything but knock us out. Oily gobs of quarter-inch-thick sliced ham piled onto a dense, chewy baguette made finishing even a portion of the sandwich a struggle. On the side was a portion of over-dressed blue-potato salad.
Later, owner Salerno told us our visits might have coincided with the exodus of chef Jeff James. That could explain some of the culinary missteps. In an ideal world, our timing would have been better and the kitchen would have been fully staffed. But with the friendly vibe, warm décor, and experienced team behind this neighborhood anchor, we can't help but trust that brighter days are on the way.
1261 W. 76th St., Cleveland
Hours: MONDAY – Sat. 4PM – midnight, SUNDAY BRUNCH
11AM - 4PM