Tiffany Joy Photography
Chef Doug Katz
After four years of instability, a prominent restaurant space at Van Aken District in Shaker has landed one of Cleveland’s most bankable chef-operators. The space is the former Shake It-Kindred Spirit-Sawyer’s property in the northwest corner of the plaza. The chef is Doug Katz.
“As someone who grew up in Shaker and had a restaurant in Shaker Square, to be able to open a restaurant in this community is so exciting,” Katz says. “We’ve tried for many years to do this and it finally is coming to fruition.”
In late summer, Katz and managing partner Todd Thompson will open Kiln, which they describe as a “modern take on a classic European bistro.” The team, which includes executive chef Cameron Pishnery and director of operations Phoebe Connell, will build off more than a quarter century of hospitality experience to create another best-in-class restaurant.
“We will be creating a beautiful and comfortable interior with warm and friendly service – everything that makes us the restaurant group that we are,” adds Katz. “You’re going to feel like you’re in this really special, fun experience.”
When it opens next year, Kiln will join Zhug and Amba in the Katz portfolio. In 2020, the chef shuttered his long-admired Shaker Square bistro, Fire Food and Drink, after 20 years. Whereas Zhug is a hip Middle Eastern spot and Amba is an atmospheric Indian bistro, Kiln will reach back to the golden age of dining to present carefully crafted dishes in the European tradition.
“We do so much now that isn’t classic and this is the perfect location to do something that is,” Katz explains. “We have a passion for all different things; Kiln will allow us to get back to that classic European bistro.”
The menu, still in the planning phase, will offer a broad range of dishes served in the classic bistro style, which is to say on their own rather than as part of composed plates with starch and vegetables. Unlike at, say, Fire, where the duck confit was served with spaetzle and braised red cabbage, Kiln will offer the duck as an a la carte dish to be shared.
“These are shared plates not small plates,” says Thompson. “I think it’s how people like to eat – the vast majority of people share food anyway – and this allows for a lot more flexibility in the dining experience. It also allows us to do more with vegetables and plant-based foods.”
It also creates a more accessible and flexible dining experience, one in which guests can decide how big or how small of a meal they wish to enjoy.
“People will be able to come to this restaurant before or after a movie for a little bite, they can come on a weeknight to have an amazing salad and entrée, but they could also come for the biggest celebration of their lives,” says Katz.
Expect service that is elevated, refined and sophisticated, but not fussy.
The two-level property includes a large ground-floor restaurant and a rooftop bar and lounge. Both spaces have great outdoor access. The plan is to use the former Garden City space upstairs as the main bar, with the lower level dedicated to dining.
“Most of the work is ripping out everything that was put in over the years and really cleaning up the space,” says Katz. “It’s all about creating an ambiance and environment that we want people to love and feel great in.”
Katz, a passionate ceramicist, chose the name “kiln” because it conjures feelings of warmth, creativity and hospitality.
“I love making pottery,” he explains. “Kiln is an oven that’s used to transform clay or dirt into something you can serve out of. When you look at a kiln, you think of that heat and energy and excitement.”
Courtesy Van Aken District
The future home of Kiln, by Doug Katz
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The former Garden City space on the second floor.
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