A year ago last week, the close-knit crew behind LBM got the keys to the future home of their Lakewood cocktail bar. They would spend the next 12 months clocking in 12-hour days to turn the blank canvas into a “Viking drinking hall” inspired by visits to Scofflaw bar in Chicago.
“When I went three or four years ago they were doing eight-dollar cocktails,” explains owner-bartender Eric Ho. “That’s what started my train of thought. If a place like that can survive in Chicago selling eight-dollar cocktails, it would kill in Cleveland.”
From left: John Gibian, Vinny Salls, Merandia Adkins, Eric Ho, Cory Miess
Over the past year, the concept has not changed, adds Ho. In fact, a pop-up event at Porco only confirmed the fact that they were on to something good.
“It’s a cocktail bar with a kitchen – but our food is going to be awesome,” owner-bartender John Gibian chimes in. “We want the cocktails to be the main draw but we want people to stay for some food too.”
That end of the bargain falls under the purview of chef-partner Cory Miess, who’s worked over the past decade at Players, Sarita, Fahrenheit and El Carnicero. His lineup of a dozen different snacks and small plates, priced between $5 and $15, ranges from meat and cheese boards garnished with jam, remoulade, pickles and toast to hoison-braised pork belly with spicy pickled vegetables. A seasonal Brussels sprouts preparation includes apples, leeks and brie, while a poutine is topped with cheese curds and gumbo gravy.
To wash it all down are a dozen or so original concoctions, priced between $6 and $10, that will change with the seasons. For now, they go by unassuming names like Marigold, Blackberry, Fig and Asian Pear, but don’t be surprised if their replacements start sounding a bit more, uh, Norse. This “super nerdy” crew shares a deep fondness for Norse mythology, nurtured over many a whiskey-scented weekend in the woods. That lore represents itself through the eat, drink and décor.
“It’s not going to be like a bro, Viking helmet, drink-out-of-a-horn kind of bar,” says Gibian. “It’s more about the gods those people believed in, the stories that they told… It all mushroomed from that.”
As for the cocktail names, he adds, “We want to start with some less obscure stuff and work our way into the depths of Norse mythology after introducing ourselves to the community. So they might be cool, small names, or something that we can tell the customer an incredible story of Loki and the treasures he tricked the dwarves into making for the Aesir. Old Norse gets super weird.”
The focal point of the 45-seat bar is the ceiling, a complex angled pattern of illuminated wood strips that fills the room with a warm glow. From a single felled sycamore tree emerged the lengthy bar, the woodsy backbar and a roomy table. A frilly moss wall adds an element of nature while hand-carved wooden beams and trim lend the feel of a Viking ship set sail for the open seas.
“It came out better than we had even hoped,” says Ho, who is also joined by partners Vinny Salls and Merandia Adkins. “We sat here two nights ago and it just looked amazing.”
Look for LBM to open in early October.