First Look: Pioneer, Opening Tuesday, June 14 at Intro in Ohio City

click to enlarge Pioneer opens Tuesday, June 14 at Intro in Ohio City. - JOSH DOBAY
Josh Dobay
Pioneer opens Tuesday, June 14 at Intro in Ohio City.

The brown paper is off the windows, the furniture is all in place, and the space has been cleaned, dusted and buffed to a shiny glow. Over the weekend, a few lucky diners got a sneak peek of Pioneer (2407 Lorain Ave.), the new wood-fired sports bar at Intro in Ohio City. Starting tomorrow, the rest of us will be able to check out the stunning new restaurant.

As the name implies, Pioneer captures the spirit of the great outdoors and camping culture, but filters those activities through a new-school lens. To find the restaurant, just look for the restored 20-foot Airstream out front, which is home to the patio bar. Inside, diners will see a bench made from a repurposed canoe, vintage camping gear, cords and cords of firewood, and one of the most impressive wood-fired grills in the country.

At 20 feet long, the live-fire grill is massive – and it is the heart and soul of the space. Diners get to see, hear, smell and even feel the energy of the hearth as the chefs prepare casual but creative “American Latin” foods. Owner Dan Whalen describes the menu as “American food with hints of Latin and South American flavors.”

Most sports bar follow a typical format that includes cheap domestic beer, sticky floors and deep-fried everything. Whalen surveyed the landscape and saw the potential for a more elegant version of the sports bar destination.

“We want to be the place to watch a game in this neighborhood,” he explains. “We’re casual enough to come multiple times per week. And we wanted to make it different than anything on the street.”

There’s room for 175 guests inside, which includes 28 stools at the 80-foot bar and kitchen counter. Out front, a sprawling plaza patio will accommodate another 120 diners. There is an all-day lunch and dinner menu, joined by a weekend brunch menu, all overseen by executive chef Brian Whalen.

Far from ordinary, the colorful menu is loaded with tantalizing snacks, starters, salads, sandwiches and large plates. Most feature some ingredient or element that made its way across the Argentinian grill. Elote Puppies are a type of hush puppies starring wood-fired corn, which then get the Mexican street corn treatment. Another starter pairs grilled and bubbly Argentine cheese with grilled bread and chimichurri. If you’ve never tried a grilled avocado, give Pioneer’s a try. The blistered and spoon-soft fruit is topped with cotija cheese.

There are “wings from the fire that never touch a fryer” that are dry-rubbed or tossed in sauce. Other main features include wood-grilled whole or half chickens, grilled skirt steak served on a bed of fries, and prime sirloin tacos with griddled cheese and flour tortillas. Lighter fare comes in the form of grilled romaine Caesars, lobster rolls, Cubanos, and a double smash cheeseburger.

For dessert, there are churros, elephant ears, seasonal fruit cobblers, and s’mores stuffed with housemade marshmallow.

To drink, there's a great selection of local craft drafts and cans, wines by the glass and bottle, and batched and bespoke cocktails.

Pioneer will open with dinner and weekend brunch service, but will add weekday lunch in the near future.
click to enlarge Pioneer opens Tuesday, June 14 at Intro in Ohio City. - JOSH DOBAY
Josh Dobay
Pioneer opens Tuesday, June 14 at Intro in Ohio City.
click to enlarge Pioneer opens Tuesday, June 14 at Intro in Ohio City. - JOSH DOBAY
Josh Dobay
Pioneer opens Tuesday, June 14 at Intro in Ohio City.
click to enlarge Pioneer opens Tuesday, June 14 at Intro in Ohio City. - JOSH DOBAY
Josh Dobay
Pioneer opens Tuesday, June 14 at Intro in Ohio City.

About The Author

Douglas Trattner

For 20 years, Douglas Trattner has worked as a full-time freelance writer, editor and author. His work on Michael Symon's "Carnivore," "5 in 5" and “Fix it With Food” have earned him three New York Times Best-Selling Author honors, while his longstanding role as Scene dining editor garnered the award of “Best...
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