“This concept is something we’ve had in the back of our minds for a while, and when we saw the space, we knew it would fit that concept,” explains Brett Sawyer.
This past September, Sawyer, Jonah Oryszak and Vince Thomascik, chef-owner, owner and chef de cuisine, respectively, got the keys to their new home, the former Vita Urbana space in Battery Park. When it opens on Jan. 18 (with a soft opening on Jan. 16) Good Company will be a significant departure from the Plum, the two-and-a-half-year-old Ohio City bistro from the same team.
“We really love the Plum and love what we do there – that’s our baby – but we were looking to do something different and, at least we thought, simpler. But of course, we never make anything simple.”
On paper, Good Company will be a neighborhood bar with straightforward food like potato skins, wings, burgers, fries and milkshakes. But if you are at all familiar with what Sawyer and his crew do at the Plum, then you likely comprehend that “straightforward” and “simple” are not interchangeable concepts.
“Straightforward,” Sawyer adds, “but done very, very well.”
Compared to the Plum, Good Company will be higher-volume, faster-paced and less expensive. The partners took what was already an attractive turn-key space and managed to improve it. Tables and chairs have been swapped out for sleek custom-built wood booths with gently sloping backs. Walls were erected to transform an underutilized retail section in the rear into a modestly proportioned dining room. And soon, a new parking lot will be unveiled just steps away, obviating future plaints of ambulatory anguish.
Including the lengthy bar, Good Company will seat about 100 guests. From an open kitchen at the western end of that bar will flow a familiar and affordable roster of American tavern classics. While many operators like to crow about scratch-made ingredients, the proof rarely is in the pudding. A spacious prep kitchen affords the Plum Boys the ability to make everything from the bologna and vegan cheese to the breads, buns and ice cream in house.
“We’re extremely lucky to have [pastry chef] Nolan [Tidwell] on board,” Sawyer states. “He has been a huge asset to the Plum, so it was a no-brainer to bring him here to run both programs. He’s insanely talented and focused.”
If Good Company has a signature item, it likely is the Good Boi, a double-decker cheeseburger affectionately modeled after the Big Boy, Sawyer’s unabashed favorite fast-food burger. Like everything on the menu, this item has undergone exhaustive R&D. Twin griddled patties are topped with white American cheese and tucked into downy-soft milk bun along with grilled onions, shredded lettuce, house pickles and a gribiche-style special sauce.
Caddies on the tables will be outfitted with ketchup, mustard and red relish.
The Plum makes one of the best fried chicken sandwiches in town, but the version served here will flip that bird inside-out. White and dark meat are ground, blended, seasoned and poached. To prepare, slices are breaded and fried and served on a poppy seed bun with accoutrements.
Forget what you know about fried bologna sandwiches. When these pop onto the menu, they will be served Philly cheesesteak-style, shaved, griddled and layered into a hoagie bun with mushrooms, onions and “cheez whiz.” To make the french fries uber-crispy, the house spuds go through a multi-step cooking process that includes a brine, water blanch, oil blanch, freeze and final fry.
Vegetarians and vegans keep the Plum on speed dial, and they won’t be relegated to the back booth at Good Company. The Veggie Boi swaps beef patties for a housemade mushroom burger. In addition to chicken wings dusted with dry rub or slathered in sauce, a vegan “wing” features salt-brined celery root that is beer-battered, fried and sauce-tossed.
Shorties, too, are treated with respect, with kid-friendly items like a single-patty cheeseburger on crustless white bread and seasonal PB&Js made with housemade fruit jams and nut butters.
To drink there’s a full bar, three draft beers (one handle immutably devoted to Miller High Life), and boozy milkshakes, but not the kind where somebody upends a shot of bourbon into a banana milkshake, Sawyer is quick to point out. These cocktail-like concoctions are built from the homemade hard ice cream up and might include a gin fizz-type shake starring orange blossom ice cream or coffee ice cream infused with with Fernet and orgeat.
Sawyer understands that to succeed in Battery Park, an off-the-beaten-track address, the restaurant must appeal to those who nest just outside its door. During the week, Good Company will focus on the happy hour and dinner crowds. But come Saturday and Sunday, it’s going to be an all-day affair.
“The neighborhood is our bread and butter,” Sawyer asserts. “I think there’s a market for this. We have plenty of great bars that do great bar food, but I don’t think there’s anybody doing exactly what this is.”
1200 W. 76th St., Cleveland