It feels like every new project takes longer to reach the finish line these days than they have in year’s past, but for Andrew Revy, those delays seemed interminable. For more than two years, the beer-bewitched entrepreneur strived and struggled to convert a former grocery store in Lakewood into that city’s first official brewery. And every other month or so, another hurdle landed in his lane.
So imagine Revy’s irrepressible glee when Immigrant Son did finally, miraculously open and people flowed through the doors like so many deal-crazed shoppers on Black Friday. That occurred in late October and the rush hasn’t much subsided, proof that if you take your time and do things right people will reward you with return visits.
“It’s been everything I had hoped for,” Revy said. “After that long delay, getting over the finish line was fantastic and the response has been overwhelming. People are loving our food and our beer and our service.”
If you land in the camp of critics who believe, without much empirical evidence, that Cleveland has too many breweries, know this: Immigrant Son is not your typical brewery (nor is it in Cleveland). Equal attention has been paid to the four main elements of the operation – beer, food, service and setting – so that even if you don’t happen to fancy a frosty pint of crisp, clean, straw-colored Kölsch, you needn’t sit there and squawk.
But since it is a brewery, let’s start there. Thanks to brewmaster Erik Luli, ISB features nearly 20 different varieties of beer that flow through the mighty tower and into waiting glasses. The best way to get acquainted with the offerings is by ordering one or two flights, which include four 5-ounce glasses ($10). Classic styles like pilsner, saison, common ale, IPA and stout are joined by seasonals like Festbier and Belgian dubbels. Guests seated in the dining room have nice views of the 10-barrel brewhouse and tank farm through a trio of plate-glass windows. Also, barflies around town will be seeing more and more tap handles devoted to ISB.
Breweries are notorious for serving crappy wine, but the glass pours and bottles offered here, while not likely to earn recognition from Wine Spectator, should appease most oenophiles. One such person at the table was thrilled to land a glass of dry riesling from Mosel, Germany (which, by no coincidence, paired perfectly with the food). If you prefer a basic cocktail, the bar also has that covered.
Revy is indeed an “immigrant son,” whose parents fled Hungary just weeks before the revolution in 1956. Those roots appear on the menu in various forms, few better than the puffy, irresistible lángos. In the “loaded” version ($8), three airy, crispy discs of Hungarian fried bread arrive topped with butter, sour cream, cheese curds and chives. A massive, supple-skinned pierogi ($6) is stuffed with cheddar cheese, pan-fried and gilded with buttery onions and créme fraiche. For larger appetites, there is an immensely satisfying chicken paprikash ($24) that features both skin-on, bone-in white meat and off-the-bone dark meat. Down below is luscious gravy-soaked spaetzle.
Executive chef Rob Dippong, a Johnson & Wales grad, looks farther afield than just Eastern Europe for his culinary inspiration. There’s a Greek salad, a French onion soup and a Spanish-style grilled octopus small plate. Naturally, beer makes its way into much of the food, as with the Kölsch-steamed mussels frites, porter-brined pork porterhouse and stout pot de crème.
While pub-style traditionalists might scoff, the restaurant’s fish and chips ($23) is exceptional. Replacing the predictable (and, frankly, expected) beer batter is an uber-crunchy potato crust that conceals sweet and flaky walleye. The fish is perched atop a mound of skinny fries, capped with a bright shaved fennel, onion and parsley slaw and paired with creamy tartar sauce.
Show up for weekend brunch and you can enjoy upscale diner classics like avocado toast, banana pancakes and brown butter waffles alongside cheffy gems like croque monsieur, lamb shakshuka and eggs Benedict that swaps out the English muffin for that killer lángos.
Immigrant Son is set inside the former Constantino’s Market, a 9,000-square-foot building with cathedral ceilings, skylights and exposed timber framework. There is plenty of seating throughout the space at standard tables, booths, high-tops and a 15-seat bar. Because of all the hard, flat surfaces, it can get loud AF in there when it’s packed, which is often. It’s quieter on an enclosed porch connected to the main space and come spring, a new patio will usher in outdoor dining and drinking.
Immigrant Son Brewing
18120 Sloane Ave., Lakewood