Sneak Peek: Bartleby, Opening Soon in Former Crop Space in Ohio City

click to enlarge Bartleby will open in the longtime Crop Bistro space this winter. - DOUGLAS TRATTNER
Douglas Trattner
Bartleby will open in the longtime Crop Bistro space this winter.

The dazzling interior of the historic United Bank Building in Ohio City can be both a blessing and a curse to restaurant operators. Designed by the renowned Cleveland architecture firm Walker & Weeks, the grand 1920s-era structure boasts a soaring coffered ceiling, bronze light fixtures and a run of arched windows that flood the space with natural light.

But bringing those elements down to human scale so that diners will feel comfortable and content is a major interior design challenge. Another challenge is turning all those hard, cold surfaces into a backdrop for a warm, inviting dining room. Yet another task is to devise a way to make the cavernous 8,000-square-foot restaurant seem active and engaged when it is operating at less than capacity.

These were the big assignments that awaited Morgan Yagi when he leased the former Crop Bistro space at W. 25th Street and Lorain Avenue and announced he was opening Bartleby. Based on a recent visit, it appears that he is succeeding in his endeavors.

click to enlarge Bartleby will open in the longtime Crop Bistro space this winter. - DOUGLAS TRATTNER
Douglas Trattner
Bartleby will open in the longtime Crop Bistro space this winter.

Newly constructed shelving serves to divide the interior into three somewhat equal zones. The towering U-shaped structures combine to create a distinct bar and lounge area, main dining room, and “bonus” space that can be used for overflow dining or private events. But because they aren’t solid walls, energy can flow from zone to zone.

“The idea is to have some visual transmission so there will be some activity between, but hopefully not feel that there’s this cavernous, empty space,” Yagi explains. “I think it’s working; it already feels more manageable.”

Another tactic that Yagi employed was the reliance on soft seating areas with richly upholstered furniture, plush built-in booths and banquettes, boldly colored carpet and other attractive fixtures that add visual appeal.

“I think this kind of seating is more forgiving when the room’s not completely full,” notes Yagi. “Like when you walk into a hotel lobby with a lot of soft seating; you can walk through it and not notice. We’ll see if my theory proves to be true.”

click to enlarge Bartleby will open in the longtime Crop Bistro space this winter. - DOUGLAS TRATTNER
Douglas Trattner
Bartleby will open in the longtime Crop Bistro space this winter.

While Crop Bistro (both iterations) leaned more to fine dining, Bartleby will be more approachable and accessible in its offerings.

"Fun dining not fine dining," Yagi remarks.

Consulting chef-partner Dante Boccuzzi is developing a menu that defies easy pigeonholing, veering as it does from sushi rolls to steak frites. Essentially, it’s a modern American bistro where diners can enjoy a burger, pizza and bowl of pasta but also a great grilled ribeye, all dished up in a supper club-style environment. To that end, the formerly open kitchen has been sealed off from the main room.

click to enlarge Bartleby will open in the longtime Crop Bistro space this winter. - DOUGLAS TRATTNER
Douglas Trattner
Bartleby will open in the longtime Crop Bistro space this winter.

Other notable partners in the project include general manager Ryan Britton, Stephen Taylor of CBRE and Spotted Owl owner Will Hollingsworth, who is putting together the bar program. Lounge lizards will enjoy sumptuous seating, a gold-flecked black quartz bartop and top-flight cocktails. What they won’t see behind the bar is the 100-year-old mural by local artist Glenn Shaw. It is being covered up (but protected and preserved) by a new backbar.

For Yagi, who also operates Hibachi Japan Steak House restaurants in Cuyahoga Falls and Solon, and is a partner in Boccuzzi’s DBA in Akron, Bartleby presents a foothold into one of his favorite neighborhoods.

“Ohio City is more of a neighborhood,” he says. “It feels different if people live around you. I’ve always thought that’s what makes Ohio City – and Tremont – different from other entertainment districts. There’s more staying power and it feels different.”

click to enlarge Bartleby will open in the longtime Crop Bistro space this winter. - DOUGLAS TRATTNER
Douglas Trattner
Bartleby will open in the longtime Crop Bistro space this winter.
click to enlarge Owner Morgan Yagi with the floorplan. - DOUGLAS TRATTNER
Douglas Trattner
Owner Morgan Yagi with the floorplan.

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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