Last summer, David Ina made the decision to shutter Zaytoon Lebanese Kitchen
(1150 Huron Rd., 216-795-5000) in the Halle Building after three years. The location – Playhouse Square – seemed particularly affected by the pandemic, with little of the foot traffic that comes from downtown workers and entertainment seekers.
"Playhouse just has no traffic, and with the businesses still not fully back to normal, it's just been a tough go these last two months," Ina told me at the time.
The plan was to sit back for a few months and relaunch with a new American deli concept built around soups, salads and sandwiches. After months of going back and forth, Ina has decided to reopen Zaytoon as Zaytoon, albeit with some modifications that hopefully will save time and money.
“I have the space still and I’ve been paying for it,” he explains. “I was never going to leave the space, no matter what, because I’ve invested time, energy, emotion and equipment. I was never in love with the deli concept so I decided that I could compromise a little bit with the menu and keep with Lebanese-Mediterranean theme and hope that by the time summer/fall comes around things downtown will stabilize a little bit.”
The first items to go, sadly, are the fresh-baked pitas, joined by other labor-intensive dishes like za'atar manouche, spinach and meat pies, and stuffed grape leaves. The removal of the pita oven has freed up space for some new equipment like a flattop griddle and char-broiler for items like burgers and chicken sandwiches. Ina will keep the chicken shawarma and likely add a gyro spit to the mix.
Ina also will be adding a few igloos and heaters for outdoor dining, he says.
Look for Zaytoon to reopen in mid- to late-February. Hours likely will be 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Friday with hopes of adding Saturday service down the road.
“I’m still very hopeful and optimistic that downtown Cleveland is for sure going to rebound,” he says.