Support Local Journalism. Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Alea in Ohio City, Closed for Months, to Reopen for Carry-Out This Thursday, June 4

Posted By on Tue, Jun 2, 2020 at 3:05 PM

click to enlarge DOUGLAS TRATTNER
  • Douglas Trattner
The last dining review published in this magazine – before the hospitality industry collapsed beneath the weight of an airborne virus – was for Alea in Ohio City. Three days after the feature went live, Alea went dark, shuttered like so many other food and drink establishments in the wake of an emerging pandemic.

Alea, a 33-seat restaurant where the owner also happens to be the chef, is precisely the kind of restaurant that Cleveland needs to stay alive. After decades of remarkable – and, frankly, unexpected – culinary achievement, our fair city was beginning to suffer the same fate as countless other metros. As recently as five years ago, the story (and often stories) of the day was about the fearless chef investing his or her life savings into a project that would instantly up the quality of life in that particular neighborhood. But recently, those types of creative ventures have begun to lose ground to fungible fast-casual shops that look, function and even taste the same.

If Cleveland is to live up to its reputation as an “underrated culinary hot spot,” as media mavens were wont to label us, it will do so on the backs of places like Alea and not that prosaic rice bowl concept “destined for exponential expansion.”

It took owner Athan Zarnas two years of sweat equity (and plenty of the real kind) to convert an oleaginous machine shop into an attractive, minimal bistro. The quirky wood-fired restaurant literally was designed for the neighborhood it calls home. The fit is so honest and true that the notion of it existing anywhere else is nonsensical.

Alea was open all of three months when it was forced to close. In the moribund time since then, the Ohio City shop sold off some wine inventory, whipped up some boozy elixirs for carry-out and wondered when the time would be right to reopen in some capacity.

That time, apparently, is this Thursday. The restaurant’s tentative first steps will revolve around a limited food and drink menu available for take-out. There are machinations to utilize the front garage panel as a walk-up bar, but that move still is in the planning phase.

Beginning this week, diners can support the business by enjoying knock-out dishes like little gem salads with speck, dates and gorgonzola, roasted sweet potatoes with yogurt, nuts and chile, falafel with green goddess, radish and herbs, fried whole chicken legs with za'atar and honey, and buttermilk panna cotta with fruit preserves and oat crisp.

Coincidentally, the word alea means "a gamble" in Latin. Opening a restaurant is “always a roll of the dice,” Zarnas admitted at the outset. But at the time, he was envisioning the usual buffet of challenges that accompany independent restaurant ownership, not those that ride shotgun to a pandemic.

Tags: , ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

January 5, 2022

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


© 2022 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 505-8199
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.

Website powered by Foundation