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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Spotted Owl's Will Hollingsworth Buys Prosperity Social Club in Tremont, Plans to Keep His 'Favorite Bar in Cleveland' the Same

Posted By on Wed, Jul 21, 2021 at 5:10 PM

Prosperity Social Club is changing hands, but not changing anything else - COURTESY PROSPERITY
  • Courtesy Prosperity
  • Prosperity Social Club is changing hands, but not changing anything else

As Prosperity Social Club owner Bonnie Flinner started planning her exit strategy from the Tremont bar and restaurant she'd owned for 16 years, she didn't have to look far for someone she knew and trusted to hand the keys to.

That person is Will Hollingsworth, who has been running his own bar down the street and perching himself on Prosperity's bar stools for years.

“I’ve known Will for a while now, and I’ve watched him move from being a bartender at Lolita to opening his own bar concept in multiple locations,” says Flinner. “I’m delighted he will be bringing that energy, vision and experience to Prosperity.”

Hollingsworth, the owner of the Spotted Owl in Tremont and Akron, cherished the opportunity to make sure the bar he's long been a regular at lives on.

"I have never been shy about sharing my affection for Prosperity Social Club with anyone," he says. "I am protective of a place that means a lot to me and to other people. We won’t change anything until we need to. Prosperity is my favorite bar in Cleveland. I am as much of a fan of the Social Club as anyone out there, and I am excited to keep its history alive and momentum going.”

Hollingsworth at the bar - COURTESY BONNIE FLINNER
  • Courtesy Bonnie Flinner
  • Hollingsworth at the bar
The sale will officially close on July 25th, though Flinner will stay on for a month to assist in the transition.

Flinner put her heart and soul into Prosperity, turning the old Dempsey's Oasis, which closed in 2000, into the cozy, retro concept that became one of the most beloved joints in Cleveland. Hollingsworth doesn't take that lightly, and wants Prosperity to keep being Prosperity.

“We’ve built our success on listening to our spaces, being uncompromising in the experiences we offer and supporting our team,” says Hollingsworth. “So the opportunity to add the Prosperity team to our company, while protecting what I really feel is a Cleveland cultural institution, is a really exciting honor.”

For Flinner, the exit was necessary but nevertheless bittersweet, especially after keeping the business afloat during the pandemic.

COURTESY BONNIE FLINNER
  • Courtesy Bonnie Flinner
"With the patronage and generosity of our customers and neighbors, our employees were able to make a living," she says. "Today I believe Prosperity is stronger and more vibrant than it has ever been. I believe our current staff is killer and the best combination of talent I have ever encountered. I think Will is taking over at a time of upward momentum and is positioned for success. I am extremely grateful to everyone over the years who helped to create an inclusive, communal space where memories are created and milestones celebrated. I will miss it every day, but I am looking forward to being on the customer side of the bar, on a tall stool next to a familiar face, sharing laughs and camaraderie.”

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Popular Columbus-Based Restaurant Northstar Café Coming to Van Aken District

Posted By on Wed, Jul 21, 2021 at 10:33 AM

Popular Columbus-based Northstar Cafe headed for Van Aken District. - NORTHSTAR CAFE FACEBOOK
  • Northstar Cafe Facebook
  • Popular Columbus-based Northstar Cafe headed for Van Aken District.

Northstar Café opened in the Short North neighborhood of Columbus in 2004. Since then, Kevin and Darren Malhame have gone on to open four more locations in central and southwest Ohio. They are also the team behind the equally successful Brassica and Third & Hollywood brands. The Ohio-based hospitality company continues to grow because they have a knack for creating compelling spaces that offer high-quality food and excellent service.

Next up is a new Northstar Café in Shaker Heights. When it opens in spring of 2022, it will be the first in Northeast Ohio. It will join its sister establishment Brassica, which opened at Van Aken District in 2019.

Construction has started on the space, a currently vacant property that sits at the corner of Farnsleigh and Warrensville Center Road.

"We've always loved them,” says Jason Russell, Neighborhood General Manager at Van Aken. “We’ve been courting them for quite some time. They offer a quality food, product and service. It’s the kind of business that exemplifies our mantra of best of local and best of regional. We are excited to have them join our Van Aken family of merchants and be a part of the community.”

Northstar Café serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. Menu items are made using locally grown, organic and artisan foods. In the morning, there are items like smoothie bowls, sweet potato hash, mushroom frittatas, ricotta pancakes and biscuits and sausage gravy. The lunch/dinner menu offers fresh and creative salads, burgers made with Niman Ranch beef, brick oven pizzas and a grilled fish sandwich. To start, there’s the popular pimento cheese dip. And to drink, there’s beer, wine and cocktails.

Employees enjoy some of the best perks in the business, including free meals, health benefits, paid vacations and even sabbaticals.

Check out the announcement video below:

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Monday, July 19, 2021

Soho in Ohio City to Reopen for Dine-In Service Thursday July 22

Posted By on Mon, Jul 19, 2021 at 3:50 PM

Soho in Ohio City to reopen for dine-in service for the first time in 16 months. - SCENE ARCHIVES
  • Scene Archives
  • Soho in Ohio City to reopen for dine-in service for the first time in 16 months.

It has been 16 months since the last customer dined inside SoHo Chicken + Whiskey (1899 W. 25th St., 216-298-9090) in Ohio City. The restaurant, opened by Nolan Konkoski and Molly Smith in 2011, was closed entirely between March and November of 2020, when the space reopened as a pick-up-only concept dubbed Chicken Run. Now, the owners will be retiring Chicken Run after eight months in order to resume – at long last – full-service dining.

“It seems like it’s time – or maybe even past time,” Konkoski says. “Things started moving really, really quick a few months ago – faster than we thought – and we were like, we better get our act together. Everybody else is open and busy and we’re feeling like we’re missing the party.”

Had it not been for the success of Chicken Run, which featured Soho's signature "fried chicken and fixins" combined with salads and sandwiches, Soho might not have returned at all, adds Konkoski.

“Chicken run was a great temporary solution for what we were going through and it definitely helped us keep our employees employed and make some revenue,” he explains. “It wasn’t the best case scenario by any stretch of the imagination, but it worked for us and allowed us to survive 16 months. But we pride ourselves on hospitality and customer experience and passing food through a window is hard to recreate that if you can at all.”

When Soho opens for full-service dining this Thursday, it will look, feel and taste as close to the good-old days as possible. The menu will be the same, save for some seasonal tweaks, and the whiskey selection will be as superb as always.

“Over the last year we’ve kicked around a million ideas of what our restaurant would look like after this and we feel like we don’t really have to change much,” Konkoski says. “I think that people will come in here and want to basically see what we did before.”

To start, the days of operation will be Wednesday through Saturday. The popular Sunday brunch service will resume on August 1. Diners can begin making reservations on Tuesday, July 20.

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Friday, July 16, 2021

On the Rise to Expand its Bakery, Hires Britt-Marie Horrocks as New Director of Pastry

Posted By on Fri, Jul 16, 2021 at 9:41 AM

Eclairs are just some of the new pastry offerings that On the Rise bakery will be adding to its menu. - BRITT-MARIE HORROCKS
  • Britt-Marie Horrocks
  • Eclairs are just some of the new pastry offerings that On the Rise bakery will be adding to its menu.
Since opening On the Rise bakeshop, owners Adam and Jennifer Gidlow have been measured and deliberate with respect to expansion. Over the course of two decades, the Cleveland Heights-based business has beefed up its wholesale bread business, rolled out a savory menu of sandwiches, taken possession of an adjacent space and opened a satellite shop in the Market Hall at Van Aken District.

Now, entering its 21st year in business, On the Rise is poised for another major phase of expansion. The owners have acquired a recently vacated property to the rear of the building that will nearly double the production space of the bakery, allowing them to increase their offerings.

“We knew back at the end of 2019 that we wanted more space, but there wasn’t any more room to grow within the walls,” says partner Brian Evans. “And then this space in the back became available and it made sense to expand our kitchen right here.”

Once you discount the real estate gobbled up by the ovens, proofing boxes, coolers, freezers and dry storage, there’s little room left over for the humans who use them.

“We’re working on top of each other,” Evans adds. “We knew that if we were to continue to grow, we had to have more space to produce out of to be able to do things at the same quality we always have.”

One area in particular that is ripe for growth is the pastry category. The rapid success of the Van Aken District shop, Evans reports, was fueled largely by a demand for baked goods like croissants, scones, sticky buns, cookies and brownies. The additional square footage will be used primarily as a new pastry kitchen, which will be overseen by Britt-Marie Horrocks, who was recently brought in as director of patisserie. She joins director of viennoiserie Natalie Agresta.

“It’s hot, it’s humid and there’s flour everywhere,” Evans says of the main production space. “So trying to do some of those more delicate things was something we didn’t have the space or people to do. We’re hoping that Britt can help us build that team.”

The pastry kitchen won’t come online until late August, but already Horrocks has been expanding the sweet side of the business. Customers have begun seeing new products like French macarons, eclairs and seasonal cakes and torts. Those will be joined in the coming months by a wide selection of desserts, many of which were staples at the former Coquette Patisserie.

A future goal is to develop a wholesale pastry side of the business, providing area restaurants with a new source for fine desserts.

“When we open the new space up, I’ll be adding a whole new repertoire of pastries to the menu and we will be expanding into wholesale as well,” Horrocks says. “I think right now, pastry chefs are too few and far between in restaurants. We are a luxury item at this time and a lot of restaurants can’t afford to have one.”

Physical changes to the retail space will make room for additional coolers and display cases that will show off the new product.

“For us, the focus is on quality,” Evans explains. “I want people to know that no matter what it is, whether it’s a sandwich, a soup, a bread or a pastry, that they know that our name and quality go hand in hand.”

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Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Ben Bebenroth's Spice Hospitality Group to Open Boom's Pizza in the Coming Months

Posted By on Wed, Jul 14, 2021 at 2:10 PM

Boom's Pizza currently is available on Fridays from Keep the Change Kitchen Collective. - COURTESY OF SPICE HOSPITALITY GROUP
  • Courtesy of Spice Hospitality Group
  • Boom's Pizza currently is available on Fridays from Keep the Change Kitchen Collective.

When Ben Bebenroth announced the closure of his farm-to-table bistro Spice Kitchen at the outset of the pandemic, the chef vowed going forward to avoid the pitfalls of fine dining. Instead, he and the Spice Hospitality brand forged ahead with events and catering while unveiling Keep The Change Kitchen Collective, a virtual food hall that launched with three distinct concepts for curbside pickup and delivery.

Keep the Change now boasts four menus – Winner Winner Spatchcockery, Winner Winner Wing Shop, Leif and Woo! Noods & Rice – but recent shoppers might have noticed the beginnings of another. Each Friday evening during the past two months, a fifth option has been appearing on the virtual menu board: Boom’s Pizza.

These “doughball Fridays” are more than a mere pizza pop-up; they are the R&D for a future standalone concept that Spice Hospitality intends to roll out in the coming months. Named after Bebenroth’s grandfather, Boom’s Pizza will be a “fun, casual neighborhood pizza joint” starring quality ingredients, technique and execution.

“It’s been a very nice luxury to have the ability to just pop this up and test stuff out,” says Jonathan Bennett, Chief Culinary Officer.

Each of the 500 or so pizzas sold during the past eight weeks has been another opportunity to test, tweak and attempt to perfect everything from the dough to the bake to the topping combinations. Bennett estimates that the team has worked its way through 50 or so iterations of the dough recipe, which employs a long, slow fermentation to develop the flavor while improving trav-ability.

“It’s such a deep science,” Bebenroth says of the dough work. “If either one of us was satisfied with mediocrity, we probably would have had two stores open by now.”

The unicorn – a pizza that tastes great out of the oven, but also out of the box – lands somewhere between Neapolitan and New York, notes Bennett.

“There’s no pizza in the world that doesn’t taste best straight out of the oven,” Bennett says. “But 80-percent will be to-go or delivery, so if it doesn’t travel well, we should not be doing it.”

These pop-ups also help nail down other aspects of the future business, such as baking equipment, kitchen layout and ingredient lists. In the meantime, the company is exploring possible store locations. They have a few spots picked out, but nothing is signed yet.

“We’re looking on the west side,” says Bennett. “We’re trying to find something that has that built-in population of people that appreciate local food and local businesses instead of commodity products.”

When Boom’s Pizza does open its first shop, it will showcase all of the pandemic-era elements that diners have come to love and expect from their favorite businesses, namely seamless mobile ordering, pick-up and delivery. The store will be counter service-driven, but will have seating for dine-in enjoyment. Salads, apps and beer and wine will likely be available.

Bebenroth says the goal is to open the first shop before the end of the year, but that’s just the beginning. The long-term goal is to expand to all major markets in Ohio, followed by strategic national expansion.

“We’re not interested in doing anything that isn’t scalable,” he says.

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Twisted Taino to Open Restaurant in Parma, Close Location at Sauce the City Galley in Ohio City

Posted By on Wed, Jul 14, 2021 at 9:55 AM

Twisted Taino will soon land in Parma - COURTESY TWISTED TAINO
  • Courtesy Twisted Taino
  • Twisted Taino will soon land in Parma

For nearly a decade, Jose Melendez has been steadily marching toward his goal of opening a Latin-inspired restaurant. Finally, after a series of delays, that will happen on August 1st in Parma. Twisted Taino Restaurant (5633 Pearl Rd., 216-939-5444) is the culmination of Melendez' experience catering, hosting pop-ups and, most recently, running an eatery of the same name at the Sauce the City Galley in Ohio City.

The 5,500-square-foot restaurant will open first as a fast-casual carry-out business with outdoor seating. Phase II will usher in dine-service with seating for 80 to 100 guests. Unfortunately, the Ohio City location will close.

Like Twisted Taino in Ohio City, the new restaurant blends the cultures and flavors of Puerto Rico, Colombia, Mexico and various Caribbean ports of into delicious new ways. Appetizers include empanadas stuffed with a variety of fillings and smashed and fried tostones with avocado-based dipping sauce.

Melendez makes exceptional mofongo that gets stuffed with a choice of garlic shrimp, guajillo-roasted pork or crispy chicharron. It's sauced and garnished with fried potato sticks for added texture. Pastelón, often referred to as Puerto Rican lasagna, swaps the traditional pasta for thinly sliced plantain.

The Tripleta wrap is a burrito bursting with tender shredded pork, chicken, ham, cheese and a trio of sauces. Other handhelds include a traditional Cubano, a plantain-capped hamburger and soft corn-shelled tacos available with a choice of seven different seafood, meat or veggie fillings.

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Joe’s Barbecue in Kent is Serving Some of the Best Smoked Meat in Ohio

Posted By on Wed, Jul 14, 2021 at 9:27 AM

Joe Menendez manning his smokers - PHOTO BY DOUG TRATTNER
  • Photo by Doug Trattner
  • Joe Menendez manning his smokers

A little before noon on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, a small gravel parking lot in rural Brimfield Township begins to fill up with cars. Gradually, a line forms in front of a rust-colored food truck with a handwritten paper menu taped to the front of it. At 12:30, the window goes up, signaling the start of another busy lunchtime rush. By 3 or 4 p.m., that little red trailer on a dusty corner parcel will have dispensed 600 to 800 pounds of barbecue.

“We’re out in the sticks,” says Joe Menendez of Joe’s Barbecue. “All our advertising is word of mouth. The quality speaks for itself. I think I make the best brisket in the state.”

A few yards away from the boxy food truck is where the magic happens. Shoehorned inside a wood-sided trailer on wheels is a 1,000-pound offset smoker that leaves little room for anything except Menendez. The cooker, fabricated from a discarded propane tank, is the design favored by many of the country’s best pitmasters.

The entire experience is as close as a diner around here can get to enjoying Central Texas barbecue. From the roadside trailer and open-air cooker to the slow-smoked meats, long lines and daily sell-outs, Joe’s Barbecue would feel right at home in Austin. That’s no coincidence given that Menendez developed his appreciation for the craft while attending school in that city.

“I wanted to be a video editor, but that didn’t work out,” he says. “I ate at all the great barbecue spots, so I knew what the good stuff was.”

Identifying great barbecue is one thing; mastering it in quantity on a consistent basis is another. Menendez has been working this corner since late 2017, when he started selling ribs from beneath a pop-up tent. His parents own the property, so he was able to invest in new equipment and expand the offerings. Along the way he added brisket, pulled pork, half chickens and turkey breast to the mix. He upgraded to a 500-gallon smoker and purchased the food truck, allowing him to move sales and prep out of the cooking trailer.

“By the time I built this trailer we were selling out of all our food in an hour,” he says without a hint of ego. “Selling out every day is a good thing and a bad thing. The reason we sell out is because all of the food is made fresh every day. We don’t reuse stuff; we don’t freeze stuff. If I’m not selling out, the food goes to waste. If it goes to waste, we have to pay for it and that gets really expensive.”

Menendez really is making some of the best brisket in Ohio – or in Texas for that matter. Like his Central Texas brethren, he is a purist, using nothing but salt, pepper and smoke from a carefully tended fire to transform an unforgiving cut of beef into succulent, drippy, bendy meat gilded with jet-black bark. Those cook for about 14 hours, joined in the pit at various times by the other meats, all of which achieve peak flavor and texture. A typical day for Menendez and his small team begins at 6:30 a.m. when he ignites the fire and ends around midnight when the last of tomorrow’s briskets are lifted out of the smoker.

The menu features meats like brisket ($20), pulled pork ($14) and sliced turkey ($12) by the pound, whole racks of ribs ($22) and half chickens ($8). Sandwiches are stuffed with a half-pound of brisket ($9) or pulled pork ($7). At prices like those for quality like this, it’s no wonder Joe’s flies through product. Menendez’ sides are no mere wallflowers, starring smoked macaroni and cheese ($3, $5), buttermilk bacon potato salad ($3, $5) and charro beans ($3, $5), a thinner version of baked beans larded with brisket. Two housemade desserts, a creamy banana pudding with shortbread cookie ($5) and cheesecake topped with graham cracker dust and seasonal fruit, round out the offerings.

The obvious question one poses to Menendez is if and when and how he plans to expand his red-hot business. His quick-fire answer is that it will happen when he is able to do it without sacrificing control and quality. He intends to add Thursday hours sometime this summer, with Wednesday likely to follow.

Is a casual Texas-style BBQ joint in his future plans?

“We’ve done this coming up on four years and the growth has all been organic,” he says. “We sell food, we use the money to improve the business. We buy new smokers, we build new smokers, we build new trailers. We try to expand as smoothly as we can. In my wildest dreams we would have something going next year, but that’s a wild one.”

Joe’s Barbecue
1293 Tallmadge Rd., Kent
330-552-8295

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