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Friday, March 5, 2021

Proper Pig Smokehouse in Lakewood to Reopen for Dine-In Service March 12, Now with Full Bar

Posted By on Fri, Mar 5, 2021 at 10:07 AM

Proper Pig debuts new bar with full liquor license. - SHANE VIDOVIC
  • Shane Vidovic
  • Proper Pig debuts new bar with full liquor license.

The Proper Pig Smokehouse (17100 Detroit Ave., 440-665-3768) in Lakewood will turn five years old this coming April, and when that date rolls around, owners Shane Vidovic and Ted Dupaski will have plenty to celebrate.

Since Covid hit, the popular barbecue joint has focused solely on carry-out, which has allowed them to survive the long year, says Vidovic. But now, the team is gearing up to reopen the doors to dine-in customers for the first time since last March. And when customers do pass through the doors on (or after) Friday, March 12th, they will notice many appealing new features, not the least of which is a full bar.

“After we figured out that we were probably going to make it through, we made some changes,” Vidovic explains.

The small food-prep area in the rear of the room has been eliminated. In its place now sits a lengthy 10-seat bar that stretches more than halfway towards the front door.

“We have a full liquor license now, which will allow us to do a lot more fun things like fresh lemonade and tea-based cocktails,” he says. “Those will be the base of many of our house drinks. You can add different fresh fruit purees to mix into it.”

Proper Pig now has a selection of draft beer for the first time, including two proprietary labels from Cleveland’s Jolly Scholar. The Pig also has a special arrangement with Ole Smoky Moonshine. They will offer two Moonshine-based cocktails – a punch and margarita – on draft along with a selection of 23 different flavored whiskies. Customers will be able to order flights of the popular hooch.

“We’re not normally a place you’d come with a date; it’s usually like a bunch of dudes,” Vidovic jokes. “We’re hoping with some of the things we’re putting in, and the drinks, we can get you to hang out for a little.”

There will some changes in the food program as well. They will roll out new bar-friendly snacks like queso, smoked wings, brisket nachos and one-pound baked potatoes topped with smoked meat, barbecue sauce and sour cream.

The kitchen is once again offering combination platters, which had been benched for the past year in favor of bulk meats and sandwiches. And for St. Patrick's Day, they’ll be dishing up smoked corned beef on rye bun sandwiches.

The Proper Pig might even bring in some live music and debut theme nights down the road, adds Vidovic.

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Thursday, March 4, 2021

Former Greenhouse Tavern Spot Claimed by Owners of Avo Mod Mex and Char for New Concept

Posted By on Thu, Mar 4, 2021 at 2:36 PM

  • Edsel Little/FlickrCC

When it comes to high-profile restaurant properties, few are more tantalizing than the former Greenhouse Tavern. That restaurant on E. Fourth Street famously – and abruptly – closed its doors in February 2020, one month before the pandemic forced all other restaurants to do the same.

As of a few weeks ago, that property officially became unavailable. Now we know who claimed it: Gabriel Zeller and Julie Mesenburg, the husband-and-wife team behind Barra Tacos, Char Whisky Bar, Avo Modern Mexican and Lago at Lakeside, a seasonal operation in Marblehead. (The couple recently sold their ownership stake in Barra to a partner.)

It’s a remarkable journey for a pair of industry veterans who opened their first spot, Barra in Sandusky, just four years ago. When they were presented with the chance to take over such an iconic space, they knew it was too good to pass up.

“How many opportunities do you get to be on East Fourth Street,” Zeller asks rhetorically. “Probably one. If we say no now, will we ever get another opportunity to be there. It’s not like those guys move out all the time.”

Zeller and Mesenburg have their work cut out for them. The construction crews have yet to begin work on the project, which is expected to stretch through spring and summer and into fall. When it does finally greet its first guests, it will do so as Indie.

“It’s a big space to renovate,” says Zeller. “It’s going to be a massive undertaking and I think four to five months is a reasonable amount of time.”

The punch list is long and growing. Zeller said that plans include resurfacing the bartop, completely rebuilding the backbar, reinventing the entire seating arrangement, repainting every (28-foot) wall and bringing in new furniture. The goal, he adds, is to make the restaurant unrecognizable to previous diners.

“We’re going from a rustic farmhouse look to more modern and clean,” he explains. “When you walk into Indie, I don’t want people to think it looks like the Greenhouse Tavern. I want people to ask what was here before.”

Other interior changes are being done intentionally to reduce seating indoors to about 100 guests, far fewer than its predecessor possessed. That number will be joined by 30 seats out front and 40 upstairs on the roof. Zeller will be sealing off the rear mezzanine (perhaps to be used as private dining space), converting the front window seats to open waiting areas, and eliminating all kitchen seating, including the former chef’s table.

“I want to maximize that space for kitchen service,” Zeller says. “I’ve worked in kitchens, I’ve helped develop all the food items on our menus, and I understand the challenges that my guys go through. I try not to put too much on their plate. I don’t want to have them fail or to have a bad customer experience.”

Subtle nods to independent music have always reverberated through Zeller and Mesenburg’s restaurants, but none more than Indie.

“The concept came from us going to concerts together for the last 17 years,” Zeller shares. “We’ve collected concert posters of shows that we’ve attended. I’m having all of those framed and that will be the art. So it will have a nice music atmosphere.”

That theme will transfer to the curated music played throughout the space, the occasional live music to be performed inside and out, and the lengthy list of signature cocktails.

Zeller says it’s still too early to nail down a menu, but he describes Indie as a seasonal “New American” eatery offering small plates, sharables platters and signature plates. His chef will be Steve Clarkson, who has worked his way through Avo, Char and Barra.

For Zeller, who says that he was managing other people’s restaurants as recently five years ago, the experience is almost too much to believe.

“It’s somewhat shocking, but extremely exciting at the same time,” he says. “Greenhouse was an iconic place in Cleveland for 10 years. I’m excited to go into that space and be on East Fourth.”

(According to Zeller, this deal is contingent on financing.)
Julie Mesenburg and Gabe Zeller of Avo, Char and Indie - COURTESY GABE ZELLER
  • Courtesy Gabe Zeller
  • Julie Mesenburg and Gabe Zeller of Avo, Char and Indie

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Platform Closing All Locations for Six Days to Give Employees 'Well-Deserved Rest' After Staff Walkout

Posted By on Thu, Mar 4, 2021 at 1:51 PM

Platform announced today that all of its locations will be closed through next Tuesday, March 9, in order to give employees a "well-deserved rest."

The announcement comes the week after the entire six-person staff of the brewery's Columbus taproom quit in a walkout citing unsafe working conditions and general mismanagement by owner Justin Carson. Specifically, that Covid precautions weren't taken seriously and that labor had been cut while Platform, now owned by Anheuser-Busch, pumped out pandemic-proof profits.

Unclear, based on the brief announcement is whether Platform will be using the time to address the concerns voiced by the Columbus staff, or if anyone can distinguish in any meaningful way the differences between the brewery's ~183 beers. (We kid.)

Employees will be paid for the time off, a company spokesperson told Scene Thursday evening.

A GoFundMe has been organized to support the six Columbus taproom workers now out of jobs. Donations have eclipsed $3,100 already, including $300 from Shaun Yasaki of Noble Beast, who was once the head brewer at Platform before departing to start his own project.

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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Crop Bistro In Ohio City Is Closed, Though Owner Hopes to Reopen Someday

Posted By on Wed, Mar 3, 2021 at 9:33 AM

Owner Marcelo Fadul - DOUGLAS TRATTNER
  • Douglas Trattner
  • Owner Marcelo Fadul

Crop Bistro in Ohio City has been closed since January, explains owner Marcelo Fadul, who took ownership of the grand space four years prior. Fadul says that the struggle to stay afloat in such a large space during the pandemic eventually proved too burdensome.

“We were doing very well,” Fadul says. “I bought [my partner] Tony George out.”

While Fadul says that he officially handed the property over to the landlord, he hopes to reopen the same concept in the same space.

“Right now, Crop is closed, but I have the expectation to reopen,” he says.

Fadul says that given the current state of indoor dining and fine dining, the historic bank building will be a hard sell to future tenants – at least at current prices.

“The rent is very expensive,” Fadul says. “If somebody else gets the place, god bless and good luck because it’s too much. The place is gigantic. The gas bill alone is $6,000, $8,000, sometimes $9,000.”

Fadul says that daily operating costs hover at $1,000 when you add up rent, utilities and other expenses. Those soaring 35-foot ceilings are indeed an architectural marvel, but the voluminous space is murder to heat and cool. And given the unique physical qualities of the 100-year-old building, it would be nearly impossible to divide it into smaller, more tenable parcels.

Fadul says that he is in negotiations with MRN, his landlord, to reopen. But when reached for comment, Ari Maron of MRN stated, "We are not in any active conversations with the previous tenant." 

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Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Boney Fingers BBQ is Relocating from Cleveland Arcade to Roomy Storefront in Campus District

Posted By on Tue, Mar 2, 2021 at 11:39 AM

  • Erk Huff
After nearly five years at the historic Cleveland Arcade, Boney Fingers BBQ is in the process of relocating to a larger space up the road. Owner Erik Huff says the new location (1800 Euclid Ave.), in the former Pizza Pan spot near the Comfort Inn Downtown, will open around the middle of March.

“The Arcade was always going to be our starting point: Get our name out there, get our product out there,” Huff says. “We had a good run there, but it was time to move.”

The former location is closed and the new location will open just as soon as the City of Cleveland fulfills its end of the permitting process.

Boney Fingers, known for its slow-smoked Texas-style barbecue, is upgrading from 325 square feet to 1,800 square feet. In addition to a 25-seat dining area, the fast-casual operation features a greatly expanded kitchen.

“When Covid hit we had to rethink our menu a little bit,” Huff explains. “We added burgers, wings, and chicken sandwiches to encompass more than just barbecue.”

It’s not “just barbecue” of course. Huff smokes his beef brisket for 15 hours, alongside pork butt and baby back ribs. Those items are sold by weight or in sandwiches, while also appearing in tacos, brisket cheesesteaks and Polish Boys.

All that will be carried over to the new address along with a relaunch of the popular breakfast menu. Huff incorporates smoked meats into dishes like brisket hash, but also serves conventional items like pancakes, omelets and breakfast wraps.

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Monday, March 1, 2021

Platform Beer's Entire Columbus Taproom Staff Quits Citing Safety Concerns

Posted By on Mon, Mar 1, 2021 at 1:17 PM


“The entire Platform Columbus crew has quit. The taproom is closed until further notice. Thank you!”

That's what a sign posted on the front door of the Platform Beer Co. taproom in Columbus read on Saturday as the entire staff quit in a walkout.

In a letter to owner Justin Carson that was shared on social media, the staff cited longstanding grievances, including feeling that Platform's Covid policies were window dressing, that concerns among staff were repeatedly ignored, and that the brewery, which in 2019 was bought by Anheuser-Busch, set pandemic profits while workers were left on skeleton shifts with cratered tip wages.

“The shortsightedness of massively downsizing labor costs, under-appreciating employees, and ignoring the health and safety of staff in more ways than one is frustrating, and we think the brand and staff both suffer for it," the letter read.

In an interview with Columbus Alive, a former employee who was part of the mass walkout said Platform, with one exception, never shared with staff when a coworker tested positive for Covid and routinely ignored pleas for improved safety measures.

“We wanted to inspire the workers at the other [Platform] locations first and foremost, to stand up and not let the company have this kind of power over us,” the former employee told Columbus Alive. “And then also to the service workers in general, because there’s no service workers union here [in Columbus] that we could find, and it just seems like we’re being taken advantage of across the board.”

Platform's other locations remain open.

Former staffers flooded social media with sympathetic comments and shared stories of their own experiences through the years.

The brewery released a brief statement late Saturday evening.

Today, Feb. 27, several employees at our Columbus taproom location abruptly resigned. We take this action extremely seriously and we are currently gathering more information about the issues that were raised. While we meet with current and former employees to learn more, we are temporarily closing our Columbus taproom.

Over the last year, our priority has been the health and safety of our employees and our guests. We have implemented health and safety protocols that closely follow CDC and local health authority guidelines, including contact tracing and proper communication following positive cases of COVID-19.

Platform was founded in 2014 on the premise that collaboration should be the cornerstone of everything that we do. This principle guides us as we brew beer and work to support the communities in our six locations across Ohio. Since day one, we have prided ourselves on working together to be the best brewer in the state and supporting our full team that works so hard toward that goal.

We are committed to making sure all of our employees know that their feedback will be heard anytime and anywhere. Starting on Monday, we will be scheduling small group conversations with all employees, across all locations as an open forum to ask questions so we can address any issues immediately.

-Justin Carson & Paul Benner, Platform co-founders

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The Plum Has Closed. Will Reopen as Heart of Gold, a ‘Fast-Casual Neighborhood Bar’

Posted By on Mon, Mar 1, 2021 at 9:11 AM

  • Plum Cafe & Kitchen FB
This April would have marked The Plum’s fifth birthday, but sadly the wildly creative Ohio City bistro will not reach that milestone. Owner Jonah Oryszak announced that he and chef-partner Brett Sawyer are parting ways and that the space will reopen under a different banner and concept. He described Heart of Gold, the Plum’s replacement, as a “fast casual neighborhood bar and kitchen focused on thoughtfully composed inventive food and drinks.”

"The Plum was a magical place for five years," Oryszak stated in a Facebook post. "We hosted family and friends, wedding parties, divorce parties, baby showers and anniversaries. The relationships forged and community it brought together was truly special. We thank everyone who has supported us over the years from the bottom of our hearts. You truly mean the world to us and the overwhelming support during this past crazy year has been heartwarming."

Meanwhile, chef Sawyer, who described the events as “bittersweet,” will now focus his attention on Good Company, his two-year-old Battery Park pub.

Reached for comment, Sawyer told Scene: "The last 5 years running The Plum has been an amazing ride. When we opened the Plum in Spring of 2016 all we wanted to do was bring something fresh to the city of Cleveland. I feel as though we accomplished that in spades. We were fortunate enough to consistently have some of the most talented industry folk on our side through it all, whether it be in the kitchen, behind the bar, on the floor or at the table. Not to mention our amazingly supportive guests and for that I am extremely grateful. With the world and the industry changing we are looking to the future. My partners at Plum and I decided to close at the end of October to make it through to the spring. With that we discussed what our options would be in the ever changing landscape of restaurants. As the months passed and there were personal and professional changes within our team, we decided that the best move going forward would be to reinvent. With that I had an opportunity to step away as an operator and put more focus on my other endeavors both current and future. My partners at The Plum are my family and we will always be that. I am excited about the next steps for all of us. I am looking forward to being a part of the much needed change and future of the restaurant industry at Good Company and beyond."

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