inside: greenhouse tavern

With four visits thus far and another one planned tomorrow, it’s safe to say I’m a bona fide Greenhouse Tavern fan. From Cento to Greenhouse, I’ve admired and enjoyed chef Sawyer’s approach to cooking. And I’m not alone. Sawyer and the entire Greenhouse team are receiving high accolades on the local and national level. And they couldn’t be more deserving. And the best part? They’re just getting started.


Here’s the piece I wrote for Metromix (and it made the front page to boot!):


Inside: Greenhouse Tavern
East 4th Street welcomes Ohio’s first certified green restaurant

After years of planning, commitment and determination, The Greenhouse Tavern on East Fourth Street is finally open and hoping to make as little impact as possible.

Certified as Ohio’s first green restaurant, The Greenhouse Tavern team, led by Chef Jonathon Sawyer, is guided by two principals: The proximity of the farm to the restaurant directly impacts the quality of food, and practicing green business everyday is not an option, but rather fundamentally imperative.


Guided by these principals, with each plate of food, the restaurant serves French-inspired fare consisting of local ingredients at approachable prices.


Food: While the restaurant may not have a big impact on Mother Earth, diners are another story. Chef Sawyer continues to make food, regardless of its origin, approachable and unfussy.
The menu, printed on 100 percent, post-consumer recycled fiber, is sectioned into firsts (small tastes), seconds (larger appetizers), thirds (full dinners) and halves (accompaniments to share). And the majority of ingredients are locally sourced, further minimizing the carbon footprint by eliminating unnecessary shipping while at the same time benefiting our local economy.


For firsts, try the French breakfast radishes with butter and salt and the organic American prosciutto. The sliced radishes, a vegetable that normally doesn’t receive much praise, are unexpectedly good and simple. The prosciutto is not too salty and lays deliciously atop grilled bread.
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Under seconds, three are not to be missed: Chevre salad (French for goat) with Ohio goat confit from Lucky Penny Farms in Garrettsville, fresh herbs and sheep’s milk cheese; Virginica oysters with Meyer lemon mignonette; and hand-ground beef tartare with a cold poached egg.


The salad is packed with layers of flavor and the fresh herbs really shine. The tartare is simply magnificent. An order of the skate wing was the only somewhat disappointing second.
For larger portions, you really can’t go wrong. Standouts include the buckwheat pasta with mahogany clams and chili, cod in papier with fresh black truffle and potato, and the roasted Tee Hills chicken from Loudonville, Ohio with bread heels, carrots and herb jus.


The perfectly prepared pasta satisfied, although be aware, it can be a bit on the salty side. The roasted chicken, with its flavor-packed crispy skin, was surprisingly juicy, tender and well-received all around.


To finish off the meal, pastry chef Kerry Garcia has a handful of tempting items, mostly priced at $5. Not to be missed is star anise pot de crème with valhrona bittersweet chocolate and fleur de sal Florentine and the Calvados apple tart with cognac ice cream.


Libations: In continuing with the focus on all things local, general manager and beverage director Everest Curley approached the drink menu, specifically beer and liquor, with an emphasis on supporting the Great Lakes region. Because, as he shares, there is a superior product right here and wants to give the mom and pop purveyors a market all while exposing diners to a new product they may not experience otherwise.


The barley section of the drink list includes a selection of four beers on tap, including Four C’s Pale Ale from The Brew Kettle in Strongsville, 12-ounce bottles, 22-ounce bottles and a handful of 750-milliliter bottles.


Under grain, it’s a similar tactic. You won’t find all the usual suspects, with the exception of a handful like Grey Goose, Johnnie Walker and Crown Royal. Instead, there’s Boyd & Blair potato vodka from Pennsylvania, Buffalo Trace bourbon from Kentucky plus a lengthy list of other regional finds.


The grape section of the list stretches a little further than the region—much further to be exact. The wine list is inspired from the team’s trip to Paris last year. The group spent the past 18 months tasting wine to ultimately narrow down to 45 bottle choices including several glass pours. With the final list, Curley explains, every table can afford a bottle of wine if that’s what they want.


As for specialty cocktails, all drinks are made to order; no premade concoctions found here, which is what the team believes every customer deserves. The drink selection pays homage to cocktails from the pre-prohibition era, when drinks had a reason, Curley states. One must-try cocktail is the signature Ginger Flip, a subtly sweet, unique blend of Goslings rum, egg white, ginger beer, powdered sugar and fresh nutmeg.


Décor: The team worked to keep much of the original Cort Building in tact. The space features four different dining levels that break up the large space into four uniquely intimate dinning experiences.


The basement, where the main kitchen is housed, features a chef’s table (best seat in the house), classic jukebox that spins 45s and bathrooms complete with one-of-a-kind, handmade wallpaper from Europe. The solid English oak tables are actually laboratory furniture from John Carroll University’s science classrooms, circa 1950s. And the bars, kitchen and restrooms utilize the latest water-saving technologies, including solar-powered dual flushers and faucets.


The main dining area, which is earthy and open, features Civil War era cedar barn wood from Jefferson, Ohio that chef Sawyer found on the side of the road. The vintage benches (even a few church pews), bar tables, chairs and chandeliers custom-made from a local bike co-op that feature bike rims are all recycled from local neighborhoods. Finally, the long bar that spans the narrow space illustrates the teams’ dedication to finding creative eco-friendly design solutions. Wine and beer bottles were painstakingly broken to bits and recycled to create a custom concrete bar top.


Next are two mezzanine levels, each offering overhead views of the restaurant and people watching on East 4th Street. The carpet squares are not only produced in a sustainable factory with high-recycled content, but are samples from interior designers and architects that were headed for the landfill. From the collection, an aesthetically pleasing patchwork design was created.


Finally, the rooftop, which is set to open later this summer, will offer dining and a functional greenhouse that will contribute to the daily food preparation.


Service: After a handful of visits, you’d think this restaurant’s been open for a lot longer than a month by the way this team works together and interacts with customers. Servers are knowledgeable, friendly, efficient, and most important, passionate about where they work and the restaurant’s mission.


Insider tip: Happy hour is available twice, starting at 5 p.m. until 7 p.m., then again from 11 p.m. until 1 a.m. Look for drink and food specials, including $3 prosciutto, $5 chicken and duck wings with chili pepper and garlic, pomme frites with housemade aioli, $1 Virginica oysters and a $7 Ohio beef burger with raclette cheese.


Many remember the popular Rock & Roll wine projects from Sawyer’s Bar Cento days. Look for these at Greenhouse soon, only bigger and better. Additionally, brunch service is expected to start this summer followed by lunch.


Bottom line: Sawyer and crew’s footprint may be environmentally small, but the impact they are making on Cleveland’s culinary scene is impossible to ignore.

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