This is one review I struggled with. When someone first told me waaay back when about this chef coming from Miami to open a restaurant in the airport Marriott and if I would check it out, my answer (within seconds flat) was no. He asked if it was because it was too far, and I said distance doesn’t phase me – I’ll drive anywhere for good food, but there’s no way I’m willingly going to dine at the airport Marriott.
And then they opened. And I was invited to some pre event with people from Hell’s Kitchen (that was kind of a turn off in and of itself) plus a blogger dinner, etc. My answer was always the same – thanks but no thanks. The focus of my blog has always been supporting local and whatever you try to call this, it’s still a chain and therefore I have no interest.
I’m not perfect (I can hear my husband laughing now). Not 100% of my time, effort and money goes towards local. Since having Natalie, I might as well have half my pay automatically deposited into Target. And I’m a regular at J Crew and Banana Republic. But I always felt that with food, I could control exactly where my money goes and make conscious decisions about who I’m going to support, from local grocers, purveyors, farmers and chefs. Sure, I eat at the occasional chain (I love Five Guys and have a daily Starbucks stop), but for the most part, it’s pretty consistent. I like to keep my money here and I know I’m getting a much better quality product when I eat at one of our many locally-owned restaurants. Plus I just like to know where my food comes from. So obviously, a trip to the airport Marriott just isn’t in line with my beliefs and what I consider local. Or so I thought.
After reading more about chef Ellis Cooley, particularly his commitment to local farmers and building relationships with as many as he can, I started to rethink my stance. And last week, my stubborn streak came to end. Along with my friend Heidi and new friend Floyd with Red Basket Farm, we experienced a near four-hour dinner.
While I’d still classify this as a chain, but with a caveat. Cooley isn’t just saying he’s supports local – he truly is (even in the gift shop). He’s utilizing as many farmers as he can, serving grass-fed beef, and even growing items himself (a 1/4 acre out back). He’s shaking things up at the Marriott and I’m impressed.
What a delightful night. Between the company and conversation, and several long chats with the chef, coupled with the impressive food, I was converted. Here’s part of my review or you can read the full review in Metromix.
While at first glance, you’d likely pass on dining at this restaurant for something more proven and in a less commercial setting, but AMP150 all but demands you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover—or in this instance, its location.
Let’s just get this out of the way now—AMP 150 is located inside the newly-remodeled airport Marriott. Covering chains, let alone encouraging people to patronize one isn’t something we’re accustomed to. But this is the exception to the rule, and chef Ellis Cooley’s commitment to utilizing local farmers and purveyors has us convinced that this is a viable dining option worthy of a visit.
Food: “We know where we are located,” explains chef Cooley. “We have to serve great local food at reasonable prices or else Clevelanders won’t come. We want to be known as a great dining spot to locals, but also something different for travelers, something other than a turkey club.”
AMP 150, which stands for America’s Modern Palate (and the 150 because of its location), serves a lot of small bites to mid-sized portions and is a garden-focused menu as the chef likes to call it. Mostly because he is making a concerted effort to support the community, from Kamm’s Corners Farmer’s Market to Killbuck Valley Mushrooms, Lake Erie Creamery as well as a quarter-acre garden onsite he’s in the process of planting, a courtyard in the hotel with a wide variety of herbs plus a plot in the West Park Community Garden. The chef is also steadfast in using only grass-fed beef, with the exception of the double bacon Angus burger.
The menu is intentionally priced so that people can sample a variety of dishes (nothing is more than $19, with most dishes priced between $6-$14). Though located in a Marriott, the chef has total autonomy when it comes to the menu. Cooley is constantly experimenting and always changing the menu, specifically the small bites.
On our visit, the chef led us through a near four-hour tasting of a good portion of the menu. Some of the dishes we sampled included the chicken liver pate on grilled bread ($6), black mussels with ginger and lemongrass in a spicy broth ($8), velvet mushroom soup with chive cream ($5), spring lamb chili with fava beans, harissa and yogurt ($6), seared scallops with pea and coconut purée and pickled ramps ($10), rabbit spaetzle with peas, speck ham and tarragon ($8), shrimp and grits ($7) and braised lamb’s neck with artichoke faro cooked in the style of risotto topped with chili spiced grapes.
Someone clearly forgot to tell the chef he works in a Marriott because this is anything but a corporate chef and these are not your ho-hum standard entrées. Fresh, inventive, wonderfully satisfying and an impressive commitment to supporting local—AMP 150 proves to be a mighty competitor in the Cleveland dining scene.
While there were dishes we weren’t overly impressed with, like the chicken paprikash and seared scallops, the majority of our tour-de-Cooley was quite impressive, with some dishes, specifically the lamb neck, rabbit spaetzle, mushroom soup and spring lamb chili, teetering on near perfection.
Desserts are solid, but clearly it’s the main menu that’s the star attraction (though all ice cream is from Jeni’s Ice Creams out of Columbus). We recommend the lemon grass crème brulee and milk chocolate panna cotta with malted hazelnut milkshake.
Libations: Beer aficionados rejoice—AMP 150 features an impressive offering of craft beers from around the world with numerous local selections, making the beer menu alone worth a visit. Beers range from Pittsburgh’s famous Iron City to Viking Blood Mead out of Denmark (with a 19-percent alcohol content that sells for $40). Wine snobs are not neglected, with several pours, half bottles and bottles available, all nicely priced.
Décor: While the food may have you forgetting where you are, the décor quickly brings you back to reality. The restaurant is located in the lobby of the hotel—literally. Though it’s nice and clean, there’s no hiding the fact that you’re in a Marriott and depending on where you sit (we recommend requesting one of the high-back booths that offers some privacy), you feel as if you’re part of the lobby’s make-up, which can make for an odd dining experience.
Bottom line: Don’t make the mistake we almost did and pass on this restaurant because of its location. While the décor and overall setting may not be ideal, the food is—and then some. This is one talented young chef looking to make a name for himself while doing his part to support the community. And therefore, deserves your support in return.