dinner at bar cento

I didn’t think it was possible, but there are actually a few people in town who have yet to experience Bar Cento – and our neighbors are on that short list. So last Friday when we made plans for dinner, we immediately suggested this place after learning they weren’t familiar with it.

From the second we walked in, we knew they’d be happy with our choice. They both quickly commented on both the decor and music (from Fleetwood Mac to Genesis that evening) and couldn’t believe they haven’t been here sooner. Which then prompted my neighbor to pull out a sheet of paper which she handed to me so I could jot down my other favorites in town that they need to check out.
For starters, we were treated to the antipasto selection and sliced Ohio cucumbers courtesy of Chef Sawyer (thanks again, chef!).

I’ve had the antipasto plate several times but have to say this was the best version yet. The only item I wasn’t crazy for was the cheese, but each piece of the salumi was perfect. I knew being pregnant combined with the heat I was going to regret all that salt the next day, but I didn’t care and happily finished off the plate. This was my first time trying the cucumbers and they were surprisingly good. I say that because I am not a big cucumber fan but I did really enjoy these. They were gone in about 30 seconds flat, so I think it’s safe to say everyone was happy with this simple dish.

Jonathon chatted with us quite a bit that night (even shared some recent pics of their adorable kids) and completely impressed our neighbors. They were blown away by his skills and just how much he has already accomplished – and that he’s only 28!

By the way, a huge congrats to Chef Sawyer and everyone at Bar Cento for being recognized as the best new restaurant in town. Very well deserved.

For the rest of the meal, we of course ordered our usual favorite, the Sunnyside pizza, and since my one neighbor isn’t much of an adventurous eater, we did also go for the traditional marinara with Parmesan and mozzarella. Plus an order of the pommes frites and baked tomato and bread salad for the table.

As usual, the Sunnyside pizza was perfect. This pizza consistently delivers. And the traditional pizza was rather tasty, too. Actually, I ended up having more of this version than the Sunnyside because I really enjoyed the sauce. It made for a great leftover the next day, too.

Although I enjoyed everything, I’d have to say my favorite dish of the night was the baked tomato and bread salad. Everest, our server, (who is also the beverage director) talked us into this over the tomato salad with poached egg and I’m glad he did (although I look forward to trying that other salad soon). The tomatoes were nice and juicy. And I learned they were baked in milk – a new kick the chef is on. I never would have guessed that or thought to use milk with tomatoes, but it clearly works, and works well, so what do I know! And the bread cubes, which were covered in Parmesan cheese, were simply delicious. They almost had a nutty flavor.

For dessert, the chef and Everest treated us to a few more goodies, including the lavender panna cotta with fennel blossom (I believe this was in it – I actually forgot my notepad that night and am going from memory) and more milk. Plus we got to sample a small taste of the sparkling apple cider from the Rock n’ Roll wine project the night before (the Famille L. DuPont from Domaine DuPont 2006).

If I weren’t pregnant, I could have easily drank half that bottle (ok, probably the whole thing…). It was that good – and different. We actually had a great discussion with Jonathon and Everest on this drink and why this is something Ohio should be producing. Again, without having my notebook that evening, I wasn’t able to capture everything – and they gave us all a great education. Look for more to come on this later with a Q & A with Everest.

One item I almost forgot to mention. Jonathon has been experimenting with a few vinegars to compliment the fries (as if they need anything else beyond the three types of mayonnaise). One has more of a wine base and the other a beer – I want to say Belgian wheat and malt beers, but again, no notebook equals poor memory. I tried both and my favorite was the beer-based vinegar. I’m actually a huge fan of vinegar on fries, so I’m happy to have this addition at the restaurant. The other was ok but I think he was still working on that one.

At the end of the night, we all left very full, very happy and very eager to come back. Bar Cento is truly one of the city’s best and therefor very deserving of its recent recognition.


  1. Alexa
    Posted August 6, 2008 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    this place seriously does not fail!

    i’m going on friday with allison m, maybe WE can get some fun stuff too?!?!

  2. Anonymous
    Posted August 6, 2008 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    Wow, you’re totally in with the chef at a place that you go once a week and blog about constantly. The relevance of this blog is wearing off.

    No knock against Bar Cento. I do love me them late night fries.

  3. Anonymous
    Posted August 7, 2008 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    The fries are great, but the pizzas are really not that good. And maybe you have to know someone to get good service, because we just haven’t seen it when we have been there!

  4. Anonymous
    Posted August 7, 2008 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    Every time I go to bar cento, my pizza is inevitably burned and the service leaves a lot to be desired. For example, our bartender couldn’t really recommend a wine based on what we said we were looking for. Then we were poured a taste into a dirty glass with an apology, “I don’t really know what’s on that glass, I just grabbed it.” And when WE ordered the charcuterie plate it took THREE people before someone could describe exactly what was on it. Aside from that the portions on the plate were miniscule and the “veggies” that were promised were only a bean salad.

    I really want this place to be awesome because it has SO much potential. But it just falls flat every time! Maybe you have to go with someone who knows the chef to have a better experience?

  5. Steve
    Posted August 7, 2008 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    My wife and I have not experienced the problems that the “anonymous” commenters have experienced. I wonder if they have been to the same Bar Cento that we go to? We find the food fantastic.

  6. michelle v
    Posted August 7, 2008 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Wow, tough crowd. For the record, I haven’t been to Bar Cento since the first week of April. But yes, since they have opened we have been there a lot. And I’m not going to apologize for it. Bar Cento and Chef Sawyer are two of my favorites in town. I get a good quality product for my money in an atmosphere I really enjoy created by a chef I admire (his talents and philosophy). I’m not “in” with any of the chefs in town. Sure, I’ve gotten to know several through this blog and by making a point to know the people behind the places I frequent and who are helping to put our city on the culinary map. But I don’t have some edge here. Anyone can get to know the chefs. I always see Sawyer walking around and talking to all his guests. So does Symon, and Zack – and the list goes on. You don’t have to blog to talk to them or get to know them. And as for the blog, these posts are all my opinions. I’m passionate about this city and its food. So I write about it – a lot. I am not paid in any way shape or form. I pay for my dinners and when something is given to me, I’m very transparent about it because I believe in honesty. And just because something may be given to me, doesn’t mean I will boast about it – unless I really like it. In fact, I have written before about some poor customer service we experienced at Bar Cento. If you don’t agree with me, or like what I write about, you don’t have to read the blog. Again, I’m not making money on it – I do it because I want to and I like to spread the word about our independent scene here. Plus I love talking about food. That’s it. No other motive. I’m not in this for the freebies – it’s not like I call to make rezzies and say – oh, table for 3 for the cleveland foodie… And that night at BC, we weren’t the only ones who got to try the cider – they were sharing the goods with a lot of the tables in that night. I just wrote about it. Look, I like Bar Cento and plan to visit the place many more times in the future – as well as his new venture. I also go to Lucky’s a lot and Lolita and I hit the Starbucks in Chagrin Falls every Sunday morning. We all have our favorites that we put on rotation. That’s why they are our favorites. Plus, we should be happy for Bar Cento and all the recent accolades it’s received. Apparently I’m not the only that thinks they are great. And I’m glad they won best new restaurant -could you imagine if it would have been a chain like McCormick’s or something???

  7. Hayley
    Posted August 7, 2008 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    You should write your experience…that is what I come here looking for!

    I have not been to bar cento yet…but I will!!

  8. michelle v
    Posted August 7, 2008 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Blender Lady: I do know that they keep service staff numbers low and as a result, service can be slow at times. They do this, among others things within the restaurant, to keep overall food costs low. Watch, they’ll add more servers and then everyone will start bitching about the rising food costs… You just can’t please everyone. Personally, I like that they try everything to keep food costs low while maintaining a high quality level of food. And as for getting special service, or being catered to, half the times I’m there people have no clue who I am. I don’t have a special shirt I wear and I don’t go telling anyone who will listen. I’m flattered you think I have such pull, or am a “critic”, but you’re wrong.

    You know, I don’t mind – and actually welcome – feedback and don’t think I’m a food expert by any means. I just share my honest opinions – always. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. But I do expect people who do disagree to remain respectful. I mean, this is food we are talking about. This blog is not a place now, nor will it ever be, to make rude comments/accusations about other people. Your comments about his wife are totally uncalled for. You don’t know her and can’t prentend to because you read a few posts. What you said is uncalled for and completly inappropriate.

  9. sarakiavo
    Posted August 7, 2008 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Keeping food costs low is an admirable thing to do. However, you then have to be selective about who you hire and how you train these people if you are going to keep numbers down. You can’t sacrifice knowledge and service just to reduce costs. Besides, I don’t think they are any cheaper than anywhere else where I get much better service.

    I also agree the widow’s blog is less than professional and can leave a bad taste in your mouth. If she’s counting on the income from her husband’s restaurant, why would she make fun of customers?

  10. Anonymous
    Posted August 7, 2008 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    On the few occasions I’ve been to Bar Cento, I’ve had great service and an overall pleasant experience. Regarding the “freebies” so many of you seam offended by, I must admit that I don’t see what the big deal is. It just seams like smart business on the Chef’s part, from my perspective. I often treat my best clients to Indians, Cavs and Browns games along with dinner and drinks. Is this something I do for all of my clients? No, just those that spend a lot of money with me. And it would appear that with the frequency Michelle visits Bar Cento, that Chef Sawyer and his partners are probably making a lot of money off Michelle, her family, friends and readers that like me, trust her opinion so much we visit the places she recommends. So cut the girl some slack. I personally enjoy reading this very informative blog, a service that is free of charge as Michelle points out. She can spend her money where she wants and freely voice her opinion about those experiences. I appreciate her honest opinions and full disclosure that she offers up when she doesn’t have to. Enough with the petty comments. Keep writing about whatever you want Michelle, I’ll keep reading.

  11. Blender Lady
    Posted August 7, 2008 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    If you place your personal and private affairs in a public forum that promotes a personality, restaurant and brand. Than you are silly if you think people will not have an opinion of what you are placing in the public domain.

    It can’t only work one way. Or, you/they really don’t understand the glare of the spotlight.

  12. Anonymous
    Posted August 7, 2008 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Coming out from under this kerfluffle to say that if you’d like to know more about Sawyer and the plans for his downtown restaurant, there is lots more in the article referenced here on that cover of Northern Ohio Live. Besides Sawyer, there’s more in-depth stuff on Luxe and Boulevard Blue. Really pretty cool: http://northernohiolive.com/current/story1.htm

  13. michelle v
    Posted August 7, 2008 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Blender Lady: I’m not saying you can’t have an opinion, just be respectful. I don’t want to hear it here – about anyone. I mean, just because stuff happens online, when did that start to mean all of a sudden people have free reign to throw insults and comments, etc.? Of course I agree that in this environemnt you have to accept the positive with the negative, just please be respectful in your comments. Online or not, we are human beings and I don’t want this blog to becomae another food forum where people feel it’s appropriate to throw any insult you want.

  14. Anonymous
    Posted August 7, 2008 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Way to give credit where it’s due! In a city with shrinking media, it’s important to recognize the ones that do it well, and Northern Ohio Live’s coverage of the region’s culinary scene is among the best. In fact, I first learned of Bar Cento before the place had even opened after reading an interview with Sawyer in NOL last November! (I’ve been there plenty of times since – and it’s always been a fun time!)

    Also, Danielle and Room Service got a nice shout out in the Northern Ohio Live feature linked above. You should congratulate your friend :)

  15. Chef's Widow
    Posted August 7, 2008 at 2:17 pm | Permalink


    Obviously there are some haters. Best advice to you is to delete the nasty irrelevant comments.

    Blender Lady

    Grow up. And don’t sneak into my husband’s events if you hate it so much.

    And stop reading my BLOG!

    It is so hilarious that a city that craves great chefs can so easily talk sh*t about them. Jonathon works his ass off for his food and his family. I’d like to see any of you work 15 hrs/day 5 days straight.

  16. Chef's Widow
    Posted August 7, 2008 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    It wasn’t an open event. It was a fundraiser that people paid for.

    I don’t care who told you about my comment. I just don’t understand your hatred. I have never met you yet you trash me, my husband, and his restaurant on a pretty regular basis. Like I have said before- don’t come and don’t read. Simple as that.

  17. Allison M.
    Posted August 7, 2008 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Well, I’ll be there tomorrow evening with two friends to enjoy the lavender martini, great service, music and the sunnyside pizza with the fries (all dipping sauce) for sure.

  18. The CFT
    Posted August 7, 2008 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    Sorry to be late to the party. I’ll start out with my bias: There are weeks where I borderline live at Cento. I have been given the occasional freebie. I think Michelle, Amelia, and Jonathon (and countless others)are awesome. And I think this whole thing is ridiculous, so I figured why not jump in.

    Michelle and Amelia, I really enjoy both of your blogs. There are a lot of local ones these days, but I think both of yours stand out. It’s great that you guys and people like me can do whatever we want and people have the option to read, comment, and/or ignore. I also think it’s wonderful that so many people are quick to give free, unsolicited marketing advice in a field that may or may not be their own–kind of like Monday morning quarterbacking.

    Also, I love that you’ve gotten so many comments re: good and bad experiences at Cento. Nice to see folks saying what they like and don’t like. Hopefully it will make eaters and chefs work harder, while not driving either out of town (like everyone else). I’m saddened that you got so many comments unrelated to food. Lord knows there’s some fodder for cheap shots up there (in addition to the unsolicited free marketing/quarterback comment), but I’m trying, I really am.

    Anyway, sorry for long comment, and great work causing a stir, however unintentional it may have been(maybe great marketing on your part?). Great to see we’re passionate about food around here.

  19. michelle v
    Posted August 8, 2008 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    CFT – thanks for your comment, and for putting together a great blog as well!

  20. Linda Griffith
    Posted August 9, 2008 at 12:39 pm | Permalink


    I'm glad I've been too busy with our Terra Madre benefit to read this until today. Now I have a bit more time to write.

    Bar Cento's preview event was a Slow Food Preview Party that was Sold Out in about 2 days. It was a first for the organization. And I was stunned. The waiting list was almost as long as the guest list, too.

    The raves after the event were great and every time we have held something there, it's an instant sell out. That speaks for itself.
    I've had 1 complaint. over all of these events. It was minor.

    Fred and I consider Bar Cento to be our "go to" place. That's funny considering where we live. But we are there very often…and we bring the age average way up those nights. Especially when we come with some of our older friends.
    Their only complaints might be about the sound level of the music…but that's because of our various hearing problems. Fred and I have learned where to sit. LOL!

    We also come with our kids and grandchildren. And many of our younger friends, as well.

    Rarely have we noticed service issues. Truthfully, I can't think of any. Perhaps because we enjoy the company of our companions and we are in no hurry to finish wine or food. We are fussy. We've always had great food, too. Love those oyster chasers! Ramps pizzas, ravs, un-ravs with honey, sunnyside pizzas, ones with clams, etc.; fried rapini;pea pods;etc;

    Yes, some treats come to the table.
    I've suggested they are not needed. They come, anyway. I no longer make an issue. I do tip with those in mind. It only seems fair.

    But then, I've cooked for Amelia and Jonathon, and brought a treat or two to the restaurant.

    I will also say that I love Amelia's blog and I love Amelia. She is very much a free spirit and she is a very loving mother. I've seen her with her children and they are certainly well-cared for and beatuifully loved children, too. I didn't notice any mention of Catcher's birthday letter here. That one left me crying.

    I don't think anyone needs to worry about Amelia's parenting skills. Or about Jonathon's, for that matter.

    Nor, frankly, is it anyone's business. If you don't like her, don't read her blog, B.L.

    If you don't like him, or his restaurant, don't eat in it.

    But to just read it in order to have fuel for attacks…is mean and silly. I can find Harvard & Yale Ph.D.s. who would agree with me.

    Life is tough enough for this couple, or any young couple in this biz doing what they are doing, without some wanna be critic hounding them on every possible public forum.

    Stay out of the restaurant and find another blog to read. You will be so much happier and so will lots of other folks, too.

    Linda Griffith

  21. michelle v
    Posted August 9, 2008 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Well said, Linda!

  22. michelle v
    Posted August 13, 2008 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Blender Lady: I just deleted several of your comments. Enough already. While I try not to delete any comments your were just getting out of line now. This is a food blog – I just can’t understand why the need to discuss anything or anyone other than food. Look, I don’t know you, but please, if it isn’t about food, don’t post here. Otherwise, I’ll delete it – which I really don’t want to get in the habit of doing. Aren’t we all adults? I just think it’s pretty ironic that you’re upset with what is being said about you after you started the entire ordeal by throwing out comments towards smeone else.

  23. Anonymous
    Posted August 13, 2008 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Blender Lady, the comments you posted, even if based on so-called “truths,” were inappropriate, mean-spirited, nasty, and simply out of place. Why you have a hard-on for the very nice wife of a very nice chef is beyond me. But admit it — you do. You’ve told her that you think little of her, and that you’d never visit Bar Cento.

    The fact that cleveland.com agreed to take down posts to which you objected does NOT speak for whether they agree with your point of view. “Comply”ing with your demand to have posts deleted doesn’t mean that Cleveland.com’s editor believes that you are right, Mary, by a long shot.

    Get off your damn judgmental high-falutin’ horse and go peddle your gossip-mongering wares elsewhere. You are nothing but a pot-stirrer who likes to create controversy and put other people down in order to make yourself feel superior. How very sad for you to be so needy.

    You’re just lashing out because your cleveland.com food blog was taken away from you because you acted so ugly. It’s everyone else’s fault but yours, isn’t it? It’s a shame that you can’t see your own role in the outcome of these little sagas.