Cleveland’s Greenhouse Tavern [classic article]

It’s the crazy version of hitting the refrigerator for leftovers: actually going back to a restaurant later at night for extra helpings. I’m on the road and while my room has a refrigerator and I even have a classic Igloo cooler, it’s not the same.

Cleveland’s Greenhouse Tavern has been named one of Bon Appetit’s Top 10 restaurants in America and Food and Wine magazine’s Best Chefs 2010. I stopped there for a little nosh before seeing the Cleveland Orchestra and Emmanuel Ax at the Blossom Music Fest… and came back for the late night menu! Here’s what was the big lure. . .

Greenhouse Tavern has both indoor and outdoor seating, with bicycles hanging from the ceiling. There’s classic rock playing in the background. There’s a bit of pork spread with orange and lemon zests that comes with the bread service.

They have a number of unique cocktails, including the OYO Stone Fruit Negroski with OYO Stone Fruit vodka, Campari and vermouth. The tartness of the Campari — a classic aperitif — tones down the sweetness of the vodka and makes for a refreshing drink in the summer.

First, I ordered Warm Bread & Butter Board with a selection of house jams, conserves, yogurts, spreads, schmears, dips, butters and “rendered fatty animal love” served with grilled bread, pain d’epi, house crackers & country bread ($15). Bread is meant to be broken between 2 to 4 people. On this night, the spreads included a smoky chicken spread, pork spread, garlic scape spread (the flower stems of garlic), pimento cheese, lavender butter with sea salt, lemon zest spread. Crusty breads from a local bakery were on a wooden butcher’s block. The portions were huge and the dish makes a meal. Each spread had interesting, innovative flavors and they provide quite a conversation starter.

The hand ground beef Tartar with pommes frites topped with fresh rosemary, 3 minute egg, salted fresno peppers and condiments (chopped red onions, mayo, Dijon mustard, etc.) haunts me, it’s so good. I almost ordered it on my second visit — it’s on the late night menu — but I tried some other things. Who knows? I might be lucky enough to make it out for a third visit! The beef was fresh and the 3 minute egg is served in the shell, waiting for you to add it.

The chef’s item of the day is called the “Fifth Quarter”. When I was there, it was pig tongue prepared like uncured mortadella with pistachios. It’s served with chicken liver mousse. It’s not gamy at all! It’s like a gourmet lunchmeat. The plate is garnished with pickled red onion.


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