When entrepreneur Henry Leui moved to Asiatown seven years ago, the neighborhood was very different. "A lot of the buildings were boarded up, there were homeless people on the streets, and nobody came out on the weekends. Even I felt scared," he says. Fast forward seven years, and things have never looked better for this hopping ethnic enclave. "Now, lots of people come here to eat and shop, it's much safer, and the buildings are restored."
Including his own, which will soon be Asiatown's newest restaurant. The owner of Luxury Nail Supply, just east of Number One Pho on Superior, is renovating the adjacent storefront as a 60-seat restaurant. When it opens within two months, Saigon Grille will serve Vietnamese and Thai cuisine, with an emphasis on grilled items. Leui's brother-in-law, who recently owned a restaurant in Atlanta, will be the chef. He is currently in Vietnam brushing up.
"I believe the more restaurants in this area, the more people it will bring," he says. That vision seems to be working thus far.
Original plans called for Crop Bistro & Bar (1400 West Sixth St.) to shut its doors on December 31. Of course, the closure was to be temporary, as chef-owner Steve Schimoler focused his attentions on his new Ohio City space.
Well, there has been a slight change of plans, says Schimoler, but it is all for the best.
City inspectors wanted an updated sprinkler system installed in the new restaurant, a stunner set inside the lobby of the former United Bank Building at West 25th and Lorain.
Not only would that mar the beauty of the grand space; it would come with a $100,000 price tag. A "historic preservation" plea saved the day, but cost a few months' time.
That means Crop will remain open at its original Warehouse District spot through winter, with the new restaurant expected to open in March or April.
"I'll take a 60-day delay over $100K any day of the week," says Schimoler.