You gotta love peanut butter — smooth, creamy, immensely satisfying and best of all, so versatile. Just ask Meilio Bakich, owner of That’s Nuts (15208 Madison Ave., 216-228-6887, thatsnuts.net), creator of more than 30 varieties of nut butters, including peanut butter.
Bakich opened his gourmet operation a little over a year ago, originally as a sandwich shop and toy store. The Lakewood location has since been converted into strictly a production facility, with Bakich now selling his spreads at retail outlets like the West Side Market (#74, produce aisle), Market at the Fig and Nature’s Bin.
“I had been toying with the idea for years and finally decided to try everything at once, very small," explains Bakich. "People gravitated toward the nut butters, so that’s the direction I took it. The West Side Market has been gangbusters for me. It’s where people in Cleveland who like food go.”
All nuts are purchased locally from Hillson Nuts, an 80-year-old Cleveland company. Other ingredients, organic whenever possible, come primarily from Nature’s Bin. Bakich works with two grinders to turn out his small-batch butters. His basic butters are 100 percent nuts, each serving containing a half pound of any given variety.
In addition to the straightforward butters, Bakich concocts flavor combinations that some might call downright crazy. His more unique offerings include Pecan Cantaloupe, Blueberry Peanut Butter and Chocolate Almond Coconut.
Bakich says that his customers have found plenty of atypical uses for his spreads. Lemon White Chocolate Coconut Cashew Butter mixed into homemade frosting makes a nice spread for carrot cake, say some. Others use Pecan Apple Pie for a strudel filling. One inventive customer even used the Pecan Maple Chai in a steak marinade.
Bakich says he reserves his experimentation for his flavor creations. “I’m a simple guy; I put my nut butters on bread, a piece of fruit," he says. "But don’t be limited by my imagination. My customers get very creative. I love to hear it.”
Once the weather breaks, Bakich says he might revisit the sandwich shop concept. “I’m still figuring things out — it’s a quirky thing that I’m doing. But I want to see how far I can take it — become the Chef Boyardee of peanut butter!”