Old City Libations (6706 Detroit Ave., oldcitysoda.com), the brand new cocktail and soda bar from "Cleveland Hustles" winners Mike Gulley and Sean Adkins, has expanded its menu to go well beyond those popular sodas. The new menu is a checklist for build-your-own pierogi stacked high with toppings, and pretzels complemented by an assortment of dips.
"We've had a crash course over the past three months with the TV show and opening this place," says Andy Dubyoski, formerly of Nano Brew and Market Garden Brewery, about designing the menu. "The timeline was so tight; I was only brought in 10 days before the official opening."
Details surrounding the newly remodeled space and its food offerings remained vague prior to the finale of the locally produced show. "The conversation always started with the pretzels first," he adds. "We needed to get something in here. A week before we opened, there was nothing in that kitchen. It was a big empty room."
Gulley and Adkins spent many hours with contractors getting the building ready to serve its first customers. However, with limited equipment in the kitchen, Dubyoski wanted to remain realistic about how far he could push the menu.
Inspiration came not only from mentor and judge Jonathon Sawyer, but also from the ethnic heritage of the owners and chef. "I had just accepted the job and three different people said there's no place in Gordon Square to get a pierogi," Dubyoski recalls. "With Dyngus Day down here and the population of Cleveland in general, why is there nowhere in Gordon Square to get a pierogi?"
Old City Libations ultimately chose Perla Pierogies, a Parma-based three-time "Best Pierogi" winner, to supply the restaurant while making most of the toppings in house from scratch. "That was a big thing for the owners, using as much local stuff as we can, supporting other local businesses," the chef notes. "Anything that we're not making in house we're getting from right here in Cleveland (including) the Cleveland Kraut, and the Red Lotus vegan sour creams."
Instead of focusing on the filling, these are all about what's on top: homemade chicken paprikash, smoked kielbasa, fried eggs and corned beef. "You go to the Old World places and they're very plain, maybe some butter and onions, some sour cream. And anyone else that seems to be doing pierogi, like Jukebox, it seems they're focusing on the filling," says Dubyoski.
When it comes to the pretzels, the chef says that the name of the game is customization. Currently, there are nine basic and three signature dips for guests to dip and dunk into.
"There's plenty of room here for variation," he says. "That was one of the reasons I set this up, so that we can change some of these dipping sauces, whether some of these aren't selling, or we come up with a great idea, or have something seasonal."
Also on the roster are marinated olives, chicken liver mousse, meat and cheese boards, and the Cow in a Blanket, an all-beef hotdog wrapped in pretzel dough and served with a choice of mustard.
Old City also recently introduced Saturday and Sunday brunch service. Expect a "boozy" brunch with breakfast sandwiches, chicken salad and "everything" pretzels.
"Sometimes you need a hangover option," Dubyoski says of the Loaded Hashbrowns, spuds topped with eggs, hollandaise and bacon. "We wanted something that was just coming up to that line of over-the-top obnoxious."