For years, the Warehouse District has been Northeast Ohio's hub for booty-shaking nightclubs and fine-dining restaurants — two very polarizing genres that left residents and visitors alike without a simple place to grab a burger and a cold beer.
Well, that is not completely true.
Like a "little" oasis tucked away behind Cleveland's own "Jersey Shore," Johnny's Little Bar stands tall despite its diminutive stature. Long before the fog machines and garlic mashers arrived, Little Bar (sans the Johnny's) has been dishing out booze and grub in this quaint back alley spot since 1972. Decade after decade, Little Bar was the quintessential (if dog-eared) shot and beer joint. That was until 13 years ago, when Johnny's Downtown owners Joe Santosuosso and Paul Anthony took over the fluttering operation. The new owners added more than just their name to the swinging shingle out front; they upped the quality of the food, service and even the liquid refreshments. In the process, they became one of the originators of authentic upscale pub grub in Cleveland.
The foundation of the menu is the burger. And not just any burger. Johnny's award-winning meat pie is built with the trimmings culled from the steaks, chops and filets dished up next door at Johnny's. The half-pound patties are char grilled — giving them that mouth-watering, smoky taste —wedged into a toasted Kaiser roll, and topped with the traditional LTO. It truly is one of the best hamburgers in the 216. Even better: they are served until 2 a.m. 365 days a year.
Burgers not your thing? Try the housemade chicken tenders, a generous portion of tenders that are egg-dipped, tossed in ranch, coated with Italian bread crumbs, and lightly fried. They are served with honey mustard and BBQ sauce. They will forever ruin you on frozen mystery-meat fingers. Tack on a round cold craft brews and you're set.
While the food might be driven by culinary pros, the folks at Little Bar haven't forgotten their humble roots. "We are a dumpy, cozy, neighborhood dive bar, and our customers love it that way," says GM Dave Flowers.
If that's the goal then mission accomplished.