Chef and owner of Crop Bistro Steve Schimoler has announced plans to open Crop Kitchen in the former Accent space at Uptown in University Circle. The space has been vacant since Scott Kim shuttered his Asian-fusion eatery there last fall after one year in operation.
“This will be more comfort food-driven, more rustic and more casual than Crop [Bistro],” says Schimoler. “This will be the first dinner menu I’ve done in 30 years of owning restaurants that will have a burger on it. It’s kind of a milestone for me.”
Schimoler describes the new concept as “very blackboard driven,” with food-filled chalkboards playing heavily into both the culinary and design aesthetics. Other design tweaks include ripping out booths and replacing them with 10-foot pine communal tables. But the overall footprint — with a lounge on the right, a dining room on the left, and the open kitchen dead center — will remain the same. Seating will decrease somewhat, dropping from 150 indoors to about 125.
To help execute at the highest level, Schimoler has brought in Matthew Anderson as chef-partner. “Matt brings a whole different perspective to the restaurant, and the menu will prominently feature his Asian influences. A portion of the menu will be dedicated as the ‘Umami’ section.”
Anderson, who for the last five years has run (but not owned) the very popular and very small Umami in Chagrin Falls, will leave his post there at the end of July. “I’ve been hunting for a space of my own and I was approached by Steve — so it all just sort of worked out for me,” says Anderson. “Steve likes what we do here at Umami, so we’ll be bringing some of that into the mix.” The chef has built a reputation for high-quality sushi, sashimi and seafood, and diners at Crop Kitchen can look forward to some of those items. Anderson says that he has no idea who will replace him at Umami, but admits that the news was a blow to his boss.
While there will be some tried-and-true dishes from previous Crop lunch and dinner menus, the menu will be wholly unique. Kim left behind some killer kitchen equipment, adds Schimoler, such as the sushi bar and coolers, the Robata grill and Josper oven. “We’re going to figure out every possible thing we can do with that grill and oven. We can’t wait to fire those things up.”
As for the viability of the space and Uptown as a whole, Schimoler says that he has few concerns. “Accent’s failure was a combination of factors,” he explains. “While I love Scott [Kim] to death, he didn’t have enough of a following to fill that space. Plus, the neighborhood wasn’t close to being done,” adding that in addition to Coquette Patisserie, the area soon will welcome Happy Dog, Trentina, Bac’s Ninja City, Corner Alley and a host of new apartments. Valet parking also will be available. “The traffic is clearly there.”
This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of restaurant growth for Schimoler, he notes. While pushed back somewhat, plans still are in the works for a Waterloo project. And the chef will be announcing some “exciting new twists” to the Flats-based projects in the coming weeks.
The team is shooting for a mid-September opening for Crop Kitchen, starting first with dinners and then later adding lunch service.