Ever since Sam McNulty opened the Bier Markt (1948 W. 25th St., 216.274.1010, bier-markt.com), he's been tinkering in the basement. No, he isn't restoring a big-block Chevy or building the ultimate "man cave." He's been fabricating another bar. In less than a month, all that work will pay off when he unveils Speakeasy, a lower-level club with an anti-establishment vibe. The dimly lit, grotto-like lounge will specialize in Prohibition-era cocktails and feature servers in "updated flapper outfits." Roughly the size of its upstairs neighbor, Speakeasy will accommodate about 120 guests at a sizeable central bar, chunky wood high tops and wall-hugging banquettes. Ingenious Amish-built benches offer space for both seated and standing friends at long raised tables. Faux gas lamps flicker, casting an old-timey glow on the 150-year-old hand-chiseled sandstone walls. Original black-and-white prints by Cleveland artist Clay Parker follow the Prohibition theme, with images of booze-dumping teetotalers and sassy, bob-haired flappers. A small stage will feature a wide range of live entertainment, from trendy DJs to classical recitals. "I have always loved underground bars," says McNulty. "La Cave du Vin is my favorite bar that I don't own. Humans are den animals at heart." Speakeasy will be open Thursdays through Saturdays and for special events.
"I've always lived beyond my years," says 21-year-old Andrew Casey. With the ink on his Culinary Institute of America diploma still wet, the young chef has set his sights on the next big challenge: overhauling the food at D'Vine Wine Bar (836 W. St. Clair Ave., 216.241.8463, dvinewinebar.com). "A lot of people are surprised to learn that we serve food," he laments. "I definitely want to change that." For his externship, Casey worked at the acclaimed Napa Valley eatery Bouchon. He also spent a few years cooking at Lolita. He describes his style as "simple and clean, with a focus on American regional cuisine." He intends to stick with the small-plate format, while upgrading quality, presentation and preparation. New items will include pork meatballs with buffalo mozzarella, grilled anchovies with fennel-apple ragu and pan-fried perch with spaetzle. Look for house-cured meats down the road.
Well, that didn't last long. In February, I reported on the hiring of talented chef Robert Ledzianowski at the Mad Greek (2466 Fairmount Blvd., 216.421.3333, madgreekcleveland.com). He was part of the restaurant's plans to rebuild, rebrand and refine. He recently resigned from his post, citing irreconcilable differences.