Ken Stewart hadn't even made it all the way home to Akron before Demetrios Atheneos staked a claim on his soon-to-be-shuttered restaurant in the Flats East Bank. One of the first restaurants to open in the redeveloped Flats, Ken Stewart's also was one of the first to close, a victim of bad timing, boundary-pushing prices and more than a little hubris.
All Atheneos and partner Fady Chamoun had to do to ready the glitzy space, a theatrical dining room with nautical and industrial nods softened by plush design elements, was to scrub away all traces of the outgoing restaurateur, a task more challenging than it sounds given that sketches of the man appeared on every door, window, menu and even some of the wine bottles.
With prices in the stratosphere, Ken Stewart's was the embodiment of a special-occasion restaurant. To succeed, Bold Food and Drink, its replacement, would need to pull in diners every day of the week. Sure, lower prices help, but the draw needs to be more visceral than merely financial. Fortunately, the incoming chef had more than a little practice when it comes to concocting dishes and menus that give diners something to tweet about.
When Bodega opened on Coventry, Atheneos was there. When Deagan's set the Lakewood dining scene on fire, Atheneos was there. It is this chef, after all, who manages to fill a literal barn of a building, the former Hoggy's in Valley View, with giddy diners on a consistent basis. At all of his current places — Oak Barrel, Forage and Bold — the menus are long, approachable and immensely appealing, with only a little overlap from spot to spot.
As the name implies, the food here is bold, in conception, presentation and flavor. There is no assembly required to enjoy the lobster nachos ($9), four perfectly composed wedges, each with a generous allotment of chopped seafood affixed to its crunchy base by a cushion of creamy guacamole. A wee drizzle of sweet soy counters the highs of fresh lemon. Bold's staging of its fish and chips ($8) in a mini deep-fry basket doesn't come off as contrived, but rather natural, as though it came straight out of the fryer. Filled to the rim with lightly battered and fried smelts sitting atop a mound of fries, the fish is hot, fresh and mild tasting.
Here's a pro tip: If the chef is Greek, order the octopus ($12). We did and we immediately declared it among the best in town. It's not just that the meat had the ideal texture — firm but yielding, with charred bits from the grill — it's that the still-warm chunks were tossed into a cool Mediterranean salad overflowing with ripe tomatoes, cucumber, hearts of palm and just enough feta. This is the kind of dish one could eat daily and never grow bored.
I'd steer clear of the charred street corn on a stick ($10) — unless you're wearing a bib or indeed standing on the street. You'll be smiling, but that smile will be shellacked with salty cotija cheese, spicy Mexican crema and errant bits of grilled corn. The skewers at least keep your hands clean.
I thoroughly enjoyed my $50 steak at Ken Stewart's, but not one-third more than the $34 ribeye I devoured at Bold. The one-pound Certified Angus Beef steak benefitted from the same pricy 1,400-degree broiler as its predecessor, and it was cooked perfectly. Unlike before, there are options now for diners who want great steak but don't want to unload their Apple stock. A half-pound grass-fed sirloin from a local farm is $21, a populist price for a popular cut. If you're getting steak, you're getting a side of the roasted Killbuck Valley mushrooms ($7) and — why not? — the sauteed Brussels sprouts with a hint of maple syrup.
Sure, there are times when a diner might crave a few more surprises from the Bold crew. The shrimp and grits ($21) are as pleasant as a long summer day, and Bold does burgers ($13) right, a fat Ohio beef patty topped with sharp cheddar and meaty bacon. And the braised short ribs sound delicious, as do the shrimp tacos, roasted bone marrow, Thai lettuce wraps, Maine lobster roll ... but it can feel a bit like a "Greatest Hits" version of a menu.
But don't fault Atheneos. He knows that you can't stay busy by peddling esoteric foodstuffs. You keep your seats stuffed by offering tantalizing food at palatable prices in a comfortable and attractive setting. That describes Bold, which delivers a dramatic steakhouse vibe without the sticker shock.
Bold Food and Drink1121 West 10th Street