What would those long-gone explosives handlers from the Austin Powder Company think of their general store today? Renovated, expanded, and stocked with leather couches and cappuccino machines, the circa-1890 building in Glenwillow Village (in the southeast corner of Cuyahoga County) reopened in September as part of a casually upscale dining complex.
Now, the Austin Powder Tavern, an Arabica coffeehouse, and the Glenwillow Grille (29765 Pettibone Road, 440-786-0100) form the heart of the Village Center restoration project, which will also transform some of the former company houses into shops and offices, and build 56 new homes.
As long as you ignore the fact that the Village Center sits next to a landfill, overlooking an industrial park, the renovations are charming. And it's obvious that Grille owners Scott Rafuse and Michael Salay have sunk some serious bucks into outfitting their new space. Handsome rooms sparkle with burnished wood and white linens, a double-sided fireplace warms both floors of the split-level dining area, and candles flicker on tabletops as banks of windows give way to walls painted in mouthwatering shades of pumpkin, teal, and spice.
Salay is also the chef. His lunch and dinner menus are full of sophisticated standards. Sandwiches include Black Angus burgers ($8) and chicken-portobello wraps ($8), served with fresh-cut fries or homemade chips. Dinner guests will find such entrées as filet mignon ($25) and lime-pepper sea bass ($19).
When we ducked in on a recent Wednesday, the joint was jumping with East Siders. But while the midweek crowd could certainly explain why the kitchen's pacing lagged, it doesn't excuse the inattentive service. The food, however, shows potential. Our veal chop (a bargain at $20) was reasonably tender -- if a tad overcooked -- and a savory garnish of chopped olives and sun-dried tomato added a burst of yum; on the side, creamy garlic mashed potatoes were the real deal, and slender asparagus spears had been grilled to smoky perfection. Similarly, a roasted salmon filet ($16), although unevenly cooked, was mild and fresh-tasting, while sides of well-seasoned redskins and roasted veggies had been handled with masterful aplomb.
Other draws include a small, inexpensive wine list and desserts from Tremont's Seballos' Pastries. Give this place a few more weeks, and it may be dynamite.