Matt Stipe was the first person Sam McNulty hired when he was opening Bier Markt way back in 2005. Stipe stayed on for years, helping to open Bar Cento, Market Garden Brewery and Nano Brew along the way. He's been in the "business" for half his life, boosting his spirits sophistication with stints in Chicago, New York and Denver. And soon, he'll endeavor to make his own mark on the Cleveland food and drink scene when he opens Banter on the western edge of the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood.
"Near-west neighborhoods like Tremont and Ohio City have become pretty established — and I feel I played a small part in helping to change Ohio City into what it has become today," Stipe explains. "I feel like Detroit Shoreway is the next great Cleveland neighborhood, and I'm hoping Banter is one more piece to help make it great."
Stipe's goal for Banter is nothing short of becoming the best beer and wine shop in town. But the project goes well beyond the typical neighborhood bottle shop. Thanks to the recent addition of Adam Lambert as consulting chef, Banter should easily develop into one of the most unique food and drink concepts to hit our fair city in some time.
Banter will take up residence in the recently renovated "Cheerio" building at the corner of West 74th Street and Detroit Avenue. Three of the five retail storefronts — a total of 1,750 square feet — will be devoted to Stipe who, along with his partners Tom Owen and Adam Gullett, will combine a retail beer and wine shop with a scratch kitchen turning out quick, casual but impeccable foods conceived and crafted by Lambert.
The way Stipe explains it, Banter will feature a curated selection of the finest beers and wines from around the world and around the corner. "Our philosophy is that we want to serve the right beer and wine, not every beer and wine," he notes, adding that the typical retail experience often leaves shoppers in poor hands. "It's great that some shops have 2,000 different bottles, but if you don't know how long they've been there, and there's no one to steer you in the right direction, it's not a good experience."
Banter's interior will be broken up into three separate but connected spaces. The first room will offer seating for 30 at tables and 10 at the bar. Independent check-out stations for take-away beer and wine purchases and eat-in food and drink orders will keep things moving. The second interior space will be home to the wine holdings, while the third room — "the cooler room" — will display 600 bottles of beer at ready-to-drink temps. A dozen drafts at the bar will be poured into glasses or growlers.
There will be no booze served at Banter. Instead, guests will select a beer from the tap or cooler, or glass or bottle of wine (room temp wines can be chilled in less than five minutes), order their food and take a seat. The limited menu will focus on familiar, comforting yet progressive fare built around the twin pillars of gourmet sausage and Quebec-style poutine.
"Well, I think I'm the only Canadian chef they knew," Lambert says when asked how he got involved with the business. As consulting chef, Lambert is developing the menu, designing the kitchen and will train the kitchen staff, who will take over the operation when his artisanal butcher shop Meat and Curing Co. opens alongside the Market Garden production brewery at the Palace of Fermentation.
Lambert already is at work creating unique sausages for the menu, including a sausage-size mortadella bratwurst that is lightly smoked and studded with pistachio and hand-diced fat back. Toppings will be traditional with a local twist: Think neon green relish made with pickled ramps. Poutine — french fries crowned with cheese curds and drowned with various meat gravies — also will undergo some tweaks. A Reuben-style poutine, for example, will be topped with shaved pastrami, Swiss cheese curds, house-fermented kraut and caraway-scented gravy.
When we hear the word "banter," we tend to think of light-hearted conversation between friends — and that's precisely why management selected it.
"We want to create an environment where our guests are encouraged to linger, ask questions and try something new," Stipe says. "We believe life is all about sharing great laughs, delicious food and tasty drinks with family and friends and I think the name Banter encapsulates that."
Stipe could not be more bullish on his location, despite being a few blocks west of Gordon Square.
"We're so close to thousands of new and rehabbed residential developments, there's the new exit ramp being built right off West 73rd, and the commitment by the Metroparks to make Edgewater more accessible to the neighborhood," he explains.
Banter is on track to open before the holidays.