When news broke that Euclid was on the receiving end of an ambitious restaurant project, one that would repurpose a highly visible property on Lakeshore Boulevard, the response was immediate and almost universally positive. For a city of its size, Euclid is woefully light on appealing independent dining options, and Great Scott Tavern would add some much-needed depth to the neighborhood.
But the crowds thus far haven't materialized, chef Mike Keyerleber admits during a post-meal call, confirming my own personal experiences on two separate visits.
"We've been open for three months now and people still don't know about us," he says.
Much of the blame can be pinned on the building itself, a sprawling brick façade that looks nothing like an operating restaurant. And until very recently, a complete lack of front patio furniture (and those who would sit in it) didn't help matters either. Step inside and the issue is exacerbated by a generous 7,500-square-foot floorplan that can accommodate 200 guests in two separate spaces on opposite ends of the building.
But starting off slowly isn't always a bad thing, especially in an operation such as this one, which saw the early departure of a pivotal figure in industry vet and consulting chef-partner Nick Kustala. Now calling many of the shots himself, including doing double duty as GM, Keyerleber is leading the charge for strong second push.
"It's given us the chance to refine the staff, make some adjustments and just focus on what we're doing," says the chef, who spent three years working at Noodlecat and Greenhouse Tavern restaurants. "We need to stick to our guns and draw in that wider market."
If you enjoy scratch-made versions of comfort food, then Great Scott Tavern is your kind of place. While the main dining room is anything but cozy, looking like a cross between a corporate cafeteria and an upscale Denny's, the food is decidedly so. The meat-heavy menu, overseen with assistance by executive sous chef Michael Schoen, plays it pretty safe in terms of dishes and preparations.
A diner can start off with whole chicken wings ($9) in flavors ranging from tongue-tingling Szechuan to heat-creeping ghost pepper. Two flavorful crab cakes ($12) are plumped up with corn and capers and positioned into a fat stripe of citrusy remoulade. Apart from a preponderance of maddeningly teeny specimens, the mussels frites ($10) nets a large portion of classically steamed and flavored mussels and near-perfect duck fat-fried spuds. Deep into summer and we're knee-deep in ripe tomatoes, but all we can taste in the chunky gazpacho ($6) is a heavy-handed dose of cumin and coriander.
Sit in the lively barroom/open kitchen and you'll likely get a pleasant whiff of wood smoke emanating from the live-fire grill. It's a special piece of restaurant equipment that does wondrous things to burgers, steaks and chops, which is why almost three quarters of the menu is devoted to such items. Tops among them is the pork chop ($17), a grilled double-bone flank doused with peppery red-eye gravy and served with creamy coarse-ground grits and succulent braised greens. Steak eaters have their pick from among four cuts, while burgers come in two sizes and house blends.
Items not coming off the grill include a very satisfying meat loaf dish ($13), with thin-sliced veal-beef-and-pork loaf topped with cheese and chunky tomato sauce and paired with mashed potatoes and green beans. Come fall, the beef stroganoff ($17) likely will pop up on every table thanks to its soul nourishing medley of tender beef, fresh pasta and creamy mushroom gravy.
Lighter fare, while limited in comparison to the meaty bits, includes expertly seared scallops ($25) with lemongrass chutney, nearly half a bird of crisp-juicy chicken confit ($16), and specials of the day like sauteed salmon ($24) with seasonal vegetables.
Given the pricey and protracted build-out, financed by the namesake Janet Scott, a longtime Euclid resident who wanted to invest in her beloved community, neighbors can count on steady, continuous progress at the restaurant. The bar staff already has stepped up its cocktail program since opening day, and plans are in the works to do the same for the draft beer list, which was perfunctory at best. Design tweaks will attempt to add interest to the bland dining room, and the now-furnished patio is attracting some much needed attention to the building.
With the recent departure of the Grovewood Tavern, long a staple for many diners in the immediate area, the arrival of Great Scott couldn't have come at a better time.