The odd, ugly, and sad drama surrounding Dragonfly and Garage Bar has ended in the most favorable way possible: Both Ohio City spaces, which closed early this month over disputes between owner and landlord, should be occupied by their next tenants for years to come.
Chef Mike Nowak, along with his wife Karrie, will open Black Pig at 1865 West 25th Street, where Dragonfly had been since 2010. Next door at the former Garage, beer wizard Sam McNulty plans to christen a small-batch brewing facility called Nano Brew Cleveland. Both enterprises should be up and running by early summer.
Nowak, who since 2007 has been down the street at McNulty's Bar Cento and Market Garden Brewery, has been looking around town for a space of his own for a couple of years.
"We knew we wanted to be in Ohio City," he explains. "But the spaces are few and far between. When we heard this space became available, we jumped on it."
The name "Black Pig" is a generic term for a number of heirloom varietals of swine. (Nowak sources his high-quality pork from a local farmer.) The chef describes the concept as French-inspired American, building upon the same farm-to-table approach that has made Bar Cento one of Cleveland's most enjoyable restaurants. While there will be similarities in approach, Nowak stresses that the Pig will not be Bar Cento 2.0. "Take the four or five entrées on the Bar Cento menu and make an entire menu out of them," he says.
Following the formula of other successful restaurants in the neighborhood, Black Pig will be semi-fine-dining in a casual atmosphere. There will be no overhaul to the layout, but there will be cosmetic changes.
"When you walk in the door, I want it to look and feel like a different restaurant," Nowak says.
An elevated chef's table will be perched directly in front of the open kitchen. Brick, wood, and mirrors will give the space a simple, rustic, and attractive feel. Out back, an elevated patio is being built that sits 20 feet in the air.
Nowak will stay on with Bar Cento and Market Garden through the transition, he says. Adam Lambert will be taking over as Bar Cento's executive chef, while Andrew Bower will fill that role across the street at the brewery.
"The growth we've seen in this neighborhood over the past five years has been insane," he says. "This is one of if not the major dining and nightlife destination in town."
For a preview of what's to come, join Nowak on May 16 at Market Garden for a Black Pig Pop-Up Restaurant. Reservations are required.
As for the doings next door? Dragonfly founder Jeff Allison opened the biker-themed Garage Bar eight years ago as the antidote to snooty cocktail lounges. When McNulty opens Nano Brew, it will once again be a biker bar — just not that kind of bike.
"Nano Brew will be a bicycle-themed bar," says McNulty, who will be celebrating the arrival of his fifth business in Ohio City. "We want to promote the idea of bicycling in Cleveland. Almost every member of my staff is a huge cyclist."
So in addition to plenty of room to stow your bike, there will be bike pumps, tools, and bike-themed decor. Radlers — refreshing cycle-friendly beverages that lighten up beer with lemonade — will always be on hand.
Also on hand will be a small but visible one-barrel brewing system, which will be tended by brewmaster Andy Tveekrem and longtime apprentice Patrick Daniels. Unlike the crowd-pleasing session beers brewed down the block at Market Garden Brewery, Nano will focus on adventurous recipes.
Interior changes will be major. McNulty's shooting for rustic, casual, and elegant. Booths will be added for comfort. The roomy back patio will be extended along the side of the building and clear to the front sidewalk.
Though food will be offered, the exact concept is still up in the air.
McNulty says he was lucky to lay claim to the space, which has received considerable attention in the brief window since Garage Bar and Dragonfly were abruptly shuttered.
"There has been a ton of interest in Ohio City in general, but especially in the immediate vicinity of West 25th Street," he says.
MEANWHILE, OVER IN TREMONT: Stick a fork in 806 Wine Bar — it's officially dead. Since opening in 2003, the swanky cocktail lounge with a dress code has changed hands, concepts, and management multiple times. But starting May 5, the place at 806 Literary Road will be known as Barrio.
New owner Joe Kahn has two decades in the restaurant biz; most recently he worked as manager at Edison's Pub in the same neighborhood. He describes Barrio as a high-end taqueria.
"We're going to focus mainly on tacos," says Kahn. "We're sticking with tacos and doing them right." Former Salmon Dave's executive chef Joe Mokry will be heading up the kitchen.
Diners can expect a half-dozen authentic tacos built around house-cooked meats, salsas, and sauces. You can also build your own, mixing and matching fillings, salsas, toppings, and garnishes à la Happy Dog. There will even be paper chits to tick off items, like the ones the hot-dog-themed bar in Detroit Shoreway uses. Prices are $3 per taco.
"The most important thing is the shell," says Kahn. "That first bite of your taco has to be fantastic."
Homemade chips and salsa, queso, and guacamole round out the menu.
As for putting a taqueria into a former cocktail lounge, Kahn says changes to the interior will make it a good fit. "This won't feel like 806," he promises. "We've done a lot of painting and remodeling." Cushy furniture has been replaced by tables and chairs. An artist has added Day of the Dead-themed art to the walls. More than a dozen taps will pour craft beer to go along with the tequila and margaritas.
Kahn says that recent legal issues faced by the previous owners — they were recently popped in North Olmsted for drugs and other charges — should not interfere with his plans to open Barrio ... and serve booze ... by Cinco de Mayo.
IT'S OFFICIAL: Shawn Monday has signed a lease to take over the old Joey's Restaurant space (44 North Main St.) in Chagrin Falls. The chef-owner of One Red Door and Flip Side in Hudson (and Columbus) says the space is perfect for his Flip Side burger concept.
"Chagrin Falls is the dream location," Monday explains. "That neighborhood is like a postcard. We're excited to be there."
Joey's originally opened at that address in 1981. It suffered a devastating fire on November 30 and was forced to close. Monday says the space was totally gutted, requiring a complete new build-out. He does not expect to open till winter.
Like in Hudson, the restaurant will be a cozy 50-seat burger bar, with an open kitchen, grass-fed Ohio beef burgers, and great beer on tap.