You couldn’t blame the residents of Strongsville for assuming that the marquee property of Westwood Commons would be handed over to another drab chain eatery. After all, they’ve watched as this new development at the corner of Pearl and Westwood filled up with national franchises like Tom+Chee, Hot Head Burritos and Pita Pit.
But that wasn’t the case at all. In fact, the 4,500-square-foot space went to first-time operators with very big ambitions. As Square 22
took shape over the past weeks and months, curious neighbors began peeking into the windows, hopping onto the restaurant’s Facebook page and chatting up construction workers, anything to get a better hint of what was in store for the community.
“We wanted to build up a little mystique without putting paper over the windows like a lot of new restaurants do,” explains general manager Dan Stroemple. “As you can see, we thought we were building something special.”
Practically in the shadow of the Ziggy-adorned water tower, Square 22 indeed is something special. The bartop alone will stop a diner in his or her tracks, yard upon yard of live edge black walnut polished and shellacked to high luster. Above the bar is a warm and rustic wood-paneled design feature built of barn wood liberated from Kentucky. The number 22 is carved into the wood and illuminated by blazing red light.
Anterooms are separated from the main barroom by large sliding panels that simulate multi-pane warehouse windows, complete with missing lights of glass here and there. Despite being new construction, there are real beefy wood rafters travelling across the ceiling and walls covered in deep-hued palate wood from an old steel mill.
“It’s a new building; there are no old brick warehouses out here in suburbia,” Stroemple says. “So we said, let’s build it urban industrial. We’ve softened some edges, so it’s really more suburban industrial.”
Nobody understands the Strongsville dining scene more than Stroemple, who has spent the last 30 years of his life running Don’s Pomeroy House, which sits all of 500 feet away from Square. He says that suburban diners often are erroneously described as unadventurous or old-fashioned.
“They’re more adventurous than you think,” he says. “They’ve been going to W. 25th and East Fourth and Tremont for years. We’re going to bring a little bit of that here and give them the opportunity to not have to drive so far.”
From his well-equipped open kitchen executive chef Chris Bruder will preside over a broad and appealing menu of contemporary American foods. Bruder, too, made the jump from Don’s, where he was the number two chef for 15 years. His culinary chops include a stint at the famed Fulton Bar and Grill in Ohio City.
“It’s a great opportunity for me and a way that I can better express my creativity,” says the chef. “Don’s is more continental and we couldn’t go very far outside the box because of our clientele. Here I can be creative but still not stuffy enough to have white tablecloths.”
The team describes the menu as going from burgers to prime steaks and everything in between. On it you’ll see the same sort of items commonly found in gastropubs and bistros closer to town. Starters include Ahi tuna poke with ponzu, pork belly skewers with blueberry barbecue sauce, charred cauliflower with Meyer lemon oil, and poutine-style frites topped with brown gravy, cheese curds and a fried egg. Flatbreads are gilded with pork belly and crispy chicken skin or Danish brie and enoki mushrooms.
For the chicken and grits, Bruder sous vides thighs, breads and fries them in cast iron, and pairs the crispy nuggets with cheddar grits. There’s a New England lobster roll filled with butter-poached Maine lobster, a grilled bone-in pork chop paired with savory bread pudding and au jus, and bourbon-braised short ribs served with spaetzle. True to their word, there’s a $12 burger on the menu as well as a $50 20-ounce bone-in Certified Angus Beef ribeye.
When you add up all the seats at the bar, at high-tops, in cushy booths in quiet side rooms, and on two patios, one four-season, one seasonal, you end up with around 220 seats. That’s a fair amount of spots to fill, but nothing in comparison to the three floors of dining down the street, says Bruder.
“After working over at Don’s for so long, this is nothing,” he says. “With the buzz that’s going around I’m nervous we’ll run out of seats and food. I feel like we’re going to be so busy for the first six months. Now, the thing that I have to make sure of is that we keep those people coming back.”
When it opens in late October, Square will serve dinner seven nights a week. Lunch will be added a month or so down the road.