This spring, a pair of Northeast Ohio expats will open Cleveland Kitchen
(2539 Lakewood Ranch Blvd.), a “Cleveland-style” restaurant located in Sarasota, Florida. The full-service 80-seat eatery will offer a full roster of iconic Cleveland comfort foods, many with Eastern European roots.
“We’ve been met with a lot of enthusiasm because there are so many Clevelanders down here,” says owner Cindy Novak. “They can’t wait.”
Cindy and husband Steve have been working on the concept and design for two years. Both were born and raised in Northeast Ohio and worked for decades in the local restaurant industry. They relocated from Cleveland to sunny Florida about three years ago.
On the menu will be a number of foods that tap directly into the couple’s ethnic heritage, which includes a little bit of Hungarian, Polish, Irish and Slovakian.
“We’re talking kielbasa, pierogis, stuffed cabbage rolls, prime rib, and chicken paprikash,” Steve reports.
The duo already has plans to ship in Frank’s Bratwurst, Bearden's hamburgers, and Whitey’s famous white chicken chili. They also have partnered with a local sausage producer to recreate Steve’s mom’s recipe for rice sausage.
“We’re marrying the Sarasota and Cleveland cultures together,” Cindy says.
Even the décor harkens back to the great North Coast. The couple repurposed some vintage theatre-style seating for use in the waiting area.
“Because Cleveland has the second largest theatre district,” notes Cindy. “So when you’re waiting for a table you can be seated in theatre seats thinking about Playhouse Square.”
This being Sarasota, there also will be plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood, they assure future diners. But it’s the comfort food that really has people talking.
“Where we are located, there is not a diverse menu of restaurants,” Steve explains. “There’s a lot of corporate and franchise-type restaurants, but not a lot of mom-and-pop-type places. You can’t get good comfort food. People that are from Northeast Ohio and even the Midwest know this type of cooking and will walk in and feel great that they can get it here. And the people who don’t know about that style of cooking, we’re going to educate them.”
Since announcing their plans to open a Cleveland-style eatery, the couple has been inundated by people eager to hear (and share) their story, including Sarasota Magazine
and Creative Loafing
. Given their Midwestern roots, the sentiment and attention does not go unnoticed by Steve and Cindy.
“We’ve been excited about it for a long time and it’s nice to see other people be as excited about it as we are," Cindy notes.
Look for an April opening. And if you happen to be in the neighborhood, stop in and say hello.