Since rolling out a new sushi menu a year and a half ago at his Chardon restaurant Square Bistro
, chef-owner Jaret Havanchak has been overwhelmed by the response from his customers. He shouldn’t have been all that surprised; after all, he’s been running the popular Willoughby-based sushi spot Lure Bistro for more than eight years.
But the success of the sushi menu, as well as the original new American bistro menu, only compounds the chef’s long-running capacity issues.
“The problem we’ve been running into at Square is that we are turning away 50 or 60 people every weekend night – and even during the week sometimes,” he says. “We needed to come up with a way to expand the space.”
They didn’t have to look very far. The basement, used exclusively for storage, immediately came to mind. It runs the length of the entire restaurant and it can piggy back off the same liquor license.
The plan is to convert that lower-level space into a sushi bar, with seating for an additional 45 guests. A wide commercial-size spiral staircase will usher guests down below, where they’ll find a dim, sexy but rustic space accented by 1800s-era beams and rough-hewn limestone walls.
A 14-seat sushi bar will enable Havanchak to shift the sushi-making operation from the main kitchen upstairs to the basement. Diners, regardless of where they sit in the building, will be able to order off both the sushi and bistro menus.
When it opens in fall, the space will also be used for cooking classes, sushi-rolling classes, and private parties and events.
“This is an opportunity to expand the restaurant and stop turning people away,” says the chef. “We have been getting nice feedback from our customers. They’re pumped that it will finally come to fruition.”