There are countless stories of restaurant openings put on hold in the eleventh hour because of the pandemic, but few were as heartbreaking to follow as the saga of Proof. On and off for the past three years, Mike Griffin has been working to convert the lower level of the former Komorowski Funeral Home building in Tremont, now home to Crust Pizza and Visible Voice Books, into an inviting destination serving Southern and Texas-style barbecue.
And he was so close that diners literally could taste it. The restaurant invited friends, family and media to a couple soft-opening events, where Griffin and consulting chef Pete Joyce tested menu items and prepared for opening day. A full food order was placed and received in advance of the grand reveal, which was to occur on March 18. But that never happened, as we all know by now.
“It sucked the life right out of us,” Griffin admits. “You’re on that high of opening, with construction workers, new staff, pop-ups and training and then crash, done. It was really hard.”
While it’s not the way he wanted or envisioned the opening to look like, Griffin says the time has come to bring this baby into the world. That will take place on Wednesday, May 6, when Proof
(2258 Professor Ave., 216-583-0257) opens for business with a scaled-back menu. New point-of-sale technology will allow customers to pre-order and pay for food.
The starting lineup includes slow-smoked brisket, pulled pork, pork belly and chicken available by the plate or pound and paired with pickles, onions and bread. A trio of sandwiches starring those same smoked meats will also be on the roster. Sauces range from sweet and spicy to bold and tangy.
Sides like Carolina slaw, BBQ baked beans and mac and cheese come in two sizes. For dessert, there’s buttermilk pie.
Crust Pizza, which attempted carry-out business for two weeks at the start of all this before shutting down, will also pick back up come Wednesday thanks to new technology and systems.
Each business – Proof and Crust – is a separate entity with its own menu and P.O.S. system, so orders for both will not be able to be combined on one ticket.
Under different circumstances, Proof’s grand opening would look very different, says Griffin. But this situation is not going away anytime soon, so why not make the most of it.
“This whole place was designed for people to sit here, but at this point, when is it going to happen,” he says. “And the restaurant is so small that if you do six feet apart or whatever, you’re going to get like three tables in there, so that’s not going to happen. Looking at the long-term picture, we decided that we have to start it now to see if people like it.”