We recently had the privilege to dine at The Greenhouse Tavern, Jonathon Sawyer’s green “gastropub” on East 4th Street in downtown Cleveland, focusing on sustainability and the farm-to-plate movement. It was downtown Cleveland restaurant week, so I decided it was about time to see what all the hype was about. Let’s get to the point, I’ve been talking about GHT since we had dinner there two months ago. And frankly the only reason I haven’t blogged sooner is that I was afraid I wouldn’t do it justice. Chef Sawyer, if you’re reading this, please forgive me for butchering descriptions, it’s going to happen. All I can say is it was a lot to take in; plus, I think I slipped into a food-induced “high” of sorts about midway through the meal.
First a word about the restaurant itself. Of course I am a sucker for ambiance and this place is oozing with it. As the hostess walked us to our table, which was situated upstairs, I was at first disappointed because we seemed to be leaving most of the action down in the street-level bar area. But it turned out that the upstairs was crowded too, and with a window seat, I could watch what was going on outside on E. 4th Street. So it turned out to be an excellent table! This is a view from the stairs:
So my five foodie friends were cooperative and allowed me to taste and photograph basically everything at the table, which turned out to be a lot. Ironically, not a single one of us ordered off the Restaurant Week menu. We started with a variety of apps, or “Firsts” as they are known at the Tavern.
“Devils on Horseback” is a bacon-wrapped date with almonds, bitter chocolate, and roasted fresno pepper. This was not my first bacon-wrapped date experience; a friend in San Diego prepared an outstanding variety for a party once. It was one of her signature dishes and she actually stuffed an almond inside the dates, then served them with an olive tapenade. They were fabulous – truly one of those food memories that sticks with you for a long long time. So when I saw “devils” on the menu, I had to try it. It did not disappoint. Rich, salty, sweet, many textures and dimensions, a delicious and perfectly light starter. Portion wise, this was ideal because I wanted to save room for the main event.
Dave ordered the “Sloppy JO-nut,” a “savory donut” shell filled with coffee and cola braised beef and topped with BBQ sauce. A perfect appetizer for men and carnivores….love the creativity! The marriage of flavors was divine.
Finally, from the “seconds” menu, the crispy chicken wings with roasted jalapeno, lemon juice, scallions and garlic (sorry, no picture). Very nice kick! I could spend all night eating appetizers – it’s my favorite course by far and judging from these three, it would be totally worthwhile to make a whole meal of them at GHT someday.
For our entrees, we all went in various directions. My talented friend, Joe Scalfaro, took this photo on his iPhone. I can just taste the french fries. Completely ridiculous. I love that Chef Sawyer keeps the menu “approachable” and provides options for everyone, including people who just want a burger – it is a tavern, after all. And that is one sexy burger. Dave also ordered a burger, the grilled Ohio lamb burger, with “stinky” cheese fondue, champagne shallots, olive-dusted pommes frites and tangy yogurt. Absolutely delicious.
The seafood of the evening, a walleye with berry reduction. How beautiful is this food?
And finally we come to my dish, by far my favorite of everything I tried. This was a pan fried pork chop Saltimbocca with sage, country ham, pommes puree, scrapple, and red eye gravy. The variety of flavors on this single plate was almost unbelievable. Ironically the pork chop was probably the least interesting element, although, of course, it was cooked to perfection. The pork that was sitting on top of the chop was a mystery to me, and still is (even after reading the menu description again), but it seemed to be very fatty, heavily charred pulled pork; it was drenched in flavor and literally melted in your mouth. Other highlights of the plate were the pommes puree, a rich and decadent accompaniment, perhaps the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had in my life. If only I knew what they put in them; they were indescribable. Then, the scrapple. I didn’t even know what it was at the time (and still sort of don’t) but just go to GHT and eat some right now, because this scrapple preparation is absolute heaven. Has anyone ever said that before about scrapple? Well it’s true. I literally was rationing it out so that I had a small amount to eat with each bite of pork, it was that good.
I wasn’t about to leave without something sweet after a meal like this – it would have been criminal. Our friends opted for a slice of absolutely gorgeous torte (which I didn’t get a picture of because I was already poised with utensil in hand).
Dave and I ordered the buttered popcorn pot de creme, and when it arrived, it looked so dainty next to the beautiful torte.
Then I dug in. This dessert is one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth, EVER. The pot de creme was topped with a thick, gooey layer of decadent caramel, and sprinkled with sea salt. It was so rich, buttery, with a salty finish. This dish was on another level!
All I can really say here is THANK YOU Chef Sawyer for an amazing and memorable meal and for bringing this truly unique restaurant to Cleveland. Suck it, New York. I dare anyone anywhere to compete with this outstanding culinary offering, and the fact that he’s doing it sustainably, with local Ohio ingredients, makes the whole thing even sweeter.
Another Joe Scalfaro pic to remind us just how awesome CLE is