Over the weekend I had a chance to visit my hometown of Westlake, Ohio. I usually make it back once or twice a year. In an attempt to keep with a New Year’s Resolution to spend more time with family, I flew back to visit my parents for Easter weekend.
On Friday night we dined at the Greenhouse Tavern. It’s a relatively new restaurant located in Cleveland’s East 4th Street Entertainment District.
I was impressed with their farm-to-table approach presented in a totally forward-thinking and upscale way. Maybe I’ve been living on the west coast for too long, but I really do believe that farm-to-table sets an example of how we should all be eating in the first place.
Opening almost exactly a year ago, The Greenhouse is the first restaurant in the city to be LEED Certified (LEED certification is recognition that a building’s management has implemented best practices for creating an energy efficient and environmentally sustainable structure). It’s also the first green-certified restaurant in the state of Ohio.
In addition to being green the narrow space is also elegant. It employs beautiful oak flooring from former Ohio farmhouses and barns, reclaimed vintage doors, and salvaged materials from the local business Old School Architectural Salvage. Other local businesses were hired to create furnishings. I learned from Yelp users that the best place to sit is actually in the basement, where you can pony up alongside the chefs and watch the action take place.
The restaurant advocates the Farm to Plate Movement, which means that all ingredients are locally produced. Our guy explained what the wild Ohio ramps were on the menu (think leek meets onion) which he had happened to pick that morning himself. The menu changes constantly to reflect new dishes and ingredients (say, if one of the staff happened to have gone fishing that morning – it would be incorporated on the menu that evening).
In a town known for roast beef and hot dogs, The Greenhouse is inspiring and a total breath of fresh air.
Although I’m a fairly fussy eater and was quite impressed with my experience, one of my favorite aspects of the restaurant was (surprise!) the jukebox. In the basement along the wall is an amazingly retro-outfitted jukebox with those little old-school hand-written cards. The music with funk, soul, r&b and rock singles – it made me happy just looking at it.
Overall, I’m excited for what the Greenhouse Tavern could mean for Cleveland and midwestern cities at large.
Named one of Bon Appetit Magazine’s Top Ten Best New Restaurants in America certainly gives it – and the city – international cred. More importantly is what it implies locally. Restaurants like The Greenhouse Tavern are promoting a practice and mentality that will better dining and best building practices for generations to come.
Let’s hope it catches on.
Bon Appetit feature (PDF)
New York Times mention (PDF)
Cleveland.com: The Greenhouse Tavern and Death-Row Dining
BX Magazine (PDF)