CLEVELAND, Ohio — For those who haven’t read Bartleby, the Scrivener, the protagonist is a man who decides to say no to everyday chores. But the owners of Bartleby, the soon-to-open restaurant in the former Crop space in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood, say yes.
Yes to reinventing the grandiose space of 1925, with a 6,000 square foot dining room. Yes to an accessible menu. And yes to give a dynamic boost to the gastronomic scene of the region.
“We still like the sound of the name. After reading ‘Bartleby’, we knew that was a terrible name for a restaurant,” said Morgan Yagi, the restaurant’s co-owner with Ryan Britton, who previously worked for FWD Hospitality Group.
But they went back, the sound hit them and the name stuck. (For the record, Herman Melville wrote the much-loved 19th-century story, “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A story of Wall Street.”)
They added walls mostly in the form of bookcases, giving the place a cool but not stuffy library vibe. These shelves and books create a “visual barrier” – they even bought law books in bulk to fill the gaps in the rising shelves.
The owners worked on the concept for a year. They thought about opening for the holidays but decided not to rush. The planned opening is in August for the restaurant billed as a modern supper club at West 25th Street and Lorain Avenue.
“I tried to create a room within a room,” Yagi said. For this, the tree art is a centerpiece design. A chest preserved with silk sheets, it is unique and functional: it is the perfect size and serves to catch the eye while making good use of dining room space without overwhelming it.
Speaking of trees, the famous mural atop the bar didn’t match the new decor, but the owners didn’t want to destroy it. So they covered it up tastefully and built an arched line of trees in front.
New design means new furniture and carpets. Sofas are spaced throughout the dining room near bookcases. Zones can be partitioned. Bartleby can easily accommodate parties of varying sizes.
This is the key.
There was a feast-or-famine feel to Crop, whose energy was wonderful when full, depressing when empty. And with the new design, Yagi wants to keep the space as aesthetically pleasing while being as functional as possible. It can be reduced and adjusted for smaller crowds.
“For better or for worse, it’s a real personal space. Steve (Schimoler) did very well for years; it was great for its concept. … But there is a tipping point. When it’s busy and the place is buzzing, you get that energy. But once it hits a certain level, you feel out of place,” said Yagi, an Akron native who has worked in music for years. His father ran Hibachi Japan in Cuyahoga Falls, so restaurant life is in his blood.
Yagi compared the ebb and flow of energy to nightclubs: “I think that’s how big venues work.”
The space consultant is Yagi’s buddy, Dante Boccuzzi. The chef is Matthew DePante, who came from Miami and also worked at the Hilton Cleveland Downtown.
DePante seeks mostly accessible dishes with an app-rich menu and a simple mission: “Don’t get pretentious.”
“I don’t want people coming in and thinking, ‘Oh, it’s going to be a $400 dinner, it’s all going to be foie gras and lobsters.’ “
Instead, it will be “Nothing crazy, not like 47 ingredients. I cook very simplistically, a less is more kind of thing.
He has a dish of octopus that he will grill.
“It’s very meaty if you do it right,” he said, saying the dish would be topped with mashed cauliflower, squid ink, salsa verde, pickled onions and salad. of arugula.
For drinks, beer from Market Garden Brewery – Bartleby’s caddy-corner – will be served alongside Pabst Blue Ribbon and Miller High Life. Will Hollingsworth of Spotted Own curated the wine list.
Soon everything will come together – from design to tableware. At its heart, however, is a simple goal, according to Yagi.
“We would like to be a neighborhood bar, because I like those,” he said. “Who doesn’t?”
If you are going to: Bartleby
Location: 2537 Lorain Ave., Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland.
Car park: Street, plus a huge lot behind West Side Market.
Hours: The restaurant aims to officially open in August from 5 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 5-11 p.m. Friday; 9am-2pm Saturday brunch; 5-11 p.m. Saturday dinner, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday brunch.
I am on cleveland.comfrom the Life and Culture team and covers topics related to food, beer, wine and sport. If you want to see my stories, here is a directory on cleveland.com. Bill Wills of WTAM-1100 and I usually talk food and drink at 8:20 a.m. Thursday morning. Twitter: @mbona30.
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