During my first trip to Cleveland after I had discovered that there might be a bit of a food scene, I visited Michael Symon’s Lola. I had an excellent meal, thoroughly enjoyed the area, and decided that I was going to try and make it down there as much as possible on subsequent trips. So it worked out well that during my training, we set up shop at the Renaissance downtown; well within walking distance of 4th Street. The one challenge was finding an opportunity to break away to eat as all of the meals for the training were provided. It wasn’t until a night at the House of Blues that I was able to make my escape.
As we were heading to the HOB, I called one of my co-workers and told him that he needed to meet me at the Greenhouse Tavern. I had seen the Greenhouse Tavern during my previous trip as it is basically next door to Lola, and remembered seeing Michael Symon on a show talking about how he would sneak away from Lola for his guilty pleasure at the Greenhouse Tavern, gravy frites. That sounded much better than the dried-out, buffet style chicken that we were sure to be offered that evening.
When we saddled up to the bar (saddled up to the bar…sometimes my Wyoming heritage just slips out…) we ordered a beer and then took a look at the dinner menu. We considered doing the chef’s tasting menu, but knew that we were already conspicuous in our absence (making an hour and a half dinner anti-feasible), so we defaulted to what any good patron does; ask the person that works there. I had barely gotten the question of what the bartender recommended out of my mouth before he replied the Pork Chop. When someone offers it up that quickly, and that assertively, you go with it, and we both did. But we also got an order of the gravy frites as well.
He obviously paid attention to our conversation as we debated whether or not we should do the chef’s menu as the frites and the pork chop (which was actually a Pan Fried Pork Chop Saltimbocca) came out at the same time rather than doing it as an appetizer. And so, I actually started with the pork which was a great place to start. The pork was very good; nice and juicy. It was served over the top of some mashed potatoes (or pommes puree for the more sophisticated) with a nice simple, light gravy that was more of a sauce. It was one of those meals that was pure comfort food, though not super heavy. The only thing missing was a little sweetness like maybe a little apple or cinnamon or something like that to break up the savoriness of the whole meal.
But, as good as the pork was, what I really remember is the gravy frites. In Seattle, by way of our Canadian neighbors to the north, we have a similar dish called poutine. In fact, I think it really is the same thing; gravy, cheese and fries. And while it sounds simple (as well as sure to induce a heart attack before the end of the plate), it was absolutely fantastic. The gravy was this rich, creamy, peppered gravy that was so flavorful, I probably could have eaten it by itself. The mozzarella cheese was gooey and melted to perfection. And the fries were spectacular; hand cut potatoes twice cooked in duck fat. So good that I would now prefer all of my fries to be cooked that way. I definitely got into the frites, forgetting about my pork for a little bit, while silently thanking the powers that be that this was a special treat or I would weigh over 300 pounds.
The whole meal was very good, maybe a little too much on the savory side, but delicious nonetheless. When we got to the HOB later, we were the envy of the majority of people there that had opted to just go with the “food” that was provided. It’s definitely a place that I want to go back to when I have a little more time and go for the tasting menu which is a very reasonable 4 courses for $44, just to see what else is available. And I definitely recommend that anyone that finds themselves in Cleveland makes a trip down to 4th Street and checks out the Greenhouse Tavern or any of the other restaurants down there.