Raves and Reviews
Grovewood Tavern & Wine Bar has received many awards and accolades from the community. Read below for some of our reviews.
Plain Dealer January 19, 2007
Unmatched neighborhood tavern raises the bar with new specialties
A suggestion to chill the suburban soul: Collinwood. At night.
But I'm suggesting exactly that, no matter where you live hereabouts. For North Collinwood is home to "the Grovewood," the finest neighborhood tavern I've ever haunted. And, at age 8, it has reinvented itself with a new menu.
Once "the Pride of the East Side" according to the 2002 comic-caper "Welcome to Collinwood," the neighborhood fell on hard times. But in recent years, North Collinwood has begun to show signs of a comeback.
Artists, academics and tax refugees from the Heights (including, in full disclosure, myself) are moving in. Galleries are opening and hot spots continue to spring or spruce up: the Beachland Ballroom, Bistro 185, the Thermadore bar and Delicatessen Baltika to name some.
Despite a recent influx of newer hip places, the Grovewood remains the quintessential North Collinwood joint. And joint it once was, until a group of friends bought the working-class bar and started wine tastings that evolved into a locus of exuberantly unostentatious oenophilia.
Under three previous executive chefs, the Grovewood developed a distinctive comfort-cuisine unmatched at local tavernae.
The Grovewood honors its past, with funky swag lamps and age-burnished woodwork. Likewise, current exec chef Brandon Kercher updates old faves and brings in new dishes.
Still available: garlicky grilled Caesar salads ($5.50-$11.50); a Thai mussels appetizer (at $10, a real meal); yakatori Japanese barbecue ($13.25-$17.75), "Quackatori" in a duck incarnation; and a charry cheeseburger ($8, including fries).
Bison continues to graze here, house-smoked in crepes ($16), sliced lean in a sandwich ($10.50) and mountainous in a big, slow-cooked pot roast ($19). The last is a tad salty, but falls gloriously apart, upon gentle forkage, into yummy threads on a bed of wild mushrooms, root vegetables and mashed potatoes.
New to the menu: a seared pork tenderloin ($14) comes with bracing pear butter and apple slaw. The zinfandel-braised Black Angus short ribs ($18.75) spread their osso bucco tenderness across barley risotto. Rosemary and garlic spike the lamb T-bones ($24), which come with a sherry-black currant demiglace and herbed risotto.
Pillowy blackened diver scallops surface in two different cream sauces, flavored with cilantro-lime tequila as an appetizer ($11) and finish-poached in ancho chile-honey as an entree ($25.50). Rosemary and lemon syrup baste the veal loin chops ($18-$31), accompanied by more risotto and a roma tomato-spinach-garlic saute.
And a single serving of the hunky lasagna ($15) and aromatic garlic bread could sate the entire Italian military.
The staff remains chatty, fast (sometimes too fast for leisurely dining) and unpretentiously knowledgeable about the 100-label wine list (at reasonable mark-ups) and craft beers.
To finish, try the "Burnin' Down the House" (for two, $18). Lights dim as a chef arrives tableside to ladle flaming 151-proof rum into a hollow, dark-chocolate swan filled with berries. He then spoons the melted, caramelized result onto vanilla ice cream.
It's a tasty metaphor for a neighborhood that went down in flames as the city's river burned. Collinwood is on fire once again.
Free Times September 27, 2006
Local Hero: Grovewood survives popularity that would have killed a lesser restaurant
It's a familiar truth that by examining something, we unwittingly alter that which we seek to understand. This is precisely the story of the Grovewood Tavern and Wine Bar.
Before the press got wind of the Grovewood, now into its seventh year of operation, it was an unassuming neighborhood tavern serving above-average food in the unlikeliest of environs. What tickled local food writers, this one included, was the improbable confluence of ambitious cuisine, a stellar wine list, and an amiable and attentive waitstaff. But it was the setting — a weathered saloon in a dog-eared, blue-collar neighborhood — that provided the grist for the press mill. The dining room, with its dated wood paneling, vintage bowling machine and crumbling linoleum squares, offered the sort of delightful contradiction that makes for great journalism.
With a setting this doleful, Grovewood consistently exceeded expectations. Diners, having read the reports, scrambled to experience this hidden gem, this diamond in the roughest of forms. Suburbanites filled every seat in the house, often toting along friends who complimented them on their bold choice to venture into the "'hood" for dinner. They were slumming. And it felt good.
That demand triggered some tinkering. The bowling machine was removed to make room for more tables. New carpeting was installed from wall to wall. The white paper that topped the tables was replaced by white linen. Reservations, if you could believe it, were essential if one hoped to secure a table on a weekend evening. Everybody's favorite "neighborhood" restaurant metamorphosed into its polar opposite, a "destination" restaurant.
Seven years into this social experiment with food, Grovewood Tavern has, I'm pleased to report, settled into a cozy groove. Saturday is still "date night for suburbanites," but by and large, the tavern has regained its rightful designation as a neighborhood haunt. Prices have inched up in recent years but most of the entrées still are in the $14-18 range. Portions have remained characteristically bountiful, and the wine list continues to be one of the most diverse and affordable in town. Bottles of Kenwood Russian River pinot noir, which retail for around $15, sell at the Grovewood for a mere $28.
Best of all, the food is better than it has been for some time, thanks to Brandon Kercher, former executive sous chef at Leopard at the Bertram Inn. Seasoned and expeditious, Kercher consistently turns out full-flavored fare from Grovewood's pocket-size kitchen.
Ripe red and yellow heirloom tomatoes are the co-stars of a chevre and tomato salad ($10). The large round of goat cheese is lightly breaded and heated through, making it a joy to spread on slices of the house bread. A balsamic glaze and white truffle oil gild the sweet tomatoes.
Kercher avoids the Achilles' heel of bruschetta — soggy bread — by leaving the assembly to the diner. In the Tuscan bruschetta ($9), thin, crisp toasts that have been drizzled with a honey-balsamic reduction are served alongside a bowl of diced heirloom tomatoes, onion and basil. Diners spoon on as much or as little of the topping as they choose, and the bread is as crispy on the last bite as it was on the very first.
It seems mandatory these days to serve calamari, and Grovewood is no exception, but far more compelling is the barbecue crawfish ($10). A big mess of fried crawfish tails are tossed in a homemade barbecue sauce and showered with a spicy remoulade. Beats a plate of calamari any day of the week.
Wrapped in prosciutto and seared, five plump and candy-sweet scallops ($24) make for an impressive and surprisingly substantial meal. They are paired with a season-appropriate roasted spaghetti squash and spiced pear butter. An assertive red curry crust transforms an ordinary flank of salmon ($17) into a spirited dish. The fish's fiery coating is tempered by a chilled pool of cilantro-tomato broth. Creamy herbed risotto fills out the plate. In the lavender chicken ($17), a crispy roasted chicken is divvied into two large quarters and glazed with a fragrant honey-lavender sauce. The bird is nestled into a bed of creamy cheddar grits.
Beneath a crackling crust of burnt sugar, a bright green pistachio crème brulee ($7.50) looks positively ominous. But the dessert proves to be a wonderful deviation from the typical one-note song of the classic.
Years back, in a review of Grovewood Tavern, this writer posed the following question: "What happens when a neighborhood's favorite tavern becomes everybody's favorite?" Thanks to the power of hindsight, and seven years of flavorful observation, that question can finally be answered. If you're the Grovewood, you relish the highs, weather the lows and come out on the other side a landmark.
Cleveland Plain Dealer July 21, 2006
The Divas say: Don't be fooled by the modest decor of this neighborhood tavern. The food is first class all the way.
The Grovewood Tavern & Wine Bar is truly a neighborhood establishment. It is more than the fact that it is situated in a residential area on the East Side of Cleveland; it is the way you feel the friendly, unpretentious atmosphere when walking into the place. To the left of the entrance, just as you are greeted by the host, you can get a glimpse of the chef and staff busily preparing cuisine, which has a wonderful aroma.
The decor is unassuming, with walls covered in wood paneling and swags of tiny white lights strung throughout the place. But don't be fooled by the modest interior - the white-linen-clothed tables are a hint of the upscale features on the menu.
The cuisine is impressive, boasting classic tastes with some interesting twists. The main courses consist of a wide variety of seafood dishes - from potato-crusted walleye to seafood linguine Rockefeller. However, carnivores would not be disappointed with the options of smoked bison crepes, meatloaf Napoleon or the filet mignon medallions, which can be spiced up with an assortment of toppings. Many of the items infuse various ethnic flavors, including the chicken paprikash and the yakitori, which is authentic Japanese barbecue.
Entrees ranged from $13 to $26, with most falling in the lower end of the range. The Divas' favorites included the "cake & steak," which paired "killer crab cake" with filet medallions and a generous portion of mashed potatoes, and the seared tuna loin with a heap of spicy sesame noodles. The entrees met all expectations, making this place one to definitely check out.
It can't be forgotten that Grovewood is not only a tavern, but also a wine bar. The wine list is extensive, with more than 150 selections of a wide range of varietals from a multitude of regions. Most wines are available by the glass, which is nice for those who do not conform with the group and want a chardonnay when the rest of the group is into cabernet. You even can order a wine-and-cheese flight where the chef pairs cheeses with complementing wines.
Northern Ohio Live March 2005
Rita M. Grabowski
The ambiance of Grovewood Tavern & Wine Bar, situated in a residential neighborhood just north of I-90, is reminiscent of a basement rec room from decades ago, complete with knotty pine paneling and "Tiffany" swag lamps. But the capacity crowd doesn't come for the decor. The wine list is dazzling and fairly priced, the staff friendly and accommodating, and the food is miraculously good. Meals come from a kitchen that's tucked into a corner of the bar, against the front window. The young men who maneuver that line could easily transfer their skills to the galley of a submarine - possibly the only other food prep area with so litttle floor space. An evening's special of lemon sole baked in parchment arrives perfectly steamed with long, slender strands of summer squash. A well-trimmed sirloin filet with lush, well-aged flavor is served atop a mount of garlicky mashed potatoes and accompanied by asparagus spears. Desserts like raspberry torte, molten chocolate cake with an orange liqueur center, and chocolate or "blonde" waffles with vanilla ice cream prove temptations difficult to deny.
Cleveland Plain Dealer May 29, 2002
The wine is fine, and the chef aims to please
John S. Long
Really fine neighborhood taverns, the type where you can get a good drink, and solid food, are few and far between. The best become destination spots, since few people have one in their own neighborhood.
I wish the Grovewood Tavern & Wine Bar, 17105 Grovewood Ave., Cleveland, was in my neighborhood. The Grovewood has a well-stocked bar, but better yet, it offers 150 different wines, 100 of them by the glass. But take my word, buy your wine by the bottle: Grovewood has just about the best restaurant wine prices in town, about $8, occasionally less, over retail prices.
And when Grovewood gets a closeout price on its wine, as it did for the world-class 1994 Chateau Musar, it passes the savings on to the customer. The tavern charges $28 for a bottle that sells for $50 in most restaurants.
But wine isn't the only bargain here. Chef Tim Ogan is creating great food in what must be the tiniest restaurant kitchen in Cleveland. On a recent visit an appetizer special was a serving of crispy risotto balls with a creamy interior stuffed with spinach. That was followed by cold and spicy Japanese noodles in a sesame sauce with yakitori duck breast and seaweed salad - for $12. Most of the other entrees, from seafood pasta to chicken or pork tenderloin mole, are in the $12 to $14 range.
If you are going for dinner, it isn't a bad idea to call ahead. This bar is filled with neighbors, and the dining room can fill up quickly, even on weeknights. There is a little more room in the dining room since Grovewood removed a pool table after realizing it earned the owners about $9 last year after they paid the monthly rental fees. For reservations call 216-531-4900.