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Best Things We Ate This Month: Cleveland Magazine

Pasta is not a new love of mine, but I’ve been looking for fresh ways to indulge in classic Italian.

The Garganelli Diavolo with shrimp from Bar Italia covers familiar ground with thick garganelli noodles, shrimp and chives but the spicy diavolo sauce added a kick that made me fall in love right away.

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Rick Doody to Close Lindey’s Lake House in Beachwood & Reopen as Bar Italia

“I’m humble enough to say that if it doesn’t work, that’s okay. We tried,” says Rick Doody, owner of Cedar Creek Grille, 17 River Grille, Bar Italia and, at least through Valentine’s Day weekend, Lindey’s Lake House in Beachwood.

Just last month, Doody announced that he was re-concepting his two-year-old Lakewood eatery, Lindey’s Lake House, to Bar Italia. At the time, the co-founder of Bravo and Brio restaurants expressed a hesitancy to do the same in Beachwood, where another Lake House sits adjacent to Cedar Creek Grille. But that’s no longer the case.

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NCR Interview Series: Director of Operations Tim Davin

This interview was conducted by freelance writer Sarah Durn.

What exactly does it take to keep an award-winning Cleveland restaurant running smoothly? From hostesses to managers to dishwashers, we’re giving you a behind the scenes look at what running a restaurant is really like.

Welcome to another installment of our “Day in the Life” series! Today, we talked with manager and Director of Operations, Tim Davin. Tim has been an integral member of the Next Cool Restaurant team since being hired by founder and CEO Rick Doody in 2016. Tim tells us what a typical day looks like for him and his journey to working in restaurants, a journey that included working as a butler at a downtown Cleveland hotel to Arab royals and oil magnates.

How’d you get started in restaurants?
When I was 13 years old, I walked into Joey’s Pizzeria in Chagrin Falls on a Friday night and got a job as a dishwasher.

How long did you work there for?
I was a freshman, I think, in high school. And I was there for a year as a dishwasher. And then I got a job as a busboy at Hunter’s Hollow. I’d set up the caesar salad carts for the maître d’s. That’s when I really became enamored with the restaurant business, when I was in the front of the house with all the action going on, with everyone saying hello to the owner. I liked it a lot.

What was it about working there that made you want to go into restaurants?
It was all the people and how excited they were to be there. You know, being a kid, being a part of the adult world. I just liked the excitement of it. They had live music. It was like they were hosting a party every night.

Did you know from that point forward that you wanted to work in restaurants?
I kind of didn’t know what I wanted to do. I joined the Navy after high school when I was 17, and I went to Spain for two years for a C-130 squad. And then, for four years I was in Ridgecrest, California in the middle of the Mojave Desert. I was a test parachutist. I took care of the pilot’s equipment and safety equipment. And, when I got out of the Navy, there wasn’t a whole lot of call for that.

So, I got a job at a hotel as a bartender. Pretty much all I’ve ever done is work in restaurants besides the 6 years in the Navy.

What’s the strangest job you’ve ever had?
When I eventually made it back to Cleveland, I got a job as a butler at the Omni Hotel downtown. Like tuxedos and everything. It was on the 17th floor. They only have four suites up there. And, probably 80% of our guests were Middle Eastern royalty.

Do you have any funny stories from working there?
I have a bunch. Probably a bunch I can’t even tell.

Is there one you can?
Well, this one I can, I guess. So, when they travel, a Saudi prince will travel with an entourage of probably like 30-40 people. And, we handled their room service. We cooked dinner for them. You know, if we brought them a Coke, we’d put it on their bill and we’d get a tip on top of that automatically.

And, we had this one princess who was there for two weeks. And, every single evening, she’d take a bath. But, she’d only take a bath in Evian water. So we would have to bring case after case of Evian water to fill up the tub. And, then her handmaiden would take— you know, those little coils you use to heat up water for tea or something? So, her handmaiden would take two of those, and put them in the water until it was hot enough to take a bath in Evian water.

We’d make like $150 every time she took a bath. Because it would cost her like $500, $600 to take a bath.

So, how’d you end up at Cedar Creek?
I jumped around to different restaurants where I would serve, bartend, and manage. I managed Nighttown for a bit, and I liked that. I worked for Don Pablos as Area Director. I had to travel a lot for that. In seven years, I lived in Cincinnati, Pittsburg, Charlotte, Lafayette, IN, Toledo, Atlanta, Columbia Maryland.

Then, I worked for a salad place called Chopt. I loved Chopt because it was so different. Mondays at Chopt are like Saturdays at Cedar Creek Grille. We would do 300 salads before 1pm. But, I left Chopt, and I didn’t know where I was going to go.

My friend happened to throw my resume on Rick’s desk, and we ended up talking on the phone for like two hours! And, now, that I know him, I know how unusual that is. I told him I was going to be in town, and he said, “Great. Meet me at noon at Coastal Taco [a former NCR restaurant].” And, after he asked if I wanted to come back that night to see the restaurant in full swing? And, I said “sure.” I didn’t know it was the opening night though!

When I got there, I realized that Aaron [the manager] wasn’t going to have time to answer any questions. So, I figured I’d just keep myself busy, and I ended up helping out the hostesses and busing tables for five hours!

This is before you were even hired?
Yah, I wasn’t even hired yet!

Do you have a personal or professional motto?
I always tell the staff this one story about Toyota. In the 70s, they were not doing well. But, now they’re one of the best car companies in the world. And, back in the 70s, the new owner just told the staff to do their job 1% better today than they did yesterday. I think little inconsectectual changes can make a huge impact when applied regularly.

Funny restaurant story?
The other day, I had a woman complain that there was no steak on her tomato burrata salad. After talking to her, we realized she had misread the menu as “beef with steak tomatoes” instead of “beefsteak tomatoes.”

Favorite dish?
Chicken paillard.

Favorite thing to do when you get home from a shift?
Take the dog for a ride in the car.

Biggest lesson you’ve learned?
You just can’t take it too seriously. At the end of the day, we’re just serving someone a meal. It’s that simple.

What’s a successful day look like?
Everyone had a good day. Things went smoothly. Everytime we have a great day, when we look down at the numbers, we’re always surprised that we’ve made more money. The sales indicate that we were busy, but it went so smoothly it didn’t feel busy at all. You know, it just felt like we were hosting a party

 

NCR Interview Series: Longtime Dishwasher Bill

This interview was conducted by freelance writer Sarah Durn.

What exactly does it take to keep an award-winning Cleveland restaurant running smoothly? From hostesses to managers to dishwashers, we’re bringing you on a behind the scenes tour of what running a restaurant is really like.

Welcome to another installment of our “Day in the Life” series! Today, we talked with a beloved, longtime staff member at Lindey’s Lakehouse, Bill Harmon. Bill told us what a typical day looks like for him and how he always ends his workday with a visit to his granddaughter (at her insistent request).

A Day in the Life of Bill — Our Much Loved, Longtime Dishwasher

How did you get started working at Lindey’s?
Well, we were planning a family reunion, you know. And, I was looking for a job to save up a little for travel expenses. So, I was looking around, but everyone was turning me down because of the age factor. You know, I’m around retirement age. But, I happened to run across a friend who knew the chef at the time.

And what surprised me about it was that while I was being interviewed, it was like he hired me off the bat. He was telling me when to start and showing me this and that. And believe it or not, that was May of 2016!

I’m still there, you know, because of that atmosphere. Everyone gets along. It’s a real relaxed atmosphere. Sometimes it gets hectic, but we work around that. They always hire dependable people.

What does a typical day look like for you?
I start off going to [Lindey’s] Lakewood and cleaning up there first. I’m by myself. I turn on a little music. They got my kind of mix with a little bit of classic rock. And, I clean up everything before the hostess gets in.

And, then I go down to [Lindey’s in] the Flats and finishing up the day there. And, believe it or not, some mornings I look forward to going.

It’s weird. A person looks forward to going to work, you think, “what’s wrong with him?”

What did you do before you worked at Lindey’s?
Well, before, I was doing concrete work. I waited till my late 40s to start doing it, and worked about 12 years. And, it wore my body down and basically forced me into early retirement.

But, once I retired, I think it only lasted 6 months. So, I went back to the workforce and started looking for something not as strenuous as laying concrete.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned working at the restaurant?
It’s a whole lot more challenging than what I thought it was! You know, you sit back and when you go to the restaurant. But, when you see the front of house and the back of house, and everything it takes just to get that food on the table, it’s a whole lot more complicated than you think.

And, it’s not just about taking an egg and frying it and putting it in front of a person. You know, it’s about the seasoning and the waiters and the manager. And, it’s really a special gift for you to cook something for another person to enjoy.

Favorite piece of advice?
Keep the people happy! Because the main thing is to keep people coming back.

You know, I have a view to the outside, and you see people walk out with a big smile on their faces, and you know those people really enjoyed themselves. It feels good.

Are there any moments that stand out in your memory from working at the restaurant?
You know, everyone around here calls me “Bill” or “Mr. Bill.” But, one day, this hostess said, “Hey Billy!” And, you know, it took me back, because that’s what my mother called me. And, I was a mama’s boy. She was nervous because she thought, “Oh no! He’s going to get offended.”

But, I went up to her and told her one day, “you know, I like it when you call me that because my mother called me that.”

You know to hear someone call you that after years. It was touching.

I’m glad it was a good mistake!
Yah, you know, I like to joke with people. But, I also get down to business. That’s why I like jobs when there can be music in the background and good people to work with. That’s the secret— to have fun while you work.

What kind of music do you like?
Well, I’m strictly R&B and classic rock. In that order. You know, CCR, Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Temptations, Motown. Everything by Motown.

Is there a song you’d recommend?
Well, that’d have to be one of those classic old rock songs I wake myself up to every morning. There’s one by a group called White Snake. It’s called “Here I Go Again.” It’s got a lot of meaning to it.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you get off a shift?
Well, the first thing I gotta do is spend time with my six-year-old [granddaughter].

You know, she told me one day, “Papa, you better come by and see me every day when you get off work.” You know, I spoil all my grandkids. But, I put some extra spoil on her, because she’s the youngest.

What’s your favorite dish at the restaurant?
Ooo weee! There’s so many! You know, but lately, I got hooked on that firecracker shrimp. You know if I really have to choose.

Just a few weeks ago, Pat Granzier and the rest of the management team behind Next Cool Restaurants, teamed up to help Bill out with some transportation for work. Pat told the team how Bill’s car was “falling apart,” according to NCR Founder Rick Doody. And so, the team got together to buy Bill a new car.

“Pat has always said that Bill’s the most important person at the restaurant,” explained Rick over the phone. “In this time of covid, our employees are paramount. Looking after them is always our first decision.”

 

NCR Interview Series: Executive Chef Rob Records

This interview was conducted by freelance writer Sarah Durn.

Ever wonder what it’s like to manage an award-winning Cleveland restaurant? Or what goes into creating some of our most popular recipes like our cedar plank roasted Sixty South salmon? We thought so!

Over the course of the next four newsletters, we’ll be letting you in on some of our restaurant trade secrets. We’ll be interviewing some of the people behind our restaurants’ success, like executive chef Rob Records and Director of Operations, Tim Davin. We’ll also share the stories of some of your favorite front-of-house employees, like Cedar Creek Grille hostess Alex Nimachuk, and back-of-house employees that keep your favorite restaurants running smoothly, like Lindey’s Lakehouse dishwasher Bill Harmon.

First up is executive chef Rob Records. He lets us in on what a typical day looks like and how he once served up food to pro golfers, like Arnold Palmer and Betsy King. I was able to catch Rob for a quick chat in between the lunch and dinner rush at Cedar Creek Grille.

Can you tell me a little bit about how you got started working in restaurants?
Well, I went to school to be an accountant. After about two years, I decided that it wasn’t for me. I lived on my own, so I had to cook a lot. So I just kind of learned things by doing them. And, in college, I thought, “I kind of like this.” So, I went to the University of Akron’s culinary program.

I think everyone’s cut out for a certain career, and this one’s mine.

Then, what was your journey to Cedar Creek Grille?
The first thing I did was get a job at a hotel while I was in school. Super busy hotel with crazy banquets. So, I was able to go to school and get hands-on experience at the same time.

Ironically, the day that I graduated they were super busy [at the hotel]. So, I literally started work at 5 a.m. that morning. And then, at 11:30 I went home, took a shower, met my parents, graduated. Then, I went back to work till 11:30 that night. So it was crazy.

And then, I did an internship at a place called the International Management Group. I worked in downtown Cleveland at their corporate conference facility. I’d do luncheons for clients. A lot of the clients were sports stars.

Like who?
Like Arnold Palmer, a lot of Cleveland sports stars. Uh Mark McCormack. The tennis player Martina Navratilova. Betsy King. A lot of golfers. I didn’t always meet them. I wasn’t really into the whole “Ooo boy! Who are you?”

Then eventually I worked at Johnny’s bar. The sort of iconic Cleveland bar. You know on Fulton St? And, I was there for 15 years before coming here [to Cedar Creek Grille].

So, what does a typical day look like?
The first thing you do is kind of look around, see what’s going on. Go through the coolers. Figure out what you got. See if anything’s missing. See if there are any deliveries coming in.

Then, you go on the line [i.e. the kitchen] and you check the line. I literally have a legal pad in my hand and start [figuring out] what needs to be ordered. Then, I’ll usually cut fish. Cut a protein. Cut ribeyes. Talk to my chef about a special. A lot of times I work on the line [i.e. do some of the cooking] at lunchtime.

Then, we get ready for dinner. Your line cooks come in. You talk to them say, “this is what’s going on. This is the special.” Kind of have a little powwow with them. And, then you roll through the night. A typical Saturday or Sunday, I probably sit down 15 minutes all day.

Wow! Busy.
Yeah, I cook a lot. I like working the line. I like to coach and train my employees, you know. Because I set the mood. I set the tempo of the night, you know what I mean? If I’m grumpy, they’re grumpy. So, I try not to ever be grumpy.

It’s not like all the Gordon Ramsay’s of the world. You know, it doesn’t work.

What’s your favorite thing to do after a shift?
You know, a lot of times now I have midnight barbecues. Like the other night, I made ground ribeye enchiladas with lots of cheese in them. We’ll have parties at midnight.

Like friends come over?
Yeah, full-fledged, big dinners at midnight. You know, I’m like, I don’t know, I’m kind of like a rock-n-roll, beer drinker, hellraiser. I like things like jet skis, ATVs, you know? I have a BMX bike. Like I don’t act my age.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned working in restaurants?
Treat people with respect.

Is there a piece of advice you got early on that’s stuck with you?
You know, Rick [Doody, Owner of Cedar Creek Grile] would always tell me, “get out of the silo, boss.” Don’t get stuck in your own lane. You gotta move around. You gotta look around. If front of house [the dining room] needs help, you help them. If back of house [the kitchen] needs help, you help them.

You know, that’s teamwork. It takes everyone’s help. You know, being a chef isn’t just about food. It’s about people, about being willing to help.

Ok. Last question. What are you going to have for lunch today?
Lindey’s firecracker shrimp with tabasco.

 

Doug Trattner Visits Bar Italia

The menu is loaded with approachable dishes like sausage-stuffed hot peppers, fried calamari and shrimp, and burrata with grilled country bread. Entrees include classic chicken parmesan, parmesan-crusted chicken in lemon butter sauce, veal Marsala with spaghetti pomodoro, three-meat lasagna, and grilled branzino.

Read more…

NCR Interview Series: Hostess Alex

This interview was conducted by freelance writer Sarah Durn.

A Day in the Life of Hostess Alex, Who Started Work Only Days After Coming to the USA

What exactly does it take to keep an award-winning Cleveland restaurant running smoothly? From hostesses to managers to dishwashers, we’re giving you a behind the scenes look at what running a restaurant is really like.

Welcome to another installment of our “Day in the Life” series! Today, we talked with longtime Cedar Creek Grille staff member, Alex Nimachuk. Alex told us what a typical day looks like for her and how she always ends her workday swapping stories with her husband.

How did you get started working at Cedar Creek?
I came to America almost two years ago [from Ukraine]. And, I lived in an area near Cedar Creek, and I just was walking around. And, I saw the new restaurant, and it looked so nice and beautiful. And, they had a huge banner that said, “we are hiring.” And, I was like, “ok!”

And, the next day I came there, and I went up to one of the girls inside, Carley, and asked if they were hiring. And, she said, “yes, of course!”

So, I started to work at Lindey’s Lakehouse [Beachwood] as a food runner, and then in a few months, I started to work at both places [Lindey’s & Cedar Creek Grille]— both as a food runner.

Can you tell me a little about how you came to live in America?
So, my family started to move here, and I didn’t want to be left behind! So, I didn’t really choose Cleveland. It just kind of happened to me. And, that’s how I found Lindey’s and Cedar Creek Grille. It was maybe only my fourth day in America when I started to work at the restaurants!

It was difficult because I didn’t know much English, but everyone was so patient with me. Explaining everything until I would get it.

Now, I’ve started to work as a hostess. It gives me more opportunities to talk to people, so it has made my English better. It’s easy to read, to write [English], but it’s more difficult to understand someone talking. And, even more difficult to talk! But, I’ve gotten a lot better working at the restaurants.

What’s your favorite dish?
Probably the Thai steak salad. Also… the burgers are great! I love burgers. I always order the burger at Lindey’s and Cedar Creek when I get the chance. Or, the fish special is usually really good! It’s hard to choose just one.

What does a typical day look like for you?
No day is exactly the same at the restaurants. I meet many different types of guests. It makes me more patient with people. It can be difficult too, especially when we can’t sit someone where they want. But, you have to just do your best and be as helpful as you can. So, yes, I’ve learned a lot about being patient.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned working at the restaurant?
Working in the restaurant, the biggest thing I’ve learned is how to be part of a team. I know if I make a mistake, it’ll impact not only me, but everyone. I cannot do everything by myself. I need help just like everyone else needs help. It’s all about teamwork.

Was there a piece of advice you got that was helpful to you?
To not worry about yesterday! We are all people. We all make mistakes. If something went wrong yesterday, it’s ok. Don’t be afraid to ask someone or a manager for help. Just ask others who know first, and then ask them to teach you, so you can do better next time.

Also, just to be polite is a big one! Even if someone isn’t very nice to you, you should always be nice to them. No matter what.

What does a successful shift look like for you?
A successful shift is a busy shift when you can satisfy everyone! The guests, first of all. When you can sit them where they want to sit. When you can satisfy the people who you work with, like servers, to make sure each section is balanced. So, they can work effectively, and give enough attention to each customer. A successful shift is when we can give the perfect amount of attention to every guest.

Can you explain what you mean by that? What does it mean to keep each server’s section balanced?
Being a hostess is like a puzzle. Especially now, we want to make sure there’s space between tables. But, always, even when there’s not a pandemic, you want to try to keep the server sections balanced. Each waiter has a section of tables, and I make sure each server has the same amount of tables. So, then, all the servers make about the same in tips. So, I always have a list I’m writing down on which server’s section I’m going to try to sit someone in next.

But, you always have to try to give guests what they want too. Some people want a quiet spot or to sit by the bar or on the patio. Or, they want a specific server. So, it’s always about the guest too, and balancing that with table sections and servers.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you get home from a shift?
I will tell my husband how my day went, what situations I had. Every time it’s something new. When we’re eating, we’ll share our experiences from the day. What kind of people I met. What I learned today. What I can do better next time. I’m always trying to get better.

 

New Italian Restaurant Bar Italia Opening

For the better part of the fall, the scuttlebutt around Lakewood’s culinary scene had to do with changes afoot at Detroit Avenue restaurant Lindey’s Lake House, which opened its doors in 2019.

It turns out that the rumors were true, with Lindey’s Lake House being renamed and rebranded Bar Italia. The new eatery is expected to open later this month.

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Lindey’s Lake House Lakewood to Reopen as Bar Italia

Big changes are coming to Lakewood, says Rick Doody, restaurateur behind such concepts as Cedar Creek Grille, 17 River Grille and Lindey’s Lake House. Drawing on his roots as co-founder of Bravo and Brio restaurants, Doody is converting the format at his two-year-old Lakewood eatery, Lindey’s Lake House, to Bar Italia, starring fresh pastas and homemade sauces.

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17 River – Three Things To Know

17 River Grille’s Waterfront Dining Destination

Owner Rick Doody opened the new Chagrin Falls restaurant as an homage to the city in August.

The former Jekyll’s Kitchen spot, one of our favorite hideaways, has been renovated into a new destination dining location that banks on the views of Chagrin Falls.17 River Grille, opened by Lindey’s Lake House Restaurant owner Rick Doody in August, features an American contemporary menu of steaks, seafood and more.

Doody, who grew up in Chagrin Falls, was inspired to expand the outdoor patios and deliver high-quality food in a setting that’s memorable for local diners. “We felt like this had the ability to be an iconic location that only comes around once every 40 or 50 years,” says Doody, whose wife Wendy Berry of W Design led the redesign. “We basically gutted the restaurant and reoriented everything toward the waterfall.”

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