Right across from the Bay Village train tracks is a modest little tavern called Ironwood. It’s trivial in every way, with the exception of the food, which is prepared by a chef with a strong desire to please his customers, many of whom have been warming bar stools longer than they have been cooking. .
Since the dawn of time, the Ironwood menu looked, smelled, and tasted almost the same as what slips through the pass in countless saloons; that is, generic pub food. But since Lloyd Foust tied the apron about a year ago, this pub has been slowly transitioning to a gastro pub. There are still wings, burgers and nachos, but these nachos are now made with real cheese sauce, sprinkled with feta, and topped with a whiff of celery leaves, a pride the chef is eager to share. underline.
âThe original menu has been in place for almost 10 years, with only small changes,â says Foust, who admitted to having received a first setback from regulars. “But eventually they greeted me and started to trust me, and now they’re going to come to the window to thank me.”
I have encountered less wedge salads ($ 8) in steakhouses than the one on display here. Two quarters of the crisp, clean, cold iceberg are topped with a thick, creamy and assertive Caesar dressing, golden croutons, oven-roasted cherry tomatoes and a snow squall of freshly grated Parmesan. Despite the pub setting, the salad arrives with a sturdy steak knife for effortless cutting.
Sandwiches like the club, gyro, and cheeseburger are protected by this long-standing menu, but they’re now joined by a fried bologna sandwich ($ 12) with thinly sliced ââmeat, spicy pickles, and cheese. American gooey. Like all sandwiches, it comes fresh from the griddle. I don’t remember seeing a Cubano ($ 12) on the menu at many neighborhood taverns, and if I had, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t spiked with thick pork shoulder ribbons. smoke at home. The hot-pressed sandwich was additionally stuffed with ham, swiss, mustard, and pickles, and even displayed proper bread.
I don’t know how many orders of Brussels sprouts ($ 7) go through the kitchen compared to, say, chili and cheese smothered tater tots, but they’re well done, topped with strips of crispy fried salami, and sprinkled on it. of an addicting granola crumble. Below, a small trail of strawberry aioli offers a sweet little surprise. Bright, fresh, and full of lemon, hummus ($ 9) is a healthy alternative to spinach and artichoke dip. It comes with cucumber slices and lots of hot pita.
Of course, Foust couldn’t write checks for the quality products of Mediterra Bread, Ohio City Pasta, Ohio City Farm, Green City Farmers, and Morningside Farm if he didn’t have the blessings of his. bosses. The Ironwood is owned by the same people who run Market and Wine Bar in Rocky River and Southside and Hi and Dry in Tremont, so they understand the food.
âI wanted to use the connections I had with the small farms while working at Black Pig,â says Foust, who slowly rose through the ranks of the Ohio City bistro during a five-year tenure. “With the freedom I have, it almost looks like my own restaurant when it comes to creativity – within reason.”
That Ohio City Pasta Fettuccine ($ 14) is still around, but the preparation changes weekly. When we ordered it was cooked to a parfait al dente, mixed with just enough Alfredo sauce, and topped with chunks of raab broccoli and meaty roasted mushrooms. Other recent preparations included Italian sausages and butternut squash, chorizo ââand napa cabbage.
Fridays – and every other day – the Ironwood cooks up a pub-perfect fish and chip platter ($ 13) featuring planks of copper-colored beer-battered cod, its milky, flaky flesh. The fish rests on a mound of French fries with the skin carefully seasoned by the kitchen with salt and malt vinegar. Other entrees include meatloaf ($ 12) with real roasted garlic mash and unfrozen veggies, maple glazed salmon ($ 17), and a full grilled sirloin steak dinner for $ 15 .
On match days the pub fills to capacity with cheap drafts and enough bottles to appease all but the pickiest beer drinkers. The space is far from comfortable, with cool tiled floors, dozens of flickering screens, and hardwood stools pulled up to high tables. But the volume is such that conversations can be kept at normal volume, a quality even rarer than good food in sports bars.