Ohio City Galley Cooks Up Restaurant Concepts in Cleveland
At the corner of West 25th Street and Detroit Avenue on Cleveland's near west side, there is a new dining destination unlike anything else in Northeast Ohio.
Like a high-end food court, the Ohio City Galley is four restaurants in one.
The Ohio City Galley [photo: ideastream]
It's the brainchild of co-founders Tyler Benson and Ben Mantica of the Pittsburgh-based Galley Group. They're two U.S. Navy veterans who came up with the idea during their tours in Southeast Asia, where they saw the power of the food-court concept.
"They were always hubs of activity with multiple vendor concepts. Really awesome food in a very casual and approachable atmosphere. When we came back from the Navy and came back to the states we said, 'well why don't we do that back in the states?'" Mantica said.
Ohio City Galley co-founder Ben Mantica [photo: ideastream]
They realized that many chefs don't have the funds or experience to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Mantica compares the Galley to a tech accelerator where they take care of the overhead so the chefs can focus on the food.
"We exist because we want to give chefs the opportunity to launch their own concepts. Our goal is to be the platform for the next great concept in Cleveland," he said.
Victor Searcy Jr., chef/owner Sauce the City [photo: ideastream]
One of the chefs, Victor Searcy Jr., joined this venture with his own hot sauce, which he developed while slinging fries at local festivals and carnivals.
"What made us different and what separated us was our signature sauce. Every year it grew, and once somebody bought a whole squeeze bottle of sauce for 40 bucks, I was like 'yeah, we got something here,'" Searcy said.
Sauce the City at Ohio City Galley [photo: ideastream]
Searcy's now operates Sauce the City at the Galley. It has a soul-food vibe with fried chicken, portabello burgers, and street corn all made with his signature sauce.
Meanwhile brothers Michael and Tom Schoen are the owners of Tinman, featuring a blue-collar, comfort food menu.
Michael Schoen, chef and co-owner Tinman [photo: ideastream]
Michael is an award-winning chef who's worked at restaurants in Cleveland and Chicago. But his main inspiration comes from closer to home.
"My mom was infamous for doing pot roast once a week so we took what she used to make for us at the dinner table. I took all of the techniques and everything I learned from other chefs mashed that up and that's what we came up with," Schoen said.
Tinman's pork and apples with pumpkin cabbage sarsparilla [photo: ideastream]
The Schoen brothers hope to open their own restaurant once it's time to move on from the Galley and find a neighborhood with a blue-collar atmosphere. First they need to see if patrons like it.
"This is a great incubator to really see what the public wants and feedback is always good," Schoen said.
The Ohio City Galley in the historic Forest City Bank Building [photo: ideastream]
Searcy agrees that the Galley's location in the historic Forest City Bank Building, which more recently was home to the restaurant Massimo da Milano, is a prime location.
"It's definitely a great vibe in here, the galley group does an excellent job in creating a platform where young chefs can come in and basically perfect their craft and not worry about a lot of the overhead that happens in restaurants," Searcy said.
Michael Nowak, chef/owner Poca Casual Cuisine [photo: ideastream]
Another of the four chefs, Michael Nowak, actually has experience running his own restaurant, the Black Pig, also in Ohio City. But he joined the Galley to try out a new concept that he's never done before - Mexican food.
"I've never worked in a Mexican restaurant, I've never operated a Mexican restaurant. So other than at-home dinners and some pretty epic family meals at the restaurant, that's been the extent of our Mexican cooking," Nowak said.
Poca Casual Cuisine at Ohio City Galley [photo: ideastream]
Nowak knows there are plenty of great Mexican restaurants in Cleveland, but he wants to see if locals will enjoy more far-flung flavors.
"We are based on Oaxacan cuisine. You're going to see things like pozole, moles, tamales, rich braised meats and bean dishes. The food has an underlying spice to it. There's going to be a couple flavors that people might not be used to and we just want to gauge that and see what they like and what they don't like," Nowak said."
The Ohio City Galley [photo: ideastream]
The average Galley entree is about $15, and, like at a food court, a family of four might walk out with four different bills. But Mantica thinks people will pay for the flexibility in cuisines.
"They can order from any kitchen they want, they sit wherever they want, there's no host, there's no hostess. We want that interaction to be with the chef. So you walk right up to the kitchen, see what they're doing, order and you get a table card. Sit wherever you want in the space, sit at the bar, grab a drink, and someone from the kitchen will run the food out to you," Mantica said.
Thet Ohio City Galley [photo: ideastream]
Each restaurant is expected to be part of the galley for about a year, but Mantica says that's flexible based on how long it takes each to establish itself. Then a new round of chefs will come in.
"We're very much focused on these guys staying in Cleveland. We really see this place as hopefully a really good community-oriented spot for Cleveland. That's really important to us. Supporting these local entrepreneurs but also providing a space for Cleveland to come hang out and feel comfortable," Mantica said.