Narrow bridges

Mayfield Tavern skillfully and delightfully connects the old and the new

One of the newer taverns in Northeast Ohio is also, in a way, one of the oldest.

When the Mayfield Tavern opened in June, it did so in the building that once housed what is considered Mayfield Heights’ first commercial venture. It all started in the mid-1920s, when the DiCillo family operated a grocery store on the site at 6088 Mayfield Road.

When Prohibition ended in 1933, the DiCillos got a liquor license and turned the place into the DiCillo Tavern. It was one of the first post-ban bars in the eastern suburbs of Cleveland and has remained a staple in the Hillcrest area for over 80 years.

Developer Brad Kowit and Chef Zech Taylor have teamed up to carry on the tradition, aiming to keep the neighborhood bar concept alive while pairing it with high-end tavern fare. The deliberate mix of new and old is striking before you even walk in.

The exterior of the modest two-story building is still a familiar white, but the facade has received a modern facelift, with a black canopy and fascia giving it a contemporary feel. Inside, the long wooden bar that’s been around since 1938 is still there, but catch up and you’ll have dozens of beers to choose from, including trendy crafts and Ohio beers.

The signature cocktails and Thai lettuce wraps you can order probably weren’t on the menu in 38, but it is and isn’t your grandpa’s local watering hole.

As was apparently common with local bars in those bygone days, the deep space is divided into a pair of long, narrow rooms rather than an open area. The room next to the main bar is more of a dining room, with a capacity of around 40 people. It’s been redecorated since my last stay, decades ago, and features whitewashed brick walls – probably original – mixed with wood panels. The ceiling has exposed beams and the floor has a hardwood look. It has the rustic-chic look that a lot of places sport these days.

The menu is not complicated. There are a handful of starters, burgers, and sandwiches, as well as a few salads. We started with an order of the aforementioned Thai lettuce wraps ($ 8) and onion rings ($ 5) from the appetizer menu.

The place promotes itself as an emphasis on “fresh” and the entrees did not disappoint. I’m an onion ring snob and really enjoyed the freshness of the onions in the rings. Well beaten and hot, they still have a little crispness. They were also perfectly cut, just the right thickness to be bitten off, not dragged by the teeth of the dough. Other places might learn from the way Tavern of Mayfield makes onion rings.

Mayfield Tavern Onion Rings may just represent the perfected art form. (Mark Koestner – For the News-Herald)

The lettuce wraps featured Bibb lettuce as fresh as you can imagine. Lettuce served as the base for the grated chicken and an ambitious carrot salad. The menu says “Thai Spiced Chicken”, but I didn’t think it was spicy enough for the description. My wife thought it was just the right amount of spicy – which ALSO means it wasn’t spicy enough for description. It’s still a solid dish.

Tavern of Mayfield cooks their own beef – “fresh” is the emphasis, remember – and I had heard they had great burgers. But when we visited I was a bit of a burger and the Hot Nashville Chicken Sandwich ($ 12) intrigued me. This is a hand-breaded chicken breast dipped in a hot sauce, topped with pickles and, depending on the menu, a spicy aioli.

I enjoyed it, but as with the ‘Thai spicy’ chicken, I would say the words ‘hot’ and ‘spicy’. To be fair to Zech (formerly of Red, Wine & Brew at Mentor, among others), the acidity of pickles combined with spicy sauces can be a bit high. In this age of crispy chicken sandwiches, I’m still waiting for someone to pair a hot breaded chicken breast with some fresh, un-pickled cucumbers and maybe some ranch-style aioli. A guy can dream.

My wife ordered the Philly Sandwich (also $ 12), which you can get with steak or chicken and comes with peppers, onions, mushrooms, American cottage cheese, and mayonnaise on a French roll. I took a bite (she opted for chicken) and it was fantastic.

It’s important to note that burgers and sandwiches come with homemade fries, with fries being a $ 3 upgrade. We ordered our sandwiches with one of each to compare. The fries were very good, but the house fries were excellent as were the fries. To each their own, of course, but – and I’ve probably never thought of it before – I think next time I’ll keep the $ 3 in my pocket and go with the chips. They were so good.

It’s also important to note that when we walked in I was pessimistic about how the experience was going to go. It was one of those situations where the person behind the bar was solely responsible for pouring drinks to regulars AND handling food orders from customers across the wall. I was wrong. I would have liked to have had the woman’s name because our service was impeccable, by far the best I have ever experienced anywhere when the bartender is responsible for everything and everyone.

I admit that my assessment of the place is influenced by nostalgia. I’m not from Mayfield Heights like Kowit, but grew up nearby and then worked a stone’s throw away. DiCillo has always been there, a must. I probably saw a hundred movies as a kid in the old Mayland cinema, which you could almost spit on from the Tavern of Mayfield if he was still around.

It’s great that someone has preserved this part of the history of the area and even cooler that it has been updated the way it has.

Reviews are generally based on an anonymous visit to a restaurant.

Mayfield Tavern

6088 Mayfield Road

Mayfield Heights

216-896-5600

thetavernofmayfield.com

Site: On the south side of Mayfield Road, just east of Lander Road.

Type of catering: Local tavern.

Hours: from 11 a.m. to midnight from Tuesday to Sunday (kitchen open until 10 p.m.); closed on Mondays.

Liquor and wine: Full bar.

Facilities for disabled people: Yes.

Credit card: All adults.

Food: Upscale bar and grill.

Vegetarian: Some options.

Special diets: Learn about food preferences.

Suitable for children: No children’s menu, menu items suitable for children; family during the day; special weekend menus that may appeal to families.

Outdoor dining: No.

Dress code: Relaxed.

Reservations: No.

Wireless: Yes.

Online order : Yes.

Delivery: No.

Prices: Reasonable. Appetizers mostly in the $ 10 to $ 12 range; burgers and sandwiches mostly around $ 12 plus $ 3 to go from homemade fries to fries.

Value: Excellent

Notes (out of five):

Food: 4.

Atmosphere: 4.

Service: 5.


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