Sunday, July 29, 2012

Brunching: The Flying Fig

Ohio City Burger, $12
Cleveland. 216 years old this last week (which, as you phone nerds know, is also the area code).

The West Side Market. 100 years old last month.

And this Summer Ohio City's The Flying Fig will turn 15.

Spicy-sweet pulled pork on ciabatta
Chef/owner Karen Small has been turning out dressed up New American bistro fare in this cozy eatery since 1997.

Her food is every bit as delicious as Lola Bistro, originally just down the road in Cleveland's Tremont district. Like Lola, Chef Small's food is served with warmth and whimsy.

Recently the Fig converted a banquet room into a small retail front-end for Chef Small's wonderful breads, sandwiches sold to go, jams, preserves, pickles, gourmet cheeses, wines and other items made by local farmers and cooks and Chef Small herself.

Chef Small's focaccia, rolls, baguettes and ciabatta are her answer to Chef Symon's perogies. Her dinner menu often includes savory bread puddings, rib sticking and filling accoutrement to juicy double-bone pork chops or grilled hangar steak.

Chef Small has made it a point to locally source as much as possible on her constantly changing menu and has been doing so before that was "the fashion." (To their credit, so have Chef Symon, Chef Jill Vedaa of Rockefellers Restaurant and The Greenhouse Tavern's Chef Sawyer).

The Flying Fig hosts local jazz bands, a vibrant happy hour, a separate bar menu with small plates and dressed up bar snacks and a lengthy list of specialty cocktails.

In recent years, Chef Small has been open for brunch on the weekend, and has quickly become one of the most popular spots - and one of the best brunches - in Cleveland.

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Huevos Rancheros
Chef Small was in the restaurant both times I visited recently, all smiles. She may be diminutive in stature but her presence fills the room. When she stopped by to chat we were considering ordering another round of pancakes (I had wisely decided to bring half of my sandwich home to my mother).

All brunch items were ridiculously delicious, highlights including a spicy Napoleon of tortillas and salsas, beans, cheese and finally topped with a fried sunny-side up Ohio egg for their "huevos rancheros" entrée. Impossibly fluffy waffles with fresh Ohio berries, dense French toast and Chardon maple syrup and a perfect brunch burger, topped with an egg.

Hands down my favorite was local walleye, beer battered and fried, in a sandwich with arugula and Chef Small's slightly spicy slaw on a soft bun. Menu items are seasonal and subject to change... any item featuring Ohio pork, beef, lake fish or even roasted or pickled vegetables, local fruits and farm cheeses are sure to delight.

Kir Royale
During the summer months, you can grab a seat out in the patio in front of the restaurant and people watch Clevelanders coming to and from the West Side Market, Market Avenue Wine Bar, Great Lakes Brewing Company, teenagers skating on a nearby plaza and Ohio City revelers getting a rain check on their hangovers from The Garage or Bar Cento or nearby dance club Touch.

If a rain-check is what you need, the brunch menu includes many affordable brunch cocktail options, many variations on the mimosa theme for around $7 a glass, or a knock-your-socks-off bloody mary ($7). For $35 you can pop open a bottle of crisp cava.  Order anything from the Fig's fully stocked bar - here an emphasis on premium Bourbons.

I had a Kir Royale followed by several Michter's with a splash of ginger beer and bitters.

Come in some Sunday afternoon soon and you'll forget all about the fuss and bustle of Literary and Professor in Tremont or East 4th and Euclid in Downtown Cleveland.

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The Flying Fig
2523 Market Avenue
Ohio City, Cleveland, Ohio
216-241-4243