Impressive Cleaver won’t leave diners split with its meat-centric menu – Food and Dining – Columbus Alive

Adella Miesner

The new eatery benefits from its ties to sibling business the Butcher and Grocer, which rests in the same Grandview strip mall The owners of an impressive new restaurant in Grandview have named their eatery Cleaver for sound reasons: It’s a meat-centric establishment tied to the Butcher & Grocer, a […]

The new eatery benefits from its ties to sibling business the Butcher and Grocer, which rests in the same Grandview strip mall

The owners of an impressive new restaurant in Grandview have named their eatery Cleaver for sound reasons: It’s a meat-centric establishment tied to the Butcher & Grocer, a sibling business located in the same little strip mall. 

An esteemed food shop committed to artisanship and local sourcing, the Butcher & Grocer supplies Cleaver with top-quality products that set the tone for the restaurant’s cuisine. But great ingredients are only half the battle, which is why Cleaver enlisted a skillful kitchen warrior to win the other half: Jay Kleven, former executive chef at Rockmill Tavern. 

Like other high-profile new restaurants coping with opening during a global pandemic, Cleaver’s small regular menu — which is served at its patio and bar and is takeout-friendly — is frequently updated and augmented by specials. Weekends are especially special: Cleaver offers $100 per person “dinner party” events in its dining room on Friday and Saturday evenings, as well as “must go” brunch dishes on Sundays. 

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After scanning through a few specials on Cleaver’s Instagram feed — and exploring the eatery’s regular menu, which is the sole basis for this review — I look forward to sampling those ambitious weekend dishes someday.

In the meantime, I’ll happily return for Cleaver’s consistently strong regular fare, such as its excellent Cubano ($14). Characteristically for Cleaver, this is a familiar dish elevated by first-rate ingredients and distinct little twists. Though not compressed like traditional Cuban sandwiches, Cleaver’s Cubano is a standout construction made with a deeply toasted glossy roll (from local bakery Matija Breads), smoky pulled pork with crusted ends, tender ham, thin, house-made pickles and grainy, smoked house mustard.

The Big Griddle Burger ($12) is another slammable sandwich: Two seared and juicy patties of notably fresh-tasting beef flattered by melted sharp white cheddar, house mayo, zippy house pickles, shallots, lettuce and a lovely brioche bun.

While less elaborate, the Butcher & Grocer Sausage & Peppers sandwich ($12) was another successful assembly of not-fooling-around meat (a split and seared bratwurst-style sausage), bread (nicely toasted long roll) and flavor-packed garnishes (spicy, minced giardiniera and smoked mustard).

You want Fries ($5) with that — and with practically everything else. Because Cleaver’s audibly crunchy, golden-brown and not-oily spuds are among the best thick-cut fries I’ve tried this year.

The Lamb Meatballs ($10), which tasted like merguez (a zesty North African sausage), were delicious, too. Four orbs about the size of ping-pong balls arrived slathered in a rich tzatziki sauce and were served with customizable accessories of fresh dill (to aromatize the tzatziki), razor-thin radishes (for increased earthiness), plus chili oil to amplify the spiciness if you so desire (I did).

Cleaver’s Eggs ($6) are another inspired smaller item. With yolks that evoked a pimento cheese-spread and deviled egg hybrid inside of smoked, pickled and firm egg whites — plus celery leaf and lardons garnishes — they packed a fun punch. 

Sure, the Steak Salad ($18) is pricey but, unsurprisingly, it was loaded with edge-seared slices of delectable medium-rare skirt steak. A bright-yet-rich and somewhat minty chimichurri sauce made a fine partner for the beef and smattering of good greens and wispy onion strips that comprised the rest of the lusty salad. 

No desserts presently appear on Cleaver’s regular menu, but fortunately that didn’t dissuade me from asking if any after-dinner treats were available when I phoned in a to-go order one recent evening. My curiosity paid off with a doorstop of super-comforting Bread Pudding ($9) with an appealing crust encasing a supple interior studded with fruit. An unnecessary but interesting blueberry compote with cumin notes came on the side.   

So it’s a good idea to inquire about off-menu specials here, but if none are offered, rest assured that even the regular fare at Cleaver is still pretty special.

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