April 17, 2014

Medina
Partly sunny
36°F

Restaurateur tunes in on Public Square location

Cliff Cravens is co-owner of Lager and Vine Gastropub and Wine Bar, the newest restaurant on Medina’s Public Square. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY NANCY JOHNSON)

Nancy Johnson | The Gazette

A casual comment during a commercial break on the “Lanigan and Malone” morning radio show led to the opening of Lager and Vine Gastropub and Wine Bar on Medina’s Public Square.

Owned by Cliff and Katie Cravens, Lager and Vine is the second of two restaurants for the couple. The first Lager and Vine is in Hudson.

Cliff Cravens was promoting the Hudson location on the WMJI 105.7-FM morning show when he mentioned he was thinking of opening a second restaurant.

Show producer and Medina resident Tracey Carroll didn’t miss a beat.

“I’ve got just the spot for you,” she said.

“My background was always up north,” Cravens said. “I was a partner at Fleming Steak House and worked for the Hyde Park restaurant group, all in the Beachwood area. I had been to Medina and knew how great it was, but I hadn’t considered the area for my next restaurant.”

Carroll wasted no time in providing Cravens with information about the building she had in mind — the former Grand Market Grille on the north side of the square.

“She sent me the info that day,” Cravens said, laughing.

When Cravens saw the building, he said he was disappointed at first.

“It had been vacant for seven years when I went to see it last December. The exterior looked great. But the interior was a mess. If Troy (Gerspacher, the real estate agent for the building) hadn’t been standing there, I would have walked out.”

“My first thought was ‘I don’t have enough money (to renovate) this’,” Cravens said. “But the more I looked and got to know the place, the more I felt it was a no-brainer. I knew I could do it.”

Cravens and wife, Katie, designed the nearly 5,000-square-foot interior to resemble their Hudson location, using warm colors of sage and terracotta. They installed a red brick wall behind the bar and covered feature walls with reclaimed wood from a 130-year old barn.

They upholstered existing booths with damask fabric and tore out a serving station to install additional booths and commissioned an artist from Napa Valley in California to create chandeliers from wine barrel-heads and barrel-bands.

They outfitted a private dining room with seating for 35. And they built a glass-walled wine cellar between the pub and dining room.

“We’re a pub but we also offer a wine list of food-friendly drink-right-now wines like Sonoma County’s Decoy label (in California),” Cravens said.

He also pointed out that Lager and Vine is “food-driven, which is the definition of a gastropub. All of our food is made in-house from scratch — homemade soups, pasta, salad dressings, everything.”

To manage the kitchen, Cravens brought in head chef Austin Stewart, who worked with him at Flemings and has been with the Hudson location since opening day.

Together the two fashioned a menu as an eclectic mix of filling entrees such as bourbon glazed double-thick pork chops; small plates such as pan-seared sea scallops with honey-lemon glaze and, for the casual diner, handhelds such as IPA braised pork soft tacos with fresh house-made chips.

All dishes are paired with suggestions for a beer or wine accompaniment.

The restaurant offers craft beers from local breweries.

“Right now we have Lagerhead’s Christmas brew plus beer from Great Lakes and Brew Kettle. We rotate our beers and wines so there’s always something new and interesting.”

But it is the dessert menu that gives one pause, a menu that reflects Cravens’ after-dinner preferences.

“Sometimes I like to drink my dessert,” he said, with a laugh.

Dessert wines, ice wines, cognacs and chocolate-flavored martinis are offered as dinner’s grand finale, along with sweet-to-eat desserts such as house-made chocolate stout bread pudding.

Cravens said he hopes the restaurant will encourage more people to dine in Medina’s historic district.

“I would love it if people said, ‘I had appetizers at Thyme 2 and now I’m here at Lager and Vine for dinner. And I’m going to Sully’s for after-dinner drinks and Irish music,’” Cravens said. “We want Medina Square to be a destination for choices.”

Contact reporter Nancy Johnson at (330) 721-4065 or areanews@medina-gazette.com.