TavCo’s new owner launches upscale menu
The Tavern Company has a new owner and a new menu.
Chris Armington, who worked for 12 years at Brennan’s Colony as a bartender, server and manager, now owns The Tavern Company, also known as TavCo. “It’s always been a dream of mine to own my own business,” he says.
After signing the papers last November, his dream came true, and in January, Armington introduced a new menu for 2010. “If you’re a bar on Lee Road, you have to have wings and burgers, so we do that. But we also wanted to offer things that are a little more high end, and not be like every other bar on Lee Road.”
Additions to the menu—such as the seared tuna sandwich with orange pickled fennel and tarragon aioli on a crispy portabella mushroom bun, which replaces the old menu’s tuna melt—provide a more sophisticated take on the restaurant’s previous offerings. Other new items include sautéed spinach, soft-shell crab po’ boys and the pork chop—served with manchego-bacon polenta and maple thyme jus, a favorite of both Armington and his new chef, Jamie Wynbrandt.
Formerly a chef at Brennan’s, Wynbrandt points out that the bistro-style bar gets its bread baked daily by The Stone Oven across the street, and emphasizes, “From the fish to the French fries, everything’s fresh. Every single item on the menu is done with a purpose. You’re not just getting a piece of chicken on some bread if you order the chicken sandwich; you’re getting chicken with smoked gouda on focaccia bread, with sun-dried tomato pesto. We’re not just serving fried bar food.”
Prices for entrees (big plates) range from $14 to $21, with sandwiches ranging from $9 to $13, and small plates available for $4 to $12.
There’s no kids’ menu, but chefs are happy to prepare grilled cheese and other dishes suited to children’s palates, though items on the menu appeal to local residents of all ages. “A lot of families come here. Late at night, we get anywhere from the early 20s to grandparents,” Armington says. “Cleveland Heights people are loyal, which is awesome. We’ve kept a lot of the regulars—people who came here before and have been coming here for years.”
While the menu has changed, the wooden tables and booths, the enormous moose head over the bar and the relaxed atmosphere in the restaurant have remained the same.
On a recent Saturday night, the dining room was full, and locals gathered at the bar to watch sports on four flat-screen TVs and chat in the laid-back setting. Bartenders serve up bottles and draft beers, including two local Great Lakes varieties, and wine is also available.
TavCo has happy hour Monday through Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., offering specials, such as $1 off any drink or shot, as well as $2 off small plates. Other specials include the “Five for $30” deal, offered Monday through Thursday: one bottle of wine or pitcher of beer served with two small salads and two entrees.
Armington seems to know everyone in the restaurant, and his friendly demeanor matches that of everyone from the host to the kitchen staff. Keeping a Heights focus is important to Armington, who says he also wants to showcase local artwork and possibly host local events in the restaurant.
TavCo is located at 2260 Lee Rd. in Cleveland Heights and opens daily at 5 p.m.
M-W: 5-10 p.m.
Th, F, S: 5-11 p.m.
Bar open 5p.m.-2 a.m.
Kelli Fontenot is a journalist living in Cleveland Heights.