Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Burgers, Beer and Bikes

  I recently  stopped by Nano Brew in Ohio City for a bite. The brewpub, located in the former Garage Bar, is a small space, all exposed brick and reclaimed barn wood, has a 24 seat bar and about 8 high-top tables. For decor, there are some vintage bicycles on display, a nod to owner Sam McNulty's favored mode of transportation, and a couple of shiny fermenting tanks. The place feels like it's always been here, a relaxed, friendly corner bar only with better food and beer.

The microbrewery, another project from the passionate and prolific Sam McNulty, an entrepreneur, suds aficionado and neighborhood developer responsible for Bier Markt, Bar Cento, and Market Garden Brewery. The focus here is on ultra small batch production that allows brewmaster Andy Tveekrem and his team to experiment with techniques, styles and flavors.

Billy Crompton,who developed his cooking skills working for Susie Porter at the much missed Town Fryer, is top dog in the kitchen, overseeing four line cooks. He brings an eclectic, quirky style to the menu, which pays homage to his former employer in the form of two deep fried delights: Oreos and balls of  mac 'n' cheese. I asked him a few questions about burgers, brews and bikes.

Cleveland Magazine: Who came up with various burger combos?
Billy Crompton: I collaborated with Andrew Bower and Maggie Schwenk (Chef and Sous Chef of Market Garden Brewery, respectively) to develop the menu. I'm happy that my ideas, such as the PB & J (a burger topped with peanut butter, bacon jam and arugula)  and the Chicken and Waffles salad (fried chicken thigh, apples, bacon, waffle croutons, maple-balsamic vinaigrette, and iceberg lettuce) made it onto the line up along with Bower and Schwenk's contributions, such as the Acid Trip, Fun Guy, (blue cheese burger with mushrooms, onion rings, arugula and staeak sauce) and Bibb Salad.  The Warm Hummus, Wake 'N Bake (a burger topped with cheddar, bacon, sunny-side-up egg, and "redeye" mayo- mayo, sriracha, and coffee- on an English muffin), and BLT, with house-made pork belly  were a  group effort.

CM: Do the burger selections stay the same or change?
BC: The bulk of the burger and sandwich menu will stay the same. However, some items (such as the house specials, soups, and salads) will change seasonally. I also came up with "The Daily Double," which is a two-patty burger that pairs with our  20-gallon batch, one-off beers. Nano Brew releases a new firkin every Thursday, and I create a burger special that pairs with it.

CM: What can you tell me about the ingredients you use?
BC: Nano Brew gets meat from Vince's Meats at the West Side Market. Vince sources his meat (U.S.D.A Choice Beef) from Mahan Packing in Bristolville, Ohio. We season our fresh, never frozen burgers using a house recipe and hand-patty them to order. We work with the Pork Chop Shop at the West Side Market. Emma and Alexia make the area's best chorizo, which we use in our Namber Chili, and we have also teamed up with them to make our bratwurst. They put our Nano Namber Ale in their bratwurst. We get as much produce as we can from the Ohio City Farm and Refugee Response Farm during the warmer months.

CM:  Nano has both sidewalk seating and an enclosed back patio. Anything else I should know about that area?
BC: Yes! We have both. There are two tables out front and communal tables on the side and on the back patio, where we'll have a full bar including all of our 24 draft beers [a mix of Nano Brew and Market Garden selections plus others from a variety of American craft brewers] during the warmer months. Our back patio "cross-polinates" with The Black Pig's second story patio, and we play our classic rock/old school punk soundtrack on the outdoor speakers to keep the party going. Nano Brew's side patio also has Cleveland's first and only "Bike Box," [for storing your two-wheeler], and we have a bike repair station inside if anyone needs to fix their bike while out and about.

Nano Brew is Ohio City's third brewpub and a fourth, the Hansa Brewpub, breaks ground today. Not surprisingly McNulty, an Ohio City booster with a supportive and generous spirit, is hosting the after-party for the event at 5 p.m. today at Market Garden Brewery.

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