Columbus Monthly’s Best New Restaurants: Cleaver

A meat-centric newcomer features a greatest hits of Ohio fare.

Nicholas Dekker
Menu items from Cleaver

The First Avenue space that Cleaver inhabits has turned over a few times in recent years, going from a long-running Old Bag of Nails location to a short-lived Harvest Pizzeria and then The Old Spot. But the new concept is here to carve out its own place on the Columbus dining scene. 

Cleaver is the creation of Tony Tanner and Matt Evans, owners of neighboring The Butcher & Grocer. And with its promising, meat-centric offerings, Cleaver seems almost like a direct pipeline from the butcher shop to customers’ plates. The businesses feature Ohio-grown products almost exclusively, so dining at Cleaver is an opportunity to welcome a wide range of Buckeye State meats, cheeses and spreads, from RL Valley Ranch beef to Six Buckets Farm pork and Swainway mushrooms to Black Radish Creamery cheeses. 

Hush puppies and the roast beef and cheddar sandwich at Cleaver

Opening in the throes of the pandemic, Tanner and Evans relied on chef Jay Kleven, who most recently helmed the kitchen at Rockmill Tavern, to sketch out a hearty, pub-style menu. To navigate dine-in restrictions due to COVID-19, Tanner and Evans began by hosting private dinner parties: six- to eight-course meals in single seatings of up to 20 guests at a time, which continued successfully into December, when the restaurant finally opened for regular dine-in. 

Scotch egg at Cleaver in Grandview

While Cleaver’s menu has started small, it’s off to a solid start by elevating old favorites with a ready array of local ingredients. The old-school Cubano, for instance, is given new life with smoked pork shoulder, Butcher & Grocer ham, spicy pickled cucumbers (farmed in Ohio, of course), smoked mustard and smoked gouda on Matija ciabatta. The full menu reads like a greatest hits of Ohio fare: giant griddled burgers, steak salads, meatballs, roast beef and cheddar sandwiches and even the time-intensive Five-Step French Fries. Cleaver is poised to become a prime spot for showcasing what Ohio farmers and food-makers do best.

Cleaver, 1099 W. First Ave., Grandview, 614-914-8057, cleavergrandview.com

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