Back in the 1980s, Cleveland’s restaurant scene was, let’s say, short on pizzazz and sophistication. Then came Zack Bruell. The godfather of fusion cuisine in these parts, Bruell gave us meat and potatoes, but in an innovative way.
Since those early days, he’s introduced one winner after another. Lately, he’s on a hot streak. When Bruell opened Table 45 inside the Intercontinental Hotel & Conference Center in Midtown in 2007, Esquire magazine dubbed it “one of the most strikingly modern in America.” Two years later, he made the “Best New Restaurants” list again with L’Albatros, a brasserie-style gem in University Circle. Bruell also operates Parallax (Asian inspired) in Tremont, Chinato (Italian) on East 4th Street, Cowell & Hubbard (French) and Dynomite Burgers in Playhouse Square. And, he recently opened a casual, self-serve restaurant called Kafeteria off Public Square.
He’s the only restaurateur in Cleveland operating six successful establishments within the city limits, plus a restaurant-style catering and events company, Zack Bruell Events. Yet he continues to expand his offerings: Bruell recently debuted a full line of gourmet coffees, Zack’s Brews, as well as Zack Bruell Olive Oil and Zack Bruell Balsamic Vinegars.
A Cleveland native and multi-year James Beard award semi-finalist, Bruell originally planned to pursue a finance degree and work in his father’s hardware store. But lousy food at the university cafeteria changed his course.
Instead, he learned classic French cooking techniques at The Restaurant School in Philadelphia and immersed himself in the emerging California nouvelle trend under famed chef Michael McCarty in Santa Monica.
While Bruell’s restaurants vary widely, from French to Italian to burgers, common threads connect the menus. Bruell is known for tweaking classics to local tastes and using ingredients people wouldn’t typically cook at home.
So when the menu offers a beet and beef cheek salad, go for it. Sounds kind of weird. Tastes kind of magical.
Portions of this article are brought to you by Positively Cleveland. For more information on all things Cleveland, visit www.thisiscleveland.com/restaurants/cleveland-chefs/zack-bruell/