There are two main types of Sunday brunch: the kind with white tablecloths, a buffet, a carving station, and a very long line on Mother’s Day, or the kind you show up to wearing the same clothes you—or someone next to you—wore the night before.
Perhaps contrary to expectations, the origins of brunch were less for the genteel and refined than for the bed-headed and bedraggled. The brunch offered by the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern sticks to the meal’s original intent and is decidedly, proudly, for the post-carousal crowd. Enough Saturday-night Beachland guests return Sunday morning that the kitchen staff even joke about turning a nearby vacant building into a B&B to cater to such constancy.
Since 2000, when the Beachland took over the then half-century-old Croatian Liberty Home, it has built a sterling reputation among true music fans in Cleveland and musicians throughout the country for careful tending of the living tree of rock and roll. During that time, it’s also taken increasing advantage of the full-service kitchen the Croatians left behind.
“We always had food service at the Beachland because we have to feed the bands,” explained Cindy Barber who, with Mark Leddy, co-owns the venue in Cleveland’s North Collinwood neighborhood in the up-and-coming Waterloo Arts District, a location that is up-and-coming in large part because of the Beachland. (Some explain Waterloo’s location as: “It’s where the Beachland is.”)
The Beachland started serving brunch a half-dozen years ago, with chef Kimberly Homan creating an often-evolving menu. Many of her original concepts remain on the menu, including the bestseller Eggs Beachland (consuming 10 dozen eggs a week) and an inventive selection of cocktails (current offerings: “Neil Diamond’s Cuff Links,” “Hula Girl,” “Zombie Light,” and “Russian Quaalude”), as well as an emphasis on vegetarian and vegan dishes. With its combination of countrified southern comfort food—grits, biscuits and gravy, chicken and waffles—and a hip, urban sensibility, the menu is a culinary metaphor for the history of rock and roll.
After Homan left to have a baby, the Beachland kitchen was a bit like Fleetwood Mac, with its comings and goings, its shifting influences, its experimentation and improvisation, as it built what Barber referred to as an “audience.”
“Over the years we’ve grown a lot more into locally produced and locally farmed products because now we’re busier and we can reorder and stock those types of sources better,” said Barber. The current chef, Brian Doyle, is taking the Beachland even further in that direction, “to the point that we’re even making our own ketchup.”
Though Doyle said “85 percent of the menu was already in place” when he arrived, he introduced a wide range of glutenfree options, including fluffy buckwheat pancakes, buttermilk biscuits, and the North Coast turkey sandwich, reflecting an emerging dietary concern for many, including Doyle himself. “If it comes with a piece of bread, you can get it gluten-free,” assured Doyle, “and a lot of the grain is local.”
From the coffee cups to the clientele, the Beachland brunch, staged in the cozy tavern space, is purposely mix-and-match. On one recent lazy Sunday, last night’s carousers sipped the Beachland’s signature Bloody Mary—with its vegan Bloody Mary mix, house-made ginger vodka, and pickled vegetable garnish—and freshly ground Crooked River coffee while texting absent friends. Customers of wide-ranging ages, in groups large and small, filled the dining room, which includes space on the stage. Barber spruced up what she calls the tavern’s “tired” tables with vintage tablecloths, printed with floral patterns augmented by coffee and ketchup spills of brunches past. A DJ spun an idiosyncratic playlist heavy on vinyl.
“As a chef, I had this knee-jerk reaction to make it nicer,” said Doyle. “But then I realized: This is our character. There’s no pretense here. It’s just fun. At the Beachland, people are doing shots and having eggs at the same time. It’s all good.”
That character is unlikely to change any time soon, even as the Beachland prepares to expand with a 60-seat outdoor patio that will allow dinner service that won’t interfere with sound checks. The patio’s opening will coincide with the scheduled “turn on” of Alan Glazen’s Operation Light Switch, a plan to open multiple new restaurants simultaneously in the immediate area, currently slated for this summer.
The Beachland Ballroom and Tavern is located at 15711 Waterloo Road in Cleveland, 216.383.1124 BeachlandBallroom.com.