Ohio City: In my mind, there is only one kind of bar food. It's fried. It's greasy. It was likely frozen at one point in its life. Most importantly it tastes great after 1 a.m. and is easy on the wallet.
After revisiting ABC Tavern, which was reinvented last fall by West Side Market Cafe owners Randy Kelley and Linda Syrek, I have to admit I was wrong. There is now typical bar food, and then there's what's going on in ABC's tiny kitchen.
The menu is small, flavors are simple, and most dishes are less than $8. (Even the evening's shark bites special — fried nuggets of mako shark with pomme frites — was only $7.)
Because the West Side Market is located across the street, there's also plenty of access to fresh ingredients. Ground lamb from Tuczyk's Meat stand serves as the base for a quesadilla starter topped with feta, spinach and tomato folded over in a fluffy grilled pita with a side of bright cucumber sauce ($7.75).
Thinly sliced and lightly salted pomme frites accompany most entrees and make a nice side for the ABC burger ($6.75), which is smashed flat and grilled with American cheese and onion frizzles.
And though the Sriracha aioli that accompanies the basket of hush puppies ($5.75) could have used a little more kick, it was great to see the typically Southern-fried corn meal dish on a Northern menu.
Sure, hush puppies may seem out of place at a bar. So does the salt and pepper calamari with chili lime sauce ($6.75) and hummus with fresh pita ($5.75) — but everything we tried was done well.
Before launching the new menu, Syrek promised to offer a twist on traditional bar food and to keep ABC's neighborhood feel intact. She delivers on both counts.
Although the tavern's atmosphere isn't exactly synonymous with destination dining, the attentive service rivals that of some of the finer places in town. You'll have to sit at the bar or grab a tiny table in the back, but find room if you can. It's worth stopping in.
1872 W. 25th St., Cleveland, 216-861-3857