Saturday, April 10, 2010

AMP 150

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Over the years I’ve been to enough “in hotel” restaurants to know that unless you’re in the middle of nowhere or staying in luxury accommodations, the menu is going to be pretty pedestrian. In most cases the only thing blander than the food is the décor. When I look for a place to eat while traveling, the hotel restaurant is something I avoid like the plague.

You can imagine the lukewarm response I initially gave when a friend of mine suggested we go to AMP 150 on West 150th and I-71 in the *gulp* ….Marriott. Exciting buzz about a new chef in town putting out great food – yes. Dinner at a hotel in Cleveland not named Ritz Carlton or Baricelli Inn – no thanks.

As we walked through the lobby toward the restaurant it was fairly typical in terms of the open style of the layout. A stylish bar area with a well stocked bar packed with unwinding hotel patrons sits off to the left of the dining room. The seating is comprised of a spacious mixture of tables and booths. (The semi-circular booths in the center of the space are prime real estate.) The bones of the interior architecture still tell the story of a hotel restaurant, but the décor certainly has an updated feel to it.

Enter Chef Ellis Cooley.
This is where the idea of the chain hotel restaurant and the predictably bad menu diverge. If I had to sum up Cooley’s approach, it would be an undeniable commitment to using high quality ingredients while offering an affordable menu. His strategy is to keep the entrees under $20, while not cutting corners on the quality produce and proteins. . The greater vision is to appeal to both guests at the hotel, as well as the Cleveland dining scene.

The last time I was there Ellis was talking about putting in a garden in the back of the hotel. When I contacted him through Facebook asking him about the planned garden, this is what he had to say:

“The garden is underway it is going to be huge…about a 1/4 acre for the vegetable garden and the herb garden will consume our courtyard. KJ Greens’ owner Jeremey Lisey will be helping get everything started and teaching me as we go. Also Jorgensens Apiary will be donating some bee hives to put on the roof of the hotel to help with pollination.”

So what is the food like? My heart was won over when I ordered the Double Bacon Cheese Burger (complete with unbelievably awesome Benton’s Bacon, Ohio Cheddar, and house made pickles). Their unconventional Chicken Paprikash is really good. I actually think it would work well as an entrée (just a bigger portion size and price). I’m also a fan of the Sweet Soy & Peanut Chicken Wings with Kim Chee. Craft beer is the only thing you’ll find on tap here; a wide variety (and by that I mean over 100) of both imports and domestics are offered in a bottle.

Amp 150 is on OpenTable so make sure you get your 100 points. For parties of 4-6, I would highly recommend the aforementioned booths, (tables 31, 32, 33). One the amazing things I learned is that the kitchen is open every day until midnight! When I fly into Hopkins Airport my routine is usually picking up pizza from Donte’s in Berea. With these late night hours, though, I think the new routine is going to be a stop at AMP 150.

It would be very easy for Ellis to simply mail it in and run a typical hotel restaurant that offers up middling food and charging business travelers inflated prices. It would also be easy to qualify himself as using local by sprinkling a couple of local sourced ingredients on the menu and calling it a day. Cooley has made a tremendous amount of progress in a relatively short period of time of wiping away the stigma of the typical hotel restaurant. I look forward to watching AMP 150 grow as the seasons change in the upcoming year. Whatever you do, don’t let the hotel scare you off.

AMP 150
4277 W 150th St
Cleveland, OH 44135
(216) 916-0104

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