Chef Michael Schwartz switches restaurant concepts at Van Aken District

As shops and restaurants continue to open their doors at the new Van Aken District, James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz has announced that he will open his Miami-based Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in the space originally planned for his Genuine Pizza chain at 3427 Tuttle Road in Shaker Heights.

Michael’s Genuine will join the many retail, residential, and dining options available in the District, touted as Shaker Heights’ new downtown. The 2,819-square-foot space—across from Market Hall and the Craft Collective—will offer seating for 91 people inside and 54 outside.

Chef Michael Schwartz
While Genuine Pizza sticks pretty much to its name in the kind of food it serves, Michael’s Genuine specializes in using seasonal ingredients and warm hospitality to create a complete dining experience.

Schwartz was first approached about opening a restaurant in the Van Aken District by fellow James Beard Award-winning chef and Cleveland native Jonathon Sawyer (who is also bringing a concept to the District). Though he was “sort of reluctant at first," Schwartz eventually decided to go for it with Michael’s Genuine as the opening of the District evolved.

“After seeing Jonathon’s enthusiasm, seeing [Van Aken] come to life, and seeing the Cleveland food and beverage scene, I saw it as an opportunity to do more there. I saw it as an opportunity to bring the whole experience there," shares Schwartz.

The flagship Michael’s Genuine in Miami has built a reputation for exciting food since opening in 2007, and its oceanfront location allows for an abundance of fresh seafood. Schwartz plans to replicate that success Cleveland-style with a straightforward and regional seasonal menu tailored to the Shaker location.

“The growing season in Miami is so upside down, so I’m adapting to Cleveland and its seasonality will come sort of naturally to me,” says Schwartz, who is originally from Philadelphia. “I’m looking forward to meeting and relying on my connections to meet local growers.”

He adds that the Miami location doesn’t necessarily focus on seafood, although the Miami restaurant does showcase the city’s local offerings. The same will hold true for Shaker. “I think we will adapt and see what fish we can bring in locally and from the East and West coasts,” he says, adding that he already works with national suppliers for items like oysters, mussels, clams, and shrimp. “We will take a lighter, brighter approach to fish and non-fish items.”

According to Schwartz, the final details of the design and décor are still being worked out, and he is working with a new design firm—Groundswell Design Group out of Philadelphia.

“Michael’s Genuine is 12 years old, so we’re really looking at the best elements and best color palette and incorporating it in to the new environment,” says Schwartz. “It’s a little more updated, but with the same food and spirit.”

Schwartz says he expects the clientele at the Van Aken District to be diverse, from businesspeople lunching to Millennials. “It’s really pretty inclusive in terms of demographics,” he says.

Michael’s Genuine is due to open in April, but Schwartz will be at the Van Aken District on Saturday, December 1 for Chill & Toast to offer samples of his fare and preview the restaurant.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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