Michael’s Genuine will open spring 2019 in Shaker Heights
Stuffed inside a few worn-out file boxes, James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz collects copies of almost every menu he’s ever written for his eponymous Miami restaurant, Michael’s Genuine. Opened in 2007, the restaurant prints new menus daily, exchanging items like the sweet Florida onions stuffed with spiced lamb, for the short rib with romesco. Schwartz isn’t entirely sure how many menus he’s stashed away, but he estimates somewhere in the mid thousands.
“Hell no, they’re not organized,” Schwartz says laughing. “Well, okay, it’s sort of organized. But then I ruffle through it and mess everything up.”
Schwartz, who owns eight restaurants in South Florida and one in Atlanta, is gearing up to open his first in Cleveland next April. Also, in 2019, Schwartz plans to open two new pizzerias, debut a bohemian-inspired, wood-fired kitchen concept in Miami’s Coconut Grove neighborhood, and take over all food and beverage operations at the COMO Metropolitan Miami Beach Hotel.
“My team and I will be opening five new restaurants in 2019,” he says. “It’s unbelievable. Somehow, I still manage to find time to sleep and go fishing. Maybe not as much as I’d like to, but I make it work.”
Michael’s Genuine, which will open in the Van Aken District, a mixed-use development located nine miles outside of downtown Cleveland in the historic suburb Shaker Heights, will in many ways replicate the flagship in Miami, with the addition of seasonal products unique to the Midwest.
“If you would have asked me last year if I’d ever open in Cleveland, I probably would have looked at you like you were crazy,” he says. “But my friend Jonathan Sawyer, who’s a well-known chef in the area, is the one who really got me on board. He’s been curating concepts for the Van Aken District, and we thought my pizza restaurant Genuine Pizza would be a good fit.”
Fast-forward two years, and something changed. “As we saw the project come to life, we felt like there was an opportunity to do more,” Schwartz says. “We actually opened a Michael’s Genuine in Grand Cayman years ago and realized we could have success with it outside of Miami. Opening it in Cleveland will allow us to bring something more to the neighborhood.”
“The philosophy that makes Michael’s Genuine so special is easier to copy nowadays,” Schwartz says. “There’s a lot more access to artisanal products and farm-grown foods.”
In Cleveland, the nearly 3,000-square-foot space, which will offer more than 150 indoor-outdoor seats, will feature a blend of Michael’s Genuine’s core menu items with a selection of Ohio-only specialties.
Schwartz hasn’t solidified an exact menu yet, but he expects to showcase some of Miami’s favorites, like the crispy pork belly with kimchi, crushed peanuts, and cilantro, the chicken liver crostini with caramelized onions, and the crispy pig ears with chili and lime.
“I’m digging through all of my old menus and bringing back some of Michael’s classics,” he says. “I’m still navigating the sourcing situation in Cleveland, so I can’t exactly say what else will be on the menu. But it will be a nice balance.”
In addition to Cleveland, Schwartz plans to take control of the COMO Metropolitan Miami Beach Hotel’s dining by early January, including the pool and beach areas, the main restaurant, and in-room dining. An outpost of Schwartz’s Genuine Pizza chain is slated to open in Miami Beach within the year, too.
When the Philadelphia-born chef isn’t inside one of his kitchens, find him somewhere in the Keys on a fishing boat. This past November, unreachable by cellphone, he spent several hours on the water and caught “lots of tuna and yellow jack,” he says. It’s one of the only ways he knows how to disconnect.
“It’s funny because every time I’m down there, people ask when I’ll open a restaurant in the Keys,” he says. “That probably won’t ever happen. Same thing with Chicago or New Orleans, where my kids live now. But then again, that’s what I said about Cleveland, and now look where I am.”