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An Early Look at Hiraeth in the Short North

Jan 22, 2024

Little over a year since the owners of Chapman’s Eat Market and Ginger Rabbit Jazz Lounge announced a third venture, Hiraeth is set to debut next week in a newly constructed space at 36 E. Lincoln St. That’s three restaurant concepts in three years for its owners, married duo BJ Lieberman and Bronwyn Haines, for those keeping score at home. The first concept, Chapman’s, opened during the pandemic in 2020.

Hiraeth (a Welsh word meaning a sense of longing) is chef Lieberman’s first local foray into live-fire cooking. The new Short North restaurant features a global menu with Mediterranean/North African flair, including stuffed eggplant with feta and lamb merguez kebabs. But Hiraeth plays outside that sandbox as well, offering dishes such as longanisa (Filipino sausages), whole fried fish with sweet chile sauce and dry-aged rib-eye with "H1 sauce.”

Following test runs at the restaurant, Lieberman has already made one significant change to the menu. He’s going to table plans for a $100 chef’s tasting menu option at the start, so that the kitchen can focus on executing the core à la carte menu, which the chef describes as “steakhouse adjacent.”

“It's not like we have a whole bunch of different cuts of beef and stuff like that,” Lieberman said during a Wednesday interview at the new space. “However, the layout of a steakhouse menu is normally appetizers that are very shareable for the table. And then for entrées, it's normally a cut of meat with just a simple sauce or a simple accoutrement. And then you [can] choose your sides à la carte. So, that's kind of the format that we're going with.”

Though I haven't eaten there yet, I can tell you that Hiraeth is a feast for the eyes thanks to Benjamin Lewellyn and Mike Grady, the design team behind Ginger Rabbit and Chapman’s. With 5,500 square feet and 94 seats across two levels, Hiraeth feels like two separate restaurants. The street-level dining space boasts tall windows, bright blue ceilings and Italian terrazzo flooring—offering an airy, Mediterranean feel. Green leather booths contrast with brutalist, pine dining chairs constructed by the Finnish company Vaarnii. Oakland Nursery plants and pots dot the space and, on my visit, turmeric-dyed fabric was being installed along the white walls.

Meanwhile, the lower-level dining room (featuring an open kitchen) is moodier, with flourishes like arroyo red-lacquered walls in the stairway, alabaster-and-chain chandeliers, dark wood floors and brown leather banquettes. The look pairs well with the smoky aroma coming off the stout-and-shiny Grills by Demant hearth.

Unlike Chapman’s, there’s no secret dining room behind a bookcase, but there is a cozy, low-ceilinged bar on the bottom floor—a foil to the greenhouselike bar upstairs. (In all, it’s a choose-your-own-adventure kind of restaurant with distinct personalities depending on where you sit.) With Ginger Rabbit focusing on gin cocktails, Hiraeth’s two bars will lean more into smoky mezcals, Scotches and whiskeys. Wine will also be a bigger focus, says bar director Seth Laufman.

“Chapman's was the easiest restaurant opening I've ever done. In a lot of ways, it was a blessing to get to grow the team kind of one person at a time,” Lieberman says, as new staffers gather in the Hiraeth dining room during our interview. “This is definitely more of a traditional restaurant opening where we get 30 people in here who've never met each other before, and we have two weeks to form a team, form a menu, form a cohesive vision of what it is that we're doing. There's definitely some stresses that come with that for sure. But for the most part, I'm extremely happy with where we're headed and how the team has gelled so far.”

Like Chapman’s, reservations for Hiraeth will become available on the first of each month for the following month. That means you can now grab a table for September. Hiraeth will be open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday.