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Now open: Doug Trattner explores Tremont's Cloak & Dagger

The building has a reputation of being 'cursed,' but co-owner Casey Hughes won't buy into the hype.

CLEVELAND — In mid-October, partners Casey Hughes and Cory Hajde opened Cloak & Dagger (2399 W. 11th St., (216) 795-5657), a craft cocktail bar in Tremont. While the name might conjure images of an exclusive speakeasy, the intent was to create the opposite vibe, according to Hughes.

“When we were thinking of a bar that could fit a niche in Cleveland and do well, we thought of all that Cleveland had to offer already,” she explaind, rattling off places like sports bars, dive bars and loud bars. “We wanted a place where anybody could feel good coming here.”

In an effort to make Cloak & Dagger comfortable and approachable, the owners settled on a book-themed environment. Shelving is lined with leather-bound books, velvet-clad soft seating is at the ready, and there’s even a small writer’s desk tucked into a sunny corner.

“This whole place is themed after a retired author's study,” Hughes says of her design inspiration.

The literary theme doesn’t stop with the décor; even the menu was conceived as a narrative device. Titled “The Tales of Life and Death,” the multi-page booklet goes above and beyond the typical broadsheet.

“We wanted something you could hold and dive into,” says Hughes. “The menu takes you from light cocktails to dark cocktails.”

Described another way, the menu moves the guest from life to death, with bright, floral and fruity drinks giving way to strong, earthy and boozy ones. Each original creation is accompanied by a description that helps the reader select a flavor profile that’s right for him or her. Like food, cocktails can be seasonal too, and Hughes promises that a new menu will "bloom" in spring.

One of the most popular cocktails on the inaugural tome is called King of the Dead, a bourbon-based elixir that arrives with a cold brew coffee ice cube in the shape of a skull.

“It is an evolving drink,” says Hughes. “As the ice cube melts you get more and more coffee.”

For guests who don’t drink booze – or maybe just want to sit out a round – the menu also has a selection of creative alcohol-free mocktails.   

Food is no mere afterthought at Cloak & Dagger. Chef Todd Kronika has put together a small but tantalizing selection of vegan and vegetarian items that are bound to change the way diners think about that style of food.

“This is vegan comfort food,” Hughes states, adding that items like poutine and brisket already are receiving high praise.

In keeping with the literary theme, a fiction author might allege that this particular location in Tremont is cursed. The notorious property just off Lincoln Park has seen more than its fair share of restaurants over the years, leading some observers to claim that the spot is jinxed.

These owners aren’t buying that narrative.

“When we got into the space and learned a little more about the past people that were here, we learned that it wasn’t the space itself, it was the people in it,” Hughes explains. “They didn’t take the time to get people to notice. If you don’t let people know you’re here, they’re not going to know you’re here.”

To see more and visit Cloak and Dagger's menu, click here.