In the middle of an industry shakeup caused by the coronavirus, Northside couple Andrew and Jamie Schlanser are just getting started on their dream of opening their own restaurant, Good Plates Eatery.
Earlier this year, when the owner of Cilantro Vietnamese Bistro in Clifton Heights decided to close his restaurant, he asked if Andrew might be interested in taking over the space.
“That was late January,” Andrew says. “We were kind of going back and forth, trying to work out the details. [We] actually put down a small deposit while we figured things out, on March 11.”
On March 15, all the restaurants in Ohio were ordered by the Ohio Department of Health to close to dine-in customers—which is how the Northside couple found themselves opening Good Plates Eatery during a global pandemic that has stalled restaurant businesses worldwide.
As ominous a venture it might sound, things worked out better than the couple hoped for. Andrew’s former employer, Northside’s Barrio Tequileria, permanently closed due to the coronavirus, which gave him more time to work on Good Plates than he had anticipated. Jamie was ready to get back into the workforce after taking a hiatus from the restaurant industry to stay home with the couple’s twins.
Originally they planned to spend a month working on to-dos like painting, hiring staff, and figuring out the menu, with a goal of opening just before the end of the school year, to catch UC students before they left for the summer.
“To me, it was kind of something like, Oh, shoot. The world has basically come to a halt and left us without the restaurant,” Andrew says, but then the “dominos fell into place, and everything just worked out exactly how we needed it to.”
Now the Schlansers are moving at a more leisurely pace, with a goal of opening in time for the fall rush of students. The restaurant is located in the southeast corner of the UC’s west campus, which gives the Schlansers the exact customer base they wanted: students looking for a taste of something familiar. Good Plates Eatery’s menu is still in development, but Andrew says it will feature scratch-made salads, soups, and twists on classic sandwiches, like an adobo grilled cheese.
The hope is to create a place for students to feel at home. When Jamie went away to school, she says she remembers feeling uneasy about all the changes and living in a new setting. “I didn’t feel like there was anywhere on campus that felt comfortable for me,” she says. “I want kids, anyone, to feel comfortable and like they can come in any day. Even if they’re far from home, they’re safe and can eat and hang out [at the restaurant].”
Because, she says, there’s just something homey about grilled cheese and tomato soup. “I basically want to be the campus mom,” she says.
The Schlansers are tentatively planning for Good Plates Eatery’s grand opening in early August.
Good Plates Eatery, 235 W. McMillan St., Clifton Heights
Update, Feb. 2022: Check back in with the Good Plates Eatery team in this TikTok video (give us a follow @cincinnatimagazine).