UPDATED Oct. 10
Every evening before he opens Siempre Algo, chef Brian Hammond has to clean the nose prints off the front windows. Passersby on busy East Ohio Street can’t help but stop to peek inside the new restaurant.
After three years of planning and anticipation, the North Side eatery officially opened at the end of August. It was worth the wait.
The menu is an eclectic array of snacks and entrees.
“We designed it as a bit of a range-finder,” Hammond says. “It’s definitely broad, because we wanted to see what was going to hit around here.”
So far, big sellers include sweetbreads — which are organ meats, not pastries — with porcini and crimini mushrooms, Madeira reduction and local sweet corn puree. Also, Bavarian-style sourdough pretzels with chicken liver pate, and seared and pan-roasted halibut. Customers are also trying more adventurous cocktails such as the Mezcal Sour, which is a mixture of Wahaka mezcal, lemon, lime, Dolin Blanco vermouth, egg white and cilantro.
As the weather and fresh farm offerings change, so will the menu.
“We’re in our sixth week and are just starting to get into a routine,” Hammond says of his 11-person crew. “We’re starting to get a little more creative.”
Dinner is served Tuesday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. and from 5 to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Reservations are recommended and can be made on Siempre Algo’s website. Folks can also stop in and grab a drink at the bar until 1 a.m.
Brian Hammond has worked in plenty of restaurants. But at age 39, he still remembers clearly what it felt like to be a teenager discovering the energy and frenetic pace of restaurant life. His new eatery, opened on the North Side this summer, was named with those early days in mind.
“Siempre algo means ‘always something,'” he explains. “It’s a tip of the cap to my past in kitchens in San Diego, where I really started to fall in love with food.”
The phrase’s double meaning has always appealed to Hammond.
“’Always something’ refers to the fact that there’s always something new to try and enjoy,” he says, “always something to celebrate, always something new from the garden. But it’s also a reference to the Spanish-speaking cooks that trained me when I was a kid. Whenever something went wrong, and in hospitality it always does, they would just shake their heads, say ‘Siempre algo,’ and push through.”
Diners at the new restaurant, located in the E. Ohio St. space that was once Schrim’s Garden Café, can expect to find contemporary American cuisine made with fresh, local ingredients dictated by the season.
Warm temperatures will mean a spicier menu full of dynamic flavors. Comfort foods will step up to the plate when cold weather moves in again in the fall. The calendar also will dictate the cocktail, wine and beer selections.
Why the North Side?
Hammond got front-of-the-house experience at local hotspots including Hyeholde, Acacia, Eleven and Stagioni. And for several years he owned and operated Restaurant Echo, a massive, farm-to-table operation in Cranberry Township, where he and his wife harvested produce and honey on a two-and-a-half-acre farm.
Then the couple decided to downsize in 2014, when they moved to the North Side.
“We were only here a short time before I knew I wanted to build a restaurant here,” Hammond says. “Once we started the process, I heard over and over ‘Is there anything you need? Is there anything we can do to help?’ It was such a surprise and so overwhelmingly supportive, I knew we were in the right place. We own a home here, and I am so excited to have our lives fully invested in the community.”
Holding onto history
In 2015, Hammond bought the former Schrim’s building on East Ohio Street.
He found unexpected treasures inside: Timeworn photographs and menus that he plans to incorporate into the new restaurant’s décor. A hammered tin ceiling and exposed brickwork already give the place an old-fashioned aesthetic.
He credits his contractor, P2 Contracting out of the West End, with preserving the building’s historic character while essentially constructing a whole new eatery around it. Hammond is anxious for folks to see (and taste!) all of the hard work.”