Brandt Evans calls the food at his Pura Vida restaurant "aggressively creative." That doesn't mean the goat cheese will jump off the plate and kick you. It does mean you might find duck confit on your nachos.
Clevelanders first got to know Evans and his twist on American comfort food in 2004 when he opened Blue Canyon Kitchen in suburban Twinsburg.
He opened Pura Vida seven years later in a long-vacant May Company storefront on Public Square. He's part of a group of local chefs pumping business and life back into downtown Cleveland. At Pura Vida, rebirth is literal. The restaurant's sleek, bright, minimalist décor incorporates reclaimed wood and steel from area buildings.
Chef Evans trained at the Culinary Institute of America and developed his progressive style as a sous chef at Charlie Palmer's Manhattan restaurant Alva before returning to Cleveland. Here, he continues to push the farm-to-table envelope, even working with local farmers to plan what crops to grow.
Pura Vida means "pure life." The menus are full of fresh, seasonal ingredients. Dinner features an "urban picnic" concept of lighter, tapas-style choices. Evans knows this is the Midwest, though, and promises you won't leave hungry.
Vegetarians and vegans have a friend in Evans, too. The menu always includes plenty of choices, from African peanut stew with kale, sweet potato and red curry to smoked Portobello gyros. Cheese-lovers also have a champion here. The Wisconsin Cheese Board recently picked Evans as one of eight Chef Ambassadors in the U.S.