CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — There will soon be a new haunt at the old Melt eatery in the Cedar-Taylor District.
The suspense continues to build for the world premiere of The Haunted House restaurant, with a dream of a theme and a July 20 grand opening planned.
“From the moment people come through the doors, we’re paying homage to the classic horror and thriller movies,” noted partner Andre Scott. “Our theme is: ‘The Haunted House, where the only thing that’s scary is how good our food is!’
“We’re creating an experience here, and we want to make it about families.”
Darnell “Superchef” Ferguson brings his frightfully fine “classic American menu” to the Heights from Alabama, Louisville and his hometown of Columbus, where he has launched other restaurants. He’s also appeared on TV with Rachael Ray, Guy Fieri and elsewhere on the Food Network’s “Tournament of Champions.”
Scott, Cleveland Heights High School’s assistant boys’ varsity basketball coach for the past six years, also credited partner, godbrother and the Cleveland Browns’ own “DJ Ryan Wolf” Gullatt of Shaker Heights for coming up with the concept.
“We had been talking about opening a restaurant for over a year, with a possible spot in Richmond Heights that didn’t work out,” Scott said. “And then the perfect location came up.”
But they were still stuck on the name and the theme, which took off after a phone call to the DJ, who’s described by Scott as “our conceptual and marketing guy — with a gift from God regarding concepts.”
When Scott heard the Haunted House idea unfolding in a 15-minute conversation, he was giddy, handing the phone over to partner and fellow “operations guy” Jeremiah Burks of Twinsburg.
“If Jeremiah likes it, you know that’s the one,” Scott said, noting that the Haunted House team is rounded out by partner Christopher Thomas of Solon, described as “the ‘hands-on guy’ in the kitchen, our jack of all trades on the mechanical stuff.”
Back to the concept: Diners will enter to the fresh smell of a working popcorn stand in the lobby, with an old-style ticket booth replacing the traditional host area.
Lobby murals with characters from some of their favorite scary movies and shows — “Ghostbusters,” Pennywise, Jason from “Friday the 13th,” Cousin “It” from “The Addams Family,” and “Beetlejuice” — will provide photo opportunities for customers, as well as free marketing for the restaurant in the age of social media.
There’s also a “Jaws” mural in the back, more work by Cleveland muralist Isaiah Williams, who paints under the name “Starbeing” as well. The interior layout was done by Teeya Wright of Wright Spaces Designs.
The Superchef menu will also include seafood, pizza and vegan offerings, with a key feature being “brinner” — a combination of breakfast and dinner and a takeoff on brunch, which will still have its own time slot on weekends.
In keeping with the scary-movie theme, “potions” will also be available at the full bar, with Cleveland Heights City Council signing off Monday (June 28) on the transfer of Melt’s liquor license to The Haunted House, which will have a mimosa deal as part of the Saturday and Sunday brunch.
“We will have a specialty drink menu, as well as your normal liquor, draft beer and wines,” Scott said.
Bartenders are already being trained, and the restaurant is still looking for cooks and hosts to round out the staff of 40 to 50 employees, with seating for over 100 guests at one time.
The Haunted House hours will be 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays.
Cleveland Heights Business Development Manager Brian Anderson said he could not be more pleased with the new addition to the local dining scene, adding that there was no “heavy lifting” on the part of the city to help get the restaurant up and running.