UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, Ohio — The COVID-19 pandemic transformed how when and where many people are doing business, particularly in the restaurant industry.
On Monday, Sauce the City opens a new location in University Heights after shuttering its location on West 25th Street.
Known for what some say are the best hot chicken sandwiches in Cleveland, as well as their all-beef franks and variety of sauces, Sauce The City has been a staple in Ohio City since 2018.
"We did some research and we looked at the cultures that actually started Cleveland. So, we took a bit of seasoning from everybody, from Italian to African seasonings. We have some Hungarian seasons,” said Chef Victor Searcy Jr. “That's what makes our chicken special, and it makes it Cleveland.”
Searcy graduated from Benedictine High School and Kent State University. He opened the restaurant as part of a competition to win the Ohio City Galley, which is a food hall-style incubator for budding restaurant owners.
“That took off for about a year. We became known for our Cleveland chicken.” Searcy said.
When the pandemic took hold in 2020, the galley folded. Searcy kept it going for a while, even launching the “Feed the Nurse” challenge with MetroHealth.
Eventually, other vendors got their own restaurant and moved out. Now, Searcy is doing the same.
“In the pandemic, it was very difficult. But you know, we use resources, we use mentorships. The Browns Foundation helped out. So, we were able to just keep things rolling,” Searcy said. “It was hard to stay afloat. It was hard to keep everything, to keep the payroll.”
Searcy’s new location is in University Heights near the intersection of Cedar and South Green Road. He chose the location because a majority of his repeat customers were from that area. He’s also looking forward to crowds from nearby John Carroll University and Notre Dame College.
“I wanted to take this and build it to other cities and University Heights was just like the perfect fit for us,” Searcy said. “From the location, from the cooperation of the administration staff, with the mayor, with the economic developers, there is really good and really transparent.”
Sauce The City has also been a staple at Cavs and Browns games inside Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse and First Energy Stadium. Searcy is also in talks to open spots inside Progressive Field and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.
“When we work with the Browns and being in First Energy Stadium, I saw the impact that our food can happen with a smaller footprint,” Searcy said.
The new Sauce the City will have a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 12 p.m. today. By Wednesday, the new location will start serving carry-out only, seven days a week.
You can order by calling or going online here.
Download the News 5 Cleveland app now for more stories from us, plus alerts on major news, the latest weather forecast, traffic information and much more. Download now on your Apple device here, and your Android device here.
You can also catch News 5 Cleveland on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, YouTube TV, DIRECTV NOW, Hulu Live and more. We're also on Amazon Alexa devices. Learn more about our streaming options here.