Actions

Sauce the City overcomes obstacles, serving up hot chicken sandwiches with a side of community support

Sauce the City Chicken sandwich
Posted at 11:13 AM, Feb 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-27 11:13:43-05

CLEVELAND — Sauce the City has always been a community-driven restaurant, and despite the struggles caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it has found a way to bounce back while also paying it forward to those who need it most.

Originally a part of the Ohio City Galley, Sauce the City started gaining popularity for its delicious signature chicken sandwich but the restaurant faced an uncertain future just before the pandemic began.

“We actually [were] in Ohio City Galley, which closed a couple weeks before the big pandemic breakout,” said Sauce the City owner and operator Chef Victor Searcy “It was kind of like a double whammy. As soon as the Galley announced that they were not going to be continuing, then the pandemic hit right after that so we had to stop the pop ups, so there was absolutely no income coming in."

Searcy said he and his family had no idea what would become of their restaurant.

“It was a scary moment for me, my family, the residents, my staff. I really didn't have an answer for our staff. I didn't have an answer for the community. It was just lights out—curtains,” Searcy said.

Sauce the City inside

While Searcy fought to find a way to bounce back, he decided to go back to his roots, starting the restaurant's journey from square one.

“During that time, everything stopped and we kind of had to reconfigure everything. And we started from scratch,” Searcy said. “We started back to when we were using Facebook just to sell dinners. So we went all the way back to our roots and we kind of just slowly built ourselves back up.”

And build back up is exactly what they did.

Back in the building they began in, Searcy has renamed the former Ohio City Galley to match his restaurant's namesake—Sauce the City.

“We're back in the building. We're back in Ohio City in the Galley building and we've renamed it Sauce the City—we always tried to rename it ever since we started here, but now it's actually our building,” Searcy said.

Searcy didn’t just have to face the struggle of getting a building for his restaurant again—he also had to make sure it was feasible to operate amid the COVID-19 pandemic and adjust operations to keep his team and his customers safe.

Sauce the City face mask sign

“That was a challenge in itself, making sure everybody was safe, making sure we have good social distance, making sure everything was packaged up, sanitizing, hiring multiple different companies coming in to sanitize, making sure everything was safe. That has been a huge challenge. But we have not had any major outbreaks,” Searcy said. “So it's been a true blessing, but it has been challenging.”

Sauce the City has been able to overcome the challenges and get back to business as usual.

“Now we’re looking forward to keep giving you guys the best hot chicken sandwiches we have,” Searcy said.

Sauce the City Chicken sandwich

Searcy served up plenty of hot meals on Monday as he partnered with the Cleveland Browns organization “Cleveland Huddle” to provide around 130 meals to the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry Men's Shelter.

“Even though we're a smaller company, we still believe in helping the community, giving back as much as we can. So having an opportunity to work with the Browns and be able to feed people that’s in need. That's true to my heart and true to what we believe the spirit of Sauce the City is.”

RELATED: Browns celebrate Black History Month with new initiative to support Black-owned restaurants, non-profits

Sauce the City Browns give back

As he and his team fry up crispy chicken for their sandwiches and wraps, tossing them in the flavorful sauces and seasoning everything to perfection, Searcy hopes that the community will come out and support him the way he’s aimed to support the community.

“What we need is the community to support us, and that's what we hope for. That's what we rely on is the community to come back, support us,” Searcy said. “I emphasize on community. We treat everybody like they're the first customers that come in here, make sure their food is correct. I'm always hounding the customers, making sure everything is good when I'm around.”

Sauce the City wraps

With employees from within the community to supplies and produce acquired locally within a 12 mile radius, Searcy said supporting Cleveland is something he's always aimed to do at Sauce the City.

"We just want to make sure that Clevelanders are getting the best quality food overall every time they walk through our doors at Sauce the City," Searcy said.

Sauce the City Food Hall is also home to Twisted Taino Caribbean Fusion and Good Meal Jane Pizza.

To learn more about Sauce the City, click here.