The Cavaliers are looking to win fans off the court.

And the new South Neighborhood inside of Quicken Loans Arena is the first in a series of plays to create excitement on the concourse facing Progressive Field.

The renovation is part of a $185 million transformation of the 25-year-old arena that's home to the Cavs and Monsters and plays host to a variety of concerts and events. College basketball fans can be among the first to check out the new amenities when the Mid-American Conference Tournament begins there on Wednesday.

The area tucked just inside the new Discount Drug Mart Entrance resembles a food court at a high-end mall, and is home to the Greenhouse Kitchen and the Market at the Fig counter restaurants and the Saucy Brew Works bar.

The space has tables so fans can seek refuge when what's happening on the court is not so appetizing. The menu here is not your typical sports venue fare, and sandwiches run around $12.

Chef Karen Small's offerings at the Market at the Fig include a vegan kale salad and a green goddess chicken salad sandwich with red onion and snow pea slaw, bacon, mozzarella and cucumbers.

  

Best known for her Flying Fig restaurant in Cleveland's Ohio City, Small said this has been years in the making as she was part of an experiment at the arena introducing new food concepts.

"I think people are looking for more healthier food options," Small said. As a longtime basketball fan, she said she can appreciate those who had to search for those options in the past.

Like her signature restaurant, the Market at the Fig will feature locally sourced ingredients made fresh daily.

She shares space with fellow Cleveland chef Jonathon Sawyer and his Greenhouse Kitchen.

Sawyer said he's loaned his name to other dining concepts at Cleveland sports venues in the past, but this one is different.

He worked closely with the Q and its food management company, Aramark, to ensure the taste and preparation of items like his signature sandwich, the Cubano, are close to what you would expect at his Greenhouse Tavern on East Fourth Street.

"It will never be exact," he said. "I am a believer in time and space when it comes to dining. It was important for us to know this is close to what you would expect in the tavern."

  

Fans got a sneak peek when the Saucy Brew Works turned on its taps Feb. 21. The 50-foot bar features a 1,500-square-foot beverage-only beer garden. There are 16 taps and eight seasonal beers. The craft beers permanently on tap include the brewery's IPA ASAP, Habituale and Love You, Bye.

The 6,350-square-foot expansion opened for Saturday's Mumford & Sons show and the Cavs game on Monday night.

The work at the arena includes a huge glass enclosure at the main entrance, and is expected to wrap up in the fall.

Cavs CEO Len Komoroski said the South Neighborhood embodies just what they are looking for to enhance the guest experience.

"Any great neighborhood has a great pub and great restaurants," he said.

 

Craig Webb can be reached at cwebb@thebeaconjournal.com.