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Food, drink, and a Naked Cowboy rock this year's Chef Jam

As if we needed another reason to attend this year's Chef Jam, set for Sunday, June 12, at the Rock Hall ... In addition to the top-notch food by 20 of Cleveland's finest chefs, there will be an appearance by the Naked Cowboy, who will join local bands the Cream of the Crop All Stars and Abbey Rodeo on the night's musical billing.

If you're not familiar with the Naked Cowboy, he's the almost-nude guitar player whose other stage is New York's Times Square.

Topping last year's sell-out event will be tough, but this year's lineup of participating chefs appears stronger than ever. Among those who will be on hand — spread over multiple floors of the Rock Hall — are chefs from Amp 150, B Spot, Bar Cento, Blue Canyon, Blue Point, Dante, Deagan's, Flying Fig, Greenhouse Tavern, Lago, Melange, Melt, Moxie, Osteria, Pier W, Prosperity Social Club, Sasa, Sweet Moses, XYZ the Tavern, and Zack Bruell Restaurants.

Like last year, chefs will be competing in a Maker's Mark challenge to see who wins a trip to the Louisville distillery. Celebrity judges include journalist and Iron Chef judge Akiko Katayama, Food & Wine associate food editor Daniel Gritzer, James Beard Award-winning chef Koren Grieveson (Avec, Chicago), food writer Laura Taxel, and yours truly.

Tickets are $65, with proceeds benefiting the Ohio City Farm and the Rock Hall's award-winning education programs. Each ticket includes samples of all the dishes offered, as well as Great Lakes Brewing Co. beer, wine, and access to the Museum's exhibits.

Tickets are available at rockhall.com/event/chef-jam-2011 or at the Rock Hall Box Office.

News of last week's closure of Hyde Park Restaurants' Metro Bar + Kitchen was a shock to almost everybody except the new tenant: Bar Louie. The sudden shutdown came after a 10-year run in the Warehouse District and recent extensive renovations.

"The owners decided they no longer wanted to be in the downtown Cleveland market," explains Erika Buesing, senior director of marketing for Bar Louie restaurants. "They approached us knowing we were planning to expand."

Buesing says her company's current growth plan is to expand their presence in existing markets. Bar Louie also runs a property at Legacy Village in Lyndhurst.

Of the downtown location, Buesing says, "the area is a natural fit because there is a lot of nightlife and also a lot of working life. Our target demographic is young professionals 21 to 35 who are looking for a place to go that's in between college bars and the suburbs."

While many of Metro's recent renovations seem tailor-made for Bar Louie, changes still will need to be made. Buesing says that the raised area in the rear of the main room will be removed, freeing up a clear path around the bar. "The bar is the heart of our locations," she explains. "You can't socialize as good if you can't walk all the way around the bar."

When the downtown location opens in July, it will be the sixth Bar Louie in Ohio and the 47th in the nation. The menus at all locations are pretty consistent, says Buesing. You'll find them at 1352 West Sixth St.

More by Douglas Trattner

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