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Bites: Verve on the Verge 

And more local food news

If all goes as planned, the old Juniper Grille will reopen as Verve (1332 Carnegie Ave.) in about two weeks, says chef and new owner Brian Okin. For the past three and a half years, Okin ran Benvenuti Ristorante in Broadview Hts. He sold that business to focus on his new venture. His chef résumé stretches back 20 years and touches many of the area's most popular spots. "I'm not going to say I'm the best restaurateur in the city," says Okin. "But I've been doing this a long time and I know how to run a business." Unlike Juniper Grille, which focused on breakfast and lunch, Verve will be a lunch and dinner spot. The chef says he hasn't completely ruled out breakfast, considering the business his predecessor did in the space, but admitted it's not his forte. What he does plan to do is offer creative comfort food. "I want to reinvent the dishes we grew up with," he explains. "I want to take what we already know and love, and elevate it to another level." Okin promises the menu will go well past gourmet mac and cheese to include modern twists on pigs in a blanket, fish and chips, and veal stroganoff. Plans are to open for lunch the first week of September followed by dinner service when the beer and wine license transfers. The 80-seat (plus private dining room) space is receiving some cosmetic updates. Okin admits that it might take some work to get folks to the area for dinner, but offering free parking and being close to big-city attractions should help.

For this year's Great American Beer Festival in Denver (September 24-26), Matt Cole and nine other brewers thought it would be fun to do something different. So the brewer from Fat Head's Brewery & Saloon (24581 Lorain Rd., North Olmsted, 440.801.1001, fatheadscleveland.com) and his colleagues across the country all brewed the same beer — kind of. "There are a million ways to skin a cat," says Cole. "We are all working off the same recipe, using similar grain bills and hop schedules, but with different yeast blends." The result will be 10 similar but vastly different Belgian-style strong pale ales called Collaborative Evil. Festival attendees and judges will be able to sample the suds side by side. You don't have to travel out to Denver to sample the brew Cole came up with. Starting next week, it will be on tap at Fat Head's for Clevelanders to enjoy.

dining@clevescene.com

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