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House of Carbs 

Stop the madness: Alternatives to Atkins.

We've endured enough weight-loss fads to know one when we see it, and in our opinion, the Atkins Diet will ultimately go the way of low-fat Snackwells. Yet not a day goes by without a chef or restaurant contacting us to promote the newest low-carb offerings, including such abominations as pizzas without crusts or burgers without buns.

While it's true that pretty much everyone has jumped on the Atkins Diet bandwagon, we have located a few staunch holdouts. So while other publications are busy directing readers to Atkins-friendly food stops, we're taking the opposite approach. Here are a few places where carbohydrate counts are still as meaningless as gloves on monkeys.

Sokolowski's University Inn (1201 University Road, 216-771-9236). Don't stroll into this landmark Polish cafeteria looking for a low-carb lunch. "We are an anti-Atkins Diet establishment," owner Mike Sokolowski proudly proclaims. While Sokolowski admits that Atkins is popular, he scorns restaurateurs who jump through hoops to accommodate its restrictions. "There's a time and a place for everything -- and that includes pierogi, mashed potatoes, and rolls and butter!"

Gusto Ristorante Italiano (12022 Mayfield Road, 216-791-9900). Executive Chef Michael Annandono is a reasonable man: Ask him to hold the pasta or replace the polenta with an extra veggie, and he'll do it gladly. Just don't ask him to develop special dishes for your dietary restrictions. "I'm happy to accommodate special requests," he says diplomatically, "but I have no plans to deviate from my regular menu."

Grovewood Tavern & Wine Bar (17105 Grovewood Avenue, 216-531-4900). Executive chef Tim Ogan sees his job as helping diners enjoy whatever it is they go out for. He'll serve you grilled veggies instead of a potato or wrap a sandwich in a lettuce leaf, if you insist. But he's not changing his menu on Dr. Atkins' behalf, and "Because of my small kitchen and my headaches," he's not encouraging substitutions. The diet, he thinks, is dangerous. But then, he's a thin guy. "I just work really hard."

Parker's New American Bistro (2801 Bridge Avenue, 216-771-7130). Chef-owner Parker Bosley is a whiz with a kitchen knife, but he never minces words. The Atkins Diet? "It's absolute nonsense," he scoffs. "The best diet -- and I have history on my side here -- is natural foods from local sources, eaten in season, in moderation, and in great variety." So does that mean he won't be adding low-carb dishes to the menu anytime soon? "Never in a thousand years!" he vows. "Besides, people love our bread."


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