In for a Dry Spell 

The Clay Oven's Kesar Singh would drown his sorrows -- if only he could find a drink.

The tandoor at Parma's popular Clay Oven (5747 Chevrolet Boulevard) may soon grow cold, unless the restaurant's owner, Kesar Singh, figures a way out of his present dilemma. Seems the dal house lost its liquor license earlier this month, due to an apparent snafu on the part of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. According to a May 10 letter from the Ohio Division of Liquor Control, Singh's permit to sell weekday beer, wine, and spirits was granted in error back in January, after a records search by the Board of Elections wrongly indicated that the eatery was located in a "wet" precinct. The error came to light when Singh applied for a Sunday permit. This time, the Board of Elections' research revealed that the restaurant was actually situated in a dry precinct. A recheck confirmed that the restaurant's location is dry, and the license should never have been issued. As a result, Singh had to immediately relinquish it. The liquor control board says Singh may appeal the decision or petition the Board of Elections to put his request for a liquor license before the electorate. However, Board of Elections spokeswoman Maxine Lynch says the "long, cumbersome" process of getting the issue on the ballot could take most of the summer. Meanwhile, Singh and his staff fear that, without the traffic generated by booze sales, business will dry up.

You be the judge

Restaurant surveyors Tim and Nina Zagat want to hear from you, via the Internet. Between now and May 28, savvy Clevelanders like you can log onto www.zagat.com/topsurvey and offer your own unique critique of the food, decor, and service at about 40 of the city's most visible dining rooms, including Century, Kosta's, Lola, Mise, Mojo, OZ, Saucy Bistro, and Weia Teia. Besides providing a numerical rating of restaurants you've visited within the past year, you'll also be invited to share your "descriptive, pithy, and witty" comments. All volunteer critics will receive a free copy of Zagat's 2002 Guide to America's Top Restaurants, after it is published in November.

Sweet lowdown

Whether it's individual-serving-sized ketchup bottles or a special blend of coffee, restaurateurs are always on the lookout for inexpensive gimmicks that can set them apart from the crowd. Now it looks as if they've found a keeper in the Sugart sugar sticks that have been showing up on local tabletops. The long, slim sugar packets hold 2.8 grams of granulated sugar wrapped in colorful artwork. According to the sweet folks at International Marketing Systems (exclusive sales and marketing agents for Sugart U.S.A.), they are an attempt to capitalize on the "stick" type of sugar packaging popular in the European market. Sugart sticks presently come in several cool art-deco- and pop-art-influenced designs, and have proved to be quite the conversation piece. According to Steven Dupre, buying director at Cleveland's Hillcrest Food Service Company, nearly a dozen local restaurants, caf´s, and coffee shops have started carrying the product since it became available last year -- Erie Bleu, Curcio's, and D'Agnese's among them. "Diners come to know places for little touches like this," says Dupre. "These sugar packets are just another detail that stands out in the mind of the consumer."


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