Cleveland puts the Rust Belt on the culinary map.

Iron Chic 

Cleveland puts the Rust Belt on the culinary map.

When it comes to cuisine on the cutting edge -- froths, foams, and molecular gastronomy à la Ferran Adria -- Cleveburg is generally regarded somewhere between safety scissors and butter knives. Then again, pundits' annual culinary predictions reveal that Clevelanders actually have long been digging "trends" that the rest of the country is just discovering.

Take recent observations from Associated Press food writer J.M. Hirsch. What's cool for 2007, according to Hirsch? Well, top-quality steaks, for one thing, served up in stylish settings. Hey, we've been eating them forever at upscale steakhouses like XO Prime, Red, and the various Hyde Park Prime installations. Natural meats, produce, and cheeses from small family farms? Got all that covered, too, at spots like Flying Fig, Baricelli Inn, and Lola -- not to mention the region's bumper crop of seasonal farmers' markets. Greek food? We're swimmin' in it, at restaurants like Kristofer's, the Cleveland Grill, Niko's on Detroit, and Opa! on 25th.

Maybe the "raw foods" fad has passed us by. But when tables turn to steak, sweet corn, and spanakopita, Cleveland sets the standard for the coasts to follow.

Mardi Gras and goodbye . . . We couldn't be happier for warm-hearted restaurateur Susie "Slingo" Porter, as she prepares to move to San Diego with the man of her dreams. On the other hand, life without her southern-style roadhouse and roots-music venue, the Town Fryer (3859 Superior Avenue, 216-426-9235), is sure to make us blue. But there's some good news: Though the restaurant shuts down January 31, it will reopen at 6 p.m. Friday, February 16, for a final Mardi Gras fling and continue boogying each evening through Fat Tuesday, with boiled crawdads and nonstop live music. Look for a few tears to fall, too, as Clevelanders say so long to one of our most unique, eclectic, and welcoming eateries.

Still serving . . . According to chef-owner Dimitri Ragousis, reports that his restaurant is for sale have been greatly exaggerated. "I am contemplating selling, so I can return home [to Greece] and help my parents," says the owner of Opa! on 25th (1834 West 25th Street). "But nothing has been decided." As for rumors that Opa! will shut down at the end of March, Ragousis demurs. "We aren't closing then. I can't imagine anything will possibly be decided until fall, and even then, it's not a sure thing."

More by Elaine T. Cicora

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