Big Bones

From the wilds of Minnesota come the flavors of . . . Dixie?

No more waiting for Memorial Day to pig out on Famous Dave's barbecued ribs: The Minneapolis-based chain, a perpetual crowd-pleaser at the Great American Rib Cook Off, has opened its first local outpost at 26410 Great Northern Plaza (440-777-0200) in North Olmsted.

According to corporate legend, founder Dave Anderson spent a quarter-century scouting southern BBQ joints before perfecting his slow-cooking process. And judging from a recent lunch visit, during which we gnawed through the $12.99 Rib-N-Meat Combo (a quartet of firm, meaty, hickory-smoked bones, along with slightly dry chopped pork, jalapeño-spiked "Wilbur" beans, freshly cut French fries, and a warm, buttery cornbread muffin), the results seem to have been worth the effort.

Dave's also features fried catfish, grilled salmon, double-smoked ham, barbecued wings, brisket, and burgers, along with a small collection of kids' meals for the under-10 crowd. And save room for dessert: The lighter-than-air bread pudding, topped with caramel-praline sauce, whipped cream, and ice cream ($5.49 and large enough to share), is indecently delish.

In addition to the good food, a few other qualities make Famous Dave's worth a look. For one, there's the friendly, efficient service -- rare enough anywhere, let alone at a joint open less than a month. For another, there's the booty-shaking background music, a tasty assortment of blues and R&B culled from Anderson's personal collection. Then there's Anderson's unusual second career with the U. S. Department of the Interior. It doesn't make the food taste better, but it's kind of cool to discover that the proprietor is a member of the Chippewa and Choctaw tribes, and has also been appointed an assistant secretary for Indian affairs.

Famous Dave's is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. As many as seven more Greater Cleveland locations are in the pipeline.

Breakfast for dinner . . . So you blew your entire Christmas budget on "gifts" for yourself at Anthropologie? Mike and Jane Frazin feel your pain: The operators of Woodmere's Original Pancake House (28700 Chagrin Boulevard, 216-292-7777) are keeping the doors open until 8 p.m. every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday through the holidays -- maybe even longer, if the cakes are still flying. If there's a better way to calm our shopping nerves, it surely requires a prescription.