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Beware of Bigger Fish 

A Texas chain devours two Cleveland seafood shacks.

Detroit-based C.A. Muer Corporation, which spawned Charley's Crab in Beachwood and Big Fish in Westlake, has been swallowed up by Landry's Restaurants Inc., the nation's fastest-growing seafood restaurant chain. Landry's, whose holdings include Landry's Seafood House, Joe's Crab Shack, and the Rainforest Café, announced the acquisition on February 19.

The purchase netted 16 Charley's Crab and Big Fish locations in six states, as well as other Muer properties in Ann Arbor, Palm Beach, and Pittsburgh. And one of Landry's first actions was to pull the plug on the Westlake Big Fish.

Marketing director Toni Niece, speaking from Landry's Houston headquarters, says the company hasn't decided yet what to do with the custom-built Sperry Road property that the Muer folks opened in 1999. She also said no changes were in the works for Beachwood's recently remodeled Charley's Crab. "They're a terrific restaurant, and we're keeping everything just the same," she bubbles. A crabby-sounding manager at the restaurant referred all questions back to Landry's.

However, some industry insiders fear that other former Muer properties, including our Charley's Crab, may be headed for the shoals. "Our impression," says one source, "is that Landry's doesn't especially like operating in the state of Ohio." There are 7 Landry's-owned restaurants in all of Ohio, compared to, say, 10 in Houston alone. "We wouldn't be surprised to see those properties sold off." As for the Westlake site? The source chuckles. "It would make a nice Joe's Crab Shack."

Fired up for Phil . . .

"Lines are forming, people are banging on the windows, and you can hardly get a seat on Saturdays and Sundays," Phil "The Fire" Davis says of Phil the Fire, his new full-service restaurant just off Shaker Square. The caterer-turned-restaurateur quietly opened the 45-seat dining room at 2775 South Moreland Boulevard (the former site of Lucy's on the Square) on January 29, and the official grand opening isn't until March 22. But word of Phil's famous L.A.-style chicken-and-waffles has traveled fast. The "comfort food for the soul" menu also includes items like fried salmon, collard greens, and macaroni and cheese; entrées are priced at around $10. Winter hours are Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Phil says he plans to open locations on the West Side and in Akron, and eventually to franchise his concept.

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