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Continental Divide 

A legend in tableside cooking heads back to the kitchen.

The folks at Tonight Tonight (7375 Royalton Road, North Royalton; 440-582-2000) have been bucking food-industry trends for most of the restaurant's 14-year history, earning the distinction of being one of the last places in Northeast Ohio to offer Continental service. But even here, in this final stronghold of the theatrically prepared Caesar Salad and flaming Crêpes Suzette, the culinary current has proved irresistible: The restaurant finally abandoned tableside cookery in mid-March. While customer favorites like châteaubriand for two, with sauce b´arnaise and a mushroom demi-glace, are still on the menu, they are now prepared in the privacy of Chef Alberto Vega's kitchen, along with classics like veal Oscar, beef Wellington, and swordfish piccata. As for entertainment, pianists Tom Ballogh and Michael Leaman (a crowd-pleaser at the former Classics) take turns tickling the ivories in the dining room each Wednesday through Saturday evening, while a DJ spins in the attached nightclub.

Beep-beep, I'm a Jeep . . .

or a Ferrari or a Karmann Ghia. That's how customers are identified -- by car names -- when they check in at the hostess station at the recently opened Quaker Steak and Lube on Canal Road in Valley View. It's one of myriad sly touches designed to make guests feel as if they're downing brews and nibbling wings in the repair bay of their local service station, and it helps position the eatery as an entertaining addition to the burgeoning restaurant-as-theme-park landscape. The Valley View location, near the Cinemark 24, is the third in Ohio for the small Pennsylvania-based chain, and business was booming on a recent Friday night. But despite the snazzy auto motif (everything from vintage cycles to antique gas pumps), the food here seems pretty pedestrian. For instance, a fully loaded Lubeburger ("This is the best burger you'll ever eat!"), with mushrooms, bacon, and melted Swiss, was entirely average, despite the menu hype; then, again, maybe we would have been more impressed if the kitchen had remembered to throw on the lettuce, tomato, and blue-cheese dressing that were supposed to come on the side. The horn-blowing continued with the wings, which the restaurant claims are "The Best in the U.S.A." We tried two types -- the Mild and the Golden Garlic -- but neither made our taste buds pop a wheelie. Throw in the fuel-injected noise level and asleep-at-the-wheel service, and Quaker Steak and Lube struck us as more of a culinary funny car than a supercharged Corvette.

Small bites

Solon's former Eugene's is now The Sapphire Grille (28260 Miles Road, 440-349-1480). Despite the name change, chefs Eugene Em and Eddie Tse still man the "floating boat" sushi bar; however, new Executive Chef Christian Feuerborn (most recently at Giovanni's) has designed a fresh dinner menu of contemporary Continental fare, featuring items like chargrilled filet mignon with saut´ed baby vegetables, and Chilean sea bass on soba noodles with snow peas and shiitakes. The restaurant serves weekday lunch, as well as dinner Monday through Saturday . . . Zin Restaurant and Bistro is going into the former Tutto a Posto space at 13114 Larchmere Boulevard. Look for chef-owner Peter Katelanos's restaurant to open around the end of April, with an eclectic dinner menu of American and Mediterranean favorites. A signature dish of veal medallions with lobster and apple-leek marmalade sounds enticing.

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