Burgeoning Burritos

Solon's La Casita makes a fresh start.

Peaches and Gonzales The Beachland Ballroom, 15711 Waterloo Road 9 p.m. Sunday, May 6



The eats in Solon's Uptown Center shopping plaza keep getting better. Now, besides sushi and natural foods, hungry shoppers can fill up on refreshing Mexican munchables at the recently opened La Casita (6025 Kruse Drive, 440-349-7777), a casual 150-seat dining room brought to you by restaurateur Mike Greenberg of Qué Tal? fame. The well-groomed spot, with a spare, contemporary design built around the colors of a desert sunset, offers a nice selection of quesadillas, burritos, enchiladas, and more, created by head chef Theo Sanchez. (A small outdoor patio gives Vitamin D-starved Clevelanders a glimpse of sky during the warmer months.) Nearly everything is freshly made in-house without preservatives, additives, or lard, and what certain dishes may lack in sizzle (I'm thinking here of the chunky guacamole), they make up for in honest good taste. In fact, Greenberg says the staff goes so far as to squeeze the lemons and limes for the juice that goes into La Casita's yummy Margaritas, and to peel and chop their own fresh tomatillos and chiles for the salsas. Moderately priced dinner entr´es, including the one-of-a-kind Burrito Relleno -- a chile relleno rolled in a tortilla and baked in a special adobe sauce -- run about $8 to $14; at lunch, most dishes check in at around $7 to $8. La Casita is open Monday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to about 10 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 9 p.m.

Yearning Japanese . . .

Speaking of Uptown Solon Center dining, Shuhei Hibachi (6025 Kruse Drive, 440-349-6850) isn't Shuhei anymore. Owner Hiroshi Tsuji sold the Solon operation to his friend and fellow restaurateur, Hank Saipo, last year, and Saipo has renamed the hibachi restaurant and sushi bar Akira. While the menus and the overhead signage were still carrying the old name when last we visited, Saipo says that's soon to change. As for Tsuji, he's hoping to have his newest outpost, Shuhei on the Square, next to the Colony Theater on Shaker Square, up and running in June.

The thrill of Brazil . . .

Good news for fans of Sergio Abramof's lovely little University Circle restaurant, Sergio's (1903 Ford Drive, 216-231-1234). Beginning on Mother's Day, May 13, the Brazilian-influenced dining room and its tropical garden patio will be open seven days a week, with live music every Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday evening. Abramof recently expanded his tiny kitchen and brought in another accomplished chef, Tim Bando, to share his culinary chores. A list of Bando's past employers reads like a directory of some of the area's most notable restaurants and includes Market Square Bistro in Bainbridge, Moxie in Beachwood, and the former Tutto a Posto near Shaker Square. The native Clevelander was also opening GM at the former Piccolo Mondo and had worked at The Good House with Frank Kuk. But -- and it just goes to show that this business is no place for sissies -- Bando's most recent endeavor was a self-imposed one-year furlough, far from a stove top, to rest his weary bones and help a friend build up a cabinetry business. Look for a newly refreshed and reinvigorated Bando to try sneaking an exciting Nuevo Latino twist into Sergio's already multicultural menu. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, Monday through Saturday; new Sunday hours are 4 to 9 p.m.

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