Eating by the Book

Cleveland Ethnic Eats author relishes her work.

Touching the Void Cedar Lee Theatre
You'd think by now that Laura Taxel, that fearless eater, would be tired of thinking about Cleveland's ethnic eateries. After all, she's been writing the book -- literally -- on the region's ethnic restaurants, bakeries, and markets since 1995; the 2004 edition of Cleveland Ethnic Eats ($13.95 at area bookstores) marks the fourth time she has updated the guide to Cleveland's foreign fare.

The newest edition, released at the end of last year, includes descriptions of 380 authentic ethnic eateries and markets. Forty-five of the listings are new, and more than 20 of them come from the Akron area.

While Taxel remains preternaturally slim, her book has grown fatter each year, a development she credits to Northeast Ohioans' increased culinary sophistication. "We've traveled more, we've tried more things, and we've become more open to hot and spicy foods -- more willing to have our palates challenged," she notes. "As a result, we now have a lively, growing ethnic dining scene -- which, incidentally, is a good barometer of our cultural climate."

Taxel swears that her steady diet of palak paneer, falafel, and pho isn't getting stale. "I admit I never expected it to become a cottage industry," she laughs. "But it's been so much fun and taken me to so many special places that it's truly an endless pleasure!"

Like a ton of bricks . . . Restaurateur Andy Himmel's sense of humor appears to be in fine form. When his long-awaited jazz and supper club, Boulevard Blue (12718 Larchmere Boulevard, 216-721-5500), finally opens on March 12, "Falling Roof Ale" will top the beer list. A Killian's-style beer created for the restaurant by Rock Bottom Brewery, Falling Roof pays tongue-in-cheek homage to last summer's roof collapse that nearly destroyed Himmel's career plans. But the original building's sudden disintegration during renovations has turned out to be a good thing: Himmel and executive chef Scott Wuennemann got brand-new digs out of it, plus a heap of publicity.

Pasta, present, future . . . The lounge at the old New York Spaghetti House (2173 East 9th Street) reopened in January. Now, the kitchen should be all fired up in time for the start of baseball season. GM Nick Vroutos (former owner of the Cleveland Grill, before his cousin, Dino Tsarnas, took the helm) says the restaurant's new owners not only bought the building and the name, but the rights to all the former owner's popular Southern Italian recipes -- including the famous "brown sauce." Vroutos expects to bring a chef on board in the next few weeks. The restaurant, one of Cleveland's oldest, closed in 2001 after a 74-year run.

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