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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Farewell to the Town Fryer

Posted By on Thu, Feb 22, 2007 at 12:11 PM

We spent Mardi Gras on wobbly chairs in a crowded barroom, tossing back Shiners, sucking on crawdads, dismembering crabs, and listening to John Prine on the jukebox. Somewhere between the time we discovered Shiner bottles could double as crab mallets, and the guys in the Hazmat suits walked in (best not to ask), we lifted our head for a second to stare out the window, over the lace curtains and toward the railroad tracks beyond. Almost on cue, the window began to rattle and a freight train roared into view, speeding south through the night, the snow, and the grime on its way to parts unknown. By then, Piece of My Heart was playing, and Janis' bourbon-soaked wail seemed to conjure up all the loneliness of that speeding freight. And that, my friends, pretty much sums up why we're gonna miss the Town Fryer, Susie Porter's humble, Southern-style roadhouse on the corner of East 38th and Superior. Porter is heading off to San Diego in a few weeks, to start a new life; the Fryer served its final Shiner just a few hours after that train rolled by. The Fryer was part of a dying breed. Attitude? The joint was full of it, from the Buck Fush lapel button at the bar to Porter's own sensitive watercolors, hanging on the back wall. Food? Two words: Fried. Twinkies. And vibe? Friendly as all get out; in fact, Porter liked to call the dive her "social chemistry experiment," in recognition of that fact that Clevelanders from all walks of life could gather here, grooving to roots music, gobbling down fried chicken, and hoisting a few brews. Beyond everything else, though, there was that oddball magic, the space's rare ability to remind us of places we have never seen — and probably never will. Memphis, 1970? Lubbock, some steamy July night? But for now, that mojo has gone missing. While Porter is trying to sell the 136-year-old-building and the business, she hasn't yet received an offer. The Town Fryer is closed. And our city seems less magical without it. Keep up with Porter and the people who made the Fryer special. -- Elaine T. Cicora

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