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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Restaurant of the Weekend: Leo’s Reserve Inn, Hudson

Posted By on Thu, Feb 28, 2008 at 6:52 AM

It’s Restaurant Week in downtown Cleveland, and unless you’ve already snagged your seats at chichi joints like Lola and Crop Bistro, you can probably cross them off your list. Which makes this a fine weekend for a drive out of town and into historic Hudson, that picturesque stronghold of the Western Reserve, where you’ll find lovely architecture, a pretty village green, and plenty of stroll-worthy stores and boutiques. Shop, then drop by Leo’s Reserve Inn, Diane Topper-Wagner and Dennis Wagner’s newly remodeled restaurant at 30 West Streetsboro Street, where you’ll find lunch, dinner, and reasonably priced cocktails poured in a handsome lounge. ... A pillar of its community for nearly 50 years, the friendly neighborhood restaurant -- formerly The Reserve Inn -- has been in Dennis Wagner’s family since 1958, founded by his mother, Minnie, and father, Leo. But like most middle-agers, the spot was showing its age – all the way from its low-slung, 1950s exterior to its steak-centric menu of mid-century fare. Clearly, it was time for a facelift, a $300,000 injection of decorative Botox that has produced a handsome new Cape Cod exterior; a warm yet sophisticated interior; and such up-to-the-minute touches as faux ostrich-leather wallpaper, glass-shaded pendant lamps, and stylish porcelain plates. The re-do began in September, and is just now nearing completion, with new signage and a new patio still to come. “And through it all, we only closed for one day,” boasts Topper-Wagner, “including the day when the contractor cut a hole in the roof and we had 15 buckets catching the rain.” The menu got a makeover, too, with a sharp, new focus on contemporary comfort fare. That means dishes like roasted butternut squash ravioli ($15.95), plump herb-crusted scallops ($18.95), and melt-in-the-mouth braised short ribs, with roasted veggies and garlic smashed potatoes ($17.95). Also delish, a perfect Bombay Sapphire martini, up, with blue-cheese stuffed olives at the bargain price of $5.75, best savored with a serving of freshly cut frites, tossed in parmesan and drizzled in white truffle oil, for $6.95. Thanks to chef Jim Blevin, formerly of the Chagrin Valley Hunt Club, nearly everything is made in-house, including salad dressings, desserts, and many of the pastas. In this era of chains, Leo’s stands out for both its history and its small-town charm. If the remodeling has modernized it looks, at least its heart remains as homey and warm as ever. Leo’s is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday; reservations are suggested, at 330-650-1717. -- Elaine T. Cicora Read Elaine Cicora's restaurant reviews, food news, and comprehensive dining guide on the restaurant page at clevescene.com.

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