Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Las Americas is Back and Better than Ever in Bedford Heights

Posted By on Tue, Jul 25, 2017 at 1:56 PM

For the past couple years, East Side Mexican food fans have been hitting up a small but bustling Latin carry-out in Bedford Heights called Las Americas. The shop sat in the middle of Perkins Plaza, a dusty-old strip near the I-271 off ramp. Regulars tolerated cramped quarters, a confusing process and strict cash-only policy in return for delicious and affordable tacos, burritos and quesadillas.

A few steps beyond the open kitchen and counter sat a tiny one-aisle Latin foods market crammed with imported ingredients and a wee little dining room outfitted with a handful of seats. And then the place closed its doors in winter with the promise of returning bigger and better in the near future.

That took place earlier this week when Las Americas unveiled its new location, which sits on the back side of the same plaza. (The signs aren’t up yet.) Easily 10 times the size, the bright, new and spare space features a greatly expanded Latin foods market with a separate restaurant, accessed via glass doors. The new market sells fresh produce, dried spices, refrigerated tortillas and cheeses, canned and jarred sauces, and even has a butcher counter.

The adjoining eatery has seating for 30 – complete with table service – as well as a counter for quicker carry-out service. Diners will recognize the same menu (and prices) as before. Burritos ($6) are stuffed to the breaking point with chicken, steak or al pastor (pork), rice, beans, cheese and onions. Quesadillas ($5) are filled with the same choices, griddled on a flattop until hot and melted, and served with rice, sour cream and salsa. For the tacos, fresh and steamy corn tortillas are doubled up, overloaded with al pastor, carnitas, chicken or steak, diced white onion and fresh cilantro. They're $1.79 each and come with a side of the most amazing salsa – a smoky, blisteringly spicy red sauce that improves everything it touches.

There are also about 15 large plates such as sautéed shrimp in a spicy tomato-based sauce, whole deep-fried fish, and grilled steak and shrimp with bell peppers. Mains range from $9 to $12, are paired with salad, rice and beans (or an equivalent), and are sized for enormous appetites.

Within a week or so, management promises, they will be equipped to handle credit card purchases. Until then, bring cash.
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Monday, July 24, 2017

Xinji Noodle Bar in Ohio City Set to Open July 26

Posted By on Mon, Jul 24, 2017 at 8:44 PM

Back in January we shared the news about Shuxin Liu’s plans to open Xinji Noodle Bar, a Japanese-style ramen shop at 4211 Lorain Ave. Following a quiet soft opening, the Ohio City eatery will open to the public on July 26.

Liu, a cook of two years at Momocho, has created an attractive space on Lorain Avenue that complements nearby businesses like Platfom, The Grocery, Herb'n Twine, the Plum, Jack Flaps, Forest City Shuffleboard and Ohio City Provisions. Blonde wood countertops, open shelving and contemporary lighting combine to create a peaceful, elegant room.

  • Michael Killik
The concise menu features Korean fried chicken, steamed buns filled with pork belly, braised pork or fried chicken, rice bowls topped with smoked eel or pork chops, and a half-dozen noodle bowls such as pork miso, dan dan noodle in chicken broth, and a vegan mushroom broth with nori.

“Noodles are my favorite thing,” Liu told Scene. “I’ve wanted to do a noodle bar for six years. In the beginning, we will be highly focused on ramen, but will branch out to Southeast Asian style noodle and Northern Chinese style noodle.”

  • Michael Killik
Also, he intends to expand the menu from just ramen, Korean-style fried chicken and steamed buns to include small entrée dishes as he grows the business.

The 100-seat restaurant features an open kitchen and seating in a small dining room, at the bar, and at window seats facing Lorain.

Xinji, Liu explains, means “new opportunity.”

The restaurant will be dinner-only Tuesday through Saturday, but will offer an Asian-inspired Sunday brunch.
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Rick's Cafe to Close July 25; New Eatery to Open in 60 to 90 Days

Posted By on Mon, Jul 24, 2017 at 4:00 PM

Partners Michael Schwartz and Shawn Monday had every intention of keeping Rick’s Café alive and open through the end of summer at least. The team, which also operates the restaurants One Red Door, Flip Side and 3 Palms, purchased the iconic 40-year-old Chagrin Falls eatery last month with plans to eventually install a new concept.

“This is the first time we ever purchased an existing restaurant,” says Schwartz. “We wanted to keep it going because summer, financially, is great. Plus, we wanted to introduce ourselves to the community, talk to guests, learn what items people would never want to see leave the menu, and evaluate the staff.”

Management and staff all agreed on a late-summer closing, adds Schwartz, but a rash of walk outs and no-shows from employees forced his hand.

“We don’t want to give bad service, that’s not who we are, so we made the decision to close now,” he explains.

Schwartz says that it will take him 60 to 90 days to make all of the necessary improvements to the old building before launching his and Monday’s new concept, which he intends to keep under wraps for the time being.

“I have a very clear vision of what I plan to do,” he says. “It will remain a neighborhood gathering place that will incorporate some of the flavors found at the places that we currently have in our other facilities like One Red Door, 3 Palms as well as a couple of Rick’s classics like the ribs and coleslaw."

The crew will transform the dining room with a lot of natural, reclaimed materials like wide-plank floors, live-edge timber bar tops, and exposed brick. Crews will also update the bathrooms, expand and improve the kitchen, and jettison the six or seven microwave ovens that did much of the “cooking.”

“It will have an earthy always-been-there feel,” Schwartz says of the new restaurant.
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First Look: Oak and Embers Tavern in Hudson

Posted By on Mon, Jul 24, 2017 at 10:34 AM

Way back in October we shared the news that Oak & Embers Tavern, a three-year-old barbecue joint in Chesterland, would be opening a second location in Hudson (7774 Darrow Rd.). The plan was to be up and smoking by the holidays, but Christmas, Hanukah and New Year’s Day all came and went without a single baby back rib. The issue, notes owner Marc Garofoli, was the property, which for 40 years operated as Marcelita's Mexican restaurant.

“There’s not much of the original structure left,” he explains. “It appears that they would put on a new addition to the building as they made a profit. It’s pretty much a brand new building from the foundation up.”

Over time and over budget, but come the first week of August, Oak and Embers should be open to the public. With construction in the rear-view mirror, the shiny new facility can seat approximately 350 guests inside the airy 8,500-square-foot bar and dining room, plus patio.

Guests can look forward to slow-smoked chicken wings, baby back ribs, beef brisket, pork shoulder and sausages, all of which will be exiting Garofoli’s new hickory-fueled Southern Pride smoker, a $40,000 rig.

“I should be able to do about 3,000 pounds a night,” he says. “She’s a monster.”

Management says that the menu will be almost identical to the original spot, but will include more kid-friendly meals and sides.

Meanwhile, Garofoli adds, the Chesterland shop (8003 Mayfield Rd., 440-729-4030) continues to exceed his and his wife and partner Gretchen’s expectations.

“It’s going fantastic,” he says.

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Van Aken Beer Garden Returns to Shaker Plaza Tonight

Posted By on Fri, Jul 21, 2017 at 8:46 AM

The only thing better than a beer garden is an outdoor beer garden. Tonight from 6 to 10, the Van Aken Beer Garden returns to Shaker Plaza. The event takes place outside, in the plaza's west parking lot at the corner of Farnsleigh Road and Van Aken Boulevard, and inside, in the storefront next to the Pearl Asian Kitchen.

The event will feature live music courtesy of the terrific alt folk act Maura Rogers and the Bellows, food, beer, wine, cocktails, retail vendors and children's activities, and highlights the development of Shaker's new downtown, the Van Aken District, scheduled to open in the summer of 2018.

Continue reading »

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers Could Soon Open in Strongsville

Posted By on Thu, Jul 20, 2017 at 11:02 AM

  • Photo via RaisingCane's/Facebook
Northeast Ohio could soon have more fried chicken choices, as Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers makes plans to open a Strongsville location.

Wednesday, the city of Strongsville acknowledged on Facebook that a developer has asked to rezone a vacant parcel of land on Pearl Road from general business to restaurant/recreational services. The developer wants to build a Raising Cane's on the property.

While there are Raising Cane's restaurants currently in Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus, this would be the Louisiana fast food chain's first location in the Cleveland area.

But all you chicken lovers will have to wait, as the city won't make a decision on the rezoning until late summer or fall.

Here's what the city of Strongsville had to say in full:

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After a 13-Year Hiatus, the Lobster Pot to be Resurrected in Willoughby Hills

Posted By on Thu, Jul 20, 2017 at 10:54 AM

  • An old Lobster Pot ad (number is not contact info for current incarnation, fyi, so don't call it)
Chris Haffey’s father opened the Lobster Pot in S. Euclid back in 1972. The family ran the seafood restaurant for more than 30 years, apart from a break in the early 1980s. Haffey says that he’s been itching to revive the old institution for years but hadn’t found the right property.

“I haven’t found the right place and then this place in Willoughby Hills showed up,” he says. “It’s the perfect location; a lot of the customers who lived in S. Euclid are still in the area – and there’s no place like this around.”

Like the original, this iteration of the Lobster Pot (2749 Som Center Rd.) will be loosely modeled after a traditional New England-style lobster house. The space will be decorated with nautical artifacts like wooden buoys and floats, fishing nets, and the namesake lobster pots. A wooden dory will be suspended above the dining room. In addition to the regular tanks filled with live lobsters, the owner thought it would be fun to include a lobster-filled claw machine, where $2 buys a diner the chance to snag a live lobster.

The space, most recently the Pub 91 and a Spectators, will seat approximately 200 guests in the dining room, at the bar, and on the patio. Haffey is going for what he calls, “casual with an upscale twist.”

“We’ll have cloth napkins and tablecloths, so it will be still feel like you’re going out to a nice dinner and not a sports bar,” he explains.

In addition to the whole steamed Maine lobsters, the bill of fare will offer clam chowder, crab legs, lobster rolls and fried oyster Po’ Boys, to name a few.

Look for the Lobster Pot to open in early August.

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