For just over two years, Fat Casual in Macedonia was the place to go for genuine and delicious slow-smoked barbecue. But lengthy road and bridge construction cut the business off from its customer base, eventually to the point of closure last month.
"The road was closed for 517 days," explains co-owner Scott Slagle. "We lost a third of our sales."
By mid February, Slagle and partner Walter Hyde should be back in business, this time in Solon. Formerly the Rush Hour Grille on Aurora Road, the Tavern of Solon will feature all the beloved barbecue dishes from Fat Casual and then some. The 5,000-square-foot space will seat 150 and offer authentic smoked briskets, pulled pork, St. Louis ribs, as well as new classics like smoked corned beef and smoked prime rib. A liquor license means beer, wine and cocktails will join the mix.
"I'm from Solon, born and raised," adds Slagle. "There are so many chains now in the area; we're trying to bring back that old-school independent feel of a local restaurant."
Over in Tremont, on W. 14th, chef Danny Cassano is transforming the old Rodeo Bar into Nana's Southside BBQ. Along with partner Brian Devine, the pair will turn out authentic, slow-smoked barbecue and wood-grilled foods.
"I want to do barbecue in Tremont because although there are some barbecue spots in Cleveland, they are almost nonexistent on the West Side," explains Cassano. "Also, I want to do barbecue because I feel there is really no place in the Cleveland area where you can get real southern barbecue, the kind of place with a smokehouse and a wood burning grill. Real barbecue is a labor of love — it takes a good 24 hours to make."
Cassano hopes to construct a genuine smokehouse on the property.
Cassano, a Johnson and Wales graduate, claimed the top kitchen spot at Sushi Rock by the young age of 21. He also worked as sous chef at Blue Point Grill. Most recently, he was cooking at Barrio in Tremont.
"My partner and I want a comfortable spot with that 'Tremont feel' to it," says Cassano. "The name is a tribute to my grandmother, who really taught me how to cook: slow and with love."
Look for Nana's to come online mid to late March.
Michael Symon Crushed by West Side Market Fire, Plans a Way to Help
Michael Symon might be in New York this week taping The Chew, but that doesn't mean he isn't following the news of the West Side Market fire with a heavy heart.
"It's just horrible, especially for the vendors," he told me. "At my restaurants, if we shut down, we have insurance for lost sales. A lot of these vendors are too small and don't make enough money for that type of insurance."
While the length of the closure is still uncertain, one thing is for sure: Symon, once again, will do what he can to help.
"What I'm trying to do is go above the political bullshit and get something together quickly while the market is still on the tops of everybody's minds," he explains. "Fortunately, the 100th anniversary brought a lot of positive attention to the market and many more people, because of that, now know how great of a place it is."
Symon says that he'll be working with local restaurants and citizens to raise money that will go directly to the vendors. Details and donation information can be found at www.marketvendorrelief.org.