Downtown, the popular white-collar lunch spot Vico's closed, only to be replaced by equally sleek Porcelli's. A little further east, on the edge of Chinatown, C&Y Chinese Restaurant opened, closed, then reopened in November "under new management."
In the Warehouse District, Nauti Mermaid, Tequila Ranch, and Killer Burrito sprang forth, while contemporary XO closed briefly, then reopened as XO Prime Steaks. The year also marked both the grand opening and closing of Flo Café, and the shut-down of elegant Johnny's Bistro. And in Tremont, upscale Theory failed to prove itself, after less than two years.
Further west, Lakewood's Titanic opened and closed -- after having done the same thing in 2004, in its original Warehouse District location; and gifted chef Demetrios Atheneos' pretty little Bella Lucca lasted less than a year. But in Westlake, Passage to India sailed successfully into the former Affamato's berth.
Las Barras in Avon Lake debuted as a Mexican steakhouse, then quickly repositioned itself as a casual Tex-Mex eatery and music venue; just two weeks ago, it redefined itself again, changing its name to Tequila Blues, the better to express its newest bar-and-bands persona.
In Akron, Roger Thomas closed upscale Italian Piatto, while Aaron Hervey and DeAnna Akers launched the contemporary Crave; the awe-inspiring Vue opened in Hudson, and Austin's Smoking Steakhouse heated up the scene in Twinsburg, in the space that was formerly Amazon Trail. However, nostalgia buffs throughout the region are still mourning the loss of two beloved sweet spots: Hudson's Saywell's Drugs, with its venerable soda fountain, and Draeger's Candy and Ice Cream in Shaker Heights.
Also to the east, Chardon's upscale John Palmer's closed, reopened as the more family-friendly Johnny D's Italian Kitchen, then finally closed for good; meantime, owner John DeJoy opened his newest spot, John Palmer's Bistro 44, near the Quail Hollow Resort in Painesville.
In Bainbridge, former Grovewood chef Tim Ogan opened The Falls Grille; Nick and Victoria Karakas closed The Fireside Grille (formerly Stix); and Michael Longo briefly closed his restaurant Firefly, only to reopen it soon afterward as the more casual Firefly Seafood & Steak. And in Willowick, another Grovewood alum, Mark Wilson, launched the kitchen at the Brass Tap Bar & Grille.
On Shaker Square, Sergio Abramof brought in the flavors of Brazil with Saravá. In Woodmere, shoppers at tony Eton-Chagrin got a taste of Lebanon with the launch of Taza, a slightly more upscale version of Aladdin's. And in Beachwood, Sushi Rock East delivered a hint of Warehouse District food and 'tude to Pavilion Mall. In the minus column, Pittsburgh-based Atria's Restaurant & Tavern, the weakest link in the chains at nearby Legacy Village, packed up and went home. When chains start folding, it's a sure sign that times are tough.