The free burritos, barbacoas, fajitas, and tacos were flying out of the newest Chipotle Mexican Grill last week when the quick-service restaurant -- the fourth in Northeast Ohio -- marked its grand opening in the Rockside Corners Shopping Center (6901 Rockside Road) in Independence. Like other locations of the Denver-based chain, the new Chipotle eschews plastic chairs and neon lights in favor of a spare, contemporary decor of birch veneer, exposed pipes, and corrugated barn siding, and features a small menu of out-of-the-ordinary eats. Chalk it up to the chain's youthful founder and Culinary Institute of America graduate Steve Ells, who opened his first grill near the University of Denver campus in 1993. The chef turned CEO insists that each component of his tortilla-wrapped behemoths be fresh and flavorful: Rice is rinsed starch-free, then tossed with lime juice and freshly chopped cilantro; luscious guacamole is made from scratch each morning; slow-simmered beans are robustly seasoned and spiced; and sizzling steak, chicken, and pork (no mysterious ground meat here) is taken off the grill in small batches throughout the day. Even more fun, the locations have liquor licenses, which let guests enjoy a Mexican or domestic bottled beer or a Margarita with their food. (Take that, Mickey D!) A full -- and filling -- meal here will run no more than $10. And while we don't generally waste our precious Side Dish space talking about chains, the gourmet spin Chipotle puts on humble burritos and tacos is certainly worth noting.
Fuzzy logic . . . With last week's closing of Miracles' (2399 West 11th Street), owners Gary and Rita Grabowski are ready to launch a total overhaul of everything from the menu to the message. Rather than continuing to go toe to toe with some of the neighborhood's big guns for upscale diners, the couple have decided to take the restaurant back to its roots as a basic bar and grill, which Rita poetically promises will be as relaxed and comfy "as a pair of fuzzy bunny slippers." While popular items like Euclid Beach custard, homemade pies, Thai flank steak salad, and others will survive the makeover, Rita is already working up recipes for homey favorites like macaroni and cheese, barbecued beef ribs, and walleye and pierogi dinners, all to be served on authentically blue plates. Plans also call for enlarging the bar and installing an old-fashioned, tournament-sized shuffleboard court. While the couple had entertained thoughts of selling the restaurant to chef Donna Chriszt, those negotiations fell through. "We just decided, to heck with the white tablecloths," said Rita. "We want to get back to our original agenda." Look for the spot to reopen in the fall, with the name Miracles' Club Tremont.
Cookin' with Cactus Steve . . . Steve Parris, trendy taste-setter at the Fulton Bar and Grill, will be demonstrating healthy cooking techniques today at 5:30 p.m. at the Cleveland Botanical Garden Flower Show (11030 East Boulevard) and again on June 24 at the Saturday morning North Union Farmers' Market on Shaker Square. His robust Southwestern-influenced cooking, while low in fat and oils, sings with essences of lime, pomegranate, lemongrass, and cilantro. Here's your chance to find out how he does it.