So kudos to Gamekeeper's Taverne (87 West Street, 440-247-7744), the Chagrin Falls stalwart that first introduced nascent foodies to ciabatta bread, sun-dried tomatoes, and Häagen-Dazs ice cream back in 1976. Together with longtime executive chef Chris "Dome" Johnson, owners Tom Lutz and Eric Heatwole have clearly kept up with the times: Today's menu features an enticing mix of elegant classics like Waldorf chicken salad and prime strip steaks, and contemporary crowd-pleasers, including lobster nachos, day-boat scallops, and venison-sausage quesadillas.
Also au courant: Many dishes are now available in "little plate" format, just right for grazing. And Johnson makes good use of locally grown produce, with seasonal specials like oven-roasted peaches, filled with goat cheese and served with fresh berries, candied macadamias, and a drizzle of pear syrup on a bed of field greens.
As for Gamekeeper's famed patio -- one of the first true outdoor dining rooms in the region -- it too seems entirely up to date, with this summer's addition of new tables, chairs, and market umbrellas, and the installation of a permanent roof over the outdoor bar. Together with mature nut trees, overflowing flower baskets, and romantic lighting, it remains one of Northeast Ohio's loveliest settings for alfresco feasting.
The duo's other projects include 87 West (their next-door wine and martini bar), the Inn of Chagrin Falls, Bass Lake Taverne (Chardon), and the Foxburg Inn, a recent Pennsylvania acquisition. In development, the Welshfield Inn (Burton) and 287 West (Crocker Park) look to open by early November, and Timberfire (Chagrin Falls), which burned down in 2005, is to be rebuilt in 2008.
More falafel: After more than two decades at the West Side Market, Maha and Sam Zayed decided to launch a second outpost of their popular Maha's Falafil in Strongsville (14769 Pearl Road, 440-238-3172) this past January, with a full menu of Middle Eastern faves, including kebabs, hummus, and their famous falafel. Mainly carryout, the store is open 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.