After roughly 40 years in business, Lopez will cease to exist in Cleveland Heights. The pioneering Mexican eatery began life in 1980, when owners Brad Friedlander and Craig Somers opened the spot at Lee and Washington. For the past 15 years, Lopez lived across from the Cedar Lee Theatre, the last three years of which were under the ownership of longtime chef Michael Herschman.
All that (well, most of it anyway) ends in the New Year, says Herschman, who is pulling the plug in order to revive a Cleveland classic.
“On the first of the year we are closing, remodeling, rebranding and reopening as Mojo World Eats and Drink,” says Herschman.
For those of us who were dining out in Cleveland 20 years ago, the name Mojo conjures images of a dimly lit Tremont bistro that ushered in, along with one or two other spots, the small-plate movement. Herschman’s Pacific Rim-influenced fare was creative, delicious and audacious given that small plates still struggle in this conservative meat-and-potatoes town.
Like the original, Mojo will present a lengthy menu loaded with globally diverse and appealing options. The current working catalogue approaches 40 different items, most of which take inspiration from Pacific Rim, Mediterranean and Latin American cuisines.
Fans of Mojo might recall electric dishes such as crunchy tofu with red chile glaze, green curry coconut mussels, and chilled red curry beef noodles. Those items will make a triumphant return along with dishes like tostones with lemon creme fraiche, mini cassoulet with duck and beans, chilled octopus tacos with pickled peppers, five spice tempura shrimp, smoked brisket poutine, and Herschman’s rightly famous sweet and spicy calamari.
There will be nightly pasta, fish and steak specials, as well as a small selection of Lopez holdovers for loyal fans. Those items include smoked brisket burrito, lobster and rock shrimp enchiladas, braised pork enchiladas and chicken fajitas.
When it opens in mid-January, Mojo will feature an expanded wine and cocktail program plus a completely reworked interior. Diners can look forward to a brighter, more contemporary and streamlined dining room with new seating, layout and bar.
“This is probably something I should have done a year ago,” adds Herschman. “My wife, who is one of my biggest influences, keeps telling me that I have to be making my food.”
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