Rice Shop in University Heights to Close, Chicken Ranch from Chef Demetrios Atheneos to Open in its Place


Anthony Zappola will close the Rice Shop (13892 Cedar Rd., 216-785-9490) following Thanksgiving weekend, the chef has just announced. The quick-serve restaurant, which had its genesis in Las Vegas before being revived at the Ohio City Galley, reopened at Cedar Center in June. The restaurant replaced Lox, Stock and Brisket (3441 Tuttle Rd.), which relocated to the Market Hall in Van Aken District, where it has thrived since its summer opening.

“Originally, when I was building out the new Lox, Stock and Brisket space at Van Aken, I had planned to sub-let the space, but then Covid hit,” Zappola explains. “I don’t want to say that the Rice Shop was always temporary, but it fit the void for what it was. I’m just ready to focus on Lox, Stock and Brisket. It’s just a lot for me personally.”

But the space won’t sit idle for long. Chef Demetrios Atheneos, formerly of Forage Public House, Oak Barrel and Bold, will open a quick-serve comfort food spot in early December. The name, Chicken Ranch, is an homage to his uncle’s spot of the same name, which existed in New York in the 1980s. He will be partnering on the project with his brother Niko.

“The concept has some history,” says Atheneos.

The star of the show, so to speak, will be the Amish fried chicken, sold as tenders, wings and boneless thighs along with a choice of nearly a dozen dipping sauces. Atheneos knows that fried chicken (and tenders, specifically) is enjoying a bit of a moment, but he feels that his technique will set his products apart.

“When you taste mine you’ll see how unique it is,” the chef promises. “We start with a spicy buttermilk brine and then it gets battered. You really see the layers when it comes out, that crispy, flaky outside shell, this creamy brined meat inside. And then you pick your sauces, so really, whatever flavor the customer is going for they can decide.”

Those tenders also can be ordered fire-roasted, which, along with whole and half chickens, will be cooked on a live-fire rotisserie. Most items include jalapeño corn fritters, pickles and a choice of sauce. Sauces range from buttermilk ranch to Lebanese-style garlic sauce. Heat-seekers will appreciate the Florida jerk and Cleveland hot sauce.

But the fried chicken combos are just the start. The menu also features a selection of chicken sandwiches made with fried (or roasted) boneless thighs, kale slaw, pickles and various sauces on a brioche bun.

In addition to the fried and roasted chicken, there will be ½ slabs of barbecue baby back ribs, fire-roasted tiger shrimp and popcorn cauliflower nuggets, also paired with sauce and sides.

Rounding out the menu are add-ons like salad, chili and mac and cheese, each of which can be topped with chicken.

Like a lot of chefs these days, Atheneos is tabling his finer-dining aspirations in favor of concepts that can be executed in smaller spaces, with shorter ticket times and for less money — at least while the Covid crisis continues to disrupt the restaurant industry.

“There’s this evolution of chefs and restaurants going on right now,” he says. “What I’m striving for is counter-service, fast-casual type concepts. I’m still going to be doing the things that I’ve always done, which is farm-to-table inspired and chef-driven, just affordable, fast and casual.”

There will be minimal indoor seating for the foreseeable future, says the chef.

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