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Top 3 dining trends Northeast Ohio restaurants are trying out for fall: Doug Trattner reports

From clambakes to Oktoberfest, owners of local restaurants are trying several ways to maintain outdoor dining this fall.

CLEVELAND — As summer transitions to fall, restaurant owners across Northeast Ohio are doing everything they can to encourage continued outdoor dining, which has offered many a revenue-generating lifeline during the pandemic. The truth of the matter is that most diners still prefer to eat outside, so restaurant owners are coming up with traditional and creative ways to appease those customers.

For decades, autumn has signaled the arrival of one of Northeast Ohio’s most enduring and beloved traditions: the clambake. As cooler temperatures descend upon the Land, out come the steamer pots, clams, chowder, and bibs. After a long, hot summer, there’s nothing better than a bowl of thick, creamy clam chowder – and all of those other, delicious accompaniments – to ease the shift to sweater season.

Given that it’s 2020, even the clambake will look a little different than in years past. Most restaurants, like Stone Mad in Gordon Square, are foregoing the communal-style dining experience for one that is prepared and plated in the kitchen. Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday during October, the Irish pub will offer a classic feast that includes New England clam chowder, one dozen steamed clams, a half roasted chicken, sweet potato, corn on the cob, rolls and butter. The price is $30 (reservations, which are required, can be made by calling 216-281-6500).

Lindey's Lake House, Alea, Tremont Taphouse, Goldhorn Brewery, the Lobster Pot, Osso and many other restaurants are offering something similar.

Don’t feel like leaving the house? Many local seafood retailers offer “pac-outs,” prepackaged clambakes for in-home preparation. Some even provide the steamer pot, which is pre-packed with clams, chicken, corn, potatoes and other items, including rolls, butter and utensils. Simply heat and eat.

“I had a clam supplier tell me a couple years back that more clams were being shipped to Northeast Ohio during September and October than the rest of the country combined,” reports Bill Gullo, director of purchasing at Catanese Classic Seafood.

Catanese is joined by other retailers like Kate’s Fish, Euclid Fish, and Lobster Brothers.

Another annual rite of passage is marked by the arrival of Oktoberfest beers. At bars and breweries across the region (and globe), a seasonal selection of these beers start appearing on tap handles. Traditionally, these Marzen-style lagers are brewed in March, cellared through summer, and tapped for jubilant fall festivals of the same name. Again, most of those Oktoberfest celebrations are gone this year, but the rich, flavorful, and malty beers are aplenty.

And finally, 2020 is the year of the igloo – and other heated outdoor dining enclosures. From geodesic domes and igloos to canvas yurts and glassy greenhouses, restaurants are rolling out the hardware to encourage continued socially distanced al fresco dining, even throughout the winter months. The Rustic Grill in Highland Heights, Academy Tavern by Shaker Square, Blue Heron Brewery in Medina, and Betts at the Kimpton Schofield Hotel downtown are just a few of the eateries featuring such structures.

“These stunning greenhouses will allow our guests to continue enjoying outdoor dining as the weather changes,” says Betts General Manager Jason Reiss. “The greenhouses are separate and intimate, yet still visible, allowing diners to embrace the energy of one of downtown Cleveland’s most prominent corners; it makes for a totally unique and special experience.”

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