Doug Katz opens new diner on Lee Road

The new Katz Club Diner's grand opening is May 28.

Doug Katz, the chef who owns fire food & drink on Shaker Square and Provenance at the Cleveland Museum of Art, has opened a new restaurant in Cleveland Heights. Called The Katz Club Diner, the restaurant is located in the twin diner cars at 1975 Lee Road, across the street from Zagara’s Marketplace. Katz held a soft opening prior to the diner's grand opening on May 28.

Several other chefs attempted to run restaurants in the historic building modeled after railroad dining cars; but ultimately all failed. Katz, who lives on East Overlook, the street adjacent to the restaurant, believes he can succeed. “I live nearby,” he said, “and I watched all of the incarnations. I watched it, and I watched it, and I watched it fail.” When he found out the building was available, he worked out a deal.

The Katz Club Diner serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is organized in three sections. The north end of the building is the diner, which seats about 48 people; the center section is a walk-in coffee shop that offers cappuccinos, espressos, pastries and other items; and the south end is the cocktail lounge, which is open Thursday through Sunday and serves cocktails and small plates. There will also be an outdoor patio section. The restaurant serves breakfast all day. It also features classic diner food, including club sandwiches, soups and salads, as well as entrée specials, such as turkey with stuffing and meat loaf. Katz is also offering vegetarian items and Jewish foods, such as matzoh ball soup and brisket.

Since 2002, five restaurants have been in this location: Dottie’s Diner, Chris & Jimmy’s Diner, Gali Gali, Clyde’s Bistro and Favor Bistro. Katz believes the past failures occurred for various reasons. “Initially, there was so much expense involved in creating this building that it was hard to make income and pay it all off,” he said. “And then I think there were various operational issues after that.”

Katz, 43, is a Cleveland native. He grew up in Shaker Heights and graduated from Hawken. He attended the University of Denver and, after graduation, went to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. He said his love of cooking came from his mother. “Mom loved working in the kitchen,” he said. “We were always entertaining, and we were always in the kitchen, eating. I was a fat little kid!”

After working in a restaurant in Portland, Ore., and at hotels in Aspen, Colo. and Boston, Katz returned to Cleveland in 1997. He worked as the chef at Moxie in Beachwood, and, in 2001, he opened fire on Shaker Square. “I wanted to be in an historic area that had a soul to it,” he said. Last October, he opened his second restaurant, Provenance, in the re-designed art museum.

In addition to the restaurant and lounge, Katz is operating his catering service in his new location. The kitchen is huge, filling the entire back section of the building. The restaurant is designed to look like a 1940s Art Deco space. “My whole idea for the look is ‘40s era,” he said, “more subdued and classic.”

Katz has lived in Cleveland Heights since moving back to Northeast Ohio. He is married and the father of two 10-year-old twins. He loves the city, which is one reason he wanted to open a restaurant here. “I just love the urban culture,” he said. “It has a great mix of everything—the people, the housing, the architecture. It’s a walking community, and it’s close to University Circle and downtown.”

James Henke

James Henke, a Cleveland Heights resident, was a writer and editor at Rolling Stone magazine for 15 years. He has written several books, including biographies of John Lennon, Jim Morrison and Bob Marley.

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Volume 6, Issue 7, Posted 2:59 PM, 05.22.2013