fire's doug katz to turn historic diner cars into cafe, catering kitchen

Doug Katz, chef-owner of the popular Fire Food and Drink at Shaker Square, has purchased the vacant diner cars on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights, planning to use them as home base for a farm-to-table deli and his growing catering operation.

"It's a perfect catering kitchen," says Katz of the 3,000-square-foot kitchen in the rear of the diner cars. "In one of the diner cars, I'm going to create a Fire-quality diner that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the other one, I'm going to create a space people can use for a catered function."

Katz, who lives in Cleveland Heights, fell in love with the diners 10 years ago when one of his neighbors, Big Fun owner Steve Presser, purchased and relocated them from out of state. He later opened Dottie's Diner and Sweet City Diner. Since those closed, a string of short-lived eateries followed.

Katz hopes to realize some of Presser's original vision.

"We want to do something that the neighborhood really could use," he says. "The location is just sort of sleeping right now. The Bottlehouse is there. We're going to create a little district for ourselves and extend the Cedar-Lee District north."

The yet-to-be-named diner will offer egg dishes, locally roasted coffee, housemade baked goods that may include sticky buns and donuts, and classic diner items like hot and cold sandwiches, soups and salads that can be enjoyed in or taken to go.

"This will not be the $1.99, blue plate special diner," he says, citing prices in the $10-15 range for main dishes. "It's going to be all about supporting local farmers and offering people the kind of diner experience I can be proud of."

Katz will also offer deli trays for parties. "We're going to do it in a really awesome house-made way," he says. "If we do a club sandwich, we'll make our own bacon."

Katz is shooting for a March opening.

Source: Doug Katz
Writer: Lee Chilcote
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