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Restaurants in Avon Lake Ohio

Among the entrees on Parker's menu is a large bone-in pork chop marinaded in coffee and molasses.jpg

Plump and juicy and grilled to a turn, the 16-ounce molasses-and-coffee-glazed pork chop with a drift of satisfying smashed potatoes is one of the hearty entrees at Parker's Grille & Tavern in Avon Lake. (Courtesy, Parker's Grille)

AVON LAKE, Ohio - Sometime during my first visit to Parker's Grille & Tavern I thought to myself, "I really like this place."

Which gave me pause, particularly when it came time to declare my ardor publicly. After all, there are plenty of casual neighborhood spots cut from similar cloth, most of them dime-a-dozen operations whose chief distinction is a kind of homogenized "comfy-ness" that droops in the harsh light of scrutiny.

Parker's, on the other hand, holds up. I'd lay credit to the restaurant's vitality in the hands of co-proprietors James Mowbray and Paul Kalberer, who's also executive chef. The duo tempered their talents in one of the industry's hottest crucibles, Morton's of Chicago: over the past decade they led the front- and back-house operations at the chain's Tower City location in Cleveland.

Though Parker's is no Morton's - neither in tone, focus, or deep-pocket allure - the partners and the team they've amassed maintain similar standards. Greeters and servers are professional yet cordial, in a genuinely glad-you've-stopped-by sort of way. In an early interview Mowbray was clear that he and Kalberer intended a casual, affordable place, not a "destination."

The menu they feature has a cover-all-bases kind of appeal, hitting all the common notes while employing just enough panache to keep things interesting. So do many chains, at least in theory. The chief difference is that under Kalberer's generally watchful eye, most everything I sampled was executed with precision. That's rarely the case in chainland, where the results sink into flaccid mediocrity.

Often they're little touches, like the fresh-tasting blue cheese and Thousand Island dressings offered with the House Wedge Salad ($5, or $4 when ordered with any dinner entree) and the crunchy chunks of thick bacon chips scattered among the accompanying diced tomato and frizzled onion crisps. (Parker's Grilled Caesar, also $5, is quite good, though not edged with quite the smokey char I'd anticipated.)

The kitchen's attention is magnified when it comes to quality ingredients, like the seven snapping-crisp shrimp that arrived - otherwise unadorned, apart from an adequate plank of garlic bread - in a pool of buttery buffalo-style sauce under the label "Hot & Spicy Shrimp" ($10). Kalberer's crabcakes ($11 for a pair of moderately-sized cakes) are plump and zesty without overwhelming the plump chunks of sweet crab meat. Better than Morton's, I daresay.

Parker's Norm Burger is a massive gobstopper with an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink array of toppings, on a good bakery bun. It's definitely big enough to share.Courtesy, Parker's Grille

Because this is not a steakhouse per se, Parker's leans heavily on casual offerings. Burgers, along with a selection of sandwiches (including a very good crab cake sandwich, $13) play a prominent role on the menu.

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