Meal of the Month: The Katz Club Diner

The Katz Club is masquerading as a diner, but don’t let the clever disguise fool you. A greasy spoon it is not.

The Katz Club is masquerading as a diner, but don’t let the clever disguise fool you. A greasy spoon it is not. Chef Douglas Katz is the restaurateur behind the diner (1975 Lee Road in Cleveland Heights). But his reputation likely precedes him. He’s also owner and executive chef of Fire Food and Drink at historic Shaker Square, and chef/partner of Provenance at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Chef Douglas Katz

Katz is as renowned for his dishes as he is for his support of local farmers and food artisans. His goal is simple: sustainable, healthful and local. His imaginative diner menu includes breakfast-allday items, such as the Brioche French Toast ($9), as well as luncheon items such as the truly inspired Twin Duck Dogs (duck hot dogs with fonduta and red peppers, $13), and dinner selections such as Lamb Meatballs ($18). Also inside is a full coffee counter with pour-over and French press styles, an ice cream soda fountain and adult milkshakes. Don’t get me started on the pastry counter— where there’s birthday cake every day, and a dozen other options enticing you upon arrival. (I swear some of them actually were whispering my name as I was ushered past to a table.) As for the aforementioned clever disguise: The Katz Club Diner makes its home in the historic 1949 O’Mahony Diner car that originally operated as the Zephyr Diner in Berwyck, Pa. It was transported from its original location to Cleveland Heights in 1997, where it was painstakingly restored and joined with the Centennial Diner, a pre-WWII model with late art deco styling. The Centennial Diner Car is now home to the Bar Car at the Katz Club, open from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday, featuring handmade cocktails, fresh oysters and a variety of small plates. And though recently it has served as several other now-defunct dining destinations, those painstaking renovations, including the improvements made by Katz and Co., make it a modern marvel without losing a single stitch of rail-riding nostalgia. Though some have criticized the ambiance as sterile (diners and chrome are, after all, synonymous), my entire experience at the Katz Club was decidedly warm. With the quintessential comfort fare made with the quality of ingredients and experience of patrons in mind, it’s no wonder that Katz is considered a true artisan among peers.

Katz_ChilaPronounced “chee-lay key-lays,” braised beef short ribs with soft scrambled local farm eggs, black beans, crispy tortillas, salsa verde, pickled chiles, Amish cheese, cilantro and local feta. The dish has a vegetarian-friendly version (ask the chef to substitute sautéed mushrooms and spinach for the short ribs). VERDICT: What makes for better comfort food than a casserole—messy, saucy and delicious? Now imagine a gourmet casserole, (literally) mounded artfully with flavors and textures that has at once a south of the border soul and a breakfast sensibility. Big enough to share, but who’d want to?
Katz_FauxHosThe Katz Club’s take on the ubiquitous cellowrapped c-store impulse binge. VERDICT: Selecting from the dessert case that greets you when you enter the diner is a tall task. But as a great lover— and therefore self-proclaimed expert—of all things chocolate, I happily will go on record here: The faux ho is as dangerously decadent as I’ve had. Sweet and moist on the inside, without the traditional taste of granulated sugar grit of the original. But the real delight is in the rich, dark chocolate shell. For what it is, it has a surprising array of flavors happening in each bite.

Open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, the area is ripe for a daytrip. Visit for a list of restaurants and retailers in the vicinity to explore before and after your meal.

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