Orange Avocado Juicery

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By AMANDA C. DAVIS

 

BOARDMAN – With barely two months under her belt as co-owner of Orange Avocado Juicery, Laurie Chamoun is already looking to the future and envisioning what could be.

If her family’s success in feeding and nourishing our community is any indication, Laurie is well on her way to bigger things.

image3The new business, which opened Aug. 1, cold presses juice with a hydraulic press using thousands of pounds of pressure to extract the most liquid from fresh fruits and vegetables. No additional heat or oxygen is used, meaning no nutrients are lost in the heat of traditional pasteurization.

“It’s the best way to consume juice,” she said, adding it’s made from local produce when available and bottled on site.

Laurie said a big part of her inspiration for opening stemmed from her father Camille’s battle with Stage 4 colon cancer. A few years ago, he was given a few months to live but survived four years – something Laurie attributes in part to juicing.

“We have customers who come for juice right after having chemotherapy or radiation treatments,” she said. “Most guests are educated about the benefits of the organic ingredients we provide in our cold pressed juices and they’re extremely excited that we are here.”

The Chamoun family has a long, successful track record for business in the Mahoning Valley. I first met Laurie in fourth grade when her family moved to Canfield from Michigan. They owned a Little Caesar’s pizza shop in Boardman and grew the franchise to 14 locations in the tri-county area.

She and I graduated together then reconnected a few years later when I discovered her family’s newest venture – Aladdin’s Eatery.

The family-owned franchise (she operates six) specializes in Middle Eastern cuisine and began with one restaurant in Boardman. Aladdin’s has been around nearly 20 years and there are 33 locations stretching to North Carolina.

That type of growth and success, along with lessons from her dad, has prepared Laurie for her latest project.

On the day of our interview, Kate Sarver, Michelle French and I visited with Laurie and her staff, admiring the cute décor, spotless floors and fixtures and the tempting samples they offered generously.

image1-2Kate, who is pregnant with twins, sampled several and said her favorite was the “Pretty in Pink,” a juice blended with grapefruit, strawberries and beets. She left with four drinks and said she wanted to try a little bit of everything.

“I figured any of these would be nutrient packed,” she said.

Michelle said she’s been feeling rundown lately and wanted more energy. She loved the signature “Orange Avocado,” with those two ingredients, plus apple. She also sampled “Bright Eyes,” with orange, carrot and ginger, and “Love Your Heart,” with strawberry, ginger and beet.

She said the latter was delicious and “earthy,” with a bit of sweetness and spice.

“It’s so hard to choose a drink when I go in there,” she said. “Sometimes I get a few and give them to friends and relatives who I know will appreciate the health benefits from drinking fresh juice.”

14199437_1081036178645649_7542176142574120450_nMy favorite on the menu that keeps me coming back is the “Midnight Lemonade.” This combines watermelon, lemon and activated charcoal. Laurie said the charcoal is a potent natural treatment used to trap toxins and chemicals in the body, allowing them to be flushed out so the body doesn’t reabsorb them.

This slightly sweet, yet tart, combination just feels good going down and lacks the grittiness some charcoal containing drinks are known for. I’m happy to report it also helped me recover faster after a (rare) late night out and a few beers.

On the day we visited, I opted for a shot of wheatgrass, which is hard to come by in this area, and a “Boost Shot,” which combines lemon, ginger and turmeric, an ingredient well documented for its ability to reduce inflammation, improve digestion and fight free radicals.

This is the only flu shot I will need this year. It’s tart, refreshing and slightly warming, and I swear you can feel it improving your insides. The “Cannon Shot,” which has lime, cayenne and turmeric, is equally as delicious.

image4-1Co-owner Pepe Parish chose the name Orange Avocado because orange is his favorite color and avocados his favorite food. He began making raw, vegan and gluten-free baked goods under that name at Aladdin’s two years ago and has added a few confections at Orange Avocado because of their popularity.

In fact, his treats are the only solid food on the menu – for now. On the day we visited, he had cinnamon pecan cookies and maple coconut macaroons. In the near future, the two plan to add acai berry bowls to the menu – a treat of blended, frozen fruit topped with fresh super fruits and served in a bowl.

Juices and shots are stored in a refrigerated case and free of added sugar, fillers, additives and preservatives.

Because it’s cold pressed, the juice has a shorter shelf life than juice that’s pasteurized and commercially produced. Laurie said her green juices should be refrigerated and consumed within 36 hours of purchase and the rest have a 72-hour window. Once opened, they should be used within 24 hours, she added.

Packed your lunch for work but forgot to add veggies? Stop at Orange Avocado for “The Garden,” which I like to call “liquid salad.” It combines cucumber, celery, apple and carrot and is delicious.

The Orange Avocado also offers nut milks. “Myracle Mylk” combines almonds, dates, cinnamon and vanilla, and has a smooth, slightly sweet taste. Cashew milk, with cashews, dates and spirulina (blue-green algae), is also available.

A 16-oz. juice, packed with two to five pounds of produce, costs $8.75 and contains two servings. Shots are 1 oz. and cost $2.95.

Laurie is teaming up with a local nutritionist to work on plans for a juice cleanse. Cleanses have gained popularity in recent years for their health benefits, and Laurie wants her customers to have that option.

Though there are no current plans for additional locations, Laurie said she’s always thinking about possibilities for the future.

The juicery, at 1393 Boardman-Canfield Road, is situated between Hot Head Burritos and Pure Barre. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday-Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. It’s closed Sundays.

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The Courthouse Inn & Restaurant

By AMANDA C. DAVIS

 

LISBON – Art is in every detail at The Courthouse Inn & Restaurant.

That’s a pretty broad statement, I realize.

Although I consider myself a pretty good writer, I know my words will fail me at capturing the magic of this place. But bear with me – hopefully you will come away with some idea of just how brilliant it is.

After staring at my computer screen for much longer than necessary I realized the complexity of this restaurant is best captured simply. The food is great, the vibe even better.

image5Located in Ohio’s oldest brick building at 116 W. Lincoln Way, this restaurant and inn offers vegetarian comfort food for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day, along with brunch Sundays. Four guestrooms upstairs overlook a courtyard with a fountain, brick pizza oven and tables made from jade imported from China.

I hesitate to call this place ‘fancy.’ It’s eclectic, with details so rich they could’ve only come from the brain of an artist.

“Restoring the building was an 11-year adventure,” owner Renee Lewis said, explaining there were no initial plans for a restaurant or inn. But coming back to town to visit family, she said she realized there was nowhere nearby she wanted to stay.

Lewis, a Salem native, has had wild, yet somewhat quiet, success designing jewelry you’ve seen on A-listers and red carpets around the world. Think “Sex & the City.”

She lives in Manhattan, but travels often to Columbiana County to visit friends and relatives. She wants to be close to the action so the building’s toIMG_3159p floor is all hers.

I find myself making the 15-minute drive from Canfield to Lisbon more often than I have time for, just for the experience. Whether I dine alone or with friends, I’ve found the food to be better, the company more interesting, all because of the details.

I went back in early April with my friend Mary Hall and fellow reviewer Michelle French.

Michelle and I started with a simple house salad ($5) and tried three dressings – balsamic, cilantro-lime and roasted onion, which we liked best. The lettuce, red onion and other vegetables were crisp and flavorful. The dressings were light, homemade and refreshing.

IMG_3161For lunch, I had the bruschetta cavatappi ($12) with blistered grape tomatoes, spinach, onions and black olives tossed in a white wine garlic sauce. The meal combined all the elements I like in a pasta – al dente noodles, a light, fresh sauce and a sprinkling of
flavorful vegetables. I was not disappointed.

Mary chose the mac & cheese ($12), a hearty portion of cavatappi pasta in a creamy English cheddar sauce with pickled jalapenos and seasoned, toasted breadcrumbs.

“It’s like takingthe best of mac & cheese and jalapeno poppers and combining the two,” she said.

Michelle had a bowl of creamy tomato soup and the southwestern veggie burger, a house made black bean burger seared and served with image1 (1)corn salsa, avocado garlic mayo, lettuce, tomato and onion on a toasted brioche bun. This was $14 and included a side of fries.
She was impressed with both the food and atmosphere, saying, “The food was delicious, and saying the décor was beautiful is an understatement – I would definitely go back, even if it was just to look around.”
Assistant chefs Tiffany Littleton and Diane Lehman came out of the kitchen to greet us. Lewis called them both exceptional and said she’s excited a new executive chef is joining staff in the next few weeks.

It was refreshing to see the menu had no “fake meats” made from soy or other protein IMG_3162alternatives. Lewis said she wanted recognizable menu items that meat eaters would understand.

The focus is on fresh, organic, farm-to-table ingredients. Pies and cakes are made from scratch.

Many ingredients are sourced locally and menu offerings are based on availability and the season. Appetizers include three cheese and arugula quesadillas ($12), risotto cheese bites ($11) and Welsh rarebits, which combine English cheddar beer cheese, toasted sourdough bread and grape tomato salsa ($12).

Breakfast options include Belgian waffles ($11), biscuits in roasted corn gravy ($12), apple pie oatmeal ($5), a loaded omelet ($13) and deep fried French toast served with Ohio Valley maple syrup, powdered sugar and seasonal IMG_3160berry jam ($12).

Dinner selections include lasagna ($18), roasted corn risotto ($21), eggplant parm ($20) and potpie made from braised Yukon potatoes, onions, peas, carrots, mushrooms and roasted corn in herbed gravy ($17).

Lewis credits her husband Michael Spirtos for being every bit involved in the project as she has. “He’s my magic,” she said.

A room with a king size bed is $250 per night and features mattresses hand sewn in Germany, heated towel racks and inspiring artwork. A room with a queen bed will set you back $225 and includes the same amenities. Both prices include breakfast.

Lewis praised contractor Don Dunlap and his crew from North Lima for their work on the project. “They make dreams come true,” she said. “They’re artists and they hire the best subcontractors.”

Aside from loving the place, I go there to repay the kindness Lewis showed Mary and I years ago when we were fresh out of college. After I wrote a story for a local newspaper on the success she found in New York, Lewis extended a very generous invite for us to stay in one of her unoccupied brownstones during a trip we planned.

There was artwork and detail in every square inch of her property.

Though I had been to the restaurant a few times, Mary was not surprised by what she saw when she first stepped inside.

“The overall theme is love and warmth,” Mary said. “She’s fully passionate with what she’s doing here and there’s not a doorknob in the place that hasn’t been given careful thought.”

Perhaps most impressive for Mary was that, in a place covered in glass and mirrors, she didn’t spot one fingerprint.

I haven’t eaten there at night, but I take assistant manager Cami Barnes’ word for it when she says the place turns magical after dark.

“The lighting is amazing,” she said. “This place glitters in the evening.”

For more information, visit thecourthouseinnandrestaurant.com.  

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Carrabba’s Italian Grill

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By AMANDA C. DAVIS

 

POLAND – The staff at Carrabba’s Italian Grill believes in making its customers feel at home.

When dining there recently, they did just that. We enjoyed good food and plenty of laughs with friends, old and new. The place, located at 1320 Boardman Poland Rd., was warm and inviting – the staff even more so.

I’m not wild about chain restaurants. It’s nothing personal – I just prefer to spend money at any one of the great, locally owned joints around here.

And in a town where there’s plenty of good Italian food to be had, you wouldn’t think Carrabba’s stands a chance. But oh, they do.

Just ask any of their loyal customers, some who come from as far as Pittsburgh to wine and dine.

Proprietor/managing partner Stephen Hatszegi said at least three to four groups make the trek from Pittsburgh and beyond every day. The next closest Pennsylvania Carrabba’s is in Philadelphia.

And that’s what’s cool – it’s not on every corner. There are nine in Ohio, the next closest in North Canton. Carrabba’s is part of Blooming Brands Inc., a group that includes Bonesfish Grill, Outback Steakhouse and Flemings.

Though Carrabba’s must adhere to corporate standards, each location operates individually so there’s more room for individuality.

So let’s talk food. Instead of using photo 3 (1)boring clichés like “delicious” and “mouth watering” to describe the food, I will simply say, “Eat there. Like, really soon.”

Everything was delicious. There I go using that word. But there isn’t a better way to describe the dishes presented to us. None of them were remotely questionable in presentation or taste.

I dined with Kate Sarver, friend and fellow food enthusiast. She and I were equally impressed with the food and service provided by Hatszegi, manager Cory Irwin, waitress Paige Kelly and the chefs.

Hatszegi wanted us to try a wide variety of menu items so we let him choose our course for the afternoon.

We sampled the very popular sangrias – blackberry, peach and classic red. The blackberry sangria – with hints of vanilla and citrus, was my favorite, while Kate preferred the classic red, a bolder, spicier blend made with wine and brandy. The peach was delicious as well, blended with White Zinfandel, peach vodka, Patrón Citrónge and juice.

photo 4Next came the “small plates,” a new menu item for Carrabba’s. We tried
the grilled asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and fontina and drizzled with a balsamic glaze ($3.79); mozzarella rustica, crispy balls of mozzarella and ricotta with Italian herbs, coated in Panko breadcrumbs and served with marinara ($3.79); and Italian lettuce wraps – wood grilled chicken and vegetables with ricotta salata in a Mediterranean lemon vinaigrette, drizzled with port wine reduction ($5.29).

The small plates were perfectly sized – smaller than a regular appetizer, just enough if you’re in the mood to sample.

A salad with the house dressing, creamy Parmesan, was crisp and  flavorful. Warm bread came out next, accompanied by a delicious herb mix and olive oil for dipping. Mama Mandola’s Sicilian chicken soup, made with ditalini-type pasta, was very flavorful – a little spicy – and brimming with freshly pulled chicken, carrots, onions and celery. The sausage and lentil soup, with Italian fennel sausage made especially for Carrabba’s, was perfectly spiced and could easily make a meal on its own (cups $3.99/bowls $6.99).

Kate sampled the Salmon Cetriolini. She adored the meal, saying the wood grilled salmon was very fresh and the garnish of tomato, cucumber and dill balanced well with the richness of the sauce. “It added a fresh, clean element to the dish,” she said. The entrée ($18.99) was paired with broccoli, lightly tossed in extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and a hint of red bell pepper. While she found it flavorful, she preferred the side of julienned zucchini that came with the popular Chicken Bryan.

This wood grilled chicken ($17.29) was topped with goat cheese, sundried
tomatoes, basil and a lemon butter sauce. Perfection. The zucchini was sautéed in a fresh, light sauce of crushed tomatoes, basil, garlic and extra virgin olive oil.
photo 2 (4)Next we tried prosciutto-wrapped pork tenderloin medallions served with a side of cavatappi ($14.49). The pork was tender and topped with a sauce combining port wine, figs, green apples and onions – a perfect blend of sweet and savory. The corkscrew-shaped pasta was topped with Amatriciana, a spicy tomato sauce with caramelized onions and pancetta – easily my favorite of Carrabba’s sauces.

Other side choices include homemade garlic mashed potatoes, vegetable of the day or pasta.

Our final course included vanilla gelato, chocolate hazelnut gelato and raspberry sorbetto, topped with an almond biscotti ($4.79), and a piece of Sogno Di Cioccolata, or “Chocolate Dream,” a rich fudge brownie topped with chocolate mousse, homemade whipped cream and chocolate sauce ($7.99).

photo 1 (5)Though we were stuffed, we soldiered on for the good of the review. The gelato and sorbetto were delicious and perfectly sized for anyone looking for a bit of a sweet ending. The light, fluffiness of the mousse and whipped cream balanced out the rich, filling brownie, perhaps allowing us to justify eating most of this giant dessert.

The menu also includes larger  appetizers, wood-fired pizza, entrée salads, chicken, pork, veal, steaks, chops and seafood. Gluten-free and whole-wheat pasta is also available. Carrabba’s made-to-order approach means that very few items have been pre-prepared, allowing diners to customize meals to their preference.

“One of our mottos here is ‘anything goes,’” Paige said. “We could literally make you anything.” In other words, if you don’t see it on the menu, the staff will do its best to accommodate your order.

Weekly specials are offered Monday-Wednesday, with the latter being “Pizza and Wine Wednesday.” Any wood-fired pizza is $9.99 and they offer $5 glasses of sangria and $10 off bottles of wine.

The restaurant, usually open during the week at 4 p.m. and 11 a.m. on weekends, has extended hours for the holiday season. Until Jan. 3, Carrabba’s is open at 11 a.m. seven days a week.

Call (330) 629-2356 for call-ahead seating or to carry out with curbside pickup. Catering is also available.

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Fushimi Japanese Restaurant

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By AMANDA C. DAVIS

 

BOARDMAN – Cleanliness and food are two things that should go together, without question. But when dining in the Mahoning Valley, there are a handful of restaurants that get passing grades in one or the other. Some fail on both fronts.

At Fushimi Japanese Restaurant, 840 Boardman-Poland Road, the owners have nailed both. Husband and wife team, Xiao Wang and Annie Li, have turned the space into a beautiful, inviting place that’s both relaxing and modern.

On a recent weekday afternoon, I dined with my friend and co-worker, Michelle French, who has a lot of experience working in restaurants in the area. She noticed right away how clean Fushimi is, calling it “impeccable.” From table to floor, bathrooms to the kitchen, the place was pretty much spotless, and we had not announced our visit ahead of time.

That put us at ease as we sat down to eat lunch in the spacious restaurant that specializes in sushi and hibachi. The owner spent some time giving us a little background first.

Fushimi is his project. His wife concentrates on running their other restaurant, Pho Saigon, 6532 South Avenue, where the focus is on Vietnamese and Chinese specialties. If you haven’t tried a bowl of steaming hot pho, please do so as soon as possible.

OK, back to Fushimi. New ownership, a new menu and a remodel were in order after the previous place, Shangrila Express, closed.

I am not a very adventurous eater when it comes to things that swim. Michelle agreed to tag along and at least try some of the specialties, but stopped short of sushi, saying she can’t get past the texture.

We started with water and tea, and I ordered the chicken and steak hibachi lunch for $11.99. Michelle opted for a bento box with Beef Negimaki and an order of shrimp tempura. Her meal came to $14.

The presentation of both meals was beautiful. The owner said the creativity and detail that goes into presenting his dishes isn’t something learned overnight.

“It takes time and practice,” he said. He explained that he prides himself on every dish that comes out of the kitchen and hopes his patrons realize that he and his staff put a lot of thought into it.

My lunch was delicious. The chicken and steak were cooked perfectly and were accompanied by sautéed vegetables including broccoli, mushrooms, onions and carrots, in a light, flavorful sauce. The fried rice was very good also and the portions were generous.

I also sampled a piece of Michelle’s Beef Negimaki – a favorite for both of us. This thinly sliced beef was wrapped around green onions and grilled. It was full of flavor and expertly cooked.

Michelle said the shrimp tempura was delicious and saved the extras for a friend who couldn’t make the lunch due to work.

The owner really wanted us to sample one of Fushimi’s top dishes – the Strawberry Field Roll, but neither of us was feeling that adventurous. This roll includes shrimp tempura topped with crabmeat, along with a strawberry/avocado eel sauce and honey sauce.

We hear it’s a popular choice for customers, and though the picture of it looked enticing, we took the owner’s word on it.

Michelle called the restaurant “calm” and “inviting,” and said she’ll definitely recommend it to family and friends.

“The presentation of the food was awesome,” she added.

The menu includes appetizers, a sushi bar, soups, salads, kids meals, chicken katsu, fried rice, teriyaki dishes and dessert. Affordable lunch specials include the maki lunch – any two rolls served with miso soup or salad, all for $7.95.

Fushimi, which opened in October, serves up great food in a great atmosphere, seven days a week. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and noon to 9:30 p.m. Sundays.

Photos courtesy of Fushimi Japanese Restaurant

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Ely’s To Go… Plant-Based Fare Is Catching On For Valley Diners

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By AMANDA C. DAVIS
BOARDMAN – More people are looking beyond the pasture when it comes to dining out.
For proof, stop by Ely’s To Go any day during the lunchtime rush. The Western Reserve eatery serves up delicious vegan fare that’s about as far from mass-produced as it gets.
Ely and Jim Pugh

Ely and Jim Pugh

Owners Ely (pronounced Ay-lee) and Jim Pugh said business has tripled since it opened in 2008 inside The Bread Chef a few doors down from its current location. Once the concept of nutritious, take-home food caught on, Ely’s expanded into its own space in 2011, offering seating for 15.

While this space is usually dedicated to reviews for die-hard meat lovers, Rust Belt Dining has decided to branch out, covering more of the Mahoning Valley’s delicious dining landscape.
At Ely’s, the focus is on local and organic ingredients. Ely, who is from Vietnam, said whenever possible, she and her husband source ingredients close to home to reduce environmental impact.
There isn’t a set menu at Ely’s, but rather a revolving schedule of soups, salads, baked goods and “lunchboxes,” a daily special packaged to go. People who dine in can reheat meals in a microwave at the restaurant.
The brilliance of a place like Ely’s lies in its simplicity. The staff artfully prepares the food, cutting fresh fruits and vegetables and arranging them like artwork in recyclable containers. And when the daily specials run out, that’s it. The staff begins working on the next day’s meal.
photo (1)Staffers get to know their customers and believe in what they’re selling – a gourmet experience in a low-key setting that keeps people coming back.
The Urbach family of Cornersburg – Ralf and Angela, and kids, Reese, 9, and Rowan, 7, dined at Ely’s recently when the kids were on spring break.
The Urbachs said they like to support local business and dined on salads while the kids ate “chicken” nuggets.
Rowan said he enjoyed the meal and liked the idea behind the restaurant. “They kind of think out of the box and they don’t use meat from animals,” he said.
The Urbachs like to expose their kids to new experiences, and Ralf said a community table at Ely’s is perfect for that. He also likes that the menu is limited, forcing customers to try new things.
The Pughs previously owned Lock 24 in Elkton, where the menu was heavy on wild game. Ely went vegan, followed soon after by Jim, and the two decided it was time to switch gears.
The day I popped in, I ordered Russian cabbage soup – a rich, savory broth with cabbage, carrots, celery, fire-roasted tomatoes and raisins for a hint of sweetness. Jim said the recipe was adapted from one used at a hotel on Capital Hill where the couple met in the 1970s.
The soup, which I plan to recreate at home, was perfectly seasoned and served with a piece of crusty bread. Drink choices included house-brewed iced coffee, iced green tea, coconut water, raw vanilla date almond milk, an exceptional green smoothie made to order and a seasonal lemonade.
In warmer months, it’s lavender lemonade, which is kind of like a beautiful summer day in a glass, both bright and tart. Introduced more recently is a very popular winter lemonade called “Kapow.”
This $3 shot, alone, is reason enough to stop at Ely’s. The warming elixir combines lemon and lime juice and gets a kick from turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and cayenne. Its gentle sweetness comes from agave nectar.
“I do believe in the yin and yang of things and we do eat according to the seasons,” Ely said.
I rounded out my meal with a gluten-free muffin studded with juicy chunks of champagne mango and strawberry. Baked goods without gluten have a reputation of being dense, dry, and even crumbly.
I wouldn’t have known this muffin was gluten-free if Jim hadn’t pointed it out. It was moist and held together well. There was a generous portion of fruit from top to bottom and the sweet, crumbly top was just enough to give me a sweet fix.
The day I visited, Ely’s menu included a cilantro-pesto “meatball” sandwich with pear-ginger slaw on ciabatta and a veggie supreme sandwich with BBQ cauliflower, mesquite chickpeas and spinach on ciabatta, both $7.75. The “lunchbox,” also $7.75, included whole-wheat pasta, white beans, zucchini, sundried tomatoes and a cashew “alfredo” sauce. Quinoa salad, spring rolls and a house salad were also on the menu.
Ely’s is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday-Friday at 850 E. Western Reserve Rd. The daily menu is posted on Facebook and Instagram, and the restaurant’s website has links to both.
Even if you like a hunk of meat with your vegetables, step outside your comfort zone and stop at Ely’s. I promise you won’t regret it.

The Sunday Lunchers: Fat Jimmy’s BBQ, New Castle, PA

DCIM116GOPROThe next time you have a hankering for a really good meal and you don’t know what you want, give Fat Jimmy’s BBQ, in New Castle a look! Located at​ ​ 2612 New Butler Road, New Castle, Pa, (724-598-3500), it has been ​owned by Kathy Davis since 2008.

During the 50’s and 60’s this building housed an ice-cream stand that also served hot dogs, hamburgers and pizza burgers which are unique to New Castle.

Do you enjoy a menu that lists alligator, frogs legs, pig wings as options? Maybe you’re in the mood for slow-roasted pulled pork, fire-grilled shrimp, fresh-cut fries or one of the best burgers you’ll ever find. You might also be looking for an old fashioned diner where you sit at the counter and watch the cooks move meats and buns expertly around the flat-top grill, laughing with their coworkers, assembling the plate, wiping the edge for a nice presentation. If so, Fat Jimmy’s won’t disappoint.

We have tried many items on the menu and return for the pig wings, burgers, New Castle Cheese Steak and fresh-cut fries. The pig wings are pork shanks, slow roasted and finished with their slightly sweet and tangy BBQ sauce, accompanied by beer battered onion rings, and you’ve got a great meal. The New Castle Cheese Steak is made from thin slices of raw beef, tossed on the grill and chopped. It’s topped with grilled onions and grated Swiss cheese, then enclosed in a grilled hoagie roll. The flavors roll around as you take the first bite and realize: bliss! this ain’t your average steak sandwich, it’s real beef, not that processed stuff.

wings ribs fat jimmy'sWhen we went for lunch recently I had the Bad Ass Bones dinner of 1/3 rack of baby-back ribs, six wild wings and coleslaw. The ribs had that required red tinge on the meat and were so tender, slathered in their BBQ sauce, mildly sweet and tangy. The wings were coated in their version of Louisiana Lickers, my favorite wing sauce. This was a great meal combination with creamy coleslaw and icy root beer for a drink.

DCIM116GOPRODenny had the bacon- cheddar- jalapeno- single burger. What a grouping of flavors blending so perfectly on that grilled bun, the burger cooked just right, and served with fresh-cut fries. It’s quite a show sitting at the counter and watching all the meals come together on the flat top, being assembled, finished and taken away to waiting customers.

​ Our server was Jess who remembers us and sets down two Barq root beers before we order.

We watched as the Big Nick was prepared: 2 ½# patties of beef with bacon, swiss, pickle, lettuce, 3 beer-battered​onion​ rings​, and mayo was prepared. That thing was huge!

We generally go on Sunday, but ​understand that they close at 2:00 pm on Sunday so you have to go early for lunch. Better yet, go for their breakfasts which feature their own biscuits and gravy, country-fried steak and eggs, pulled pork hash and eggs, real corn beef hash and eggs, a variety of pancakes which include stone-ground buckwheat, buttermilk, or Johnny cakes. Not your average breakfast menu.

save a rack​One of the servers wore the best cancer awareness tee shirt I’ve ever seen.​

After all that food, wander on down New Butler Road to McConnells Mill State Park (http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/mcconnellsmill/). A really lovely park of the rushing Slippery Rock Creek, massive boulders, tall pines and hardwoods. You can walk off your meal and enjoy this park, so close to Youngstown, and still pristine. We played here as children, learning to swim in icy Slippery Rock Creek and fish for trout.

Another pretty park is Moraine State Park (http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/moraine/) where you can walk miles on trails or bring your sailboat and mingle with the sailors from Pittsburgh. My father worked as a volunteer at this park for many years, building pavilions and planting trees.

​Movie recommendation: Princess Bride

​Eat well and be kind!

Tah!

Lee and Denny

The Sunday Lunchers: The Station Grille at Melillo’s Tavern, Lowellville, OH

DCIM116GOPROSeveral friends had told us about Melillo’s in Lowellville, so, a couple of weeks ago, we stopped for what turned out to be a very good meal. Chef Jimmy Cimenero, a graduate of the Pittsburgh Culinary school,  was working that day. I had ordered hot-garlic wings with Parmesan cheese and was surprised to see the wings delivered with freshly-shaved Parmesan cheese. I certainly didn’t expect that little extra. Denny had ordered the Black & Bleu burger and I got a bite. Oh boy, that was good.

DCIM116GOPROWe stopped in on Sunday afternoon for our second meal at this restaurant. We were able to meet Ralph DelSignore on our first visit and he gave us a tour of the first floor, telling us of the big plans he and his wife Tiffany have for the building. They are making a Bed & Breakfast from this historic Lowellville hotel which dates to 1914. They have done an impressive renovation of the old tin ceilings and ornate bar. He showed us the room with the massive old safe, and the special pocket doors that had a separate sliding window,  where a paymaster handed out paychecks. A doorway leads from this room to another room with a stone fireplace where small groups can sit away from the main bar. There are lovely murals all around the main dining area ​featuring ​an idyllic Venetian scene.

In December 2013, Vindicator reporter, Emmalee C. Torisk, did a story on the building that is a must read:   http://www.vindy.com/news/2013/dec/22/melillos-tavern-history-served/

DCIM116GOPRODCIM116GOPROWhen we arrived this past Sunday for lunch, we had a vague idea of the meal we wanted, and I had to have the fresh-cut fries again. I rarely have a hamburger so I decided to have the Black & Bleu burger which is Angus ground beef topped with perfectly grilled onions and slabs of creamy bleu cheese. My husband considers himself to be a hot dog connoisseur so he ordered one of the specials, hot dog and fries. The barkeep Bob Golden delivered our order and what a sight! The hot dogs had been “decorated” with yellow mustard drizzled in perfect parallel lines, topped with slivers of roasted red peppers that were arranged to look like “ketchup.” My burger arrived with a steak knife driven into the burger and a roasted red pepper “rose” on the side. This is the benefit of having Chef John Torrento on staff.

Piles of the fries were alongside the dogs and burgers. We dove in and I was pleased to taste the perfectly- cooked, medium well burger. The onions had that brown edge I like, the bun had been grilled and was just enough bread to hold the burger, onions and bleu cheese. It had been assembled at the right temperature to get the bleu cheese softened, delicious with every bite. The hot dogs were a quality meat product and Denny said they were really good and he’d order these again.  I’m always glad to see malt vinegar for fries and it does add that extra bit of tang with all that meat and cheese.

We’re returning this weekend with friends and I will be hankerin’ for a big old steak, having read a very good review recently.

Movie recommendation: Sneakers

Eat well, and be kind!

Tah,

Lee & Denny

 

10451650_582380645206838_7085426517420270543_nThe Station Grille at Melillo’s Tavern

300 East Liberty St.

Lowellville, OH 44436

Phone: (330) 536-9207

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The Sunday Lunchers: Whitefire Grille, Canfield, OH

What a lovely day, 58 degrees, and just right for going out for lunch at a restaurant we’ve never tried:
Whitefire​ Grille
6580 Ironwood Blvd.
Canfield, OH 44406
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We arrived at Whitefire Grille around 1:30 on a Sunday afternoon. There is an extensive lunch menu with many tempting items.  Whenever I see, “lightly dusted calamari, lemon, marinara”, I’m paying attention! But, then I noticed a “quickie” lunch special, ($8), of a cup of soup and half a sandwich. I settled on a “sandwich” of  buffalo shrimp with a cream sauce on spring greens in a roasted tomato flat-bread, (not showing on the menu attached), with a cup of lobster bisque. My husband ordered the meatloaf sandwich, ($8.95), which came with BBQ sauce, mayo and tempura-battered onion rings on sourdough ciabatta and a side of French fries.
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Feeling buoyed by the unexpected weather, I asked the server for a recommendation of a dry white wine.
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Ashley suggested the Irony Chardonnay ($7), asking if I’d like a taste first. The crisp and cold wine was wonderful, not overly sweet, and went down nicely with the lobster bisque and shrimp.DCIM114GOPRO
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Ashley told us that everything is prepared fresh, nothing pre-made or frozen. As we tucked into our lunch, we realized that she was right. The lobster bisque was the perfect combination of cream and lobster, nothing overbearing, and the shrimp combination of cream and hot sauce paired well with the spring greens.DCIM114GOPRO
The meatloaf sandwich was a great slab of meatloaf on a single piece of ciabatta, topped with a BBQ/mayo sauce and crispy slivers of very lightly-battered onion rings. The French fries were, indeed, fresh cut. The meatloaf had the right seasoning without being overdone with herbs.
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Lunch was a pleasant surprise of great food, drink and service. Our bill totaled $28.29 which included a soft drink; quite a good deal for a well-prepared meal.
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The building was originally designed to look like a  ‘farmhouse’  and now appeared to be a large house with many rooms, in low-key elegant décor. There were at least three small dining areas, one larger area with a fireplace and the bar area, and another large area of impressive corner-banquet seating and tables. None of the dining rooms had a “barn-like” feel, instead, we felt as though we were privileged guests in a manor house. There are older pieces of furniture displaying bottles of wine and flower arrangements. Pleasant music playing softly made for a relaxing ambiance.
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We will certainly return to this restaurant.
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Movie recommendation:  “Secondhand Lions”
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Eat well and be kind!
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Tah,
Sunday Lunchers

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