The Canton area is not lacking for favorite, beloved foods. Taggarts Bittner. Tim’s fish. Ben Heggy’s candy. Bender’s fries. Arcade coneys. Desert Inn kabobs. Kennedy’s bean soup. These are but a handful that quickly spring to mind. Looking for more local classics to add to your list? We can help. Here are a dozen mouthwatering must-eats to discover, or perhaps rediscover. You won’t be disappointed.
Sylvester’s North End Grille, Chilean Sea Bass
Chilean sea bass is a prized treasure of the deep sea, which makes it costly.
“It’s really expensive, so unless you know you can sell it, it’s not something a lot of places carry,” said Adam Mazur, chef of Sylvester’s North End Grille in Jackson Township.
Sylvester’s does sea bass so well, it can’t not carry it. “We have it three to four times a week, sometimes daily,” said Mazur, who describes the fish as “a delicate warm-water fish, very flaky, very mild, very good.”
Customers swoon over the chef’s executions, including seared bass with yellow pepper vinaigrette with grilled portabella mushrooms and marinated cherry tomatoes with basil. Another stellar version is pan-roasted with lump crab and scallions in a silky truffle butter. $24 to $25. 4395 Portage St. NW, (330) 497-1533. -JM
Ferraro’s Family Restaurant, Pie
Decisions, decisions. Stand in front of the bakery case at Ferraro’s Family Restaurant studying the array of pies, and you might decide you need to sample a few. From coconut cream to chocolate peanut butter cream, elderberry to apple raisin walnut, custard to lemon meringue, the selection is mouth-watering. (There are five sugar-free fruit pies, too.) All the pies are homemade on premises by David Ricker, who starts work at 6 a.m. six days a week to keep up with the demand.
“People come in to get a slice with coffee, and they end up buying a whole pie,” says employee Cassie Prater, who has sampled them all. Pies are $2.99 a slice, and $7.99 and $8.99 for a whole one. 3822 Navarre Rd. SW, Canton Township, (330) 478-8010. -DK
Bombay Sitar, Lunch buffet
Exotic comfort food best describes the popular lunch buffet offered daily at Indian restaurant Bombay Sitar. And for vegetarians, the largely meat-free spread is a welcome local oasis. Novices to Indian cuisine may be pleasantly surprised by how welcome such dishes as Chicken Tikka Masala (boneless chicken in a creamy sauce), Aloo Zucchini (potatoes, onions, zucchini), Mataar Panir (peas, fried-cheese cubes) and Chana Saag (spinach, chick peas) are to the tastebuds.
The offerings are deeply flavorful, aromatic and spicy, but not overly so. The effect is warming, not fiery. Freshly baked flatbread (called Naan) is addictive. Try the Kheer rice pudding for dessert. Priced at $7.99 Monday through Thursday, and $8.99 Friday through Sunday. 4633 Belden Village St. NW, Jackson Township, (330) 493-0671. -DK
Prestier’s Pub, Chili garlic calamari
If you adore calamari and crave spice, put Prestier’s Pub in Canton Township on your to-do list.
Its chili garlic calamari is a winning combination of fried tubes and tentacles in a bold chili garlic sauce.
“It was something I did as a special one day, and everybody liked it,” said chef Robert Tamez. Customers have been clamoring for it ever since.
Dredged in flour seasoned with Cajun spices, the calamari is deep-fried until crisp and golden and served in a bowl atop a puddle of the chili garlic sauce. The sauce includes a touch of sugar for sweetness, and a red wine vinegar reduction for discernible tang. Lip-smacking with a cold brew. 1326 Whipple Ave. NW in Meyers Lake Plaza, Canton Township, (330) 477-0295. -JM
Pete’s Grill and Pizza, Specialty pizza
By now, zillions know about the pizza at Pete’s Grill and Pizza in Canton. That’s because the eatery recently was named as a hot spot in AirTran Airways in-flight magazine, “GO,” which reaches a readership of more than 1.9 million monthly.
Don’t worry about crowds. Owner Pete Papacostas and general manager Greg Kandis can handle them. Choices include traditional pies, plus 12 specialties the likes of meat lovers’, Philly cheese, Greek and chicken Parmesana. Meat lovers’ is wildly popular, likely because it’s loaded with sausage, pepperoni, salami, bacon and ham. Specialty pies range from $15 to $19.
“Ours is called deep dish, but it’s not like Chicago deep dish, where it’s like a pie,” Kandis said. “We call it that because it has a thick crust and hefty toppings.”
Pete’s crust is a thing of beauty — and mystery.
“When we spread it in the pan, it’s very thin, paper thin, yet it comes out of the oven thick and fluffy,” Kandis said. Eat in or carry out. 401 Cherry Ave. NE, Canton, (330) 452-7383. www.petesgrillandpizza.com. -JM
Liebermann’s Bakery, Cinnamon rolls
Cream sticks? Pecan rolls? Peanut butter twists? You’ll want them all. Peering into the bakery case at Liebermann’s Bakery in Massillon is an exercise in torture. We feel your pain. But whatever you do, don’t leave without a gourmet cinnamon roll from this 128-year-old German bakery.
Made with a sweet Danish dough, the square cinnamon-rich rolls are drizzled in white icing and topped with “buttered crumbs.”
Every bit of the roll — and everything else in the shop — is made from scratch.
“All the recipes have been handed down from generation to generation,” says Jean Liebermann.
Rolls are 90 cents each. Be sure to gently warm them for maximum enjoyment. 49 First St. SE, Massillon, (330) 833-4745. -JM
Sophia’s Soul Food, Macaroni and cheese
“Heavenly” best describes the macaroni and cheese at Sophia’s Soul Food. Maybe it’s the three cheeses that make it special?
Not quite, says owner Sophia Brown. “I pray over all our food. I ask God to make it the best. I put Jesus in it first of all — he is the main ingredient.”
That considered, minor ingredients are elbow macs, Monterey Jack, mild cheddar, mozzarella, milk, eggs and a secret seasoning Sophia would prefer to keep between herself and her maker.
Thick and gooey with cheese, it will have you saying, “Amen to that!” Comfort food at its finest, and a perfect accompaniment to Sophia and Claude Brown’s barbecue ribs and fried chicken and fish. Small is $2, large is $3.50. 1243 Harrisburg Rd. NE, Canton, (330) 452-4030. -JM
Mulligan’s Pub, Ribs
When owner Ron Briggs added baby-back ribs to the menu at Mulligan’s Pub 27 years ago, “there weren’t any ribs places around here,” he recalls. “Then Damon’s came to town, two doors down.”
Not to worry. All these years later, ribs remain a signature item at Mulligan’s, not to mention a three-time, first-place winner at Canton’s Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival Ribs Burn-Off.
A full slab of the fall-off-the-bone pork weighs about 2 pounds, contains at least 14 bones and dwarfs the plate. They are pre-cooked for 90 minutes, then finished on a charbroiler before serving. The sweet-tangy rib sauce is the same recipe Briggs invented back in ’83.
“You can’t change something that you’ve had around that long,” he says. “I think Coca-Cola tried something like that once, and it didn’t work out too good.”
A full-slab ribs dinner is $18.99, half-slab is $14.99. 4118 Belden Village St. NW, Jackson Township, (330) 493-8329. -DK
Old Carolina Barbecue Company, Pulled pork sandwich
The towering and deservedly famous pulled-pork sandwiches at Old Carolina Barbecue Company ($4.99) weigh in at about half a pound.
The pork is hickory smoked for up to 14 hours and hand-pulled to order for maximum moistness. Unlike the soggy and overly sauced pulled-pork sandwiches often found elsewhere, Old Carolina leaves the saucing to you, with four of its own sauces to choose from (sweet, tangy, mustardy, hot). Order the pork sandwich Carolina-style (79 cents additional) and it comes with a splash of vinegar sauce and a dollop of coleslaw atop the meat.
A magnificent side dish not to be missed is the crispy hush puppies ($1.59), served six to an order and piping hot. 2482 Lincoln Way E, Massillon, (330) 833-9030; 4710 Everhard Rd. NW, Jackson Township, (330) 499-3080. -DK
Main Street Grille, Apple Dumpling
Blue cheese-crusted filet, penne carbonara, Tasmanian king salmon, Little Drunken Italy with chicken and prawns ... these are just a few of the upscale entrees on the menu at Main Street Grille in North Canton.
As impressive as your dinner will be, save room for the humblest of desserts — an apple dumpling. But this is no ordinary apple dumpling.
“It is a recipe from a lady named Granny who years ago used to have a sandwich shop here in this location in this building,” said chef Nael Taki. “We wanted to keep it on the menu.”
The multistep recipe involves roasting a whole apple in a sugar cinnamon boil, then baking it in phyllo dough, drizzling it with a honey glaze and caramel, serving it with vanilla ice cream and a slew of toasted walnuts, and crowning it with whipped cream. You go, granny. $6, and definitely enough to share. 123 S. Main St., North Canton, (330) 497-1117. -JM
Papa Gyros, Original gyro
While even a mediocre gyro is usually worth eating, the ones at Papa Gyros are truly state-of-the-art.
What makes these big fat Greek sandwiches ($5.29) so delectable is the quality and quantity of the sliced lamb within the pita bread. The meat is moist, packed with flavor and so heaping that you may choose to eat half of it with a fork before attempting to fold and lift the 8-ounce gyro to your mouth.
With sliced tomatoes and onions, and that superb cucumber/sour cream tzatziki sauce, a Papa’s gyro is sloppy and sublime. (To heighten the sublimity, opt for some crumbled feta cheese garnish, just 20 cents extra.) 4764 Everhard Rd. NW, Jackson Township, (330) 497-1100; 2045 Cleveland Ave. NW, Canton, (330) 456-9000. -DK
Mallonn’s Grill & Bar, Pork chops
The magically delicious pork chops at Mallonn’s Grill & Bar are not exactly an undiscovered treasure.
“I would say half of our meat sales are chops,” chef Sheryl Keener reports.
The 12-ounce, bone-in, center-cut chops are marinated in butter, freshly chopped garlic and a secret blend of seasonings, then charbroiled. They are served atop a rich portabella mushroom sauce that complements the meat’s grilled sizzle. Recommended sides are a rice pilaf with scallions and almonds or a loaded baked potato. A one-chop dinner is $10.99, two chops are $14.99.
“A lot of people order two, but they usually end up taking one home,” Keener says.
2234 Tuscarawas St. W, Canton, (330)