Don’t write on an empty stomach

You know the age-old advice about not shopping when you’re hungry?

Writing a column about Local Faves on an empty stomach has proven an equally poor idea.

The mere thought of a hamburger (and fries) from George’s Lounge or a chicken Philly cheesesteak (with homemade chips) from Thatsa Wrapp or a Bittner from Taggarts is producing enough drool to put me at risk of shorting out my keyboard.

In many cases, chain restaurants succeed not because there’s anything all that great about their food, but rather because we know what to expect (even if it’s mediocrity) when we eat there. We’ll settle for ho-hum to avoid being let down.

It’s understandable to play it safe, but, honestly, when was the last time you were “wowed” at a chain restaurant?

I know exactly when were the last two times I left a local restaurant saying, “That was amazing!” It was back-to-back trips to Lake Cable for dinner at TD’s Tailgate Grill (the salmon was spectacular) and breakfast a few days later next door at Twisted Citrus. (Leave the gun, take the cannoli stuffed French toast. Trust me.) The time before that: Canal Tavern at Zoar, where the service matched the meal.

On a scale of 1 to 10, is there a chance a local eatery will turn in a 3? Of course. But there’s also a better chance for an 8 or a 9 than at a run-of-the-mill place you can find off just about any interstate exit from coast to coast.

Be bold!

Ask friends for recommendations. Check out what About contributors Alison Matas and Dan Kane—his restaurant reviews appear each Thursday in The Canton Repository’s Ticket magazine—say about the many options in our area.

Rarely does a day go by when Dan doesn’t ask, “Have you tried … ?”

His list for me grows.

Hopefully, my waistline doesn’t follow.

—Rich Desrosiers


Pizza with a side of chicken and Northeast Ohioisms

When you live in a new place, you discover a lot in a short amount of time, especially when it comes to food.

In Canton, I learned something early on: You don’t judge a pizza place based on the quality of its pizza. You judge it on the quality of its chicken and jojos.

When I first moved to Stark County a handful of years ago, there were a few things that I never had heard of before. Northeast Ohioisms, if you will. Like, when a car hits something and then keeps going, it’s a “hit-skip” instead of a “hit-and-run.”

“What’s a devil strip?” I once asked.

“It’s the same thing as a tree lawn,” a coworker told me.

As I looked on clueless, he clarified. “It’s the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the road,” he said. “What do you call it?”

“The strip of grass between the sidewalk and the road,” I answered. I wondered how I had never needed a name for it, let alone two.

The most intriguing of all though was when I learned of chicken and jojos. Intriguing because I am guided through the world mostly by my stomach.

Jojos are potatoes that are quartered and pressure fried. They are giant french fries essentially, created by someone who, I’m guessing, only wanted to cut a potato twice. Broasted chicken uses pressure to fry the chicken as well, which maintains juicy meat inside while achieving crispy skin.

You can find delicious pizza in every part of Stark County. I’ve been to more than I can count; enough that I have at least 10 favorite spots. They all have chicken and jojos.

Now, whether or not every pizza place actually is broasting, or just deep frying, their chicken and jojos is beyond me. It’s all good. But I do know, if you aren’t ordering an entire chicken meal as a side dish to your pizza, then you probably are new in town.

—Dave Manley


Todd’s Top 22 Local Faves

I am a Stark County lifer. Born and raised here. I call myself fortunate because many colleagues in the publishing industry are transplants into their communities. I find it redundant to call something a Local Fave. Each time I hear it, there is a little Col. Nathan Jessup voice inside my head that says, “Is there any other kind?”

Here are, in no particular order, some of my favorites in Stark County:
1. Smiley face cookies from Johnnie’s Bakery of Canton
2. Tiger Tails from Liebermann’s Bakery in Massillon
3. French onion soup from John’s Bar & Grille in Canton
4. A Coronado Beach Pizza from Baja West Coast Kitchen in North Canton
5. A tour of the Pro Football Hall of Fame given by Jon Kendle
6. Driving by and looking at Glamorgan Castle in Alliance
7. The secret relish on a smoked ham sandwich from Kennedy’s Barbecue
8. A side of homemade chips from Thatsa Wrapp
9. A shirt and tie from Adam’s Men’s Clothier
10. A cold Bud Light in an aluminum bottle at Bud’s Corner in Louisville on a hot Saturday night
11. A good show—live music or movie—at the Canton Palace Theatre
12. Chicken pad thai from Basil Asian Bistro in downtown Canton before the movie
13. Give me a Kraus’ pizza with the works and a topper any night for dinner
14. The first batch of ribs out of “Big Mama,” the smoker at Old Carolina Barbecue Co., dripping with the Piedmont No. 5 sauce
15. The service from family-owned Beadling Pools in Louisville
16. The public education system in Stark County is second to none, and often overlooked by us.
17. I’m not a big fan of the coffee at McDonald’s, but I still order it because of the friendly smile and service in the morning.
18. When I want a real cup of coffee, I get it from Carpe Diem Coffee Shop—hands down the best java around.
19. The feeling I get when I buy a car from Waikem Auto Group; I always feel “clean” when dealing with the sales people there.
20. A drink and sushi … and conversation at the bar with Bud Hoelzle at Jasmine Asian Bistro.
21. A high school football game at Lowell Klinefelter Field and tailgating outside Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
22. Dad’s Car Care Center because they just know what they’re doing there.

I’m sure there are plenty more that I am forgetting. But these, these are my staples. Send me yours at todd.porter@cantonrep.com.

—Todd Porter

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