About Local Favorites

For the second year, we asked, and About magazine readers responded. And now, the votes have been counted in the 2010 About magazine Local Favorites awards. This time around, we chose new categories to highlight even more gems here in Stark County.

Winners of our annual reader survey revealed

For the second year, we asked, and About magazine readers responded. And now, the votes have been counted in the 2010 About magazine Local Favorites awards. This time around, we chose new categories to highlight even more gems here in Stark County.

The winners all were excited to learn that you, the readers, appreciate the products and services they provide and that they have been recognized as some of our favorite places. Here are your choices for the best that Stark County has to offer in 2010.

BEST COFFEE SHOP MUGGSWIGZ COFFEE AND TEA CO.

Muggswigz Coffee and Tea Co.
137 Walnut Ave. NE, Canton
(330) 452-6336

It may not be a nationally known name … yet. But Muggswigz Coffee and Tea Co., in the heart of downtown Canton, is an industry favorite that’s making noise. And it’s your choice for Best Coffee Shop.

Owner Alexander Haas credits the quality of its brew.

“We roast our own coffee, so all the coffee is less than 10 days out of the roaster,” he explained.

Muggswigz also roasts and blends its own signature espresso, as well as cappuccinos and lattes.

Local favorites are its signature “Fuzzywig,” made with espresso, vanilla, caramel and steamed milk and topped with whipped cream, and its create-your-own blended drink called the Libswig. And let’s not forget the tempting bakery items, such as muffins and home-baked breads, that call from beneath the glass at the stately counter.

Haas said the shop has received many awards and scored a 91 by industry reviewer Ken David for its El Salvadoran blend.

The baristas, said Haas, also are award winners in national barista competitions. Along with all that, he said, is simply the atmosphere, where open-mic nights draw a wide range of people.

“We are a community hub,” he said. “This is a fun place with an eclectic clientele.”

BEST PLACE TO PURCHASE A GIFT WESTFIELD BELDEN VILLAGE MALL

Westfield Belden Village mall
4230 Belden Village St.NW,
Jackson Township
(330) 494-8815

Long the hub of Stark County shopping, readers chose Westfield Belden Village as their favorite place to purchase a gift. More than 100 stores, including anchors Macy’s, Sears, and Dillard’s, offer a variety of choices when it comes to gift buying.

“Westfield Belden Village does our best to provide a great mix of nationally recognized retailers along with unique, locally owned and operated stores providing our community with over 100 different retailers and thousands of products to choose from at any given time in any price range,” said Aron Kitzmiller, the center’s director of marketing.

Need a gift for someone with pampered pets? Check out Moochie & Co. For the shopper who loves gag gifts, there’s Spencer’s Gifts.

And every woman loves a piece of fine jewelry. Several jewelry stores occupy space at the mall.

Many new stores have opened or expanded in 2010, providing even more gift-buying opportunities.

“This recognition shows that we truly are the best place to shop between Cleveland and Columbus,” Kitzmiller said.

FAVORITE WORKOUT PLACE NORTH CANTON YMCA

North Canton YMCA
200 S. Main St.
North Canton
(330) 499-2587

Although our readers overwhelmingly chose the YMCA as their favorite place to work out, it was the North Canton YMCA, also called the Community Building, that received the most specific votes.

The North Canton YMCA was founded in 1923 and includes the off-site Infant Toddler Center, Child Care Center and Gymnastics Center. The main facility in the center of town includes two indoor pools, a state-of-the-art Wellness Center, aerobics fitness center, group cycling room, three gyms and an air-conditioned walk-running track.

“I believe (we won) because of all the options we offer,” said Executive Director Paul Beinlich. “We have complete facilities with a fantastic staff and a lot for families.”

Beinlich said the North Canton YMCA was one of the first family YMCAs in the country.

He said it has tried to uphold its traditions and the vision of W. “Boss” Hoover, who gave the original Community Building to North Canton.

“We work hard to make it a special place,” he said.

BEST BURGER MULLIGAN’S RESTAURANT & PUB

BEST HAPPY HOUR MULLIGAN’S RESTAURANT & PUB

Mulligan’s Restaurant & Pub
4118 Belden Village St.NW
Jackson Township
(330) 493-8239

It’s known for its ribs, but About readers love the burgers, too! Mulligan’s Restaurant & Pub is the winner for favorite hamburger.

Owner Ron Briggs is not surprised by the honor. He says the burgers there have been the same for 29 years.

“We definitely have a loyal following,” he said. “People will check out the new places, then come back. We don’t change (because) you don’t want to upset people.”

What makes the burgers special? Briggs describes an 8-ounce regular or 16-ounce “monster” burger, freshly hand-patted, made with USDA chopped burger steak, and cooked to order on a grill “like you would in your own backyard.”

And, he says, customers can have it their way, with all the toppings, at no extra charge.

An added surprise to the owner, who shares proprietorship with his sister, was Mulligan’s getting a second nod in the “Local Favorites” voting for Best Happy Hour.

An extensive wine and beer list and its old-fashioned neighborhood pub atmosphere make it a great place to hang out after work, Briggs said.

FAVORITE GOLF COURSE QUARRY GOLF CLUB

The Quarry Golf Club
5650 Quarry Lake Dr.
Canton
(330) 488-3178

The Quarry, a unique, target-style golf course, is built on an old quarry dating to the 1800s, and it is About readers’ Favorite Golf Course this year.

Ranked 42 in the United States by Golf Week magazine, the course, in its fourth season, continues to improve with age.

“We have not skipped a beat in the maintenance of the flower beds, the bunkers and all of the little things that in a tough market sort of go by the wayside.That is the big thing in my mind,” said General Manager Gary Miller.

The beauty of its 100-foot-plus cliffs, rock outcroppings, tree-lined fairways, streams and lakes makes for a peaceful day on the links.

“It is like a vacation destination for some,” said Miller. “You won’t find a place like this in Ohio. With the course, the view from the patio, and even the front entrance, and that it is public and people can enjoy it all the time — customers say all the time, ‘It’s hard to believe we are in Canton, Ohio.’ ”

Besides the views, Miller said, people enjoy the customer service at the Quarry.

“It’s second to none. When you pull up, we have bag staff ready to greet you and take your clubs and put them on your cart. A lot of private clubs don’t even do that anymore, let alone a public facility.”

He adds, “We have not cut back on our services on green fees either.You will enjoy the GPS on the carts … range privileges, a bottle of water and a snack that is still all included in our rates.”

FAVORITE DESSERT RED VELVET CAKE

Cafe 1320
1320 S. Main St., North Canton
(330) 497-3441

The Red Velvet Cake at Cafe 1320 is known to be so moist and so memorable, customers often stop in just for dessert.

This Southern specialty is About readers’ choice for Favorite Dessert.

“We’ve had it on the menu since we opened nine years ago,” said owner Shawn Hershberger. “People love it.”

He said people often order whole cakes for special occasions. Perhaps it is the unique frosting that keeps customers coming back.

Although some bakers use butter cream or cream cheese frostings on Red Velvet Cake, Mindy Hamaker, the baker at Cafe 1320, makes Ermine Frosting, also known as boiled milk or cooked flour frosting. It is an exceptionally fluffy frosting that is very white and buttery.

“Everyone always talks about the frosting,” Hershberger said.

The casual restaurant offers a family-style menu with breakfast served all day. It has a new covered outdoor patio.

BEST PLACE TO BUY BLING JÜLZ BY ALAN RODRIGUEZ

Julz by Alan Rodriguez
220 Market Ave. N
Canton

Owner Alan Rodriguez describes his store as fun, hip, and cool — but that doesn’t mean he has a casual attitude about his jewelry.

“We like fine jewelry, and we appreciate fine craftsmanship,” said the jeweler, who has over 30 years of experience in the business.

Jülz, he said, is a world-class jewelry store with a welcoming and eclectic atmosphere. Diamonds at Jülz are the finest crafted diamonds in the world, hand selected in Antwerp, Belgium. Jülz carries a unique collection of gemstones and fine jewelry, and several of its designs have won national awards.

Julz recently was named “America’s Coolest Jewelry Store” by In Store magazine, a nationally distributed trade magazine. Something else that sets the store apart is its gallery wall that features a local artist about every two months.

“The store is always changing,” Rodriguez said. “It always looks new.”

FAVORITE CULTURAL EXPERIENCE THE PLAYERS GUILD THEATRE

The Players Guild Theatre
1001 Market Ave. N, Canton
(330) 453-7619

At more than 78 years old, the Players Guild Theatre is one of the oldest and most respected community theaters in the country, and it’s About magazine readers’ Favorite Cultural Experience.

Producing Artistic Director Joshua Erichsen leads the guild’s professional staff and said he believes people understand the importance of the live theatrical experience and the culture it can provide.

“I think that the readers of About magazine chose the Players Guild Theatre for this award, hopefully, because when they attend a performance they are entertained, moved, inspired or enlightened,” he said. “The Players Guild has always been and remains to be your center for public theater.”

Erichson credits productions the Guild is able to bring in and volunteer actors who show up because they love what they do.

“Here, audiences find relevant themes being acted out by a passionate group of people from all walks of life,” Erichsen said. “The volunteer actors and crew come together to give this community something powerful.”

Shows for the 2010-11 season include “The Full Monty,” “Oliver” and “Jesus Christ, Superstar.”

BEST PLACE TO TAKE A FAMILY FIELD TRIP THE WILDERNESS CENTER

The Wilderness Center
9877 Alabama Ave. SW
Sugar Creek Township
(330) 359-5235

It is often said that the best things in life are free. With its free admission to 619 acres of pristine nature connected by 10 miles of hiking trails, the Wilderness Center was chosen by our readers as a favorite family field trip location.

Education director Joann Ballbach said the center has many naturalist-led walks and classes, many of which are designed for families. It also is a great place for families to spend time together doing their own thing, she said.

“Families can set their own adventures as they walk the trails, get a cone of corn to feed the geese and fish, find a letterbox or geocache, borrow a Family Fun Pack, or listen to a trailcast,” she explained.

Family-oriented special events, such as the Enchanted Forest in October, are a big draw as well.

Vicki Shoenfelt, the center’s marketing director, adds that on the trails, “you can see old-growth forest, meadows, prairie, wetlands, Fox and Sugar creeks, Wilderness Lake and a pond. You can wander through nature for hours.”

The Wilderness Center is a nonprofit nature center in existence since 1964 and supported by memberships and donations. Members sponsor the free programming for families.

Regularly scheduled programs include:
Star Watch and Planetarium Show on the first Friday of every month at 8 p.m.
Tonight’s Sky on the second and fourth Saturday of each month at 2 p.m.
Family Astronomy on the third Saturday of each month, at 2 p.m.
Wilderness Walk on the first Wednesday of each month at 10 a.m. and the third Thursday of each month at 2 p.m.
Story Time on the third Wednesday of each month at 11 a.m.

BEST CHARITY EVENT THE ANGEL AUCTION

The Angel Auction
Aultman Hospital
2600 Sixth St. SW, Canton
(330) 363-9911

The Women’s Board of Aultman Hospital knows how to throw a party. Its Angel Auction, an annual black-tie affair held at Canton Memorial Civic Center, was voted Best Charity Event by our readers.

“The commitment of our 300 members of the Women’s Board of Aultman Hospital, the Aultman Hospital administration and staff, and most importantly our donors and guests, is what has kept this charity event at the top of the list in the Stark community,” said two-time Chairwoman Tracy Jeffries.

Each year, those donors donate more than 400 auction items that include trips to exotic locations, fine jewelry, and a handmade quilt created by women on the board.

Guests dine on a gourmet meal after the silent auction, then begin bidding in the live auction.

The event drew about 400 guests in May and raised $350,000.

Proceeds from the Angel Auction are fulfilling a $3 million pledge toward the new Compassionate Care Center, which broke ground in May.

The $5.91 million Aultman Women’s Board Compassionate Care Center — about 20,000 square feet — will accommodate 12 hospice patients and will be Stark County’s first in-patient hospice facility.

In the event’s 41-year history, the auction has raised more than $10 million for charitable causes in the community.

FAVORITE PLACE TO HEAR A BAND PANINI’S BAR AND GRILLE

Panini’s Bar and Grille
5252 Dressler Rd.NW
Jackson Township
(330) 266-1000

From indie rock to country to tribute bands, Panini’s Bar and Grille is About readers’ Favorite Place to Hear a Band.

“Panini’s is built on people having fun,” said manager Scott Paskoff. “From the management staff, on down — we want people to have fun.”

Panini’s has a dedicated area for its live shows with professional staging, lights and sound.

Various bands appear inside Tuesday and Sunday nights and outside on the patio Fridays. The outside shows continue until the weather turns in the fall.

“We have the best patio around,” Paskoff said. “You can sit under palm tress and listen to a live band. The whole concept is people having a good time.”

While you’re out there, you can check out the 16-foot big-screen projector on the patio and try the signature “overstuffed” Panini sandwich, famous jumbo wings, or a hand-tossed pizza.

FAVORITE PLACE TO PURCHASE AN OUTFIT DILLARD’S

Dillard’s
Westfield Belden Village mall
4400 Belden Village St.NW
Jackson Township
(330) 494-3050

When it comes to dressing their best, About readers chose Dillard’s as their favorite place to buy an outfit. General Manager Tonya Crum said her customers can find designer clothing there that other local department stores don’t have.

“We carry the most updated and current trends and the name brands people are asking for,” she said.

Not sure what the latest trends are? It’s not a problem. Crum said her sales associates are helpful and highly knowledgeable on the latest styles and will help their customers put the right looks together.

Among the trendy designers available now at Dillard’s are Antonio Melani, Buffalo, Gianni Bini, Kensie, Eileen Fisher and Nygard.

And don’t forget, sometimes it’s the accessories that make or break the outfit. Dillard’s has designer shoes, jewelry and intimate apparel to complete the look.

BEST PLACE FOR A MANICURE-PEDICURE HEADLINERS SALON AND DAY SPA

Headliners Salon and Day Spa
4666 Hills & Dales Rd.NW
Jackson Township
(330 478-2000

Fun specials and a friendly, relaxed atmosphere made Headliners Spa and Salon our readers’ favorite place for a manicure-pedicure. Headliners’ owner Elaine Klekotka said she hires people who care about people.

“We have caring people, quality products and a warm, relaxing, friendly environment,” she said.

And while the salon’s prices are competitive with others in the county, Klekotka said Headliners has fun with its marketing when it comes to its regular clientele.

“Clients have access to our text club,” she said, explaining that when there are cancellations or openings, staff will text the club members to fill the slots, while offering special discounts.

“The phones ring off the hook,” she said with a laugh.

Other offerings include “Pedi-Pals,” when clients can bring in a friend for a half-price deal, and the “Three is a Party” package, in which a client’s third friend is free.

“It’s a combination of all these things,” Klekotka said, that makes Headliners a favorite.