For 41 years, Massillonians have flocked to Top of the Viaduct for homemade comfort food.
The late Larry and Patricia Boylan opened the restaurant on Lincoln Way W in 1977. Their daughter Beth Brown took over the business in 1994.
The restaurant has its roots in friendly family competition. The Irish and German sides of the family would face off to see who could make the best dish, Brown recalled.
Larry Boylan enjoyed cooking so much that he sold his construction business and opened a restaurant.
“It’s not something we really knew anything about,” Brown said. “He went in basically knowing nothing.”
The family opened a small, 12-table eatery near the Lincoln Way Viaduct. The location inspired Patricia Boylan to come up with the restaurant’s name.
Top of the Viaduct was a common expression at the time; “Where are you at? Right at the top of the viaduct,” Brown said. “It was a term for anyone who lived on this side of the bridge.”
Brown considered changing the name a few times. They did recently update the logo to incorporate the eponymous viaduct. Though the name has stayed the same, the restaurant has evolved since its early days.
After three expansions, Top of the Viaduct now seats more than 150 diners.
“Every year, it’s better and better … I can’t complain. It keeps us hopping,” Brown said.
In 2000, the restaurant expanded into full-service catering. It also offers an expansive catering menu with options from party trays to buffets to seated dinners.
“We do weddings. We do all kinds of things,” she said, adding that the catering business is booming.
A few years ago, the restaurant added a selection of mostly regional wines and bottled beer.
Larry Boylan always wanted to offer diners a glass of beer with the restaurant’s famous fried fish, but liquor laws at the time prevented restaurants near churches or schools from serving alcohol, Brown said.
When Brown realized the laws had changed and a liquor permit came available, she jumped on it.
Most people want a drink with their dinner, she said. “That’s a plus.”
Brown also has worked to keep the restaurant’s extensive menu updated.
About half of the restaurant’s customers are regulars, Brown said. Many of them come by every day and order the daily special.
“It’s challenging. You want to keep what you do, but you want to expand to the younger crowds,” she said, adding that millennial diners have different tastes than their parents and grandparents.
The restaurant has focused on maintaining its core menu while also trying new things.
“More comfort food but still a twist on it. That’s what our goal is right now,” she said.
The menu has everything from all-day breakfast (featuring massive four-egg omelettes) to creative salads to wraps, sandwiches and burgers to home-cooked entrees to Troyer’s homemade Amish pies.
Top of the Viaduct also is known for its Super German Fries (home fries mixed with scrambled eggs, ham, peppers, onions and cheese) and Irish Fries (German fries with corned beef). The restaurant makes it own home fries and mashed potatoes, Brown said. “It’s a lot of work, but it keeps us busy.”
It also sells plenty of corned beef hash. The restaurant used to serve the canned stuff but made the switch to homemade and haven’t looked back.
“At first, people went crazy because it wasn’t in a can and that’s what they wanted, but now we sell probably 10 times more than we ever did in a can,” Brown said.
Brown runs the restaurant alongside her husband, Randy. Their kids, Randi and Brandon, work alongside their parents when they aren’t busy with college and their own careers.
Keeping the family business going has been amazing, she said.
“I get people that come up to me and say thank you for staying with it. … I have people that thank me for caring and keeping it going,” she said.
1. Famous batter-dipped fish ($9.99 for three pieces, $8.99 for two pieces) made with a secret family recipe. “That’s what we’re known for,” Brown said.
2. Liver and Onions ($7.49). Brown is admittedly not a fan, but customers go crazy for it.
3. The Loony Larry breakfast special ($4.29 with a beverage purchase). The combination of two eggs, home fries, bacon or sausage, and toast with jelly is named after the restaurant’s founder.