“Until midafternoon, we’re pretty energetic” is how owner-chef Jeff Wagner describes it.
Asked about the popularity of his spot,Wagner said, “We have a lot of real unique flavors. Everything we do is prepared here. We’re all about fresh and made to order.”
His recently revamped menu offers 15 wraps and 10 salads with a wide array of ingredients. Among the most popular is the Cuban Wrap ($6.25), with slow-roasted pork, hickory-smoked ham, Swiss cheese, housemade spicy pickles and pickled red onion, and a mustard sauce.
A crowd-puller every Friday is the Fish Taco Wrap ($7.25), with fish ranging from mahi mahi to swordfish to grouper to tuna — “the freshest we can get,” Wagner said — plus shredded cabbage, tomato, avocado, salsa (roasted corn or mango peach) and aioli (sesame or lime).
The popular Light My Fire salad ($8.50) is mixed greens topped with Sriracha-glazed chicken, baby corn, peanuts, roasted red peppers, broccoli and a coconut-milk dressing. Peanut butter fudge pie ($3.95) is the crowd favorite, but there’s also carrot cake cheesecake and a fudgelike flourless chocolate torte.
600 Sixth St. NW, 330-452-9727.
“It’s all regulars,” Dominic “Deco”Vinas said with a chuckle about the lunch crowd at this dark and atmospheric downtown landmark. “We get a good mixture of downtown working people — office people, government administration, construction workers. I like the diversity. It’s laid-back here, not pretentious.”
Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays. The menu is “very simple, very straightforward,” Vinas said. “A lot of sandwiches, a couple of paninis, homemade soups and salads.”
The most popular items are the Italian beef sandwich, served French-dip style, and the Italian panini, both with chips and a dill pickle. Creamy lobster bisque, offered on Fridays, routinely sells out. Other sandwiches, from $5 to $7, include such comfort-food favorites as creamed chicken and pulled pork.
Daily specials include baked pastas with bread and salad for less than $8. On Wednesdays there’s a Mexican special and on Fridays a meatless one. In colder months, there are two soups daily, including spinach tortellini, cheeseburger soup and pasta fagiole. Originally opened in the mid-’30s, the Conestoga has a long bar, booths, plenty of dark wood and a restored vintage mural across the back wall.
217 Second St.NW, 330-458-0834.
SHERI’S AT SHEAR’S
“I love being downtown,” said Sheri Morckle, who opened her restaurant in February in the atmospheric former Peter Shear’s location.
“It’s great people, great atmosphere. Downtown is growing and building and I want to be part of it.”
Hearty lunch specials have helped steadily build her lunch crowd. For $7.99 on select days, one can obtain a sizable slab of lasagna, salad and bread, or a baked half-chicken with mashed potatoes and vegetable, or meatloaf and cheesy potatoes (a Wednesday staple that always sells out).
“I come in every morning to make soup,” Morckle said. “I change it every day — lobster bisque, wedding soup, cheesy chicken tortilla, chicken wild rice, vegetable, loaded baked potato, roasted red pepper bisque.”
Asked to name her most popular item, she offered,“We sell a lot of burgers, 8 ounces on a brioche bun. I try to do a specialty burger every day — pizza burger, jalapeno burger, shrimp Alfredo burger — with hand-cut fries. We sell a lot of Reubens, too. I’ll put a 20-pound brisket in the oven and bake it for seven hours. It makes a better Reuben.”
Portions are generous, to say the least.
“More is better, I think,” she said with a characteristic chuckle. “I want to keep it reasonably priced so they’ll come back.”
To be guaranteed a table, come at 11 a.m. or 1 p.m., she advised: “Our lunch is pretty slammed.”
427 Tuscarawas St. E, 330-430-0083, www.sherisatshears.com.
BASIL ASIAN BISTRO
This happening destination on the Canton lunch scene is downtown’s only Asian restaurant.
“You can only eat a sandwich every day for so long without getting tired of it,” manager Tony Ly said of Basil’s lunchtime popularity. “But then again, I have people who eat here almost every day and don’t get tired of us.”
Asked to describe Basil’s cuisine, Ly said, “Fast, fresh, colorful, spicy, layers of flavor.”
Presentation is key: “My mantra has always been that you eat with your eyes first, so we really try to focus on that.”
The most-ordered menu items at lunch?
“Our pad thai, for sure, then General Tso’s chicken and honey sesame chicken,” Ly said.“We do a good amount of sushi, which is another great option when people want to go for a lighter lunch.”
Lunch prices are generally about $6 to $8 for both entrees and sushi rolls. Any chef ’s specials displayed on the large chalkboard in Basil’s barroom are available at lunchtime although portion sizes are geared more for dinner, Ly said.
As for the lunch crowd, “We get a lot of attorneys. You can come in here on a busy lunch and half of the people either work at the same firm or all know each other,” Ly said.“We have Wi-Fi, so a lot of people come in and take advantage of that.”
585 Market Ave. N, 330-452-3888, www.basilcanton.com
Ryan McMichael is reluctant to describe George’s Lounge as a dive bar, although many others have, using the term fondly.
“We’re trying to preserve that same atmosphere as if you’d walked into George’s 30 or 40 years ago — but we’ve cleaned it up,” co-owner McMichael said. “George’s was definitely known for food in the past, at least with downtowners, and we wanted to build off that reputation a bit.”
From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, George’s is offering lunch of gourmet burgers, hand-cut fries with elaborate toppings, and meal-size salads. (The same menu is offered from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.)
“It looks like a traditional bar menu but it’s made with better-quality ingredients,” McMichael said. “Our beef is from Cricket Valley Farms in East Canton, grass-fed longhorn cattle. The bread is from Orlando. We’re trying to source more and more of our fresh stuff from local farmers.”
The nine burgers, $8.99 with fries or sweet slaw, include the Spicy Jorge (roasted jalapeno, pepper jack cheese, black bean salsa); Big O’Nesto (crispy bacon, fried egg, American cheese) and Tree Jumper (Thai peanut sauce, grilled mango, Swiss cheese). For $1, a boneless chicken breast can be substituted for beef.
“Our friends from Atlanta and New York call it ‘gastro-pub,’ ” McMichael said about George’s fare.
229 Cleveland Ave.NW, 330-452-0029, www.georgescanton.com
Three days a week, it’s possible to have lunch on the 12th floor of downtown Canton’s tallest building. Yes, the Canton Club. And while the surroundings are elegant, the atmosphere is casual, not stuffy, manager Chuck Schuster emphasized.
“Our biggest challenge is dispelling the rumor that we’re a private club,” he said. “Our prices aren’t exorbitant. We want to do comfort foods that are reasonable and where we can get people in and out within an hour.”
Schuster highlighted some items from the fall luncheon menu, created by chef Mark Adkins and served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
“The loaded baked potato soup ($4 cup/$6 bowl) is really hearty and thick with potatoes, cheese and bacon,” he said. “The Juicy Lucy ($9) has been a favorite. It’s a half-pound burger stuffed with onion
cheese. It has a nice oozy texture.”
The salmon spinach salad ($11) has a pan-seared salmon filet and crumbled goat cheese on a bed of baby spinach. Two housemade crab cakes (market price) are served with a spicy remoulade. Sweet potato fries have a brown sugar dipping sauce. Desserts are mocha cheesecake ($5), pumpkin gingerbread ($5) and three-berry crumble over vanilla bean ice cream ($6).
“The thing I love about downtown is there’s no chain restaurants here,” Schuster said. “We’re not answering to some corporation.”
101 Central Plaza S, 12th floor, 330-454-2582, www.cantonclubevents.com
Sometimes it’s all about location, location, location. At Samantha’s Downtown,“we’re so centrally located to the courthouse, city hall and the police station — it makes us a hot spot,” said Barb Gray, a server since the place opened 10 years ago.
Open weekdays from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Samantha’s offers extensive menus of both breakfast and lunch throughout.
Lance Lindsay, Samantha’s entire cooking crew, “is the best short-order cook ever,” Gray said. “Just one guy back there in that little space, and he gets the food out and the presentation is good.”
Among the most popular menu items is the chicken salad sandwich ($5.99), available on a croissant or grilled sourdough, made with crushed walnuts, mandarin oranges and mayonnaise. Also top sellers are the avocado ranch bacon burger (also with Swiss cheese) and Italiano burger (roasted red peppers, grilled onions), both $6.99 and served with thin, hand-cut fries.
“We have a grilled vegetable pita ($7.49) that a lot of women like because it’s on the lighter side, with zucchini, yellow squash, red pepper, onions, mushrooms and Swiss cheese,” Gray said.
There are homemade soups daily, and six dinner-size salads served in deep bowls. On the breakfast side, “Lance’s omelets look better than anyone’s around,” Gray said. “They’re big, fluffy and stuffed with whatever you like.”
The plate-filling German fries ($6.99) combines eggs, home fries, cheese, ham, green peppers and onions. A popular seasonal special is pumpkin pecan pancakes with cinnamon butter.
138 Second St. SW, 330-453-1110
SPORTS THERAPY BAR & GRILL
Sports Therapy, a sports bar in the heart of downtown, is spacious and comfortable with subdued lighting, charcoal and black decor, and vibey R&B music in the air. Five comfortable booths along one wall each have their own flat-screen television. You would never guess that this sleek setting previously was a Burger King. The Sports Therapy menu is surprisingly wide and varied, with 25 starters, eight burgers, 11 other sandwiches, jumbo wings in 10 flavors, six meal-size salads and eight pizzas.
“We get a lot of downtown people coming in for our $5 lunch specials,” said Claudia Curtis, who co-owns the place with husband D.C. “It could be anywhere from a prime-rib wrap or buffalo-chicken wrap to one of our burgers with fries.”
Sports Therapy’s burgers begin with a freshly ground, grilled 7-ounce beef patty. The New York Giant ($7.50) is topped with salami, provolone and Italian dressing. The Unnecessary Roughness burger ($7.95) packs the heat with sauteed jalapenos, hot sauce, ranch dressing, bacon and American cheese.The Fullback ($9.95) is a whopper with two patties, bacon, onion rings and cheese.
There’s also a steak salad ($9.95), a three-piece, beer-battered cod dinner ($9.95), Philly steak and turkey Reuben sandwiches ($7.95 each), and a spinach artichoke pizza ($7.99 for six slices).
Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays. It begins at noon Saturday and Sunday, when the bar — equipped with 40 TVs and the NFL Sunday Ticket — attracts an avid game-watching crowd.
201 Cleveland Ave.NW, 330-453-8278, www.sportstherapybar.com
Since 1902, Bender’s has been a lunchtime tradition in downtown Canton. These days, the still-popular, multiroom restaurant retains a vintage elegance and clublike atmosphere, with dark wood paneling, high ceilings, original lighting fixtures and subdued natural light. The lunch crowd is always diverse, according to Jon Jacob, Bender’s general manager.
“There’s definitely the business and lawyer crowd, people having client meetings, and a lot of city workers, people who work downtown,” he said. “We mostly cater to the crowd that needs to be in and out from 12 to 1, but we also get a good amount of retirement-type people, having a glass of wine with lunch.”
Bender’s chef, Carl Falcone, prepares seven or eight daily specials, which run from $6.50 to $11.99. Popular ones include smoked salmon with red onion, capers and cream cheese served with Bender’s fries and artisan greens ($9.85), and seared Atlantic salmon with olivecaper vinaigrette, potato cake and arugula ($11.99).
“I don’t think anybody else downtown offers something of that caliber,” Jacob said.
Other mainstays include meatloaf on Wednesdays and short ribs on Thursdays. Turtle soup is available daily along with two other homemade soup options.
Specials are posted at 11 a.m. daily at www.bendersrestaurant.com. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.
137 Court Ave. SW, 330-453-8424.
Off the beaten path downtown, Deli Ohio quickly has developed a loyal following — from artists to attorneys — with its local ingredients and fresh take on lunch.
With their deli, young married couple Ryan Miller and Ashten Tullar hoped to launch a Canton version of places they had discovered in Nashville, Seattle and other cities. The place feels spacious, clean and modern — and the small menu is well thought-out.
“We try to source as much locally as possibly,” Miller said.“We work directly with Fichter Farm out near Minerva; we get our coffee from roasters in Kent; we work with several local cheesemakers; and all our bread comes from Hazel Artisan Bakery in North Canton.”
While supporting local producers is a goal, Miller said he particularly chose to use these products because they are top-notch.
The No. 1 seller at Deli Ohio is the turkey bacon avocado sandwich ($7.50), with smoked turkey breast, slow-roasted thick bacon, cheddar cheese, tomato, romaine lettuce and housemade aioli on a hoagie bun. The popular Reuben ($7.25) uses corned beef from a Sugarcreek butcher, brined and cooked in-house, baby Swiss cheese, and house-made slaw and Russian dressing on rye bread. Other sandwiches, served with chips and a pickle, include BLT, Cuban chicken salad and spinach apple brie.
The top-selling salad is the Southwest Cobb ($8), with mixed greens, chicken breast, bacon, bleu cheese, and House-made pico de gallo and chipotle ranch dressing.Two house-made soups are offered daily, with and without meat. Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, and 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
328 Walnut Ave. NE, 330-453-7777, www.deliohio.com
OTHER LUNCH SPOTS TO TRY
AMVETS 555: 216 Fourth St. NW 330-452-8202 www.facebook.com/pages/AMVETS-POST-555
ARCADIA GRILLE: 321 Court Ave. NW 330-454-6055 www.arcadiagrille.biz
NAPOLI’S ITALIAN EATERY: 221 Market Ave. N 330-452-7456 www.facebook.com/pages/Napolis-italian-eatery
THORPE’S MARKET AVENUE GRILL: 320 Market Ave. S 330-580-5873
DESERT INN: 204 12th St. NW 330-456-1766 www.desertinncanton.com
CORPORATE BAR AND GRILL: 401 Cherry Ave. NE 330-454-4745
B LOCO MEXICAN CAFE: 237 Tuscarawas St.W 330-455-2455