10 must-eats in Stark County

A buzz is building — and deservedly so — about the fish tacos at Jojutlas (pronounced ho-hoot-las), the hip new, nonchain Mexican place in Jackson Township.

JOJUTLAS MEXICAN GRILL FISH TACOS

Best fish
A buzz is building — and deservedly so — about the fish tacos at Jojutlas (pronounced ho-hoot-las), the hip new, nonchain Mexican place in Jackson Township.

An order ($7.99) starts with three small soft corn tortillas, made fresh right behind the counter. Each contains a
piece of fresh (not frozen) cod, lightly breaded and deep-fried, with a dollop of spicy garlic and red pepper aioli, and topped with a zesty jicama-radish slaw flavored with honey, cumin and green onion. My mouth waters at the thought.

These and other taco varieties come with a side of black beans, pinto beans, seasoned rice (all above-average) or Mexican mashed potatoes. Don’t miss the latter, which are mashed with the skins on, and blended with bacon, Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses, and a hint of Anaheim peppers.

Other recommended menu items include the towering nacho salad ($5.99 to $7.99), a made-to-order pile of nachos with a romaine salad on top, tossed with cilantrolime-honey dressing; the savory homemade tortilla soup ($2.99 a bowl) and the ultra-rich blue-cheese guacamole with bacon ($1.99) and chips.

4934 Portage St.NW, Jackson Township, www.jojutlas.com.

LA PIZZERIA OCEAN BREEZE SALAD

Since its opening in 1949 and for three generations since, La Pizzaria has offered a vast selection of home-cooked Italian recipes.

Perennial favorites include eggplant Parmesan, fettuccini Alfredo, chicken Marsala, Italian wedding soup, and pasta with “pink” sauce (a blend of marinara and Alfredo sauces creates the hue).

But there is so much more than traditional Italian recipes. Patrons also love the eatery’s inventive cuisine, such as housemade wild mushroom ravioli in a roasted garlic cream sauce, white lasagna with chicken and spinach in a light cream sauce, and spicy shrimp and scallop diablo over penne pasta in marinara.

That said, readers may wonder why we picked a salad to showcase for our “Must-Eats” feature. Ocean breeze salad

It’s because La Pizzeria’s Ocean Breeze is no ordinary salad. The entree is a heaping of crisp greens sprinkled with toasted nuts and fresh berries, and topped with girthy yet ultra-tender scallops and jumbo shrimp.The seafood is Parmesan-crusted, pan-fried and served warm atop the greens, all drizzled with a lip-smacking thick and creamy, sweet and spicy dressing.

“We serve it with our chili-honey vinaigrette,” said owner Louisa Valentine-Vuksanovich. “The combination of all those flavors makes it a big hit.”

In fact, the eatery’s signature dressings are so popular, it sells them to-go by the pint, quart and gallon.

“We have people that vacation in Florida and, before they leave, they come get two gallons of house Italian,” Louisa said.

FYI, another salad worth checking out is the Calamari Salad, made with greens, roasted red pepper, breaded or fresh calamari, and shaved Romano cheese with balsamic vinaigrette.

Both salads are $12.95 at lunch, and $14.95 at dinner.

3656 Dressler Road NW in Jackson Township; 330-477-4700 or visit www.lapizzaria.com.

GREGORY’S RESTAURANT GREG’S BENEDICT

Best eggs
I love eggs Benedict. But I really love Greg’s Benedict. As in the Crab Cakes Eggs Benedict at Gregory’s Restaurant in Jackson Township.

The 28-year-old family-style eatery owned by Greg and Jeannie Brown has an enduring reputation of making perfect eggs Benedict, the decadent breakfast or brunch dish of toasted English muffin halves each topped with a slice of Canadian bacon, a poached egg and a dollop of hollandaise sauce.

One day a few years back, Greg decided to experiment with the dish. He skipped the bacon and topped each muffin with a crab cake. Customers raved.

The eggs are poached just right, the muffins are lightly toasted and not too crunchy, and the crab cake is tender, yet crispy. The crowning glory is Greg’s hollandaise sauce. It’s the best around.

“It’s true hollandaise,” said Greg.“Many restaurants use something out of a can or a mix. This is strictly egg yolks, butter, lemon juice and a pinch of cayenne pepper.”

Sounds simple enough, but the delicate sauce can be tricky to make.

“We’ve done it long and often enough that we have sort of mastered it,” he said. “It’s a difficult sauce because it will easily curdle on you if it’s too hot, and it’s hard to hold for long and have it be good.”

Customers love the specialty dish, especially on Sunday.

“Before church and after church on Sundays, French toast and eggs Benedict sell like, well, hot cakes,” Greg said with a chuckle. “It’s a little splurge.”

The crab cake is made with surimi, a combination of pollock flavored with crab, shrimp and other seafood. Hence the dish’s bargain price of $8.79.

2835 Whipple Ave.NW, Jackson Township; 330-477-1296 or visit www.gregorysfamilyrestaurant.com.

HARMON’S PUB CHICKEN WINGS

Best wings Harmon’s Pub, a friendly and ever-reliable bar-food emporium, has been serving up chicken wings since it opened in 1991 and proclaims its wings the “biggest and best in town.” No disagreement from me.

The wings are jumbo-sized, meaty, cooked to perfection and available in 15 vivid flavors.

“When we first started, we only had three sauces,” Harmon’s co-owner Tim Rupp says. “But over the last 20 years, through trial and error and a lot of tasting, we’ve come up with 15 — and there’s not one that doesn’t sell.”

On a typical week, the pub serves up about 6,000 wings.

While Harmon’s top-selling wing remains the buffalo-style Original, my personal favorites are the thick, Asian-style Sweet Chili, the Cajun dry rub and flavor-packed Garlic Butter Parmesan. Others include limepepper dry rub, six-pepper dry rub, island-themed HP Smoke dry rub, honey mustard and Spicy BBQ.

Regularly $7.99 a dozen, the wings are a bargain-priced $5 for 12 on Wednesdays and Fridays from 2 p.m. onward. Pair them with a basket of Harmon’s famous fresh-cut fries, or better yet, the cut-to-order paper-thin potato chips called Irish Fries, which come with a tub of sinfully good housemade French onion dip.

2329 Tuscarawas St.W, Canton, 330-453-2144, www.harmonspub.com.

B.A.M. HEALTHY CUISINE SALMON BOWL

Fresh ingredients prepared simply with flavors that go BAM! That’s the concept at this thriving, primarily carry-out North Canton spot, now in its sixth year. B.A.M. Healthy Cuisine

One of the top sellers is the Salmon Bowl ($10.95), a hearty and satisfying dish with strips of tender salmon filet tossed with sauteed mushrooms, green beans, broccoli, yellow squash, red peppers and onions in a house-made sesame ginger, then served atop steamed brown rice or red skin potatoes, with a sprinkle of grated parmesan. (The bowls also are available in steak, chicken, veggie and tofu.)

For even more flavors, try splitting one of the bowls and one of B.A.M.’s dinner-sized salads with a friend; the Popeye ($9.75) is a melange of spinach, romaine, grilled chicken, Fuji apples, honey roasted peanuts and mozarella. And don’t leave without grabbing a Power Bomb ($1.25), a delicious golfball-sized treat with oats, nuts, dark chocolate, dried cranberries and bananas (and no flour or white sugar).

1310 N. Main St., North Canton, 330-494-7136, www.bamhealthycuisine.com.

PILEGGI’S ITALIAN CAFE EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA

Have you been to Pileggi’s Cafe? It’s the coziest place imaginable, an old-school Italian place with subdued lightning, a soundtrack of Frank Sinatra, Louis Prima and Dean Martin favorites, a menu of delicious comfort food and attentive service.

Pileggis The experience begins when you enter and immediately are greeted by Ferna Pileggi, as if you were a long-lost friend.

Displayed on a rack are actual plated specials and other entrees, made with obvious love by her husband, Silvio, and she describes each one before seating you. It’s not pushy; it’s charming and memorable.

Recommended by friends, the eggplant parmigiana ($16.95) was as sublime as promised.The lightly breaded eggplant slices were mouth-meltingly tender; Sal sautees them first, then bakes each other individually with layers of romano, mozzarella and ricotta cheeses and fresh, homemade marinara sauce. A side of linguine tossed with olive oil, butter and garlic was a flavorful counterpoint.

Dinners include pillowy garlic rolls and a Sicilian salad of lettuce and tomato with shredded mozzarella and a sweet balsamic house dressing.

Other traditional Italian entrees include chicken and veal parmigiana, baked ziti and meatballs, lasagna, jumbo cheese ravioli and Italian sausage with peppers and onions.

2664 Easton St. NE, 330-492-4770, www.pileggiscafe.com.

HARTVILLE BAKERY SWISS MOCHA ALMOND CAKE

For decades, Hartville Bakery has been renowned for its homemade pies. What some people may not know is that the shop also makes killer cakes. Such as the Swiss Mocha Almond Cake, a stunner of a confection made of chocolate ganache and coffee syrup spread between layers of dark chocolate cake, all frosted in mocha buttercream icing and studded with toasted almond slivers. Best cake

Bakery clerk and cake decorator Julie Jellison and I recently expressed our mutual admiration of the cake. Actually, it’s a love-hate thing for both of us.

“I’m a coffee lover and I love dark chocolate,” Jellison said. “It’s just amazing when those two flavors get together.”

Here’s where the hate comes in: “I can’t stay away from it, it’s that good,” Jellison said with a laugh. “It’s one of the reasons why I’ve gained 17 pounds since I started here a year and a half ago. I have three outfits left.”

What makes it irresistible? Lots.

“Our cakes are all from scratch,” she explained. “Our ganache is incredible — it’s made with chocolate chips and heavy whipping cream. The mocha icing with coffee in it, oh my gosh, it’s a wonderful buttercream icing, and it is covered with almonds we toast right here.”

All I can say is that it’s a good thing I don’t live nearby. I would have one outfit left.

The Swiss Mocha Almond Cake is $14.49. Other cake varieties include Strawberry Cream Cake, Banana Split Cake, Black Forest Cake, Lemon Coconut Cake, Double Chocolate Fudge Cake and Mint Chocolate Chip Cake.

1015 Edison St.NW, Lake Township, 330-877-9353 or visit www.hartvillekitchen.com.

91 WOOD FIRED OVEN SUSHI

Mentioning sushi seems to inspire one of two reactions: Sighs of knowing delight from fans, or a kind of queasy fearfulness from others at the idea of eating raw fish.

Best sushi A couple of the inventive, artfully prepared and ultra-fresh sushi rolls offered at perpetual in-spot 91 are all but guaranteed to convert skeptics. (And neither involve raw fish.)

The Bar Fly ($8) blends ginger shrimp, ginger pineapple, asparagus, crispy panko breadcrumbs, scallion, sesame seeds and spicy mayo. The Lake Cable Firecracker ($9) is a flavor-packed combo of smoked salmon, cream cheese, sprouts, avocado, wasabi peas, red chili pepper, wasabi mayo and mango.

Salivating yet?

The sushi menu is offered Thursday and Friday nights at 91’s Lake Cable location.

There are rolls with lightly seared tuna and eel, and several with no seafood at all.

One of the most popular sushi rolls is the lump crab-and-cream cheese Hall of Fame Rangoon ($9.25), which is deep-fried, tempura style. Other top-sellers are the California Roll ($6) with crab stick, avocado, cucumber and sesame seeds, and the Spicy California ($6.25), which adds spicy mayo and wasabi mayo. Edamame ($5) makes an appropriate side.

5570 Fulton Dr. NW, Jackson Township, 330-497-9111. www.91oven.com.

GRINDERS ABOVE & BEYOND ORANGE GINGER MAHI MAHI

Quick, think of three things for which Grinders Above & Beyond is famous.

Bet you said meaty grinder sandwiches, mouth-watering pies and made-fromscratch soups.

And you would be spot on.

But in recent years, Grinders has drastically expanded its menu to include a slew of dinner entrees, including steaks, ribs and seafood. At last count, there were 27 dinner entrees, ranging from a Kentucky bourbon New York strip steak, to lemon garlic pork chops, to Mediterranean roughy. Mahi mahi

Among the standouts is Orange Ginger Mahi Mahi. The wild-caught fish is marinated in a punchy orange ginger sauce before it hits the grill, resulting in a delicious trinity of smoky, sweet and spicy flavors. The two-piece dinner is served with fluffy orange rice and fresh grilled asparagus, and also includes choice of a dinner or chopped salad, cole slaw, apple sauce or cottage cheese. (I recommend the chopped salad, which is topped with cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes, hard-boiled egg crumbles and croutons).

The entree is reasonable — $11.39 — as well as light and healthful.

Of course, you will want to start your meal with a cup of homemade soup and finish it with slice of pie.

3114 Whipple Ave. NW in Jackson Township (other Grinders locations are in Alliance, Louisville, North Canton, Minerva and Dover), 330-477-5411. For details, visit www.grinders.net.

PRIMO’S RISTORANTE PORK CHOPS

Best porkchops

Heads up, pork lovers. If you’re a big fan of the other white meat, you won’t want to miss the top chops at Primo’s Ristorante in downtown Canton.

The tall and tender pork chops, which weigh between 7 and 8 ounces, are hand-sliced to order from the center-cut loin. Next up, they hit a hot grill and are cooked just right, as in seared brown on the outside and nice and juicy within. From there, the chops are plated up and smothered in a housemade sweet bourbon glaze.

And don’t underestimate the side dishes.

“We serve them with our homemade mashed potatoes that we make every day, and fresh green beans and asparagus, grilled,” said Lisa Weselek, who owns the eatery with her sister, Leann Macri.

The chops are $12.99 for one, or $15.99 for two. Enjoy them at the bar, in the main or upstairs dining room, or on the patio in warm weather.

216 Fourth St.NW, Canton, 330-456-2511 or find them on Facebook.