Cameo Grill: 4/5 stars
Taste: 4/5 stars. Excellent burgers and fries.
Service: 5/5 stars. Fast, friendly and delightful.
Ambiance: 3/5 stars. I don’t mind dive bars, but at least accept credit cards.
Concept: 3/5 stars. A quintessential hometown haunt.
Pricing: 5/5 stars. Incredibly reasonable given the quality.
I assume that before becoming a true resident of Massillon, you’re required to eat at the Cameo Grill.
The bar and restaurant, which has been locally owned and operated since 1944, just has that authentic hometown feeling. The walls are covered in vintage photographs and Massillon Tigers memorabilia—you can grab a football schedule at the bar—and the wait staff seemed to know most customers by name. More than once on my two visits, I watched nearby tables show servers photos of their grandkids or overheard them sharing bits of local gossip.
It’s a cramped, dark dive bar but one that feels more comfortable and lived-in than dingy. A quick word of warning: Cameo only takes cash but does have an ATM inside.
I’ve heard nothing but good reviews of Cameo’s food, so I dived right in.
I arrived a bit too late for breakfast—the restaurant offers it daily from 5 to 11:30 a.m.—so I settled for lunch. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a BLT, and I was still hankering for something breakfasty, so I had to order one ($3.50).
The sandwich was smaller than I expected—I counted maybe 3 1/2 slices of chewy bacon—but it’s hard to complain for the price. The sourdough bread was good, but needed a few more seconds in the toaster. The tomato, which was ripe and the perfect combination of meaty and squishy, was nearly perfect, and everything was offset nicely by the crisp lettuce. It’s not the best version I’ve ever had, but I’ve had a craving for another one since my visit.
Sides aren’t included with sandwiches (again, hard to complain with a menu this inexpensive), so I grabbed an order of broccoli poppers ($4). I expected something akin to the tempura fried vegetables you get at county fairs, but was instead served crispy triangles filled with gooey cheese and chunks of broccoli. Served with a side of ranch, it was delicious and unexpected.
The restaurant was packed during my lunch visit but was considerably calmer when Dave and I stopped for dinner on a Thursday night.
We started the meal with onion rings ($3/$4), always a good indicator of bar food, and the intriguing sounding hot pepper cheese balls ($3.25).
The onion rings passed my bar bites test with flying colors. They had the ideal coating-to-sweet-onion ratio and arrived hot and crunchy with just the right amount of grease. We quickly devoured them.
The hot pepper cheese balls were another surprise but really shouldn’t have been. They’re small balls of pepper-flaked cheese. They’re not very spicy, but what they lack in heat they make up with decadent, gooey cheese that’s hard to stop eating.
We couldn’t visit the restaurant without ordering the signature Original Cameo Burger ($8.25), a one-pound behemoth topped with ketchup, mustard, relish, pickles, onion, peppers and cheese.
Dave volunteered to take on the burger, which nearly filled an entire plate. It arrived a perfect medium rare.
The meat itself is on the bland side—it desperately needed more seasoning—but it was offset by the beautiful fresh toppings. The crisp onions, pickles and Hungarian peppers on a meaty cheeseburger made for a fantastic combination of sweet, spice, brine and fat.
We took half the burger home. Next time, we’d opt for a smaller version of the burger, which also comes in 1/2-pound and 1/4-pound varieties with or without bacon.
I went for the fish basket ($6.25), which included two pieces of fried white fish and a generous helping of french fries. The fish was delicious and arrived crispy and piping hot.
The real stars of the meal were the fries, which are hand cut daily ($2/$3 a la carte). They are beautifully brown, crunchy outside and soft inside, and ideal for smothering in malt vinegar and ketchup.
We left stuffed and our bill, including drinks, was less than $30. It’s easy to see how Cameo attracts so many regulars.