Alison Matas taste-tests the tavern meatloaf, Angus beef strip steak, potato pancakes and more at Canal Tavern of Zoar.The Canal Tavern of Zoar is the perfect spot for a cozy getaway meal. The menu is packed with comfort food, and the dining area feels like a home—our experience was more similar to being at a large Thanksgiving dinner than being at a restaurant.
The tavern, located along the Ohio and Erie Canal Scenic Byway and Towpath Trail just outside of the historic village, opened in 1829 as a restaurant and hotel for travelers going between Dover and Massillon.
Rumor has it, the restaurant is haunted by a ghost named George, whom owners and visitors claim they have seen. George was a traveler who died while staying at the tavern and was buried in Zoar, but when his wife arrived, she asked for his body to be unearthed so she could retrieve the items buried with him. Some thought the disinterment spread cholera throughout the village in the 1830s.
We didn’t see George, but after tasting the food, I understand why he might have wanted to stick around.
We started our German dining experience with a sampler of cheese and cold sausage with toast points ($7) and three potato pancakes ($7) served with the special topping of the day, which was a flavorful crumbled beef reminiscent of sloppy Joes.
Our waitress also brought us two warm individual-sized loaves of a pretzel bread, which were delicious.
The options at the tavern aren’t strictly German, but I was in the mood for something traditional. I ordered the tavern meatloaf in a crust ($16.90) over a potato pancake with gravy, and Andrew picked the 10-ounce Angus beef strip steak ($29.50), which is dry-aged for nearly a month and comes with herb butter.
To break up what could have been a pretty beige meat-and-potatoes set of dishes, each of us had a few florets of broccolini hiding under our entrees.
We loved our dinners. I usually am not the biggest meatloaf fan, but the combination of beef, pork and vegetables wrapped in a crust of bread sounded so appealing I had to try it. I’m already looking forward to devouring my leftover slice.
Andrew’s steak was well-seasoned and served alongside a tavern potato, which is a whole potato double-fried and slathered in a garlicky butter. I might have added a dollop of sour cream on the side for a bit of tang or a cooler element, but the potato still was enjoyable on its own.
Other dinner options include pork loin chop ($18.90), pan-seared dayboat scallops ($22.50), rack of lamb chops ($23) and pork or chicken schnitzel with spaetzle—German egg noodles ($16.90). If you’re looking for something lighter, there also are soups and salads.
We often say no to dessert, but not this time. We sampled the beignets with tavern-made smoked-coffee and honey ice cream ($5.50) and the bread pudding with tavern-made bread ($4.50). The beignets won out, but I’d recommend saving room for either treat.
I’m tempted to return for a Sunday brunch, when the menu features pancakes, egg dishes and sweet roll, most for $6 or less.
If you plan to go, make a reservation—we visited early on a weekday night, and staff members only were seating people who had reservations because they were expecting several large groups.