Cozy, casual home cooking
One day at Meet Me at Irene’s, the popular eatery she co-owns in Hartville, Robin Rupp watched in wonderment as a man drove up in a tractor, parked it in the lot and walked in for breakfast.
“We get all kinds of people here, and new ones all the time,” Rupp said. “We have people coming from Suffield, Marlboro, lots from Green and North Canton. We get the Goodyear blimp people.”
The attraction is reliable breakfast and lunch, served seven days a week, in a cozy, casual, 58-seat setting at 264 Kent Avenue NE in North Plaza.
Q. First question: Who is Irene?
A. “Irene is my mother. I own (the restaurant) with her. The reason we opened here eight years ago was mom had worked here (in this location) for 27 years, when it was under different names. When we opened (Irene’s), she waited tables. She’s 81 now, and she comes in on weekends and runs the register.”
Q. Do you have a restaurant background?
A. “My husband and I are co-owners (with Matt Cunningham) of Harmon’s Pub (in Canton), and I worked there before we bought this place. We totally remodeled the whole inside; she had chickens on the walls. It’s beautiful now. I’m very proud of what we’ve done.”
Q. Do you have a lot of regulars?
A. “We do. We have three guys—Jesse, Levi and John—standing at the door every morning when we open. I love them.”
Q. So let’s talk about food. Is breakfast big for you?
A. “We sell a ton of breakfast, and we sell it all day. We are known for our bacon, which comes from Indiana and is center cut, thick-sliced. We do our own corned beef hash, and people tell me they come from miles around just to order it. Our pecan-crusted French toast is terrific.”
Q. And what are your lunch specialties?
A. “Our burgers are never frozen—they’re hand pressed. We have a homestyle bakery bun from Berlin and an amazing pretzel bun, and they come with hand-cut fries. Our corned-beef Reuben is off the charts. It’s very lean and on thick rye bread. We cook our own corned beef, that’s why the corned beef hash is so good. We always have a croissant with chicken salad, tuna salad or egg salad, and those are served with fresh fruit. We have salads that are humongous, and the presentation is beautiful.”
Q. Are you hands-on as an owner?
A. “I do it all. I wait tables Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I also scrub toilets. I have the cleanest toilets in America.”
Meet Me at Irene’s is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.