Traveling an hour outside Stark County to go eat at a small-town vegetarian restaurant might sound like a crazy idea. But that’s how I spent a recent Sunday afternoon, and I’m glad I did. The Courthouse Inn and Restaurant in Lisbon opened this winter in the oldest brick building in Ohio, following a yearslong renovation. The decor is a mix of exposed wood beam, distressed brick, glitzy bejeweled walls and copper-topped tables. It’s beautiful.
The food seems pricey, especially considering there’s no meat on any plate and the dishes don’t come with sides, but our dinner was
Before our appetizers arrived, our server surprised us with sweet potato chips topped with sea salt and a homemade dipping sauce—they’re brought to every table. Even knowing the sauce had something called Vegenaise in it didn’t deter me from eating it. And I liked it.
For dinner, I had a risotto ($21) with Parmesan cheese, sauteed spinach and roasted sweet potato and corn. The dish was creamy and hearty, and I wasn’t missing a protein. The sweet potato tasted like a Thanksgiving casserole—I could have eaten just that for dinner, it was so good.
My dinner date, Andrew, ordered a bowl of macaroni and cheese ($18) mixed with jalapenos and topped with breadcrumbs. The cheese wasn’t as gooey as I would have preferred—it was more saucy than stringy—but the pasta had a nice spicy kick from the peppers.
We also ate through an assorted bread basket ($8), which included a biscuit, a wedge of cornbread and slices of cinnamon strudel and zucchini breads. The sweet-and-savory combination paired well with our meal.
The strangest dish we tried was deep-fried carrots ($12). I took one bite, and that was enough for me. The carrot stayed a little too crisp, and the breading fell off.
When our server rattled off a list of desserts available that night, she recommended the chocolate chip almond pie ($6), which I ordered. Andrew got a piece of two-layer red velvet cake ($7) with cream cheese frosting. I had some of both and wasn’t disappointed.
The desserts were simple—admittedly, I could have made either at home myself—but they were a nice ending to the meal.
Besides the food, the ambiance of the restaurant was another selling point for me. While we ate, a piano player sat at a Steinway in the corner near the bar, entertaining with renditions of songs by John Denver and Peter, Paul and Mary. Did we sing along a little bit (as did someone on staff) to the chorus of “Country Roads”? Yes.
And that’s what I liked best about the restaurant. It’s upscale without being stuffy.
When we headed to Lisbon in February, the restaurant was new—so new the menus were printed on pieces of orange card stock stapled together, and the owner was wandering through the restaurant telling servers the food had too much salt.
The front door kept opening, though, as customers came in to check the place out.
I’d like to go back when the weather is warmer. After dinner, we wandered outside to the patio, where there’s a big brick fireplace and fancy stone tables. It would be the perfect place to spend a summer night, either on a date or with a group of friends.
Upstairs from the patio is a four-room boutique hotel, decorated in the same style as the dining area.
And if none of that appeals to you, there’s also a bar and a cafe with pastries and specialty coffee inside the restaurant.