Eating My Way Through My Hometown
WARNING!!! If your New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight, then you probably don’t want to read this post. But, if you have the will-power of a vegan at a Brazilian steakhouse, or don’t mind gaining a few pounds from the words alone, then you should be alright.
I swear, every time I visit my hometown of Niles, Ohio (smack dab between Youngstown and Warren) I gain at least five pounds. This past Christmas was no exception. After a week, I returned to my townhouse in Charlotte tipping the scales once again. I know what you’re thinking, “It’s all the Holiday goodies.” Wrong. I don’t have a sweet tooth and can easily refrain from desserts. It’s all the delicious Italian specialties that are impossible to find in Charlotte. There are so many restaurants that I must visit, so many foods that I just have to eat, that I can’t hit everywhere in one trip. It would be impossible. This trip I managed to visit two classics and a new joint my friends said I simply had to check out.
The first stop was lunch at Sunrise Inn – famous for their pizza and garlic fried chicken. Mrs. G. and I couldn’t decide between a pizza burger splash and the garlic fried chicken, so we decided to split an order of each. A pizza burger splash consists of two slices of pizza as the bun with either hamburger, Italian sausage, or meatball in the middle. Unless you’re a chadrool, you’re going to order the sausage or the meatball. The “burger” is then topped with a generous helping of tomato sauce. I swear I wanted to dive right into the plate and splash around in the sauce before poking my head into the thick, soft dough of the pizza and taking a huge bite, stuffing in a handful of the spicy Italian sausage only to wash it down with a gulp of sweet tomato sauce.
The garlic fried chicken is just as good. Imagine the best fried chicken you have ever tasted. So good that you not only licked your fingers but those of the dude sitting next to you (he understood). Now think better than best ever. That’s Sunrise Inn’s chicken. The skin is crisp, the meat is moist, and the flavor is divine. The garlic yells out at you (but not too loud), “Hey! I’m garlic and I’m here. But I’m not here, here. Not in your face here. Just here enough to let you know. Kind of like saying, ‘Hi. I’m garlic. Can I join you for lunch today?’”
The next stop was Jimmy’s Bakery and Deli. It’s an Italian specialty shop with a deli and hot foods section for dining in or carryout. I like to drop in for The Brick. No, not the kind used to sink someone to the bottom of Mosquito Lake, but a sandwich The brick is a pepperoni roll sliced in half, stuffed with hot Italian peppers, and melted in a press. Of course, it’s served with the appropriate side of sauce for dipping. The peppers are perfect. They aren’t too hot to ruin your day but enough to raise a little sweat on your brow.
Our final stop was the new Niki’z Pub in the old Naus Club down a residential street in Niles. I was catching up with old friends and am remiss that I didn’t take pictures. You can expect the Italian classics that even bars around Youngstown are known for. I dined on a grilled chicken sandwhich topped with Italian greens and provolone. The firm texture and garlic of the greens go perfect with chicken. The smokiness of the provolone tied the sandwich together. (Pausing to wipe the droll from my chin….okay, I’m back.)
Other faves that rotate on my itinerary are Amen Corner (Who knew a bar could serve such Itlalian delicacies – fried eggplant and hot peppers, marinara, and Italian greens? Oh, and wedding soup!), Alberini’s (for fine dining), and Gasoline Alley (Hot garlic wings so good that you need a three day regimen of mints and teeth brushing to make your breath tolerable – but so worth it). Then there are the new found cheese puffs at Belleria Pizza previously posted. These are just a few of the places and foods I look forward to on my next trip. Oh, and it will be good to see my family, too.