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Friday, June 26, 2009

Ben's Restaurant and Bar - Berlin Center

I have lived in Mahoning County most of my life, and rarely have ventured west of Canfield on Route 224. Most of my west treks involve driving down Route 11 to Route 76 then westward-ho. On 224, you will pass such interesting places as the Mahoning County Joint Vocational School, Ellsworth, as well as streets with exotic names like Palmyra Road. It is actually a very pretty drive and shows the diversity of the area. As you reach the Mahoning County line, you will drive through Berlin Center…and pass Ben’s Restaurant on the left just before you cross over Berlin Lake.

Ben’s has been there for over 50 years. It is a standard looking but very clean 1950-ish building. And it does a great business, partially because it is the only game in town…but also because the food is not too bad. In fact, it is fairly good. In fact, it is much more than fairly good. I like this place.

The inside is done in shades of sea foam green and is very soothing. The dining room is divided into several sections separated by walls topped with glass panels etched with various sea creatures. They do a really good job of invoking a nautical feel to go with its close proximity to Berlin Lake. When you enter the building, the hostess station is right in front of you, the dining room to the left and a very large bar to the right.

This place caters to people who love life at the lake. Berlin Lake was created in 1938 by damming up the headwaters of the Mahoning River in order to prevent flooding and make sure of a constant flow of water when needed to the down river steel mills. It is the first of 15 dams along the Mahoning. It is operated by the Army Corps of Engineers, and is really, really pretty. We are extremely fortunate this kind of facility in the area. The boating is great, and it is well patrolled with no tom-foolery allowed. The rural and tranquil setting makes it hard to believe you are still in Mahoning County (although a good part of the lake is in Portage County).

Ben’s blends right into the scene. This is not haute cuisine. It is basic grub with some surprise twists thrown in from a talented chef. The menu offers an assortment of steaks and burgers, as well as chicken and fish dishes. Standard appetizers include sauerkraut balls and mozzarella sticks. But the specials add some pizzazz, including salmon and other high end fish dishes. It also has my kind of wine menu, with stuff that I recognize and like…all at reasonable prices.

Tonight I had fried Lake Erie perch well priced at $14.95. It was as good as any fried fish I have had anywhere. My wife had a fried fish sandwich. Both were served with French fries and cold slaw. The portions were huge. And the meals were served with a homemade loaf of bread topped with melted garlic butter.

Tucked in the menu are some old Italian standbys. This is not a surprise when you notice the picture of the founder by the hostess station. His last name was Bendetta and moved his family there from the Youngstown area in the mid 1950’s. I know a paesano when I see one!!! And you can make sure the food will be good.

Ben’s is nothing fancy, but my dinner was great. And when you are done eating, you can drive south on Bedell Road to visit Noah’s Lost Arc Animal Sanctuary with a national reputation for sheltering exotic animals with no other home. Keep going, and you will pass Leffingwell Road. Go some more, and Bedell will dead-end into Western Reserve Road. Who knew either of these roads went so far west. Both offer lovely drives back to civilization.

Ben’s gets a well earned 3 meatballs plus.

+

17729 W Akron Canfield Rd
Berlin Center, OH 44401
330.547.7633

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Having enjoyed fine dining all over the world Ben's Restaurant is a fav and offers the absolute best tempura or beer battered style fish on the planet. The fried Sea Captain's Platter with scampi and scallops choice or the seared Scallops are always prepared to perfection and the Prime Rib on certain nights is well worth the drive. The blue cheese salad dressing on their fresh salad...the fried zucchini or side of mushrooms... divine...and a patio with music on Thursday... a great summer spot then go watch the sun set over Lake Berlin.

Anonymous said...

Having eaten my way across half the planent, literally and lived in many cities like NYC and LA... I rank Ben's Restaurant as one of my absolute favorite on the planet. The beer battered fish and seafood platter are to die for...as are the seared scallops...the fried zucchini or the mushroom sides delish...the prime rib well nigh perfect... and mac and cheese on Friday will make grandma beg for the recipe. Salads are always fresh and my fav is blue cheese dressing. Dinner comes with a little loaf of fresh bread. Lite music on the little patio on Thursday. It really is worth the drive straight west out #224 for lunch or dinner from anywhere.