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Friday, January 30, 2009

THANOS

Those of us who live in the Lockwood Blvd./ Tippecanoe Road area are familiar with a little restaurant on the south side of Rt. 224. For years it operated under the name Janos. It was a blue hair restaurant with cheap food prepared cheaply. I didn’t like it. But it always attracted huge amounts of people, mostly seniors, on Sunday and at 5:00 in the afternoon. I ate there once. Once was enough.

Then it closed. Then it reopened. This time under the name Thanos. Let’s see…Janos…Thanos…looked a tad suspicious to me. Once again, its parking lot was usually pretty filled up. At the beginning of this week, the owners did a segment on the Channel 21 Good Morning Show, showcasing Pittsburgh based dishes in celebration of the Super Bowl. Looked good, so the wife and I gave it a go on Tuesday evening.

Actually, it wasn’t too bad. This is the Youngstown version of a diner. The special Pittsburgh menu had meals that are hits in Pittsburgh, like pierogies, my wife’s choice, and Turkey Devonshire, my choice…along with sandwiches that resembled the Primanti Brothers signature stack sandwiches including French fries under between the bread. (If you know Pittsburgh, you will know Primanti’s).

I am not a big fan of this type of food. It is basic grub. But these guys, who I believe aren’t the same people who ran it before, make good grub. It is the type of place you go on Sunday for a chicken and gravy dinner with Italian, Greek and Lebanese overtones. What a combination.

Almost as much fun was that we knew a whole bunch of people that were eating there, and were able to join some friends of ours for dinner. We had a great time. The place was busy, very busy. Hang around and you will see an old friend sooner or later.

You can get out of there for about eight bucks a person…not bad in a recession. Great location. Portions are just right. Food was served hot. The place is immaculate. The owners seem to be promoters (featured an Inaugural Peach Cobbler in honor of the new Prez!) Good for them. So what else do you want?

No booze…so you have to drink before or after…but this is the kind of place you bring the kids and Grandma. There’s nothing wrong with that.

So when you get home from work and just want something not so fancy, give Thanos a try. Try it…you’ll like it!!

My rating: 3 meatballs






Thanos Family Restaurant
6820 Tippecanoe Road
Canfield, Ohio 44406
330-702-0300

Sunday, January 18, 2009

La Chatelaine

I am not a big Columbus, Ohio, fan. Yes, I went to school there. Yes, my wife went to school there. Yes, my father and brother went to school there. Yes, my son is currently going to school there. But as a friend of mine recently described it, Columbus is vanilla…and so is its food. Ethnic food tends to error on the side of German. Italian food, when you can find it, is horrendous, including the local pizza. (OK you Donato fans…and Tommy’s fans…It’s not that good!!! Really!!!)

So when I find a place to eat there I really like…I am ecstatic. La Chatelaine is one of those places. It has been a Worthington standby for years…and each time we visit Columbus, we make a particular effort to go there. We had an occasion to visit Columbus recently, and it was at the top of our dining list.

It is French…do ya’ think? Bistro French food is not common in Ohio, anywhere. This place does it about as good as I have seen outside of Quebec. Located right on High Street in the center of Worthington, you can’t miss it. Its brick fa├žade is back from the road, and it is fronted by an outstanding patio for al fresco dining in the summer. You can watch the grand parade on a gorgeous sunny afternoon in the shade of the table umbrellas. It doesn’t get better than this.

This is bistro food. There is no menu. All offerings are posted. Lunch and breakfast are served cafeteria style with the owners helping you with the selections. Dinner is semi full service. Some offered items include several different kinds of quiche, Caesar salad, cassoulet, several different croissant and baguette type sandwiches, numerous soups, as well beef steak and beef bourguignon for dinner, among other offerings. All of these can be accompanied by several different beer and wine selections. Off to the side is its wonderful, brimming pastry case, all of which are homemade. Even the almond and pistachio paste used in some of the pastries is homemade.

Does it sound like the old Renee’s in Canfield? Well, it isn’t. This is what Renee’s should have been and couldn’t pull off. French food is not the norm in this part of the country, so if one is going to do it, it should be done well with all of the stops pulled out, otherwise it won’t work.

The place is owned and operated by the Stan Wyelezinski family. I will let you figure that one out (here’s a hint: his wife’s name is Gigi). The place reflects Stan’s home in Normandy. The family loves the food business, and everyone participates, and they are on site most of the time. One is a Culinary Institute of America graduate.

I always get a quiche (real men DO eat quiche) accompanied by either a Caesar salad or cup of soup. A homemade crusty roll or interesting bread is included with real butter. You can choose from several different types of coffee or tea, and all topped off with a pastry selection…this last trip we had a pistachio pastry, rich enough for two.

There are several rustic rooms inside from which to choose. One has a working fireplace which is a treat in the winter. In the summer, nothing will do except the out front patio where you can watch the world go by along with numerous other Worthington types and their poochies.

La Chatelaine has recently expanded, and has two branch Bistros on W. Bridge Street in Dublin and W. Lane Avenue in Upper Arlington. I prefer the Worthington location.

So…if you are ever in Columbus, give it a try. You won’t be disappointed.

This place rates 4 meatballs.

La Chatelaine
627 High Street
Worthington, Ohio 43085
614-848-6228

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Youngstown Chinese Food: Fortune Garden vs. Imperial Garden

I love good Chinese food. When I was in high school, my friends and I used to frequent a place just south of the Market Street Bridge. In those days, Chinese food was synonymous with chop suey. It was the original ptomaine palace, all that thick, corn starched sauce covering pre-chewed meat and canned veggies. I didn’t like Chinese food back then. I wonder why??

When my wife and I were dating at Ohio State, we drove out West Broad Street to a place called Ding Ho’s. The definition of Chinese haut cuisine had evolved into pieces of pork in heavy breading, deep fried, then covered with a thick, red, sweet and sour sauce. Yum!!! We visited the joint a few years ago in an attempt to go home again. You can’t. The place was a dump. We walked out as fast as our legs would carry us. We must have been really fool in love.

But things get better, and after moving back to the Youngstown area, Jade Court came onto the scene in Poland, and showed that oriental/Asian cuisine could be freshly prepared and served in beautiful surroundings. It was a great place and taught me the joys of satay. It also served the best house bourbon I have ever had anywhere. We couldn’t go on living when the dishwasher caught fire and the owners shut the place the down.

Today, my favorite Chinese eateries are in Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The Sesame Inn is a local Pittsburgh chain, the closest restaurant located on the balcony level at Station Square. It is consistently voted the best Chinese restaurant in Pittsburgh Magazine. The Chinese Palace is another favorite located in Shadyside. Both of these places are well appointed and serve great food. My standard for Chinese, however, is PF Chang’s, the national chain. The closest to Youngstown is on Chagrin Boulevard in Cleveland (Beachwood). These are beautiful restaurants who cook fresh food under chain supervision and standards. You can get great appetizers and dim sum, which are meals in themselves, albeit a tad pricey.

But here inYoungstown, we were lost in the wilderness of Chinese drive up/carryout food. What to do? What to do?Some friends of ours introduced us to The Fortune Garden Restaurant a year or so ago, and it has been a local favorite ever since. I would never have gone to this place myself. It is located in Liberty Township close to I-80, in the Tally Ho Motel, seriously!!!! It is the quintessential Chinese restaurant, a little worse for the wear and in need of a good cleaning, especially the windows. But the food is wonderful and it has a faithful northside clientele. I always choose the Fortune Garden Platter, which is a hefty portion of shrimp and chicken in a tangy sauce. It’s soups are classic along with some interesting appetizers. We visit this place often.

Closer to where I live, The Imperial Garden, located in a somewhat inaccessible plaza at the Tippecanoe Road/Lockwood Blvd. intersection, was off to an iffy start several months ago. But slowly and surely, the parking lot has been filling up. It is developing quite a little business. This is a really pretty place inside, belying its humble plaza storefront exterior. The owners are trying very hard, and prepare a type of Chinese food which is a cut above. The question is: do you want Chinese food a cut above. It isn’t at the level of the Pittsburgh and Cleveland establishments I like, but it comes close. I am glad to have such a great place so close to where I live.

It’s like trying to decide whether you want to go to a white table cloth restaurant for some exquisite Italian cuisine, or do you want a corner tavern plate of spaghetti and meatballs. Now I have a choice. If I want Chinese food tasting like I think it should be…Fortune Garden, here I come. On the other hand, if I want something a cut above…Imperial Garden is just around the corner.Both of these places are great for carryout…and I give each of them an enthusiastic 3 meatballs plus.

plus

Imperial Garden
7098 Lockwood Blvd.
Youngstown, OH 44512
330-729-3833

Fortune Garden
4245 Belmont Ave.
Youngstown, OH 44505
(330) 759-9166