Lucca | Canton, Ohio

Italian food options are abundant in our little city.  So when I first heard the news last year that another Italian restaurant was opening in the former location of Iris (previously one of our favorite spots, but sadly another downtown Canton culinary casualty), I’ll admit I was skeptical.  But then I started noticing a certain buzz about Lucca, specifically that they are focusing on sustainability by using local meats and ingredients, a definite first for Canton.  After hearing of a slew of positive experiences, reading a fantastic review by Tom Noe of Exploring Food My Way, and later, learning that Lucca had been featured on a special “farm-to-table” Canton Food Tour, it was obvious I had been missing out.  Then, a few months ago, while celebrating a friend’s birthday downtown , I found myself in Lucca’s bar, sipping on the most delicious cocktail: the Dirty Mary martini, when who should strike up a conversation with me but Josh Schory, Lucca’s owner and executive chef.  While chatting, I learned (among other things) that he was a bit….miffed, shall we say, (jokingly of course) that I hadn’t been in for meal yet.  I agreed I was overdue for a visit.  So, a couple weeks ago, as promised, I finally discovered what all the hype was about.

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Reddstone | Cleveland, Ohio

In an exciting part two of NEO Food Tours’ Battle for Battery Park, we continued to the next competitor, only a block away from Battery Park Wine Bar. Reddstone is a “watering hole and grub hub” with a great outdoor patio that’s a blast in the summer.  It’s completely hidden from the street, which I love.  Of course in February, we weren’t going to the patio.  The evening’s events were hosted upstairs in a dimly lit private room with its own bar and stage.  With probably around forty people on the tour, plus the hosts for the evening, Ramon Rivas and Todd Gauman, and another half dozen or so guest judges, the room was pretty packed.  The lack of lighting was great for atmosphere, but made it tough to really appreciate the beauty of the food.  So I had to use the flash for the pictures, which I hate doing…but you can get the idea.

The space was much more intimate than Battery Park Wine Bar, but that wasn’t such a bad thing.  There was a small raised stage to the side, which allowed the comedians to be right next to the audience.  There’s a possibility they were a bit too close – story to follow.

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The Rail | Akron, Ohio

Not surprisingly, there are few things that excite me more than 1) the prospect of a new (original) restaurant, and 2) a great burger.  Thanks to one of my readers (never thought I’d be saying that), I heard about a cool new burger bar in Akron.  The Rail at Summit Mall is creating some buzz and has the potential to carve out a niche for itself in the Akron food scene.

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Mulligan’s Pub | Canton, Ohio

There are few culinary creations more satisfying than a delicious bowl of lobster bisque.  It is not often that one has a chance to indulge in lobster, so lobster bisque, while still a luxury, makes the the experience a little more frequently obtainable.  I give full credit to my good friend Melissa for turning me onto it some years ago.  We were at Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza in La Jolla, California when Melissa got noticeably excited to see lobster bisque on the menu, (a dead give-away of a true foodie: spontaneous mood change at the mere thought of certain dishes).  While it turned out that Sammy’s bisque fell slightly short for Melissa (she remains partial to Bon Vie in Columbus), all was not lost, because for me, a new obsession was born.  Now, like Melissa, a smile comes to my face when I see lobster bisque on the menu.  And that is one of the main reasons why Mulligan’s Pub in Canton is a must try.

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Roosters Wings | Canton, Ohio

If there was one Midwest/East Coast culinary tradition that I missed most when living in California, it was wings.  Buffalo wings in Canton Ohio are the sushi of San Diego – they’re everywhere.  As with ice cream stands, everyone seems to have their favorite.  It is my humble, amateur-foodie opinion that Roosters has the best wings around.  Therefore, Rooster’s definitely makes the rotation, especially being Dave’s absolute favorite spot.  But it works out perfectly because I love it too.  Canton also has Quaker Steak & Lube, which is pretty fantastic for wings….that is, until you discover Rooster’s.  And yes, it’s a chain, but a small one, and for some reason feels very local to Canton.  So we frequent the place with reckless abandon.  No better place to relax, eat, drink, and unwind from a hectic day at work.

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Ido Bar & Grille | Akron, Ohio

A long-standing South Akron tradition is Ido on South Main Street.  Sitting in an inconspicuous little building just down the block from Bridgestone America’s brand new (nearly complete) Akron Technical Center, Ido has been serving burgers in Firestone Park since 1943.  Today, this neighborhood burger joint’s menu has expanded to salads, sandwiches, steaks, prime rib, a variety of “comfort food” favorites, and seafood.

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John’s Grille | Canton, Ohio

A long-standing establishment serving All-American bar food classics, for breakfast, lunch and dinner is John’s Grille on Cleveland Avenue, not too far from downtown Canton.  While the interior of the restaurant appears that it hasn’t been updated since circa 1970, it still has that certain something.  When you walk in, you feel comfortable, people are smiling, welcoming, friendly, and you want to stay.  Not to mention the fact that on a Friday night, it’s wall-to-wall crowded, both bar and restaurant side.  The bar kid of reminds me of the set of cheers – dark, heavy finishes and big wood furniture.  But still, everyone is happy to be there.  And so am I.

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