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Nov 28, 2012 08:28 AM

Ohio Trip - October 2012

Ohio Trip – October 2012

It has taken me long enough to get around to writing this foodie capsule of our trip to Ohio in October, but better late than never. We were driving from Missouri to Ohio to pick up a car and do some visiting, and of course, eating and dining out is always on the schedule. Happy to report all our meals were great, except for the first one. In fact, it was dreadful. Glad it was not a portent of the rest of our trip:

Sunday 10/07 Troy, Ohio: Hothead Burritos – yuck, gross, and double yuck. Really not going into what we had, but when we looked at each other and declared Taco Bell would have been better, you know it’s bad (and we disdain Taco Bell, so you get my meaning).

Monday 10/08 –Had to return the rental car to the Toledo Airport, and I had always wanted to eat at Dale’s Bar and Grill in downtown Maumee, Ohio, so we had lunch there. Dale’s has been around since 1920, and therefore has lots of character. We love old bars, and this one fit the bill and did not disappoint. I had a combo of the Bob Uecker sandwich and side salad. The Bob Uecker is grilled turkey breast, sautéed mushrooms and onions, melted Swiss, lettuce and mayo on a multi-grain bun. Really quite tasty. Even the side salad was good for a bar and grill. DH had the Reuben “Hurricane” Carter and crinkle-cut fries, and we also shared a side of onion rings. Had a couple beers each: I had a Yuengling Traditional Amber Lager (America’s oldest brewery in Pottsville, PA, since 1829), and then a Great Lakes Nosferatu (an Imperial Red ale), and DH had a Beck’s and a Miller Lite.

Monday 10/08 – Dinner was at Carmie’s Grill and Bar in Tiffin, Ohio. Carmie’s is the restaurant at the Camden Falls Conference Center with the Hampton Inn. I had a combo of the Beef brisket sandwich and upgraded to the Chef’s Onion Soup for a $1 more. The brisket was slow-roasted and seasoned and topped with coleslaw, sliced pickles, and North Carolina (?) BBQ sauce on a French roll. The onion soup was the standout: caramelized onions simmered in rich burgundy white wine beef stock and topped with fresh-baked croutons and mozzarella cheese. Wow, very good. DH had Black and Bleu Burger and Steak fries. Burger was a 1/3 –lb. ground chuck, cooked perfectly medium, with special seasoning and blue cheese, and topped with fried onion straws. For drinks, DH had a Beefeater martini, up, with three olives, which he deemed very good, along with his trusty Miller Lite, and I had a Golden Margarita and a Hex beer (amber/red ale) from Magic Hat Brewing in South Burlington, VT. They really had a good bottled beer selection, and plenty choices on tap. Plus, had some live entertainment from a local guy playing guitar and singing covers. Great food and lively atmosphere for a Monday night.

Tuesday 10/09 – Breakfast at Berardi’s in Sandusky, Ohio. Okay, this is one of my favorite places to eat when I’m back in Ohio visiting, but have never had the good fortune to eat breakfast there. It was definitely a winner: hubby had the Country Scramble (???, and I had the Mile High Quiche (broccoli and cheese), which came with fresh fruit and a bran muffin. We also shared a side of corned beef hash, which was actually made from real corned beef hash. That quiche really was a mile high; had to be the lightest, most luscious and fluffy quiche I’d ever eaten. Berardi’s is always top of the line.

Tuesday 10/09 – Dinner at Old Bag o’ Nails in Mansfield, Ohio. This is a small chain in Ohio with just a few locations. It’s patterned after a cozy New England fish house, complete with a real burning fireplace in one dining room. Hubby had all you can eat fish and chips (fries) and he deemed the fish excellent. Have to say it did look very crispy and the fish was very mild and white. My cousin had the salmon and he said it was very dry, and to be honest, it did look dry. He also had the clam chowder which he said was the worst clam chowder he’d ever had because it was too thin and didn’t taste like clams. I had the Tuesday special of lobster roll, and considering it was in Mansfield, Ohio, it wasn’t bad, but I know a native New Englander may not have been satisfied. The standout was the appetizer we got of the mussels/shrimp in a yummy buttery garlic sauce. DH and I wanted to tip up the shallow bowl and lick every drop of that sauce, but we did the best we could do with the hard crusty bread they gave us to sop it up. Drinks were a couple of Beefeater martinis, and Irish coffee for dessert. They had a wonderful list of rotating beers/ales on top, and I tried two of them, but I can only remember the Ommegang ale; I think the other was some type of pumpkin beer which I love as a seasonal brew.

Wednesday 10/10 – Lunch at Coldwater Café in Tipp City, Ohio. This place is really excellent, housed in an old bank in downtown Tipp City. I had the quiche of the day, which was Swiss cheese, paired with fresh fruit and bread. DH had another special, which was pulled pork (not bbq) topped with a vinegar cole slaw. Even though it wasn’t barbecued, he thought it was yummy. He had a glass of Beajolais Nouveau and I had some type of light European beer, but darned if I can remember the name because it was not a familiar one to me. Believe it or not, it was almost like a Prosecco. I had to go for Coldwater Café’s signature dessert which is the English tea cake with warm butter sauce. I can see why it’s their signature dessert, it is beyond yummy.

Thursday 10/11 – long-awaited and much-anticipated visit to the world famous Jungle Jim’s International Market in Fairfield, Ohio. Our friends who live in Hamilton, Ohio, have been dying to take us there, and we’ve been dying to go. All I can say is WOW! If you ever have a chance to go to Jungle Jim’s, don’t hesitate…it is a foodie/chowhound heaven. 200,000 square feet of all the foods and drinks you could ever think of from around the world. I swear there is nothing they don’t have, and it’s quite entertaining, too. Above the British Isles part of the store, they had wax figures of Robin Hood and his Merry Men suspended above the section, and Vikings above the Scandinavian section. Words cannot really describe this place. It was started in 1972 as a farmer’s market and has now grown to this size and scope. There’s even a small 20-seat theatre that continually shows the Jungle Jim story. The restrooms are a hoot, too, because the door looks like a porta-potty door on the outside, concealing a regular multi-stall restroom on the inside. DH looked so cute standing on the outside waiting until a gentleman told him it was just a regular door and was okay to open it. Our friends had told us about that the night before, but he didn’t remember. Jungle Jim’s just opened a second location in the area, but I can’t remember what town. I told our friends they are so spoiled and fortunate to have a place like this near them. And the prices are incredibly reasonable, too. Some of the things we got are: duck salami, truffled chicken liver mousse, dried anchovies, green onion and radish kimchee, Snow Beauty nigori sake, Jungle Jim’s bloody mary mix, hot sauce, pasta sauce, four different kinds of jerky (ostrich, wild boar, kangaroo, and alligator), an assortment of olives from their massive olive bar, lots of different varieties of Aidell’s chicken sausage that we can’t find at home, Seven Hills bean coffee from Cincinnati, Tasty Joy wasabi green peas, turnips, Noel chocolate truffles, Walker’s ketchup-flavored potato chips from England, and many other things too numerous to mention. Hubby even got a few cigars from their huge humidor. This was a dream come true to go to Jungle Jim’s, and we are fondly dreaming of the next trip there.

Thursday 10/11 – late lunch at The Golden Lamb in Lebanon, Ohio. This was another place I’d been wanting to go for a long time, ever since I read about it in Ohio Magazine. After going to Jungle Jim’s, and then eating at the Golden Lamb, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. The Golden Lamb is the oldest inn and restaurant in Ohio. Some of the building dates back to 1754. Now it houses a restaurant, tavern, hotel, and museum. If you are into early American history, this is the place for you. A stay at the hotel is expensive, but dining there is fairly priced. Our friends whom we visited in Hamilton took us out for lunch, and here is what we had: we started with the relish platter, which consisted of Pickard Farms egg salad, olive trio, sweet pickled peppers, marinated mozzarella, and garlic crostini. For mains, one of our friends had the Golden Lamb Signature Salad, which includes candied pecans, green apples, and smoked cheddar, and the Creamy Tomato Basil Bisque with pecorino romano cheese. The other had the Creamy Garlic Caesar Salad with herbed croutons. I had the grilled Sky Haven Farms ham and aged Widmer cheese sandwich on salted rye and horseradish Chantilly, and also the Northern bean soup. The ham and cheese sammich was fantastic, but the soup was pretty common. DH had the Pennsylvania Farms lamb burger with toasted fennel with boursin cheese and tomato chutney. Wow, he graciously let me have a bite, and it was melt-in-your mouth goodness. For drinks, he had the Dogfishead IPA and a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (his favorite pale ale), and I tried the Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter (love me some porter), and a Rivertown Dunkel from Rivertown Brewery in Lockland, Ohio, near Cincinnati.

Last stop on way home to Missouri, Friday 10/12 – lunch at Firefly Grill in Effingham, IL. I had the Blue Point Oyster Poorboy with Cajun seasoning, Creole aioli, and chopped lettuce on a “Pretzilla” bun (I love pretzel rolls for sandwiches, and theirs was one of the best). I also had the butternut squash soup, and the apple cider martini to drink. DH had the hot ham, cheese and bacon sub (thin sliced ham, smoked Gouda and Swiss, Nueske’s bacon, and Swedish mustard) with garlic fries. When he found out they had Hendricks gin, he had to have a martini. If you’re ever passing through Illinois on I-70, stop in Effingham and reward yourself at Firefly Grill. You’ll be glad you did. It’s real easy to find behind the Nike outlet. It’s a great respite from the weary road traveling.

I’m embarrassed it’s taken me so long to get this together to post. I only wish I had paid more attention to some of the details on the drinks, but all in all, it was a great trip for dining in the Midwest, and specifically, Ohio. Hope it will give other travelers some dining ideas. Salud!

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  1. Thanks a mill for posting this. I pass through some of these towns and have always wondered where to eat.

    18 Replies
    1. re: Jim M

      Hey, glad you found it helpful, Jim. I'm glad to report every eatery was excellent and would recommend all of them, with the exception of Hothead Burritos. Avoid this place like the plague. Cheers!

      1. re: Christine

        Out of curiosity, what brought you to Hothead, a nothing special burrito chain? It really does stand out among the other choices you made. Very pleased you liked Coldwater Cafe, a restaurant I've highly recommended (or seconded) here a couple of times.

        I had no idea Old Bag o' Nails has made its way up to Mansfield.

        1. re: Fibber McGee

          Well, we had been driving all day from Missouri through Illinois, Indiana, and had got into Ohio and saw the sign for Hothead in Troy and just wanted something fast and easy because we still had about another 2 hours to go after driving for 8 hours and not stopping to eat. Dumb, I know. So our decision was based on ignorance, hunger, and laziness. We quickly learned our lesson, though. We were both angry and disgusted by the time we left that place.
          I think the Mansfield location of Old bag of Nails is the newest one. Speaking of that area, have you eaten at The Cabin in Ashland, Ohio? Ate there a long time ago and thought it was a great dining experience in a picturesque setting. Anything else in the Mansfield area you'd recommend, or perhaps in Wooster?

          1. re: Christine

            >> have you eaten at The Cabin in Ashland, Ohio? Ate there a long time ago and thought it was a great dining experience in a picturesque setting. Anything else in the Mansfield area you'd recommend, or perhaps in Wooster?

            I've eaten at The Cabin numerous times, and I agree with you - it has been consistently outstanding. Incidentally, while it's technically in Ashland, it's just as close to Mansfield; it's very close to the junction of US-30 and I-71.

            I've tried lots of other places in Mansfield but none that I would strongly recommend (at least, not since Brant's Bistro closed a couple of years ago).

            In Wooster, I've enjoyed the Wooster Inn, the restaurant run by students at the college there. I've also seen recommendations here for South Market Bistro, but haven't been there yet.

            There are more recommendations for the Mansfield area (including yours, LOL) in this discussion:

            Mansfield, Ohio -

            1. re: nsxtasy

              I greatly prefer Skyway which is very near by and is much more consistent

              1. re: Guss05

                I assume you're referring to Skyway East, near the intersection of I-71 and US-30. I've been there several times, and I've never been much impressed. I mean, it's okay, not dreadful, but not particularly good, either. I've never had a single dish there that has been outstanding or memorable. Consistent? Yes, consistently uninspiring. The Cabin is so much better, there's no comparison.

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  Yes, we went to Skyway East quite awhile ago, probably 15-20 years ago, and I agree with you, xtasy.....The Cabin is much better dining experience on all levels: food, service, ambience.

                  I'll throw this question out again: has anybody been to the place that used to be the Wooden Pony years ago on the square in Mansfield? I think it has something to do with Cypress Hill winery? I'll come up with the name later.

                  1. re: Christine

                    >> I'll throw this question out again: has anybody been to the place that used to be the Wooden Pony years ago on the square in Mansfield? I think it has something to do with Cypress Hill winery? I'll come up with the name later.

                    Brant's Bistro was formerly in the downtown Mansfield location where Wooden Pony was (37 E. 4th Street). It was very good indeed, but it closed 3-4 years ago. The brick building façade is pictured from its Wooden Pony days at

                    Doing a web search, I found two different businesses that appear to be at that address now. One is Cypress Cellars (Cypress Hill Winery); based on their website, it appears to be a winery and wine bar. The other is City Grille and Bar, which appears to be a burger/sandwich/beer restaurant with live entertainment. I don't know if they are related and both operating in the same building, or what; I haven't been to Mansfield lately, but I will be there next month.

                    1. re: nsxtasy

                      Can't tell if City Grille and Bar and Cypress Cellars are related business-wise or just close proximity. Looks as if Cypress is in the alley right behind City Grille? if you go there next month, please post..inquiring minds want to know ;-) City Grille's website looks pretty good.

                      Around the corner on Main is Martinis on Main. Also looks like a good place to get decent drinks and interesting nosh.


            2. re: Christine

              Just South of Mansfield in Lexington is the Paul Revere. I've only been for breakfast, but they have a good and full menu. On the other side of I-71 (left for Lexington, right for Belleville) there is an actual diner just off the exit. Can't recall the name, though. It's not New jersey or pennsylvania, sure, but Ohio does have its share of decent roadside diners scattered throughout the state. Most of the buildings have been imported from the Northeast.

              In Wooster, I've always bene curious about The Olde Jaol, which was, suprisingly, the jail building at one point. I've wanted to go there just to say I've eaten in a jail, but am not around Wooster enough to have had the opportunity.

              1. re: Fibber McGee

                Fibber, funny you mention both of these because they have been on my "radar list" for awhile now. I was always afraid Paul Revere being a "family' restaurant, might not have a bar, but I looked online and it appears they do. Joy! May have to give that a test when I'm there in Feb.

                My 85-year-old mother and I go to performances of the Ohio Light Opera at the College of Wooster, so I may just have to go to the Olde Jaol next summer. Thanks for the tips.

                And oh yes, Porky's in Mansfield has been on my radar, too, as has Mr. Hero....

                1. re: Christine

                  I've been to the Olde Jaol this summer and wasn't that impressed. Can't remember much now but I remember wishing I had chosen somewhere else to eat. It was a Monday and my first choice, South Market Bistro was closed. South Market Bistro is much better in my opinion. The owners of South Market also own a steak house across the street, City Square. I ate there once and wasn't that excited about it. Honestly I prefer to eat my steaks at home cooked by myself. I'm never usually pleased by steak when I order it out. I think everyone else was happy with their meal. There is also a casual BBQ place called Bobs? very close to the steakhouse. I have eaten there a few times and it has always been very good. Again all these places are in Wooster, OH.

              2. re: Christine

                I'm a local (Dayton-Cinci area) and I learned about some places (Coldwater Cafe) that I didn't know much about before.

                Hothead Burritos is an expanding Dayton based chain that is the brainchild of former Subway franchise owners. (So, go figure on the food quality.) The local business press constantly blathers about how awesome they are just because they're Dayton based and Dayton is an economic hellhole. I've eaten at HH a total of three times and I couldn't agree with you more. Even the nachos they prepare are a soupy disgusting mess - the packaged nachos and cheese tray you get at a ballpark is superior. But Hothead has a fan base and people around here think they're great!

                Anyway, excellent review and descriptions.

                1. re: donw9876

                  Thanks for your kind words, don...glad you enjoyed it.

                  DH and I came up with a new slogan HH could use: Glophead Burritos is gloptacular!


                2. re: Christine

                  >> Anything else in the Mansfield area you'd recommend, or perhaps in Wooster?

                  I just went to Tulipan Hungarian Pastry in Wooster, and loved it! Whether you're interested in pastry, or lunch, or just a cup of coffee, this great little place is perfect! The Hungarian pastries are authentic and wonderful. For lunch, they have some nice soups and open-faced sandwiches; I just had the carrot-ginger soup and it was excellent. They also have the usual assortment of coffees. Highly recommended!

                  Tulipán Hungarian Pastry and Coffee Shop
                  122 S. Market St.
                  Wooster, OH 44691
                  (330) 264-8092

                3. re: Fibber McGee

                  I go to Mansfield regularly and there are very few good places to eat. I will check that place out. I get that it's a chain, but if it's better than all the other chains there, it's worth a visit.

                  I do recommend Leaning Tower of Pizza in Mansfield (takeout only) and Porky's drive-in, which is in Mansfield about half way to Ashland on route 42. Porky's still has fresh cut fries and makes their own root beer. Their super thin, "crispy" hamburgers are delicious and sloppy.

                  1. re: rockandroller1

                    Hey, anyone know about two places in downtown Mansfield, Ohio that sound kind of interesting for food and drink? One is City Grille and Bar on Fourth Street, and the other is Martinis on Main. Anyone been to either one? Impressions?

                  2. re: Fibber McGee

                    I didn't know about Old Bag o' Nails either. I live near Mansfield. I've never heard of the chain. But now I have a new place to try. Thanks!!!

                    I tried a sub at Leaning Tower once and it was dang good.

              3. I really need to get to Jungle Jims.

                If you're around the Troy, Tipp City area, head just north to Piqua and Beppo Uno Pizza. It was part of a chain and the owners decided they wanted to go it alone. Some of the thinnest pizza crust I've ever had.


                1 Reply
                1. re: Davwud

                  That thin crust pizza is a Miami Valley (so named for the Little and Great Miami rivers in the area) specialty. Beppo Uno is pretty good at it.

                  IMO, for a city of its size, Tipp City is a great restaurant town, ranking up there with Blue Ash as the best in SW Ohio. Besides the aforementioned Coldwater Cafe, Harrison's has a strong menu full of local flavor, like turkey from nearby Bowman-Landes. Hickory Rivers has some of the best BBQ (not saying that much, mind you) in the area, and Greenfire Bistro does a good job at Asian dining in an elegant atmosphere.