As cultural food gurus we always feel the need to find the newest, hottest places around. There’s something in us that yearns to try all of the latest and greatest dishes. I know for me there is a sense of adventure in trying something I’ve never had before or going somewhere I’ve never been. I love meeting new people and seeing new ideas. While being on the cutting edge of the food nation can be invigorating and exciting, I think there is a certain warm, fuzzy feeling you get from going to those spots that seem to render hometown hospitality. If you’ve lived in the Mahoning Valley for any amount of time, I’m sure you already have your favorite pizza spot or Italian restaurant. If there is one thing we do right around here it’s Italian cuisine. I will also say that there seems to be a growing group of long-standing restaurants that seem to think they don’t have to try as hard to gain customer loyalty. Whether its new generational ownership or just a general lackluster mentality for the business, no restaurant has the right to slip on quality of food or customer service. With that being said, we’d like to take you through a short tour of long-time local favorites that always bring a euphoric elation. These are go-to spots for us when we can’t make up our minds on where to eat. They’re our default places. They are places that have been open for generations, and being a Mahoning Valley native, they are places that began feeding my curiosity for cuisine.
If you have eaten in Trumbull County then I’m quite certain you have been to one of these first two spots. The Hot Dog Shoppe in Warren and Jib Jab in Girard are two tried and true spots. When you are looking for a quick bite that will barely even touch your wallet you can’t go wrong with either one. Now I think what I find most interesting about these two spots is the huge debate over which one is the best. Anyone you talk to from Trumbull County will be sure to have a strong opinion either way. We obviously have our personal favorite as well but I won’t get into that for the time being. Either way, they both have some great dogs and fries. They are simple, delicious, and always fresh. If you are a fan of a real American chili-cheese dog then you have to try one of these. (P.S. The cherry soda is a great finisher!) Another topic of debate is who has the best pizza. This is something that we will never unanimously agree on here in the valley. However, I believe there are a few heavy weights that hold their own in this local pizza arena. One of our favorites is Brothers Pizza. They have a few locations in the area, but I think the Cortland location consistently strives for excellence. You cannot go wrong with anything on this menu. From pizza to a fresh calzone or sub, you will be sure to satiate your saucy cravings here. They make everything by hand and from scratch. We personally love the calzone. It is literally as big as my head and has more cheese than the state of Wisconsin. As a side note—if you are one of those ranch fanatics, or as Spade says, a “true American”, a side of their ranch sauce makes for perfect dipping material as well as the marinara.Another hometown favorite is Sunrise Inn in Warren. They have a few locations as well transcending Trumbull and Mahoning County, but you absolutely have to make the trip to the original in Warren. You can go just about anywhere and get pizza and wings, but these guys kill it. They have wings that will literally send you into a state of bliss. (I suggest the “Sunrise Suckers”) Something else you might not know about is that this location also has award-winning burgers. I know that might not be your first thought when traveling to an Italian restaurant, but I’ve heard some good things. Also, if you happen to be there on a Sunday go for the prime rib. It’s mouthwatering and typically on special on Sundays. All that said, the true pinnacle of food features here is the deep dish pizza. They do it by the slice or you can order a whole pie. Now I feel I must clarify—when I say deep dish, I mean DEEP dish. Try and imagine a pizza that is about as high as a double decker cake, one piece will have you loosening your pants.Now on to the sweet stuff. Whenever you’ve had your fill of savory treats and you are looking for something for dessert, there’s one place in the valley that is the perfect stop on the way home no matter where you reside. Handels Ice Cream is a Youngstown native ice creamery that has locations all over the valley. Honestly, I’m not even a big fan of ice cream but I love Handels. It always has the perfect texture to me, not quite soft serve but not too hard either. Their flavor list is amazing. They offer a perfect array of varying flavor compositions. They do a good job of keeping unique flavors while not getting too crazy. My personal favorite is the cotton candy variety, if you haven’t tried this flavor I highly recommend it. You can also take any ice cream and make a milk shake out of it! Lastly, if you really can’t decide on just one flavor, go for the 4 scoop sampler.
This is surely not an exhaustive list of long time local favorites and it’s not meant to be. I could probably rattle off places for quite a while. These are places that have always felt like home to Spade and I. While being on the cutting edge of the food world is exhilarating, there’s always time for a hometown favorite.P.S.
As you can tell, growing up in Warren results in most of my hometown favorites being in that region. I would really love to hear from some of our Mahoning and Columbiana County friends on where your hometown favorites are. We want to make sure we try all the best places in the valley!