Hometown Favorites

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.

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“5 Course Interview” Matt Campbell

Recently we had the pleasure of spending some time with some dear friends of ours at Branch Street Coffee Roasters. They gave us the opportunity to attend one of their coffee tastings with full access. This was a public event that was free of charge. This occasion was in celebration of their recent achievement of a 94 rating from the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America). They are the first here in Youngstown to even be rated much less to receive a rating this high. This event allowed us to taste their award winning coffee with co-owner Matt Campbell and better understand all of the tasting notes of the aromatic java. This was a huge privilege for us and a great way to gain some coffee knowledge. We decided this would also be a perfect opportunity to ask Matt a few questions that have been on my mind. This will begin a new series for Spade and I that we are entitling “5 Course Interview”. The concept is that we will ask 5 questions that will take you deeper into the mind of a local owner or chef that better explains their specific trade or craft, just as you would go through 5 courses in a gourmet restaurant. Our hope is that this will be a bridge between owners and patrons. It allows the owner/chef to preach their message while also giving the patron a more personalized perspective you might not get in an ordinary dining setting. We hope you all enjoy getting to know Matt as much as we have.

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Cockeye BBQ

Well folks, as your “sherpas up the mountain” of food enlightenment we have stumbled upon a beautiful diamond in the rough. If you have talked to anyone recently about new restaurants I am sure that the name Cockeye BBQ has come up in conversation. This is truly an oasis amongst the desolation of inner city blight. It evokes a whole new feeling to the term revitalization. You can find Cockeye’s in the most unlikely of places—on the west side of Warren, Ohio on Parkman Road. Growing up in Warren this area has become known more for its crime rate and desertion after the loss of our steel mills. In the expanse of closed businesses and disintegrating housing, the neon lights of Cockeye BBQ are sure to draw your attention as you stroll down the lanes of Warren’s west side.

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Gordy’s Sandveech Market

In our view there are a few distinctive tiers when it comes to sandwich artistry. In a world of Subways and Jimmy Johns (definitely on the lower tier), Gordy’s Sandveeches stand among the pinnacle of local sandwich craftsmanship. This is truly one of our favorite spots to go when looking for a cure to our hunger. It is situated in the Creekside Plaza on 224. As you walk through the door you immediately get the feeling of a big city deli paired with a warm, comfy vibe. Your eyes travel around the room to an exposed brick hearth and stately black and white photographs of the proprietor’s family. Whether this is your first visit or your fiftieth, you are always greeted with a smile. The staff at Gordy’s always ushers you in and makes you feel like family. If you get the pleasure Gordy herself will usually be working the floor as well, being amazing per usual. She’ll walk around asking everyone how their food was, making sure it was no less than perfect. Continue reading “Gordy’s Sandveech Market”

Lime Tree: Valentine’s Small Plates

As true foodies and self proclaimed experts on local eateries, we feel we must encounter all types of gatherings surrounded by food in our travelogue. For our personal Valentine’s Day celebration we turned our sights towards a familiar friend. The Lime Tree hosted a small plate’s event that we cordially attended. For all of our friends out there that may be unfamiliar with this type of setting, let me break it down for you. It’s rather simple actually. The term small plates literally mean smaller portions with a multi-course fashion that are intended to be shared. The concept is that you choose a few dishes (from appetizers, entrees, and desserts) that all the parties at the table will enjoy. This is a great way to try new things that you might not generally encounter on an ordinary trip to your local spot. Some restaurants only serve small plates, however, this is not the case at the Lime Tree. On this encounter they had a unique menu for the evening that transcended cultural and regional boundaries. We enjoy endeavors like these because it allows us to push the thresholds of our palate.  Continue reading “Lime Tree: Valentine’s Small Plates”

Whipped by Aubrey

A couple of weeks ago Spade and I ventured to a local farmers market. This is always an enjoyable enterprise for us. I love going to all the different booths and meeting the local farmers and business owners. You are sure to find something unique at any local farmers market. However, the journey was meant to acquire some particular baked goods. Aubrey Gustovich is a local entrepreneur and pastry chef. She has been a long time friend of Spade’s, and I had the pleasure of making her acquaintance on this particular meeting. Aubrey is a passionate and exceptional sorcerer of baking. Her product line up is endearing and whimsical. Her baking could be equated to works of art. For this encounter she wielded her magical wand of pastry to create some fun, holiday themed treats. Continue reading “Whipped by Aubrey”

Date Night: Valentine’s Day Edition

This one goes out to all my fellow fellas out there. It began as a “bro talk” at my local barber shop. This is a bi-weekly ritual for me and is a harbor for great conversation. As we dove into sorted topics of politics, men’s fashion, and other random subjects one main idea surfaced. Where you should take your significant other for Valentine’s Day? As the food and restaurant aficionado, the question was obviously directed towards me. Deliberating more on the idea, my thoughts became clearer. This is not so much a question of specifically where to take your female counterpart, rather a question of how to plan the evening. Continue reading “Date Night: Valentine’s Day Edition”

Philadelphia Candies

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching we find it only fitting to hit a few local chocolatiers these next two weeks. That being said, you can call us both Charlie because you will probably see a few mid-week short posts on some of Youngstown’s best chocolate spots. This week we hit a local favorite of ours, Philadelphia Candies. We visited the Boardman retail location, however, their epicenter is right up the road in Hermitage, PA. You can almost get lost in the array of sweet, umber treats. This is the benefit of encountering a helpful staff. They walked us through the assortment of chocolates and answered all of our questions. Probably the best part was that they let us sample some of the chocolate too. From my perspective, choosing that right assortment of chocolaty treats for your sweetie can be cumbersome. Have no fear at Philadelphia Candies though as they have something for everyone. What we loved most was that they had so many personalized, distinct treats. With chocolate renderings of hairdryers, musical instruments, Hello Kitty, golf clubs, and more, you are sure to find something unique for your special someone. Continue reading “Philadelphia Candies”

The Kitchen Post

As I sit here looking over my pork-embellished “Taco Tuesday” travelogue, the sultry aromas of this week’s encounter almost fill my nostrils. The Kitchen Post in Struthers was our obvious choice this week when looking for a tantalizing joint serving up tacos. I can’t even tell you how many people have mentioned this local hidden gem to us recently. You can almost miss this charming eatery tucked away on Youngstown-Poland road. The restaurant is small, yet cozy. It has a very eclectic use of different textures, patterns, and colors. It gives you a hometown feel with a big city vibe. My favorite aspect of the restaurant’s aesthetic was the use of denim cushions for the booth backs. Continue reading “The Kitchen Post”

Pho Saigon

This week, Spade and I had the pleasure of dining with a familiar associate. My 8-year-old daughter engaged on our feasting endeavor as we embarked our taste buds to travel a little farther east. A local favorite, we made a trip to Pho Saigon. It is a quaint restaurant nestled in a plaza on South Avenue in Boardman (near Sam’s Club). Having lived near this oriental eatery the last few years, it has become dear to my heart. It seems very inconspicuous from the outside amongst the other South Avenue inhabitants, but you will immediately think otherwise once you step foot inside. The Vietnamese restaurant has a very clean and sleek vibe with a touch of whimsy. The dining room is well laid out with room for bigger parties yet still set up with cozy corners. It is a small family owned operation that at times may seem slightly understaffed, but I think they handle it with grace. We were promptly greeted at the door with a warm smile and immediately brought to our seats, which I thoroughly appreciated. It can be very discouraging in certain instances when arriving at a restaurant you have never been to and not being immediately greeted.  Continue reading “Pho Saigon”