Thursday, May 13, 2010

Korner Restaurant

On the outside, the Korner Restaurant isn't likely to be called an architectural marvel. But don't be fooled; the number of cars and trucks in the parking lot -- and number of tables filled with obviously satisfied diners inside -- tell the real tale here. In fact, it's hard to beat for good, stick-to-your-ribs food served up in a pleasant, family-friendly atmosphere.

In the interest of full disclosure, this place was recommended by friend and host of "The Valley View," Mike Costarella. But the fact is, we'd eaten there more than once before he spoke up. Not long before the first of our two "official" visits, for instance, we stopped with friends on our way home from sipping (and buying) some wine at the Mastropietro Winery in Berlin Center. Although at that time we weren't thinking about tracking what we had to eat, I do recall that the four of us agreed that whatever it was we ate was delicious.

We paid attention to the details on our first official visit, noting the colorful Fiesta dinnerware, including coffee mugs ready for filling already on our table. Fiesta, for those who might not know, is made by the Homer Laughlin China Co. of Newell, West Virginia, across the Ohio River not far from East Liverpool. The silverware at the restaurant is "packaged" in little paper bags -- a very neat and tidy idea. The red brick building exterior is carried over to some of the interior walls, and the wood trim is painted in complementary turquoise, blue and maroon. Immediately, we felt we were in a "home-town" kind of place; diners were conversing with other diners -- even those who sat at other tables -- and the atmosphere was low-key and comfortable.

In addition to a diner-style service counter, there are a couple of rooms with tables and booths plus a back room that has a long table to accommodate groups; in fact, it was in use at our lunch visit by, we were told, some local government officials. Specials are listed on boards; one that caught my eye on this occasion was a chicken salad sandwich with lettuce and tomato with French fries or soup for $4 and the beef barley and chicken rice soups of the day.

Immediately, I zeroed in on one section of the menu: The "7 Under 7" -- dinners priced at $6.99 each. Still another menu insert lists meals for those who need or want to be nutrition-conscious; called "Delicious and Nutritious," the foods listed include information on protein, carbs, fat and calories. We saw a bevvy of sandwiches and wraps, ranging in price from $2.49 for grilled cheese to $4.99 each for a couple of fancied-up hamburgers. Several varieties of pasta and salads are offered as well, also at good prices.

My husband Jack first considered a tuna salad wrap at $4.99 and the open-face roast beef with potatoes and vegetables from the $6.99 menu, but after much deliberation, he ended up ordering an open-face hot roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy for $5.99. My decision was made far more quickly; once I saw the grilled ham and pierogies with a veggie on the $6.99 menu, that was all she wrote. For the record, it was the pierogies, not the ham, that turned the tide; I'll follow those wonderful stuffed goodies anywhere.

Immediately, our server brought a basket of bread and crackers and our drinks -- diet Coke and unsweetened iced tea, respectively, at $1.29 each. Jack's open-face sandwich arrived on a very large oval platter not much later; although it seemed to him there was plenty of gravy to go around, our server asked him if it was enough to suit him (it was). His vegetable of choice was corn, and there was plenty of that as well. The beef, he said, was exceptionally tender and flavorful, and the potatoes tasted "real."

My plate also was large, filled with three large pierogies topped with grilled onions; before bringing it, our server asked if I wanted sour cream, and since I answered in the affirmative, she brought that as well. Also on the plate were three ample-sized triangles of grilled ham, unexpectedly topped with a few mandarin oranges. The ham was wonderfully grilled and had a great flavor. For a side, I ordered the mixed veggies -- broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and zucchini. The entire meal including soft drinks totaled $18.10, and for that amount we left with very full stomachs.

Our son Scott and daughter-in-law Lilla recently moved into a new house in Cuyahoga Falls, inviting us and a few other family members and guests to a very informal housewarming party shortly thereafter. On the way home, we decided to stop at the Korner Restaurant for dinner. Although we weren't very hungry -- we'd been well fed at the party, after all -- we figured we'd get something that would reheat well for lunch the next day.

This time, we were more familiar with the menu, so decisions came more quickly. Jack immediately zeroed in on the bourbon beef tips with caramelized onions, mushrooms and a bourbon glaze ($10.99). For sides, he chose a garden salad with Thousand Island dressing plus macaroni and cheese. Ever the seafood fanatic, I settled on baked Norwegian cod -- a baked filet "lightly seasoned" for $9.99. I, too, picked a garden salad (but with Italian dressing) plus a cup of the chicken-rice soup that was a special that day.

Our salads featured crisp greens plus some tomato, chopped onions, carrots and celery; the chicken-rice soup was on the creamy side with onions, carrots and rice, none of which overwhelmed the tasty broth. As expected, Jack was able to bring home plenty of the delicious beef tips as well as more than half the mac-and-cheese (which I in particular enjoyed devouring once we got back home). For the record, it was made not with the expected elbow macaroni, but rather with small-size rigatoni, and the sauce was creamy and delicious.

The Norwegian cod was a good-size plank that was almost too lightly seasoned to have much flavor, but the lemon and tartar sauce compensated. I always find that once you get more than half an hour from the ocean, you can expect that fish will be cooked far longer than necessary, so I wasn't at all surprised that it happened here as well. That said, it was quite good. Better still, I was able to eat only about half of what was on my plate, and I'm happy to report that the rest ended up chopped and added to the linguine with white clam sauce I made for dinner the following day.

As we were eating, I noticed that a couple of the servers' t-shirts proclaimed, "Small Place, Big Taste" -- apparently the restaurant's motto. On our way out, I noticed some ground and whole-bean coffee sold by the bag (16 oz. ground for $6.95), a house blend "Gourmet European Roast Coffee" with the motto on the bag as well. Coffee-lover that I am, I bought one, and it's quite good. It's an all-purpose down-home morning coffee as opposed to French roast and stronger blends like I buy at Starbucks, but it seemed to me to be a cut above the basic grocery-story Maxwell House variety and well worth buying again next time we head for the Korner -- which will be soon. Hope to see you there!

If you go: Korner Restaurant
9177 Mahoning Ave.
North Jackson, Ohio
(330) 538-9963

Open Wednesday through Saturday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. ; closed Monday and Tuesday.