Thursday, February 10, 2011


Being a cheapskate has its benefits, and never is that more true than when my husband Jack and I are looking for a good place to eat. One day a year or so ago, we'd been on a late-morning photography expedition in Beaver Creek State Park near Lisbon, Ohio, and by the time we were making our way back home, it was way past the usual lunch hour and we were starving.

Nearing Salem, we considered stopping at one of our favorite places, BB Rooners, but on a whim I pulled out the envelope I keep in my purse that's filled with discount coupons for local eateries -- some from that year's Entertainment Book and others I snip from newspapers and advertising supplements. In it was a coupon good for $5 off a $25 purchase at a place we've seen often but never been in -- Ricky's English Pub.

With its latticework on the exterior, it really does remind me of what I'd think an English pub would look like. The reason we've not gone in, I suspect
, is we figured it would be a fancy-schmancy (read: expensive), sit-down restaurant that's much more formal than we like, especially for lunch. Our coupon, though, gave us the confidence that even if the prices were a bit on the high side, we'd be able to fill up without emptying the piggy bank.

In fact, the interior is quite homey and comfortable
-- and once again, the English pub influence is evident. The tables all have white linen cloths, and there's lots of dark wood and soft lighting. And surprise: The prices are quite reasonable, with several entrees in the $10.99 or less range.

Once we looked at the menu (and realized we wouldn't blow the
budget here), Jack decided to sample a cup of lobster bisque ($3.50 at the time but now $4), and because this was our first time here and decision-making is tough, we ordered the appetizer sampler to share. At $7.50, it's loaded with onion rings, breaded mushrooms, mozzarella sticks and olives -- all of which, I hasten to add, are delicious. While we were waiting, we both enjoyed a glass of cold beer (that's Jack at the left).

There's an extensive, and very tempting, list of salads, ranging
from simple mixed greens to grilled salmon Caesar to a grilled chicken and strawberry with candied walnuts and feta cheese (the latter is $9.99, but it's got my name written all over it for a later visit). Today, though, we settled on a couple of sandwiches.

The two we picked -- shaved-beef Philly steak with grilled onions, peppers and cheese ($6.95) and the batter-dipped cod "Prince of Whales" fish sandwich at $8.50 (which, trust me, lived up to the name in size) aren't on the latest menu. But I'm guessing the "regular" fish sandwich, also priced at $8.50, is much the same, though perhaps a bit smaller in a nod to the need of most restaurants to cut back a bit on portion side in light of the horrible economy.

Both sandwiches were accompanied by steak fries, which were wond
erfully tender and tasty.

We didn't get back to the Salem area for several months, but when we did, the decision to visit Ricky's again was a no-brainer. At about 12:30 p.m. on a weekday it wasn't crowded, but there were several people in there since still lunchtime. The first thing we noticed on table this time is a two-page menu of martinis of
all kinds and flavors. I've gone on record before by saying I don't consider anything except gin (or vodka), a touch of vermouth and a lime or onion garnish to be a martini, but all these fruity concoctions sure sounded wonderful whatever they're called.

There's a short list of daily specials, such as a shrimp basket and fries for $7. Once again, we had one of those spend $25, get $5 off coupons, so once again, we needed to get a couple of appetizers to make it past the $25. There are many from which to choose -- some on the more unusual side like breaded Asiago olives for $3.95 and breaded dill pickle spears for $4.25.

Our choices, though, were the jumbo crabmeat-stuffed mushrooms for Jack -- three for $6.95 -- and fried banana peppers with marinara sauce for $5.75 for me. For entrees, we wanted the English flavor, choosing from a list of five distinctly English pub-like specialties like Shepherd's pie ($8.99) and Guinness Fish & Chips ($10.99). Ultimately, I couldn't resist trying Bangers & Mash, or sausage and mashed potatoes, for $7.99. Jack wasn't too hungry (and figured his appetizer would fill him up anyway), so he ordered the Welsh Rarebit, or cheese sauce over toast ($6.95)

Both entrees came with salads, and we chose our favorite ranch and
thousand island (me and him, respectively).

The appetizers arrived first, and the first thing we concluded was that Jack was right to stick with a smaller entree. The mushrooms can't be called anything but huge -- 4 to 5 inches in diameter -- and stuffed to overflowing with crabmeat and served with a side of melted butter. My banana peppers,
though, were a bit of a surprise; the peppers are lightly breaded and fried, then topped with a huge mound of chunky, slightly sweet marinara sauce.

The peppers are quite delicious, and if I scraped off the sauce, I could taste the zing of heat from them. In a perfect world, I prefer the peppers with sauce on the side (or no sauce at all), but that didn't keep me from scarfing down every single one of these babies.

Our salad bowls were filled with crisp greens plus tomato, cucumber, onion and shredded carrots. Nothing out of the ordinary, mind you, but the dressings were quite tasty and we enjoyed them immensely.

Then came the entrees, which kept us both busy for a while. My bangers turned out to be two very large kielbasa-style sausages (very spicy, just as I like them), and the mashed redskins were served in a ramekin. Given the appetizer I'd consumed earlier, I
had room for only one banger, bringing the other and some of the potatoes -- along with one of those huge stuffed mushrooms -- home to eat later.

Meantime, Jack really liked the Welsh Rarebit, making it a point to mention that it should be relatively easy to make back in our own kitchen (with a knowing wink at me, of course). He also made it a point to do his eating English-style, cutting with the fork in his left hand and not transferring it to the right to bring it to his mouth as we do here across the Pond.

If you go: Ricky's English Pub
151 E. State St.
Salem, Ohio 44460
(330) 332-2825

Open Monday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.; closed Sundays.