Thursday, March 24, 2011


Trying to pinpoint the type of cuisine at Selah Restaurant is like trying to lump animals in a zoo into a single category. The food at this Struthers, Ohio, eatery might best be described as eclectic -- perhaps reflecting, as least in part, the fact that one owner is Chinese and the other is Italian. But diners here will find many other ethnic influences here, from Mediterranean to French to plain old US of A.

Our first visit came some time ago, when we were delighted to receive a gift certificate -- this is a place we'd been wanting to visit, but since Struthers is a bit out of our usual shopping, errand-running and photography outing territories, we hadn't made a special trip. But now, we had a special reason, so we gathered a couple of friends who were more than willing to tag along. And as it turned out, it was a wonderful experience that would bear repeating.

I will say at the outset that Selah is not inexpensive, especially if you indulge in alcoholic beverages and appetizers; dinner entrees here run in the $9 to $18 range, and very few wines are available by the glass (beer and mixed drinks, though, are quite reasonable). But for those looking for a quiet, relaxing dining experience in interesting surroundings, this is a great place.

The surroundings begin with the building itself; an old bank that's been converted to house restaurant fixin's, the owners have kept brass teller cages, a walk-in vault (with seating) and original photography. There's an onsite bakery that emanates tempting aromas, and dark wood throughout adds a pleasant, comfortable feel to the overall ambience.

When we first visited, I didn't do much information gathering, but I
do remember that we shared a couple of appetizers to start, one of which was stuffed grape leaves with feta cheese ($4.75), that were delicious. For entrees, three of us settled on one of the daily specials -- my choice was salmon -- and here, too, we smacked our lips over just about every bite and vowed to make a return trip.

That happened recently, and once again we saved some serious cash by taking advantage of a discount coupon from If you haven't signed up at Groupon, by the way, it can pay off; the Young
stown area is now represented (although the folks at Groupon seem to think that Grove City and New Castle, Pa., qualify even though they're way too far away for us to consider going there with any regularity whatsoever).

That said, we decided to go to Selah on a Friday night, but we called ahead for a reservation. I doubt reservations would have been necessary; although
there was a rather large party in the vault room, only a couple of tables were occupied in the main dining area when we arrived for our 6:30 p.m. "appointment." Still, this is a popular place, so I recommend making reservations if you don't like to wait.

Especially given our discount coupons, we decided to go whole hog, so to speak, ordering two appetizers to share. One was the stuffed grape leaves (now $5) and the other marinated shrimp and avocado with tomato-citrus drizzle for $6.50.

As is the custom when we dine with our friends Jerry and Barb, we ea
ch try to order something different so we can sample. Here, we had no problem, since each of us had a difficult time choosing which entree would satisfy most -- just too many tempting items on the menu. In the end, I chose Tilapia Francaise ($12.75), my husband Jack decided on Bourbon Beef Tips ($16.75), Jerry opted for Coq au Vin ($13.50) and Barb's choice was The Devonshire ($17.75). All entrees come with a house salad, one side dish and fresh-baked rolls.

Our salads arrived before the appetizers did, not that we cared a whit. We love the house balsamic dressing, which topped a nice combination of field greens, tomato, black olives and feta -- a very tasty way to start a meal. The appetizers were wonderful as well; we knew we loved the grape leaves from our
first visit here, but we were exceptionally pleased with the plate of warm shrimp contrasted by cool slices of avocado (the drizzle, whatever it was, was delicious as well).

Side-dish choices include redskin potatoes with roasted red peppers, slow-cooked wild rice in chicken stock, garlic mashed potatoes with roasted garlic, sweet potato fries and a vegetable of the day. Two of
us chose the wild rice, but when our entrees were delivered, our server told us that the rice wasn't fully cooked yet and so they'd given us a temporary substitute of the garlic mashed potatoes (with a promise of delivery of the rice when it was ready).

That was a nice gesture, although personally I'd have preferred to be told that the rice wasn't available up front so I could have canceled
my rice order and picked the substitute I wanted to go with my meal (I'd have chosen the redskin potatoes, which I'd almost picked over the rice anyway). The garlic mashed potatoes were good and quite filling, which turned out to be a bit of a problem since the rice wasn't ready until we'd all finished our meals. By then, we had no room left for the rice except for a few bites. It was quite tasty, though, so we took most of it home and definitely will try it again next time we're here.

Still another slight frustration was that we didn't get the fresh rolls as indicated on the menu; however, once we inquired about them, a basket was delivered immediately (with a tub of butter and a wonderful olive tapenade consisting of, if my taste buds are correct, very finely chopped olives, capers, anchovies and olive oil). We polished off all four in short order, and a second basket appeared as if by magic.

The entrees were absolutely wonderful -- not a complaint among us. By way of description, Barb's Devonshire is a seared steak with portobello mushrooms, onions and spinach deglazed with fresh cream -- sounds tantalizing, doesn't it? Jerry's Coq au Vin was chicken with Potrobellos and roasted red peppers finished with a red wine reduction, and it was outstanding.

I'd waffled between the Citrus Pan-Roasted Salmon, seared wild Alaskan Sockeye with a citrus-garlic marinade and the Tilapia Francaise. I loved the tilapia, but I think next time we're here I'll try the salmon. Jack also loved the Bourbon Beef Tips, which are deglazed with Kentucky bourbon sauce. I tried them and agree the flavor is delightful, but since he ordered them in his usual well done style, they were way too overdone and tough for my medium rare taste.

Admittedly, we had no room left for dessert - a disappointment given the choices (I noticed what appeared to be creme brulee in the glass case near the entrance as we went in, a special favorite of mine). For the record, whole cheesecakes and other cakes, cupcakes and tortes are sold at the onsite bakery, as are bags of Selah's own whole bean and ground coffees.

Ah well, there's always next time!

If you go: Selah Restaurant
130 S. Bridge St.
Struthers, Ohio 44471
(330) 755-2759

Open Tuesday and Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; closed Sunday and Monday

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Readers who follow this blog know by now that my early years -- from birth till I left for Kent State University in 1959 -- were spent on a small farm in southwestern Ohio. With a stay-at-home, but hard-working, mother who loved to cook mostly from scratch, the eating was delicious. And, the craving for "down-home" cooking never went away, even as the times changed and eating out became almost more common than spending time whipping up goodies in my own kitchen.

Once in a while, though, I'm able to have it both ways: Eat out and eat good ol' country fare. One of my favorite places to do that is the Hartville Kitchen in Hartville, Ohio -- ironically, not far from the city of Kent, where I spent the first two years of my college life (the rest of the years came after our kids were in school).

The restaurant started in 1966 as a small restaurant, but it's since grown to become a complex of businesses that include a gift shop, home decor gallery, Hartville MarketPlace and Flea Market, a hardware shop and a tool shop (in other words, if you visit, plan to stay awhile). Over all those years, though, the restaurant has remained family owned, and the original Mennonite heritage also remains a constant, as evidenced by the wonderful food.

As you might expect, the menu is quite extensive -- and the waiting lines to get in the dining room can be quite long as well. The restaurant is good-sized, though, so the line usually moves rather quickly; still, I recommend timing your visit at other than peak mealtime hours.

My husband Jack and friends Jerry and Barb did exactly that not long ago, arriving fashionably late for lunch (or early for dinner, take your pick). Even then, there were quite a few ahead of us -- and a tour bus arrived shortly after that. This complex is a popular destination, especially for senior citizens, so it's not unusual to see a bus or two in the parking lot.

In fact, we, too, decided to do a little poking around in the gift shop and looking at all the interesting and unique wall hangings (many of which are for sale) before we got in line. In the process, I found a couple of items I thought would be terrific gifts, so I filed these away to pick up after we ate. If you're interested in gifts as well, be sure to visit the upper level, which has many other possibilities including larger items such as framed paintings and furniture -- all in keeping with the country theme, of course.

it's great to buy goodies like whole pies, homemade noodles and breads to take back home, the stick-to-your-ribs food served in the restaurant arguably is the big draw here. Since there were four of us, we decided to make the most of our visit by trying four different things. Three of us opted for sandwiches but added tossed salads, which arrived first -- nicely chopped greens, which I love. In addition, equally finely chopped carrots, tomato and celery are in there, and the dressings -- raspberry sweet 'n' sour and blue cheese were our choices -- were outstanding.

Our friend Jerry also wanted to try some soup, choosing broccoli-cheese (vegetable beef and chicken noodle also are on the everyday menu), getting a cup for $2.35. It was very creamy and -- surprise -- includes noodles,
making for a very satisfying meal starter.

Jack's pick was from the Hot Sandwiches list, the roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy for $7.80. I almost went for the creamed chicken with mixed vegetables over biscuits and mashed potatoes, also $7.80; I've had it before and it's quite good. I should mention that these two, plus a roast pork with mashed potatoes and gravy, are available in half-order portions for $6.80. For that matter, all dinners are available a la carte, such as one piece of chicken, a side dish, etc.

Now for the rest of us: I tend to judge down-home cookin' by the quality of the fried chicken, so it was a no-brainer for me. I went big with three pi
eces of dark, my favorite -- a thigh, wing and drumstick for $10.50. White or wheat rolls come with all entrees, and I could choose three sides. One, of course, was a tossed salad; for the others, I picked mashed potatoes and gravy and cottage cheese. Other notable choices include macaroni and cheese, green beans, cole slaw, applesauce, Jell-O and sweet potato casserole.

The mashed potatoes are very real, and very good, and the fried chicken has a tasty breading that won't break your teeth. Jack's open-face roast beef sandwich was as delicious as he'd remembered from the last time we were here. Both Barb and Jerry looked at the sandwich list, choosing tuna salad ($5.90) and chicken salad ($4.50), respectively. Both were quite satisfied, especially when the salads and soup were factored in.

One of the don't-miss specialties here, though, are the homemade pies -- close to 20 varieties, plus no-sugar-added versions of cherry and apple. Keep in mind all four of us were stuffed to almost overflowing; that three of us ordered pie on top of all that is a testament to how good it is.

All of us did, that is, except Jack; he broke tradition by ordering a warm, gooey hot fudge brownie sundae ($3.49), making us almost sorry we'd pic
ked the pie. For chocolate-lovers, though, this one is a must-try.

Those of us who did go with pie, which is $2.89 per generous slice, went with ice cream added, bumping the cost to $3.89. Not long after we placed our orders with our friendly server, she delivered a piece of coconut cream, black raspberry and vanilla peanut butter.

The crusts buttery and rather dense, but with a good flavor and consistency. The coconut flavor was quite evident but not overwhelming in my cream pie, and Jerry's raspberry filling wasn't overly sweet (yes, we all sampled each
other's). Barb's vanilla peanut butter, though, was nothing like we'd expected, with the flavors blended together in a single cream filling. Instead, vanilla and peanut butter creams were layered, and the whole thing was topped with a soft meringue -- nothing short of totally decadent!

Needless to say, we stopped at the bakery to get a couple of whole p
ies to go -- the most expensive on the list, black raspberry (baked or cream) is $9.99, but most are a reasonable $8.50. And yes, I popped back into the gift shop to buy the treasures I'd found earlier (but until I pass them on to the recipients, exactly what I bought will remain my secret)!

If you go:
Hartville Kitchen
1015 Edison St.
Hartville, Ohio 44632
(330) 877-9353

Open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Closed Wednesday and Sunday.