That said, we've spent a few happy occasions at their banquet facility on State Route 46 (just beyond the Trumbull County line in Austintown Township). The band in which our son-in-law Jerry plays bass entertained there on several occasions, our daughter Chris hosted her hubby's never-mind-which birthday party there, and it was the site for the wonderful 50th anniversary Chris, Jerry, our son Scott, his wife Lilla and Lilla's Mum, Sheila, planned for us.
Now, the restaurant that was on Mahoning Avenue for 10 years or so is no more and the building was for sale the last time we drove by; the restaurant has been moved to the same building as the banquet center. The new facility is slightly smaller, but the same chefs and staff remain. The move, owners said, was made in part to cash in on the new racino that will be opening just up the road.
We got the first taste of the new digs during a two-day open house, where hors d'ouvres and a cash bar were offered at $5 per person. That day, we were accompanied by Niles friends Jerry and Barb; and we loved it so much that we returned the following day (after asking if it was permissible to go back for seconds, of course). Both days, we were able to see the new restaurant and enjoy samples of wonderful foods like flatbreads, hot peppers in oil, mini-sandwiches and much more. Oh yes, we agreed - we'll definitely come back for lunch and/or dinner.
Our first return happened about 12:45 p.m. on a sunny late fall day, again accompanied by friends Jerry and Barb. That late in the day, we could choose where we wanted to sit; the tables in the bar area just inside the restaurant entrance are very high and the chairs have backs - our aging backs just can't handle stools any more - but we still opted for the more private dining room this time out. The decor is relaxing, with trees painted on the walls for a very relaxing atmosphere. It's not a large room, but the the decor gives it a much larger feel.
Specials vary by the day, and there's almost always something that sounds appealing. I started with a cup of the potato and roasted red pepper soup ($3), which was outstanding. I've had and enjoyed so-called stuffed pepper soup before, but this was quite different, with chunks of potato and red pepper bits - and absolutely, I accepted our server's offer of fresh ground black pepper.
The blackened chicken sandwich called my name at first - boneless breast Cajun-grilled topped with mozzarella, sauteed hot peppers, fried onion straws and roasted red pepper remoulade on a toasted brioche bun ($9). But then I spotted the corned beef reuben sandwich on that specials list - layered with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing on rye bread ($8). For my side, I picked bowtie pasta with marinara sauce. Both the 'wich and pasta were delicious, and the sandwich was large enough that I brought half of it home.
Jerry wanted to try the Cuban sandwich: pulled pork, salami, ham, melted cheese, pickles, garlic-yellow mustard mayonnaise and dill pickles on a 6-inch Cuban hoagie roll ($7). One bite and he decided he'd come back just to get it again. The fries here are quite good as well -- and this coming from four people who aren't big French fry lovers.
Jack, meanwhile, chose tuna salad on mini-croissants ($7) and the bowtie pasta. Good? Well, he ate every single crumb, noting that the minis were much easier to eat than trying to pick up an whole croissant. Barb, who loves lamg, got the Lamb Gyra flatbread with meat, Tzatziki sauce, diced tomatoes, red onion and feta cheese ($9). Even though it was cut into squares, the flatbread was very soft and hard to pick up without folding in on itself, but she deemed it delicious and said she'd definitely try it again.
Our second official visit was at lunch once again - dinner prices, generally speaking, are in the $15-and-up range, making this still a special-occasion-only place for us. We arrived a little before 1 p.m. a couple of weeks before Christmas and found several cars - turns out a group of elderly ladies were enjoying a holiday get-together. This time, Christmas music was playing in the background, and the "trees" on the walls were decked out in holiday finery.
This time, it was just the two of us, and once again, I went for a lunch special. Remember that blackened chicken sandwich? Yep, this time it was mine, and once again I picked the bow-tie pasta with marinara for my side. Jack really likes the flatbreads, looking first at the chicken tzatziki with diced tomatoes, red onions and feta cheese. In the end, he stuck with his always favorite Philly cheesesteak with bell peppers, caramalized onions and garlic and Swiss-American cheese ($10).
The pasta sauce is quite tasty, by the way - on the pinkish side and mild, but I jazzed it up with hot pepper seeds and sprinkle cheese. There was plenty of it (for a side), but I managed to get most of it down as well as my delicious sandwich and Jack polished off the rest. His flatbread was excellent as well, and it was large enough that he brought most of it home for later.
One day we plan to try the Sunday brunch here, served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It's not a buffet, but rather half a dozen (at least) menu items like steak and eggs, chicken and waffles, a BLT wrap and an egg-and-hot-pepper sandwich ranging from around $6 to $16.50 for a full order of those chicken and waffles. Everything sounds great - and based on our experiences here, we're sure it will be.
If you go:
THE FIFTH SEASON RESTAURANT
1404 N. Canfield Niles Road
Mineral Ridge, Ohio 44440
Open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday.