Friday, January 25, 2013


Driving south on State Route 46 to Canfield and beyond is a trip my husband Jack and I have made relatively often. And every single time we passed the Kirk Road intersection, we told each other we really should stop at The Manor Restaurant & Banquet Center. Actually, we've eaten there once or twice, but those occasions were so many years ago that we remember absolutely nothing about it.

Not long ago, we finally took the plunge once again. Turns out the "new" Manor began operations in early 2011 - long story, but it's been revamped a bit with more to come. At our first couple of recent visits, for instance, beer was available only in bottles; but by the time you read this - if our server was correct - the tap should be working, spitting out craft beers along with the "regular" stuff.

The interior certainly isn't fancy; there's a spacious bar room and a relatively small dining room with tables, a few booths and lots of windows to keep it airy and sunny. Chairs are black, complementing the black oilcloth table coverings and black linen napkins. For get-togethers and parties, a banquet room accommodates about 100.

There are lists of daily specials as well as a board listing day-of-the-week specials - like wing night on Wednesdays - at the entrance. The menu is large enough to offer something for just about everyone but small enough so it doesn't take an hour to decide.

For openers, I had to try wedding soup, always a favorite of mine ($2.99). From the list of daily specials came my sandwich choice - it was lunchtime - the Smokehouse burger for $7.99. With a smoked hickory wood flavor, it came with smoked Gouda cheese, crisp bacon, mushrooms and hand-cut fries.

Jack skipped an appetizer, going straight for the Manor chicken sandwich ($6.99) on a Kaiser roll and grilled. Flavor choices include lemon pepper, blackened or teriyaki glazed, and he picked the latter. He also substituted a salad with raspberry vinaigrette dressing for the fries, adding $1.59 to the cost.

The wedding soup was outstanding, full of tender and generous chunks of vegetables as well as greens, chicken and those teensy meatballs. At the first spoonful the broth seemed a bit flavorless, but that changed quickly with more bites when I got to the good stuff. My burger was excellent as well - cooked to order (medium) with a wonderful smoky taste.

Jack loved his sandwich, too, and the fact that the teriyaki sauce is served on the side. Our server accidentally brought him fries, but then delivered the salad as ordered. As it turned out, we both loved the fries anyway; they're much like those we used to love at the old Idora Park in Youngstown.

Our next visit came on the way home from a photography outing in Mill Creek Park on an unusually sunny but very cold winter Friday. The place wasn't remotely crowded, so we snagged a booth by one of those windows. From there, we could hear the other couple in the room raving about the food - apparently, this was their first visit. We took that as a good sign that others will like the food here too, although it was more than a little annoying because they monopolized the poor server with questions and a nonstop (and quite loud) conversation. The server, who was the only one on duty, did her best to be polite, but we hate to think how awful it would have been had she had several tables to take care of.

Both of us wanted to try something different this time, and once Jack spied the pulled pork sandwich with Sweet Baby Ray's Original BBQ sauce that was on special at $4.99 (with fries), he knew he'd met his match. I, on the other hand, was in the mood for pasta. The Scappetta, said to be a customer favorite, was my choice $12.99). Made up of crumbled hot Italian sausage, chicken, sweet green peppers and Spanish onions in garlic Madiera wine sauce topped with tomatoes and Peccorino Romano cheese over cavatelli (wow, I'm salivating again as I write this), it sounded wonderful and I figured there'd be enough to bring home for lunch the next day.

I had my choice of either salad or soup. I ruled out the salad, and when I learned that the wedding soup alternate that day was clam chowder, I quickly put dibs on the former even though I'd tried it before. After we'd placed our order, our server brought a small loaf of fresh-baked bread with butter and a small cup of herbed oil for dipping. Oh yeah, we said.

The pulled pork was so plentiful and juicy that the sandwich was impossible to pick up, so Jack just forked out the meat and pronounced it delicious. That pasta, though, is to die for. I could really taste the wine, and the hot sausage has just enough kick to make its presence known but not so spicy that Jack wouldn't be able to eat it (if he liked sausage, but that's another story altogether). In the end, I didn't have as much left over as I'd expected, but there was enough for us to share as a side back at home. 

One positive thing did come out of being subjected to that female diner's conversation, I should add: Although I was trying hard not to eavesdrop (impossible), my ears pricked up when I heard the word "walleye." After that couple had left, I wasted little time asking our server about my favorite fish. Yes, she assured me, it's often on the Friday dinner menu, when fish is the specialty. Haddock, she said, is the big draw, and with customers often lining up outside the building waiting to get some, once in a while they even run out.

To avoid that problem (and be sure walleye is available), she suggested not only calling ahead to check, but making a reservation to be sure you won't miss out. She also emphasized that they go out of their way to accommodate diners' requests, so even if we're there at lunchtime, we shouldn't hesitate to ask for something that's not on the menu.

If you go:

The Manor Restaurant & Banquet Center
3104 S. Canfield-Niles Road
Austintown, Ohio 44515
(330) 318-8060

Open 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m,. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Friday, January 4, 2013


A couple of years back, we spent a wonderful day visiting with friends who live in a suburb of Pittsburgh. Part of the fun included a guided tour of some of the city's sights, like Point State Park at the confluence of the Ohio, Monongahela and Allegheny rivers, the Duquesne Incline and the Strip District on 18th Street. The latter, a mile-long stretch between the Allegheny River and a huge hill, provided us lots of fun searching for goodies in the many shops that sell everything from fresh produce to cookware.

The area also is home to the original Primanti Bros. restaurant, and we were delighted to have lunch at this notable eatery. Since then, our thoughts have returned there but we haven't. Imagine our thrill, then, when our son-in-law told us he'd seen a Primanti Bros. restaurant right across from the outlet mall at Grove City, Pa. Needless to say, we wasted little time getting there. 

The original restaurant got its start in the 1930s, when Joe Primanti opened a cart in the Strip District to sell sandwiches to truckers (or so the website tells me). Since that venture was successful, he opened a small restaurant on 18th Street. When a man brought in a bunch of potatoes to see if they were frozen, the cook - John DePriter, Primanti's nephew - fried them. When customers asked for them, he put them on the sandwiches - marking the birth of the famous Primanti sandwich (more on that later). Along the way several other restaurants were opened, and the company now has 17, mostly around Pittsburgh, and three in Florida.

Most of the locations, including the one in Grove City, sport the rust exterior with hunter green trim. That famous Primanti sandwich, for the record, is an all-inclusive deal: Meat topped with fries, cole slaw and usually a tomato. Back in Pittsburgh, I tried the corned beef and cheese, and it was fabulous.

Here in Grove City, we arrived for lunch and found the place large enough that we could choose a seat either on the restaurant or bar side - as is our custom, we picked the bar. Good thing; it was fairly crowded, and if I recall correctly, ours was the last available table. The walls are covered in Pittsburgh Steelers memorabilia (Cleveland Browns fans that we are, we sucked it up, kept our mouths shut and didn't look up very often). The tables and chairs are wood, there are plenty of TV sets and it was clear this is a fun place - all the other diners seemed to be having a great time.

The menu basically is casual food - lots of sandwiches plus pizza, wings (regular and boneless with 12 sauce choices) and "really big" salads. The latter are a bit on the unique side, such as the Caribbean Chopped Salad, which includes marinated flat-iron grilled chicken breast tossed with roasted peppers, sweet corn, crisp cucumbers, croutons, applewood smoked bacon and farmhouse cheddar cheese with mango vinaigrette dressing for $8.29. There are a few Italian entrees as well - chicken spinach Alfredo and hot sausage al forno, for instance - 

Whatever else I decided on, I knew I'd have to try the Almost Famous Hot Chili Bowl, Pittsburgh style ($3.29). Add cheddar cheese and chopped onion for 49 cents each? Of course! I hesitated before deciding not to get one of those fabulous whole dill pickles for $1.99, but I figured the chili plus a sandwich would be too filling to allow for anything else.

Jack stuck with his favorite sandwich, Sicilian cheesesteak (from the Crostini list, which pretty much means it's served on a hoagie roll). Inside is sliced beef mixed with mushrooms, onion and green pepper, and it's topped with mozzarella cheese, lettuce, tomato and parmesan-horseradish mayonnaise ($7.99) He added a side of cole slaw to top off his meal.

Once again, I hit the "everything is on it" list, but this time I opted for hot sausage and cheese ($6.29 for the original, but for $7.79 you can get double meat). All these sandwiches are served on fresh Italian bread with the slaw, fries, tomatoes and provolone. Onions are added by request, so I asked for them as well.

The chili was excellent, though it had a few too many beans to suit me. There was lots of melted, gooey shredded cheddar on top, so even though it's not a large bowl, it's extremely filling; that and a small salad would be quite sufficient for me as a whole meal.

To be honest, Jack wasn't too fond of the vinegar-based slaw (he much prefers the kind made with mayo). It's shredded but not chopped, so it comes in long strings - no doubt making it stay on the top of a sandwich much more easily. They did not, however, skimp on the quantity - too bad he didn't like it all that well because it almost could have made a meal in and of itself. The sandwich itself, though, he absolutely loved, especially the horseradish sauce.

I'm not a big fan of that slaw either, so I ended up taking much of it off my sandwich. Besides that, I've got a really small mouth (just ask my dentist), so trying to get my teeth around a nearly 7-inch-high sandwich was virtually impossible until I removed a few things. Once some of the slaw was gone and I pulled out some fries to eat the regular way with ketchup, I was able, though barely, to get what was left in my mouth.

It was quite good, although I probably will choose double meat next time. The sausage patty was great, but all that other stuff on top was so overwhelming that I hardly could taste it. Both sandwiches were large enough to be cut in half, making it easy for both of us to bring half home (they're way too big for us to polish off in one meal, especially lunch). Next time, though, I'm planning to try that Caribbean salad - if I can get them to leave out those nasty cucumbers, that is.

If you go:

Primanti Bros. Restaurant & Bar
Leesburg-Grove City Road (PA 208 at I-79)
Grove City, PA 16127
(724) 748-9955

Open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday; Sunday from 11 a.m. to midnight.