Friday, August 16, 2013


Just one bite was all it took. The minute I sank my teeth into "The Russo" at StoneBridge Grille & Tavern some three years ago, I added it to my Top 5 all-time sandwich favorites list - and that's where it's remained ever since. What's in it, you ask? Well, it goes something like this: Scrambled eggs, sweet and hot peppers, chopped pepperoni, melted provolone cheese and mayo on grilled Italian bread ($7.69). The bread is crunchy and buttery, and those hot peppers added just the right amount of pizzazz.

Admittedly, my husband Jack and I don't get to Boardman all that much, and when we do, it's usually because we've driven all the way through Mill Creek Park from the Velma and D.D. Davis Visitor Center to U.S. Route 224. More often than not, it's somewhere around lunchtime and we're hungry; our first stop here was when we turned toward Canfield to go to the White House Fruit Farm and noticed that StoneBridge had replaced an old favorite sandwich place, Rockne's, and decided to give it a go.

StoneBridge, for the record, is locally owned; everything is made from scratch, or so the Web site says (and based on our visits, we have no reason to doubt that claim). There's a banquet/conference room that can accommodate up to 45 complete with a gas log fireplace and large-screen TV, and the restaurant has free WiFi.

Inside, there's a restaurant side and a bar side, and we always choose the latter. The dark wood is offset by windows that let the sunshine in, and the booths are very comfortable and maintain a secluded feel. Several beers are on tap including some of our favorites, giving us something to sip while we check out the daily specials. 

Although we're here for lunch, we always look longingly at the entrees - in my case, that's always seafood like Haddock Francaise ($15.99), Sesame Seared Ahi Tuna with Jasmine rice, Asian slaw and an Aioli drizzle ($18.99) and grilled Wild Caught Mahi-Mahi that can be ordered blackened ($16.99). Veal lovers should be happy here too, with a couple of choices that sound good even though it's not my meat of choice. 

Several pasta entrees are on the menu as well, as are grilled beef delicacies including a center cut filet, ribeye and 14-ounce New York strip. Love salads? You'll find 10 here, so there's something for everyone (more on that later). If you can't decide on an appetizer, you might try the sampler ($13.99) with stuffed peppers, hand-breaded fried Provolone, Italian greens, hot peppers & oil, pita bread and homemade pomodoro sauce. Quite honestly, that would make more than enough to satisfy the two of us for lunch.

If for no other reason than to delay our decision, we ordered a chicken quesadilla appetizer ($8.99) with cheddar jack, tomatoes and scallions with salsa and sour cream the first time we came. It was quite tasty -- nice and hot with lots of melted chees and cut into six good-size wedges. Jack doesn't care much for salsa, and in this case it was a good thing he didn't take a taste; it was packed with enough hot pepper punch to knock him cold (I, of course, loved it).

On our most recent stop, we both went for the half-sandwich and soup, salad or side combo ($8.49) - something we've done before. All the sandwiches marked with the SB logo are included - six in all. My usual choice is the Reuben, and Jack's is the Philly steak. Once I ordered the shaved turkey, with roasted red pepper Aioli, roasted tomatoes, Provolone and argula on multigrain bread, and it's temped me ever since.

We part company with the side, though; I'm a fan of wedding soup, and he absolutely loves the fabulous strawberry vinaigrette dressing here so he picks a salad. I agree that dressing is the best I've ever had; deep pink in color and an amazing fresh strawberry flavor. He's also had the lobster bisque and deemed it outstanding, but that's more appealing in cold winter months.

The wedding soup is quite good, although I've had better elsewhere (I pined for the wedding soup we used to get at the old Niki'z in Niles for years after it closed. Now that it's reopened on Mason Street, I've been nagging owner Nick Logan to bring it back). Here, the generous size cup includes lots of shredded chicken, meatballs, assorted veggies and greens, but the broth flavor is a bit lackluster. 

As for the sandwiches, the half versions probably aren't large enough to satisfy a medium-sized football player, but coupled with the soup, they always fill us up just fine. The Philly steak was good, and my shaved turkey was piled high. But the whole versions - like my favorite Russo and another of Jack's favorites that was a daily special, an open-face roast beef with mashed potatoes and pan gravy on toasted Italian bread ($8.99 at the time) - are guaranteed to satisfy even the biggest appetite.

Ah, now I've gone and done it; my taste buds are tingling at the mere thought of that Russo as I write this. Methinks we'll have to take another drive through the park a little sooner than we'd planned!

If you go:

StoneBridge Grille & Tavern
1497 Boardman-Canfield Road
Boardman, Ohio 44512
(330) 629-8040

Kitchen open Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Reservations accepted.