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