Friday, February 22, 2013
Updated 12/21/13: Just got word from Art Byrd that this place has closed. Too bad - best sauce I've had in a long time!
When someone offers a tip on a great place to eat, I pay attention. When it comes from Art Byrd - producer of the Byrd's Eye View entertainment enewsletter who named Guy's Award-Winning BBQ as his favorite place for barbecue - I get there as fast as I can. So in short order after learning that, that my husband Jack and I, accompanied by a couple of hungry friends, got in the car and headed to the place.
At the outset, I'll point out that Guy's primarily is a take-out place. There are a couple of tables - it's located in a shopping plaza - but hardly anyone actually eats there. We didn't, either; like most folks, we placed our orders and hung around one of the tables while we waited (which wasn't for very long). Then, armed with boxes, we hurried back to our house to chow down. Luckily, we don't live very far away - the wonderful smells emanating from those boxes were extremely difficult to resist.
Even though we'd checked out the menu online, it took us a while to decide on what we wanted - mostly because we wanted to try everything. Having four of us made that a bit easier, since we could get different things and share. The ribs and chicken meals are done in the sweet BBQ sauce, and wings can be purchased (12 for $7.80) in any of the sauce flavors, like Hot BBQ and sugarless Smokey Garlic - the two we picked.
Although the emphasis here is on ribs, chicken dinners are available as well (and fish dinners like catfish and talapia are sold on Fridays). We thought about chicken dinners, but only for a second; we were here for those ribs (and anyway, we'd decided to try the chicken in the form of appendages).
Three of us ordered the five-rib dinners ($12.99 each), which come with two sides and Texas toast, while Jack opted for a boneless rib sandwich with one side ($6.99). Since our ribs are all alike (ribs and chicken meals are done in a very tasty sweet BBQ sauce), we made sure to try various sides: Mac and cheese (Jack), greens and potato salad (our friends Jerry and Barb) and potato salad and baked beans (me). Everything is neatly packaged in take-out containers with lids, so there's no fuss, no muss.
That is, until you start to eat. I dare anyone, in fact, to dig into either ribs or wings here without ending up with reddish spots all over your face and fingers. Somehow, to everyone else's delight, I even managed to get one on the end of my nose (and a couple on my sweatshirt - a word to the wise to use plenty of napkins).
Once we'd spread out all our goodies on the table, rounded up those requisite napkins and poured the equally requisite beers, we took a deep breath and got started. After a single bite, all three of us ribsters said - almost in unison - that these are the best we've ever had, bar none. They're not only among the biggest and most tender (the meat almost falls off the bones), but the thick, sweet sauce is absolutely delectable. We groaned - in a good way - and licked our fingers all the way to done.
Jack, meanwhile, loved the sauce, but his sandwich bun was so overflowing with meat that it was impossible to pick up. As for the sides, the mac and cheese was singularly unimpressive, but we all liked the potato salad and baked beans. Barb really liked the greens - Southern-style turnip greens, the cook back at the restaurant told us - with a touch of sauce that added a bit of a zing. The Texas toast made a perfect accompaniment.
We had so much else to eat that we couldn't come close to finishing the wings, but they, too, are large and meaty. The Hot BBQ sauce isn't - not a single complaint from any of the other three folks who don't like it hot. I expected (and would have preferred) something with more of a kick, but I agree this is delicious. So, too, is the sugarless smokey garlic; the smokey flavor comes through loud and clear, and you'd never, ever suspect it's sugarless.
If You Go:
Guy's Award-Winning BBQ
2545 Belmont Ave.
Youngstown, Ohio 44505
Open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday; noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Friday, February 8, 2013
So-called "special events" at wineries dropped off our radar after two terrible experiences at one that was a favorite place for hanging out on sunny weekends, whether just with my husband Jack or with friends we dragged along just for the fun of it. But our ardor cooled quickly when things didn't go at all well from a paying customer standpoint - and we haven't been back since.
A couple of months ago, though, my husband Jack and I stopped at Halliday's Winery in Lake Milton (it overlooks the lake) to sample a few of the wines. On a typical day, we wouldn't call it a restaurant - there are a few appetizers, paninis and salads, but it's not a place where you can have a full meal. But as we sipped our wine and shared a delicious tomato and basil bruschetta appetizer (grape tomatoes and red sweet onions tossed in balsamic and olive oil and topped with sharp shredded asiago cheese on a ciabatta roll), we noticed flyers announcing a wild game dinner on Feb. 2.
Very interesting, we said, bringing one home. After checking in with our Niles friends Jerry and Barb, who agreed it sounded like fun, we called and made reservations. At $25 a person, we considered the price quite reasonable, especially given the rather extensive menu to which other items were said to be added closer to the event. We did joke that since it would take place on Groundhog Day, we hoped one of Punxsutawney Phil's relatives wouldn't be among the selections, but we weren't very worried.
The winery, which opened last August and is owned by brothers Ron and Mike Birchak (they also own the nearby Olde Dutch Mill golf course), is a great place to relax, especially in warmer months. There's a beautiful view of Lake Milton, and the interior tables are covered in old-time "photos." Windows offer great views if the weather is less than perfect, and a gift shop serves up delicious-looking jams and other goodies.
The winery got its name from Jesse Halliday, who was born in 1774 and was Milton Township's first entrepreneur, or so the winery's website says. He built a grist mill not far from the winery and reportedly was the first township resident to use the Mahoning River for commercial purposes. Each of the winery's signature wines - three white and three red - is named in honor of the area's history - Jesse's Red and Pricetown Original, for instance.
For the record - and the reason for this review - is that other special events are in the works. As I write this, "Sweet Valentine" and St. Patrick's Day weekends are in the works (Feb. 14 to 17 and March 15 to 17, respectively), and we were told other special dinners will be scheduled as well.
When the day of the wild game dinner arrived, we were happy to learn that old Phil didn't see his shadow that morning, but it may have been with good reason: the skies were totally white as the snow started to fall, picking up some serious steam just about the time we were ready to leave and giving us more than a few concerns about getting there and back safely. But take off we did, and boy, are we glad!
We'd decided to arrive close to the start of a special happy hour, when wines and select other drinks would be buy one, get one free (beverages were not included in the $25 dinner price). Wines by the glass here are in the $6 to $7 range, so my husband Jack and I figured we could have four glasses for the price of two, buying the last two right before happy hour ended so we'd have a glass to accompany our meal. I'm happy to say the plan worked beautifully; I enjoyed my favorite Riesling, while Jack tried both the blackberry and honey peach homemade Sangria.
We called ahead of time to make sure the event would take place as scheduled, and the answer was a resounding yes. In fact, we learned, it was sold out and they'd had to add extra tables. When we arrived, the entire tasting room was filled with tables (reserved with the names of ticket holders). Around the sides of the room near the windows were tables that would hold the various food stations as well as tables holding an impressive array of items and baskets that were to be sold at silent auction. Later in the evening, there would be live music - but given the weather conditions, we didn't plan to hang around that long.
The early menu had us salivating from the git-go: Bacon-wrapped duck, venison lasagna, smoked goose, goose reuben casserole and wild mushroom and squirrel soup (well, we were a little skittish about that squirrel soup). With the promise of more, we figured we wouldn't go hungry.
As happy hour began, we got an unexpected surprise: tray after tray of hors d'oeuvres ranging from Swiss and cheddar cubes to salmon spread and crackers to dough folded over much like peroghies and filled with squirrel to walleye sushi, elk- and duck-stuffed quiche (and a wasabi sauce that had to be the hottest, and most delicious, I've ever had the pleasure of eating). Our favorite, we decided, was the cream cheese roll-ups that were wrapped not in the usual soft taco and sliced, but rather in goose "proscuitto" with a bit of fresh green onion in the center. Fabulous!
In fact, we ate way too much of this stuff; by the time the entrees were set up, we could have gone home quite satisfied. The soup course came next, served at the tables. Doing it this way seemed to us a good idea; having to dodge hordes of people carrying bowls in very close quarters could have ended up a total disaster. The first was wild mushroom, which was quite tasty. My choice, though, was the next: Antelope chili. The meat was very tender, the chili much the same as "regular" chili, and the whole thing was topped with shredded cheese and a dab of what appeared to be sour cream.
Then it was time to drag our already bloated bodies up out of our chairs to get to the entrees, most of which we'd noted on the advance menu. The only disappointment, if you can call it that, was the goose reuben casserole - it wasn't much to honk about. The venison lasagna was unusual and very tasty - venison and sauce inside round lasagna noodles maybe 3 inches in diameter with sauce and ricotta. We also loved the elk meatballs, each topped with a roasted red pepper and cheese. The thin slices of duck breast got mixed reviews - two of us thought it was great and the other two didn't share our enthusiasm.
At the end, they brought out trays filled with pastry wedges topped with chopped apples and deer bacon. It didn't sound like such an appealing combination, but in fact (except for the pastry part, which none of us liked), it was surprisingly tasty.
If you go:
2400 N.E. River Road
Lake Milton, Ohio 44429
Open from noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; noon to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Closed on Mondays.