Tuesday, December 9, 2014


The first Beef O’Brady’s opened in Brandon, Florida, in 1985, so the chain isn’t all that new. And although I spent more time than I really wanted to trying to track down how many are in operation today, the best I could do is a report claims there were about 215 franchises in several states as of January 2011. On the downside, I also turned up a report naming the franchise to a list of 11 that posted the highest rates of failure of their federally guaranteed loans used to buy them in the first place. The financial issues may or may not have been resolved by now - and all I know
(or, for that matter, care much about) - is that there’s now one in Cortland. My husband Jack and I drove past a couple of times on our way home from photography outings at Ashtabula Harbor and/or Mosquito Lake State Park before it opened, saying each time that we’d have to stop in for a bite once the place got up and running. That finally happened this past Veterans’ Day, when the place was close to full when we arrived about 1 p.m. The parking lot is smallish and a bit tough to navigate (heaven help those driving vehicles with a wide turning radius), but we got lucky and found an open spot. Ditto with a booth; there might have been one other unoccupied table when we came through the doors.
Turns out there’s a small bar/pub at the back of the place, and it, as well as the main dining area, is nice although with a sort of nondescript decor. Sports memorabilia from the Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers and Lakeview Bulldogs and 12 big-screen TV sets line the walls - most of the latter tuned to sports shows. Once we’d settled in and ordered a couple of beers from what we call the “normal” list - there’s a large number on tap including lots of funky stuff - we began to peruse the menu. And boy, is there ever plenty to peruse, from burgers to flatbreads to ribs and wings and just about anything in between. I gave up and simply gravitated toward items marked as “signature” dishes, and in the end Jack did the same. He picked the fish ‘N’ Chips basket ($10.49), which includes four fried, beer-battered cod fillets with tartar sauce, fries and coleslaw. I was determined to sample the beef, so my choice was the Roast Beef Garlic Melt ($8.79), with sliced onions and provolone cheese pressed on garlic Cuban bread. Fries are standard, by the way, but there are several items, like onion rings and chili, that can be substituted for $1.99 more. We might make a switch on our next visit, but the fries were exceptionally good, so then again, maybe not. When the food arrived, Jack really liked the tasty fish and the coleslaw. Just one bite of my sandwich made my taste buds sing - the beef was exceptionally tender and full of flavor - and with the second bite I realized it’s also the saltiest beef I’ve ever had (this coming from someone who tends to salt restaurant food without even tasting it; thank goodness I hadn’t done it this time out). So although I smacked my lips as I happily ate the whole thing, I told Jack - who’s on a low-sodium diet - that the bite I allowed him to sample probably exceeded his sodium allowance for the week. As it turns out, that’s not too far off; a bit of online research on nutritional values confirmed that the sandwich alone (i.e., without the fries), contains 3,940 mg of sodium. Whew! But flavor? My sandwich definitely had that “wow” factor; just for that alone, I knew we’d be making a return visit; given the sodium content on much of the food, we won’t stop often, though - once every several months will have to do. But because I wanted to write a review, we relaxed our rule a bit and made another trip in early December. Jack stuck with the fish and chips - again with that tasty coleslaw, but I decided a burger might be a good choice. There are about nine on the menu, including a build-your-own version for $7.99, but when I spotted the Amarillo Firecracker at $9.99 - called a “new” item at the time of our visit - I knew it was the perfect choice for me. An Angus burger is topped with bacon, fried jalapenos, pepper jack cheese and sweet jalapeno mayo - be still my pepper-loving heart. All burgers, the menu says, are seasoned with a blend of kosher salt and black pepper (there goes that sodium raising its head again), and they can be ordered medium, medium well (my choice) or well done. Because we loved the fries, we didn’t bother trying a substitute (especially since they all cost an extra two bucks). But we got a big surprise this time out - and not a particularly good one; this time out, the fries were a big disappointment. They were thinner, didn’t seem to have much flavor and, simply put, just weren’t up to par. I, of course, was looking forward to a sandwich filled with the zing of hot peppers. Alas, as far as the firecracker was concerned, I didn’t feel the heat, but I sure felt the love - it was absolutely delicious and cooked perfectly to order. In fact, it was so good I ate the whole thing - very unusual for me. The only suggestion I have is that sandwiches should be served with a sharp knife; even the burgers are too big to pick up whole, and I’m here to tell you that trying to cut a bacon-topped burger in half with a table knife is darned near impossible.

Oh yes, one other thing: I searched both the corporate website and the local restaurant's Facebook page, and while I found the address and phone number, nowhere could I find the hours the place is open (except for the day you happen to check on Facebook). C'mon, guys, it's not fair to force people to call ahead; the only reason I can think of for not posting hours is that they're subject to change with little notice. And that's definitely not a good sign!

If you go:

Beef O’Brady’s
3660 Niles-Cortland Road
Cortland, Ohio 44410
(330) 400-4815

Open for lunch and dinner