Sunday, February 22, 2015


Ever since my official retirement a good 10 years ago, going out for lunch with my husband Jack has been a favorite way to spend time away from home. Now that we’re older and neither travel as far or as often after dark, these outings have become even more special - but these days, we tend to stay closer to home. We’re always up for a new place, of course, but over the years we’ve always had one or two spots where, to borrow from Cheers, everybody knows our name, the cost of the food doesn’t require the selling of our firstborn son and the beer is cold (and better still, served in a frosty mug).

Generally speaking, chain restaurants like Applebee’s and Buffalo Wild Wings - while we do enjoy them - just don’t qualify on all those counts (mostly, they're just too expensive for a quick in-and-out lunch). In the many years we lived in Niles, Ohio, we were happy to be regulars at places like the Olde Main Ale & Chowder House and Silver Nugget (neither of which is still in operation) and, in more recent years, Gasoline Alley, which has just about the best wings and burgers anywhere. Now that we’re residents of Mineral Ridge, our closest-to-home haunt is Mousie’s Ice House Inn just up the road in Austintown. 

And now, thanks to a tip from our Niles friends Jerry and Barb, we’ve been hitting this place with some degree of regularity. Initially, we stopped because we enjoy an occasional hot dog (love the Jib Jab in Girard and Hot Dog Shoppe in Warren) and wanted to see how this place compares. What we found is a neat little eatery to which we’ve returned many times simply because we’ve been made to feel welcome (and the icy cold beer on tap sure doesn’t hurt).

The decor is mostly red and black, and Ohio State Buckeyes’ fans will love all the “stuff” hanging on the walls. There’s a counter for ordering and a section of booths; it’s not a large place, so no doubt it can get a bit crowded here at peak mealtimes. Based on what we’ve seen, take-out is a big part of business as well.

What we really love, though, is the small full-service bar section off the dining area. There, we can pull up a stool, order a brewski (by now, one of the friendly bartenders knows us so well that she starts pouring our Bud Lights the minute she looks out the window and sees our car pull up). I’m not sure whether or not she knows our names, but when she starts pouring two cold ones the minute she sees our car pull in the lot, it's close enough for horseshoes. And if other folks are here, or come in while we are, it’s almost guaranteed that we’ll be included in the conversation. It’s just that kind of place.

I’ll be honest; I’m not at all fond of the chili on the dogs here (it’s different from the “usual” red chili), but judging from the number of chili dogs and chili-topped fries I see on other plates, I’m in the minority so feel free to give it a try. That said, I’m more likely to order my dogs topped with sauerkraut and onions, a touch of mustard and, when I can get them, hot peppers. And yes, the peppers here shine, so there’s no waffling by me over what goes on top of mine. Diners have a choice of the more upscale Nathan’s all-beef hot dogs or the “regular” kind; Jack usually opts for the former and I the latter (which run somewhere around $1.50 each). As one would expect, the Nathan’s dogs are more costly, but not by much.

The options on hot dog toppings are way too numerous to mention, and the specials on food and drinks vary according to the day. I’ll also point out that despite the name, this place isn’t just about canines in buns. There are fries, fish, cheeseburger, Italian sausage, meatball splash and gyro sandwiches plus a number of other goodies as well - all at quite reasonable prices. I’m especially fond of the gyro, although I caution that it’s huge and nearly impossible to pick up even with two hands. Sometimes you can get them on a buy one, get one for 99 cents deal, but it’s hard for me to imagine one person polishing off two of these puppies. I also recommend that Italian sausage, and I’m planning to try the all-you-can-eat fish dinner one of these Fridays.

If you sit at the bar, you can place your food order there; or if you prefer, place it at the counter and then pick a seat wherever you want and wait till it’s ready - never very long, in our experience. Most of the food can be eaten with fingers and is served in plastic baskets lined with paper; nothing fancy-schmancy here. So hey - any time you want to take a break from all your worries, come on in - they’ll always be glad you came!

If you go:

Coney Island Hot Dogs Bar and Grill
31 N. Canfield-Niles Road
Austintown, Ohio 44515
(330) 799-2099

Open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday (till 9 p.m. at the drive-through); 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.