Wednesday, May 20, 2015


What's better than finding a great place to enjoy the great outdoors and get interesting photographs? For me, it's finding a great new restaurant. That's an especially happy occasion now that my husband Jack and I don't go traveling the country (or even the state) as often as we once did - for the most part trying to keep the aging 2004 Pontiac Vibe that we love in good working condition and avoid having to buy a replacement.

This find happened after we visited Noah's Lost Ark near Berlin Center, Ohio - a wonderful sanctuary that provides shelter and care for exotic animals (think lions and tigers and bears, oh my!) that have been neglected and abused to the point that no one else wants them.

On the way to the sanctuary, we drove past a large building and noticed the sign - Ben's Restaurant & Bar. Ah, we said almost in unison, that looks like a really nice place. So when we left the sanctuary, it was time for a late lunch - and we made it a point to drive past the place again to see if it was open. It was (it's open for lunch on weekdays and breakfast on weekends), so of course we went in.

We were greeted in the lobby by one of the most beautiful (and large) floral wreaths I've ever seen. And as soon as we got inside the door, we were reminded of our many visits to the North Carolina Outer Banks; the two-level dining area is decorated in light teal with creamy white furniture, and wall art is similar to what is found in beach restaurants. There's a separate bar area with limited seating, but even though that's our usual choice, the dining room looked so inviting that we wandered in and found a table.

For the record, Ben's may be new to us, but it's certainly not new to the area; according to the menu, it was started in 1978 by Tom Bendetta and his wife Flo, who purchased an existing building. Ensuing years brought renovations and expansions, and today the restaurant seems to be thriving (offering catering and banquet menus as well as on-site dining and a full bar). 

Once we'd placed our drinks order (on-tap beers for both of us), we looked over the menu, starting, of course, with appetizers. Honestly, we weren't hungry enough at lunch to try one, but the sauteed mushrooms (prepared in a "special" homemade sauce for $6.99) and jumbo quesadillas were tempting - as was Tom's "famous" hot pepper salad.

As for the dinner options, we zeroed in on seafood (mostly because that's usually our choice for entrees and partly because of the dining room atmosphere), and we certainly weren't disappointed. Jack's eyes never left the deep sea scallops, sauteed and served on a bed of bow-tie pasta for $16.99. I was torn between the Cajun cod ($16.99) and orange roughy ($16.99), so when we go back for dinner - as we plan to do - I'm not sure which I'll choose. Oh yes, I also spotted prime rib - another special favorite of mine. Ah, what to do, what to do?

But we were here for lunch, and these days, we're simply not able to wolf down large quantities of food like we used to. Jack didn't take much time to make his choice - a batter-dipped scrod sandwich. He chose the larger version at $7.99, asking them to hold the bun. All lunches, BTW, come with fries and cole slaw.

Truth is, the scrod sounded wonderful to me as well, but I wanted to try something other than what Jack got (besides, I knew he'd offer me a bite of his). After waffling between the grilled Cajun chicken breast sandwich ($8.99) and a grilled Reuben ($9.99), I finally settled on the bleu cheeseburger on a Kaiser roll ($7.99). Since Jack got fries with his, I paid $1 more to get onion rings. 

Needless to say, we were happy with our choices. The scrod was plentiful (Jack even brought a piece home, where he gave me another bite), and the slaw was quite tasty. Usually, I'm not a big fan of slaw I didn't make myself, but I polished off almost all of my dish rather than giving it to Jack as I usually do. The fries and onion rings are good - I'm partial to the o-rings -  and my burger was yummy (at the server's prompting, I added tomato and onion, which complemented the bleu cheese perfectly). 

All that said, you can bet we'll be heading back to this place again, the sooner the better - this time for dinner. That Cajun cod has my name on it (well, okay, so does the prime rib, so we'll just have to go back at least two more times)!

If you go:

Ben's Restaurant & Bar
17729 W. Akron-Canfield Road
Berlin Center, Ohio 44401
(330) 547-7633

Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday; 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday; 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.