My Kent Food Quest took a big step forward yesterday evening, as I finally tried a place on Cherry Street called Ciccone’s, which has intimidated me for quite awhile.
I’m now down to just 6 (out of 136) eating establishments in Kent, until I complete the set.
Four of the remaining establishments fall in the same category with Ciccone’s — more “bar” than “restaurant” — though they still qualify for inclusion in the Quest because of the fact that they prepare food on-site. These places’ hours are much more limited, and they fall during times that I usually spend with my family. Marci and the kids were out of town yesterday evening, however, so I got the chance to tick one of them off the list. Arguably the scariest one.
I told Marci and a few close friends about my plan to visit Ciccone’s, joking that they’d know where to get the authorities started on my trail if I didn’t make it back from dinner. It just looks like the kind of place that might be frequented by mobsters. Dark and dingy… weeds sprouting up from cracks in the parking lot… in a more run-down section of town… food advertised as something of an afterthought… I was genuinely anxious about what kind of crowd I would find inside.
Fortunately, Ciccone’s was a pretty decent joint! The service was prompt and friendly. The food was cooked fresh and tasty (I had their four-piece chicken dinner). When I first got there, around 5:30 PM, there was only one other table seated with people (four retirees, probably in their 70s). All other traffic to the cafe was bar-only: all single, working-class men. I probably won’t be going back super-often (if ever), but I don’t regret my visit yesterday evening — and the Quest is alive and well.
In reliving the experience afterwards, one of my friends asked if I was doing any sort of place-by-place review. I said I wasn’t, “But I could probably give you my Top 3 and Bottom 3” (though I was quick to point out that Ciccone’s wouldn’t be on either of those lists). Keep in mind the fact that Food Quest (and subsequent evaluation) is still a work in progress — but at this point, here’s how I’d break down the best and worst of Kent dining:
At the Top:
- Wild Goats Cafe (319 W. Main St.) – Outstanding food, at great prices, with excellent service. I have yet to find an offering there that I do not like. The location is great, just on the east side of the Cuyahoga River, by the public library (within easy walking distance of my house). There are also a lot of very valuable coupons floating around out there, and their Wednesday evening “Buck Buck Brinner” is one of the best values in town. The only knock on the place is its ambiance (barely-veiled former Friendly’s diner, with vinyl booths and institutional lighting). Recommended: Smoky Apple Sandwich… Pepperjack Bacon Mac ‘n Cheese… Butter Caramel Ice Cream Sandwich…
- Henry Wahner’s Restaurant (1609 E. Main St.) – A bit fussy and frumpy around the edges (cash only, decor and wait staff that hasn’t changed a bit since 1974) — but the place has straight-up outstanding steak dinners and German cuisine. The portions are huge and well-prepared. And I, for one, find the frumpiness a bit endearing. Recommended: Wienerschnitzel with Spaetzles and Gravy…
- Bar 145 (100 E. Erie St.) – Delicious burgers (the “Stack Your Own Burger” special on Wednesday nights is only $5!) and the truffle fries: Oh. My. Goodness! The fries alone make this place worth the trip. Add that to the beautiful downtown location, with an outdoor seating area — and Bar 145 has a lot to offer. I don’t like the fact that they cultivate a sort of Hooter’s vibe, with all the servers being beautiful, young women with low-cut shirts and Daisy-Duke shorts — but otherwise, this place is commendable. Recommended: Truffle Fries… Truffle Fries… and Truffle Fries…
And Bringing Up the Rear:
(The numbers below should read #134, #135, and #136)
- Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips (Kent State University – The Hub) – It’s classic food-court food — but expensive and slow at that.
- Mr. Hero (1343 S. Water St.) – I have no idea how this place stays in business. The food was bad. The day I visited there was not a single other visitor, even though it was prime lunch-time. Maybe this place (not Ciccone’s) is the real front for some mobster operation…
- Laundry 101 (1683 E. Main St.) – It’s a super-cool concept, to put an eatery within a laundromat, but the food itself is pretty bad. Really: there’s absolutely no reason to eat here unless you’re stuck with a massive back-load of laundry (and even then, I’d suggest you go to Ming Cheng, next door).
So there you have it, for whatever it’s worth. Let me know, if you have opinions to the contrary, regarding any of my preliminary rankings. This kind of thing is ultimately quite meaningless. But fun.