Travel to St. Claire Township, Ohio [classic article]

Just a 2 1/2 hour drive from the western reaches of Maryland is St. Clair Township, Ohio. Doesn’t it seem weird to think that we’re so close to the Midwest? Check out your maps: it’s all true. The area – one of the friendliest you’ll ever encounter – has a treasure trove of fresh farm produce. Restaurants in the area serve the gamut from hearty, home cooking fare to elegant luncheons. St. Clair Township has an unofficial secret motto: “Nobody leaves here hungry,” and that’s absolutely true. I was happy to be able to try some of the area’s specialties.

With so many important farms in the township, it’s no surprise that farm stands and farmer’s markets dot the rural roads. In either a cooperative spirit – or one of Mother Nature – many seem to feature different items than their neighbors down the road. It’s fun to check them all out, including Van Pelt in Salem, Catalpa Grove in Columbiana, and Randy’s Raisings in East Liverpool. Randy’s Raisings is also well-known for his wholesome corn maizes.

Das Dutch Village is a family-friendly resort-like village with a dinner theater running original, award-winning shows, a casual home cooking restaurant, a bakery, a Mennonite-style bulk store, and more.

Has it been decades since someone made you fresh, old fashioned bonbons? I understand that my great-grandmother and great-great aunt used to, but really, it’s becoming a lost art. Heggy’s in Alliance is family-owned and run, making the old-school chocolate haystacks, butter creams, and pretzel clusters that you might have thought were lost forever.

St. Clair Township’s B & B’s do not forget the importance of the party of the second part, the breakfast. Columbiana Inn uses rotating guest chefs to give guests a different flavor when they visit, but always incorporate the bounty of local products into meals. They make their own granola, use local Morefarm bacon, scones from the British gift store next door, garden parsley, Amish products from Van Pelt’s, and brown eggs from a friend. The owners of Calcutta B & B have culinary school trained family members, and it shows. Their French toast with braised fresh blueberries and pecans is tender, juicy, and satisfying.

The Spread Eagle Tavern is a secret tucked away on historic Plymouth Street in Hanoverton. . .  well, as secret as a place can be that dates from 1837 and hosts the kind of movers and shakers that make the White House their home. They served elegant fare, including lunch. Don’t miss the luscious Hungarian peppers stuffed with chicken with a rich cream sauce. Also, the pineapple cream cake is exceptional, like a cheesecake and banana cream pie if it were pineapple.

So, you’re driving along – or if you’re like me and don’t like to drive, contact Beverly at Pittsburgh Panorama to tour you around, ppitours@comcast.net – and you’re taking in all the rolling hills. Imagine being smack in the middle of all that and then being able to experience the beach night life. Mark’s Landing offers all that and more. You can rent a pontoon outside, sit on the deck and listen to live music, and enjoy frozen blended drinks such as their Pink Flamingo, a tequila-based cocktail. They go way beyond the expected beachy-bar food, too. Check out unique recipe specials like Frangelico chicken with pecans, raisins, and Frangelico cream sauce.

Adrian’s in Calcutta will make you feel right at home with their family recipes and home cooking. They’re in a strip mall, but they may as well be in grandma’s kitchen with their expertise in comfort foods and baked goods. Homemade lima bean soup has huge beans and a hearty bite of black pepper. I tried a local specialty that I’ll admit that I had serious misgivings about: ham loaf. Let’s just say that I had a misperception! I imagined that it was Spam or something. Adrian’s ham loaf is tender, not too salty ham cooked like we’d cook scrapple, topped with Swiss cheese, grilled pineapple, and cradled in sourdough bread.

T-Bones is located in the East Liverpool Motor Lodge. The name “Motor Lodge” is much too throwaway for all that’s going on here, including the dining. After all, when you hear the term, don’t you think of vending machines and machine ice for dinner? T-Bones recently changed its menu to be more wallet friendly, but you can still get a great big steak, along with homemade chips with changing different seasonings, fried fresh zucchini, live music in the complex, and a cool retro lounge.

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