July 2010 Issue
Three Ohio restaurants serve the food we crave on the midway.
Recipes: Freshly Squeezed Lemonade; Deep-fried Oreos
Cracker Jack, Juicy Fruit gum and the ice cream cone are just a few of America’s most beloved foods said to have made their debuts at the fair. And more than a century after folks lined up for these tastes of culinary history, we are still a nation obsessed with eating on the midway. So obsessed, in fact, that deep-fried Coke, introduced at the State Fair of Texas in 2006, has its own Facebook page.
This time of year, you’re probably just a short drive from the nearest elephant ear. But as summer fades, so do your opportunities for physics-defying food on a stick. Not to worry — we found three Ohio restaurants that serve fair fare long after the ferris wheel stops.
The Elephant Ear
5998 Market St., Boardman 44512,
330/953-2801. Closed on Sunday.
Shannon Dunlevy, owner of The Elephant Ear restaurant in Boardman, loves a challenge, particularly if it involves a fry basket. So when a member of a local camera crew asked her to deep fry a cheeseburger for a segment about her new restaurant, she stepped up. “We dipped the entire thing — bun, burger, everything — into onion ring batter and fried it,” she says. “It was excellent.”
Dunlevy says she had always wanted her own restaurant, but gives her brother credit for the idea of serving fair food year-round. “I thought it was a unique niche,” she says. “So far, business has been real good.” Although The Elephant Ear opened its doors just a year ago, its menu reads like the signs on the most mouthwatering midway. Candy apples, gyros, corn dogs, deep-fried green beans, fried Oreos and, of course, elephant ears round out a selection of monster sandwiches (some come with slaw and fries on them) and other treats.
“Our hot sellers are the steak hoagie, gyros, deep-fried Oreos and of course, the elephant ears,” she says. “We sell more of those than anything else.” Dunlevy says she developed her own recipes for her funnel cakes and elephant ears and that both are made from scratch and to order. “I always tell people this isn’t a fast-food place,” she says. “I take pride in the fact that we make things fresh.”
The Brass Ring Restaurant
14405 Country Club Lane, Logan 43138,
On a recent visit, Chef Moe greeted us with eyes that shimmered like hot grease. “I’ve got hand-cut loaded fries, bacon-wrapped scallops and ribs coming out for you guys,” she says, rubbing her hands together. “Oh, this is going to be fun!”
And she’s right — dinner at the Brass Ring Restaurant, part of the Brass Ring Golf Club in Logan, is fun. At other golf courses you can bank on a polite but impersonal “sir” or “ma’am,” from the staff; here you’re “hon” and you wouldn’t want it any other way. Chef Moe’s enthusiasm for food comes through in the colossal portions she sends out from her kitchen (a fellow diner remarked that he felt like he was eating like his parents were out of town), but even when you start to get full, it’s hard to say no to at least a bite of something that so clearly comes from her heart.
Although the menu is not dedicated exclusively to midway staples, the restaurant’s appetizer selection is what we would call “fair food plus.” Gooey fried cheese cubes, loaded potato skins and fried mushrooms will get you started, but don’t pass on the bacon-wrapped scallops or the beer-battered fried shrimp; the massive pieces of shrimp are a mouthful, and the sweet and spicy dipping sauce they come with is the perfect match. Even better, the course is hilly, so you can burn off at least a few of those calories with 18 holes after you eat.
819 North Rocky River Dr., Berea 44017,
440/243-4769. Closed on Sunday.
"What’s funny is, during the week of the [Cuyahoga County] fair, I’m slammed,” says Amy Griffin, owner of The Midway restaurant in Berea. “It’s mostly people who can’t make it to the fair for one reason or another, but really want some fried cheese on a stick.”
Griffin says she opened her restaurant five years ago on a hunch that fair food cravings aren’t just a seasonal thing. “My brother has a concessions business, and when I was traveling and working at fairs with him, I would always hear ‘I wish I could get this year-round,’ ” she says. “So when I got laid off from my job, I opened this place three months later.”
Working in concessions gave her the know-how to create a menu that showcases all of your fair favorites, including funnel cakes, elephant ears, cotton candy, corn dogs, Philly cheese steaks, Italian sausage, fried pickles and deep-fried Twinkies, among others.
“I try to follow some of the trends,” Griffin says, explaining that deep-fried chocolate-covered strawberries might be the next addition to her menu. Other items start out as a special but end up a permanent addition. “I decided to try out fried bologna sandwiches, and they were so popular I had to add them to the menu,” she says.
But The Midway isn’t just a place for novelty eating. Everything is made to order, and the selection of cheese steaks, corned beef, burgers, slaw dogs and other sandwiches earned it a spot in the top five among Cleveland sandwich shops in a local TV station poll.
Griffin plans to continue to expand her menu. “I’ll offer different flavors of fried cheeses, and maybe different flavors of funnel cakes,” she says. But her vision goes beyond the food. “I’d like to add games and more seating,” she says. “My goal is to have a place where I can have a Ferris wheel in the middle of the restaurant.”
Freshly Squeezed Lemonade
Recipe courtesy of Brandy Fankhauser, bar manager, Brass Ring Restaurant
1 cup sugar
2 quarts water
1. Squeeze the lemons into a pitcher.
2. Add the sugar and the water.
3. Stir until blended and the sugar is dissolved. Chill before serving.
Recipe courtesy of Shannon Dunlevy, The Elephant Ear
2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
3–4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
20 to 30 Oreo cookies
vegetable oil for frying
powdered sugar for dusting
1. Beat the eggs, then add the milk and sugar.
2. Sift 2 cups of flour together with the baking powder and salt.
3. Add the flour mixture to the milk mixture and mix well, adding more flour until it becomes a smooth batter.
4. Dip the Oreo cookies in the batter five at a time and add to the hot oil (350 degrees). Fry until golden brown.
5. Remove from oil, drain on paper towels and dust with powdered sugar.