Tag Archives: dining

Mile 1 – Coney Island/Curtis’ Famous Wieners, Cumberland, Md.

Curtis'/Coney Island on North Liberty Street in Cumberland has been open since 1918.

Curtis’/Coney Island on North Liberty Street in Cumberland has been open since 1918.

If you are able to dine at only one place in Cumberland, Curtis’/Coney Island Famous Wieners has to be on your short list.

It’s pretty much the best hot dog joint ever (says a Western Marylander).

But seriously, Curtis’/Coney Island is steeped in Cumberland history, and has been around long enough to span at least four generations. If you meet a Cumberland native (like me), chances are their parents and grandparents have had hot dogs in the exact same booths – but decades earlier.

Just a note – Curtis’ and Coney Island are the same place now, but were separate establishments until about 13 years ago – more on that farther down. I’ve rarely heard anyone ever refer to the place as “Curtis’,” instead referring to it by the “Coney Island” name, so that’s the name I’ll be using.

Memorabilia on the walls of Curtis'.

Memorabilia on the walls of Curtis’.

Coney Island has been around since 1918, and as far as I know, the recipe for “Coney Island sauce” hasn’t changed since it was created. The restaurant has always been a family affair, too. Currently, Gino Giatras is the proprietor, taking the place over from his father, Louis “Louie” Giatras (Louie died in 2007). Locals tend to refer to members of the Giatras family by their first names, regardless of whether or not they actually know the family personally.

Coney Island can be traced to business ventures by Greek immigrants around the beginning of the 20th Century. Louie’s obituary in the Baltimore Sun states that the first hot dog was sold around 1905, and the product took off. Because of the food’s success, the family started two hot dog joints – Coney Island and Curtis’.  Curtis’s was located at 35 N. Liberty St., and Coney Island was farther up Liberty Street toward Baltimore Avenue. Both restaurants were essentially the same menu-wise, and both had kitchens in the front of the restaurant, but each had different decor.

The old red booths moved from the original Coney Island location when it was merged with Curtis'.

The old red booths moved from the original Coney Island location when it was merged with Curtis’.

In 2000, the restaurants combined, with Coney Island moving into an expanded Curtis’. Today, the side where Curtis’ looks pretty much the same as it always has. On the other side of the restaurant, the iconic red booths that were part of Coney Island were moved into the new dining area when the hot dog joints merged.

The restaurant’s walls are covered in memorabilia, most notably historic newspaper articles, Pittsburgh Steelers decorations and photos. Gino is usually working, yelling orders in the small kitchen at the front of the restaurant.

So about the actual food…

My usual go-to: hot dogs with sauce, fries and a vanilla Coke.

My usual go-to: hot dogs with sauce, fries and a vanilla Coke.

Coney Island/Curtis’ is particularly famous for its sauce that goes on hot dogs. The base is hamburger, which is combined with several seasonings to produce a sauce that is drier than toppings at other hot dog establishments, but still fairly moist. Of course, there are all the regular toppings as well.

Curtis’ also makes vanilla Coke/Pepsi the old fashioned way – by actually adding syrup to the soda. I believe they make cherry Coke the same way, too. They also make a few other old-fashioned drinks as well (none with alcohol).

A view toward the front of Curtis'.

A view toward the front of Curtis’.

You can order at the window for take out, or seat yourself at the booths or at the bar to be waited on. The wait staff generally tends to assume that you’re a local and know what you want, so be sure to take a look at one of the menus on the wall as you’re finding a seat (this has thrown off some of my friends from out-of-state). Chances are you’ll be ordering a hot dog anyway, but still.

Hot dogs are ordered by amount and topping. So, for my usual three hot dogs with sauce (I tend to indulge when I’m home), I order “three with sauce.” I’ll usually have an order of fries brought to share with the table as well (they’re the crinkle-cut kind).

The bar at Curtis'.

The bar at Curtis’.

Your food will typically come out within just a few minutes – probably a lot quicker than most fast-food places. If you’re dining in, your bill will be given to you with your food, but don’t feel rushed. Pay at the front when you’re ready to go.

Coney Island is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. It is closed on Sunday. Parking is available on North Liberty Street and throughout downtown Cumberland. After lunch or dinner (or breakfast?) at Coney Island, visit the relatively large variety of shops in downtown.

If you’re heading farther west along the National Road, check out other great hot dogs at Fiddle’s Confectionery in Brownsville, Pa., or Shorty’s Lunch in Washington, Pa.!

Curtis Famous Weiners on Urbanspoon

Advertisements

Mile 180 – Theo’s Restaurant, Cambridge, Ohio

Theos ResizeIt seems that when a restaurant advertises the fact that it’s been around for decades, said establishment often sticks to decor associated with a set time period in American history. But that doesn’t appear to be the case with Theo’s Restaurant in downtown Cambridge.

Theo’s traces its history to 1931 when it opened as a Coney Island-style hot dog establishment, says the restaurant’s website. Since then, the place has passed down though several generations of owners, all related to varying degrees. After a fire in the 1980s, the restaurant was rebuilt, retaining the “Coney Island Lunch” name (which explains the more modern decor in the restaurant). It wasn’t until the early 1990s that the restaurant was renamed “Theo’s.”

The bar area of one of the dining rooms.

The bar area of one of the dining rooms.

Remnants of the eatery’s original purpose still survive, such as a Coney Island hot dog menu in the far dining room. The restaurant also has retained the locally-famous Coney Island dogs on its menu.

I was able to stop in for lunch on a recent trip to Indiana, and I was thoroughly impressed. The interior is large, and divided into two distinct dining rooms, one of which contains a bar. I had the “moist and sassy” version of the grilled chicken breast sandwich (I tend to be a sucker for menu items that are given a weird name). This version of the sandwich features the chicken marinated in a wine, olive oil, lemon and spice blend, which honestly was one of the best marinades I’ve ever had – not too sweet, not dripping wet and not hot. The grand total for my sandwich, fries and drink was under $7.

The "moist and sassy" version of the chicken sandwich.

The “moist and sassy” version of the chicken sandwich.

Theo’s seemed really down-to-earth, despite the fairly modern decor. The staff was all very friendly and made sure everything was satisfactory. The other thing I really liked was the variety on the menu. This isn’t just an average sandwich and fries place. For example, one of the specials the day I visited was halushki – a Hungarian entree based on soft noodles and cabbage. The Theo’s recipe included ham.

Theo’s is located at 632 Wheeling Ave., right in downtown Cambridge along U.S. 40.  It is open Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Daily specials and the regular menu are updated on the restaurant’s website. Parking is available on both sides of Wheeling Avenue in Cambridge, and is free for two hours – plenty of time to eat. Theo’s can be reached at 740-432-3878.

A page of the menu.

A page of the menu.

The main dining room.

The main dining room.

Theo's Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Mile 132 – Coleman’s Fish Market, Wheeling, W.Va.

One of the outside entrances to Coleman’s in Wheeling’s Centre Market.

Before I set out for Wheeling, I asked my friends knowledgeable about the Northern Panhandle (one being Wellsburg, W.Va., native and Morgantown food blogger Candace Nelson), “Where should I go for a taste of Wheeling?” The two responses that kept coming up: Coleman’s Fish Market and DiCarlo’s Pizza. Both seem to be honored eateries for the Wheeling area, and both have a long history in the region.

I started with Coleman’s, which is tucked into the revitalized Centre Market district of Wheeling, just a few blocks from the National Road. To me, what makes this 98-year-old establishment really unique is that the name describes exactly what the business is: a fish market that also serves great seafood.

One of the seafood cases at Coleman’s.

There are two ends to Coleman’s: the restaurant part, where you wait in line to order and receive prepared food, and the fish market, which sells a huge variety of fresh, raw seafood. The “traditional” menu item is Coleman’s fish sandwich, which is  several strips of fish put between two slices of white bread. There’s also a version which has a sauce over the fish, but I stuck with the regular sandwich and Coleman’s thick seasoned fries, both of which lived up to my high expectations (since I only had heard great comments).

After the food order is finished,  tables are outside Coleman’s door in Centre Market in a larger, open seating area. When I visited on a Friday evening, both the fish market and restaurant weren’t packed, but definitely had a steady stream of customers. Coleman’s is featured on Roadfood, which provides some other great meal ideas and a little history.

Coleman’s fish sandwich and seasoned fries.

Coleman’s had its start in 1914 by John Coleman, and has remained in the family throughout its history. As far as I know, it has remained in Centre Market for its entire existence. Centre Market is an attraction in itself, with the oldest section dating to 1853.

Coleman’s is open Monday and Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Thursday ad Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. (perhaps to help cater to Wheeling’s Catholic population during Lent?). It is closed Sunday.

To get to Coleman’s from U.S. 40, follow Main Street south through downtown and across Wheeling Creek. Make a left on 22nd Street until it intersects with Market Street. Parking is available on streets surrounding Centre Market. To reach Coleman’s, call 304-232-8510.

The oft-photographed sign above the indoor entrance to Coleman’s.

Coleman's Fish Market on Urbanspoon


Mile 24 – Penn Alps, Grantsville, Md.

The entrance to Penn Alps on a rainy evening.

Tucked neatly near the Casselman River near the Casselman River Bridge, Penn Alps has been serving traditional American fare since the late 1950s.

Like The Casselman Inn just up the road, Penn Alps features a menu built around the German-inspired Mennonite and Amish cuisine, but Penn Alps has a larger dining area, seems to have a bit larger menu and also has a popular buffet. Other dining rooms can be, and are often, reserved for private dinners.

A sample of the typical buffet food at Penn Alps.

Besides being adjacent to the National Road, the history of Penn Alps itself is tied to transportation. Although the present building is comprised of several additions, the original building dates to around 1818, and served travelers along the National Road. The oldest alignment of the highway that leads to the Casselman River Bridge is along the north side of the building, which is the oldest part of the complex. The modern U.S.-40 ALT alignment runs immediately to the south.

The lobby at Penn Alps.

Since Alta Schrock, the founder of Penn Alps, bought the building, the entire facility has evolved into a campus, featuring the Spruce Forest Artisan Village, which provides space for area craftsmen to produce and show off their work. Included in this complex of buildings is an early 19-Century house – the Miller House – and Stanton’s Mill, an old gristmill. While the grounds are free and always open, the actual artisans are at their posts intermittently from May through October.

Some of the work produced at Spruce Forest can be purchased in the gift shop inside the Penn Alps  restaurant. The shop also sells locally-produced baked and canned goods to take home.

One of the dining areas at Penn Alps.

Penn Alps is an ideal stop for travelers and locals who not only want to sample great food, but who are also looking for a locally-produced quality souvenir – edible or not.

Penn Alps is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Buffet hours are Friday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. and all day Saturday and Sunday. The restaurant can be reached at 301-895-5985.
Penn Alps Restaurant and Craft Shop on Urbanspoon


Mile 100 – Shorty’s Lunch, Washington, Pa.

Shorty’s Lunch, Washington, Pa.

It seems like almost every old city has at least one hot dog/hamburger/lunch place that has survived downtown for decades, despite the general decline of downtown areas in the U.S.

Washington has Shorty’s Lunch, tucked along West Chestnut Street downtown. Shorty’s has been around since 1932, and the eight booths inside haven’t changed. Like Coney Island in Cumberland, there is a bar/counter along one side of the dining area, and the booths line the opposite wall, making Shorty’s a pretty packed place with just a relatively small crowd.

The menu is pretty simple, with hot dogs and hamburgers being the staple. The grill sits in one of the front windows, so anyone walking along West Chestnut can see the rows of hot dogs being cooked inside. A hot dog with everything (which is what I inadvertently got) has a mustard base, and is then layers with a type of chili sauce and onions.

An “everything” hot dog.

I actually had no idea of the reputation Shorty’s has in southwest Pennsylvania. When I was in Washington, I just picked Shorty’s because it was one of the only older-looking restaurants downtown – and hot dogs always sound good. But as I started to look for background information online, I saw that Shorty’s had been featured in a number of publications including the Pittsburgh media (Shorty’s has its own Wikipedia article, which links to most of that information).

It’s not surprising that Shorty’s has a dedicated customer base – not only is the food good, but people seem to be generally protective of their old hot dog establishments (For me, I’m always going to be biased toward Coney Island in Cumberland, and will defend that it has the best hot dogs of anywhere – despite that there are just as many equally-great similar places).

Shorty’s is open Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. Parking is available along just about every street in downtown Washington. Because the menu is so simple, you’ll probably have whatever you order in less than a minute. Take-out also seemed to be a popular option at Shorty’s. It is located at 34 W. Chestnut St., between Main Street and Jefferson Avenue.
Shorty's Lunch on Urbanspoon


Mile 62 – Meloni’s, Uniontown, Pa.

Meloni's, Uniontown, Pa.

Meloni’s has long been a staple of the Uniontown culinary scene, serving near-authentic Italian food for over 60 years. Founded in 1950, Meloni’s has remained in the same Main Street location to the present. The restaurant remains under local ownership, and has been consistently voted as a favorite place for Italian food for locals, as reported by the Herald-Standard, the newspaper for Uniontown.

Obviously, Meloni’s in known for its Italian food, which patrons frequently rave about on various online reviews. And it’s true, the pasts sauce at Meloni’s has a more, what I would say, cream-like texture that is hard to find in most Americanized pasta sauces. Every dinner/lunch entree is served with your choice of pasta (I had spaghetti), a salad and Italian bread. Of the numerous specialties at Meloni’s, the veal parmigiana is probably the most renowned from what I’ve heard – so of course, that’s what I ordered. The dish definitely lived up to its reputation. The breaded veal cutlet was well-cooked and the salad and bread were fresh.

The veal parmigiana, a Meloni's specialty.

Though the dinner menu can be a bit pricey for a grad student with a fixed income (like me), lunch prices go the opposite – almost being underpriced, considering the quantity and quality of the food. Of course, though Italian food is featured at Meloni’s, there are other, more American-style, options available.

The inside of the restaurant is decorated for the most part in red, white and green – adding to the Italian nature of the restaurant. There is also a full bar area, which is separated from the dining room. Service is available in either section, and the wait staff is extremely attentive and efficient.

The dining room at Meloni's in Uniontown, Pa.

Meloni’s is located at 105 W. Main St. in downtown Uniontown – making it right along the original National Road. Takeout and reservations are available by calling 724-437-2061. Meloni’s is open for lunch and dinner (11 a.m. to 10 p.m.) seven days a week.

Meloni's Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Mile 55 – The Stone House Restaurant and Inn, Farmington, Pa.

The Stone House Restaurant and Inn, Farmington, Pa.

The Stone House Restaurant and Inn is one of the remaining taverns and inns along the National Road that serves the same purpose for which it was originally built, in some ways like the Casselman Inn in Maryland – at least in function. However, although it’s been occupied consistently, it hasn’t always been open to the public, and has served as a private residence in the past. Originally, The Stone House was known as the Fayette Springs Hotel, and served more as a destination, banking on the local natural springs nearby, rather than a pit-stop (although it did cater to through travelers as well). After being closed to the public from 1909 to 1963, the restaurant re-opened under the ownership of Fanny Ross. Ms. Ross sold the building to Fred Zeigler III, who renovated the building to how it looks today.

The tavern section of The Stone House.

Today, The Stone House still presents itself as a place to stay for visitors to the entire Laurel Highlands region, and also has significant reservable banquet space. The entire facility is broken into three parts: inn, which features rooms that combine 19th Century decor with modern amenities; restaurant and tavern. The restaurant and tavern are tied together, and served by the same kitchen. The Stone House concentrates more on dinner: food is served Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The tavern stays open later.

A view from the front of the tavern section at The Stone House.

The entire facility has a classy feel to it. The banquet areas and dining rooms are more of a fine dining atmosphere, while the tavern section reminded me that I was in western Pennsylvania – from the Yuengling and Steelers decorations to the deer head mounted on the wall.

The "River Monster" at The Stone House.

On the Sunday I visited for lunch, the tavern was the open dining area. I had the “River Monster,” an 8 oz. fish filet beer battered with Yuengling. Homemade potato chips come with each sandwich. The actual entree was pretty large, with lettuce, tomato and onions piled on the fish, and tarter sauce on the side. Everything I had had a strong flavor, and tended to be more on the salty side -especially the potato chips, which looked and tasted to me like they were seasoned with sea salt.

The Stone House is located at 3023 National Pike, Farmington, Pa. (although it has a Farmington address, it’s just outside of the village of Chalk Hill. Take out is available, and the restaurant can be reached at 1-800-274-7138, or 724-329-8876. The menuis available online. Expect to pay around $10 for lunch and $15-20 for dinner – drinks not included.

The Stone House Restaurant, built in 1822, has served as an inn, restaurant, tavern and private residence during its existence.

Stone House on Urbanspoon