While Salem, the town where I grew up, might not have a wide selection of ethnic foods to choose from, the nearby cities of Boardman and Youngstown offer plenty in the way of diversity and variety.You’re pretty much guaranteed a good, hearty meal with friendly service and reasonable prices if you pop into one the area’s many pizza or Italian-American joints, and most of the local bar & grill-type places have substantial menus that incorporate local flair in creative ways. I have in mind an awesome Italian-influenced sandwich I meekly attempted to finish at Jeremiah Bullfrogs in Y-Town that consisted of a monstrous meat-stuffed cubanelle pepper topped with marinated hot peppers, mozzarella cheese, and garlicky greens. Yum. Or the menu at my daddy’s favorite local restaurant, the Blue Wolf Tavern, which manages to incorporate Italian-American, barbecue, beer, and other American specialties in huge, affordable portions.
The most pleasant dining surprise I had when in Ohio most recently was an unassuming Hungarian restaurant in Youngstown. Paprika Café is Youngstown’s only Hungarian place and stays true to its Eastern European roots while conceding juuuuuust the right amount to its American audience. The décor is appropriately kitschy, with red and white checked tablecloths and Hungarian paraphernalia (some of it for sale) adorning the shelves and walls. The menu offers an astounding 27 varieties of pierogi, those moreish dough packages concealing all sorts of savory or sweet goodies. My mom and I ordered the standard potato and cheese pierogi and they came bathed in melted butter and sweet, slow-sautéed onions.The pierogi were absolutely outstanding, tender and filling and sweet and savory and everything a pierogi should be. The deceptively simple haluski, egg noodles tossed with cabbage and onions sautéed in butter, was also perfect. Back in the Old Country, haluski is made not with egg noodles but with spaetzle-like dumplings. I quite like this American adaptation, though!Stuffed cabbage is one of my personal favorites and something I don’t often make because Phil isn’t a huge fan. So, I was happy to try Paprika Café’s version, with its flavorful meat and rice filling and slightly tart and tangy tomato sauce bath.Because the prices here are really outstanding, my ma and I went all out and also ordered one of the specials with sautéed cabbage, kolbasz sausage, and beef and rice meatballs.
Truly a local gem that could easily stand up to any ethnic joint in NYC. Can’t wait to return when I’m next in the area – ma, promise you’ll take me!Paprika Café
2626 Mahoning Ave
Youngstown, OH 44509