Living Large in Northeast Ohio
March 5, 2016
My son’s girlfriend lives in Mansfield. He came home from his weekend trip to Mansfield last weekend and said they had gone to the Brown Derby for dinner. Brown Derby? You mean Girves Brown Derby? I thought they closed their restaurants. Opened up new ones under the name Roadhouse. Closed those. Bye Bye Bye. Apparently not. He said the menu hadn’t changed since the last time he visited the one on South Avenue years and years ago. Same Top Sirloin. Same Loving Couple. Same salad bowl. Same rolls.
So I got online to see what’s what. Silly me!!! There are four or five of them still grilling steaks in Northeast Ohio. It was one of my favorite places back in the day. It will be again now!!!
Folks my age associate the Brown Derby with the Kenley Players in Warren. Located down 422, it was somewhat removed from the area known as “the Strip.” But it was still a great place to go before or after the show. Steaks were fire grilled and tasty. Potatoes were huge and loaded. Salad was outstanding. I loved to sit there and slurp my onion rings in the steak juice. In its glory days, it was an upscale chain steakhouse while the hoi polloi was going to Ponderosa or York Steakhouse for chemically tenderized meat.
I have many memories of the one on South Avenue. Its building used to be a nightclub before Brown Derby took it over. You walked down the steps into a long hallway where everyone was waiting for their name to be called. Meat was in the cooler. They had a salad bar back then. I don’t like salad bars. The guys were cooking the steaks to the left of the hostess station. The bar was to the right. It served those humongous drinks that were mostly sugar and water with a little bit of booze. There was smaller back room against the far wall of the main dining room…and larger-smaller dining room to the left of the hostess station on the other side of the kitchen. We liked to eat in the bar.
The food was always definitely above average. And sometimes it was excellent. Sometimes not so much. But it was fun and a cool place to go!! I was sad to see it close. In a way it was symbolic of the changes to Youngstown. My dentist used to be two blocks to the north. The State liquor store we patronized was in a nearby plaza. It bordered Lansingville where my Dad’s family grew up and my aunt lived well into the 1990’s. The old Wilson High School was still there. What a wonderful building. Now…well…a junior high school with junior architecture.
So I was excited to see that the chain was still thriving in this part of the state. I had to go!! So the other night we drove to Streetsboro to visit the Girves Brown Derby. I was listening to 60’s-70’s music on the drive up. MacArthur Park is still melting. The building was old school restaurant chic definitely from the 60’s/70’s period…heavy steakhouse atmosphere. It was like stepping back in time. To be honest, it was plain weird!!!!
My son was right. The menu was exactly the same. I really didn’t have to look at it. There isn’t much to write about the food because it was surprisingly excellent!! The Top Sirloin was exactly as I remembered it. The potatoes were the same. The rolls with the honey butter were the same. Service was good…not exactly the same!!! I have not had a wood grilled steak for a long time, and I forgot how distinct the flavor. I am not sure I like it as much now as I did back in the day, but it more than satisfied my carnivore cravings (Saturday Night is Red Meat night when we go out).
What I can tell you is that for the money…what used to be the upscale steakhouse is definitely now a strong upper mid-level...offering great steaks at reasonable prices. My Top Sirloin, which was perfectly done and really very, very good, was $18.00. You would pay $25.00 or more anywhere else. It made me, my taste buds, and my wallet very happy!!!
My only screw-up was I forgot to order onion rings…which still come in a tower from the appetizer part of the menu. Did I tell you I love to slurp them around in the juice? I will do it next week when we go again...just to make sure it was as good as I thought it was!!
BTW…they take reservations. Always a plus.
Girves Brown Derby
5 locations: Streetsboro, Lyndhurst, Belden Village, Bagley, Medina
An Old Favorite: Girves Brown Derby