By now I should have realized that you should never judge a book by its cover. While I certainly didn't go out of my way to avoid it, until a longtime reader and frequent commenter suggested I try the food at Twig's Diner, it just wasn't on my radar. Which was ironic because while I've known about this tiny little restaurant for at least two decades, had I known what was happening inside I would've already been a long and faithful follower. The original suggestion from my reader was to check them out on Sunday morning for breakfast. While they do serve breakfast during their hours of operation (7 AM - 3 PM every day), when I stopped by today in the early afternoon I was feeling in more of a lunch mood.
Twig's Diner was located at 334 31st NW, Barberton, OH 44203 and can be reached at 330-825-1016. Not surprisingly, there was no website associated with the restaurant at the time of this writing. There was a small eight car parking lot to the north side of the restaurant with ample overflow parking in a larger lot directly across the street. Parking in the small lot was the easy part. Backing out directly into a busy street when I went to leave was fairly tricky.
Here was a shot of the outside of the diner:
The place really does look tiny from the outside, but once inside, it felt much bigger. Seating forty-five guests at a time, the inside was decorated with hats, fifties memorabilia, and lots and lots of photographs of happy Twig's customers. Here was a shot of the lunch counter / entrance to the kitchen:
Attached to the wall next to my table was the following card:
I'm always leery of walking into a restaurant that has miscellaneous tchotchkes randomly strewn throughout the interior. At Twig's Diner, however, I began to understand more about Twig herself (who wasn't there, by the way) through her choice of decorating aesthete. Fortunately, it was nearly dead when I showed up for a late lunch so the floor manager (who also acted as my server) was able to fill me in on the story of Twig's Diner. It seems that Twig was actually just one of several previous owners of this space. Thirteen years ago Ernie, the previous owner, had spruced the place up a bit and put out a "For Rent" sign in the window when serendipity struck. Twig, a seasoned professional in the food and bartending industry, just happened to drive by the building and decided to fulfill a longtime dream of having a little place all to herself. She threw caution to the wind, opened up her eponymous diner, and thirteen years later I now had the opportunity to see why my reader had so enthusiastically endorsed the cuisine.
Here was a shot of the menu my server left at the table:
When I asked my server for recommendations from the menu, she whole-heartedly suggested the breakfast items from the menu. I indicated that I wasn't really in the mood for breakfast right now (it was 1:30 PM after all) and she immediately jumped to the back of the menu where she pointed out the reuben sandwich, titled "One Hell Of A Reuben." Clearly amused by the good humor in the naming scheme, I went on to ask what the soup of the day was. My server prattled off two or three until she came to the final one, lasagna soup. I've heard of stuffed pepper soup, but never lasagna soup. When I pushed her a little further, she basically confessed that one of yesterday's specials was lasagna. Rather than throw it away, they re-purposed it as a soup. Wholly intrigued by the notion of lasagna in soup form, I immediately ordered a cup of it.
Shortly thereafter, this arrived at my table:
I filled my soup spoon with some of the soup and brought it to my nose. The rich smell of long-simmered tomatoes and beef filled my nostrils. I took a bite and was rewarded with ... lasagna! The usual suspects were all there: Noodles, beef, ricotta, tomatoes. In addition there were some thinly-chopped carrots that while cooked through, clearly had not been in the original lasagna the day before. My guess was that the cook started the soup by sauteeing some aromatics, carrots and onion before adding the lasagna "base" and additional broth to essentially make a soup out of it. The soup was hearty and delicious and had I not decided to order a sandwich and a side, I could've probably been happy just eating an entire bowl of it. The garlic bread that accompanied the soup was grilled nicely, but it lacked a nice garlic edge to each bite.
When I was about two-thirds of the way through my soup, my sandwich platter arrived:
I decided to go with the One Hell Of A Reuben and to substitute the homemade onion rings for the fries for an additional $2.59. I'm so glad I did. First, here was a side shot of the reuben sandwich:
Built as a double-decker sandwich, the corned beef was tender and amazingly juicy. I had to make sure I ate the sandwich over my plate as juicy literally gushed back onto my plate. The sauerkraut and swiss cheese were nice, but the real flavor standout was the "special sauce." It turns out that Twig's was making their own 1000 Island dressing for the reuben and it was a beautiful combination of tangy, creamy, and sweet; a nice foil for the strong flavor of the corned beef itself. One of the nice things about Twig's reuben was that the salt was nicely controlled and not too overpowering. Between corned beef and sauerkraut, sometimes too much salt can be an issue. Not here.
To accompany my sandwich, I opted to go with the homemade onion rings:
Make no qualms about it, these were excellent! Probably on par with my other favorite homemade onion rings at Michael Symon's B Spot restaurant in Woodmere. The onion inside the ring was nice and meaty, but cooked perfectly until they were tender and sweet. The exterior batter was crispy, not greasy, and a beautiful thickness. The ratio of the batter to the onion itself was also nice; each bite rewarded me with a nice blend of coating and vegetable. Clearly this was an onion ring to be reckoned with. The only infinitesimally small criticism I had was that while there was salt in the batter, I could tell that they hadn't been seasoned after they came out of the deep fat fryer. They were a hair shy of being seasoned perfectly to my taste. At the same time, on the several occasions that I've had the rings at B Spot, I think they may be just a hair over-seasoned. I will say this for certain: I think these may be the best homemade onion rings in all of Akron and Canton and they give B Spot's a run for their money, too.
I intend to return to Twig's Diner very, very soon. Having now tasted the delicious food available on the lunch menu, I plan to sample some of their very unique and delicious sounding breakfast foods, too. I've been looking for a place with a good version of biscuits and sausage gravy and wouldn't you know it, Twig's has it on their menu and all of it is homemade. In addition, every day three kinds of pancakes are available: Plain, wheat, and sweet potato. On certain days of the week, additional flavors are also available. Belgium waffles, corned beef hash, omelettes, Twig's seems to have what you crave for breakfast. Well, at least what I crave.
Twig's Diner is now solidly on my radar scope and I hope that I can turn as many of my friends, family members, and readers on to it as I can. Highly, highly recommended.