About the same time that I was doing my research for the write-up I did on Primo's Deli, I noticed that a lot of netizens had posted a myriad of positive comments for another Akron-based deli, Gasoline Alley. Many insisted that not only was the corned beef being served at Gasoline Alley equal to Primo's, but actually better. I made a mental note of these comments and vowed to someday in the future visit this extreme westside eatery and check them out for myself. Today turned out to be the perfect day.
I received an email message from an old college friend of mine saying that he was going to be in town visiting his family during the last two weeks of December. With me being between contracts at the moment, I had the opportunity to meet up with him for lunch today. Gasoline Alley was located at 870 North Cleveland Massillon Road, Bath, Ohio 44210 and can be reached at 330-666-2670. They currently do not have a website, but they do have a Facebook Fan Page. As I turned the corner at the bottom of the hill on Cleveland Massillon Road, I noticed the sign for the Gasoline Alley from the road:
Once I parked and got out of the car, I took a shot of the front of the building:
I was meeting my friend for lunch today at 12:30 PM and when I arrived there was a bit of a wait. My friend had arrived prior to me and put in his name with the hostess. In a move purely to pass the time, he was sitting at the bar enjoying a Miller Lite. I sat down next to him and quickly decided that since we were both hungry, we would just stay put and eat at the bar. Once I was situated on my stool, I looked at my surroundings. In comparison to Primo's Deli, Gasoline Alley was much smaller, but had a more intimate feel to it.
Our bartender left us with the double-sided menu to check out. While the menu was only a front and a back, the menu itself was absolutely huge (both in terms of physical size as well as number of items). I did the best I could to capture most of it, but there will be some overlapping of menu items:
And if that wasn't enough choice for you, gentle reader, there was also a dry erase board hanging up over the bar that had the daily specials:
The one area that Primo's dominates was in the stellar beer selection. That being said, Gasoline Alley wasn't necessarily a slouch in that department. In addition to the almost dozen beers available on tap, there was a reach-in cooler with many additional bottled beers available. While my friend was happy with Miller Lite, I wanted something a little more meaty. When I spotted this Sam Smith's Nut Brown Ale, I knew I had found what I wanted:
I first tried this particular ale in college and have been hooked by its bitter butterscotch notes ever since. Today's ale was just as good as what I remember from the last time I had one of these. Sam Smith's also makes a killer Oatmeal Stout that I also particularly enjoy. Once I had my beer selected, poured, and sampled, my friend and I decided to each order a sandwich and split a basket of onion rings. Just like Primo's Deli, the corned beef is made in-house. Most of the sandwiches come in two sizes, Sissy and Bully. This essentially translated to either a half or a whole sandwich. I opted for the melted Swiss cheese on top of mine on toasted rye bread.
Here was a shot of my Bully-sized corned beef sandwich:
And here was a side shot of the sandwich:
I asked for mustard and prepared horseradish and both were presented on the side so that I could apply the amount that I preferred. First, the good news. This sandwich was huge. At $11 for the larger size with a slice of Swiss, this could easily make two meals. The corned beef had a wonderfully fresh flavor and the salt was well balanced. The combination of the corned beef with the yellow mustard and horseradish made for a lovely bite of food ... spicy, creamy, fatty, salty, crunchy. The toasted rye gave the sandwich just enough texture to be interesting and it didn't fall apart when trying to finish each half. Second, the bad news. And this was strange because the Swiss cheese was definitely melted. The meat was only lukewarm, not hot. It turns out that the roast beef sandwich my friend ordered came out at the same tepid temperature as well (he did order it "hot" so there should have been no confusion). The problem with a mildly warm corned beef sandwich was that in my opinion, it just wasn't as juicy and succulent as I think it could have been.
Along with our sandwiches, my dining companion and I split a basket of onion rings:
These were a touch greasy, but they were cooked all the way through and the ratio of the onion to the batter was nicely balanced. Some of the rings at the bottom of the basket were extra greasy and had to be drained on my napkin first, but overall these were decent rings. I suspected that they were fried from frozen as the onion inside the batter easily detached from the coating and my suspicion was confirmed when I asked our bartender. She lamented the fact that they were frozen onion rings and she didn't think that was going to change any time soon.
That being said, my onion ring side was far better than the dessicated baked beans I had been served at Primo's Deli during my last visit. To be fair, however, Primo's corned beef sandwich had actually come out of the kitchen hot and was a much tastier sandwich because of it. I think based on flavor alone, they are very similar. Price wise, Primo's was clearly the winner being several dollars more inexpensive than Gasoline Alley's version. It's hard to pick a clear overall winner because I liked several points about each restaurant's offering. Based on just the corned beef sandwich itself, I'd have to give a nod to Primo's Deli. Had my sandwich today at Gasoline Alley been a little hotter, I might have even called a tie. However, for the overall experience (food and ambiance), Gasoline Alley just edges out Primo's Deli.
I'd be remiss if I didn't say, however, that I'd be happy to return to either place for another sandwich and a beer. You have plenty of choices for both categories and either restaurant will satisfy your need for a large over-sized sandwich that only the hungriest of eaters can finish without reaching for the Tums.