An old college friend of mine who originated from Uniontown had long ago suggested that I give the Hartville Kitchen a try. I kept the suggestion in the back of my head for quite some time now and only recently had the opportunity head over one Friday night after I got out of work. I kind of suspected that the place was popular, but what I didn't expect was to pull in on a Friday night at 6:00 PM and discover a line of people that must have easily number 200 strong. Looking at the parking lot, you wouldn't think that there could be this many people just waiting to get in, but sadly, there were.
Realizing that I was not in the mood to stand in a line quite this long, I turned around and walked away. I figured I would try this some other time. Which was exactly what I did for lunch today, Tuesday at noon. I pulled into the parking lot in front of the enormous building and hoped that my luck would be better today.
Hartville Kitchen was located at 1015 Edison Street, Hartville, OH 44632 and can be reached at 330-877-9353. Parking was available in an enormous lot outside of the complex.
Even though the restaurant was located on the west end of the building, you enter through the main entrance:
Once inside, I made a left and walked towards the entrance to the restaurant (don't worry, there were signs). This time around I was greeted with a line of about ten people. MUCH better. I watched in mild amusement as a woman with pulled back hair sporting a wireless microphone and headset shuffled people off to their tables. She had a rather stern look on her face and made me envision what would happen if Brittany Spears and the lunch lady had spawned a child. Lots of finger pointing and clicking and, oh did I mention the stern look?
The restaurant was divided into at least four enormous sections and I was seated along the east wall. Someone was soon over to drop off a place mat which also served as the written menu. I ended up taking a photo of each section as that was easier than trying to get one photo of the entire thing:
I told my server that the restaurant had been recommended to me and that I hadn't eaten here before. I asked for house specialties. She replied that there really weren't any house specialties, per se, but that everything was good. Wonderful, I thought to myself, that should help narrow it down. However, as she was hitting the high points on the menu, she did mention broasted chicken. They offer two varieties, all white meat or a mixed platter containing a breast, a thigh, and a wing. I haven't had broasted chicken since my last meal at Das Dutch Kitchen and I have fond memories of that, so I decided on going with the chicken (it is also offered broiled as well).
Since the broasted chicken was considered a dinner entree, it came with my choice of three sides and white or wheat rolls. I asked my server about which sides were made fresh. Some, like the mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, and macaroni and cheese were made on-premises. Others, like the green beans, corn, and carrots were either from a can or frozen. I decided to go with the mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni and cheese, and a tossed salad with some of their homemade French dressing.
My salad appeared within a minute or so of me placing my order:
The dressing was like an old childhood friend. Unlike today, as a child my parents were big believers in bottled dressings. Before I even knew that there was a Hartville Kitchen complex, I knew there was a local company called Hartville Kitchen, because we had several jars of their dressing in constant rotation in our refrigerator. Today's salad, however, was a bit unconventional. Topping the shredded lettuce were finely diced Ohio winter tomatoes and grated carrots.
Because of the composition of the salad, you couldn't really eat it in a convention manner with the fork. Instead of stabbing through the leaves, I ended up having to scoop it onto the fork and eat it that way. As you can imagine, the tomatoes were mealy and pretty much useless, so the major flavor components were the lettuce, the carrots, and the French dressing. I've never seen carrots so finely grated on a salad before; I guess I'll just have to chalk it up to their signature style.
WIth my salad, my server also brought me a couple of warm white rolls with salted butter pats. These were fresh and had a wonderful yeasty smell to them. The crumb was tight and the crown was nicely browned. Quite simply, these were nice.
I was afraid that my chicken would take quite a while to cook, since broasting is a standardized process. Then again, being a busy restaurant, you can broast the chicken before receiving an actual order knowing that you'll be going through it on a fairly rapid basis. My dinner arrived about ten minutes after my salad and rolls.
Here was a shot of the broasted chicken and the mashed potatoes and gravy:
First, the chicken. It was breaded nicely. It wasn't overly greasy. The skin was crispy in some areas. Both the breast and the wing were cooked through and hot. The seasoning was nice and didn't overwhelm the meat. The only negative thing I can say is that the chicken was just slightly overcooked and a tad dry. I'd say that based on the rather consistent version that is served at Das Dutch, Hartville Kitchens comes in at about 90% of that. Very close, but just not quite as good.
The mashed potatoes and gravy were both seasoned well and both were hot. When I first tried the advertised-as-homemade potatoes by themselves, it was incredibly smooth with just a little grit. I began to doubt the sincerity of the "homemade" moniker until I came across a bite that had some lumps in it. The chicken gravy also had a nice savory profile to it and complimented the potatoes nicely.
The final side that came with my dinner today was the homemade macaroni and cheese:
This was a nice version of macaroni and cheese. The elbow macaroni wasn't overcooked and mushy. The cheese sauce had a very nice balance to it; it wasn't over or under sauced. I've been known to receive versions of this American staple from both extremes, cooked macaroni floating in cheese soup and dried out macaroni that almost has cheddar cheese powder on it. I personally would have liked it with a touch more cheese sauce, but I think this one struck a nice compromise between the two extremes.
Overall, I enjoyed my meal today at Hartville Kitchen. The food wasn't fancy, but it was prepared well enough. The prices were reasonable, anywhere from $3.50 for a sandwich to $10-$11 for dinner entrees. They had a plethora of pies from which to choose if you are a dessert lover, but after all of that food, I was completely full. Since there were a number of other shops in the complex, I have no hesitation recommending this place as a destination dining type of restaurant. Come down (or up), do a little shopping, do a little eating, and if they are open, check out the marketplace behind the main building for all sorts of other goodies.
[Ed. Note: I had originally published a response from Elise Harper, Human Resource Manager from Hartville Kitchen. I have removed the response because I am unclear if she was aware that my solicitation for a response meant that I would be posting some or all of her comments as an addendum to my review. I would like to encourage her or any other member of the Hartville Kitchen team to feel free to leave a public comment on this posting.
To that end, I am tweaking the change I discussed here. I will still make available for preview pending reviews to restaurants that I am easily able to contact electronically. However, instead of requesting a response to be published with the review, I will simply invite them to comment publicly on the blog itself. ]