Monday, May 10, 2010

A Seasoned Nut At Taggarts Ice Cream Parlor

Every time I think I've completely explored the local restaurant scene in a city, I am proven wrong. Having worked for a Canton-based client for nineteen months, I thought I had hit the major spots that people recommended time and again. It wasn't until a longtime Canton resident and friend of mine, Rick, mentioned Taggarts Ice Cream Parlor that I was to learn of another great area spot to stop in for a meal. The entire conversation came about because I had mentioned to Rick about the Chicago style hot dog that Dans Dogs were offering on their menu. Rick, also a lover of the Chicago style hot dog, then introduced Taggarts to the conversation. While I didn't have a chance to do a little research until I returned home, once I looked up their website menu, I knew a stop at Taggarts would be on my list of places to visit.

Taggarts Ice Cream Parlor has two locations. The primary location was located at 1401 Fulton Road NW, Canton, Ohio 44703 and can be reached at 330-452-6844. The secondary location was in Magnolia, Ohio and was located quite a bit of a distance to the southeast of Canton.

Having keenly looked over the menu provided on their website, I was interested in stopping in for both a meal and to try out some of their homemade ice cream creations. On a cold Saturday night, I pulled up Fulton Road and finally found Taggarts at the corner of Fulton NW and 14th Street NW. There was no dedicated parking lot that I could see, but parking along the street was ample and soon enough I was standing in front of the restaurant.

Here was a shot of the exterior of the restaurant:

Once inside the main door, there were basically two areas. To the right was a large room with tables and booths. Presumably the restrooms were also on this side of the restaurant. To the left was another room, broken up into a service and seating area and the kitchen in the back. I'm not familiar with other days of the week, but tonight there was a sign indicating that guests should sit anywhere they wished. Since the room to the right looked awfully full, I decided to seat myself at a small table on the left side of the restaurant.

Present on every table are a small basket of condiments and several menus. Even though I had studied the menu pretty intently online before coming, I went ahead and retrieved one so I could provide you with some photographs:

Menu photographs two and three consisted of all the non-ice cream options (such as burgers, hot dogs, soups, salads, etc.) while photograph four listed all of the cool and creamy treats that awaited me at the end of my meal.

While I waited for my server to come to my table, I realized that my table of choice had been a serendipitous one. It appears that I had a full-on view to the workings of the ice cream service area and I watched intently as entire trays of goblets and glasses were prepared for service:

Interestingly, the ladies working behind the ice cream counter only prepared the treats up to the point where the finishing touches were added. It wasn't until the servers went to pick up their orders that a whipped cream gun (it literally looked like one of those soft drink hose dispensers) was used to top sundaes that required it and the obligatory bright red maraschino cherry was placed on top. The two ladies working behind the ice cream service counter also ran the cash register (on the right hand side of the above photo) and they were the modicum of efficiency tonight.

Once my server got to my table, I placed my order for the Chicago-style hot dog and an order of the beer battered onion rings. Just based on looking at the menu, it appeared that some sides were homemade and some were not. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask until she had returned with my dinner. It seems that the onion rings were not homemade, but she assured me that they were good. Of course, since she had just dropped off my meal, I wasn't in a position to argue with her, so I decided to simply give her the benefit of the doubt.

First up was my Chicago-style hot dog. Here was a shot of the entire dog:

And a close-up of one end:

It should be noted that this was a 1/4 pound hot dog. I was a little concerned when I saw a menu price of $4.50 for just one of these beasts, but given it's size, I wasn't disappointed with what I received. Using a traditional toasted hot dog roll, the all-beef hot dog extended well beyond each end of the bun. The dog had also been scored in several places before being grilled. The bun had been coated liberally in yellow mustard, sweet pickle relish, tomatoes and onions before being annointed with the cooked dog. Topping the dog was cubed cucumbers that were sprinkled with celery salt. Instead of integrating the pepperoncini into the actual bun, there were two whole peppers, one located at each end. This was a very tasty and very juicy hot dog. The flavors did a nice job melding with each other as well as shining on their own. I kind of wish they had found a way to incorporate the pepperoncini into the sandwich, but I solved this problem by taking a bite of pepper before taking a bite of hot dog. The only real problem with this dog was that it was messy. I suppose in that regard, it very much resembles its namesake from the Windy City.

Along with my hot dog, here was my ordered basket of the beer battered onion rings:

When my server initially set this down in front of me, I was a bit overwhelmed. At $3.45 for this serving, I had originally thought this would be a side better split with another person. But then I started to eat them. Even if they weren't homemade, the line cook responsible for cooking these beauties did an excellent job. There was minimal grease on either the rings or the bottom of the bowl. In fact, when I reached the bottom of the bowl, I took another photograph of the paper just so you could see how little grease there was:

They were light, crispy, and had just enough of the onion inside each ring so that you got a little bit of sweet with the salty coating in each bite. They weren't too big and they weren't too small. I found myself popping ring after ring in my mouth, marveling at how good they were until I realized that I had truly eaten the entire bowl. What I originally had thought would be a nice side for two people turned out to be a healthy (in terms of portion) side for one.

Had I stopped there, my total bill for dinner would've only been $8. Not bad. But I knew I wanted the entire Taggarts experience. Taggarts makes all of their own ice creams as well as their hot fudge and chocolate sauce from scratch. I debated on what to get for dessert. Having just finished dinner, I wanted a "taste" of something without overdoing it. I decided on getting the Mini-Bittner. A smaller and cheaper version of the original, the Mini-Bitter combined some of their homemade vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce and was topped off with roasted pecans. Fortunately, the Mini-Bittner didn't contain the 3/4 pounds of ice cream that the original has.

I was surprised how quickly my Mini-Bittner showed up at my table after I ordered it:

Based on the description on the menu, I thought the chocolate sauce would be more "swirled" into the vanilla ice cream. It was definitely more thoroughly blended. The resulting consistency was as soft as frozen custard, but not quite as thin as a milkshake. On top of the creamy base were a layer of roasted pecans that looked like they had been dusted with something. Topping it all off was an application of freshly whipped cream from the gun at the service counter.

I decided to try one of the roasted pecans by itself. Expertly roasted, the pecan had an amazing flavor and the nut meat itself had a nice snap to it. The coating I had noticed earlier began to make my mouth water as I chewed it. While it was definitely salty, I tried to detect any other savory profiles. While paying my bill later on, I asked the woman working the cash register how they prepare the pecans. Apparently they are salted twice, once before and once after roasting. It certainly would account for the great depth of flavor.

I then took a nice big spoonful of everything and was rewarded with salty, sweet, creamy, and crunchy, all in one mouthful. The nice thing about the salted pecans was that the salt didn't hit your taste buds right away. As the ice cream began to melt on my tongue, only then did the saltiness kick in to add that extra layer of savory. I wasn't sure if I was going to love the Mini-Bittner upon first reading it, but I can assure you that I am now a big fan. I was sad when I reached the bottom of my ice cream dish that my experience for tonight was over, but also happy that I had ordered the smaller version of this Taggarts' classic dessert.

With tax, my entire meal only came to just under $12. With my stomach and taste buds happy and sated, I made a promise to myself to return again ... soon! Taggarts has been in operation since 1926 and still has that old-world feel to it. It is eminently family-friendly and has menu choices for all tastes. Only a few of the dessert items have the roasted salted pecans already incorporated, but fortunately, you can order a side of them for a small price. Be warned, though. Once you try them, you might find yourself highly addicted to them.

Taggarts Ice Cream Parlor on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

bonnjill said...

Mmmmmm, the Bittner. It's been too long since I've had one. I think a trip to Canton soon is in order. That hot dog looked excellent. I had no idea they served food too. My friend had only taken me there for ice cream. Thanks, Tom!

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