I was shocked.
I have lived in or around Akron almost my entire life and had never heard of Edgar's Restaurant located on the Good Park Golf Course. I even used to drive by that area on my daily commute to the Montrose area, at the extreme west end of Akron. And then, in the span of just a few days, I was let it on this little secluded restaurant by two completely separate individuals, one a longtime reader and the other, a friend in the food business who had invited me to "like" the restaurant on Facebook. I went on-line to check them out and discovered that the menu was fairly reasonably priced and the food was a sort of mix from American and non-American influences. It was evident early on in my research that the smoker was the chef's bread and butter, so to speak.
While I had promised my friend that when I went to Edgar's I would invite her and her husband along, I happened to be free on a Tuesday evening and decided to do a preview of the restaurant by myself. I figured if I showed up at around 7 PM, I wouldn't have a problem getting a table without a reservation. This theory was severely tested, however, as I pulled into the parking lot attached to the restaurant only to find it hopelessly filled. I managed to snag a spot as another patron exited the restaurant and pulled out to leave. For those of you who don't know where Edgar's Restaurant is, the address was listed as 530 Nome Avenue, Akron, OH 44320 and they can be reached at 330-869-3000. They have a website, a Twitter account, and a Facebook page.
As I exited my car, the first sense to get ticked was my nose: I smelled smoke. As I neared the large brick edifice containing the restaurant, I noticed several smoking devices churning out the grayish mist from the back porch:
A little further past the back porch was the entrance to the restaurant:
Based on the parking situation in the outside lot, when I walked in I was expecting the place to be packed from wall to wall. Fortunately, I was wrong. Not only would I be able to get a table tonight without a reservation, there were plenty of tables from which to choose. Had I been a little smarter, I would've picked one of the booths with direct lighting overhead. Instead, I opted for a table over by the windows. This was fine for the first two courses or so, but at some point, I ended up having to discreetly use the flash on my camera in order to be able to capture shots so that they weren't too dim to use, even with the awesome adjustments that I can make in Google's Picasa software.
After being seated, the hostess handed me the menu:
Eating alone is always a challenge. While I want to get in as many tastes of the food as possible, I also have to temper that desire with the fact that my stomach is a finite size and I don't want leftovers for a week if I order too much. Seeing as there were several soups on the daily specials insert, I decided to start with a cup of the melon and mint soup to wake up my taste buds. As the menu listed that the soup was chilled, I figured it would be tasty without being too filling.
Here was a shot of the chilled melon and mint soup with caramelized ginger sour cream:
It turned out that the ginger sour cream was actually at the bottom of the cup. Unfortunately, as my server set this down in front of me, her hands were a little shaky and a bit of the soup spilled over the lip of the cup. While the soup actually resembled gazpacho, it certainly didn't taste like it. The flavor of watermelon was definitely present and the sweetness was nicely controlled. While I could see the mint in the soup, I didn't get a particularly prominent flavor from it. The soup was pureed, but not completely smooth. I scooped into the bottom of the cup and retrieved some of the ginger sour cream and tasted by itself. On its own, there was too much ginger "heat," but once I got bites of both the soup and the cream on my spoon, the bite from the ginger was tempered and actually went well with the melon flavor from the broth.
As I was working my way through the cup, I noticed something fibrous and when I went to examine it, I found this:
While I don't think this would've caused someone to choke, it certainly could've made eating it an unpleasant experience. Food at this level (and price point), should be executed at a high enough level where this shouldn't have even been an issue.
Knowing that Chef Glenn Gillespie's trademark was his competence with traditional barbecue, I wanted to make sure I included at least one taste from the menu that allowed me to gain insight into his talents. While I am not normally a rib person, I decided to go with an appetizer of cherry wood smoked ribs:
Served with a housemade mango sauce, the small plate of ribs came out with only a dry rub on them. I was impressed that the chef felt that the ribs were good enough to stand on their own sans sauce. So many times barely passable ribs are slathered in sauce to hide the inferior meat or preparation. Before trying the ribs, I tasted the mango sauce. While it wasn't a completely pureed barbecue sauce like most Northerners are used to, the play of sweet and heat between the mangoes and chilies was well balanced, neither flavor dominating the other. I next turned my attention to the pork ribs and tried a bite with only the dry rub. The meat was incredibly tender and easily yielded to my teeth, with only a slight bit of resistance. I noticed the pink smoke ring on the inside of the meat remaining on the bone: A sign of proper smoking.
I then started to chew. I have to tell you, gentle reader, that I was rewarded with the best ribs that I have ever had. Bar none. The dry rub was incredibly flavorful and the seasoning was perfect. I considered ditching the mango sauce completely and just eating the ribs dry, but after pairing the two flavors together, what was once two separate flavors now merged into a symphony of flavors circulating in my mouth. Since starting a food blog almost two years ago, there have been very few flavors over which the very mention of a food item will make me salivate on the spot. Add Edgar's ribs to that very short list.
Before I knew it, I looked down to see this:
Five ribs bones, completely cleaned of any trace of meat and a dish of mango sauce, completely consumed. I looked at my hands and noticed I had pork fat running down the sides of my palms, adhering mercilessly to the natural law of gravity. I realized at that moment that I probably could've eaten an entire rack of those ribs, savagely tearing meat from bone, grunting in absolute contentment the entire time. Fortunately, my server dropped off a clean napkin at a fortuitous moment at my table so that I could recompose myself. I never considered myself a rib person before tonight. Edgar's changed my mind.
Having finished my soup and starter, I now placed my order for the entrée and was informed that my dinner came with a garden salad. After asking about the available dressings, I found out that of the five offered, only the ranch dressing was not homemade. Intrigued by the sound of the rosemary vinaigrette, I asked for my salad to be accompanied with it.
Here was a shot of the salad:
The salad was pretty run of the mill, nothing particularly special. The dressing had a nice balance between the vinegar and oil and the rosemary scent was immediately apparent when I took the plastic lid off of the container. Considering that the salad was not dressed in any way when it got to the table, it wasn't surprising that even when dressed, the greens lacked a little seasoning. Adjusting it with the table's salt and pepper shaker seemed to fix that problem.
While I had been surprised that my server hadn't brought me bread earlier during my dining experience, I was happy for it to now make an appearance on my table:
As I smelled the bread and then tasted it, I marveled at its freshness. While it wasn't a particularly adventurous bread, the crumb was tight, the crust had a lovely chew to it and possessed a lovely mahogany sheen that reminded me of the golden brown hue of an egg-washed brioche or challah. I confirmed with my server at the end of my meal that the kitchen at Edgar's does indeed make their own bread.
For my entrée tonight, I decided to go with even more pork and ordered the Creole Stuffed Grilled Pork Chop:
The dish was served with grilled asparagus and plated atop creole red-skinned potato salad. Here was a shot of the stuffing in the pork chop after I had cut off the end:
Sprinkled on top of the pork chop were crispy prosciutto bits, similar to bacon bits, but without the smoky flavor. While the prosciutto and pork were fine on their own, the combination of the two rendered the pork just a touch too salty. Texturally, it was a fantastic idea to put the crispy rendered prosciutto on top of the pork. The still-on-the-bone pork chop was juicy and the creole stuffing was tasty, although to be honest, the sweetness from the shrimp and crayfish was a little lost on my palate. The asparagus stalks were perfectly grilled and seasoned. The potato salad, interestingly served cold, had the slightest hint of mustard in the dressing, not so much that I would compare it to the supermarket equivalent, with its homogenous canary yellow mustardy dressing. But there was no denying the sharp flavor of mustard as a background note. This was a solid dish, a touch too salty, but solid.
It was at this point that Chef Gillespie came out of the kitchen and approached my table asking how my meal was. I asked him, somewhat obviously, if he was the chef tonight.
"It depends," he quipped back. "How was the food?"
We both laughed and I couldn't wait to ask him specifically about the ribs and the dry rub. He told me that the dry rub was a multi-spiced concoction that contained salt, black pepper, brown sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, celery salt, cayenne, and a few other spices that I have now forgotten. Whatever the magical mixture was, I told him, it was absolutely delicious and the ribs could definitely stand on their own, no sauce required.
I packed up my leftovers (enough for a second meal) and asked for the check after turning down the tempting dessert tray. With tax and tip, my check only came to $41, which I thought was an amazing value. While some of the entrées do run into the mid $20's, most of his dishes are much more easily accessible in the $10-$20 range. I am eager to return again to Edgar's in order to try more of his barbecue staples as well as some of the non-barbecue items off of the menu. My recommendation is that you go with a small group, order lots of tastes, and go to town enjoying all of the well-prepared food that comes out of the kitchen. If you fancy yourself a pork rib person even remotely, you must try them when you go; you might just find yourself smacking the hands away of anyone who tries to get close to the plate of ribs. Highly recommended.