Downtown 124 Kitchen and Cocktails Continues Warren’s Comeback

WARREN, Ohio – There is a new addition to the downtown dining scene in Warren.

Downtown 124 Kitchen and Cocktails opened last week. It offers an interesting and fun menu that features steaks and pasta but goes well beyond those staples.

“It’s an eclectic menu, with American cuisine and a little Italian, with Asian and Mexican influences,” said owner Anthony VanKirk.

The menu includes more than a dozen “shareables,” such as crab cake, tuna tartare, bang bang shrimp, greens and beans, and regional favorites such as peppers in oil and meat and cheese boards.

The list of entrees includes handhelds such as a Cubano sandwich, burgers, Baja shrimp tacos and al pastor tacos.

There are also a handful of pasta dishes, including Pappardelle Bolognese.

The centerpiece entrees include dragon noodles, filet of sirloin, New York strip steak, pan-seared salmon, pork shank osso bucco, chicken marsala, pan-seared halibut and tuna poke.

Soups, salads, fire-grilled pizza and desserts round out the menu.

Operating in the same space that formerly housed the short-lived Jacked Steakhouse, 124 N. Park Ave., on Courthouse Square, the new restaurant has a bar room side with more than a dozen craft cocktails and an extensive wine list.

VanKirk grew up in Warren and has spent his life in the restaurant industry.

“My first job was sweeping the parking lot at the Buena Vista restaurant [in Warren] when I was 14,” he said, noting he has since held almost every job in the business, from dishwasher to general manager.

VanKirk returned to the Mahoning Valley in 2007 after living in Cleveland for 10 years. Since his return, he has been general manager of Aqua Pazzo in Boardman, Canzonetta’s Bistro 1907 in Youngstown and, most recently, The Living Room Tavern in Howland.

Downtown 124 is the first time he has owned a restaurant.

“When this opportunity came up for me to become an owner, I took it,” he said.

The restaurant has a seating capacity of 112 in its three rooms. VanKirk made changes to the décor before opening but did not have to remove walls or make other structural changes. The exposed brick walls remain intact and are part of the modern but rustic atmosphere.

The staff of Downtown includes three of VanKirk’s former Bistro 1907 employees: restaurant manager Rob Diroll and co-head chefs Travon Eley and Anthony Petrovich. Eley also operates a food truck, Tra’s Gourmet Sandwiches, in the summer. VanKirk’s brother, Dan, is the bar manager.

Downtown 124 has a staff of 22, but that number will rise in a few weeks when the hours expand to include lunch.

Currently, the restaurant is open from 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, with the bar open until at least 10 p.m.; and 4 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with the bar open until at least 11 p.m., depending on business.

Downtown Warren has been transformed into a center of dining and nightlife in recent years, with multiple restaurants, bars, wineries and breweries, plus the newly renovated Robins Theatre.

VanKirk is happy to be a part of the renaissance.

“I’m excited about it,” he said. “It’s nice to be home again, but the revitalization is important to me.”

He grew up not far from downtown Warren and remembers when it was down on its luck.

“When I was a kid, I used to skateboard down here,” he recalled. “Most of the storefronts were empty. The alley where Modern Methods Brewing Co. is was an empty, busted up street.”

Today, there are only two empty storefronts on the square.

VanKirk’s new restaurant is right in the thick of things; approximately a dozen eateries and drinkeries are now within a few blocks.

“I have faith in downtown,” he said. “It’s getting better.”

Pictured at top: The managerial staff of Downtown 124 includes manager Rob Diroll, bar manager Dan VanKirk, owner Anthony VanKirk and chefs Travon Eley and Anthony Petrovich.

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.