Eat and Run or Linger over Lunch Downtown
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The lunch business in downtown Warren and Youngstown encompasses a wide array of restaurants that serve a diverse group of hungry people.
Long gone is the three-martini lunch. Tax reform in the 1980s made that a relic of the Madmen world of Don Draper and Roger Sterling.
Today’s lunch trade involves serving many who want nothing more than a quick half-hour lunch. Others want to savor their food and converse. And takeout is always popular.
The Business Journal visited a few restaurants to learn what’s for lunch.
V2 Serves Downtown Workforce
For nearly seven years, V2 Wine Bar and Trattoria has catered to the professionals who eat lunch in downtown Youngstown.
From 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. weekdays, the restaurant is usually filled with accountants, bankers, architects and lawyers from nearby offices, says co-owner Ed Moses.
“When we started, professionals needed someplace to go downtown,” he says. “Professional people – bankers, lawyers, business people. That’s who we attract.”
The portions served, whether for lunch or dinner, are the same. “I keep everything the same. We have one menu, prices are the same, everything,” Moses says.
The burgers at V2 and pizzas made by hand in his kitchen are always popular, Moses says, but he offers a wide variety of lighter fare as well. That includes salads and appetizers such as Italian greens and stuffed banana peppers.
A burger or a panini runs from $7.95 to $10 while the 10-inch pizzas range from $7 to $10.50.
V2 regularly runs specials. “We’ll do Friday fish for $10 and $5 burgers on Mondays,” Moses says.
The time people spend at lunch varies, Moses, says, but eating in is always popular. “We have more eat-in than delivery,” he says, “and they’re usually more dressed up.”
Nor is there much difference between the dinner crowd and the lunch crowd, Moses says. Professionals, usually 25 and older, often come in for a drink and a meal in the evening, but some still like a drink with lunch.
“Some people still do drink at lunch,” Moses says. “You’ll see some folks having a drink, usually a glass of vino. One drink and that’s it.”
For those who want a martini, however, there’s always after work. “Come check out our $5 martinis on Mondays,” Moses says.
The End of the Tunnel
A mixed crowd of regulars keeps lunchtime busy at Christopher’s at the End of the Tunnel in downtown Youngstown.
“We have a lot of architects, attorneys, people from PNC [Bank], the Homeland Security Office and kids from Eastern Gateway,” says co-owner Shawna Bonacci.
“It turns into a kind of a show, and these are the characters,” she says of her regulars.
At night, Christopher’s often hosts live music and is known as a good drinking spot, but it’s all about the food for the lunchtime crowd, Bonacci says.
Lunch runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
After several years in business, Christopher’s changed its menu last June.
“Something I noticed was that a lot of people who work in the PNC Building [City Centre One] or who go to Eastern Gateway, they’d come and have lunch every day, but they didn’t want to spend $12 every day,” she says.
Today, Christopher’s is known for its loaded baked potatoes, which change every month. “You can get filled up and only spend $6,” Bonacci says of the entree.
“A lot of people eat out more often now, because the price is reasonable,” she says.
Take-out constitutes about half its lunch business, Bonacci says, but some customers – especially regulars who are retired – linger over lunch.
“We have some people who will stay and hang out all day,” she says. “They’ll maybe have two meals here.”
Christopher’s appeals to business people because they can work from their laptops. “We have free Wi-Fi, so there are people who will come and stay and do work,” she says, “probably longer than they normally would.”
Some have a drink during lunch, but rarely those returning to work. “You can certainly have a martini after work though,” Bonacci says with a smile.
Sandy’s Serves the ‘On the Go’ Crowd
On any given weekday on the first floor of the Central YMCA downtown, you’ll see the crowds lining up at Sandy’s Café and Catering.
In at least one sense, serving the lunch crowd is the same as serving the breakfast rush, co-owner Steve Sheronovich says, “It’s gotta be quick. Our deal is try to get them in and out as quickly as possible, because they’ve got to get back to work.”
Sandy’s succeeded Jorgine’s Deli in 2015. It’s open 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. weekdays for breakfast and lunch.
With cafeteria service, Sandy’s is known for its soups, salads, sandwiches and daily specials.
There’s usually something for everyone, Sheronovich says. Traditional hoagies can be paired with a quinoa, spinach and sundried tomato salad.
“Every day it’s something different,” he says.
“Taco salads on Wednesdays are huge. Whenever chicken paprikash hits the menu, they’re lining up out the door for it,” Sheronovich says.
He emphasizes the quality of the food, which allows him to justify it costing more than other lunch spots. “We may not be the lowest priced in town,” Sheronovich says, “but this is all made-from-scratch stuff, so the quality is there.”
A open eating area, the Gallery, is available for those with more time to eat, but Sheronovich hopes to eventually move seating to the nearby Manchester Room.
“It would afford people more privacy,” he says.
Sandy’s also caters lunches for downtown businesses.
“YMHA or someplace will order hot food, and we’ll bring in pans of stuffed chicken breasts, potatoes and salads,” Sheronovich says.
Sandy’s hopes to soon have a delivery service for downtown businesses. “On the days when it’s snowing and no one wants to leave the office, we’ll have someone out there doing deliveries,” he says.
Sunrise Is Center of Everything in Warren
The Sunrise Inn of Warren is a well-known lunch spot that caters to everyone from government workers who want a quick lunch to retirees who enjoy coffee and conversation over cannoli.
“We get everyone,” says owner Ken Haidaris. “We’re in the center of everything here in Warren.”
Sunrise offers the same menu all day, with the same large portions available for lunch and dinner.
“I don’t believe in that – having different size portions for lunch and dinner,” he says. “People will come in and get lunch, eat half, and then save the other half for dinner.”
Soup and pizza are among his main attractions. With a selection of five or six soups each day, Sunrise ladles out 125 gallons a day, Haidaris says.
For menu items such as soup, salad and pizza, Sunrise can have a customer in and out in 15 minutes, Haidaris adds.
“We’re competing not only against other restaurants but also against Taco Bell and other fast-food places down the road,” he says. “And they’re all about getting people served quickly.”
Professionals from downtown are especially eager to eat quickly, and only rarely do they have a drink with lunch, Haidaris emphasizes.
For those with more time, Sunrise offers a large selection of daily specials that range from wedding soup at $3.39 to meatloaf at $10.99.
The Sunrise prides itself on offering an abundance of choices. “Our menu is so big and the variety so great,’ Haidaris says, “that you could come in here for three months and never get the same thing – maybe longer, if you consider the specials.”
Takeout and delivery constitutes a significant piece of the lunch business. Sunrise delivers from Lordstown to Youngstown. “If it’s a big enough order, we’ll go,” Haidaris says.
Courthouse Grille Locks Down Lunch Business
Just off Courthouse Square in downtown Warren, a small diner, Courthouse Grille, serves local government workers and retirees looking for the right place at lunch where they don’t feel rushed.
“We’re like the best-kept secret,” owner Lynne Villers says.
Many of the its dishes – the Court Reporter, D.A. and the Jury – have judicial themes, which reflect the importance of the courthouse on the lunch trade.
“We have great customers from the courthouse,” Villers says, “and they’re really good about sending jurors over here.
“When there’s a high-profile case on, we’ll get the news media and everyone in here eating, too. But when the government offices are closed, I’m closed.”
Courthouse Grille serves breakfast and lunch and is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays.
Villers describes most of her customers as “working class people,” and prices accordingly. She tries to keep menu items in the $5- to $8-range, but specials can be less expensive.
“A cup of soup is $2.75,” Villers says. “Right now an egg salad sandwich and a bag of chips is $3.25.”
Also popular are the potato salad, the Ultimate BLT and the famous Dave Grohl Alley Burger, piled high with mushrooms, a slice of onion, bacon, horseradish sauce and provolone cheese.
Takeout is very popular, but regulars, especially if they’re retired, hang out until closing.
“It’s like Cheers, where everybody knows your name,” Villers says. “And we like to know your name.”
Courthouse delivers, by foot if it’s nearby, and by car.
“I’ll drive anywhere,” Villers says. “I’ve gone as far as Eastwood [Mall] and Champion.”
Pictured at top: Ed Moses, co-owner of V2 Wine Bar and Trattoria.
Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.