Elm Street Diner Makes ‘Cheddar’ on Mac and Cheese

By Nami Nagaoka

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Kendra Corpier didn’t know about the Elm Street Diner until she went there for a business meeting Tuesday. After the meeting, she and her coworkers stayed for lunch but couldn’t decide what to order from the menu, she said.

“We were all sitting here drooling over it, deciding which macaroni and cheese we wanted,” she said with a laugh.

She eventually ordered the Southern macaroni and cheese, which includes pulled pork and Penny’s Apple Juice Based Grillin’ Sauce atop the diner’s original macaroni and cheese, made with cheddar and New York sharp cheese topped with panko bread crumbs.

“It was delicious,” Corpier said. “I couldn’t even finish it all. It was so much.”

Elm Street Diner opened at 832 Elm St. two weeks ago and features 10 different kinds of handcrafted macaroni and cheese. Operator and head chef Ron Heinbaugh rents the space for the restaurant from Common Wealth Inc., a community development organization developing spaces along the Elm Street corridor.

Elm Street Diner offers 10 types of macaroni and cheese, served with a house salad and a breadstick.

Heinbaugh has worked in the culinary industry most of his life, including four restaurants he owned and operated in Cleveland and Champion Township. Before moving to the Ohio City neighborhood in Cleveland, where he spent more than 20 years, he lived in the Youngstown area in the 1970s and 80s, he said. He moved back about a year and a half ago, and met Pat Rosenthal, executive director of Common Wealth.

The offices for the organization are on the second floor of the renovated house on Elm Street, and Rosenthal said they always intended to use the first floor for a diner. Originally, a tenant of the Common Wealth Kitchen Incubator wanted to open a barbecue restaurant there and started renovations there, but “his plans changed,” she said.

“But we found someone who ran a macaroni and cheese restaurant in Cleveland,” she said.

Elm Street Diner operator and head chef Ron Heinbaugh moved back to the area after owning restaurants in Cleveland.

Heinbaugh met Rosenthal at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Youngstown after moving back, he said. They worked together to come up with the plan for the diner.

“I’ve always had interests in this neighborhood here and this opportunity came along,” he said. “I think this neighborhood has potential. People are starting to take interest in it.”

All macaroni and cheese dishes are served with a house salad and a breadstick. Each variety includes unique ingredients, like one of Heinbaugh’s favorites, the Black Forest, which features Swiss cheese-based sauce tossed with a blend of fresh mushrooms, spinach and smoked Gouda cheese.

He also serves sandwiches, soups and salads as well as a selection of house-made desserts, including a Chicago-style chocolate chip cookie and a peanut butter pie. Heinbaugh won the Taste of Cleveland’s best dessert two years in a row, once for his carrot cake which is also served at the diner.

Heinbaugh’s carrot cake won him best dessert in the Taste of Cleveland.

Corpier had the carrot cake after her lunch and complimented that “It wasn’t too sweet.

“Typically, other carrot cake tends to be dry and not delicious, but okay,” she said. “But this carrot cake, you can tell it was homemade. It was just delicious.”

Joe Fanto, a Youngstown resident, saw an article about the diner online and also had lunch there for the first time on Tuesday. Fanto works downtown and likes to support local restaurants, he said.

“Trying to stay local if we can and help out,” he said. “It’s a good option and it’s definitely a nice comfort food especially in the winter to come out and try it.”

Prices range from $9 to $13 and the diner is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, though Heinbaugh said those hours might change eventually.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.