By NATALIE LARICCIA
BOARDMAN — It’s the dead of winter, and you’re craving a corn dog, fried cheese or a funnel cake.
When the county fair/summer festival season is months away, it used to be your appetite would have to be put on hold until summer. Those days are done — thanks to The Elephant Ear.
The new eatery, 5998 Market St., opened July 14 and serves up a variety of fair favorites, including steak sandwiches, corn dogs, cotton candy and elephant ears.
The Elephant Ear is the brainchild of Columbiana resident Shannon Dunlevy. A 1999 Springfield High School graduate, she has always dreamed of opening a restaurant and thought a menu featuring mostly fair food would be a novel idea.
Dunlevy did minor renovations to the former pizza shop’s kitchen, adding a few fryers and a cotton candy machine. The restaurant decor pays homage to its festival theme with yellow walls and pink signs in the windows.
The family-friendly eatery features unique items, such as the “secret sauce” hickory-smoked pulled pork sandwich and the Texas Toaster — a grilled ham and American cheese sandwich topped with creamy coleslaw and fair-style fries, Dunlevy said.
The elephant ear and funnel cake doughs are also made from scratch, and a variety of salads are available for the more health-conscious customer, she said.
“This is what I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. This is my dream come true,” Dunlevy said.
On Tuesday, several lunch-hour customers enjoyed corn dogs, pulled pork sandwiches, cotton candy and Philly cheese steaks.
“My favorite is the chicken fingers,” said 10-year-old William Valentini. “My mom made me give it up for Lent and the next day I ate it.”
Valentini had biked to the restaurant with his friend, 10-year-old Nicholas Rossi.
“I like going to fairs, but if you want the food you can come here,” Rossi said. “You don’t even have to pay that much for the rides and stuff.”
Food prices are even comparable to those found at a fair. Patrons can buy a $2 corn dog or elephant ear, a $3 funnel cake or a $3.50 large lemon shake. The restaurant offers daily special combos for $5 too.
Asked about the taste of the fair food, the full-mouthed kids gave a thumbs-up.
The locally owned restaurant has a hometown vibe with the owner behind the counter, giving cotton candy to kids “on the house” and hand-delivering a funnel cake to the business next door.
“It kind of makes you cheerful. You get a Coke and a funnel cake,” said Barbara Kintz, who works next door at State Alarm Systems Inc.
Kintz said that she and coworkers are eating at the new venue almost daily and recommended the Philly Cheese Steak because she’s from Philadelphia.
“We’re all going to gain 20 pounds by the end of the month,” she said.
But for Dunlevy, who attended culinary school at the Western Reserve School of Cooking, the long hours and stress of opening a new business have actually led to her dropping eight pounds.
“You have to have a passion for it,” she said.
The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and offers a variety of combo meals and a featured special each weekday.
Drive-thru window service is also available.
For more information, visit www.theelephantear.net.
CONTRIBUTOR: Vindicator staff writer Rick Rouan
SEE ALSO: Festive Fair Foods.