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Golden Dawn’s future set in the past

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

When you go...

Golden Dawn Restaurant

1245 Logan Ave

Youngstown, OH 44505

Phone: 330-746-0393

Hours: Sun. -Sat: 5:30 am - 11 pm

Menu: 5 burgers ($2.75 - $9.50)

3 1/2 stars

*Does not accept credit cards

By Anthony M. Fuda


Some people say that if you don’t learn from the past, history is bound to repeat itself.

In some cases, history repeating itself is a good thing -- especially at the Golden Dawn Restaurant.

Brothers Carmen and Ralph Naples have been providing the people of Youngstown with a good quality, affordable meal with a friendly atmosphere since they took over in 1960.

The restaurant was opened in 1934 by Carmen and Ralph’s parents during the Great Depression. After moving the place four times, they finally settled at its current location on Logan Avenue.

The Golden Dawn was one of the first places in the city to get a liquor license when Prohibition ended in 1933.

Outside of the different brands of beers, the Naples brothers haven’t changed much, including the prices. They say if you have a good thing going, why mess with it. Especially the menu, which is a majority of Momma Naples old-fashioned home cooked meals.

In fact, even in their mid-90s, Ralph and Carmen still come to work each day in their white-collar shirts and ties like they did as teens starting in the business.

When we went, Ralph’s son Phillip was tending bar (with white-collared shirt and tie), putting the third generation of Naples’ mark on the place. He says his dad, and uncle, “are still not ready to turn the bar over to the children yet.”

Phillip says Ralph is in every day at 4 am getting ready to open for the 5:30 am crowd. Ralph also handles the money and has his own filing system -- because he doesn’t believe in computers.

Phillip says, “The filing system is paper taped to the mirror behind the bar, and they (Ralph and Carmen) know if you move one paper.”

Carmen also has his hand in the day-to-day operations running most of the errands for the Golden Dawn.

The eatery is so rich in history that when you enter the doors, you feel you just stepped back in time. With the paneled wood walls to the red vinyl seats you would expect an aged and run down place, but it is clean and very inviting. Ohio State and YSU photos adorn the walls and large screen TVs are placed where you can sit down, eat your meals and have a couple schooners. For those who don’t know, a schooner is an oversized glass, like a little fish bowl, filled with 15 ounces of Genesee beer on tap.

We took a table in back and looked over the menu. We saw a number of items from Mama Naples’ kitchen. All so tempting and very reasonably priced, but we had to try the burgers.

The menu offers five burgers: Hamburger, Cheeseburger, Jumbo Chop Steak, Rib Eye Steak and the Filet Mignon Sandwich.

Our waitress, Anna Booth, made our choice simple when she said, “You have to get the Jumbo.”

We obliged and each chose our toppings, ranging from lettuce, tomato, onions, cheese, relish, ketchup, mustard, bacon, hot peppers, and pretty much anything they had on hand. The topping are picked-from-the-garden fresh and add that extra punch to the nicely seasoned beef.

Some burgers come with fries, and if they don’t, you can order a small portion for $2, or a large for $3. The burgers are served on hard crust white bread. We thought this could lead to a soggy disaster, but the bread was soft and held up throughout our meal.

I had my Jumbo with lettuce, tomato, onions, provolone cheese and hot peppers. I eat a lot of hot peppers, but these were some of the best I’ve had. They had a great kick to them and really enhanced the burger.

Phillip says he grows and makes the hot peppers himself and has a field of hot peppers ready for this coming canning season.

JT also had the hot peppers on his Jumbo, and said, “I don’t usually get hot peppers on my burger, but, once in a while I get a hankering. So, when I heard the peppers were homemade, it was on! I have to confess, I was a little disappointed when I saw only a few red strips of peppers peeking through the bacon. But, now I understand, with extreme HD clarity, why there weren’t more. With all of my heart, I would like to thank the cook who prepared my burger for not using more! The very first bite brought me to tears! The hottest peppers I’ve had in a long time! And so good that I couldn’t let one precious strip go uneaten, no matter the cost that I will most certainly pay.”

John said, “The Golden Dawn had a homey feel to it. It was like I made the burgers at my house, got all the toppings ready to go, and... forgot the buns at the store. Aside from the bread, which actually held up well to my surprise, the burger itself was really good. The meat was cooked just right and everything blended together well.”

The Golden Dawn has had its share of celebrities walk through the doors. Ed O’Neill used to frequent the place when he was a young boy. Former YSU and Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, Vice President Joe Biden, and rocker Tom Petty have also been guests at the Golden Dawn.

The hours say they close around 11 pm, but Phillip says if they get a call around 10:30 from the local hospital’s staff, they will stay open to make sure they are fed after their hard day’s work.

If you are looking for a slice of Americana, look no further than the Golden Dawn Restaurant.

The Naples brothers learned from their parents that if you offer a good quality meal with a great family atmosphere at an affordable price, you will have learned everything you need from the past to have a successful future.

You won’t need a lot of money to enjoy this slice of Youngstown Americana, but you will need cash when you finish eating because they do not take credit cards.

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