Comment on a story to join the table talk!
Address: 584 5th St. Struthers
Hours: 4 to 11 p.m. Monday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday: closed Sundays and holidays
By Mark Smesko and Michael Vallas
In the U.S, approximately 23 million chickens per day meet their demise only to be reincarnated as boneless/skinless chicken breasts, packaged into bite-size nuggets, or assembled into buckets. Altogether an unceremonious end to a rather dull and short life — much like Mark’s career in podiatry. However, at the Elmton the chicken is glorified.
The Elmton first opened its doors in 1945 and has been owned and operated by Jack Walters for the past 24 years. He is the third generation, behind his father and grandfather, to run the Struthers restaurant.
When you walk into The Elmton, you can sense the history. The bar has a “Cheers-like” feel, and while you’re sitting there, it isn’t too hard to imagine that Norm could come in and belly up to the bar with you at any moment.
Jack explained that the longevity of the restaurant was the result of the good employees, the work ethic of his family, and the consistency of the food that they serve.
Our meal started with a discussion (argument) over what exactly is “broasting.” A combination of broiling and roasting? Intuitive but wrong. Jack explained that broasting is a unique process by which the chicken is pressure-cooked in oil, but it is not frying in the traditional sense.
The process starts when the chicken is marinated each morning, next dusted with seasoned breading, then cooked to order. Jack stated that meat cooks from the inside out, so it doesn’t absorb any of the grease. The chicken takes only 9 minutes to get to crispy perfection.
Jack took us on a tour of the kitchen to view the broasting equipment. Our notion of duplicating this process at home quickly faded as he noted that each of the four units in the restaurant cost approximately $12,000.
Our chicken dinners consisted of a breast, thigh and leg accompanied by Jo Jo fries and homemade coleslaw.
When you first bite into the chicken, you get the amazing crunch of the skin and breading followed by the moist, tender, juicy meat. It is mildly seasoned so as not to overpower the quality of the meat and the skill with which it is prepared.
The fries were crisp on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside. The coleslaw was a cool, delicious accompaniment to the steaming hot chicken and fries.
Perhaps it was the talk of tradition and family, but we couldn’t help but think of the fried chicken we ate growing up in the ’70s. The notion of juicy chicken was a foreign concept in our respective homes.
Our moms’ cooking method would render a bird to a chalklike consistency, thus ensuring no possibility of eating any undercooked poultry. Safety through incineration.
We next directed our appetites to The Elmton’s renowned pizza. Jack explained to us that the dough is made fresh every morning at 3 a.m. Pies are prepped, then cooked to order. The recipe is the same now as it was when the restaurant opened and his grandfather called it “real pizza.” These pizzas are not cooked on a stainless steel conveyor belt, but rather in brick ovens, which gives them a distinctive flavor and crust.
We sampled a pepperoni pizza. Because of the brick ovens, the crust comes out almost caramelized. Contrast this with the soft cheese, salty pepperoni, and tangy sauce and you can understand why his grandfather called it real pizza
The proportion of sauce, cheese and toppings creates a nice balance. This is truly some of the best pizza in the area.
For good measure we finished our dining experience with a pair of broasted chili dogs. Perhaps this was too much, but after all, when you have a cold beer in hand it just seems like a perfect way to end the meal.
Aside from the free food, another benefit of our writing experience is the opportunity to talk to people in town about the local places to eat.
Recently we received an email from a kind soul lamenting the food scene in Youngstown, noting that the area is good for pizza, pasta and burgers but didn’t have any fine dining, where one can wear a $500 evening gown.
Well, it seems we can add chicken to that list of staples. And despite Mark’s penchant for Donna Karan originals, we found the Elmton a great place to take your family — albeit in jeans and tees — enjoy a good meal and socialize in the comfort of family and friends.
Do yourself a favor and make the short drive to Struthers to support this family establishment. You won’t be disappointed.
ABOUT Signature Dishes
Mike and Mark are on the lookout for the biggest, hottest and tastiest dishes in the Valley. Email them at BrothersInFood@gmail.com.