If you like to explore eateries that are off the beaten path, boy, do we have a quirky one for you. It's called Farm Girls Pub & Grub.
If your idea of going out to eat is heading to a chain restaurant at The Strip, stop right here. But if you like to explore eateries that are off the beaten path — make that way off the beaten path — keep reading. Because boy, do we have a quirky one for you.
It’s called Farm Girls Pub & Grub. But scratch the plural. Since the eatery opened in September, the other girl decided to go back to the farm.
The remaining one is Abbe Turner, who tends chickens, dairy goats and heritage pigs on her 14-acre farm in Garrettsville. Turner also produces and wholesales artisanal goat cheese from her Lucky Penny Creamery in Kent. And now, she owns a restaurant in a century-old building on Main Street in the under-polished and under-populated downtown.
The restaurant, open only on Friday and Saturday evenings for now, features less than a dozen main menu items, and is ultra theme-specific.
“Whenever possible, we try to make sure we are working within a 200-mile foodshed for our products,” said Turner, 47, of her locavore philosophy.
So get this straight. The delicious, rib-sticking “pork sundae” menu item of mashed potatoes, pulled pork and gravy with a cherry tomato on top?
Sorry, no tomato.
“Our menu is totally simple and based on seasonality,“ Turner said. “We can’t get local tomatoes in winter in Ohio. I’d rather have them not have it then have them be disappointed.”
She does make exceptions. Coffee, for one. And canned mushrooms.
Sound crazy? For Turner and her husband, Anderson, opening an eatery made perfect sense.
“The farm is a production place. The creamery is a processing place. And the restaurant is geared toward the end user.” Turner said. “I’m just trying to complete the food chain.”
Plus, she fell in love with the site, formerly Antone’s Italian Restaurant. The enormous dining room with its soaring ceiling has a distinct focal point: A immense bar ornately carved of Honduran mahogany.
Burnished hardwood floors lend warmth to the room’s expanse, and the overly stark white walls are punctuated by small but colorful farm paintings done by Turner’s husband, who is the director of galleries at Kent State University. Well-worn green vinyl booths add the vintage flair Turner was after.
Here’s some more quirkiness. The guy in the kitchen? Drew Racin, a 2003 grad of the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park. Driving from the Cleveland area on weekends, happily cooking chicken and biscuits in Alliance. Go figure.
Who are we to ask why, as long as we can enjoy one of Racin’s killer chuck burgers topped with Turner’s homemade goat cheese? Or his amazingly tender pulled pork, or crispy buttermilk fried chicken breast smothered in gravy?
Page 2 of 2 - My favorite was his creamy turnip potato soup topped with crunchy raw kohlrabi and swirled with roasted red pepper oil. The soup’s rich, luxurious mouth feel made me wonder if I was slurping up spoonfuls of heavy cream.
“It doesn’t have an ounce of cream in it,” Racin said. “I don’t cook with a lot of fat. I’m a big fan of adding vegetable puree to add texture and depth.”
Racin’s only miss was the roasted veggie pasta; the vegetables were soggy.
Turner admits that her seasonal slant is tricky this time of year.
“It’s all driven by the farm,” she said. “If the farmers are bringing me a lot of butternut squash, then that’s what we’re using, that’s why right now we have a lot of root vegetables.”
I’ll be honest. It seems like the odds are stacked against Farm Girls. But who doesn’t love an underdog? It’s worth the trip to check them out. Enjoy a bite, a glass of wine or a mircrobrew, and the out-of-the-ordinary setting. Here’s hoping the eatery soldiers on through winter, so we can look forward to the growing season and the chef’s opportunity to shine.