Living Large in Northeast Ohio
March 5, 2016
February 1 2016
At the time I wrote: “It is the best restaurant my wife and I have ever eaten in, anywhere, anyplace, and we have been to a lot of places.”
Well...maybe I was a tad exuberant when I wrote that. But taking everything into consideration…it is certainly in my top five picks of places to go. And we go there a lot.
The Iron Bridge stands on its own, and quite frankly is heads above its cloned Springfield Grill (very good, but not great) sister establishments. It is more genuine. It was named after its location next to what used to be an iron bridge. The bridge was replaced a few years back minus the iron part. While the Springfield Grille is more sophisticated and upscale...the food is better at the Iron Bridge. You can relax and let your hair down and have a great time.
It is in the middle of nowhere unless you are going to the Outlet Mall a few miles away. There are two ways to get there. Hop on the freeway and it is about 30 miles from Youngstown down I-80. The other way is to drive through Youngstown and Campbell to Ohio Rt. 422, then to PA 208, and take the winding road through West Middlesex, New Wilmington, and Volant to PA Route 19. That is the long way, and well worth the trip.
The long way to Mercer is a winding road through rolling hills of manicured farms and picture perfect small, college towns. It is like driving through a landscape. The road is the heart of the Western Pennsylvania Amish country, and the farms are punctuated with rolled hay, corn stacks, and horse and buggies. The ride alone, no matter what the season, makes a visit to The Iron Bridge worth the effort. On one visit, we saw a pair of hot air balloons flying into the setting sun. At Christmas, the lights gleaming from the decorated houses scattered on the snowy hillsides speak to the meaning of the season.
The eclectic menu features its signature prime rib. It is some of the best I have had anywhere, and has spoiled it for me at just about every other dining establishment. The rest of the menu is varied from sandwiches to ribs to wonderful crab cakes, another menu item that is featured by the Springfield Restaurant Group. Appetizers are filling and terrific. Desserts are gooey and big.
This is well prepared food. Each dish is inspected before it comes out of the kitchen. We know. We have watched. It is an amazing operation. Service is great, with many of the waiters and waitresses being long time employees.
And here is the kicker. You cannot beat the prices. I don’t know how they make any money at this place. For those used to big city prices, and I mean Pittsburgh and Cleveland, you will be amazed at how little your wallet hurts when you walk out of this place. It is a winner from top to bottom.
If there is a downside, it is the no reservation policy. On a busy Saturday night, the wait may top an hour plus. But you can always sit at the bar if there is room and circumvent the wait. Another trick is to get there on Friday night before 6:00, which can cut the wait time by half if not more. Sometimes we will go at 3:00 on Saturday afternoon have a mid-day dinner and watch whatever football game is on the screen.
They have made some changes over the years. When we started to go there you used to be able to request the smoking section which was the bar section of the establishment. It was homey and cozy with a fireplace and cut the wait time by half. Now there is no smoking section. There used to be a secondary bar in the main dining room. You could also sit at the bar there and cut your wait time to almost nothing. That is also gone.
I have also had a few misses with meals there. About two years ago a piece of prime rib came out that was obviously not what they normally served. It went back. Also during that period another piece of prime rib came out that was…well…I don’t know what it was. I have some familiarity with food operations and I had my suspicions. I came to the conclusion they were experimenting with a different approach that obviously didn’t work. But it is all better now. I tend to stick with the main menu items because sometimes the specials are hit or miss...but when they hit they are spectacular. All of this can be expected from any restaurant operation.
Service is always good and friendly. The bartenders are great and do a yeoman’s job. The bar is well stocked with some interesting cocktail innovations. And don't forget the Sunday Brunch!! It gets a wow.
The 30 minute drive from Youngstown is worth the effort. Give it a go!!
1438 Perry Highway
Mercer, PA 16137
Monday - Thursday: 11AM - 10PM
Friday - Saturday: 11AM - 11PM
Sunday: 9AM - 10PM
Sunday Brunch: 9AM - 2PM
By: Mark G. Mangie
The Iron Bridge - Mercer, PA.
The Iron Bridge is the flagship restaurant for the Springfield Restaurant Group. Other restaurants in the chain include the Springfield Grille in Boardman, OH, and Mars, PA.; Rachel’s Roadhouse in Butler and Mercer, PA.; the Hickory Bar and Grille in Hermitage, PA.; and The Log Cabin in Harmony, PA. There was an additional Springfield Grill in Mercer but closed a few months ago. Many of these are located on Perry Highway (Rt. 19) which starts in Erie and goes all the way south of Pittsburgh past Washington, PA. It runs parallel to I-79. It is one of the legendary American highways.
All of the Springfield Restaurant Group restaurants are different yet similar at the same time. The Iron Bridge was one of the first restaurant reviews I did when I started to blog almost 9 years ago.