Living Large in Northeast Ohio
March 5, 2016
Quaker Steak and Lube has been a restaurant mainstay in this area since 1974. When it opened its eye-popping facility in Sharon, a lot of people from this area didn’t know what buffalo wings were. I remember trying them for the very first time at the Lube and have been hooked ever since…on wings that is.
Over the years we visited it often. Back in the day Quaker Steak sponsored two different New Year’s Eve parties in their adjoining facilities. It was always the last stop after our annual family trip to Kraynak’s. It was wonderful in the summer with its outdoor front. We would get wings at their kiosk in front of Boardman Lanes to take home for dinner. Then they opened the Austintown facility…then the new Boardman facility. All the while they continued their expansion nationwide. I always root for the home team, and they were succeeding.
Imagine our surprise when we saw it filed for bankruptcy last fall. Maybe I wasn’t so surprised. Over time things changed. The folks that worked in Sharon were oftentimes decidedly disagreeable. Service was bad. The quality of the food went down. The wings got skimpy, and so did the sauce on the wings. The couple of times I went to the Austintown facility the food was almost...let’s just stay we stopped going. Expanding a business, especially a restaurant business, can be tricky. I don’t pretend to know any of the circumstances behind the bankruptcy, but looking at the figures in the newspaper…it was bad.
The good news is that Travel Centers of America (TA) bought them out. The deal closed at the end of March. I understand that the sale was in the works before the bankruptcy, but creditors were reticent resulting in the bankruptcy in an effort to bring the transaction to a conclusion.
Travel Centers runs truck stops across the nation. It is like Disneyland for car freaks. When we travel, even if it’s just to Mansfield or Columbus, I always make it a point to stop at a TA because you can find stuff there you can’t get anywhere else. The restrooms are big and clean. Did I mention they got great stuff that you can’t get anywhere else? Sometimes I go there to buy Christmas presents for stocking stuffers or gift exchanges with a low dollar limit. If they don’t got it, you don’t need it!!!
This past Memorial Day my wife and I spent by ourselves as our family celebration was on Sunday. We were looking for someplace to eat. We drove to a place in Austintown we thought would be open, but it was closed!!! Quaker Steak was in the general vicinity and open. Our experiences there were so bad a few years ago we thought twice about going, but outside of Cracker Barrel there weren’t a whole lot of options. So we gave it a go hoping for the best. I am glad we did. We have been back several times.
It is rapidly becoming my go-to place when my wife says she wants to go someplace where she doesn’t have to change her clothes. The thumbnail: this is a great space with good food at reasonable prices. I don’t know whether the transition from awful to good took place under the old owners or the new owners. But the improvement is substantial.
This is a big restaurant. On its face it is probably one of the bigger restaurants I have been in. They must have been planning on selling a whole lot of wings.
The outside patio is outstanding; probably the best outdoor space in the area. Outdoor patios are usually add-ons which make them awkward, fenced in parking lot extensions put in mostly for smokers. This is a well-planned very large L-shaped space facing away from the late afternoon and evening sun which more often than not makes patios unbearable in sunny weather. (For anyone planning to build a restaurant, that is the southeast corner!!) The bar is open but undercover taking care of rainy days. The inside is just as interesting. It has the usual Lube automobile paraphernalia, but it is roomy and airy with a tolerable noise level.
Whoever designed their bar offerings did a terrific job. I get tired of the same old Margarita variations. Yes…they are there if you want them. But the drink menu has some really interesting stuff that I actually want to try. I have picked the Moscato Grape Sangria for this year’s summer drink. It doesn’t get any better than this when it is 90 degrees outside.
The Lube food is Lube food. Except now it is good Lube food. The wings are meaty and plump with a generous amount of sauce so you can actually taste it. My last trip there I had a steak. No…they aren’t the size or quality of the $35.00 steak at your local steakhouse, but it was actually pretty good…cooked right…and fairly tender. You can’t beat it for the money. There is a wide variety of burgers which are about as good as you are going to get anywhere. And their baked beans are terrific. When they came out the looked a little soupy. Don’t worry about it. I couldn’t stop eating them. By the end of the evening I was sopping up what was left of the “soupy” with my bread!!! My wife has gotten in the habit of ordering their Philly steak sandwich. Worth the trip. The meal ends, as always, with the towelettes and the red licorice. The service is friendly. The staff is well trained.
Check out their website to discover some of the wonderful events...especially if you are into vintage cars and motorcycles. That is as good as it gets.
I missed the Lube during my unfortunate critical hiatus. If the other locations nationwide are as good as the one in Austintown, Travel Centers of America has a winner. If only Travel Centers would attach one of their stores to the restaurant, it would be perfect!! A Big Four Meatballs!!!
By: Mark G. Mangie
5800 Interstate Blvd
Austintown, OH 44515
Quaker Steak and Lube