Living Large in Northeast Ohio
March 5, 2016
Every now and then you come across a place that takes you by surprise. Up a Creek is a case in point. It has been around for about 15 years. Its owner is Mark Matash who ran a painting business but decided to move into the food biz. Located on East Market Street in Warren at the bottom of the restaurant row strip, it is nestled next to …you guessed it…a creek. Mr. Matash built it from the ground up and expanded it over the years. Now it is a family business with all of his children involved. I had heard about it vaguely…mostly from my friend Jeff who plays with the Sensations. His band plays there from time to time. It is nothing spectacular from the outside, and would not be a place I would normally frequent. Live and learn.
This is my first five meatball winner in a long time. Meatballs are awarded by how an establishment stacks up against other like establishments. Whether by accident or design, this is a best in class establishment…if you can figure out what class it is in!! The first time I went there I felt like I had stepped into a Parrot-Head convention. The next time it was more of a mix. The next time there was a lot of white hair. The next time back to young and hip. The inside area is nothing spectacular. It’s a bar with some booths and tables and television sets. Step out onto the patio in the summer it is another world. This is among the top patio spaces in the valley. It reminds me of some of my favorite beach and inter-coastal haunts in Ft. Lauderdale.
Here’s the thing. The food here is really, really, really, really good which makes it a cut above any of its competitors. It is everybody’s favorite tavern with the best food possible at extremely, and I mean extremely reasonable prices. This is the highest of high-end pub grub. C’mon…hot chips with sugar coated roasted pecans and blue cheese topped with a balsamic vinegar reduction. Really?? Normal casual bar food raised to a whole new level. My ultimate dream!!!! And you can have it all without having to change your clothes to go out!!! It is laid back city!!!
I am amazed watching the food come out of the kitchen. I know they are hamburgers, but those are some kind of hamburgers. When my wife says they are the best burgers she has had out in a long time…she means it. This trip she did the Reuben sandwich. It was a wowser…and not in a deli!!!
On all of my recent visits I have picked the same thing…the blackened ribeye steak covered in blue cheese. It is a big OMG. These guys know how to cook a steak…add some onion strings in a little metal bucket…you are good to go. It was so good the first time I had to have it the second time, and the third time. And no…you normally would not find this kind of a dinner at a sports bar.
The entire operation shows care and planning. The wait staff is about as good as it gets. You would normally not expect this kind of friendly, attentive, and quality service at this level that is at the same time not overbearing. It shouldn’t be that good in a place like this. The bar selections are innovative and reasonably priced. I am not a fruity drink kind of guy…but they have this watermelon concoction that is off the charts!!! In addition to the food, it offers a wide variety of entertainment on the weekends. Check the schedule. Some of the bands come in from as far away as Nashville.
I have read numerous reviews about Up a Creek. They are all over the place. But I have visited there three times, once by accident and twice by design, and I have been extremely impressed each time. First and foremost, this is a tavern and the bar is front and center. The food is a bonus, and a bonus worth going for. If you are looking for white table cloth service and conversation, go someplace else. On Saturday night at 9:00…there is a band and dancing and it will be loud. On Saturday night at 6:00, you will find middle aged people like me eating fabulous food. When in sports bar mode…need I say more? That’s kind of how it is around here. And yes…there are some interesting characters at the bar…find me a bar without any. It is all part of the fun.
I have never visited Up a Creek when cold outside so I don’t know what the inside experience is like. I suspect that the food stays say the same but with different atmospherics with all of the expectations and caveats I mentioned above. But in the summer…I will be there on a beautiful Saturday evening enjoying the patio, good pub grub and watching interesting people.
Based on my own personal experiences, in the tavern/pub category, this is as good as it gets. At least for now, it is a five meatball winner.
By: Mark G. Mangie
4793 East Market St.
Howland, OH 44484
Up A Creek