Growing Up In Working Class Youngstown — Neighborhood Bars

The Open Hearth Bar on Steel Street, Photo by Tony Tomsic, Special Collections, Cleveland State University Library

The Open Hearth Bar on Steel Street, Photo by Tony Tomsic, Special Collections, Cleveland State University Library

I recently learned that the Boulevard Tavern, an institution on Youngstown’s South Side has closed after nearly 90 years in operation. Nick Petrella ran the tavern through most of it’s history and it was known for its fish and good spaghetti sauce.

This news reminded me of what an institution the neighborhood bar has been in working class Youngstown. And like most bars, it was not just a “shot and a beer” place but also a place to get good food. You really couldn’t have a popular bar without having a good kitchen.

Every part of town had (and still has in some cases) its places. There was the MVR in Smoky Hollow, the Avalon and the Golden Dawn on the north side, the Royal Oaks Tavern on the east side, and the Atomic Bar on the south side. The Ringside, the Brass Rail and the Blue Ribbon Grill were among the downtown favorites.

Growing up on the west side, there were several bars along Steel Street including the Polar Bear, the Palm Cafe and the Open Hearth. We used to get some of the best pizza I’ve ever eaten from Molly O’Dea’s on Salt Springs Rd. Up on Mahoning Avenue was the Town Tavern and Il Solo Mio. The bars on Steel Street and Salt Springs were near the mills and guys would stop there on the way home.

But because most bars had good kitchens, they were also family places. In fact, the question with many places would be, “is it a bar or is it a restaurant” and the answer was yes! There were the regulars at the bar, and then the folks that came in every so often for a good meal out in the days before fast food and chain restaurants.

Bars were part of the rich fabric of neighborhoods in working class Youngstown. You could walk to one nearby just as you could the bank, the local grocery, the beer and wine shop, the drug store and hardware store. Such places still exist but nowadays it seems that you drive to bars in commercial developments some distance from one’s neighborhood. I wonder if this contributes to DUI incidence. As long as you stayed on the sidewalk you weren’t a danger to yourself or others!

Bars were indeed places where “everyone knew your name” if you were a regular. The owners and customers knew each other by first name. Often the owners helped sponsor local sports teams and so further contributed to the fabric of community.

What are your memories of neighborhood bars in Youngstown, or your own home town?

[You can find all the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown posts in the “On Youngstown” category on my homepage]

29 thoughts on “Growing Up In Working Class Youngstown — Neighborhood Bars

  1. Thanks Bob, for sharing this. Oh the memories!! I was a SouthSide girl growing up, as were both of my parents and grandparents. Being born and raised and all of my family being between LaBelle and Philadelphia, South Ave and Market St, we were all born and raised on The Boulevard. I am now scrambling to find a ‘good sauce’ restaurant. To no avail. The MVR is good, okay EXCELLENT, but no one (except myself, of course) can match The Boulevard. I’ll be interested to read the comments that follow. Someone might be able to shed some light on my dilemma!! If it is OK with you, I would like to share this on my Blog.

    • Mair, you are welcome to share this as long as you connect back to the link for the blog. From all that I’ve heard people say, The Boulevard was quite a place. Makes me wish I’d grown up on the south side!

  2. Thanks for the article. We got great pizza and spaghetti and meat balls from Pete’s Place on Mahoning Avenue. The Open Hearth was and still is an iconic place on Steel Street. My son still goes to the Royal Oaks for good food. Michelle

  3. Several places come to my mind. I always enjoyed the Royal Oaks while in High school in 1960’s, Their pizza was superb. The Golden Dawn which my enjoyed. We lived on the north side. and the Lampost on Belmont ave. I will be visiting Ytown this summer and plan on going to the Dawn and Royal Oaks. The lampost I undrstand is a DIFFERENT place now.

  4. I was a northsider and from the time I was little we were a Golden Dawn family. We took my son there a few months ago and he became the fourth, but probably fifth, generation to have had a meal there. Thanks for sharing this series. I really enjoy these Youngstown posts.

    • Thanks, Joe! I’ve heard so much about the Golden Dawn but that wasn’t part of my Youngstown experience which was more on the West and South sides. Gotta get there some time when we are in town!

  5. Teenie’s Tavern on South Avenue! I think it was Mary’s before Teenie Gordulic bought it. Still there and still serving the best pirohy on Fridays! (potato , see cabbage and lekvar (prune jam 🙂 We took our kids there in the 80’s when they were toddlers…used a case of beer as a booster seat! When they come home we MUST go to Teenies for pirohy!

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  7. Thanks Loretta….glad to know that “Mary’s Tavern” is now called “Teenies”.
    This was my Dad’s “go to” place after work. My mom wasn’t thrilled that he would stop there before c oming home but I remember it as a place where my dad knew everyone and where he could tell his Fish stories, get a laugh and wind down from a grueling day at City Hall. Fridays were ” bring your own pot” days for the BEST Pierogis in town. I have always been grateful for Mary’s for providing a bit of much needed respit for my wonderful dad. (-:

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  10. I think you really nailed it with the bars being neighborhood places. My parents owned the Modern Manor on Mahoning Avenue, Bellview on Oak Hill and Falls Avenue and the High Spot on Logan and Bissel, replaced by the Acme Steakhouse. I spent the majority of my youth at the Modern Manor in Austintown and describe it as a “club.” Similar to the other bars, it was home for blue-collar workers who would play card, checkers and chess, read books and magazines, listen to music, play or watch games or have various conversations. Different cultures, workers, ethnicities, relegions, etc where most people stopped in to spend a little time with family and friends over a beverage and a meal. They were known for a good, albeit rare steak night, reubens, Buffalo wings and Blue Cheese (since the early 70’s due to the original Anchor), chili, stuffed cabbage, spaghetti and meatballs, “Slovak” kolbasi, and other menu items based on the folks Slovak birthplace. And along with being close friends and associates with other owners, they would frequently go to, and even bring in other places amazing and loved food, to the equally supportive masses who lived in another part of town. Many of the places you mentioned and a lot of others are still talked about today.

    • Andrew, I also spent some of my youth at the Modern Manor, however, a few years before you! My father owned the MM from about 1950 until about 1964.

  11. Drank at the tiptop in smokey hollow,Russo’s on Logan which later was the pocket which the bissel boys blew up,loved the hillside when Murf ran it ,heaven up the street on 5th.

  12. Pingback: Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Small Businesses | Bob on Books

  13. Does anyone remember a bar called the Candlelight Lounge? I believe it was on South Ave and was open in the 1970s. I’m doing some research on old bars in Youngstown and I can’t find anything about it. Thanks for your help.

  14. I remember my dad taking me to The Trocadaro Lounge as well as The 13th Frame on Mahoning Ave.
    That’s where I watched Ali vs Frasier. Great ribeye sandwiches at the 13th Frame

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