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]

74 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.

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    • 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!

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  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

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  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.

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  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.

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    • 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!

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  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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  6. Pingback: Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Family Grocery Stores | Bob on Books

  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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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  15. I haven’t lived in Youngstown for over 35 years, but it’s funny how the “ neighborhood bar” can bring back memories! My dad used to go to Bob’s on Meridian and I can’t remember the name of the place, but there was a bar down on Steel St. that had great hot dogs. I remember going down there with him and bringing back hot dogs for the whole family. Then there was Gabe’s on the south side where the Playhouse folks hung out.

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    • Stanley’s Cafe was where you got the hot dogs . They had the best kraut dogs in history. After they closed it became the Nyabingi and later apartments. The building is gone now.

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  16. Market Street took the title for most bars. I’ll do my best here and sorry if I leave any out. starting at the bridge and working south; The Elite, The Ridgewood, The Rex Bar, The Mafe, Mill Creek Tavern, Palm Gardens, The Manila (later the Purple Heart Club), Atomic Bar, Zanzibar, The Cave, Mickeys, The Alcove and Lee and Eddies. Sorry I left out TheGreen Gables. These were mostly neighborhood bars and there were many others that were mainly Restaurants. As is evident by the names you can see that many were opened by returning WW2 veterans.

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  17. When I was nine, I would walk with my brother (7) and my cousins (8 & 6) to the Atomic Bar on Market street to pick up a pizza our parents had ordered.
    We felt so grownup, standing around in a bar. And it was the best pizza I had until I got to New Haven decades later.

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  18. Great article! Does anyone remember a bar in the early 80’s called Lar-Ton’s (or maybe Lartones?). I believe it was either on Mahoning Avenue or just off of Mahoning. I have the absolute fondest memories of going there with my friends back then. Small place, but so warm and inviting. I cannot find anything online about it and wondered if anyone remembers it or has any photos to share. Just super nostalgic about the place and would be over the moon if I could see a picture of it. Thanks!

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  19. Bob,

    Great article! I was wondering if anyone remembers an old bar/tavern called Lar-Ton’s (or maybe Lartones?). I believe it was either right on, or just off of, Mahoning Avenue. We used to go there in the early 80’s with my friends. Warm and inviting place. I have the fondest memories of the place and have been super-nostalgic about it lately. I have looked online for any mention of it, but have not been able to find any mention of it anywhere. Wondering if anyone remembers the place, the location or would have any photos of the place. I would be over-the-moon if anyone had a photo of the old place! Thanks and just wonderful to reminisce about the past in Youngstown!

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  20. Once again you nailed it. Quite apropos. My parents owned the High Spot on Bissel and Logan near the Golden Dawn, The Bellevue on Oak Hill and Falls Avenue along with the Modern Manor on Mahoning Avenue in Austintown and all of these were more like neighborhood social clubs that happily served a wide variety of local folks. Customers were more like family members instead of clientele who would usually come in after work for a little bit or bring the family in for a little time in the evening. The food was really good and cheap if not even free and the majority of patrons would do what they felt like. Some would read, most would play cards, chess, maybe pool or shuffleboard while listening to a variety of music and perhaps watch tv and engage in various athletic, political and philosophical debates. Places and times like these are most assuredly the ubiquitous “good old days” that were just that and are nigh impossible to find today.

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  21. I have good memories growing up on the South Side. I lived a few doors down from the Evergreens on South Avenue. Marys Tavern( Teenie’s) had the best pirogies! I remember accompanying my father there to pick up dinner for the family.

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  22. My father ran a small neighborhood bar on Steel Street called Nicks Place for a period of time around 1976. It was on the corner of Steel Street and Bessemer Ave. just up from the administration building of U.S. Steels Ohio Works. No music, or entertainment–just happy friendly times for those who worked very hard in the mills just a few blocks away. Once a week my dad would serve either pizza, homeade sloppy joes, and other good food for all those who walked through the door at no charge for simply being friends and customers. Maybe that is what the American way was about back then. A cousin of mine later took over the bar and it became known as Yohmans Tavern well into the later 1990’s. A great neighborhood bar and place that is forever gone but will always be remembered.

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  23. I recall BOZO’S BAR on the north side of Mahoning Avenue, close to the old Isaly’s Plant and the previous bridge. My grandmother told me a story from before around 1950 that the owner, BOZO, once fell from the roof, held on dangling from the balcony railing, until the local fire dept hook and ladder truck could recue him, to the cheers of a large crowd that had gathered.

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  24. In the 60s our family, who lived on the Westside, enjoyed The Park Inn & The Crystal on Glenwood, near Canfield Rd. Both bars were frequented by neighborhood locals (the Fosterville area) & guys who worked in the mills would stop in after their shift for a shot & a beer & pickled eggs. Friday nights both bar/restaurants offered family-style meals including vegetarian pizza & spaghetti, as Catholics were forbidden to eat meat on Friday.
    After dinner my sibs & I were each given a dime to visit Elsie’s Variety Store, a few doors down, owned by a Croatian woman named Elsie, likely in her mid-60s. Wooden floors and crates that held games, fabrics, notions, magazines, etc., were stacked on shelving that reached the ceiling. Elsie would climb a ladder to retrieve patron’s selections. She kept a well stocked display case of penny candy and was very patient as we each decided how best to spend our 10 cents! Elsie was a zoftig woman with an endearing smile. She reminded me of the Grandma from the Little Rascals with her black dress, spectacles & snow white hair gathered in a bun at the nape of her neck.

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  25. Nick’s Place, victory Tavern, AMA Club, CWV, Martha’s Tap, Army Navy, The Steelton, Palm Cafe, Open Hearth, that’s Salt Springs to I-680. All those in 7 blocks.

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  26. How about The Hungarian Village and Cherols on Steel? I am too young to remember this (HA!) but I hear tell Cherols had a rotating bar on a turntable. Went to Boston for a couple years, and Joe Cherol had sold the whole thing. So sad now. Looks like The International right before it got plowed under…

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  27. I remember the Park Inn on Glenwood Ave. Great Place! It was last owned by two brothers. The bar Ken Vega’ s Gym (next room) and expanded. They added a stage and dance floor with a wrap-a-round balcony/ Great food on the other side of the bar. One of the brothers shot the other brother over a family dispute. I closed shortly after. Late 80 or early 90s.

    Walking distance down the street was the Empire Club – a shot and beer bar. GREAT chili dogs. It was owned by Dan D. It was a true club you had a card and even had to ring a buzzer to get in. The area had some riff raff so that is why it was a club. After Danny Sr passed, Dan Jr took it over and later sold it to Vince C (~1980)

    My dad would stop there coming home for work at the GE Light Bulb Manufacturing Plant on Market St. Retirees would go there every day and drink on a tab. When they got their checks they cashed them at the bar, paid the tab and started all over again.

    Shots were $0.50′ $0.75 and $1.00 for top shelf. Draft beer (10 ounce} glass was $0.40 to $0.50, Canned beer was $1.50. It you got a shot you could ask for a 5 ounce beer chaser (free). Vince raised prices by $0.05 in 1984 and clients complained for 2 years!

    They had to shut down in ~1991 or 93. – not sure why. The area was getting “bad”. A plumbing company next door bought and door it down and built a warehouse. I bet it was built in the 1920s.

    I started going there when I turned 18. You could drink 3.2 bear at 18 back in the day.

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  28. Not a bar, but Handels Ice Cream – We even had a Islay’s Ice Cram Plant that changed to a U-Haul headquarters

    The Vindy went out of business a few years back, Mark Brown said they could no longer turn a profit. I worked there in college

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