I have a crush on Anthony Bourdain.  I hate to admit my infatuation with a man I’ve never met, but anyone who’s food and travel show starts with a parental advisory warning is going to have that effect on me.  Add to that tattoos, a mouth like a sailor, drinking like a fish and seriously, this guy makes me want to become a crazed celebrity stalker.

Aside from Anthony’s obvious perfectness, his show has a great format. He travels with a small crew,  hitting different counties and eating his way through the culinary offerings. With no regard for the Michelin Stars, he usually starts eating at street vendors and works his way around until he reaches some of those high end places.  He wants to know what the people who live there eat, how well (or in the case of Haiti, poorly) and where. He’s always has a companion, a native or ex-pat to guide him.

This has of course caused me to fantasize about being that stalwart companion to Anthony. Where would I take him, what would we eat and who would I want him to meet if he came to Sunny Northeastern Ohio?  This guy has been all over and is a world class chef himself, so we have to be on our game here.

The people are easy, after all some of the coolest people in the world live here. We eat ,we drink, we’re amazing dinner companions; so we can check that off the list.

When someone comes here where do we take them?

Chicken Dinners in Barberton. He would have to have that chicken with a big helping of hot sauce, right? We can argue about which chicken house later.

Swenson’s. Skyway. The Dog House in Bedford for a Coney dog smothered in sauce, onion and topped with a giant mound of cheese.

I would take him to Sirna’s Cafe (also in Bedford) Leo Sirna makes homemade Italian sausage, the fried bologna is as old school and greasy as it gets- so delicious. The bar is a fun place to drink, meet the natives, drink, eat a a basket of fresh cut fries. Wash that down with a drink….you get the picture. There is a reason I have a driver on call when I go to Sirna’s after work.

The Chowder House in Cuyahoga Falls would be another pick. The menu there is seasonal, the produce is local. They have a braised short rib dish that’s gravy makes you want to lick the plate. My favorite time to go there is for Sunday brunch for the Filet Mignon, crab cake or lobster Benedict. The food is amazing and affordable,  this is a restaurant I would be proud to take any out-of-towner.

What is our NEO Specialty?

What do we crave if we leave home? I used to have Roman Burgers brought to me in Texas when I lived there- carried on planes by whomever was visiting, but that’s not the answer.  I realized while writing this that we are obsesses with chicken and potatoes. Barberton chicken, covered in fresh cut fries. Boxes of Chicken covered in Jo-Jo’s. These are our staples, our Friday party night go-to’s.

What’s missing is the segment where Anthony comes over to some local guys house for a meal featuring hometown specialties. What do we make as a group that’s indigenous to this area? Something we make at home, for guests or holidays. Is there one thing we make that isn’t seen anywhere else (besides a Jo-Jo) or gets exported from our kitchens via family recipes to the world abroad? Shit, even Buffalo has wings and that place ain’t so special.  I’m at a loss.

Maybe I’d just order Fiesta or Italo’s and serve Great Lakes Brewery beer…would that count?