Today we began our trip headed for North Carolina, with a few stops scheduled along the way. We left Detroit this morning around 9:30am - destination: Pittsburgh PA. Ralph and I were heading to see his niece, her husband and wonderful boys. We thought we'd bring a little taste of Detroit, so our first stop as we headed south was to Mexicantown. We went to LaGloria Bakery to pick up tamales (Ralph thinks theirs are some of the best) and then we stopped and got some tortilla chips at E&L Supermercado to go along with Uncle Ralph's famous salsa that he made to take along. Before we knew it, we were on the Ohio Turnpike and heading east. (Pictured left: A heaping plate of spaghetti and meatballs, served up by the firefighters of Poland, Ohio)
The best part of traveling is the opportunity to take in the local food spots. It's something we always try to experience. The intersections off the highways are littered with fast food and chain restaurants, but we like to drive a little deeper into town, see if there is a downtown area or old business district and look for a diner or hometown favorite. We tried do that a couple of times today, but the towns we stopped in were pretty much empty. You can really see the signs of the economy when you travel through some of these small towns. A lot of empty storefronts.
We drove through Youngstown, Ohio as we got closer to the Pennsylvania border with hopes to find something interesting. Our quick drive around downtown Youngstown didn't yield anything. Maybe because it was a Sunday, but everything was either closed for the day or forever. There was some real beautiful architecture in downtown Youngstown - we'll have to return and explore a little more on a future trip.
Outside of Youngstown we saw a sign for a town named "Poland." The name alone was enough to make us want to stop. We still hadn't eaten, and were good and hungry. We saw a sign for a Chick-Fil-A, which I had eaten before but Ralph hadn't experienced it. An interesting fact about this fast food chain - it's not open on Sunday. So, while it looked like another strike out, what appears before us but a sign for a spaghetti dinner at one of the local churches in Poland. The dinner, which was a fundraiser for the Poland Fire Department, was still going on, so we turned in. If you want to get a sense of a place, attending a church dinner has got to be one of the best ways. (Ralph has got his bread buttered up and he's ready to get going on this mound of spaghetti goodness - the meatballs were wonderful
We entered the church hall and followed the signs to a huge room that served as a gymnasium, auditorium and dining hall. Tables were set up in rows running the length of the room, seating well over 50 people in each room. We bought our tickets for $6 each and were told to help ourselves to coffee and/or lemonade, and find a place to sit. On the tables were plates stacked with slices of soft, white Italian bread and little dishes of butter. There were also jars of Parmesan cheese and pepper flakes. One of the firefighters brought us our plates, heaping with a helping of spaghetti and meatballs and a small salad. "This is all you can eat," he told us. Ralph and I just looked at each other - our kind of dinner! (Pictured left: The dining hall)
After dinner, we helped ourselves to a slice of cake. While we couldn't find a local restaurant to try, stumbling upon this church dinner was better than we could have expected. Not only was it a good meal, it helped a good cause. Thank you, fine people of Poland, Ohio!