Best of Kent 2018: FOOD

Best of Kent: Restaurant

KentWired Staff

Best Restaurant

First Place – Ray’s Restaurant

When it comes to finding the best place to eat in the city, it’s hard to beat the establishment who has been cooking for the community for the longest.

Since 1937, generations of families keep coming back to Ray’s Place for its quality food and atmosphere. 

“It’s quirky because it’s an old building. The booths we’re sitting in have scratches with people’s names from years ago, these bricks were the same as they were in 1937 before it was even a bar,” said Manager Kayla Allen.

Burgers are Ray’s Place’s strong suit, and this is apparent with the success of their “MOFO,” which has filled stomachs for over 40 years.

Featured on the Food Network’s Best Things I Ever Ate, the “MOFO” stands more than it sits in front of you as a double-bacon cheeseburger with lettuce, red onion, tomato, pickle and sauteed mushrooms with a knife right down the middle.

Or come in on a Monday to get their smoked meats special featuring pulled pork, ribs, chicken and pastrami.

Ray’s also never cuts on quality; Allen said that 90 percent of their ingredient are made in-house making sure what makes Ray’s great, stays at Ray’s.

Second Place – Mike’s Place

 Another Kent favorite is not far behind as Mike’s Place serves up some of the biggest portions and biggest personalities in Kent.

The decorations that cover the walls of Mike’s Place are almost as dense as their menu. If you can eat it, Mike’s has it.

From variations of subs, wraps, burgers, wings, dinner platters, pasta, pizza and all day breakfast, Mike’s will most likely hit whatever spot that has you looking for good grub.

With a staff that’s as cool as the replica X-Wing fighter that sits outside the restaurant, it’s an atmosphere you don’t want to miss.

“I don’t want that corporate kind of feel,” said owner Mike Kostensky. “We never take anything serious.”

To make their menu even more extensive, Kostensky is looking to create a vegetarian menu and welcome a broader customer base into the restaurant.

Third Place – Bricco

Perhaps you have a date coming up and want to wow the other person with a fancier venue to eat, Bricco offers a solution in a college town.

With large panel windows for natural light and a spacious outdoor patio, Bricco looks delicious before you walk into doors.

Entrees like the Jerk Chicken and Shrimp served with coconut pineapple and chives or their Sunday a la carte brunch makes Bricco a top contender for fine dining in Kent. 

Best Sandwich Shop

First Place – Franklin Square Deli

There are a lot of new restaurants in Kent, but the city’s best sandwich shop is a longstanding deli on the corner of Main and Water Street.

“We’ve been serving here for 35 years and we really take a lot of pride in the sandwiches and soups we put out,” said Carl Picelle, the owner of Franklin Square Deli.

Picelle founded Franklin Square in 1983, and he’s seen three generations of customers pass through for sandwiches that “taste good and look unbelievable.” While the restaurant has been a longtime community favorite, it also sees its fair share of students looking for a high-quality lunch.

The menu boasts 40 unique sandwiches ranging from classic Italian submarines to jumbo bagel sandwiches. One of the best sellers is the cuban-ham, pork roast, salami, swiss, mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomato and onion on a baked ciabatta roll.

Another bestseller, “Carl’s Favorite Bagel” (named after Picelle), comes loaded with capicola, provolone, cream cheese and onion on an “everything” bagel.

In addition to the food, Picelle attributes the deli’s success to his staff, who create a welcoming, family-friendly atmosphere and treat all customers with respect.

That atmosphere starts with the long counter where customers place their orders and watch their food being prepared. Then there’s the motorsport-themed decorations, which contribute to Picelle’s vision of a “light casual” dining experience.

Second Place – Twisted Meltz

To the uninitiated customer, Twisted Meltz’ menu may look like a hodgepodge of weird sandwiches named after celebrities.

But experienced patrons know each item is a thoughtfully-crafted grilled cheese made with a famous Kent alumnus in mind. Like the popular James Harrison, made with 100% angus beef, hickory bacon, beer battered onion rings, caramelized onions, white American cheese, cheddar, barbecue sauce and mayonnaise.

Some sandwiches represent their namesakes in name only, but others are more meaningful.

“The Dick Goddard — he is a huge animal advocate — so we went with a (vegetarian) black bean burger for him,” said Steve Tannous, co-owner of the restaurant. “The Joe Walsh — “Hotel California” is his top song — so we went with more of a California-style grilled cheese.”

Tannous said Twisted Meltz is in the process of redoing the menu, and grilled cheese fans can expect to see four new sandwiches in the coming weeks.

Third Place – Dave’s Cosmic Subs

Dave’s Cosmic Subs proudly flies the flag of the counterculture, describing itself as “the Woodstock of the sub world.”

The restaurant’s signature item is the aptly named “The Original Dave’s Cosmic Sub”- pepperoni, genoa salami, prosciutto, lettuce, tomatoes, sliced banana peppers, onions, fresh garlic, herbs, and provolone cheese, smothered with Dave’s Cosmic Sauce.

The Kent location is currently closed for remodeling, but customers may consider traveling to one of the other Dave’s Cosmic Subs scattered across northeast Ohio.

Best Delivery

First Place – Insomnia Cookies

It’s 2 a.m. and you want a dozen chocolate chip cookies? Insomnia Cookies has you covered.

Conveniently located in downtown Kent, this unique bakery is open until 3 a.m. to deliver sweet treats to your door.

Insomnia Cookies offers all of your sweet cravings from cookies to ice cream and even cookie cakes.

Customers can easily order online and receive their delivery order in an estimated 20 to 35 minutes right to their dorm.

Customers rave about Insomnia Cookies all over their Facebook page and they have an alarming number of five-star reviews. People love the products they offer and how reliable and easy their delivery process is.

Not many places will deliver that late and that fact alone is why Kent students have decided Insomnia Cookies has the best delivery in Kent. Who doesn’t want cookies in the middle of the night?

Second Place – EuroGyro

 Runner-up EuroGyro offers late-night delivery for all of its menu items.

“It’s a great spot for when the students go out drinking and start craving some food late at night,” said Mary Istocki, manager at EuroGyro.

Its online ordering feature has become very popular for delivery orders, making approximately 70 percent of their business, Istocki said.

Third PlaceHungry Howie’s

Out of all of Kent’s pizza shops, students voted Hungry Howie’s for best delivery.

The Kent location opened in 2005 and is the official pizza sponsor of Kent State Athletics.

Hungry Howie’s offers eight different crust flavor, ranging from garlic herb to asiago cheese, so customers can create their own custom pizza.

Best Burger

First PlaceRay’s Place

Reigning as burger champion for the second year in the row, Ray’s Place is an iconic staple of Kent’s food and bar scene.

The restaurant offers ten original hamburgers and a variety of unique toppings, like wasabi aioli and cajun remoulade.

Ray’s premiere “MOFO Burger,” which has been featured on the Food Network, is a gigantic double cheeseburger with bacon, sauteed mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickle, relish, ketchup and mustard. It sells for $8.75.

Second PlaceFive Guys

Five Guys, a nationwide burger chain, has been serving the Kent community since 2010.

Customers can create their own custom hamburger, hot dog or vegetable sandwich by choosing from a wide array of toppings.

Third PlaceBistro on Main

Featured for the first time in Best of Kent history, Bistro on Main is an upscale eatery located on West Main Street.

The restaurant is known for its “BOM Hamburger,” which features fresh ground beef, sharp white cheddar, house mayo, tomato, shaved romaine and carmelized onions. It includes either house fries or whole grain mustard potato salad for a total of $12.50.

 Best Pizza

First Place – Lucci’s Place

Fresh dough and homemade sauce are what customers can expect from Lucci’s Place, a family owned pizza shop specializing in New York style pizza.

Located within walking distance of the University, Lucci’s is a popular spot for students looking to grab a bite to eat in between classes.

Affordability is another appeal of Lucci’s. While the owners are committed to using fresh, premium ingredients, they are also concerned with maintaining prices that work for students on budgets.

Lucci’s Place sells pizza by the slice, making it a convenient and affordable lunch and dinner option.

With over two dozen toppings, such as chicken, mushrooms, fresh mozzarella cheese and green olives, Lucci’s Place has a wide selection of toppings for customers to choose from.

Besides the single slices, the most popular item at Lucci’s is a large pepperoni pizza.

However, pizza is not the only item Lucci’s has to offer. The stromboli, which consists of capicola, pepperoni, genoa salami, cheese or any mix of toppings and comes with homemade marinara, is another staple on the menu, as well as breadsticks, made with Lucci’s signature dough, salad and cheese stuffed soft pretzel bites.

One of the things that sets Lucci’s Place apart is its dedication to customer service, said Peter Finley, who owns the shop with his brother, Jon, and his father, William.

While Lucci’s is not a big shop, its owners have focused on creating an inviting atmosphere and forging strong relationships with customers. Visitors will find smiling faces and friendly conversation, Finley said.

Second Place – Guy’s Pizza

Over on South Water Street, Guy’s Pizza continues to be a Kent favorite.

With a wide variety of specialty pizzas, such as the “Texas BBQ” and the “Loaded Baked Potato,” and “guyzones,” calzones stuffed with mozzarella cheese and a customer’s choice of toppings, Guy’s Pizza has plenty of items to choose from.  

“I would have to say the fact that we offer individual slices is what makes us most appealing to a majority of students,” said General Manager Evan Lundberg.

In addition, conveniences like online ordering and discounts for student organizations have expanded the popularity of Guy’s Pizza in the Kent area.

Third Place – EuroGyro

EuroGyro serves a variety of burgers, sandwiches, pastas and salads, but its unique pizzas have established EuroGyro’s popularity among students.

Serving 11 different specialty pizzas, including the “Loaded Jojos Pizza,” the “Greek Pizza,” the “Philly Steak Pizza” and the “Honey Gold Chicken Pizza,” EuroGyro offers customers a wide variety of choices.

Its “EuroGyro Pizza” is a garlic spread, featuring a blend of three cheeses, as well as gyro meat, black olives, oregano, onions and tomatoes.

Best Breakfast

First Place – Wild Goats

Whether you’re coming from church or just need to get your weekday french toast before work, Wild Goats Cafe takes breakfast dining to another level right on the edge of downtown Kent.

Its menu makes it clear as to what they make the priority in their food—breakfast.  

At first glance, its menu lays out breakfast and brunch options that you will not find anywhere else in the city.

Wild Goats has an extensive selection for benedicts which Bryant Rogers, the manager, thinks makes them unique to other places around.

“You can find a benedict in Kent, but you aren’t going to find a Southwest Benedict with chorizo sausage and hollandaise the way we do it,” Rogers said.

Another crowd favorite are the “Grilled Fried Cheese Grits,” said Rogers. The grits are fried with cheese twice and then topped with more cheese.

If the food wasn’t enough to brighten your day, the sunny attitude of the serving staff will start your day off with a warm experience.  

“We try to build an experience with our customers. We work on being a part of our customers lives opposed to being a place to just get food,” Rogers said.

Second Place – Mike’s Place

Aside from being one of the best restaurants in Kent and one of the best places to cure a hangover, Mike’s Place takes pride in its lengthy and filling breakfast menu.

With nearly 60 items to choose from, Mike’s makes the most important meal of the day last until dinner with their sizable portions.

In addition to the breakfast standards of omelettes, pancakes and meats, Mike’s offers its guest “The Breakfast Pizza Pie”; a 12- or 16-inch pizza with sausage gravy, eggs, ham, onions, peppers and mozzarella cheese. A perfect choice for parties looking to easily split the bill.

And don’t worry about getting there too late and missing out on breakfast because it’s served all day.

Third Place – Rise and Shine Cafe

In just a short walk from campus, Rise and Shine makes breakfast easy if you want to grab a bite in between those early classes.

Small but cozy, Rise and Shine is popular with families, students and professional as the price for the quality in the food keeps them coming back for second breakfast.

Get creative with their “Acorn Alley Omelette” where you can build an omelette with hundreds of possibilities between proteins, vegetables and cheeses.

 Best Dessert

First Place – Insomnia Cookies

If you’re up late and want some sweets after all the dining halls close or you just want a good snack, Insomnia Cookies is the place for you.

The company was founded in a college dorm in 2003 at the University of Pennsylvania by a student, Seth Berkowitz, and has grown to over 100 locations — the closest being South Water Street in downtown Kent.

Insomnia Cookies serves fresh baked cookies like peanut butter chip, s’mores, white chip macadamia, oatmeal raisin and the classic chocolate chip cookie. Not to mention, you can get your cookie a la mode or get a cookiewich — two cookies with ice cream in between. You can even get a cold glass of milk with an order of cookies.

They are open for early birds and night owls from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. on weekends and 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. on weekdays. They deliver 12 p.m. to 3 a.m. on weekends and 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. on weekdays if you want fresh baked cookies delivered straight to your door.

If cookies aren’t your thing, Insomnia also offers brownies and ice cream with mix-ins such as sprinkles, Reese’s pieces and M&M’s.

Second Place – Peace, Love and Little Donuts

Coming in second place, Peace, Love and Little Donuts is the perfect place for someone who is looking for something out of the ordinary.

With flavors like triple chocolate meltdown, maple bacon and buttercup, there’s a donut for everyone.

The business is known for not only its donuts, but also its scenery. Walking in, customers are met with 60s and 70s music, positive energy and plenty of tie-dye.

It’s definitely a place that when you come in, “you don’t forget about it,” said Assistant Manager Tess Williamson.

Williamson said the best part is how small the donuts are because you can try so many different kinds.

“If you want to try a chocolate one, you can do that, and if you want to try a fruity one, you can do that too,” Williamson said. “There’s so much of an option for people.”

Students can watch their donuts being made right in front of them. With fresh donuts coming out of the fryer every 20 to 30 minutes, the donuts are topped as soon as they’re ordered, making it a sweet treat anyone can enjoy.

Third place – Popped!

Homegrown in Ohio, Popped! popcorn serves up delicious treats in its shop downtown.

Popcorn selections include firehouse popcorn, buttered popcorn, kettle corn and specialty blends like the Black Squirrel Crunch that includes caramel popcorn with peanuts, kettle corn, and pieces of chocolate covered peanut brittle.

Popped! also offers chocolates made on premise like chocolate truffles and peanut butter acorns. In addition, they have homemade ice cream with flavors like chocolate covered strawberry, toffee nut and Bent Tree coffee.

All popcorn and desserts are made with local butter from Hartzler Family Dairy, locally roasted nuts and honey from their own backyard, making Popped! a local favorite.

 Best On-campus Eatery

First Place – Quaker Steak & Lube

Located on the lower level of the Student Center, Quaker Steak & Lube is a favorite on-campus dining spot among students.

Known for its chicken wings and variety of sauces, such as the “Dusted Ghost Pepper,” the “Buckeye BBQ” and the “Kentucky Bourbon Glaze,” Quaker Steak has been a dining staple since it opened on campus in 2012.  

While the eatery is famous for its wings, Quaker Steak has plenty of other items to offer, ranging from salads to baby back ribs.

The “Loaded Magna Fries,” which contain scallions, cheese, bacon and ranch, and the “Bavarian Pretzels,” which are served with a beer cheese dip, add to the dynamic menu.  

Quaker Steak’s dessert selection includes the “Amazing Chocolate Chunk Skillet Cookie,” an enormous butter cookie filled with chocolate chunks and pretzel balls and topped with hot fudge and vanilla ice cream.

 However, the food is not the only aspect of Quaker Steak that students enjoy. The restaurant’s lively social environment makes it a fun place for students to connect with friends, said Andrew Herrera, Quaker Steak’s food service manager.

 “It’s (Quaker Steak) the closest thing to a sit-down restaurant,” Herrera said.

 Quaker Steak frequently hosts events for students, such as karaoke.

Second Place – Fresco Mexican Grill & Salsa Bar 

Fresh ingredients set this Mexican grill apart from other on-campus dining options.

Located in the HUB, Fresco offers students a variety of made-to-order burritos, tacos, quesadillas and salads.

While Mexican restaurants do not typically have many options for vegetarians or people with dietary restrictions, Fresco has made it an important focus on its menu.

 Vegetarian and gluten-free options are part of what makes this a popular place among students. Rice, beans, guacamole and cheese can be used as substitutes for meat in most of Fresco’s dishes. In addition, many items at Fresco can be prepared without gluten.        

Third Place – Rosie’s 

Desserts and diner food are what make Rosie’s Diner and Market a favorite eatery on campus.

Located in the Tri-Towers Rotunda, Rosie’s serves a wide range of entrees, such as grilled cheese, hamburgers, mozzarella sticks and chicken fingers.

Homemade milkshakes are another popular staple at this establishment. Students can shop for groceries at the market while their food is being prepared.

Open 24/7, Rosie’s is a convenient on-campus dining option for students looking to grab a bite to eat at any hour of the day.

 Best Dietary-friendly Dining

First Place – GRAZERS

The GRAZERS mission is to serve healthy, fresh foods with simple ingredients.

GRAZERS opened doors on Franklin Avenue in Downtown Kent three years ago by two elementary school teachers and this past fall, opened their second location in the Kent State Student Center.

“Even though we designed the menu to cater to people with just about any dietary need, restriction or allergy, we have delicious food for everyone from plant-based eater to carnivore,” said Carl Bauer, one of the owners of GRAZERS.

“Our most popular sauce is our Chipotle Aioli. Even though it doesn’t exactly fall into the low-cal category with all the healthy options underneath it, it’s well worth it,” said Stacey, one of the owners of GRAZERS.

If you’re vegan and struggle finding a place that serves vegan options look no further than GRAZERS for your delicious meals.

GRAZERS Franklin Avenue location will be closing at the end of May, but will be opening in their new, larger location on 123 N. Water Street later this summer.

“Yes, our food is amazing,” said Kevin Dreslinski, partner and business development director, “but making connections with each and every customer is what really sets GRAZERS apart from other restaurants. It’s the way we make a difference in their lives and how they make a difference in ours.”

Second Place – Fresco 

This Mexican Grill and Salsa bar located in Downtown Kent will fill all your Mexican food needs with the wide variety on the menu, including dietary-friendly options.

All ingredients are fresh and prepared daily at Fresco and if you ever want a vegetarian version, all you need to do is ask.

If you’re looking for a place with gluten-free options, Fresco is the place for you. All taco shells, soft corn and crispy corn, can be made gluten-free. All six delicious salads can also be made gluten-free.

If a burrito sounds good to you, but you want to hold the burrito shell, any burrito can be turned into a gluten-free bowl. This can all be done by a simple request while placing your order.

Third Place – Laziza

Laziza, a Mediterranean restaurant and bar with an outside patio, attracts many customers because of their vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options.

“Laziza is the place where Mediterranean cuisine is redefined,” according to their menu.

This establishment, operated by Michael Award, offers many dishes you may have never had like Kafta Kabobs, hummus with lamb, Mediterranean pasta and more.

“Our most popular dish would be any of our Shawarma dishes, like Chicken Shawarma and Beef Shawarma,” said Jessica Bruehler, manager at Laziza.

Best Drunk Food

First Place – Euro Gyro

After a night of partying, most students choose to cure their munchies at Euro Gyro.

The late-night pizza shop and bar has been a staple in the Kent community since 1979. Since it’s opening in downtown Kent, the eatery has seen its fair share of late nights in a college town.

Featuring deep-fried appetizers, pizzas loaded with cheese and sauce and massive gyros, you can surely find what you’re looking for drunk or sober.

“We have the best pizza here. Plain and simple, we have the latest hours and homemade dough,” said Alex Kozlowski, a bartender at the eatery. “I’ve seen some pretty interesting things in my time here.”

Second Place– Guys Pizza

Nestled in the center of all of Kent’s bars is where you’ll find Guys Pizza and its signature dollar slices.

“People come here because it’s quick, easy and close. Also, pizza is the perfect late-night drunk food” said Lynette Bridentha, an employee at Guys.

The pizza shop has been a staple in Kent for the last 15 years, and it’s a favorite among former and current students.

“A lot of times Kent State alumni come back and talk about how much they missed us, and how often they’d come here after a late night out,” Bridentha said.

Third Place Taco Bell

Taco Bell has seen its fair share of drunk customers.

“Girls crying in the bathroom and people passing out in the drive-thru are a few things I’ve seen in my time here”  said an unfazed Kasey Climes whose an assistant manager at Taco Bell. After seven years at the Kent Taco Bell, Climes has served food through every major holiday from Homecoming to Fake Patty’s day.

Drunk food by definition is quick, easy and tasty which is exactly what Taco Bell offers. From the crunchwrap supreme to the Doritos-locos tacos, students can always count on this fast food joint.