Rusty Nail goes for new appeal

Daniel D'Altorio

Chefs serve up modern cuisine

View photos of the Rusty Nail in all its glory.

If you’re driving on state Route 43 heading toward Streetsboro, pay attention to the left-hand side of the road. Set back in its own nook is The Rusty Nail, a fourth-generation, family-owned steak house and cocktail lounge.

Is it a townie hangout?


Does it look like a backwoods cabin?


Has it completely reinvented itself as a more modern, innovative place to eat classic, American food?


When you walk in, a full-service bar is right there, beckoning you to relax and stay a while. But on a cold Monday night in early February, the dining room is empty. Only two couples were sitting at the bar.

The hostess, a vibrant lady named Babs, led my date and I to a corner table next to the cold, black fireplace in the dining room.

“No one must have started this thing tonight,” she said in a sharp voice. “I’ll take care of that for you.”

Babs walked away, and our server Jen greeted us with ice water and a request for a drink order. Martinis, a modest wine list, coffee drinks, cocktails and a various selection of domestic and import beers, featuring quality microbrews from around the country, are on the drink menu.

Babs returned to start a fire and Jen returned with our drinks. The night was underway.

Something about the rustic dining room creates a feeling of warmth, more so than the fireplace next to our table or our drinks.

Earthy, moss-colored walls with wood accents engulf the space.

Dim track lighting shoots concentrated beams onto the walls, creating an atmosphere comparable to a silhouette, the always-enchanting contrast between light and dark.

Living in the beams of light are featured works of art and family photos from years gone by, providing a nostalgic look at the characters and personalities who have put their lives into making “The Nail,” as the townies call it.

We started our meal with two appetizers. First, ahi tuna, seared rare, served atop a garlic croustini with horseradish aioli, arugula and red onions. Second, a twice-baked potato stuffed with crab and lobster then topped with a green onion crŠme fraiche.

These appetizers stole the meal. The tuna melted on the tongue. And the bold flavors of the horseradish and arugula complemented the fish perfectly. The subtle sweetness of the crab and lobster, paired with the smooth tart of the crŠme fraiche, created a perfect balance in the dish.

The salad course consisted of a traditional Caesar salad and a warm spinach and arugula salad, dressed with a bacon-poblano pepper vinagrette and topped with sea scallops, toasted pine nuts and feta cheese.

The Caesar dressing was mediocre, which made the salad a little tart. The spinach and arugula salad was savory, pitting a subtle spice in the vinaigrette against sweetness in the scallops. Although the scallops were slightly undercooked, the salad was enjoyable.

For the entrée, my date ordered a pan-roasted orange roughy topped with a citrus burre blanc. Since this is a steakhouse, I ordered the eight-ounce filet mignon cooked medium-rare.

My date paired her fish with garlic infused mashed potatoes. I chose to have my steak with a Parmesan risotto.

The fish was excellent – mild and flaky. And the citrus burre-blanc hooked up with the flavors just right, fusing the meal together.

The filet was overdone on the outside. But once the center was exposed, it had the proper medium-rare characteristics. Also, the Parmesan risotto was cheesy and creamy and offered a great complement to the steak, no sauce necessary.

We ended our meal with pan-fried bread pudding topped with a whiskey-infused caramel sauce.

The last sips of our drinks washed the dessert down to our bellies.

Sous Chef Randy Renner, a graduate of Kent State’s hospitality management program, stooped by our table after the meal to have a brief conversation.

“The desire is here to have a stand-out restaurant,” Renner said. “Modern American is what we’re going for, and that gives us the ability to put ourselves into the food.”

We exited the place, walking a little slower than we did on the way in.

And when the car rolled back over the moon-surface potholes in the parking lot, our full bellies kicked with the bumps, forcing us to cradle the bulge with our hands.

But we were smiling, satisfied by the food and atmosphere of the evening.

Contact all correspondent Darren D’Altorio at [email protected].