Bender's Tavern
 Canton, Ohio        Date of Visit  03/10/13 

A night out with friends we haven’t seen for a long, long time led us to Bender’s Tavern in Canton. In operation since 1902, Bender’s refers to themselves as the city’s oldest and finest restaurant. It is certainly old. The sign at the door still reads “Men’s Restaurant” an indication as to how long it has been sitting here. It’s pretty stately inside evidencing craftsmanship you don’t see much anymore. When we sat, it was pretty sparse but as the place filled up the din grew to a point which made conversation a shouting to be heard affair. It appears La Haute Bourgeoisie dine at Bender’s and the opera had just finished about half way through our meal.



Bread Was Pretty Plain

Our server did a pretty fair job, she was a little kooky and the way the menu is set up makes her job difficult. She literally spent about five minutes at the table explaining the menu, not the food, the menu. Looking a bit like a recycling box, the regular menu has several different colored sheets of paper, each containing another menu. Some items are similar to those on other sheets of paper or the regular menu, some are completely different. It was all very confusing. We put in a call to Bletchley Park and were able to decipher the menu and order. The results were sort of a mixed bag.

There was a basket of simple rolls on the table. Salads and soups started the adventure. The side salad looked much more interesting than the bread and the wedge “salad” was a bit of a surprise. The menu should read “wedge of lettuce” since all of the normal accoutrement you would expect with a “salad” is ala carte. Both were reportedly functional. The soups were better.

Good Looking Side Salad

Wedge of Lettuce + Egg

Good, Not Great Bisque

Interesting & Tasty Turtle Soup

Steph tried the lobster bisque, it couldn’t hope to measure up to the richness of the version from Mulligan’s but was pretty good nonetheless. I ordered the turtle soup. The menu says it’s a Benders classic for over 60 years but our server said it’s closer to 90 years. The soup itself was really nice. Widely varied flavors with a hint of spice, bits of amphibian, veggies, tomatoey broth, herbs and a shot of sherry to add as much sweetness as you desire to the party. Unique. Turtle soup won’t ever be my favorite but this is a well constructed version.

All of the seafood at Benders comes from the Foley Fish Market in Boston. Foley’s has been selling fish since 1906…seems a sensible pairing. Long story, shortened, we all ordered seafood. Again the outcome was a mixed bag. From bottom to top. I saw a flash cross our server’s face, when the crab cakes were ordered. It wasn’t a positive one. The plate explained why. Thin shreds of crab were kicked in the teeth  by loads of filler and overpowering spices. It might as well have been the rolls served with a basmati rice, tomato scallion relish and Creole aioli. If it weren’t for the spice it would have been hard to tell the difference.


Terrible Crab Cakes

Klunky But Tasty Tuna & Sides, 'Cept The Bland Rice

Great Dish, Quality Scallops, Just Not Done Consistently

Crunchy & Greasy Bender Fries

Steph ordered the seared yellow fin tuna with scallion sticky rice, ginger pickled cucumbers and a chili plum glaze. The dish was good. If I had to criticize, there were two things I would change. The tuna was cut almost in a Goujon style rather than thinly which make the whole thing a little klunky and the rice was dull. The flavor, particularly of the cukes and the glaze were nice pairings.

Our server made a fuss about the chef having won a competition in New Orleans over the Superbowl weekend. Georges Banks Sea Scallops served with a soft polenta, flash fried zucchini threads and a sun dried tomato beurre blanc, referred to by the front of the house as the Super Bowl Scallops. We have an unwritten rule about scallops. Don’t order them out, we all do them better at home, so I decided to see what version of them wins competitions. Again, the scallops were done inconsistently, some entirely overdone and some on the mark. The tartness of the tomatoes added a blast of flavor to the butter sauce and the polenta was beautiful, soft, creamy, corny, smooth. Had the scallops been more consistent, the dish would have been stellar, it was good. Almost forgot, as as side I tried the Bender Fries which were thin slices of tater seared to a crunchy brown in cast iron. They were fine but seriously greasy, nice crunch though.

The last dish was an Eastern baby halibut. It is offered broiled or ala Foley (I’m guessing after the market but can only find mention of it at Benders) and I didn’t really expect either to really cause much of a blip on the radar. It was ordered ala Foley which is mainly a Ritz cracker crust. Certainly, nothing extraordinary about that. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Spectacularly fresh fish, tasty and complimentary crust, sublime preparation and this was easily the best thing on the table. Moist and flaky, no “fishiness” at all, a baker, little butter and lemon wedge and you have why people enjoy fish.

Some connections between purveyors and restaurants are a lot of hype but Bender's & Foley's match REALLY pays off here.


Moist And Functional

Good Brule

Nutty Sundae, If You Can Get At It

To finish we ordered a couple of the small Bender’s famous chocolate peanut butter sundaes and a crème brule. The crème brule was just right and the sundaes weren’t bad either. Why they serve them in these little cups which make them nearly impossible to eat, I’m not sure, fashion over form I guess. The topping is much more peanut butter than chocolate or whatever the other secret ingredient might be but it was a nice less liquidy digestif. For those who have found their thing at Bender’s likely love the place, it might take a few trips to find that thing amongst the sheaf of menus and some of the misses on the menu. Once you find it though, it might be hard to try other things…like maybe the halibut.




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