Considering the fact that some of my relatives think I’m only into haute cuisine, I sure hang out at a lot of diners.
The Jefferson Diner in downtown Jefferson, Ohio.
Speaking of diners, there happens to be one called the Jefferson Diner in, believe it or not, Jefferson Ohio. It is the county seat of Ashtabula County which is the largest county in Ohio and located in the NE corner of the state and people are more familiar driving though it to get to other places than actually stopping there.
The thing about Jefferson Ohio is that, it is so easy to overlook. The two major highways, 1-90 and 1-11, are miles away to the north and east and I actually took route 307 to get into town. It was far more better connected to the world in the age of railroad and, in fact, it’s one of the few places where today there is still a track and not a bike path in its’ place. When I drove out there last fall, I parked almost exactly where I did today and for the life of me didn’t pay attention to the place.
One of my colleagues at work stumbled onto the place with her boyfriend last year when they attended the Ashtabula County Covered Bridges Festival. She liked it so much that she posted a review on TripAdvisor saying how much she enjoyed it. In fact, from what I’ve seen on the web, many people have written good things about it and I was determined to head back out there and find out for myself.
The cafe at lunchtime.
It’s really a nondescript little place on the main drag through town right across from the Court House. The interior looks like something out of a 1950’s T.V. show; wood paneling on the walls and a blue and white tile ceiling that complemented the same colored curtains on the windows. The long counter and the stools reminded me of what one would see at a soda fountain at Woolworth’s.
Inside a glass case they had an assortment of pies, blueberry, peach, cherry, coconut cream, but no chocolate, and they did appear homemade.
I must admit that my coworker was right; the place was clean and the service excellent. Their menu did look quite reasonable. According to what my coworker heard when she was there, the breakfasts are supposed to be wonderful. However, it was lunch going on dinner so I looked at the other side of the menu. They had a steak and shrimp dinner for $9.95 but I settled for the ham steak for $8.25 which included a salad, potato, and vegetable; pretty standard for such establishments. It was very good I must say. I must also add that they make one heck of a milk shake.
The Jefferson Diner seems like the place someone running for a state-wide office would stop in on a campaign swing through Ashtabula. Actually, this would be a good place to chat with State Representative John Patterson (Dist. 99) about the state of his county and the efforts locals are trying to do to turn it around. While there are bright spots for sure, such as Grand River Wine Country, the Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake, and of course now the Jefferson Diner, the county as a whole still hasn’t recovered from the economic doldrums it has experienced in the past four decades. Just to the north of Jefferson, the cities of Ashtabula and Conneaut, once the main ports for Lake Superior iron ore heading by rail to Youngstown, and even Pittsburgh, have never truly recovered from the collapse of the steel industry. Yet, for such a large county, there is so much potential.
As I was leaving a woman at the next booth asked where I was from and I said Cleveland Ohio, which kind of interested her and I told her and we talked a little more. Then, as I paid at the register, I asked the server if it was a lot busier the week before with the Ashtabula County Fair going on. It turns out, the vendors and cooks who sold things at the fairgrounds wound of eating in that diner which is not a kind of endorsement of the place I don’t know what is.
Is this really a milk shake?
Photographs by James Valentino