Canton, Football and Tradition

 In the Saturday, October 31st edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer I have a story about Canton, Football and tradtion.  Here is an excerpt:

Since we are in the midst of autumn that means football season is here and what better place to get in the spirit of the season than a trip to the city where professional football was born.

 I am reminded of a line from the play “Fiddler on the Roof” when I take an Ohio Road Trip to Canton to visit the NFL Football Hall of Fame and to stop at two of my favorite eating places: Taggart’s Ice Cream Parlor and Kennedy’s Barbecue. 

 The line goes, “…Its tradition!”

 Both eating spots are a tradition in Canton.  Taggart’s first opened its door in 1922, the same year the Professional Football owners gathered in this Ohio town to form what became the NFL.

 Legend has it that football immortal Jim Thorpe, who played for the Canton Bulldogs, enjoyed the home-made ice cream at Taggarts while sitting in the same wooden booths that have been in the building for nearly 90 years.  It is a well-established fact that founder of the American Football League, Lamar Hunt, would yearly bring new inductees to the Football Hall of Fame in Canton to Taggarts and treat them to a house- specialty, “The Bittner”, named for a long-ago local baseball team that wanted a really thick ice cream drink.

 The Bittner is a sort-of milkshake, made with three-quarters of a pound of home-made vanilla ice cream,  topped with Taggarts own chocolate sauce and beaten until it reaches a liquid consistency.  Then, a handful of fresh roasted pecans are added to the mixer and the whole thing is capped with whipped cream and a cherry.  Some of the Hall of Fame members, like Bob St.Clair of the San Francisco Giants and Hall of Famer and sports broadcaster Dan Dierdorf, have become regular customers over the years whenever they are in Canton.

 Taggart’s is located at 1401 Fulton Road, NW in Canton.  They can also be reached at 330-452-6844.

 It is much the same story at another Canton Landmark, Kennedy’s Barbecue, a tiny restaurant on 4th street across from Monumental Park.  It was begun in the early 1920’s and has also hosted Hunt as well as a more infamous hall of famer, O.J. Simpson.  The restaurant can seat about 35 people when the counter, table and booths are filled.

 The big attraction at Kennedy’s is the smoked meat and their home-made relish.  There is a small smokehouse behind the kitchen and they daily slow-cook and smoke hams and pork roasts.  The menu is a simple one:  Sliced smoked ham, pork, beef or turkey sandwiches, topped with “Jack Kennedy’s Relish”, a secret recipe that includes finely ground up cabbage, mustard and peppers. The only two soups on the menu are their homemade bean soup or chili.  There is home-made Amish pie and ice cream for dessert.

……You can read the entire story in the October 31st Plain Dealer or on their website at: www.cleveland.com

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One Response to Canton, Football and Tradition

  1. As a young undertaker from Minerva, Ohio, early in my career (1962) I worked and lived at the old Arnold Funeral Home in Canton, Ohio, across from McKinley High School. Many, many enjoyable evenings were spent lounging around Taggarts, in I believe the same booth photographed, nibbling on tuna fish sandwiches and chocolate milk shakes while perusing such novels as Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” or Meville’s “Moby Dick.” Taggarts is still there and the food is still great. Highly recommended.

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