MINERAL SPRINGS, OH. – Or, YOUNGSTOWN – I travel for business, the one that pays the bills, and have always enjoyed throwing up a restaurant review. (was that a pun intended? – we’ll see)

What are the odds you’ll find yourself in Youngstown, Oh., along I-80 or this weekend in Wooster, OH., not far off I-71? The answer of course is you just never know!

photo (11)The Fifth Season had so-so TripAdvisor ratings but a hearty endorsement as quite nice with “different things” on the menu from the hotel staff where I was staying.

It turns out they are as much a catering business as a restaurant but the place was packed but they had room in the bar. I ordered a fried shrimp appetizer that was borderline okay but nothing fresh nor spectacular. The cocktail sauce was largely catsup. The nice salad tasted very fresh with a yummy homemade balsamic dressing. I should have stopped there.

A tough, clearly frozen, chicken breast floating in a sea of oil.

A tough, clearly frozen, chicken breast floating in a sea of oil.

I ordered this roasted chicken dish set up over some spinach and tomatos. Unfortunately, the chef’s idea of fancy was smothering the the chicken with a lot of oil and way too much garlic. Then there was this tacky round of gouda cheese on top. I’ve had much better food in the college dining hall where I work.

Before dinner I sampled a red blend I was not familiar with that was decent enough. The wine list was sadly inept for a place that fancies itself fine dining even in the industrial Youngstown suburbs. The Cryptic Red Blend was a Zin-Cab combo that was quite drinkable. It had not depth and little finish but nice fruit and went down just fine. I found it online for $14 retail. I think I paid $8 for a glass.

The bill, including tip, was $32.29 so you get what you pay for in most cases. The deep fried shrimp you could make at home, the salad was great, the entree was an embarrassment.

Now, the headline on this post reflects the fact I’ve had two less-than-memorable dining experiences in Youngstown. Four or five years ago my traveling companion and I visited Marino’s Italian Restaurant not far from the same hotel. The staff highly recommended it this past weekend before I suggested I had a previous bad experience. The pasta on our visit was over-cooked, the sauce tasted like watered down bottled stuff off the grocery shelf, and the top of the wine selection was Ecco Domani.

Two very nice ladies at a wonderful little chocolate shop also sang the praises of both restaurants.

What is it with the Buckeye palate? So, as vaguely referenced above, I’m back to Ohio later this week with a much more promising restaurant visit as part of business. Is it bad Buckeye taste? Hoosier snobbery? Or, bad luck?

My fingers are crossed I’m just a snob and have a great meal.