Nostalgic diner captivates with meals like grandma’s
Comfort food is in order this time of year and that’s why our family-friendly restaurant pick for October is Watts Restaurant in nearby Utica.
Founded 1912, Watts is known for its homemade pies and traditional recipes, including beef and noodles, and ham with raisin sauce.
“Watts is definitely the last of the old-school restaurants,” says Roger McCoy, who bought the restaurant from the Watts family in 2015. “We small-batch cook every day, so it’s sort of like going to grandma’s for supper.”
Longtime customers appreciate that McCoy has preserved this well-loved restaurant that’s endured by staying true to its roots.
“As soon as church lets out on Sunday, it’s standing-room only.”
Why make the trip from Columbus?
Nostalgia. Watts’s got it all – from booth seating to sympathetic servers to a display case full of dreamy pies including lemon meringue, butterscotch meringue and coconut cream.
“The restaurant opens at 11 a.m., but we’re here at 5 a.m. making the pies,” McCoy says. “We use old recipes, so our butterscotch is made in an iron skillet and we use Crisco in our crust.”
Also, driving less than an hour northeast of Columbus to Utica affords a couple other worthwhile stops. Pick apples and pumpkins at Legend Hills Orchard, and soak up the rustic beauty and charm of Ye Olde Mill, where Velvet Ice Cream is made.
Watts puts its own spin on Velvet Ice Cream. For instance, the seasonal Pumpkin Pie is transformed into a pumpkin pecan roll after it’s mixed with nuts and topped with marshmallow and caramel sauces.
“It’s amazing,” McCoy says.
What to eat.
Some menu items are influenced by McCoy’s German heritage, including the Kraut Salad made with sweet sauerkraut, and an interesting Banana Salad that’s simply a banana on a fresh bed of lettuce, dabbed with Jif creamy peanut butter and drizzled with house dressing.
Watts also is known for its Lake Erie trout, homemade egg noodles and fried bologna.
What’s in it for the kids?
Comfort meals for kids cost less than $5 and include the regular standouts like hamburgers, corn dogs and spaghetti.
Our kids liked that they were each given an Etch A Sketch to play with during lunch and were permitted to take home a piece of candy from the throwback rack stacked with Razzles, Necco Wafers and Swedish Fish.
Watts Restaurant is located at 77 S Main St., Utica.