Location: 620 Ridgewood Crossing Drive, Fairlawn, OH 44333 Google Maps
Not too many places in Ohio serve BBQ reminiscent of the south. In fact, I don’t think there is another place quite like Old Carolina in Northeast Ohio. Come for their deliciously smoked meat and true vinegar BBQ sauces.
This location is latest of three in the area – you can find the others in Massillon and Canton.
Located in a strip mall immediately off of the highway, the restaurant is just another building with a sign out front. Upon walking in, you notice it is very clean and has a simple layout, with a semi-diner style. There’s a counter where you order your food and then they’ll come deliver it to you. There is an area where you can get your fountain drinks and the array of BBQ sauces. It’s very much like Fuddruckers.
I can’t talk up the staff enough – they were overly friendly, patient with us first-timers and always had a smile. They delivered our food and cleaned up after us. We even ended up staying and chit chatting with our friends past the time they closed and they never said anything that would lead us to believe that we had to get going. I finally noticed that no one else was coming in and then realized it was past closing time. They just smiled at us and said, “Hope to see you guys again!” I wish a few more restaurants could have workers this friendly.
I went for The Outlaw – with the choice of three meats from: pulled pork, beef brisket, smoked turkey, 4 ribs, 1⁄4 chicken or 3 tenders. I chose the pork, ribs and tenders. It included two sides and I chose: Mac N Cheese and Fries
What a meal. The ribs were smoked beautifully – prior to eating with a sauce, I tried some of the meat ‘au natural’. The meat fell right off the bone – literally, and had a great crispy crust on the top with a smoky flavour that didn’t overwhelm. Then came the pulled pork – lovely strings of juicy pork and, again with a great smoky flavour. Finally, the tenders – they look so simple and like every other tender you get in restaurants, but once I took a bite, I noticed the quality difference in the chicken. The breading had some good seasoning and was nice and crispy, locking in all the juiciness of the chicken. I could have each of these plain – but I had to dig into the sauces:
Original Classic (sweet)
Piedmont #5 (tangy)
Original Gold (golden bbq)
Screamin’ Beaver (tastefully hot)
All vinegar based, my favourites are the Screamin’ Beaver and the Original Classic. Others at the table were totally sold on the Original Gold. This doesn’t mean that the Piedmont #5 was bad – it too had its uniqueness. I think these are four very different sauces and you will find the one that suits you – have fun figuring it out!
My dish came with two sides – I opted for the fries and the Four Cheese Mac N Cheese. I wasn’t really impressed with the sides: the fries were OK, but you could tell they were frozen; the Mac N Cheese, even though gloating four cheeses in its name, didn’t even taste like there was any cheese in it. Luckily, the meat was so much that I didn’t need to eat the sides to feel satisfied.
The sweet tea was delicious!
$31 for two people. Very affordable.
I would find myself coming back here for a BBQ fix, but I wouldn’t get the meals that come with the sides, not worth it. The BBQ smoked meat is really, really good; moist and flavourful even without sauces. The people are extremely polite and the prices are reasonable. I don’t know why there were a lot of negative reviews online about this place, unless the restaurant has changed its cooking methods since then. Some people complained about the meat being too dry – not the case. Others complained that the sauce was an extra charge – again, not the case. I say go there and see for yourself and let me know you thoughts!