ZOAR Donnie’s Tavern, the newest restaurant in the historic town of Zoar, is named in honor of Donovan Kelly, a 16-year-old Perry High School football player who collapsed and died last May.
“He always pushed us to have a restaurant,” said his father and the restaurant’s owner, Nathan Kelly. “I worked in country clubs, so on Saturdays when he was off school, he would come to the country club and hang out.”
Added Nathan’s wife, Maggie, “He loved food, he loved family, football. So we just thought it was a good way to honor his memory. It was really hard on us. We’re still coping and dealing. It still doesn’t feel real at times.”
Donnie’s Tavern opened on Dec. 28 in the building that formerly housed the Firehouse Grill, 162 Main St. The initial response from the public has been good, with the business serving almost 800 people a week.
Nathan, who has worked at country clubs in Ohio, North Carolina and Florida, describes the restaurant’s food as being modern America.
Popular dishes include Brussels sprouts salad, made with crispy Brussels sprouts, Romaine lettuce, eggs, chopped bacon and a creamy Caesar dressing. The meatloaf is stuffed with goat cheese and mushrooms wrapped in bacon. Burgers have also proved to be a big hit with customers as has one of their appetizers, a giant pretzel that’s dinner plate size.
The restaurant serves a variety of homemade pizzas, including the Magpie, a mushroom pizza named for Maggie; the Jamison (an all-cheese pizza) and the Malachi (pepperoni and bacon), taken from the middle names of Nathan’s two sons; the Shaff, named for Maggie’s father, which has pepperoni, banana peppers and spicy sausage; and the Zoar pie, a create-you-own pizza.
The children’s menu is named for Nathan and Maggie’s 2 1/2 year old twins, Emma and Wyatt, and Maggie’s niece and nephew.
“Our goal is to be unique and different than anybody else,” Nathan said. “We’re not trying to compete with bars or taverns in Stark County or Tuscarawas County. We went to be THE place, we want to be the cream of the crop. We’re trying to be the top of the pyramid.”
He noted that much of the food served at Donnie’s Tavern is locally sourced.
The bacon, pork and ground beef comes from Boltz Family Farms in Stone Creek.
Nathan said that 75% of the food comes from within 10 miles of the restaurant. By mid-summer, he hopes that can be increased to 100%.
“We try to make things that were Donovan’s favorites, because Donovan wanted this more than I did,” his father said. Donovan was constantly telling Nathan that he needed to open his own restaurant.
Possible future plans include opening an ice cream shop in the spring and opening the patio to diners in warmer weather.
Donnie’s Tavern can also be a one-stop venue for wedding parties, the Kellys said. They can host the rehearsal dinner and the wedding reception. They have five rooms available above the restaurant to put up the bridal party for the weekend. And the restaurant’s general manager, Jimmy Digman, can officiate at the wedding.
The Kellys have 32 full- and part-time employees. Derek Kelsey is the chef.
The business is open Monday through Saturday. Hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Once the tavern gets its liquor license, it will be open for brunch on Sundays and the hours will be expanded.
Because of the high volume of business, reservations are accepted by calling 330-874-7097 or online on the tavern’s Facebook page.
Source: Thanks https://www.cantonrep.com/news/20200120/restaurant-honors-memory-of-perry-football-player