By Dan Kane
CantonRep.com staff writer
Posted Mar 08, 2012 @ 08:15 AM
Last update Mar 08, 2012 @ 11:03 PM
What’s a former Canton radio guy, living happily in sunny Florida, doing opening an ambitious sports-themed eatery on West Tuscarawas Street?
“The true answer is ‘Cause I’m nuts,’” says Scott Shapiro, a GlenOak High School grad who was known as Scott Davidson during his on-air days at WKDD, WNPQ and WDJQ.
The main goal of Shapiro and his wife Kim in opening TD’s Tailgate Grill — in the former Mallon’s location at 2412 Tuscarawas St. W — was to import to his sports-loving hometown some of the best food from successful sports bistros in South Florida.
“We’re not out to reinvent the wheel here. We’re taking something we know works incredibly well here (in Florida) to Canton, where my roots are,” Shapiro says. “I think our menu will surprise people. Wings and fries is not what we’re about here.”
As Kim puts it, “We’re not a ‘drop a bunch of frozen stuff in the fryer’ kind of place. We’ve worked really hard on the menu.” While she gained years of experience managing restaurants in Florida, Texas and Arizona, Kim also is an avid cook.
“A lot of those menu items are things Kim has been making in our home for years,” Shapiro says. “The bread pudding, the buffalo chicken dip, the turkey chili, the Tailgate Punch. We entertain a lot.”
Having sampled a dozen menu items over several visits to TD’s Tailgate Grill, I can vouch for the refreshing variety of the menu, the caliber and detail of the food preparation, the satisfying flavors, and the appealing and attentive serving staff.
The restaurant’s interior has been revamped since its Mallon’s days. The two rooms have been combined into a large one with 47 sports-beaming flat-screen televisions lining the walls, a number of them visible from any seat in the house, and one in each of the restrooms. The room feels clean, modern and open, the contemporary music is kept at a background volume, and the vibe — despite all the flickering TV screens — is relaxing. There are booths, tall round tables with high stools, regular-sized tables and chairs and a U-shaped bar. In a nod to Davidson’s career, there is an operational radio broadcast booth in one corner.
Highly recommended among the starters are the creamy, cheesy, just-hot-enough and seriously addictive Buffalo chicken dip ($6.99), served with colorful tortilla chips; and firecracker shrimp ($9.99), a generous pile of medium-sized, flash-fried shrimp tossed in a warmly spicy cream sauce with sliced pepperoncinis. The jalapeno poppers ($6.99) are neither battered nor deep-fried, but rather fresh slices filled with a cheddar, cream cheese and bacon blend, grilled then served bubbling, with a dijon dipping sauce. Always popular, the spinach and artichoke dip ($7.99) at TD’s is notably garlicky and oniony (in a good way).
The crunchy fish sandwich ($8.99 including a side) was unexpectedly wonderful — a sizable filet of mild flaky white fish, crusted with seasoned cornflake crumbs and perfectly pan seared, and served on a toasted 10-inch hoagie bun, with tartar sauce on the side. Definitely worth a try are the fish tacos ($8.99), three soft flour tortillas bulging with grilled white fish, Monterey Jack cheese, shredded cabbage, fresh pico de gallo and ancho cream sauce, served in a neat chrome holder, with wedges of lime. They’d be even better with a little more zip, spice-wise.
The Inside-Out burger ($8.99 including side) features toppings — in my case, sauteed onions and Swiss cheese — located on the inside of the grilled, juicy and flavorful 10-ounce patty of fresh ground beef. The slow-roasted baby back ribs ($12.99 half rack, $17.99 full rack with two sides) were moist, fall-off-the-rib tender, non-greasy and glazed with a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce. An apparent house specialty is the Tailgate pork chop ($15.99 with two sides), a thick and tender 12-ounce, bone-in chop, grilled and lightly seasoned.
Wait, there’s more — desserts! Definitely save room for these, or plan a dessert-themed TD’s visit. I cannot choose a favorite between the swoon-inducing soft and warm chocolate brownie, topped with homemade peanut-butter cream, whipped cream, crushed pretzels, sea salt and caramel drizzle, and the moan-inspiring white chocolate bread pudding, topped with whipped cream and drizzled with raspberry sauce. Each is $4.49 and large enough to share.
Also in the sweet-tooth department, TD’s has a delection of dessert martinis — pineapple upside-down cake, Key lime, grasshopper and root-beer float — at $5.99 apiece, the same price as a tall, refreshing glass of citrus-rum Tailgate punch.