The exterior of George’s Lounge is old school with a simple sign and a simple door. Neither of which really draws too much attention.
George’s, named for founder George Lungociu, has been nestled in the heart of Canton since 1959, making it the second-longest operating bar in downtown Canton. A move in the early 1970s to its current location at 229 Cleveland Ave. NW placed it in what is now the downtown Canton arts district.
George, a beloved figure among downtown workers and frequent bar denizens, died in 2015, and the lounge is now owned by a group of young folks who have managed to maintain the basic look and feel of George’s while adding a few modern, smart touches.
After walking through the door, one sees the room is dominated by a large 40-seat oval bar, operated by friendly tattooed bartenders. Against the far wall are some old-school booths.
The bar was installed in the 1970s by Lungociu and surely has many tales to tell about drunken regulars, hungry downtown workers and, more recently, hipsters, artists, musicians and anyone who likes a good cheap drink and tasty food.
If you sit at a booth, there’s a good chance you’ll be served by Ruby Howell, who has worked at George’s for 13 years and is quick to praise her original employer as “family” and her current ones for making sure George’s “still has the same feel, the same heart.”
Howell said the usual crowd is all (legal) ages and ranges from longtime regulars to young folks just discovering the subtle old-school charms. In her 13 years, she has seen only one fight in the bar.
The decor is largely untouched with wood paneling and old posters for classic films such as Casablanca next to fliers for bands that will perform on the small stage, where the lounge hosts live music on Saturdays and on a few weeknights.
The relatively old-school jukebox is full of classic rock, some punk, big pop, alt/indie rock and a little bit of soul, so you might hear the Clash’s Guns of Brixton, followed by Jim Croce’s Operator, followed by AC/DC’s Big Balls.
The jukebox is one draw for Joe Prestier, Rob Fenimore and Maria D’Aurelio, co-workers at downtown landmark Bender’s Tavern, established in 1902.
It’s a legitimate jukebox, Prestier said, as the drum solo from Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love blared in the background.
The co-workers were doing their frequent post-work activities of “blues and greens” (a shot of Jamison’s with a PBR) except D’Aurelio who also favored a “neon green” (that’s a pickle juice back).
Prestier has been coming to George’s for five years while D’Aurelio is a relative newcomer to the post-work tradition with only a year-and-a-half under her belt.
“They definitely have awesome food,” she said.
“It’s a good shot and a beer place and it’s a bar. You know? Where’s the [gosh-darn] television? There’s isn’t one. Where’s the Internet jukebox? There isn’t. It’s got CDs in there, you don’t like ’em? Go [expletive] yourself! The kitchen is open late.”
The kitchen is open until 2 a.m. and the menu has been updated, but don’t worry it’s not too fancified. Appetizers range from around $3 to $9 and include basic items such as pretzel poppers, hand-cut fries, chips made in-house, and according to local artist Crhis Phillips “the best hamburger in town.”
The burgers (grass-fed beef, chicken, turkey, house veggie or salad greens and dressing, which seems more like a salad on a bun to me) are mostly under $10, cooked to order and you can build your own from a variety of buns (including gluten-free waffles) and toppings and are simply put: frickin’ delicious. There are also a series of “Geourmet Burgers” (get it?) that include interesting combinations such as “The King George” (blue cheese crumbles, jerk spice, bacon, sauteed mushroom on an egg bun). First-timers should consider the Three Kings slider sampler, which gathers three of the Geourmet burgers in slider form. So good.
There are also all-day (and night) waffle-centric breakfast offerings and desserts and some $7 booze-filled shakes such as the Cocoa Loveslide (my next band’s name!) featuring Kahlua, chocolate vodka and chocolate ice cream.
George’s Lounge is a bar for people who like an old-school feel with new-school flavors. You don’t come to George’s to watch the game or stare at your phone (you can do that at home, you know) but it’s a good, low-key, friendly place to eat, drink and ideally be merry and communicate between cheap drinks and good food.
Malcolm X Abram can be reached at email@example.com or 330-996-3758. Read his blog, Sound Check Online, at www.ohio.com/blogs/sound-check, like him on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1lNgxml and/or follow him on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.