Balyeat’s sits right along Van Wert’s Main Street, where beautifully kept homes give way to a gorgeous stone library and two-story brick buildings that contain shops and eateries. The restaurant sits in the thick of things, but it's hard to miss the huge neon proclaming "Balyeat's Coffee Shop. Young fried chicken, day and night." The sign, and the town as a whole, help set the tone for a meal here, where the owner Dale wears a starched white shirt and a red bow tie, the waitresses wear uniforms and the dark-but-clean dining room hasn't been updated since sometime in the 1960s.
Waitresses don’t start with menus, but rather, they rattle off the list of the day’s entrees, which are all sitting ready in warming trays behind the exceptionally long lunch counter. On our Thursday visit, options included roast beef, roast chicken, chipped beef, sausage gravy over biscuits, sausage and kraut, and meat loaf (among others). Entrees come with a choice of potato—buttered parsley potatoes or mashed potatoes. Stuffing or a vegetable? Veggies included buttered fresh green beans, buttered carrots and hominy (in butter). If you ask, you can also get the scoop on pie, made daily by Barbara, who spends every morning crafting the day's desserts. We heard a list of nearly a dozen options, including butterscotch, sweet cream, chocolate, pumpkin, lemon, cherry, peach, strawberry, red raspberry and peanut butter buckeye. Wow.
My meat loaf, buttered parsley potatoes and hominy came in heaping portions. A thick cut of meat loaf, smothered in rich brown gravy, and a large pile of potatoes took up an entire plate, so the hominy came in a side dish. The food was hearty, and really, just like Grandma used to make. Nothing fancy, here. No gourmet sauces or exotic spices. Just ground beef, onions and garlic and bread crumbs baked together. And roasted potatoes, seasoned with flakes of fresh parsley. Simple, flavorful, classic. And the pie, oh, the pie: A slice of butterscotch was rich, creamy, topped with meringue, and nestled in a flaky and tender crust. Yum.
The food isn't healthy, but it's tasty and affordable (entrees for lunch run $5 to $7, slices of pie are a few bucks) and welcoming in a nostalgic, comforting way.