There was a time – in the days when the steel mills ran around the clock – when downtown Youngstown was a hub for activity, from shopping to nightlife.
Then there was a time – coinciding with my youth and young adulthood – when saying you were doing downtown was met with the question “Why?” or just a quizzical look. Happily, these days downtown is closer to the former than the latter, with no shortages of ways to spend your evening.
The main nightlife area is West Federal Street. In the days before and after World War II, it was home to three movie palaces. Only one remains, but it became Powers Auditorium, the basis for the DeYor Performing Arts Center, home to the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra and a venue for a variety of stage shows.
On the other side of downtown is the Covelli Centre, an arena that hosts sporting events and concerts (my parents will be seeing ZZ Top and John Fogerty there in June).
Inbetween are plenty of areas for a low-key meal, drinks or dessert. Because of its equidistance to Cleveland and Pittsburgh, Youngstown has both Browns and Steelers fans, who coexist warily but relatively peacefully. To REALLY start a fight in Youngstown, you have to talk about pizza. Everyone’s got a favorite place, and are fiercely loyal to it.
In downtown Youngstown, pizza begins and ends at the Avalon. The restaurant has been a mainstay in Youngstown for decades, but only downtown since 2012. It offers a full bar and other cuisine – and on weekends, hot-and-ready pizzas late at night.
There are plenty of other food options available. The Federal (as seen on “Bar Rescue”) offers excellent burgers, and Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts, in addition to hosting live music, offers hot dogs and a list of topics that surpasses my own creativity (then again, I’m not particularly adventurous).
Not far from the Av is downtown’s newest bar, the Whistle and Keg. Its unique approach is to give customers a wristband, which activates a variety of beer taps, and customers are charged by the pour. (Be forewarned: They don’t take cash. I realize that’s probably not a concern for most people in this day and age, but I found it surprising).
Up the hill from downtown is the new Noble Creature Cask House, a microbrewery in a repurposed church. It offers a variety of beers, but no food (although occasionally it’s visited by a food truck). We sampled the Youngstonian, your standard middle-of-the-road pilsner.
We ended our night at One Hot Cookie, a dessert place in an old train station. There isn’t a whole lot of dining space there, but it’s a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth, particularly late at night (it’s open until 2:30 a.m. on weekends).
There are plenty of other options, and with a new hotel and restaurant scheduled to open in the historic Stambaugh Building in May, a sense that there really is always something going on in downtown Youngstown.
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