MASSILLON — More than three hours had passed since leaving my home in Springfield Township and driving to Chloe’s Diner in Massillon.
Sitting in my car following dinner, the sky dimmed as it approached 8 p.m. My phone buzzed with a call from my wife and daughter. They were astounded I hadn’t left yet.
Chloe’s Diner was to blame, I explained somewhat sheepishly.
I love history. Chloe’s has it in abundance. I love classic cars and vintage Americana. Chloe’s is steeped in that, as well. And I love burgers, hot dogs and milkshakes. The eatery has those covered, too.
Museum aesthetics had kept me a willing hostage at Chloe’s Diner, 112 First St. NE. And I couldn’t get enough while exploring, taking photos and recording video inside the sprawling former Rohr’s Auto Repair garage.
That is the charm and beauty of Chloe’s – vintage cars, neon signs and other stylings are as much a part of the dining experience as the food.
And it’s not a bad thing, either. Burgers, chili cheese dogs and onion rings are common. But Chloe’s is a cathedral to bygone days, and well worth a visit.
Dinner with Dan
Joining good friend and retired Canton Repository entertainment writer Dan Kane for dinner was long overdue. The restaurant had been on my list since opening in July.
The exterior of Chloe’s is sleek and polished. Near the curb is an old-style sign overhead with blinking lights welcoming customers.
None of that readies you for the spectacle inside. We first passed through a small lobby area. Burgers sizzled on the flattop and the aroma of grilled onions wafted. A jukebox pumped out classic rock music. A Vernor’s sign glowed. Coca-Cola memorabilia was displayed. A small kitchen was visible from behind a metal counter where customers could sit on a stool.
A few steps later, I entered the gigantic dining room doubling as an automotive showroom, where vintage motorcycles are suspended high in the rafters.
Looking over at Dan, I could tell he was impressed if not overwhelmed. Following 39 years of writing about music, art, culture and restaurants, my former coworker has seen it all, and even he admired the meticulous curation and sheer scope of Chloe’s.
Before taking our seats, we eagerly checked out the plethora of cars, motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, soap box derby cars and a junior dragster.
Vehicles include a 1952 Mercedes-Benz, 1957 silver Thunderbird, 1966 white Ford Mustang, 1963 Chevrolet Impala, 1966 Volkswagen bus, 1957 red Chevy convertible, 1970 black Chevrolet Chevelle, and a single-door BMW Isetta from the 1950s. Each vehicle was pristine and gleaming.
Cars share the floor with antique gas pumps and a backdrop of neon signs, the standout being an illuminated Betty Boop.
Jeff Doll oversees Chloe’s, but he said it’s owned by his teen daughter, after whom the eatery is named. Seth Harrison is the manager.
Doll also has renovated other downtown buildings with an eye for hardwood floors, exposed brick and tin ceilings. “I just enjoy doing it,” he said.
Doll owns Jeff’s Motorcars in Stark County. His wife, Sandy, owns and operates the upscale Social at the Stone House restaurant in downtown Massillon.
“You sit there and watch these older people come in, and they’re just in awe of those cars,” said Jeff Doll, who owned a gas station in Massillon in the 1980s. “I’m talking 75 to 90 (years old); it almost looks like a tear in their eye … and they get to go with their grandkids – the grandkids and the grandpas, they love it.”
After humorously photographing Dan with an Elvis statue, we plopped into a booth that allowed for a grand view of the surroundings.
Dan ordered a double cheeseburger slider ($4.39) and a root beer float ($3.99). I went with the all-beef, quarter-pound chili cheese dog ($6.75, adding onions cost an extra $1) and a strawberry milkshake ($4.99). We shared onion rings ($5.25)
Our server, Abbyrae Thomas, was fun, personable and helpful in explaining the menu. Hustling and covering the long haul between the kitchen and tables, Thomas also blended milkshakes, topping them with squirts of whipped cream.
Marcus Craig was chatty and courteous while he worked the griddle. He also selected the tunes — Journey, Van Halen, Joe Walsh, Muddy Waters, George Thorogood, the Sex Pistols. While the music wasn’t of the ’50s sock hop era, it was an inspired mix and matched the vibrant visuals.
Chili cheese dog is tasty but messy
When the food arrived, Dan and I were underwhelmed by the size of the double slider.
Doll said he’s fielded some gripes, but a few sliders are comparable to the quantity and price of a “bar burger,” he noted.
I liked the slider, and the meat was nicely charred at the edges, but the cheese was barely noticeable. That might have been an oversight because other cheeseburgers I spotted had plenty. Topping the slider were pickles, caramelized onions, ketchup and mustard on a homemade bun from Amish Country that was soft, fresh and a perfect fit for the beef.
Next time I would order two or three singles — $2.79 each or $3.19 with cheese.
Dan and I agreed the chili cheese dog was a highlight of our meals. Doll said it’s meant to be eaten with a knife and fork. Using silverware, however, didn’t occur to me, and I found it to be excessively messy. Several napkins were required for cleanup.
“It actually was by design,” Doll said, noting the chili sauce has ground beef and beans.
Most pleasing was the split wiener and its freshly grilled taste; it was a prize of a chili dog, but a sturdier bun would have been preferred.
Onion rings were crispy and enjoyable, but not of the freshly hand-breaded variety.
The milkshake was memorable. Served in a stainless steel cup, it was pleasantly sweet and easy to sip. A splash of condensed milk gave it an extra boost.
Doll said the hand-spun shakes are popular. Other flavors are vanilla, chocolate and Oreo.
Breakfast is popular
Doll said he still has the same staff Chloe’s opened with last summer. Food supplies have been problematic, he said. Changing products have drawn some grumbles, but Doll said it’s been out of his control due to supply chain woes stemming from the pandemic.
Waiting times can be longer when it’s busy, he said. Grill size, however, limits cooking volume, Doll explained.
“I never dreamed we’d be this busy,” he said. “There’s always growing pains; you can’t please everybody, but you try to.”
Admittedly, while the food was satisfying overall, it didn’t outshine the atmosphere.
Chicken tenders, grilled cheese, ham-and-cheese sandwiches, fries, tater tots and chili are also offered. Doll highly recommended the patty melt ($6.25). Rotating daily specials include meatball subs and steak sandwiches.
Breakfast is popular, he said. Customers like the country fried steak ($7.25 with two eggs and toast) and sausage gravy and biscuits ($6.75).
Hours are 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Reach Ed at 330-580-8315 and [email protected]