The United States is a diverse country. We are all different. Our likes and dislikes are as varied as we are.
But one thing might unite us. I believe that at one time in our lives, we have all eaten a bologna sandwich.
As a youngster, I remember there was always a big, round chunk of bologna sitting in our refrigerator waiting for Mom to cut off a few slices for our lunch.
In the summer, after we finished our chores around the house, we were allowed to make our own bologna sandwich, stick it in a paper sack and head out for the day.
This would have been in the 1960s. At that time in the social history of Germantown, it was common for parents to allow their children to leave the house and explore the woods around Twin Creek, or we might ride our bikes out to the Germantown Dam and the country roads in that area.
Regardless of where we went or what we did, we would always stop after a few hours, find a nice, shady spot, and enjoy our bologna sandwich. A little water from a small thermos always made for a good lunch.
Life was not fancy, but it was always fun. A daily bologna sandwich was part of our routine.
I always thought it was spelled “baloney.” There didn’t seem to be any reason to slip in a silent “g” into the spelling of the meat, but I never was much of a speller. After Oscar Mayer introduced their famous commercial about the spelling of their bologna (bologna having a first name and a last name), I find it almost impossible to type the word “bologna” without singing that little jingle in my head.
A quick online search points out that the name of the lunchmeat comes from the Italian city of Bologna. That northern Italian city is famous for the excellent sausage they produce known as Mortadella.
However, any Italian born near that city, would tell you that comparing our standard bologna to Mortadella sausage would be like comparing grape Kool-Aid to a fine, expensive, Italian wine. They are proud of their sausage.
A few years ago, Debbie and I went on a quest. We were going to find and dine at the “Nineteen Places in Ohio where you must eat before you die.” The list was posted on a website that Debbie found.
We decided to give it a shot and over a period of months we drove from Cincinnati to Toledo and from Cleveland to Gallipolis as we had lunch or dinner at those 19 places. One of our destinations was a tiny little village named Waldo.
“Where’s Waldo?”, you might ask. Waldo is barely big enough to be a village; the population is only 336. It is northwest of Columbus, almost exactly midway between Delaware and Marion. There is not much in Waldo except a dairy bar, a Methodist Church, a Lutheran Church, and the Tin Star Saloon.
Just across route 23 from the Tin Star Saloon sits the G&R Tavern. That is where you need to go if you want to try what many people call “The World’s Best Bologna Sandwich.”
The little G&R Tavern was founded 60 years ago by two friends named George Yake and Roy Klingel. Apparently, they loved bologna. They found a sausage maker who perfected the taste they wanted for their perfect bologna sandwich. The recipe includes quality meats and a healthy dose of garlic.
They now serve well over 1,200 pounds of their special blend of bologna each week.
The perfect G&R bologna sandwich is about an inch-thick slice of fried bologna (slightly crisp on the edges) resting on a fresh white bun, and blanketing the bologna is melted Monterey Jack cheese, a crisp pickle and a health slice of raw onion.
There is almost always a wait, so you may need to visit the Tin Star Saloon for a cold beverage until your seat at G&R is ready. The last time Debbie and I visited G&R, we chatted with people from West Virginia who planned their trip to Ohio around a bologna sandwich in Waldo.
When you finish your meal, be sure to check out the pies, homemade each day. I have never seen a cream pie as high as a G&R pie. The great flavor must hold it all together. Spectacular!
Bologna has developed a much-maligned reputation as junk meat, but I still enjoy a few slices of Oscar Mayer with American cheese, yellow-mustard, and some dill pickle. That’s always OK, but for the gourmet version, I will always head to Waldo.
A G&R bologna sandwich would be the perfect meal to sustain somebody taking a nice long bicycle ride in the summer.
Randy Riley is a former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.