Starz is hip downtown Canton spot with wings, catfish, mystery drinks, R&B music

Ed Balint
The Repository
Starz employes from left are: Chloe Hall, Keke Burns, Starlett Isles-Burns (owner), and TaKesha Waiters. Starz features fried catfish, wings, pizza, cocktails and live music on Friday and Saturday nights at 111 Cleveland Ave. SW in downtown Canton.
  • Starz is a restaurant and bar at Cleveland Avenue and Tuscarawas Street in downtown Canton.
  • Food includes wings, fried catfish, pizza, okra, collard greens and macaroni and cheese.
  • Mystery cocktails include "Starz Ice Water" and "Purple Rain."

Editor's note: This is one of an occasional series of stories focusing on Black entertainers and business owners in Stark County.

CANTON − Starz restaurant and bar was hopping on a weeknight in downtown Canton.

Mystery cocktails were served. Meaty, flavorful chicken wings, breaded and seasoned fried catfish and onion rings were being cooked in the kitchen.

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Customers, seated either at the bar or at tables, were smiling, laughing, chatting.

And at the center of the fun was Starlett Isles-Burns, owner and operator of Starz , a hotspot at 111 Cleveland Ave. SW that she calls her bucket list dream.

Peppy, outgoing and friendly, she's a spark plug of personality. And there's an upbeat and playful chemistry evident between the boss and her crew, including Chloe Hall, Keke Burns and TaKesha Waiters.

Looking around at the bustle of customers, Isles-Burns couldn't suppress a grin that was a near constant on the proprietor's lips.

"This is the place to be," she said of weekends, the comment more about pride than bragging. "Just the atmosphere, the music, the food, the people − all of it."

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This wasn't even a Friday or Saturday night, which is the restaurant and lounge's regular hours. The weeknight gathering was by invitation only.

Husband and wife, Chezaraye Burns and Starlett Isles-Burns, are shown at Starz restaurant and bar in downtown Canton. Isles-Burns co-owns Starz with her father William "Pops" Friedman. Starz features food, cocktails and live music on Friday and Saturday nights.

Isles-Burns also owns Massillon's Sandpit Cafe and Lounge

Starz , which opened in September 2021, isn't Isles-Burns' first entry into the dining and bar scene. She's owned and operated the Sandpit Cafe and Lounge in Massillon with her 80-year-old father, William Friedman, since 2009.

"Everyone loves him," the 51-year-old daughter said. "They call him 'Pops.'"

Starlett Isles-Burns co-owns Starz restaurant and lounge with her father William "Pops" Friedman. The father and daughter also own the Sandpit Cafe and Lounge in Massillon.

Isles-Burns credits her dad for both inspiring and helping to guide her ventures. He owned and operated the Green River eatery and bar in downtown Canton in the 1980s.

"I just wanted to kind of relive what we did as a family way back when," said Isles-Burns, a 1989 graduate of Timken High School who has degrees in social work from Stark State College and business management from Malone University.

Helping Isles-Burns at Starz is her husband, Chezaraye Burns.

"She's just motivated and driven," he said of his wife. "It shocks me sometimes. I admire it. There are no words to describe her. She's everything. She pushes me and I push her."

Isles-Burns also owns and operates Fair Play Family Center child care sites in Massillon and Jackson Township.

"I don't know where her energy comes from," Burns said. "It's like it seeps out of her, and it's like the whole room lights up."

Starz patrons from left, Evangeline Armour, Amanda Williams, Sandra Pyles and Kim Brown. The group enjoyed cocktails recently at the downtown Canton restaurant and lounge.

Great grub, live music, good times

A coffee shop with live music was the original concept for Starz, a notion that spurred laughter from Isles-Burns.

"It's pretty eclectic," she said with equal measures of satisfaction and surprise in her voice.

Food, music, drinks and fellowship are now the focal points of Starz.

Live music has featured Hubb's Groove, Saxy Rob, Unit Band, Alvin Frazier and others. Jazz, soul and R&B are the typical genres and sounds.

Starz in downtown Canton offers are variety of food including, from back left, catfish, honey hot wings, garlic parmesan wings and spicy garlic parmesan wings. In front are side dishes of collard greens, seasoned fries and homemade macaroni and cheese.

"I'm known as the band girl and the music girl," Isles-Burns said.

Food options include pizza ($10 to $13 each), salads and different types of chicken tenders; the fried veggie trio features cauliflower, onion rings and mushrooms for $12. Sides include fried green beans, okra and macaroni and cheese.

"We try to stick to the things that we are good at," she said.

Starz restaurant and bar opened in September 2021 in downtown Canton. The eatery and club features wings, fried catfish, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, pizza and cocktails, along with live music.

Beaming a smile, the restaurant owner said: "Everyone says our wings are fire."

And a recent visit backs up the tout − the garlic parmesan was delish. Other wing flavors are barbecue, southern fried and hot. A nine-wing trio is $14.

Headed by Rinaldo Barkley, the kitchen also serves up catfish, cod and popcorn shrimp in a trio for $12. Fish and chicken tenders also can be ordered in a sandwich with fries ($14).

Customers also can veer from the menu and request modifications.

"We also do whatever they want," said Isles-Burns, noting that Starz provides catering locally while also hosting events including birthday parties and baby showers.

"Specialty potions" at Starz restaurant and bar in downtown Canton include from left, "Purple Rain" and "Strawberry Passion." Back row from left are "Starz Ice Water" and "Starz House Wine."

Specialty potions: 'Ice Water' and 'Purple Rain'

A full bar is stocked with vodka, rum, tequila, bourbons, gin, beer and whiskey.

Mystery cocktails are a signature. Labeled as specialty potions, "Ice Water" is a shot and juice ($6.50) and "Purple Rain" ($8.50) is described as a "little fruity tasting." Beverages also include "Starz House Wine" and homemade sangria.

Fried catfish, cod and popcorn shrimp are among the menu options at Starz restaurant and lounge at 111 Cleveland Ave. SW in downtown Canton.

"The fun part is always trying to find a great tasting cocktail for the customers," Isles-Burns said. "I never tell them the recipes, and they'll be like, 'That's good! What is it?'

"I want them to feel like I can only go to Starz to get that."

Reach Ed at 330-580-8315 and ebalint@gannett.com

On Twitter: @ebalintREP

Starz in downtown Canton

What: Restaurant and bar with live music

Where: 111 Cleveland Ave. SW, Canton

Grub: Chicken wings, fried catfish, cod and popcorn shrimp, pizza, collard greens, okra, fried vegetables, chicken tenders.

Drinks: Full bar, plus mystery cocktails, including "Ice Water" and "Purple Rain."

Music: Jazz, soul and R&B, including Saxy Rob, Unit Band and Alvin Frazier.

Hours: Friday 6 p.m. to close and Saturday 7 p.m. to close

More details: Online at https://www.starzofcanton.com/ and by phone at 330-754-6343