Akron’s Highland Square

Denise Wright, Kentwired.com


Strip of eateries and shops make a perfect getaway, just a short drive from Kent State

It’s just about 5 p.m., and my roommate and I are looking for something to do to drown out the Monday blues. I had heard Highland Square, a small dining and shopping area in Akron, serves as a good hangout spot.

The weather is about as good as it gets, so it’s ideal for walking around the shops. We get in my car, roll down the windows, turn up the music and hit the interstate.

It’s about a 25-minute drive – the best distance to travel to remove myself from Kent but still give myself enough time to get home and finish homework. I park behind Chipotle and get out of my car, feeling a little less removed from Kent, given the aforementioned staple.

That feeling starts to subside, however, when I see a younger girl with platinum blond hair and a fedora heading for her car. Any other time, I would have pegged her for a college student. But behind her, I noticed the abundance of skateboarders and carloads of teens beeping their horns at each other, and I realized I wasn’t quite in Kansas … errr, Kent … anymore.

Welcome to high school student central. I can’t quite explain exactly how I know high school students surround me, but there is something about their relaxed posture and seemingly nonexistent worries to get home to study, that advertise it better than a billboard in Times Square.

And I’m not the only one who notices because even my roommate comments about it. We walk, almost uneasily, through the throng of people sitting around Chipotle. The smell of pizza wafts through the air, momentarily distracting me. I see Georgio’s Pizza next to Chipotle – clearly the source of the amazing smell tempting my nostrils.

The smell starts to fade as we cross the street. The first thing I notice is the Kent Stage-like marquee lit up in front of the Highland Theater. “Inglourious Basterds” is the only feature playing and given its antique appearance, I can imagine this place hasn’t changed much since its opening in 1938.

Square Records, a small record store that any fan of Kent’s very own Spin-More Records would appreciate, sits next to the quaint theater. The front window of the shop is covered in posters advertising upcoming releases and shows.

We walk into Revival next door, which appears to be a thrift shop of sorts. I take a look at the price tags and quickly realize this is not a thrift shop, but there are still many fabulous clothing finds. Plus, the shop carried copies of “Pink Eye Arts” and “Scene” magazines, so it was OK in my book.

My roommate and I walk back outside and wander past Ray’s Pub and the Platinum Dragon Chinese restaurant. We stop at the bright blue exterior of The Matinee bar. The Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out” plays as we continue past Capri’s pizza and wing shop. Its red and yellow exterior stands in stark contrast next to The Matinee.

We continue walking until we stop to read the silver, black and purple graffiti that covers the outside of the Firefly Music School, which at first seems abandoned – until we hear piano music coming from inside.

Next, we head to the Angel Falls Coffee Company. Inside, we find wood-covered walls, cozy couches and above all – the best pumpkin spice cupcakes known to man. A card sitting on the counter indicates they were made by Lori, and as my roommate pays for a cupcake, the employee behind the counter tells us that Lori is the cosmetics lady at the Walgreen’s down the street.

After inhaling the perfect pumpkin spice cupcake, my roommate and I walk outside and past Annabelle’s, which advertises drink specials and Akron Punk Nite on Tuesdays on its marquee. Aladdin’s Eatery, a Mediterranean restaurant, sits next to the venue. A diverse crowd fills the patio, enjoying both the food and the beautiful weather.

Mary Coyle’s restaurant sits next to Aladdin’s. The neon signs and shiny metal furniture inside make the place look like a diner straight out of the ’50s. We’ve hit the end of the strip so we turn around to head for my car. As we walk back past the shops and the ever-present pizza smell, it hits me: There’s something nostalgic about Highland Square.

Contact features reporter Denise Wright at [email protected].