One-tank trip: Akron

Jinae West

The ‘rubber city’ is winning people over with entertainment

The historical Stan Hywet Halls and Gardens in Akron is a great place to visit. The house was built in 1915 and was donated to the public in 1957. ELIZABETH MYERS | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: John Proppe

A few years ago, Akron was never really thought of as the “cool” place to be. It was just another forgetful, anonymous town that had its heyday “back in the day.”

But that was then and this is now, and many have recently had a change of heart.

Located in the up-and-coming Northside District, Luigi’s Restaurant is a local favorite, famous for good pizza, salad heaped with mounds of unnecessary but delicious shredded mozzarella cheese, and a relaxed everybody-knows-your-name atmosphere. For more upscale eateries, but heftier checks, try Crave, Bricco and Ken Stewart’s Grille.

Hidden away in the downtown Historic District is Mocha Maiden Art Gallery & Coffee House. The shop is cozy and dimly lit, offering customers an ideal intimate setting. Next door, the gallery showcases local artists’ works and one-of-a-kind accessories and home furnishings for sale.

“We sell great gifts that can’t be found in the mall,” Tony Troppe said. His wife, Jill, owns Mocha Maiden.

Mocha Maiden also houses a separate room, Musica, for live entertainment. Troppe said that while a majority of the bands are local, there have been performances by national acts.

“We hold a variety of music, from blue grass to folk to independent rock and also jazz,” Troppe said.

Troppe called Akron “a city of the future” with Mocha Maiden being at the “crossroads of art and commerce.”

In a world of its own, Highland Square is home to scores of other small and unique places to grab some grub. Two Amigos Mexican Grill is a breath of fresh air from fast-food chains such as Taco Bell and Chipotle. Mary Coyle Ice Cream is an old-fashioned ice cream parlor with an old-fashioned owner. Aladdin’s Eatery has affordable Middle Eastern cuisine. And Annabell’s Cocktail Lounge is a great place for cheap drinks.

Shopping in the Square is limited to just a few stores, including Square Records, a store that buys and sells used vinyl records, and Revival.

“We are a resale boutique for used and vintage clothing,” said Robyn Yuratovac, who co-owns Revival with her brother, Adam. “We also have new items that are very affordable for college students.”

Along with clothing, Revival sells purses, wallets, belts and other clothing accessories. It also hosts art shows once a month.

“We get a lot of people from Kent,” she said.

Parallel to Exchange Street, on Crouse Street is Don Drumm Studios & Gallery. It houses an immense collection of Drumm’s work, an Akron area native, as well as pieces by other North American artists. Ranging from metal and ceramic sculptures to fine jewelry, the gallery is a feast for the eyes, and depending on the purchase, a hole in your pocket.

For a peek into Akron’s history, take a tour at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens on the West Side. The magnificent Tudor mansion and surrounding landscaped gardens and grounds are picture perfect, especially in the fall. Prices for tours depend on what the visitor would like to see, varying anywhere from $6 to $20 for adults.

The nightlife in Akron focuses mainly on the bars downtown including The Lime Spider, Brubaker’s Pub and, the most popular, Posh Nite Club & Bistro, where the line often stretches out the door and into the parking lot.

“Posh is the largest dance club in downtown Akron,” manager Shawn Slater said. “People go to pubs earlier in the evening and then come here later to party.”

Akron is a great getaway for the weekend. It’s eclectic, unique and most importantly, easy on the mileage. There are plenty of places to wine and dine.

The “rubber city” offers a variety of restaurants, sure to please any palette.

Contact features correspondent Jinae West at [email protected].