From swans gliding on water to gritty urban landscapes, dining al fresco in the Akron area offers a variety of scenery.
Increasingly, restaurants and bars are seeing the benefits of offering outdoor eating and hanging-out spaces — even if it means the umbrella tables overlook a parking lot.
With summer officially arriving this week, here are some readers’ favorite outdoor spots for enjoying food and drink, and some of our own picks.
This list is by no means comprehensive. Go to this story on www.ohio.com and add your outdoor dining/drinking haven to the comments section.
• Old 97 Cafe, 1503 Kenmore Blvd., Akron
Co-owner Debbie Chapman says her large, lush patio, tucked behind the pub’s old brick building, tends to surprise newcomers. “They’ll come inside, and say ‘This bar is so cute,’ and then they’ll step outside and go, ‘Oh, my.’ ”
Fan Tina Boyes of Wadsworth describes the patio as “ginormous, best patio around.” She likes that the outdoor space includes a bar, bocce ball court, and room for musical acts ranging from rock to bluegrass to jazz. Sometimes, it’s movie night outside. White twinkle lights, potted palms and an ivy-covered wall give the large space — in a warehousey area of town — a cozy feel.
The food is all made fresh, with Chapman offering a limited menu of grilled items, bruschetta and a meat-and-cheese plate. Chapman said the menu on any given day is determined by what she finds at farmers markets and her other shopping spots. She offers a changing wine list, popular martinis and a wide selection of beer, including local brews. The place — named for the old trolley stop 97 — is open some Wednesdays, and 4:30 to 1 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Chapman says to call first, as she frequently rents out the place for special events. 330-745-5493; http://old97cafe.vpweb.com.
• Riverside Wine, 911 N. Mantua St., Kent
You’d be hard put to replicate the view from Riverside’s large patio/deck: the Cuyahoga River, working train tracks and the Portage hike and bike trail. Occasionally a kayaker will paddle by, owner Robert Morson says.
What you won’t see are smokers, Morson stresses, noting the place is smoke-free outside as well as inside. This should be good news to readers who lamented that some outdoor patios have become smoking areas. Morson notes that smoke-free outdoor spaces are not the norm for establishments in the college town of Kent.
Riverside stocks hundreds of labels of wine and lots of beer; the place also is a retail wine and beer shop. You can buy by the glass or by the bottle. To drink on premises, there’s a $7 corkage fee for wine bottles and $1.50 for beer bottles. (Morson notes he’s selling the beverages at retail — not typical restaurant prices.) The menu is limited to salads, cheese and crackers, hummus and such, but the portions are generous and there are more than enough offerings to create a diverse, filling meal. 330-677-4400; www.riverside-wine.com.
• The Lockview
207 S. Main St, Akron
The rooftop at Lockview is probably one of the area’s best-kept outdoor dining and drinking secrets. Owner Danny Basone says that’s sort of on purpose. “I never advertised it crazy because I never wanted it to get not cool.”
Those who do wander up — the front stairs are a bit steep — are rewarded with a nice view of Lock 3 Park and nearby spots in downtown Akron. The menu on the rooftop, where Basone recently added some tables and chairs, is not as extensive as inside Lockview, known for its wide selection of grilled cheese sandwiches. “We’re running a smaller kitchen,” Basone said, “but it’s the best of everything,” including sandwiches, salads and appetizers — including the popular macaroni-and-cheese bites.
Basone, conscious that the rooftop can get hot, has covered portions of the space to create shady spots, while leaving other areas open to the sky.
“If you’re in Manhattan, there’s plenty of these [rooftops] … it kinda has that big-city vibe,” said Basone, who also ran the operation when it was a popular music venue, the Lime Spider. 330-252-5128; http://thelockview.com.
Also in downtown Akron: DBA Dante Boccuzzi Akron, 21 Furnace St., in the Northside area, has an outside bar and tiered patio boasting a built-in fire pit and views of the Little Cuyahoga Valley. Outdoor seating is available downtown at 3 Point, Barley House, Bricco, Brubaker’s Pub, Diamond Deli and Bricco. New this year on Main Street is the Game Bar + Grill at Canal Park, which features a folding glass wall. You don’t have to buy a ticket to eat there on game days and catch a glimpse of minor-league action. The place is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner whether there’s a game or not.
• Valley Cafe
1212 Weathervane Lane, Akron.
Several readers point out that this breakfast and lunch spot — in a former bank branch in the Merriman Valley — sits along the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail. Reader Jacki Lewis says the outside patio “makes for great people watching while you eat.” She says she has often stopped there “to refuel while biking or out for a walk,” but notes there’s plenty of parking if you want to drive. The patio has just a few tables, but Lewis notes they’re big and the chairs are comfy. Breakfast specialties include plate-size pancakes and waffles. Chef/owner BJ Mikoda also cooks up daily specials. 330-865-0101; www.valleycafeakron.com.
Nearby: Drive south from the Merriman Valley to Highland Square in Akron and enjoy a cluster of neighborhood haunts along West Market Street, all with outdoor spaces that go a long way in creating that celebrated community feeling in the Square. Three spots are along West Market: Mary Coyle, ice cream and eats; Aladdin’s, Middle Eastern fare; and Angel Falls, a coffee shop/cafe.
• Beau’s Grille, Hilton Akron/Fairlawn
3180 W. Market St., Fairlawn
You may forget you’re just off a main thoroughfare across from Summit Mall when you’re out on the covered, heated terrace at Beau’s Grille. The large but intimate space features a big stone fireplace, loads of comfortable seating, two large flat-screen televisions, artwork, red glass pendant lighting and ceiling fans. Hilton marketing manager Kim Hurray said the staff strives for a relaxed atmosphere, noting that while diners can use the big TVs to keep tabs on a game or the news, the sound is off. Screens can be pulled down when it’s windy or rainy. Smokers can go to a nearby patio.
On nice Fridays and Saturdays, it’s hard to find a seat. The menu is the same as inside the restaurant, which includes a lounge that often features musical acts. 330-867-5218; www.beausgrille.com.
Nearby: Fiore’s Italian Steakhouse moved in to “Restaurant Hill” last year, off Medina Road (state Route 18), and promptly built a large patio with a small stage for live music. Fiore’s occupies the space that formerly housed the short-lived Nicolinni’s restaurant, at 85 Montrose West Ave., Copley Township.
• On Tap at the Harbor
562 Portage Lakes Drive, Coventry Township
The On Tap restaurant and its deck, overlooking a portion of West Reservoir, is at the site of the former Harbor Inn. Look for the tall decorative lighthouse. The large deck has long been one of the Portage Lakes’ popular waterfront dining and hanging-out spots, attracting motorists as well as boaters. John Nassos, business development manager of the On Tap that opened last year, noted that he’s refurbished the misting palm trees that keep customers cool.
Hear music on the deck Friday nights and Sunday afternoons. There’s lots of room to see the view. The deck seats 135, and an indoor/outdoor bar seats another 40. Coming soon: A fresh seafood menu especially for the deck. Menu items include wings, burgers, soups and salads. 330-644-1664; http://ontapgrille.com.
Next door: Nicoletti’s Park Place opened last year at the former Hook, Line & Drinkers at 530 Portage Lakes Drive, keeping alive one of the larger lakeside patios in the region.
• Nauti Vine Winery
3950 S. Main St., Green
As with many Portage Lakes establishments, the front of Nauti Vine doesn’t tell much of the story. Get out back and there’s a whole ’nother world. “Great view of Miller Lake,” says fan Jim Miller of Coventry Township, noting that a deck just off the back of the winery opened this year, joining a lakefront patio. Nauti Vine, which also sells its own beer, opened last year, with the owner doing a massive redo of its predecessor in the spot, Bob’s Lake Bar.
The menu is limited, as with many wineries. There’s a meat and cheese plate and flatbread pizzas, among other items. 330-644-5444; www.nautivinewine.com.
• Howie’s on the Lake
4856 Coleman Drive, New Franklin
Reader Jim Miller, who likes to take his pontoon to Nauti Vine, also has high praise for this casual place in Portage Lakes. He likes its no-frills outdoor area, with “a lawn out front and a lot of picnic tables” on Turkeyfoot Lake. Howie’s website shows off the informality; a picture shows two burly dudes pulling a pig off an outdoor spit. “You can bring your dog there … there seems to always be a couple of dogs there,” Miller says. 330-644-8343; www.howiesonthelake.com.
• The Piazza at Gervasi Vineyard
1700 55th St. NE, Canton
A piazza is a public square or marketplace in Italy. In Canton, it’s the large landscaped patio, with an outdoor kitchen and bar, at Gervasi Vineyard. The Piazza also has bocce courts, music and plenty of Gervasi wines. Reader Patrick Sullivan of Fairlawn raves: “The view of the large lake and well-manicured grounds is like spending a glorious day in Tuscany. Sometimes you can see the swans gliding along the water. Unlike Gervasi’s more formal indoor restaurant, the Piazza offers a casual menu of pizzas, salads and sandwiches, among other items.” 330-497-1000; www.gervasivineyard.com.
Other vineyards in the region also offer stunning views, including Sarah’s Vineyard, 1204 W. Steels Corners Road in Cuyahoga Falls. Fans know it offers a relatively extensive menu for a winery, including sandwiches, wood-fired pizzas, salads and appetizers. The deck out back offers the best view of the vines. There’s also “the garden,” with nooks bordered by stones, where folks can sit at picnic tables. Coming soon: a new pavilion.
• Burntwood Tavern
2291 Riverfront Parkway, Cuyahoga Falls
This place opened last year in the former Samira’s, which followed LeFever’s. Fortunately, the deck overlooking the Cuyahoga River remains. The extensive menu leans toward more casual fare, including sandwiches, flatbreads and salads. Entrees include smoked grilled pork chops and tavern steak and fries. It has sister restaurants in Brecksville, Rocky River, Chagrin Falls and Solon. 330-794-7085; http://burntwood.publishpath.com/cuyahoga-falls.
• Edgar’s Restaurant
530 Nome Ave., Akron
Edgar’s is in the upper level of the city-owned Good Park golf course clubhouse. The restaurant, with outdoor seating overlooking the fairways, is independently owned. Chef Glenn Gillespie likes to cook food from various cultures; his eclectic menu includes his signature Cuban Smoked Pork Platter appetizer, featuring black bean salsa, guacamole, goat cheese and grilled bread, as well as buttermilk-soaked fried chicken and Creole-stuffed pork chop. 330-869-3000; www.edgarsrestaurant.com,
A few more places with notable outdoor spots: Rosewood Grill in Hudson; the Oaks Lakeside Restaurant and Event Center in Chippewa Lake; the Galaxy Restaurant in Wadsworth; and Blue Canyon Kitchen & Tavern in Twinsburg.
Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.