There’s a snazzy new spot downtown where you can see the baseball game — live — for free.
But you’ll still have to pay a bill and tip your waitress or waiter.
The Game Bar + Grill — with a folding glass wall that can be opened on game days — is the new street-level restaurant at Canal Park, on Main Street in downtown Akron.
The minor-league baseball park’s eatery strives to be more than your typical burger-and-brew sports bar. Sure, there are lots of televisions and a big exposed brick wall. But you can actually eat duck here while watching the minor-league franchise, the RubberDucks. The menu has a strong lineup of adventurous eats, as well as more traditional pub fare that features fresh ingredients.
“I want to do something different here,” said chef Steve Smith as he took a breather recently, kitchen tongs in one hand and an ever-present towel draped on one shoulder.
“I want to break the mold,” said Smith, formerly of fine dining spots such as One Red Door in Hudson. “I want to make food from scratch … There’s already Wing Warehouses.”
The 4,000 square-foot restaurant, with the window wall and patio at the right field corner, is a major part of the $6.5 million overhaul of the Canal Park stadium by Akron RubberDucks owner Ken Babby, who bought the team in 2012 and dumped the old Aeros name.
The bar/dining area — dotted with bat-shaped pendant lights that cast a glow on tabletops — seats 150. Upstairs, where other restaurants such as Wing Warehouse were located before Babby came to town, is now the Duck Club. This special-events spot boasts an 80-inch TV and its own wall of windows overlooking right field.
Smith, 34, who credits his Italian grandmother with igniting his cooking passion, came up with much of the menu, including eats designed to be kid-friendly and appeal to a more traditional palate. Smith, a graduate of Chippewa High School in Wayne County, said he didn’t go to culinary school; he learned on the line in various kitchens and from demanding employers, such as chef Brandt Evans at Blue Canyon in Twinsburg.
Smith’s diverse offerings include everything from Ballpark Burgers — cooked to order and served on brioche buns — to the 11-ounce ribeye All-American City Steak, to nachos with lobster. There’s a lettuce wrap with Thai glazed confit duck, Asian Quinoa Salad with ginger-soy-dressed quinoa, and Baked Mac ’N Cheese.
It’s been about two months since the Game opened, and Smith and others in the RubberDucks organization are working hard to let folks know it’s is not just a spot for games. It’s open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner, whether there is a game or not.
The breakfast menu includes house-made sausage patties, eggs benedict with butter-poached lobster, and cornflake-crusted fried PB&J on Texas toast. Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays, when customers can sometimes catch a high school baseball game.
On the recent morning, Smith was happy to see Bill Turnbull and his two young children enjoying breakfast. Babby’s mantra is baseball as affordable family fun. Turnbull and his family are living in Akron temporarily while his wife, Emily, is completing a residency at Akron Children’s Hospital. The family is from Michigan.
“I haven’t seen anything like this before,” said Turnbull, revealing that it wasn’t his first visit to the Game. Turnbull told Smith he’s a fan of the Low & Slow BBQ Chicken sandwich. Smith eagerly tells him a chef’s secret: “I like to brine … people forget about brining.”
The chef also is a big fan of curing and smoking. He does that with his duck bacon.
The eclectic menu seems to reflect Smith’s personality. He sports a blimp tattoo, as well as one of a pig showing various pork cuts. His hours are long, but he still tries to find time to skateboard (though he stresses that intricate moves are a thing of the past).
Smith acknowledges he has made some menu concessions. He reveals that early on he wasn’t keen on a menu item favored by team owner Babby. It’s called Three Egg Chili Cheese Dog and is a mash-up of eggs, a ballpark hot dog, shredded cheddar cheese and chicken chili from Whitey’s in Richfield.
“We’ve been selling a lot of them,” Smith said, chuckling.
See www.thegameakron.com or call 330-252-0804.
DeAnna Ruppelli said even though she’s a loser when it comes to competing on TV, hers is an “amazing story of hope. … things can get better.”
Ruppelli, a breast cancer survivor who lives in Medina, said a year ago she was recovering from reconstructive surgery after a double mastectomy.
“To think that a year ago, I was not able to pick up a saucepan or go to the grocery store,” said Ruppelli, who said she had a blast competing in Guy’s Grocery Games that aired Sunday night on the Food Network. It will air again at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Ruppelli, a caterer, food blogger and garden designer, taped the show in California in February. She said on the show that she was disappointed to be going home, “but if you are to be doing anything in life you should be positive … every day is a gift.’’
Ruppelli lost in the first challenge hosted by celebrity chef Guy Fieri. After racing around the grocery-store set grabbing ingredients beginning with the letter “B,” she cooked up a bratwurst sandwich, with bacon and bok choy slaw. She ran out of time and didn’t get to add the baba ghanoush — eggplant dip. It was intended to add moisture to the sandwich and hold the bratwurst in place. Alas, a judge said the bread was dry. She notes she used up some time talking and joking with Fieri as she cooked.
“I didn’t make the worst dish,” she said. “I just forgot the creamy component for my bread. One of the judges, he told me he could shower in that slaw.”
Now she’s focusing on writing a cookbook, a practical guide to healthful eating, as well as giving back. Frequently, she said, she prepares meals for strangers with health issues, getting the names from the MealTrain.com website.
Food Truck Friday
This Friday is the kick-off Food Truck Friday outside the new offices of the nonprofit Child Guidance & Family Solutions at 18 N. Forge St. in downtown Akron.
Food trucks will gather from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. every Friday through Sept. 12 in the agency’s lot facing East Market, at the corner of North Forge.
The food truck rally Fridays begin as Akron City Council members consider legislation to allow food trucks to sell their fare on public streets. The Child Guidance lot is not a public right of way.
Check the agency’s Facebook page to see which trucks will roll up each week. Participating trucks are Boca Loca Burrito Factory, Green Machine, Orange Trük, Retro Dog, Stone Pelican and Wholly Frijoles.
A portion of the vendors’ proceeds will go to the agency, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary of providing counseling to children and their families.
Mustard Seed new menu
Mustard Seed Cafe, part of the Mustard Seed Market at 3883 W. Market St. in the West Market Plaza in Bath Township, is launching a new menu. Watch this space for more information.
The longtime locally owned organic foods retailer and other such independent markets are facing increased competition not just from natural food chains, but from traditional grocers and big-box stores.
Art Auction with vodka
The Absolute Art Auction at Harris Stanton Gallery at 2301 W. Market St. in Akron will culminate in a vodka tasting from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday. Works by international and regional artists are on display and available for bidding this week. All of the $10 admission charge for Friday’s 21st annual auction goes to the museum.
Call 330-867-7600 or see www.harrisstantongallery.com.
End of spring wine
That was fast. The May 30 wine tasting at West Point Market marks the end of spring. The tasting will run from 7 to 9 p.m. and is dubbed Summer Delights Rosés and Whites. It will feature 20 lighter wines — rosés and white wines. Tickets are $35. West Point is at 1711 W. Market St., Akron. Tickets are $35. Order at www.westpointmarket.com or call 330-864-2151, ext. 129.
Old Carolina lauded
The regional chain Old Carolina Barbecue, headquartered in North Canton, has snagged a spot in USA Today online feature dubbed the USA’s Best Barbecue Chains. The online piece was a pick up from thedailymeal.com.
The piece notes that Old Carolina’s meats are smoked for up to 14 hours over hickory wood.
Taste of Canton
The sixth annual Taste of Canton will run from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. May 21 and May 22 (yes, that’s a Wednesday and Thursday) at Market Square, 301 Market Ave. N., in downtown Canton. The festival, sponsored by Fishers Foods, will feature fare from more than 20 restaurants, shops, and culinary vendors. It is organized by the Canton Development Partnership, part of the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce. Tickets are available at www.cantonchamber.org and at all Fishers Foods.
Send local food news to Katie Byard at 330-996-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.