When President Lyndon B. Johnson needed a new set of wheels in 1968, Akron’s Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. delivered the goods.

Understandably, these weren’t $20 tubeless blackwalls that any motorist could pick up at Sohio, Amoco or Pure Oil. No, these babies took a lot more effort.

The Secret Service had approached Firestone two years earlier about producing tires for the president’s new limousine, which was still in the developmental stages. Firestone engineers worked quietly on the top-secret project for the VIP customer.

As the 1960s commercial jingle promised: “Wherever wheels are turning, no matter what the load, the name that’s known is Firestone, where the rubber meets the road.”

In this case, the road was Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.

Ford Motor Co.’s Lincoln-Mercury division, which had supplied automobiles for U.S. presidents since the Calvin Coolidge administration in the 1920s, began work on a heavily armored Lincoln Continental that would be bulletproof and bombproof.

The vehicle, dubbed “LBJ’s tank,” cost about $500,000 ($3.6 million today) — roughly $497,000 more than the going rate for most automobiles in 1968.

The sleek, black, 21-foot limousine weighed 6 tons, including 2 tons of armor plate. It was built in Detroit but customized by Chicago’s Lehmann-Peterson Inc., which boasted that the vehicle could withstand a “small scale military attack.”

“We don’t even know who made some of the parts or exactly what the parts do,” company leader George Lehmann told a reporter.

Details slowly emerged in 1968. The 340-horsepower, 460-cubic-inch V-8 engine was built at Ford’s factory in Lima, Ohio. The distortion-free windows and sunroof, molded from special, curved, glass armor, were developed at Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co.’s plants in Creighton and Harmarville, Pa.

And the tires, of course, were from Akron. Firestone produced 10 heavy-duty, high-pressure, deluxe tires for the limousine and another vehicle in the presidential fleet. Filled with 70 pounds of air, the tires incorporated a run-flat technology featuring a steel cylinder covered with a hard rubber tread.

In theory, the limousine could travel at top speeds for 50 miles despite all four tires being punctured from bullets, blades or explosives.

“Except for the still vivid recollection of President Kennedy’s assassination, and the nagging fear of other crackpot-shots, one might wonder if any car is worth half a million dollars,” the Beacon Journal noted. “Actually, the government isn’t buying it — only renting it, for $100 a month.”

The vehicle was equipped with enough modern gadgetry to rival any spy movie of the 1960s. For example, the rear bumper could be lowered like a tailgate and converted into a platform upon which agents could stand if necessary.

A public address system was installed so President Johnson could speak to crowds outside the vehicle, plus a sound system was included so he could hear real-time reactions from audiences if the windows were closed. As Vietnam War protests multiplied during that era, however, he may not always have wanted to hear what was being shouted on the streets.

In addition to a two-way radio and telephone communications, the limo had three television sets so the president could monitor all three networks simultaneously. (Yes, children, there were only three TV networks in 1968.)

The vehicle had separate heating and air-conditioning units for the front and back compartments, and a retractable roof so the 6-foot-4 president could stand while the car was in motion, holding onto a chrome bar for balance. Given the tragic events of November 1963 in Dallas, though, the open window wasn’t likely to be used very often. In fact, a black vinyl cover was installed for privacy.

In a news release, Ford boasted: “The new presidential limousine has more advanced security communications and engineering features than any automobile used for official duties at the White House.”

Ironically, the car lacked front-seat shoulder harnesses as mandated by the federal government. Secret Service agents wanted easy entrance and exit from the vehicle and didn’t want to get tangled up in any belts.

Just as work was nearing completion on the vehicle, President Johnson announced March 31, 1968, in a national address: “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.”

That didn’t give him a lot of time to put any wear on those Firestone treads. The limousine made its public debut Oct. 21 — a couple of weeks before the presidential election. Former Vice President Richard M. Nixon defeated incumbent Vice President Hubert Humphrey for the office.

In addition to the Oval Office, Johnson turned over the keys to the brand-new limousine before Nixon’s inauguration in January.

Nixon used the presidential limousine for three years until it was replaced with another $500,000 heavily armored Lincoln Continental in 1972.

“It’s as strong as a tank,” a Ford employee told the Detroit Free Press. “It is so strong that a bomb would only roll it over.”

On the sleek, black vehicle were four new metal-reinforced tires from Firestone, where the rubber meets the road.

Mark J. Price is the author of the book Mafia Cop Killers in Akron: The Gang War Before Prohibition from The History Press. He can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].

A familiar face will be back at next week’s Akron Home & Flower Show.

Dr. Lori — her real name is Lori Verderame — will return to offer appraisals and advice on how to care for or sell your family’s prize antique.

This is the third time in recent years that the History Channel personality has brought her Antiques Appraisal Comedy Show to Akron.

Dr. Lori admits she travels light since the audience does all the heavy lifting. They bring everything from paintings to tchotchkes.

Dr. Lori said all she needs is a microphone.

Unlike other appraisal shows on television, she said, her assessments are done on the spot with no prep work ahead of time. She combs her brain for knowledge gained not only as a student but also as a college history instructor and museum director.

It doesn’t hurt either that she does some 150 antique shows a year and appraises some 20,000 objects.

Dr. Lori said she loves visiting Akron because it is one of those rare cities in the country that has a rich history, with a nice mix of wealthy factory owners and a wide range of residents who settled in the city from all over the country and world.

This means, she said, there are a lot of family treasures buried in attics or proudly displayed on fireplace mantels.

“In Akron, I tend to see objects that are very well cared for,” she said.

On one visit to the city, Dr. Lori said, someone brought a rare death painting of George Washington.

The beauty of the shows like the one in Akron, she said, is that you never know what someone might bring up to the table to be appraised. Speaking of Washington, at one show, someone brought the actual wallet the then-general carried when he crossed the Delaware River.

“I’m not sure what I’m going to see,” she said. “We have an awful lot of fun.”

With a mix of humor and spontaneity, Dr. Lori said none of her shows are ever alike.

Her Akron appearance schedule includes shows at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23, 2:30 and 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24, and 12:15 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 25.

She makes no promises, but she said those with items they would like to have appraised during the show should get there 30 to 45 minutes early, and be sure to sit in the first two or three rows in front of the stage.

“I usually get to everyone,” she said.

For those looking to collect tomorrow’s antiques, Dr. Lori said that’s not an exact science. But one area that is hot right now, with prices that continue to climb, is art-deco designs from the 1920s.

As the centennial anniversary of the distinctive era approaches, she said, interest in collecting these items grows.

“We will see the 100-year spike in 2020 and all these items will go through the roof,” she said.

Her interest in appraisals was sparked by a chance encounter with a woman who sold a rare George Washington document for just $50 to pay for a utility bill.

The document, she said, was worth $50,000 and the buyer took advantage of the woman who needed cash.

Since she doesn’t buy items to resell, Dr. Lori said, she offers an honest appraisal and friendly advice on how to sell antiques and get a fair dollar on them.

She said there are unscrupulous dealers out there looking to take advantage of sellers who don’t realize the value of what they own.

It also helpful to learn and know the history of the item you own.

“There might be that unwanted antique that might help someone get a kitchen remodeled.”

Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

Let’s get this out of the way up front: The new Fat Head’s brewpub in suburban Canton has a tentative opening date of March 5.

That’s what everyone wants to know: When? When? When?

The anticipation has been building ever since the Middleburg Heights-based brewery announced plans to open in a strip mall in Plain Township in the Belden Village area. It’s not difficult to understand the enthusiasm.

Fat Head’s has taken home an astounding 21 medals at the Great American Beer Festival since its brewpub opened in 2009 in North Olmsted — and another six medals at the biennial World Beer Cup.

In other words, a world-class brewer is putting down roots in Stark County.

The Canton location, at 3885 Everhard Road, was appealing to Fat Head’s for several reasons. It’s in the restaurant-rich and heavily trafficked Belden Village area, has easy access to Interstate 77 and features ample parking.

The brewery’s philosophy is on full display in a neon sign as you walk in: “Chill out man, have a beer!”

The 10,000-square-foot brewpub has an open feel — different than its segmented brewpub in North Olmsted. It features a U-shaped bar with a live edge wooden bar top, big-screen televisions hanging above the bar, plenty of different kinds of seating with high-top tables, booths and low-top tables, and glass garage doors in front that can be opened during nice weather.

There’s also an outdoor patio area with a fire pit, game room, a wall showcasing all their awards and a giant Fat Head’s logo, a fat guy’s head painted on a red brick wall.

The 10-barrel JV Northwest brewhouse is behind glass, but the stainless steel fermenting tanks are exposed.

“We wanted to create a nice warm spot that has character,” said brewmaster and co-owner Matt Cole, who hopes the Canton site drives retail sales and brand awareness for Fat Head’s in the community.

He described the design as a mix of rustic and industrial.

Cole and Will Polensek, head brewer at the brewpub, have been busy making test batches in anticipation of the opening. Bumble Berry, a honey blueberry ale, was the first beer made on the new system.

Expect award-winners such as Head Hunter IPA on the beer menu. Polensek, who started at Fat Head’s as a line cook and worked his way up to brewer, also will have the freedom to brew a couple beers specifically for the location.

Cole expects to have six beers available at the opening that were made at the brewpub, with others brought in from the Middleburg Heights brewery and some guest beers.

The food menu will be similar to the North Olmsted brewpub and the Pittsburgh restaurant. Fat Head’s is known for sandwiches that are as big as someone’s head — thus the name.

Fat Head’s is building a new production brewery and tasting room in Middleburg Heights along Interstate 71, with a tentative opening date of June 1.

Fat Head’s is joining a Stark County craft beer scene that already is home to the Canton, Maize Valley, Paradigm Shift, Royal Docks, Sandy Springs and Shale breweries.

Cole is excited for the opening.

“I hope people come out and try us,” he said.

New Royal Docks

The new Royal Docks Brewing Co. is a mere 4,500 miles away.

Or maybe it’s only 4,000 by now — or even closer.

The brewery’s Italian-made, 30-barrel Simatec brewhouse is aboard a ship somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea — or perhaps Atlantic Ocean — sailing to its new home in suburban Canton.

It’s setting up to be a big year for Royal Docks.

Not only is the Jackson Township brewery expecting to fire up its new production brewery this spring, it’s releasing new brands in cans, expanding its distribution back into the Columbus market and for the first time hitting the Dayton and Cincinnati areas with the help of Heidelberg Distributing.

“We’re trying to make some strides,” founder John Bikis said.

Royal Docks, which started out as a brewpub in the Marketplace at Nobles Pond shopping plaza, has been growing steadily since it opened in September 2015. The brewpub is affectionately known as the kitchen and taproom, while the new production brewery will go by the name Royal Docks Brewhouse and Cannery.

Bikis expects the new brewing system to hit U.S. shores in about four weeks, when it will be hooked up to its Columbus-made Heritage Equipment tanks and Stow-made PneumaticScaleAngelus canning line. He hopes to fire up the brewhouse — a 24,000-square-foot facility across the street from the current brewpub — for test batches in late March or April.

The new production brewery won’t be open to the public initially, although it will likely open up on Saturdays at some point.

“As far as construction, we’re moving along like snails a little bit,” Bikis said.

Meanwhile, Royal Docks will continue contract brewing at Four String Brewing Co. in Columbus. Royal Docks is hitting the Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton markets starting this week.

“We’re really excited about that,” Bikis said.

Royal Docks also is set to debut four new brands in cans in March and April:

• Leatherhand IPA, an offshoot of the popular Leatherhead IPA. It’ll be sold in 16-ounce six-packs and retail for $9.99.

“We had great success with Leatherhead,” Bikis said. “Since we’ve started canning it, it’s been our best-selling beer in package.”

The football-themed beer — Leatherhead, duh? — was available at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland for the Browns season. It’s also being sold at Quicken Loans Arena where the Cavaliers play.

• Backyard Crusher, a lime shandy with sea salt, 16-ounce six-packs for $9.99.

• Crime of Passion, a fruit IPA, 12-ounce six-packs for $9.99.

• Daemonium, a Belgian-style tripel, 12-ounce four-packs for $10.99.

Both Crime of Passion and Daemonium fared well at the brewpub on draft and that’s the reason they are being canned, Bikis said.

Leatherhand, Crime of Passion and Backyard Crusher are expected to be released in mid-March, while Daemonium will be available starting in April.

Shale relocating

Shale Brewing Co. will be on the move soon — and it’s finally opening a tasting room.

The production brewery, which bottles and produces brands such as Cold Rolled Pale Ale and Roughneck Red, is now located on Second Street SE in downtown Canton. But it’s one of only a few Ohio breweries without a taproom, leaving people to hunt down its beer in the retail market.

That problem will be solved when Shale moves into the space being vacated by Scenic Brewing Co. at 7253 Whipple Ave. NW in Jackson Township. Scenic is closing, as the owners are relocating to the Columbus area.

“We get asked all the time, ‘where can I get your beer around here?’ ” brewer Jason Gasper-Hulvat said. “It’ll be so nice to tell people that they can come down to the brewery and take a six-pack to go.”

The tasting room also will allow him to brew some different brands and should help people discover Shale.

The brewery had been looking for space for a tasting room and the Whipple Avenue site made sense, Gasper-Hulvat said. He’s excited about creating a brewing triangle in the area, with nearby Royal Docks and the soon-to-open Fat Head’s.

He’s not sure when Shale will be open at its new location because of the federal and state approval processes.

“The goal is this spring,” he said.

Hall of Fame Hops

The new Stark County brewery trail now has an official name.

It’ll be called Hall of Fame Hops Stark County Craft Brewery Tour — or just Hall of Fame Hops for short.

The name makes sense, considering Stark County is home to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.

“At first, we were thinking a more regional Stark County direction because our brewers are spread around the county but they all wanted to tie in with the Hall of Fame,” said Tonja Marshall, vice president of marketing and communication at Visit Canton, the Stark County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “That’s our claim to fame and what we’ve hung our hat on.”

The trail kicks off April 1 and passports will be available at the participating breweries and in the 2018 Visit Canton Travel Guide.

The confirmed participating breweries and locations are: Canton, The Crush House at Gervasi (which partners with Thirsty Dog Brewing Co.), Fat Head’s, Lockport, Maize Valley, Mucky Duck, Paradigm Shift, Royal Docks and Sandy Springs. Shale and Muskellunge also are tentative locations, depending on their relocation and opening dates, respectively.

Everyone who finishes the tour will receive a commemorative bamboo flight board and a chance to win a package for two to the Hall of Fame Enshrinement Week in August 2019. In subsequent years, the tourism agency plans to offer tasting glasses to fill out the flight board.

Visit Canton is still building the website but you can check it out at hofhops.com.

The Stark County trail is the latest brew path to pop up in Ohio. Others include the Columbus Ale Trail, Summit Brew Path and new Ohio-Pennsylvania Ale Trail.

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or [email protected]. Read his beer blog at http://www.Ohio.com/beer. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.

Wanted: Recipes that help make up the Akron area’s rich food history.

Judy James, former Akron-Summit County Public Library local history librarian, is seeking recipes for The Akron Recipe Project, a cookbook she is putting together to be published by the University of Akron Press.

James is after recipes of ethnic and cultural groups that have made Akron home, as well as family favorites not connected with a particular group or ethnicity.

The Akron Recipe Project promises to be more than a cookbook. James plans on including brief histories of the ethnic and cultural groups, and origins of family recipes.

To submit recipes, contact Judy James at [email protected] or call her at 330-815-0775. James said recipes can be typed, scanned, photographed or handwritten.

For more information, go to the Akron Recipe Project Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/akronrecipeproject).

Arguably one of Akron’s most iconic foods is the sauerkraut ball, and James envisions a chapter on the history of the breaded snack and a chapter on favorite restaurant recipes. In 2015, James helped local historian Sharon Myers put together an exhibit on the Golden Age of Restaurants in Summit County.

Here’s some trivia about sauerkraut balls, and who doesn’t want that? Some say they were initially cooked up by area German immigrants. For years, commercially made Bunny B sauerkraut balls have been available. The Bunny B brand, once a part of the old Salem potato chip company in Akron, is today part of Ascot Valley Foods, formerly Or Derv Foods, in Akron’s Ascot Industrial Park.

Farm breakfast

The Summit County Farm Bureau each year draws hundreds to its annual Farmer’s Share Breakfast.

The 10th annual event will run from 8 to 11 a.m. March 10 at Copley High School, 3807 Ridgewood Road, Copley Township.

The breakfast — pancakes with local maple syrup, sausage, scrambled eggs, coffee and milk — costs only $1, which represents the average portion the farmer receives for producing the food for the breakfast.

Donations will be accepted and all proceeds will be given to the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. Families are welcome. The farm bureau has a goal of serving 1,000 people. Last year’s number: 780.

The event will include seminars on Back Yard Chicken Basics, given by Chrissy Seyerle of Copley Feed, at 8:30 and 10 a.m.

Bring a canned food item for the Salvation Army of Summit County and get a raffle ticket to win a year’s worth of Smith’s Dairy ice cream.

Showcase of Chefs

Restaurateur Beau Schmidt is putting together a March 7 fundraiser to celebrate the memory of his daughter, Halle Schmidt, who died in a car crash in February 2016, and raise scholarships for Copley High School seniors.

The Showcase of Chefs — featuring food tastings from his Beau’s Grille and Beau’s On the River as well as other area food establishments — will run from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Hilton Akron/Fairlawn at 3180 W. Market St., across from Summit Mall. (Beau’s Grille is at the hotel.)

Beer, wine and a signature cocktail will be included. Cost is $50 for adults and $25 for students. Proceeds will go to the Halle Schmidt Scholarship Fund. Halle Schmidt graduated from Copley High School and was a nursing student at Stark State College.

Participating establishments include Arnie’s Public House, Crave, D’Agnese’s Trattoria and Cafe on White Pond, Edgar’s, the Merchant Tavern, Moe’s Restaurant, Nuevo Modern Mexican & Tequila Bar, Papa Joe’s, Russo’s and Vaccaro’s Trattoria.

Tickets are available at 330TIX.com. Call Kim Hurray at 330-835-5983 for information.

Frank’s Place at 25

Frank Horvath will celebrate the 25th anniversary of Frank’s Place On Market.

On Saturday, he’ll offer drink and food specials and former bartenders and servers will return, with tips being donated to Canton-headquartered nonprofit Project St. Nicholas Returns, which helps needy children and families.

Horvath was a bartender at TGI Fridays in Copley when he heard that the former Samantha’s Lounge at 549 W. Market St. was for sale. Before Horvath purchased the place, it had operated as Woodstock, pretty much just a drinking spot.

Horvath transformed it into a cozy bar and eatery known for its nightly specials, including a 12-ounce strip steak and mashed potatoes for $12 on Fridays. On a recent visit, this deal included a cupcake from Sweet Mary’s Bakery in downtown Akron, delivered to tables by Horvath himself.

Thank Todd Wetzel, the head cook, for the way-above-average bar menu, which includes chicken paprikash on the first Wednesday of the month.

Frank’s Place will open, as usual, at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. The website is franksplaceonmarket.com. Phone is 330-376-8307.

Luau buffet at Tiki

The Tiki Underground at 5893 Akron-Cleveland Road in Boston Heights (near the Hudson line) will celebrate its first TU Luau on Saturday, with a buffet featuring smoked pig, grilled pineapple and tuna poke.

The TU Luau will start at 6 p.m. Hula Fusion will perform after dinner and cocktails. Hula Fusion, based in the Cleveland area, performs traditional as well as modern dances from the Polynesian and Hawaiian islands.

Preparing the buffet, which will include black beans and rice, mac and cheese and purple slaw, will be Chef Dick Kanatzar, owner of Chop & Swizzle in Green.

Tickets are $60 (adults only) and include a TU Mai Tai or nonalcoholic Island Mocktail, and Hawaiian lei. Buy at tuluau.eventbrite.com or at the bar/restaurant, which opens at 11 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The phone is 234-380-5398.

Husband and wife Sean and Jessie Coffey opened the Tiki Underground in March of last year in the space that previously housed Tequila Pancho’s. Sean is the tiki collector.

Taverne closes

In case you missed it, I reported last week that the historic Taverne of Richfield was forced to close because the kitchen exhaust system failed to pass an inspection.

Serena Raybould, who owned the restaurant with her sister, Sonya, told me the two plan to reopen somewhere in the region. The sisters do not own the Victorian-style Taverne building, which dates to the 1880s and is up for sale.

Here’s the story: http://bit.ly/2EkCuLf.

Winery is for sale

Ever wanted to own a winery?

The Candlelight Winery at 11325 Center Road in Garrettsville is for sale. Well, actually the home and the outbuilding that houses the winery is for sale. The property is listed for $319,900 with Howard Hanna.

A link from the winery’s Facebook page notes that the owners have decided to “pursue new opportunities.”

There’s no closing date yet for the winery, which is hosting a Valentine’s Day Dessert and Wine Pairing on Wednesday. Cost is $15.99, plus tax and tip. Call 330-527-4118 or go to https://mkt.com/candlelightwinery to reserve.

Los Girasoles opens

La Loma has closed its location in the former Monica’s at 1682 Merriman Road after less than a year.

The new Mexican restaurant operating in the spot is called Los Girasoles Mexican Grill & Bar. It’s the third Los Girasoles in the Akron area; the others are in Stow and Brimfield Township. Girasoles is Spanish for sunflowers.

Blanca Saucedo, who owns the original La Loma in Akron’s Ellet neighborhood with her husband, German Guijosa, told me that it had become too difficult to staff both places so the couple sold the Merriman Road business in January.

La Loma is known for its authentic Mexican food. It grew from a taco truck and is next door to the couple’s Mexican grocery at 459 Darrow Road.

Events in Wooster

Downtown Wooster enjoys a fair number of noshing and drinking spots for its size, and a new event will showcase them.

The nonprofit Main Street Wooster will host R&R Week (Restaurant & Retail) Feb. 26-March 3, with 13 restaurants offering specials. For a list, go to mainstreetwooster.org. On March 1, many stores will remain open until 8 p.m., and the Sounds of Downtown will perform.

Chocolate and Lent

The title of this Lenten discussion series is a grabber, especially for a chocolate lover like me.

Christ and the Chocolaterie is the theme of the series at New Life Episcopal Church in Lake Township that will begin Feb. 21 and continue each Wednesday for five weeks through Lent.

The series draws upon the 2000 film Chocolat, about a woman who opens a chocolate shop in a small rigid French community, as a means to talk about religious issues.

Joseph Bridges, former chair of the Malone University communications department, will lead the sessions.

They will start with a soup and salad supper at 6:30 p.m. Participants can sign up to bring items. A church secretary said she imagines some people will go with the theme and bring something chocolate.

The series is open to the public and is for adults. Make reservations at 330-699-3554. The church is at 131118 Church Ave. NW, Lake Township.

Cocktails and wine

• Chop & Swizzle, 3700 Massillon Road, Green, will host its first Whiskey Cocktail Dinner, featuring five courses and five cocktails, at 6:30 p.m. March 5.

Chop & Swizzle is teaming up with Cleveland Whiskey for this event. Cost is $60, plus tax and tip. Call 330-563-4840 to reserve.

• Papa Joe’s, 1561 Akron-Peninsula Road, in the Merriman Valley, will host a Valentine Champagne Dinner at 7 p.m. Friday for $95.

At 6:30 p.m. March 19, the restaurant will bring back Rocky Ruggiero for a wine dinner. Ruggiero, who has appeared on PBS and History Channel television shows, will talk about the Medici family of Italy. Cost is $75.

Call 330-923-7999 to make reservations for either dinner.

• Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, 4000 Medina Road, Bath Township, will host a five-course wine dinner featuring four Hall Vineyards wines at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 23.

Courses include Maple Leaf Farms duck, cinnamon-chipotle spice-rubbed pork loin, pepper-crusted sliced filet mignon and Kona coffee crème brûlée.

Cost is $99, plus tax and tip. Call 330-670-5200 to reserve.

Reminders

• Prepaid orders are due Sunday for hamantashen pastries made by the Women’s Chavurah group at Anshe Sfard (Revere Road Synagogue) in Bath Township. An order form is available at http://www.akronshul.com.

Orders can be picked up at Anshe Sfard, 646 N. Revere Road, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 25, or by appointment. Call 330-867-7292.

• Crown Point Ecology Center in Bath Township will continue its Local to Global healthy dinner series with a Colombian dinner at 6 p.m. Feb. 22. It will be prepared by Monica Bongue, a Colombian native who is executive director of the nonprofit Crown Point.

Cost is $45. Call 330-668-8992, ext. 106, for reservations. Crown Point is at 3220 Ira Road. To learn more, go to http://www.crownpt.org.

• The annual spring brunch hosted by University of Akron students studying hospitality management will be from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. March 4 at the Crystal Room Bistro, 360 Grant St. (Gallucci Hall).

Cost is $22.95; $18.95 for ages 60 or older and UA students, $11.95 for children ages 3 to 12, free for children 3 and younger. Phone 330-972-6615 for reservations. Proceeds help pay for students’ field trips. Major credit cards and Zip Cards accepted.

Send local food news to Katie Byard at 330-996-3781 or [email protected]. You can follow her @KatieByardABJ on Twitter or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com.

Note: All fish fries are Fridays during Lent unless otherwise noted.

CHURCHES, CLUBS AND LODGES

Acker-Moore Memorial Post/Stow American Legion and VFW — 5-8 p.m., 3733 Fishcreek Road, Stow, 330-673-1608. All-you-can-eat beer-battered or baked cod with choice of two sides, $10. One-piece dinners, shrimp, fish sandwiches and other items, $7 or less.

American Legion Post 281 — 4:30-7 p.m., 1601 Front St., Cuyahoga Falls, 330-920-9379. Beer-battered fried haddock or perch, shrimp, scallops, chicken fingers, seafood platter or baked cod, $7.50-$9.75. Dinners include french fries, hot rice, three-bean salad, coleslaw, roll, coffee or tea. Desserts available.

American Legion Post 407 — 5-8 p.m. through March 23, 49 Black Drive, Doylestown, 330-658-2845. Pollock with coleslaw, french fries and roll, $8.

Ancient Order of Hibernians — 5-7 p.m. through March 23, 2000 Brown St., Akron, 330-724-2080. Baked or fried cod dinners with two sides (french fries, macaroni and cheese, baked potato, coleslaw, applesauce or cottage cheese), $11 or $13. Hot dog meals for kids with two sides, $3.

Ancient Order of Hibernians, St. Brendan — 5:30-8 p.m. through March 23, 753 N. Main St., Akron, 330-434-1916. Beer-battered perch, fried or baked cod dinners with french fries, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw and bread, $9-$12. Fried cod or perch sandwich, $5. Pierogi, $5. Chef’s special every week. Carryout available.

Annunciation Church/Visitation of Mary Parish — 4:30-7 p.m. through March 23, 55 Broad St., Akron, 330-535-4141. Baked or fried cod with choice of sides (scalloped potatoes, french fries, macaroni and cheese, vegetable, coleslaw, Spanish rice) and Massoli’s bread, coffee, tea or lemonade, $9 adults, $8.50 seniors, $4 children 12 and younger. Desserts and soft drinks available.

Barberton Liedertafel Club — 5-7 p.m., Feb. 23-March 30, 191 Second St., Barberton, 330-753-2115. Three pieces pollock, french fries, choice of sides (coleslaw, applesauce or homemade hot sauce), $7. Carryout available.

Benedictine High School — 5-7:30 p.m., Feb. 23, March 2, 9 and 23, 2900 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Cleveland, 216-421-2080, Ext. 517. Fried or baked fish, shrimp or pierogi dinners, with baked potato or french fries, coleslaw or applesauce, bread, and coffee, tea or milk, $8 (seniors 50 cents less). Desserts available. Sides (grilled cheese sandwich, fried clams, macaroni and cheese, fries, onion rings, pierogies, clam chowder, coleslaw or applesauce), $2-$3.50. Pop or bottled water, 50 cents.

Boy Scout Troop 382 — 4:30-7 p.m. Feb. 16 only, 3917 Ridgewood Road, Copley Township, 330-836-7385. Breaded Lake Erie perch or baked salmon, fries, coleslaw, applesauce, dessert and beverage, $12 adults, $6 ages 10 and under ($1 discount for scouts in uniform).

British American Club — 6:30-8:30 p.m., 8564 Ravenna Road, Twinsburg, http://www.baclubohio.com/menu. 330-963-6370. Fish fry dinners include 2 pieces of “British style” beer battered cod, fish and shrimp combo, or shrimp only, $9.50. All include fries, cole slaw, mushy peas, bread and coffee or tea. Children’s dinners available. Carryout available.

Brunswick VFW Post 9520 & Auxiliary — 5-7 p.m., 1439 S. Carpenter Road, Brunswick, 330-273-4892. Beer-battered, crunchy-fried or baked fish, breaded shrimp or chicken tenders with coleslaw, salad bar and side (macaroni and cheese, fries or pierogis), $8-10. Pierogi dinner with onions, sour cream, coleslaw and salad bar, $8. Additional sides and extra fish, $2. Desserts available.

Church of the Holy Angels — 5-7:30 p.m., 18205 Chillicothe Road, Chagrin Falls, 440-708-0000. Fried lake perch, beer-battered cod, shrimp, baked lemon pepper cod, baked salmon and pierogies. All include french fries, baked potato or macaroni and cheese with vegetables, coleslaw, rolls, dessert and drink, $7-$12. Pizza and clam chowder available. Carryout available.

First United Methodist Church of Akron — 5-7 p.m. Feb. 23, March 9 and 23, 263 E. Mill St., Akron, 330-376-8143. Baked cod, fried pollock, baked chicken breast or fried shrimp ($1 extra) with choice of baked potato, macaroni and cheese or steak fries, coleslaw or applesauce, hush puppy, roll, desserts and beverages; $9 adults, $5 children 3-12. University of Akron students free with current ID. Carryout available.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 7 — 5-8 p.m., Feb. 23-March 30, 2610 Ley Drive, Akron, 330-773-3032. All-you-can-eat beer-battered, baked or pan-fried fish dinners, $12. Single-serving shrimp or chicken tender dinners, $10. Feb. 16 and March 16 will replace beer-battered fish with steak, $12 (baked and pan-fried fish and shrimp available). Dinners come with salad, rolls and choice of potato.

German Family Society — 5:30-8 p.m., March 2-23, 3871 Ranfield Road, Brimfield Township, 330-813-0486. Fish dinners with three sides, $10 adults, $6 children (two sides). Macaroni and cheese with two sides, $8 adults, $5 children. Potato soup, German pastries and drinks available. Cash only.

John Knox Presbyterian Church — 4:45-6:45 p.m. through March 16, 25200 Lorain Road, North Olmsted, 440-777-3744. Battered or baked fish, battered chicken, breaded shrimp and shrimp scampi. Sides include French fries, baked potato, rice pilaf, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, green beans and applesauce, $8 and up. Desserts include Weber’s ice cream. Carryout available.

Johnson United Methodist Church — 4:30-6:30 p.m. Feb. 16, March 3 and 16, 3409 Johnson Road, Norton, 330-825-7886. All-you-can-eat fried fish, baked fish or chicken fingers with choice of baked potato, macaroni and cheese or french fries, green beans and choice of coleslaw or applesauce; $8 adults, $4 children 4-10, under 4 free. Pie $1.

Joy Park Neighborhood Federation — Starts at 10 a.m. March 24, 825 Fuller St., Akron, 330-814-4073 or 330-618-6306. Fried whiting and perch with two sides (baked beans, coleslaw, fries, macaroni and cheese) and pound cake, bread and beverage, $12. Carryout and delivery available.

Knights of Columbus 3410, South Akron — 5-7 p.m., 2055 Glenmount Ave., Akron, 330-773-3410. Baked or fried whitefish, shrimp, macaroni and cheese, chicken fingers or seafood platters with choice of sides (french fries, baked potato, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, hot rice, applesauce), $5-$10. Desserts and soft drinks available. Carryout available.

Knights of Columbus Stow-Hudson-Peninsula, Holy Family Parish — 4:30-7:30 p.m. through March 23, 3179 Kent Road, Stow, 330-677-9829. Baked tilapia, fried cod, shrimp, macaroni and cheese or cheese pizza dinners with two sides (french fries, hush puppies, seasoned rice, macaroni and cheese, pierogi, salad, coleslaw, veggie pie), roll and beverage; adults $8.50, children $5.50. Desserts available.

Knights of Columbus Council 3213 — 4-7:30 p.m., 148 N. Lyman St., Wadsworth, 330-334-0030. All-you-can-eat Alaskan pollock, french fries, applesauce, coleslaw, coffee, and lemonade. $8, $5 ages 5-12, under 5 free. Carryout available.

Polish American Citizens Club — 4:30-8 p.m., 472 E. Glenwood Ave., Akron, 330-253-0496. Fried lake perch, baked cod, shrimp or chicken wings or tender dinners with bread and choice of two sides (salad, french fries, hot rice, cabbage and noodles, coleslaw, applesauce, macaroni and cheese and cottage cheese), $7.75-$13.25. Homemade pierogies, kielbasa, tater tots and beverages available. Carryout available.

Prince of Peace Church — 4-6:30 p.m., 1263 Shannon Ave., Barberton, 330-706-9392. Fried or baked fish, shrimp or combo dinners with two sides (cabbage and noodles, fries, buttered noodles, applesauce, coleslaw, green beans or macaroni and cheese), bread, coffee or hot tea, $9 adults, $5 children. Other beverages and pie, $1 each. Carryout available. Wheelchair accessible.

Queen of Heaven Church Parish Life Center — 4:30-7 p.m. through March 23, 1800 Steese Road, Green, 330-896-2345. Fried or baked cod, fried shrimp and combo dinners, $9-$11. Macaroni and cheese, pierogi or pizza dinners, $6. Children’s dinners, $5. Dinners include sides and coffee or tea. Side of one piece baked or two pieces fried fish, $4. One slice cheese pizza and other sides, $2. Other beverages and desserts available. Carryout available (not by phone).

Ralph Huff VFW Post No. 1062 — 5-7 p.m., 1581 Main St., Cuyahoga Falls, 330-929-9494. Two-piece battered perch dinner, $9; chicken tenders or breaded shrimp dinner, $8; combination platter, $10. All served with steak fries, bread and choice of two sides (salad, coleslaw, applesauce). Fish sandwich, $5. One piece extra fish, $1.

St. Andrew the Apostle Church — 4-7 p.m. through March 23, 4022 Johnson Road, Norton, 330-825-2617. Baked or fried fish, fried shrimp or combo dinners, choice of two sides (french fries, cabbage noodles, hot rice, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, applesauce), bread, coffee/tea and dessert; $8.50 adults, $5 children. Carryout available.

St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church (Fellowship Center) — 5-7 p.m. through March 30 (except March 16), 3204 Ridgewood Road, Copley Township, 330-666-7116. Baked or fried fish or shrimp dinners with french fries, coleslaw or salad, macaroni and cheese, and coffee or tea, $11; children 5-10, $5. Fish sandwich with french fries, $6. Dessert, $2. Other beverages extra. Carryout available.

St. George Serbian Church — 5-7 p.m. Feb. 16, March 9 and March 30 only, 4667 Applegrove St. NW, North Canton, 330-494-2712. Baked or beer-battered fish, shrimp or fish/shrimp combo, with choice of sides (rice, au gratin or baked potatoes or macaroni and cheese), green beans, coleslaw or applesauce and roll, $12 adults, $6 children. Extra fish and sides, $2-8. Soft drinks and desserts available.

St. Hilary Knights of Columbus — 5-7 p.m. Feb. 16 and March 23 only, 2750 W. Market St., Fairlawn, 330-867-1055. Baked fish, pierogies, corn, green beans, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, rolls, dessert and beverage; $12 adults, $10 seniors, $8 children under 12. Carryout available.

St. Mary Parish — 5-7:30 p.m. through March 23, 340 N. Main St., Hudson, 330-650-0722 ext. 244. Beer-battered fish, baked cod with mango salsa or grilled shrimp skewers, kids’ meals, $5-$16. Carryout and menu at http://seafood.stmaryhudson.cc.

St. Philip’s Episcopal Church — 5-7 p.m. Feb. 16 and March 16 only, 1130 Mercer Ave., Akron, 330-535-7295. Catfish or tilapia, baked beans, coleslaw, bread and dessert, $10.

St. Thomas Eastern Orthodox — 5-7 p.m. through March 23, 555 S. Cleveland-Massillon Road, Fairlawn, 330-328-5393. Cornmeal-crusted lake perch, garlic butter baked cod or chicken nuggets with herb-roasted potatoes, macaroni and cheese, rice pilaf, coleslaw, green beans, applesauce and condiments; $13 adults, $6 children ages 3-12, 2 and under free. Bottomless coffee or soda $1. Pie $2. Carryout available.

St. Vincent de Paul Parish — 5:30-7:30 p.m. through March 23, 17 S. Maple St., Akron, 330-535-3135. Baked or fried cod or pierogi dinners with two sides (coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, green beans, french fries, pierogies), salad, beverage and dessert; $12 adults, $10 seniors. For children under 12, fish, pizza or two pierogies, side, beverage and dessert, $7.

Slovak “J” Club — 4:30-7 p.m., 485 Morgan Ave., Akron, 330-786-9972. All-you-can-eat fried fish, $10 adults, $6 age 10 and younger. Buffet includes french fries, hot rice, noodles and cabbage, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, rolls. Baked cod dinners, $14, must be preordered by Thursday of each week.

Tadmor Shrine Center — 5-7:30 p.m., 3000 Krebs Drive, Coventry Township, 330-644-8494. All-you-can-eat Alaskan pollock dinners with fries, applesauce, coleslaw, rolls, coffee, tea, lemonade and raspberry drink, $9. Chicken or shrimp single-serving dinners, $9. Soft drinks and alcoholic beverages extra.

RESTAURANTS

Beau’s Grille — Daily until 10 p.m., 3180 W. Market St., Fairlawn, 865-5577. Flounder, catfish, cod, perch, fish sandwich, $11.95-$19.95. Other fish options available.

Beef O’Brady’s — 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., 3732 Darrow Road, Stow, 330-688-6800; and 1090 Williams Reserve Blvd., Wadsworth, 330-336-3600. All-you-can-eat beer-battered Alaskan pollock with two sides, $10.99.

Beef O’Brady’s — 11 a.m. to close, 3975 Cascade Blvd. Brimfield, 330-678-4800. All-you-can-eat beer-battered cod with fries and coleslaw, $11.49; seafood combo of fish and fried or grilled shrimp with fries and coleslaw, $9.99.

Bob’s Hamburg — 4-8 p.m., 1351 East Ave., Akron, 330-253-2627. Lake Erie yellow perch, oysters, crab cakes with fries, coleslaw and hush puppies, $11.99. All-you-can-eat cod, $10.95. Full menu and carryout available.

The Boulevard — 2-10 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays, 435 Chestnut Blvd., Cuyahoga Falls, 330-928-8596. Three-piece lake perch dinners with two sides (french fries, salad, coleslaw or applesauce) $10.99; five-piece $12.99.

The Cafe in Stow — 11 a.m. to close, 4591 Darrow Road, Stow, 330-688-0200. All-you-can-eat beer-battered fish, crab cakes, clam strips, shrimp, meatless pasta gardino, tuna melt, fish sandwich, $6.99-$11.99.

Crave Cantina — Daily Feb. 15 through March 30, 4-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 4-11 p.m. Friday, noon-11 p.m. Saturday, noon-9 p.m. Sunday, 2097 Front St., Cuyahoga Falls, 330-940-2000. Panko-crusted white fish, yucca fries and Bahamian citrus mango slaw, $12; blackened fish tacos, $5, ceviche of scallops, $13.

Figaro Farms Fresh Market — 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4-7 p.m., 3912 Cottage Grove Road Suite 100, Green, 330-896-2220. Lake perch, walleye, salmon, Blue Point oysters, homemade crab cakes and scallops. Dinners come with two sides (hot rice, macaroni and cheese, roasted rosemary redskins, coleslaw, salad), $9.99-$14.99. Carryout available.

Fish and Chips — 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday, 926 E. Waterloo Road, Akron, 330-724-9990. Battered fish, chicken, shrimp, clam strips and crab cakes with chips, hush puppies, coleslaw and beverage, $7.99 and up.

Fisher’s Cafe & Pub — 4-10 p.m. every Friday, 1607 Main St., Peninsula, 330-657-2651. Beer-battered Atlantic cod with fries and coleslaw, $11.99.

Flury’s Cafe — 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. every day except Sundays, 2202 Front St., Cuyahoga Falls, 330-929-1315. Beer-battered cod dinner with crinkle fries and coleslaw, $7.95.

Fritters Southern Cuisine — 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday through March 31, 750 Darrow Road, Akron, 330-633-4549. All-you-can-eat fish with two sides, $11.99. Other Lenten entrees available.

Green Diamond Grille — 11 a.m.-9 p.m., 125 Second St. NW, Barberton, 330-745-1900. Fish fry with two sides. Lobster fest, March 2-4. Homemade clam chowder, steamed mussels, crab and shrimp cakes, fried or pan-seared frog legs, Lake Erie yellow perch, fried or pan-seared walleye, bourbon grilled salmon, broiled scrod, scallops, coconut shrimp, grilled shrimp, scampi, seafood piccata, $10.99 and up.

Ido Bar & Grill — 4-9:30 p.m., Ash Wednesday and Fridays, 1537 S. Main St., Akron, 330-773-1724. Fried Alaska pollock dinner with fries, hot rice, coleslaw and bread, all you can eat, $9.99; lunch 11 a.m.-4 p.m., $8.99. Other seafood items include halibut, salmon, mahi-mahi, drunken seafood pasta, shrimp capellini, fish po’boy sliders, fish tacos.

Julian’s Restaurant — 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 314 Pioneer St., Akron, 330-798-0043. Beer-battered cod with coleslaw and french fries, $8.95 and up. Grilled salmon, orange roughy and other fish choices may be offered. Clam chowder available.

Little City Grill — 5-10 p.m., 802 N. Mantua St., Kent, 330-677-3444. All-you-can-eat fried Alaskan pollock with fries and coleslaw, $10. Regular menu available.

Louie’s Bar & Grille — 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 739 E. Glenwood Ave., Akron, 330-535-5030. Three-piece fried flounder dinner with fries and coleslaw, $8.49. Two-piece beer-battered pollock dinner with fries and coleslaw, $6.25. Cod sandwich with fries, $6.99.

Menches Bros. Family Restaurant — 11 a.m.-9 p.m., 3700 Manchester Road, Green. 330-896-2288. Fish fry dinner with french fries and coleslaw, $8.99.

Mustard Seed Market & Cafe — 5-9 p.m., Montrose location, 3885 W. Market St., 339-666-7333, or Highland Square location, 867 W. Market St., Akron, 330-434-7333. Gluten-free fried cod, baked sweet potato and baby spinach salad with coconut bacon dressing and coleslaw, $16.

Peppe & Luigi’s Restaurant — 11 a.m.-11 p.m., 240 Fifth St. SE, Barberton, 330-745-1121. Fried shrimp with french fries and coleslaw, $8.99. Flounder dinner with jojos and tossed salad, $7.99. Fish sandwich with french fries, $7.99. Beer-battered haddock with jojos and coleslaw, $8.99. Tuna noodle casserole with garlic bread, $8.99. Fries can be substituted with jojos or onion rings.

Ray’s Place — 11 a.m. to close Friday-Sunday, 25 Ghent Road, Fairlawn, 330-835-2233. Three pieces beer-battered cod with fries and coleslaw, $12.95.

Retz’s Laconi’s II — 4-10 p.m., 547 Sackett Ave., Cuyahoga Falls, 330-945-4600. All-you-can-eat beer-battered fish, $9.99. Lake Erie perch dinner, $10.99. Dinners come with french fries and coleslaw.

Rico’s Restaurant — 4 p.m. to close, 1332 Tallmadge Road, Brimfield Township, 330-676-1004. Lenten specials every day starting at $8.25. Carryout available.

River City Bar & Grill — 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., 2621 Bailey Road, Cuyahoga Falls, 330-920-9241. Breaded Alaskan pollock dinners with fries and coleslaw, four-piece $6.95, two-piece $5.75. Fish sandwich with chips and coleslaw, $4.95.

Rockne’s Pub — 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 7 Merriman Road, Akron, 330-762-7555. Beer-battered fish with french fries or macaroni and cheese, $9.95. Shrimp and french fries, $9.75. Baked cod dinner with rice and steamed vegetables, $10.75. Fish sliders and fries, $9.50. Lobster bisque or clam chowder, $4.50-$7.50.

Roses Run Country Club — 5-9 p.m., 2636 N. River Road, Stow, 330-688-4653. Beer cheddar soup, $4.50; crispy calamari, $9.99; fish fry platter with fries, coleslaw and roll, $10.99; baked cod with baked potato, salad and roll, $10.99; cajun shrimp pasta with salad and roll, $13.99; fried cod sandwich with fries, $6.99.

Silver Swan Tavern — Noon to 8 p.m. Ash Wednesday and every Friday, 2704 Front St., Cuyahoga Falls, 330-928-5364. Baked pollock, $7; two-piece beer-battered cod, $8.25 (three pieces $10); fried catfish, $9; all with choice of french fries, home fries or macaroni and cheese, choice of cream of potato soup or salad.

Tiki Underground — 11 a.m.-midnight, 5893 Akron-Cleveland Road, Hudson, 234-380-5398. Two pieces of Kona beer-battered fish dinner, $9.99; fried shrimp dinner, $7.99. Served with fries, hush puppies and coleslaw.

Fifty years ago, empty buildings littered Front Street in Cuyahoga Falls. City officials feared they were in danger of losing their historic downtown.

In the parlance of the Vietnam era, it became necessary to destroy the town in order to save it.

Cuyahoga Falls Planning Director Arthur Stout, a California native who had been hired by the city in 1965 after serving on the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, noted the exodus of retail customers to State Road and Chapel Hill, and determined that something drastic was needed to bring them back to Front Street.

“We either go with a downtown or the downtown will go,” he warned.

Stout proposed an urban renewal project known as Front & Center, an ambitious plan to acquire properties along Front Street and revitalize an area bounded by Oakwood Drive, Second Street, Broad Boulevard and the Cuyahoga River.

“We’re heading in the right direction, but there’s a lot that must be done to truly make Cuyahoga Falls a beautiful city,” Stout noted.

The City Council agreed to apply for federal loans and grants to acquire 75 buildings, including dozens of homes, over a 35-acre section.

In April 1968, Lockwood Martling, a supervisory architect of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, gave a slide show at Cuyahoga Falls High School to promote Front & Center. The $6 million plan called for closing Front Street to vehicles, development of a pedestrian mall, construction of a motel near Broad Boulevard, the demolition of several old buildings and the widening of Second Street to accommodate two-way traffic.

“There is no easy road to a more handsome city,” Martling told the audience. “Some rehabilitation standards must be developed and you must dare to be old-fashioned. … It is beauty that counts and beauty that endures.”

Front Street merchants had doubts but realized something needed to be done. They had lost customers to shopping malls and retail plazas, and many of their neighboring businesses had closed. The Front & Center project promised specialty shops, boutiques, restaurants and recreational establishments.

Finally, someone had a comprehensive plan for the city of 53,000.

“We had no planning in this town,” City Councilman Chester Travis complained. “It grew like Topsy. It was an uphill battle for every damned change we tried to make.”

With great fanfare, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approved a $4 million grant for Front & Center in May 1969.

Stout, who had guided the project since its inception, was thrilled.

“With the attitude of businessmen and the potential for redevelopment, I see nothing but success for downtown,” he told the Beacon Journal. “I have no doubts as to the potential of this area.”

That’s why city officials were so shocked a month later when Stout resigned to become the director of community development in Decatur, Ill., a city of 90,000.

The Front Street project continued under the direction of acting director Pat Switz. Wreckers began to clear out some of the aging buildings that were deemed to be standing in the way of progress.

“Most investment in urban renewal will be made by developers,” Switz explained. “The only thing we do is get the old buildings out of the way and prepare the property for resale.”

In fits and starts, urban renewal continued through the tenures of Cuyahoga Falls mayors Delbert Ackerman (1966-1968), Bruce Thomas (1968-1969), William Coleman (1970-1973) and Robert Quirk (1974-1985).

Quirk, in particular, embraced the concept of a Front Street mall. He traveled to Alexandria, Va., Baltimore, Md., Wilmington, Del., and Philadelphia to tour pedestrian walkways to bring back ideas for Cuyahoga Falls.

Jack Braun, architect with John David Jones and Associates, presented plans to the City Council for brick-surfaced, tree-lined pedestrian concourses to be built between Broad Boulevard and Portage Trail, and between Portage Trail and Oakwood Drive.

When a businessman expressed doubts to Quirk in 1976, the mayor replied: “You can’t suddenly turn around once you’re halfway down a ski slope.”

Ernest Alessio Construction Co. submitted the winning bid of $1.7 million to develop the mall. Formerly a major route between Akron and Cleveland, Front Street was closed to traffic Nov. 8, 1976. A groundbreaking ceremony was held the same day.

As work proceeded, crews erected cautionary signs that were almost comical in retrospect: “No Thru Traffic But Open for Business As Usual.”

Business as usual? After the barricades went up, more merchants expressed misgivings.

“Where were they nine or 10 years ago?” Quirk fumed.

The Front Street Mall took about a year and a half to complete. Mayor Quirk presided over the ribbon-cutting ceremony June 2, 1978, and visitors admired the beautiful walkways and landscaped areas, including gushing fountains.

But the shopping district never did live up to the hopes of its developers.

While some businesses endured, others pulled up stakes. Front Street Mall, later known as Riverfront Center, became best known for weekend festivals and carnivals. Otherwise, pedestrian traffic was sparse on most days.

After 40 years, the experiment ended.

The city reopened Front Street to automobile traffic this month. There are plans for a grand-opening celebration in June, on the 40th anniversary of the street closing.

“Retail establishments demand visibility and accessibility to succeed,” Mayor Don Walters said in a prepared statement. “Unfortunately, the pedestrian mall offered neither. It’s been 40 years since cars have driven down Front Street and I am excited to usher in this exciting time of economic growth and prosperity.”

In the parlance of the modern era, it became necessary to restore the town in order to save it.

Mark J. Price is the author of Mafia Cop Killers in Akron: The Gang War Before Prohibition from The History Press. He can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].

Here’s an extra helping of Akron Dish in time for Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras.

I recently found out about these events coming up soon.

* The Driftwood Modern American Bistro in the newish Embassy Suites by Hilton in Jackson Township is offering a Valentine Wine Pairing this Wednesday, Valentine’s Day.

Seven courses will each be paired with a different wine. Cost is $45 per person or $80 per couple, tax and tip not included.

A foodie deal in my book.

The Embassy Suites is at 7883 Freedom Ave. NW, near the Akron-Canton Airport.

Doors open at 6 p.m., and guests will be offered prosecco before the dinner begins at 6:30 p.m.

Call 330-526-7031 for reservations.

Courses include Caribbean white shrimp mille feuille (shrimp in a puff pastry), marinated and grilled lamb chop, pan-seared Georges Bank sea scallop, slow-roasted duck breast, pan-seared Chilean sea bass, beef Wellington and Godiva molten lava chocolate cake.

Driftwood’s Executive Chef James Thornton put the menu together.

Before joining Driftwood, Thornton worked at the InterContinental Hotel in Cleveland.

The hotel also is offering Valentine’s Day packages, which include an overnight stay and the wine pairing dinner, Saturday, Feb. 10, and Feb. 17. Call 330-526-7031.

The hotel is owned by Corporex of Covington, Ky., an investment company with holdings in commercial and residential real estate development. Corporex owns the Fairfield Inn & Suites on Greentree Avenue in Canton among other Ohio hotel properties.

* Da Bayou in the Merriman Valley is celebrating Mardi Gras with a few events.

Cajun Dump night with all-you-can-eat crawfish runs from 8:30 to 10 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9 at the eatery that specializes in Cajun and Creole food.

There will be an extended happy hour, running until 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10. Mardi Gras bar games also will be offered.

Specialty dishes and cocktails will be available Sunday, Feb. 11.

And on the big day, Fat Tuesday, Feb. 13, the place will throw a party with New Orleans jazz music from 6 to 9 p.m., beads and masks until supplies run out, a line march through the restaurant and a $25 gift card for the best Mardi Gras costume. There will be other prizes and contests.

Da Bayou is in the old Max McQ’s at the Valley Centre shopping center. The address is 1562 Akron-Peninsula Road, Akron.

For more information and reservations call 234-678-9781. The restaurant’s website is http://www.dabayourestaurant.com.

Rather than chocolates and dinner at a crowded restaurant, would you like to fill your heart on Valentine’s Day?

Then check out the Valentine Project.

Co-founder Andrea Margida is no stranger to cancer. When she was 16, it took her mother. Later, her brother was diagnosed and, with treatment, survived.

But when Andrea was a young mother, she and her husband, Anthony, found themselves among a community that nobody wants to join — families whose children are diagnosed with cancer.

When she was 5, their daughter Michaela had brain surgery to remove a tumor at the top of her spinal cord. Luckily, the biopsy results were benign. Even though she didn’t have cancer, Michaela’s post-operative therapies were conducted in a pediatric cancer unit. And because of the concern for a recurrence, it is also where she went for annual brain scans and whenever she had a severe headache.

Today Michaela is a healthy young woman working on a Ph.D. in environmental science.

Remembering what it was like for their family before and after Michaela’s surgery, Andrea and Michaela volunteered in 2007 at Camp Quality, a summer camp for Ohio children with cancer and their siblings.

Their jobs were to buddy with one camper each and make it the best week possible. Michaela was 18 at the time and partnered with one of the siblings. Andrea was assigned to the sister of Michaela’s buddy, a 13-year-old girl with soft-tissue cancer. Andrea was told it would be the girl’s last summer.

Miraculously, she lived another eight years, years filled with difficult treatments, including a double mastectomy. She also returned to camp several times, allowing only Andrea to be her buddy. At 21, the young woman died with Andrea and Michaela by her side.

The third year that Andrea and Michaela volunteered at the camp, Andrea’s son Gregory joined them. It was he who had the idea to start the Valentine Project.

“What if we anonymously send each camper, both the kids with cancer and their siblings, a box of fun things for Valentine’s Day?” he asked and his family immediately got on board.

Gregory listed the 88 campers by first name, gender and age. Michaela used Facebook to invite students in her small, all-women college to choose a child and create a gift package. All 88 children were picked minutes after she published her post.

That was in 2010. The Valentine Project quickly grew after that first year. Families tell other families about it, as do staffers at children’s hospitals. Two years ago, the project expanded to include children with chronic illnesses and their siblings.

This year, Gregory, who is now 24, is piloting the project in California where he now lives.

What is it that makes the Valentine Project so special to the community of families with children who have cancer or chronic illness?

I spoke with Sara Taggart, whose third child, Annie, has osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease. “There are so many things for kids with illness, but nothing for siblings. They have to take a back seat while the focus is on the sick child.”

For the Taggarts, Valentine’s Day is now like Christmas. Nobody knows what is in the packages. “People don’t skimp, and rather than pity, it feels like an outpouring of love from strangers.”

Entirely anonymous, children are listed by first name, age and gender. Donors do not know if the child they choose has an illness or is a sibling. Taggart told me this was really important because the gifts her kids receive are not chosen with Annie’s illness in mind.

“Can you imagine if people knew she had brittle bones?” Taggart asked. “They’d only send stuffed animals.”

Like many other recipient families, the Taggarts feel so touched by the Valentine Project they now sponsor a child each year. “The kids and I are thrilled when we shop for the child we’ve chosen to sponsor. It’s a great way to teach my kids the joy of giving.”

So how does the Valentine Project work? I admit I couldn’t fully comprehend it until I made a trip to Andrea and Anthony’s home in Alliance, widely known as the Valentine House.

Eligible families register on the Valentine Project’s website. It is also where people can choose a child to sponsor or to donate money.

Cash donations help pay for shipping. This year 889 boxes will be sent out in Ohio and 116 in California, totaling $20,040 for shipping.

Meanwhile, back at the Valentine House, the ground floor has been taken over by the project. Just inside the kitchen door, I found a mountain of donation boxes sent from all over the country.

As action breeds understanding, I put together a package.

Each child has a number, which the donors write on the shipping box. On Andrea’s kitchen counter, gift tags are organized by number with the child’s name, gender and age.

I picked and opened a box and pulled the corresponding gift tag. My package was for an 8-year-old boy. I inspected the contents of the box. Anything referring to illness, such as cards with the words “Stay strong” or “Keep fighting,” are removed. These packages are meant to be a reprieve from the immersion of acute or chronic illness.

Along with whatever the donor chooses to send, each package must contain a stuffed animal, something to do (craft, board game, art supplies), and candy. If any of these items are missing, the Margida living room has a “shop” of toys to make each package complete. Mine needed a stuffed animal.

Finally, I chose a handmade pillowcase patterned with bright lizards on dark green leaves. I filled the pillowcase with the gifts and tied it with the gift tag. Once assembled, my package went in the dining room. There, assembled packages were neatly stacked under the large table, the buffet and in every corner.

The front parlor has packaging materials on a table. Next to the table, unassembled boxes are stacked higher than I am tall.

“Tonight, FedEx will bring over a truck,” Andrea explained. The packages are boxed, the boxes labeled and then stored in the truck until it’s full. FedEx then takes the boxes to their facility where they have secure storage.

“Everything ships on the same day. We’ve sent one truck already,” Andrea told me.

Part of why the Margidas went to the cancer camp all those years ago was to teach their children to have compassion and to give to others. Every step along the way, the Valentine Project teaches countless volunteers the value of giving. Giving money, yes, but also time and energy. Giving creative ideas and products, like the pillowcases.

A troop of Girl Scouts came to the Valentine House and colored the heart-shaped return labels that go on every package. Students from the University of Mount Union and Walsh University keep the “shop” organized. They also regularly build and box packages.

In other cities across the state, people offer their homes as drop sites for packages and then drive them to the Valentine House.

“I know we’re not solving world hunger,” Andrea told me, “but we see the impact this has on families. It reminds them they are loved and that there are good people in the world.”

What better message to send on Valentine’s Day?

Contact Holly Christensen at [email protected].

Usually what makes a particular spot hot is what it has: A pool table, really cheap booze, good cheap food, hip and energetic atmosphere, or perhaps a wide variety of “hotties.”

But for some folks — particularly those of a certain age — what raises a spot’s temperature is what it doesn’t have: Constantly blaring music, too many intrusive TV screens, smarmy servers or perhaps a wide variety of obnoxious drunken idiots.

For that second group of folks, there are places such as the Lounge at D’Agnese Trattoria and Cafe on White Pond. The restaurant is part of the popular area chain of Italian eateries. The White Pond edition has the restaurant on one side of the property and the lounge on the other, giving the latter its own specific atmosphere.

That atmosphere? Grown.

On a Thursday (aka Ladies Night Out) or Saturday night, when there’s usually live music, the lounge is packed with many boomer-plus couples, small groups of friends and folks willing to listen to pretty much anyone sing an Eagles song. One one side of the mid-sized room sits the classic horseshoe-style bar with a few unobtrusive screens overhead for those who can’t stop watching the Cavaliers silently blow yet another double-digit lead. Opposite the bar is an area filled with tables.

When the joint is jumping, the overall vibe of the lounge is congenial with many regulars or near-regulars, as folks talk amongst themselves and/or the nearest table.

There is a modest bar menu featuring a mix of Italian and fancified bar food all in the $4.50 to $10 range. My sauteed mussels were plump and perfectly cooked and man, those folks sure know their sauces, as the spicy marinara made for a complex, delicious bath for my taste buds. Essentially, if you see the words “marinara,” “red sauce” or “lemon butter sauce” in the description, it’s going to be good.

Other items include a few $6 pizza options including Sicilian and vegetable. For folks looking to go even more affordable, happy hour (4-7 p.m. Monday through Friday) features nearly the same menu but smaller portions in the $4-$6 range. Happy hour also offers solid drink specials with $4 drafts, $5 glasses of wine, and for another dollar you can (responsibly) dive into the dozen different kinds of martinis.

The full restaurant menu is also available, but the prices aren’t quite as budget friendly. The bar staff is quite knowledgeable and friendly.

Among the tables were Mario and Michele Weiss, talking with buddies Steve and Cindy Venezia, all of Akron. Both couples are regulars as well as friends, former co-workers and fans of the night’s live entertainment. The Boomers, the duo of Tom Wolski and Mike Costello, are among the circuit of bands that regularly appear weekend nights in the lounge. They play all your favorite classic rock, old-school country and “island music” from the ’60s through, oh, about the early ’80s, from what I heard.

“The food is genuine Italian … you get a quality meal at a great price and it’s consistent,” Mario Weiss said, citing the Veal D’Agnese and the gnocchi as his favorite menu items.

Both couples have been longtime fans of D’Agnese’s and used to frequent the Broadview Heights location before the more convenient Akron restaurant opened in 2010, though the Broadview location still holds a special place in the Venezias’ hearts.

“That was our first date at that restaurant,” Steve Venezia said, smiling at his wife. “So we’ve been coming here [to D’Agnese’s restaurants] for 22 years,” Venezia said.

While the Venezias and Weisses enjoy the dining room, the Lounge offers something different.

“It’s so diverse in here, you have people from everywhere, it’s so amazing,” Michele Weiss said. “The atmosphere, the service, there’s electricity in this room. Even when there’s not music there’s electricity.”

“The atmosphere gives you a feeling of, not New York or Chicago or anything like that, but it gives you a buzz. And we love buzz,” Cindy Venezia said. “There are so few places you can go around here that give you buzz. Places that are not just a dirty beer party. Here, it’s just hanging out and having fun.”

If you’d like to catch that buzz yourself, D’Agnese’s Lounge plays host to area jazz trio Blu Monsoon on Saturday, and singer Jerry Colosimo on Thursday.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3758. Follow him on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1lNgxml or on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.

A true marksman rarely misses. With St. Valentine’s Day approaching, I thought I’d let you know about a very important arrow in my quiver.

My girlfriend is a huge Sting fan. Sting’s Tuscan estate in Italy is 900 acres of pure awesomeness. The only thing missing are the pearly gates and St. Peter pouring at the tasting room bar.

So, on our special date night, every step I take had better be toward the bin in the wine cellar with Il Palagio Sister Moon. Or it might be the last breath I take. Just kidding, honey: Don’t call the Police. I have actually purchased several of Sting’s fabulous wines for our special occasions. Message in a Bottle Rosso, When We Dance Chianti, and Casino Delle Vie are the sips we take.

I thought I’d ask a few local celebrities about their choices.

Channing Frye, Cavaliers

Something that’s kind of special to us is anything from Chateau Margaux. That’s what we named our daughter, Margeaux [with slightly different spelling]. It’s really a quite pricey bottle of wine. Valentine’s Day is not a big day in our house. But it’s a nice date-night time, just a chance to appreciate each other, kind of slow things down before the All-Star break.

Kevin Love, Cavaliers

We like Brand Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s unbelievable. We went there when we were in Napa Valley. We had such a great time. They hosted us out there. We got to do the graduated cylinders and mix the wines, it was super fun. In that way it brings back really good memories. But also I have the wine at the house, ordered a bunch.

Sara Shookman, WKYC (Channel 3)

One of the things we have enjoyed is to go to the wine regions near us. A new favorite we stockpiled on our last trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake was Cave Spring Cellars’ La Penna Estate Cabernet Franc. We like bubbly and L. Mawby Winery in Suttons Bay, Mich., is great for that. The Sandpiper is a really nice one.

Dan Horrigan, Akron mayor

We both love a good dry Italian red. I’m not a big fan of white wine.

Ken Babby, Akron RubberDucks owner

Sancerre Perle Blanche. This is our go-to wine. Liz loves how flavorful and fruity the grapes taste with a bold not overwhelmingly strong flavor.

Suzie Graham, president & CEO, Downtown Akron Partnership

White Lies (Winery at Wolf Creek) is pretty good. For sure that’s my go-to wine. I like to support the local wineries. Rhapsody, that’s a good one, too!

Omar Vizquel, Indians legend

I don’t particularly have a date-night wine. J. Lohr Cabernet has been one of my favorites. It doesn’t matter how much a wine costs. A $30 bottle of wine can be just as good for me as a really expensive bottle. I love wines from Sonoma, too.

Andrew Miller, Indians

I like the old school Napa cabs, Dunn or Corison. Ultimately, if I really wanted to get some brownie points with my wife, I’d open a Williams Selyem pinot for her. We love going to wine country.

Jason Kipnis, Indians

We have a couple of favorites. A Silver Oak cabernet, and the Caymus’ 40th anniversary we like a lot. Every time we see Ghost Block cabernet in a restaurant we usually go with that. The other one we enjoy is the Belle Glos Clark & Telephone pinot. That’s just a smooth one. Easy drinking, for watching-a-movie-on-the-couch night.

Tony Rizzo, ESPN Radio

Skater Girl California Cab. It’s very smooth. As smooth as a LeBron jumper deep in the Q!

Marla Ridenour, Beacon Journal/Ohio.com

It would have to be Consilience Cabernet. I love visiting Los Olivos [in California], it was the first wine club I joined and they’ve always treated me and my friends with such a warm welcome when we are there. Perfect wine for sitting by the fire on a cold night, or to accompany a special meal.

(Cheers to Marla for getting a couple of the Cavs to participate in this story.)

Wine aficionado and Beacon Journal photographer Phil Masturzo writes about wine and winemakers for Pulse. Reach him at [email protected], or 330-996-3880.

Mardi Gras, aka Fat Tuesday, is followed by Valentine’s Day next week.

It’s time for some wintertime indulgence, although for the Catholic faithful, there might be some calendar considerations.

That’s because Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday fall on the same day for the first time since 1945.

Catholic dioceses across the country are recommending parishioners celebrate Valentine’s Day on another day. For Catholics, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence.

With Valentine’s Day on a weekday, folks — Catholic or not — might choose to celebrate the weekend before or after.

If you plan to dine out on the day or sometime before or after, make your reservation now if you haven’t already.

OpenTable, the online restaurant service, says ideally you should have made it this past weekend. OpenTable said that its 2017 Valentine’s Day data showed that reservations were made on average 11 days in advance of the holiday.

The data also showed: Italian topped the list as the most booked cuisine followed by American/contemporary American and steakhouse; the most popular reservation time for Valentine’s Day was 7 p.m.; and almost 50 percent of reservations were booked via mobile. About 40 percent of reservations were booked in the week leading up to the holiday.

Don’t want to join the throngs eating out? Once again, Rocco’s in Cuyahoga Falls and Stow is offering 12-inch heart-shaped pizzas on Valentine’s Day, available for pickup. The cost is $10.95 for a cheese pizza and $12.45 for pepperoni.

The local purveyor expects to bake up hundreds of the special pies. Rocco’s has more than 300 heart-shaped pans it will put into service.

Brothers Rocco and Mario Caponi own the business, which their father, Mario, began in 1953. The Falls Rocco’s is at 1053 Portage Trail (330-928-3344). The Stow shop is at 973 Graham Road (330-920-1111). Visit http://www.roccos-pizza.com.

Coffee shop is No. 1

Architectural Digest thinks the Heartwood Coffee Roastery in Hudson is mighty spiffy inside.

The magazine has named Heartwood its top-rated coffee stop in Ohio as part of its feature on “The Most Beautiful Coffee Shop in Every State in America.”

“Subway tile and crown molding — all in white, plus the walls and ceiling — make the salvaged-wood design in front of the bar pop even more at Heartwood Coffee Roastery’s sole cafe,” Kristine Hansen writes.

To read the full list, go to: http://bit.ly/2DB7lPc.

Jim Sanders, who works full time as a plumber, opened the shop last year. He began roasting coffee at a facility in Geauga County a few years ago, selling the beans at events and farmers markets, online and through a subscription service.

Heartwood is at 46 Ravenna St. in a collection of shops called the Evaporator Works, east of state Route 91.

Phone is 234-284-2555 and website is heartwoodroastery.com.

Party at Frank’s Place

Twenty-five years ago, Frank Horvath bought the former Samantha’s Lounge at 549 W. Market St. and dubbed it Frank’s Place On Market.

On Feb. 17, he’s throwing an anniversary party with drink and food specials, and “celebrity” bartenders and servers.

The celebrities are former employees, who will donate tips earned that day to Canton-headquartered nonprofit Project St. Nicholas Returns, which helps needy children and families.

Frank’s Place will open, as usual, at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 17. The full menu will be available at that time. As I’ve said before, if you think Frank’s Place is just a bar, check out the menu at http://www.franksplaceonmarket.com. The phone is 330-376-8307.

I’ll have more next week.

Mardi Gras events

Here are some local Mardi Gras happenings. (Take note, these don’t all happen on Fat Tuesday.)

• The Merchant Tavern, 1824 Merriman Road in Akron’s Merriman Valley, will host its fifth annual Mardi Gras party from 3:30 p.m. to midnight Tuesday. Live music, Cajun food and Mardi Gras cocktails will be featured. Call 330-865-9510.

• The Chowder House in Cuyahoga Falls will celebrate on Fat Tuesday with a menu that includes malacca over rice, etouffee (shrimp, scallops and crawfish), Creole snapper, lobster and andouille stew and housemade beignets.

Chef and owner Louis Prpich told me he plans to soon launch a new menu.

The Chowder House is at 2028 Chestnut Blvd., just off State Road, in Cuyahoga Falls. The phone is 330-794-7102.

• The Ido is offering “N’awlins cuisine” through Fat Tuesday. Visit http://www.idobar.com. The phone is 330-773-1724.

• Wise Guys Lounge & Grill at 1008 N. Main St. on North Hill in Akron, will celebrate Fat Tuesday and Valentine’s Day with various specials, including a seafood tower for two. Call 330-922-3006 for reservations.

• The Polish American Citizens Club will hold its Mardi Gras dinner from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday at the club, 472 E. Glenwood Ave., Akron.

Dinner includes Polish sausage, sauerkraut, homemade pierogi and doughnut-like paczki, and there will be music and Polish dancing.

Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for children 5 to 11. Call the club at 330-253-0496 or Ed at 330-825-7607. Tickets also will be available at the door.

• Kent’s first Mardi Crawl is Friday. The event — put together by the nonprofit Main Street Kent — will begin with participants checking in at the Venice Cafe, 163 W. Erie St., between 5 and 8 p.m. to pick up bar crawl lanyards, passes and T-shirts, and they can enter a costume contest and a drawing before heading out to visit participating establishments.

Cost is $15, with proceeds benefiting Main Street Kent and Freedom House, a transitional housing facility for homeless veterans. To purchase tickets, go to mainstreetkent.org.

Wine and dine

• Fishers Foods’ Jackson Township store at 5215 Fulton Drive NW will host a wine, chocolate and cheese tasting from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Friday at its Jackson Township store at 5215 Fulton Drive NW. Cost is $10.

• The Kent Cheesemonger will host Cheese, Chocolate & Bubbles for Valentines from 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 14. Cost is $30. The Cheesemonger is at 155 E. Erie St. in the Acorn Alley retail area in downtown Kent. Go to kentcheesemonger.com and click on Classes & Events to purchase tickets. Phone is 330-593-5619.

• Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a wine tasting from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 14 at the Merchant Tavern, 1824 Merriman Road in Akron’s Merriman Valley. Light finger foods included. Cost is $35. Call 330-865-9510.

• Papa Joe’s, 1561 Akron-Peninsula Road, in the Merriman Valley, will host a Valentine Champagne Dinner at 7 p.m. Feb. 16 for $95. Call 330-923-7999 for reservations.

Also at Papa Joe’s, at 6:30 p.m. March 19 the restaurant will bring back Rocky Ruggiero, who has appeared on PBS and History Channel television shows, for a lecture and a dinner.

This time, he will talk about the Medici family of Italy, one of the longest lasting dynasties in history.

Ruggiero lived in Florence for 20 years, teaching for American universities, including Kent State. In 2008, he and his wife, Emilie, founded Rocky Ruggiero Cultural Programs, which offers educational travel in Italian cities.

Cost is $75. Call 330-923-7999 to reserve.

UA spring brunch

The annual spring brunch hosted by University of Akron students studying hospitality management will be from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. March 4 at the Crystal Room Bistro, 360 Grant St. (Gallucci Hall).

“Action Stations” will feature roast beef, omelettes and waffles and the buffet will include Parmesan-crusted cod, roast chicken with house gravy, bacon, sausage, roasted redskin potatoes and fresh fruit. Dessert will include glazed cinnamon rolls and yogurt parfait.

Cost is $22.95; $18.95 for ages 60 or older and UA students, $11.95 for children ages 3 to 12, free for children 3 and younger. Phone 330-972-6615 for reservations. Proceeds help pay for students’ field trips. Major credit cards and Zip Card accepted.

Send local food news to Katie Byard at 330-996-3781 or [email protected]. You can follow her @KatieByardABJ on Twitter or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com and read the Akron Dish blog at http://www.ohio.com/food.

The 11th annual Art & Ale beer tasting returns March 9 to the Akron Art Museum.

The event, held in the atrium, features craft beer and local food, and serves as a fundraiser for the museum. About 500 people attended last year.

“Art & Ale is always one of our best parties,” senior event manager Colleen Iacianci said in a statement. “It’s a fun evening in the unique environment of the museum with delicious beverages, great food and time with friends. It’s a perfect prelude to spring, and people are always in a festive mood.”

The following breweries are set to participate and more will be announced: HiHo, Royal Docks, Jackie O’s, Hoppin’ Frog, Fat Head’s, Mad Tree, Urban Artifact, Mucky Duck, Rhinegeist and Elevator Brewing. Mead-maker Crafted Artisan also will be there. Acme Fresh Market Catering and others will provide food.

The event includes a People’s Choice award and a competition judged by Acme beer buyer Jon Albrecht, Cleveland.com beer writer Marc Bona and myself.

Fat Head’s Hop JuJu took home the Curator’s Choice award last year, while R. Shea Orange Mango Citra Shandy won the People’s Choice award.

The museum galleries will be open for the first two hours of Art & Ale. Tickets are on sale now at $50, $35 for museum members. For more details or to buy tickets, go to: akronartmuseum.org.

Beer honors

Hoppin’ Frog and Jackie O’s again were named two of the top 100 breweries in the world by RateBeer.com.

The website, which provides drinkers a forum to review beers, recently released its annual rankings. RateBeer doesn’t rank the breweries numerically but just notes if they’ve made the top 10 or top 100 list.

Hoppin’ Frog, located 1680 E. Waterloo Road, Akron, and Jackie O’s in Athens have consistently been ranked highly in RateBeer’s Best Awards. They were the only two Ohio breweries in the top 100. The awards cover 2017.

It’s considered a major honor because RateBeer analyzed online reviews of more than 24,000 breweries around the world to come up with the top performers.

“Boom,” founder Fred Karm said when asked for his reaction. “That’s how I feel. It just blows my mind with the amount of new breweries that we can garner those ratings with the consumers.”

Hoppin’ Frog picked up a few other honors, as well:

• It was named the top brewer in Ohio.

• Barrel Aged T.O.R.I.S. the Tyrant was named the best Ohio beer.

• Its Tasting Room was named the top brewery taproom in Ohio.

To see all the awards, go to: http://www.ratebeer.com.

Akron beer book

Hoppin’ Frog will host a release party from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday for the new book Akron Beer: A History of Brewing in the Rubber City.

The 160-page book, written by Dr. Robert A. Musson, includes a forward by Hoppin’ Frog brewer and founder Fred Karm.

Musson, a medical physician, will attend and be available to sign copies of his book, which was published by Arcadia Publishing and the History Press and retails for $21.99.

The book examines Akron beer from its origins in 1845 to the present day and features 100 photos and images.

Musson, whose previous beer books, including Brewing in Cleveland, have focused on brewing history, said he was surprised at the growth of the craft industry. There were only two craft breweries in Akron when he wrote Brewing Beer in the Rubber City 20 years ago.

“It really took me off guard, and I started to realize how significant the craft beer industry is becoming,” he said.

Musson added that he doesn’t see the craft bubble bursting anytime soon.

“I see no end in sight,” he said. “That was the most pleasant side for me.”

Pineapple beer

Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. has released its new Pineapple IPA on draft.

“IPAs continue to be a big part of the market, and people really like to explore all the different areas of IPAs,” co-owner John Najeway said. “The fruited IPAs have been very well-received.”

Thirsty Dog offers other fruited beers, including the flavorful and popular Raspberry Ale and Blood Hound Blood Orange IPA — both of which have big fruit flavor. The Pineapple IPA has fruit on the aroma but still the hop character of an IPA, Najeway said.

Pineapple IPA six-packs are expected to hit the market in mid-February. They will retail for $10.99.

Pizza coming

Lager Heads Brewing Co. is adding a pizza kitchen to its production brewery, 325 W. Smith Road, Medina.

“I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like beer and pizza,” co-founder Matt Kiene said.

Lager Heads is building the kitchen now and hopes to begin offering pizza in early April.

Customers have been asking for food for a while, Kiene said, and this is a way to keep people in the brewery a little longer, as opposed to them leaving to get something to eat. The production brewery now offers just snacks.

Lager Heads also operates a barbecue restaurant about 5 miles away. Kiene said he wanted to offer different food at the brewery.

Last call

It’s last call for Scenic Brewing Co. in Jackson Township.

Founders Dan and Hillary Mueller reported on their Facebook page that the brewery will close Feb. 23. They had announced in December that they are relocating to Columbus for Dan’s job in the military and the brewery would close.

They originally planned to close in April, but moved that date up. Scenic, 7253 Whipple Ave. NW, opened in 2015.

Beer talk

I will be at the Lodi Public Library, 635 Wooster St., at 1 p.m. Saturday to talk about the craft beer industry and my book 50 Must-Try Craft Beers of Ohio.

Sorry, no beer will be served. But the good news is the talk is free.

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or [email protected]. Read his beer blog at http://www.Ohio.com/beer. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.

Akron residents didn’t fully appreciate Alvin Smith’s life story until it was nearing its end. As he approached 100 years old, he became a local celebrity.

The white-haired gentleman, the city’s last living Civil War veteran, regaled visitors with his vivid recollections of growing up as a slave in Kentucky, escaping to freedom in Ohio and joining the Union Army to help free his family.

The third oldest of 18 children, Smith was born Oct. 15, 1843, in a cabin on the estate of slave owner Prudence Wallingford near Mount Carmel in Fleming County, Ky. He recalled being taken away from his mother at age 5 to look after the infant son of neighbor Richard Willet in a big mansion.

Then he was tossed outside to labor on the sprawling farm. For the rest of his life, he carried deep scars on his back from the rawhide whip of a Methodist minister who rented him for two years.

Willet purchased Smith for $760.50 when Wallingford died in her 80s. “At 19, they stood me on an auction block and sold me just like a horse,” Smith recalled.

As the Civil War engulfed the nation, Smith worked the fields for 18 months. Early one morning in 1863, the slave quietly slipped away from the farm and ran north, journeying 20 miles before crossing the Ohio River and finding refuge with the Underground Railroad in Brown County.

Some would have kept running north, but Smith marched south. In April 1864, he enlisted in the Union Army in Byrd, Ohio, joining Company H of the U.S. Army 27th Colored Infantry Regiment.

Private Smith’s regiment traveled to Maryland and fought its way across smoky battlefields in Virginia and North Carolina, braving artillery shells, gunfire and bayonets during grueling campaigns against the Confederates in Petersburg, Va., and Richmond.

“You see, I was fighting for the freedom of my mother and father and my brothers [and sisters] who were still slaves,” Smith later told the Beacon Journal. “I sent my mother my picture in uniform after I escaped, but her master burned it and told her I was dead.”

Alvin battled to the war’s end and was discharged in September 1865. He returned to Ohio and randomly settled in Akron, where he married, raised children and learned the plastering trade. By sheer coincidence, his newly freed Kentucky family traveled north to Peninsula.

“Sympathy for the slaves was strong in the north after the war and the town of Peninsula treated them well,” Smith recalled. “I heard they were there and eventually brought them to Akron where we bought a home on Upson Street. It was the first time I had ever seen my sister, who was born after I escaped.”

After Smith’s wife died in 1876, he left Akron to stay with a daughter near Youngstown. He entered the Ohio Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home in Sandusky after it opened in 1888 and lived there for more than 50 years — the longest stay ever at the facility — before being discharged in March 1940 at age 97.

Smith returned to Akron in 1940 to be closer to his grand-niece Ella Coker. He lived in a home for several years at 723 Hazel St. before moving in with Coker at 144 Mustill St.

The old soldier was a sturdy presence at Akron ceremonies for Decoration Day, Armistice Day and the Fourth of July.

He wore an old blue Union uniform while riding in patriotic parades.

“Just a runaway slave, I was, but I learned all about war,” he told the Beacon Journal for Memorial Day 1943 as the United States fought World War II. “War is a terrible, terrible thing. Yes, war is hell.

“I have seen two other big wars since then, and somehow I have a feeling that we are going to win this war. And after that — well, after that, I guess I won’t be here to see any more wars.”

The Akron Council of Negro Women celebrated Smith’s life with a 100th birthday party Oct. 14, 1943.

“Bright of eye, keen of mind, and zestful of life, Akron’s only remaining Civil War veteran started his day as usual by shaving himself and eating his hearty breakfast of veal chops, coffee and a big saucer of oatmeal,” the Beacon Journal reported.

“He smoked his pipe, with pieces of a cigar cut up in it, and took a drop of wine.”

When the women’s group arrived at his Hazel Street home, Smith sliced a pink-frosted birthday cake for hundreds of well-wishers. “Course I like cake,” he chuckled as he served himself a slice.

Four years later when he turned 104, Smith was asked how it felt.

“I couldn’t feel better than I do today,” he said. “Of course, like all old people, I have a pain here or there once in a while and I’m hard of hearing. But I can still hear ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’ and church music on the radio.”

On Memorial Day 1948, the veteran was in a philosophical mood after riding in Akron’s parade on an American Legion float.

“It seems to me we humans run this world rather badly at times, and the Lord has to step in and take a hand,” he said.

Alvin Smith died Oct. 10, 1948, at Akron City Hospital — only five days short of his 105th birthday.

The funeral was at Turner Funeral Home and burial was at Mount Peace Cemetery.

The veteran’s grave remained unmarked until Litchfield Middle School history teacher John Gurnish, a Civil War buff, applied to Veterans Affairs in 1998 for a bronze marker on the 50th anniversary of Smith’s death.

A wreath-laying ceremony was held at the grave in 2011 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War’s beginning in 1861.

At the solemn service, The Battle Hymn of the Republic was sung.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

Mark J. Price is the author of the book Mafia Cop Killers in Akron: The Gang War Before Prohibition from The History Press. He can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].

Cleveland: Northeast Ohio’s newest museum is truly a kid at heart.

Tucked inside one of the few remaining old mansions that once graced Millionaires’ Row on Euclid Avenue, the Children’s Museum of Cleveland is a treasure for young kids.

The museum opened its doors in November after taking three years off when it lost its space near University Circle to one of those hip, new, urban housing developments. The ensuing years were spent raising money, finding a new place to call home and dreaming up fun, educational exhibits.

They found a new home in an old house that was in foreclosure and looking for a lot of TLC — some $10 million in necessary repairs and improvements, and new stuff for kids to play with.

The mansion was built in 1866 by Anson Stager, who was general superintendent of the Western Union Telegraph Co., and served as chief of the U.S. military’s Telegraph Department after the Civil War.

It was sold to Thomas Beckwith, one of the city’s top dry goods and interiors merchant, in 1874. He died two years later, but his wife and kids called the mansion home for another 25 years.

The University Club purchased the place and moved there in 1913. The private club added large dining rooms, sleeping areas, squash courts and three tennis courts. When the club closed in 2002, the former Myers University offered classes in the mansion and its additions.

It was this spaciousness that caught the eye of the museum’s officials.

Maria Campanelli, the museum’s executive director, said the club’s old ballroom has high ceilings and lots of windows, making a perfect spot for a children’s climbing area.

Before they had to close the old location, she said, the staff did extensive surveys to see what parents and kids wanted in a new museum, and a climbing area and place to splash and play with water topped the wish list.

And so Adventure City was born.

This particularly popular area of the museum features a two-story climbing area over a series of make-believe businesses that compose the city below. There’s a market where kids can buy groceries and a garage where they can construct a vehicle from the wheels up.

The big theme here is “unstructured play,” letting the kids solve problems and decide how and where they want to explore.

“This is the one museum where the kids really curate the experience,” Campanelli said.

A good example of this is the Arts and Parts exhibit where kids can make a craft.

Campanelli pointed out that there is a suggested simple project and examples are on the wall and at each table. But there are no step-by-step instructions on how to make it — just the supplies and materials are provided.

The goal, she said, is for the children to use creativity and ingenuity to complete the task, or even go off script from the snowman design and create a nifty robot.

“You can almost see the gears in their brains moving as they figure things out,” she said.

An area of the museum with a lot of moving parts is the Wonder Lab, where kids explore an industrial-looking science lab. There are two water tables with whirlpools, jets, rivers and gadgets to play with.

While raincoats are provided, Campanelli suggests parents bring along a spare set of dry clothes for the kids.

They can also build ball tracks on a magnetic wall, and make scarves fly through a series of clear tubes high above their heads. There’s a light table and large tubes to create cascades of bubbles.

Campanelli said this exhibit — at the suggestion of parents and kids alike — is much larger and more intricate than the one at the old museum.

“We find the parents are just as engaged in the exhibits as the kids,” she said.

The goal was to open up as soon as possible there are just four main exhibit areas for now. The museum is occupying just a fraction of the available space, so Campanelli said the staff is already dreaming up new ways to fill it.

In just three months, 35,000 visitors have checked out the museum.

“That’s way over our projections,” she said.

It has been so popular that the museum had to turn away visitors a couple of times because it reached capacity and the 150-space parking lot was full.

Another pleasant surprise is the museum’s fourth exhibit: Making Miniatures.

The collection of doll houses and miniatures is part of the Lincoln Collection. It is not named for the former president, but the family that controls Lincoln Electric.

The dollhouses, including one depicting the Stager-Beckwith mansion that the museum now calls home, has taken up residence in the second floor rooms of the old place.

The dollhouses that range from a medieval castle to a beach house are completely furnished. Each contains the museum’s logo, and kids are challenged to find it.

One particularly cool house — and one of the few in the collection not created by the Lincoln family — dates back to the 1920s and was part of the famed Christmas display at General Electric’s Nela Park in Cleveland.

The Lincoln family was looking for a place to share its collection with the public and Campanelli said there was plenty of space on the museum’s second floor, so it was a perfect match.

There’s even an area for children to create their own dollhouse display using sturdy miniatures.

“To see this museum through a child’s eye is almost magical,” Campanelli said.

Craig Webb, who may have gotten his socks wet playing in the museum’s water area, can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

The Pacific Garden was a classy joint that blurred the line between fine dining and hard drinking in the late 19th century.

Traveling salesman Charles Pfeiffer opened the Akron saloon about 1880 as Congress Billiard Parlors, an establishment at 118 N. Howard St. that served wine, whisky, ale, beer and imported cigars. “Open Day and Night. Sundays Excepted.”

Located near West Market Street, the 2½-story brick building shared quarters with Dr. Lucien G. Thorp’s dental parlor, where patients could buy a good set of teeth for $5, a better set of teeth for $8 and the best set of teeth — on vulcanized rubber — for $10.

The saloon developed a reputation for bizarre occurrences, including an infamous 1884 mauling by a black bear that was chained to a post in a back room. The 2-year-old animal, procured from Michigan as a pet, attacked patron James Cummins, 40, when he got too close. Akron major-leaguer Sam Wise, a shortstop for the Boston Red Caps, clubbed the beast until it let go.

Another night, intruders hauled away a nickel-plated cash register and smashed it in anger after finding that it contained only 70 cents. According to the Akron City Times, the broken parts “were scattered about promiscuously” on Canal Street.

In 1885, Pfeiffer rechristened the hall as the Pacific Garden, an unusually placid name for a place where whisky-fueled brawls frequently erupted. Pfeiffer offered a free, cold lunch every day to customers, a practice that evolved into an honest-to-gosh restaurant.

He expanded the menu to include such delicacies as lobsters, oysters, crabs, shrimp, bass and frog legs, and opened a dining room for ladies and gentlemen. Drinking customers used the swinging front door, but families had a separate entrance. Akron heavyweight boxer Gus Ruhlin was among the regulars.

The old pool hall became a favorite spot for banquets. Check out this fancy menu from an 1891 gathering: “Oysters on the Half Shell. Queen Olives. Slaw. Consomme En Tasse. Fillet of Sole in White Wine. Lettuce. French Dressing. Spring Lamb Chops. French Peas. Claret Punch. Roast Mallard Duck au Cresson. Cream Potatoes with Parsley. Shrimp Salad au Mayonnaise. Neapolitan Ice Cream. Chocolate Cream Cake. Malaga Grapes. Florida Oranges. Wines: Schlossberg. Hoch­heimer. French Coffee.”

Where could we order such fare today in Akron?

Business was so prosperous that Pfeiffer advertised for “six elderly women” to work in the kitchen, promising good wages and steady employment. The Pacific also attracted some brazen competition, the Atlantic Garden, an East Market Street saloon that billed itself as “The European Restaurant.” The Pacific retaliated by advertising as “The Only European Restaurant in the City.”

Pfeiffer remodeled the restaurant and installed $300 electric fans. The joke around town was that the Pacific Garden never had any flies because they all froze to death.

Just because the place was fancy didn’t mean that the brawls stopped. John Gehring and James McCormich engaged in a “lively saloon fight” on Feb. 21, 1891. It was 4 a.m.

“Gehring had entered the saloon and ordered supper for himself and a woman he had with him,” the Beacon Journal reported. “McCormich made some remark that caused Gehring to strike him. McCormich struck back and Denny Collins, in trying to separate them, hit another man who had stepped up in the meantime, and that precipitated a general row.”

The saloon was the setting of an early civil-rights case. James Lindar, a black man, filed a lawsuit against the business in 1892, alleging unfair discrimination after he was denied a seat. A Summit County jury deliberated only two minutes before awarding Lindar $1,000. After that, the Pacific was open to all.

For Thanksgiving 1892, Pfeiffer invited Akron Daily Democrat newsboys — of all creeds and colors — to a free meal of turkey, oysters and mince pie.

“Imagine 100 hustling, jostling, scrambling newsboys, from the ages of 5 to 12, chewing, biting and pushing to get in the doors, and you have an idea of the scene at Charley’s dining hall yesterday at 3 o’clock,” the newspaper reported. “But no one was slighted. All got their fill, and a newsboy never leaves the table until he gets it, either.”

In 1893, Pfeiffer sold his business to Marion brothers John S. Kesler and David W. Kesler, who pledged to keep the Pacific “up to the high standard it has always maintained.” They offered an introductory offer — a $1 meal ticket for 90 cents — and advertised: “Our prices are right, and we guarantee you will find the best quality of provender always used.”

At least two customers, Northfield postmaster Albert L. Bliss and Cleveland businessman Adam Johnson, took their last breaths at the Pacific. One fell dead after ordering a sandwich. The other keeled over a few bites into breakfast.

The incidents weren’t exactly good advertising, but the Kesler brothers continued to operate the Pacific until 1908.

Thanks to the renumbering of city streets, the address changed to 20-22 N. Howard St. Over the next decade, owners included Water C. Gorman, Martin Swing and Harry Ungerleider.

The saloon gave up all pretense of fine dining in 1918 when it was renamed the Akron Liquor House. But a year later, it gave up booze to become the evangelical Union City Mission and remained so for much of the ‘20s.

After the repeal of Prohibition, L.G. Sears and Pete Economou reopened the Pacific Garden two doors down in 1934, and it continued as the Pacific Cafe for decades. The original 1880 building served as the Hollywood Gardens (“The Night Club With That Harlem Atmosphere”) in the ‘30s and ‘40s, and got a makeover as the Nu Art Beauty Salon in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

By 1970, though, the former Pacific Garden was a vacant, derelict building. One by one, its aging neighbors tumbled on Howard Street during urban renewal. In April 1974, a next-door demolition job caused the southern wall to collapse. The city ordered the rest of the building to be razed.

So a few months later, the old saloon got smashed — just like some of its former clientele.

Mark J. Price is the author of the book Mafia Cop Killers in Akron: The Gang War Before Prohibition from The History Press. He can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].

Each December, I look forward to the frozen quiet of January.

Holiday décor goes back in boxes and the boxes go back on shelves in the furnace room. It’s a relief to reclaim the living room as adult space.

For farmers, at least in this part of the country, the fall harvest is put up and the spring planting is months away. Walk outside and winter seems to say, rest, try to rest.

Dogs and taking long walks have been two constants of my life. Long before I had kids, I had dogs. And before I had dogs, I walked.

I enjoy many of the trails in our parks, but hike the same one most days. Walking the same path day after day is a subtle gift. Skunkweed that fills coves in the spring is later replaced by wild columbine, which later still is covered over with fallen leaves and then snow.

For the better part of three months, when the temperatures are well below freezing, I rarely see another person on the trail. This is my reward for being undeterred by the cold. A forest muffled by deep snow when even the animals are quiet is a stark reprieve from the sensory clutter of modern life.

Until last week, this winter has been hearty, which is fabulous. The kids can ski and sled. The dogs don’t get muddy. And every night when the temperatures hover around zero, fleas, ticks and mosquitoes are exploding in their winter homes. Hooray! After last year’s balmy winter, we had to spend a fortune on flea and tick treatments for several months.

The epochs of my adult life can be divided by sets of dogs. First were Goldie and Alex, a shepherd mix and a sable sheltie. I got Goldie when I was 17 and both she and Alex died when I was 31 and the mother of two small boys.

Bruce Springsteen once said about having children, “You know, all of a sudden, your dogs are just gonna be dogs.” But those dogs adopted before I was a mother were the hardest to lose. They were my proto-children.

Next came Greta, another shepherd mix, and Hoover, my first tri-color sheltie. When young, Greta could pick off a chipmunk running up the side of a tree and shake it dead before I could holler for her to stop. Though past her prime when we moved to Akron, Greta still enjoyed darting after creatures, including bumblebees, then returning to me over and again.

As years passed, our walks became slower so Greta could keep up. One summer day, as I forged up a steep hill, I realized Greta was no longer with me. I turned and saw her lying on the trail 25 yards behind. I called to her and she looked up at me.

Greta was a smart dog and if you have ever had a truly smart dog, you know how well they can communicate. More than once, Greta woke me in the night, presumably to be let out. I’d walk with her to the door and open it only to find Hoover accidentally left outside. As he trotted in, Greta would lie back down on her bed.

That day on the trail, Greta’s eyes told me she wanted to come, but couldn’t. A dignified dog, she was also embarrassed.

I walked to Greta and helped her stand. She ambled a few paces before dropping back to the ground. Not as heavy as she’d been in her prime, she was still easily 45 pounds. I picked her up like a lamb, my arms around the tops of her four legs, her body on my chest.

I walked as far as I could and set her down. She walked as far as she could before I picked her back up. We repeated this until we crested the hill. Though she lived another year, that was Greta’s last hike.

After Greta died, I brought home Lily, my bi-black sheltie. Hoover was 9 and for the next few years, Lily kept him active. I would watch from my kitchen window as they sneaked up and chased each other around a row of privet.

“Please don’t be dead, please!” said all of us many times after Hoover, at age 12, went deaf. When asleep, he’d lie stock-still until touched, no matter how noisy we were.

That’s when Lily became Hoover’s assistant. When I’d call the dogs to come, Lily would dart to Hoover and let him know to look at me. He would, and then come running as best as he could on his arthritic legs.

I know it sounds like I’m anthropomorphizing my dogs, but dog owners understand it’s true. These pack animals work together.

Now 7, Lily’s the old dog. Angus, my second tri-color sheltie, and Dorothy, my big German shepherd, are barely out of puppyhood. It took Lily awhile to remember how to frisk. She’d lived with a senior dog for so long, she acted like one herself.

Creatures grow up and, if we are lucky, we grow comfortably old before we die.

Statistically, we know some of us will not be so lucky. Before 40, the deaths of friends are rare and often accidental. By middle age, illness, especially the Emperor of All Maladies, begins claiming a life here and there.

In Jules’ small classroom at the Waldorf School, two parents did not live to see their eldest children enroll in high school. The first died of melanoma, the second due to liver cancer. Both were in their 40s.

“To love one another, to have compassion even for those who would do us harm, that is the point.”

I turn in my columns on Tuesdays. Before these words from my last column were inked on newsprint, Sam, my friend for more than 40 years, had been killed.

Half an hour before she was shot in the chest, she told another friend she was going home to tell her husband of 33 years she was leaving him.

To lose someone prematurely to illness or accident seems unfair. But in the end, it just is. A death like this requires volition, actively choosing to end a life. The grief for a slaying victim defies acceptance because it didn’t have to be.

Compassion remains the point.

I made the three-hour trip to West Milton, Ohio, for the calling hours. Sam raised four boys to manhood, including her stepson. All four of them stood alongside their mother’s casket and comforted more than 100 people. Sam would be proud.

These young men, their wives and children, and Sam’s parents all need endless compassion as they face the months ahead and the trial.

Back home the next day, a dry snow looked like the rice cereal I once added to my babies’ applesauce. It swirled around my boots as I walked across the field to the woods. The dogs barked and chased one another, delighted to be in the park. Delighted to be alive.

Contact Holly Christensen at [email protected].

For a dozen years, chili has stirred up a heated competition in January in downtown Akron.

Last week, the Akron Firefighters Chili Challenge in the indoor area of Lock 3 Park celebrated its 12th year.

I was there for the fourth year on the judges’ panel, and snagged two winning recipes before folks went home to bask in their wins.

The People’s Choice Award went to Akron firefighters for their chili dubbed — appropriately enough — No Hose Barred. Those paying $10 to sample the six offerings got to vote for the People’s Choice.

The Judges’ Choice was a Tex-Mex style chili called South by Southwest, made by the mayor’s Office of Economic Development in Akron.

The Joe Smith Spirit Award went to Cleveland Clinic Akron General for its Smoky Beef and Red Bean Chili, which took both the Judges’ and People’s Choice awards two years ago.

On to the recipes!

For the first, we have just a listing of ingredients. Many cooks know it’s not unusual to make chili without a recipe; ad-libbing is a badge of honor.

Akron firefighter Damarcus Wilkinson, who joined the department in 2008, made the winning No Hose Barred (love that punny name!) chili, and said it’s “just a lot of meat, fresh spices and [other] fresh ingredients.”

He said he used ground beef, diced pork shoulder, bacon, canned crushed tomatoes and peppers to make a yummy old-fashioned chili with no beans.

“It’s more meat and chili peppers than anything,” Wilkinson said. “It’s harkening back to old Texas-style chili.”

Texans “don’t do beans. And they use very little tomatoes,” he said. “That’s what I was going for, a Texas bowl of red.”

Wilkinson, who lives in Bath Township with his wife and daughter, cooks at Akron Fire Station 11, and said he’s the primary cook at home.

Julie Pryseski, who works in the mayor’s Office of Economic Development, made the SXSW chili that we judges made our No. 1 choice. We liked all the layers of flavors. Pryseski said the name is a reference to the South by Southwest trade show in Austin, Texas, held in conjunction with the SXSW music and art festival, which city representatives plan to attend in March along with Akron tech start­ups.

Pryseski used beef brisket and a puerco (Spanish for “pig”) rub created by Nuevo Modern Mexican & Tequila Bar in downtown Akron. She didn’t rub the brisket with it; she simply added it to the chili. Nuevo’s rub includes dried ground chili peppers, cinnamon and allspice. (Look for those ingredients in another spice blend or rub if you can’t get Nuevo’s.)

South by Southwest

Tex-Mex Chili

2 medium onions, peeled, chopped

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

2 cans (10 oz. each) Ro-Tel brand diced tomatoes with chopped green chiles (Pryseski uses the “original” style)

1 (28 oz.) can whole tomatoes

1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes

2 cans (15-16 oz.) black beans

2 cans (15-16 oz.) kidney beans

2 cans chili beans (15-16 oz. cans)

1 (28 oz.) can baked beans

3 tbsp. puerco spice mix from Nuevo Modern Mexican & Tequila Bar in Akron

1 tsp. chili powder

1½ lbs. cooked beef brisket (made according to your favorite recipe and then pull or cut into 1-inch pieces)

For topping: Bacon bits, jalapeño slices and sour cream

Sauté onions in a large pot with oil or juice from cooking brisket. Add canned tomatoes and beans, spice mix and chili powder and stir. Fold in brisket. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Serve with toppings.

Stray Dog closes

Stray Dog leaves North Hill.

A little more than a year ago, Charly Murphy took the helm of the kitchen at the Akron City Tavern (formerly the Office) in Akron’s North Hill neighborhood. Murphy is owner of Stray Dog food carts and Stray Dog Café at the Akron-Summit County Main Library downtown.

Jan. 13 was the last day for Stray Dog at the North Hill spot at 778 N. Main St.

Murphy told me he had expanded into operating the bar, separated by a wall from the dining room, as of early December.

But he said he and the owner of the property, Frank Caetta, who previously operated the bar, couldn’t come to an agreement “about the future operation of the space” on Main Street. Caetta could not be reached for comment before press time.

Murphy, a North Hill resident, hopes to find another spot in the area for a Stray Dog location. “We’re just looking for something that suits us a little better,” he said.

Murphy was welcomed in North Hill. The Office restaurant and bar — which had been going by the name Akron City Tavern — had been closed for a couple of months when Murphy took over the kitchen in late October 2016.

Stray Dog moved in less than a year after the bar and the dining room got an interior makeover. A new menu with lower-cost items was introduced at the time. Caetta opened the Office in the old brick building in 2006, and the Office Bistro in 2012 in Cuyahoga Falls.

New eatery opening

Fans of Joe Cernava’s made-from-scratch food always seem to find him.

But Cernava doesn’t want too much time to go by before they discover his new location. On Monday, he opened Joseph’s Grille in the Gala Commons shopping complex on East Waterloo Road in Springfield Township.

Joseph’s Grille, which serves lunch and dinner, is in the space that previously housed Siamone’s Thai Pub & Restaurant, at the far west end of the plaza at 2215 E. Waterloo Road.

Most recently, Cernava operated an eatery in Lake Township. Before that, he was in Green. A few years ago, he ran the Rose Covered Inn on East Waterloo, gaining him loyal followers in that area.

The menu includes appetizers such as onion rings and cheesy garlic bread; salads with freshly prepared meat (for example, grilled ahi tuna over iceberg, mixed greens and cheese); entrees such as chicken marsala; and seafood dishes including broiled scallops.

House favorites include Old World cabbage rolls made using his mother’s recipe. Most dinners run $11-$15. It’s a clean, modest eatery with no tablecloths and paper napkins.

The phone is 234-706-5559. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. He has no liquor license, though he plans to get one in the future.

Speaking of Siamone’s: It has moved to Brimfield Plaza in Brimfield Township, and is now called Thai Monies.

Siamone Fryer ran Siamone’s Thai Pub at the Gala Commons plaza for several years. She moved to Brimfield to be closer to her home, said Al Lopez, who spent years in the area restaurant and bar business, and was previously married to Fryer. (The two remain on good terms and Fryer is helping her publicize her move.)

The address is 4112 State Route 43. The phone is 330-474-7588. Hours are 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

We’ll have more on both restaurants later.

Wedding cake tasting

Acme Fresh Market will host its free Wedding Cake Show from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at its Portage Lakes store, 3235 Manchester Road, Coventry Township.

More than 18 cakes will be on display. Patrons will enter via a red carpet, and swag includes roses for brides-to-be. Sparkling wine and cake tastings also will be available. Register at http://www.acmestores.com/weddingshow and enter to win a wedding cake.

The following weekend, Reeves Cake Shop will host its free wedding cake show, from noon to 4 p.m. Feb. 3-4 at 2770 Cory Ave. in Akron.

For information, visit http://www.reevescakeshop.com or phone 330-848-1036.

Pizza Palooza returns

A big pizza party is returning to the gymnasium at Stow-Munroe Falls High, 3227 Graham Road, from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday.

More than 2,000 people attended the inaugural Pizza Palooza last year.

Fourteen shops and restaurants have signed up to participate in this year’s event to benefit student programs in the Stow-Munroe Falls school district. Attendees can cast votes for People’s Choice.

In addition to pizza, attendees enjoy doughnuts, cookies, mini cupcakes and ice cream. Activities will include face painting, coloring tables, a balloon artist, raffle drawings and inflatables.

Each food item or beverage will cost $1. Buy tickets at the door. Go to http://www.SMFcommunity.org for information.


Super Bowl spaghetti

Feb. 4 is the annual spaghetti dinner featuring homemade meatballs and sauce at Queen of Heaven Catholic Church, 1800 Steese Road in Green, to benefit Boy Scout Troop 334.

This event always falls on Super Bowl Sunday. It runs noon to 2 p.m., ending long before kickoff at 6:30 p.m., and you can take out your dinner if you want. The meal includes two meatballs, spaghetti, salad, bread, punch and coffee for $8, $6 for ages 65 and older and $5 for children ages 5 to 12. Free for children under 5.

BurgerFi returns

The BurgerFi in the Portage Crossing shopping complex in Cuyahoga Falls has reopened under corporate management.

Previously operated by a franchisee, it closed abruptly in July, and an eviction notice for “breach of lease” and “failure to pay rent” was taped to the wall.

BurgerFi was one of the first places to open at the Portage Crossing shopping complex in Cuyahoga Falls in 2014.

Fat Tuesday sale

The West Side Bakery is taking orders for king cakes and beignets through Fat Tuesday, Feb. 13. Cakes will be available Feb. 2-13. Beignets will be available Feb. 10, 12 and 13. The cakes run $12.95, beignets $2.

Get the Mardi Gras goodies at both of the bakery’s locations, 2303 W. Market St., Akron (330-836-4101) and 1840 Town Park Blvd., Green (330-899-9968).

Healthy dinner series

Crown Point Ecology Center in Bath Township will continue its Local to Global healthy dinner series with a Colombian dinner at 6 p.m. Feb. 22.

It will be prepared by Monica Bongue, executive director of the nonprofit Crown Point, which includes a 10-acre certified organic farm.

Cost is $45. Call 330-668-8992, ext. 106, for reservations. Crown Point is at 3220 Ira Road and is a ministry of the Dominican Sisters of Peace. To learn more, go to http://www.crownpt.org.

Wine events

• The 21st annual Red & White fundraiser benefiting the Arthritis Foundation will be 5:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Quaker Station at 135 S. Broadway, in downtown Akron.

Tickets are $85 in advance, $95 at the door. VIP tickets are $125 in advance and $135 at the door. Buy tickets at http://www.arthritis.org/redandwhite.

• Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a wine tasting from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 14 at the Merchant Tavern, 1824 Merriman Road in Akron’s Merriman Valley. Light finger foods included. Cost is $35. Call 330-865-9510.

• Papa Joe’s, 1561 Akron-Peninsula Road, in the Merriman Valley, will host a Huge Napa Valley Cabernet Wine Dinner at 7 p.m. Friday. Menu includes escargot with crimini mushrooms, grilled quail, confit of duck breast and lamb chops. Cost is $85. Papa Joe’s will also host a Valentine Champagne Dinner at 7 p.m. Feb. 16 for $95. Call 330-923-7999 for reservations.

• Ken Stewart’s Lodge, 1911 N. Cleveland-Massillon Road, Bath, will offer a six-course wine dinner featuring the wines of Caymus Vineyards of Napa Valley, at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 31. Cost is $145, plus tax and tip. Call 330-666-8881.

Send local food news to Katie Byard at 330-996-3781 or [email protected]. You can follow her @KatieByardABJ on Twitter or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com and read the Akron Dish blog at http://www.ohio.com/food.

Garrettsville will once again boast a brewery.

The Garretts Mill & Brewing Co. is slated to open in the old flour mill that once housed the Main Street Grille & Brewing Co., 8148 Main St.

The Main Street brewpub closed in 2016, leaving a hole in the Portage County village, which has a population of about 2,300.

“We’ve been anxious for it to be open again,” Mayor Rick Patrick said. “A lot of people have been waiting patiently.”

Patrick said the restaurant is expected to serve burgers, sandwiches and “comfort food.”

It’s unclear when the brewpub will open.

New owner Brian Buchanan of Mercer, Pa., didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The historic, wooden building dates back to 1804 and was built by village patriarch Col. John Garrett. The building sits along Main Street, while the back hangs over Silver Creek, a gorge, a small water fall and a water wheel that can power the mill in the basement.

NORTH CANTON: Lobster Louies closed its restaurant on South Main Street last weekend, but will keep operating its food truck, the Canton Repository reported.

“It was a business decision,” owner Larry Suter said.

Read the full Repository report here.

The wind howled as Oliver R. Ocasek started up his Cadillac.

Despite subzero cold and heavy snow, he would not change his plans. He had to drive to Columbus.

Barreling through drifts, Ocasek pulled away from his Northfield home at 5:30 a.m. Jan. 26 and disappeared into the Blizzard of 1978.

If it were any other day, he probably would have stayed home, but he had called a news conference for 9 a.m. at the Ohio Statehouse to announce a major decision. After careful consideration, the Ohio Senate president was prepared to reveal that he would not run for governor in the Democratic primary.

Ocasek, 52, a former educator in Tallmadge and Richfield, worried that he had low name recognition outside Greater Akron, and he feared that the $51,000 he had raised for a potential campaign wasn’t enough.

“The reason is very simple. Money,” he told the Beacon Journal a day earlier. “I was never in the ballgame. I had to come to the realization that although a lot of people told me how much they liked me, all that palaver doesn’t get you elected.

“Sure I’m disappointed. I’ve always wanted to be governor. But I have an ego and I don’t want to lose. I’m not a big gambler.”

Not a big gambler? What do you call driving into a blizzard? The barometer plunged to a record low of 28.33 inches that morning. Nearly a foot of snow fell on top of a 16-inch storm from days earlier. With the mercury at zero and gusts topping 75 mph, the wind chill was estimated at 60 below.

Ohio Gov. James A. Rhodes announced the closing of all state offices at 7 a.m. and declared a state of emergency. “Ohio is in trouble,” Rhodes said.

The Highway Patrol reported that all highways were closed. “Those that aren’t closed are so bad they’re nearly impassable and will close shortly,” Trooper Joe Blosser announced.

But Ocasek was past the point of no return. It was a white-knuckle ride as he rolled south on Interstate 71 in near-whiteout conditions. Studded tires didn’t even help. Abandoned trucks and automobiles were scattered everywhere along the 140-mile journey, buried deep in wind-sculpted drifts that resembled nothing less than Dr. Seuss illustrations.

“It was the most frightening experience of my life,” Ocasek said. “In 37 years of driving, I’ve never seen anything like it. I saw hundreds of cars stuck in the median or on the side of the road. You would have to slow down because of the ice and then speed up to get across a snowdrift on I-71.”

Somewhere north of Mansfield, he passed the snow-encased truck of James Truly, 42, of Cleveland, who would spend six days in the cab of his vehicle before being rescued. He survived the ordeal by eating snow and became a folk hero after being freed from his icy truck.

With a little luck, Ocasek would escape that fate.

The senator continued to slog south, eventually realizing that there was no way in the world he was going to make it to his news conference. About 20 miles north of Columbus, just when it looked like he might make it to the capital safely, his vehicle “went flooey.”

“A dashboard light went on and the engine heated up,” Ocasek explained. “I didn’t know whether to let my $12,000 Cadillac burn up or my 215-pound body freeze.”

He rolled to a stop on the desolate highway, girded himself against the cold and abandoned his car. In those days before cellphones, there was no way to call for help. He really didn’t have a plan as he stepped into the Arctic cold, but he knew he wouldn’t survive in his vehicle. The wind pummeled the 6-foot-2, bespectacled senator as he battled to keep his balance in the snow along I-71.

“I felt like the girl Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz,” he said.

He walked, walked, walked. What else could he do? It felt like an eternity, but it probably lasted only a few minutes.

Like some kind of ghostly mirage, an Ohio Highway Patrol cruiser appeared on the snowy horizon and pulled up next to Ocasek.

“Sen. Ocasek?” the trooper asked quizzically.

“I was so surprised that he recognized me that I almost reconsidered my decision not to run for governor,” Ocasek told the Beacon Journal.

The heroic trooper, who was not identified, got Ocasek to the Statehouse by 10:15 a.m. The news conference was canceled, of course, but there probably wouldn’t have been any reporters in attendance because they were all out covering the storm of the century.

Ocasek hunkered down at the Statehouse and assisted Gov. Rhodes, a Republican, as officials tended to the emergency. By the time it was over, the 1978 storm had killed more than 50 people in Ohio and caused $100 million in damage.

Although he never did run for governor, Ocasek spent 28 years in the Ohio Senate, retiring in 1986 and inspiring the name of the Oliver R. Ocasek State Office Building in downtown Akron.

After a long battle with cancer, he died June 25, 1999, at age 73.

It was a sunny day with temperatures in the 80s, a good distance down the road from the infamous Blizzard of 1978.

Mark J. Price is the author of the book Mafia Cop Killers in Akron: The Gang War Before Prohibition from The History Press. He can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].