Before the Lockview bar/eatery in downtown Akron opened at 207 S. Main St. in downtown Akron, the building housed the Lime Spider.

And before that, the space was Mr. Bilbo’s, as in Bilbo Baggins of J.R.R. Tolkien's 1937 novel "The Hobbit."

Those who patronized Mr. Bilbo’s may recognize a big cartoonish painting that Lockview owner Danny Basone recently hung inside the Main Street building. Featuring the wizard Gandalf, Bilbo and dwarves, it's one of the Hobbit-themed painted plywood works that for years adorned the cozy hangout.

"People are seeing it and saying, 'Wow, this brings back memories.' " Basone said Sunday, taking a break from work at the Lockview. The restaurant is known for its wide array of grilled cheese sandwiches, soups and other eats, as well as its big beer list.

Mr. Bilbo’s opened in the early 1980s, at a time when the nightlife options in downtown Akron were especially few and far between. Former Beacon Journal columnist David Giffels wrote in a Jan. 4, 2001, column about the end of Mr. Bilbo’s on New Year’s Eve 2000: “For a while there, it seemed like Bilbo's was the only bar downtown.”

Jim Ranftl, an Akron attorney, and his wife, Margie, gave the painting to Basone last summer. They bought it several years ago at a fundraising auction for the cross country team at Firestone High School. Their son, Tom, now a senior at Ohio State University, was on the team, and the painting hung in his bedroom for a time. When he went away to college, he gave it to friends to adorn a house they rented while attending the University of Akron.

Margie Ranftl said that when that living arrangement was breaking up, she urged her son to retrieve the painting.

"I didn't want it to get away. I didn't want the Hobbits getting lost," she said, noting she patronized Bilbo's when she worked in downtown Akron.

"I'm so happy he [Basone] wanted it," she said. "He's made Lockview so wonderful."

According to an April 2001 column by Giffels, a "starving artist" living in Kent at the time, Ken Muenzenmayer, created the painting and 11 others for Bilbo's. He now is a successful artist in Texas. The paintings were to be auctioned off in advance of a new bar/music venue, the Lime Spider, opening in the spot. Basone, a longtime Akron musician, was proprietor of the Lime Spider (named after an obscure '80s rock band) that for six years hosted local and national bands.

In 2007, Basone turned the Lime Spider into the Lockview. At the time, he said attendance at shows was falling and small national bands were going directly to Cleveland to play.

Look for some new grilled cheese sandwiches to join the Lockview menu soon. One will feature habanero pepper and pickled cactus, which Basone gets from a purveyor in Michigan.

 

Chili Challenge

The Akron Firefighters Chili Challenge will return Jan. 18 to Lock 3 park in downtown Akron. It will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For the yearly event, Akron firefighters challenge representatives of other city departments and local businesses and organizations to see who can create the best pot of chili. Members of the public pay for samples and get to cast their votes; a judge's panel also picks a top chili.

Cost is $10 for six samples, soft drinks and water $2. Proceeds go to the Akron Children's Hospital burn center.

Akron firefighter Damarcus Wilkinson, who won the People's Choice Award last year with his meaty chili, appeared on Monday's "Pickler & Ben" daytime talk show. He competed in the show's second annual chili cook-off, taking home the chili bowl trophy.

The show airs locally on WEWS (Channel 5). Staffers with the show, taped in Nashville, Tenn., learned about Wilkinson's chili from a Beacon Journal/Ohio.com article about last year's Akron challenge.

 

Wine happenings

• Wise Guys Lounge and Grill, 1008 N. Main St. in Akron's North Hill, will host a wine tasting dinner with Maria Mancinelli Comelli from Comelli Wines at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Cost $65. Reservations are strongly recommended. Call 330-922-3006 after 3 p.m.

• A Best Buy Reds wine tasting will run from 7 to 9 p.m. Jan. 25 at the Mustard Seed Market in Montrose. It will feature 20 wines that sell for less than $15 a bottle, many of them rated 90 points or better.

Appetizers, cheeses and cake are included. Cost is $35 in advance or $40 at the door. Sign up at the store's customer service counter or on EventBrite.

• Wine, Cheese & Chocolate, Darling returns to the Akron Civic Theatre at 7 p.m. Feb. 9. More than 45 different wines will be featured, paired with cheese and chocolate from local purveyors.

Cost is $45. Attendees must be at least 21 years old. Tickets are available by calling 330-253-2488 or visiting www.akroncivic.com.

The Civic is at 182 S. Main St. in downtown Akron.

 

Chocolate Walk

Tickets went on sale Monday for the popular Chocolate Walk sponsored by Main Street Kent. The event will run from noon to 4 p.m. Feb. 9.

For $25, participants can visit more than 20 locations throughout downtown Kent, collecting chocolate treats as they go. Tickets are limited to 250, and are available at EventBrite. Proceeds benefit Main Street Kent, the nonprofit that promotes the city's downtown.

 

Send local food news to Katie Byard at kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3781. You can follow her @KatieByardABJ on Twitter or Facebook.