Today we bring you a report from the front lines of the Great Chicken Sandwich Stampede.

And among other morsels, we have news of the opening — finally — of Leo's Social Club in Cuyahoga Falls — and a new Donatos Pizza going into a former empty storefront in Akron.

First up: Local residents joined folks nationwide in the rush to get crunchy chicken sandwiches from Popeyes, which released the new item Aug. 12.

Thanks to social media chatter — with Chick-fil-A and Popeyes feuding on Twitter and consumers weighing in — demand for the sandwiches soared.

Last week, Popeyes locations – including the two Akron spots that were hit with long lines of vehicles in their drive-thru lanes — posted signs that they had run out of the spicy sandwiches.

The Miami-based chain announced last Tuesday that the supply nationwide would be exhausted by the end of last week. Many stores already had run out.

“They’re out? That’s what we came to get,” said a disappointed Tyrese White, 18, who was in a line Thursday night at the drive-thru at the Popeyes at 620 N. Howard St. in Akron’s North Hill neighborhood.

I was the bearer of the bad news. I had seen a sign on the door saying there were no chicken sandwiches to be had.

“Everybody is comparing it to a Chick-Fil A,” said White, a senior at Akron’s North High School, referring to various social media posts he had seen.

His aunt, Alicia Blocker. 27, who was driving the two, suggested they head over to the Popeyes at 1200 S. Arlington St. in East Akron.

Yes, that location also was out, White reported later.

She and her nephew ended up going to a nearby Burger King, also on South Arlington.

Her nephew opted not to get anything to eat; he got a Sprite. Blocker got a Whopper — and a grilled chicken sandwich she planned to eat the next day. “Whenever they come back, I’ll get one,” she said of the Popeyes chicken sandwich.

Popeyes hasn’t announced a date yet for the sandwich’s return. Popeyes said those who want to be notified when they’re back in stores should download the Popeyes app and "sign up for push notifications."

My hubby, retired Beacon Journal reporter Jim Carney, tried to score Popeyes sandwiches, but gave up when seeing the long line early last week at the North Hill store.

He went to a nearby Burger King and got two Impossible Whoppers, which also are new. We agreed the meatless burger tastes similar to a Whopper.

But I don’t think that in a blind taste-test I’d mistake the sandwich with the plant-based patty for the classic beef Whopper, as some reportedly have.

My taste for grease is too discerning, I think.

For the record, the sandwiches are flame grilled on the same grill as beef and chicken items.

Leo's Social Club opens

The long-planned Leo’s Social Club is finally opening in Cuyahoga Falls.

The regular opening date is Thursday, but you can eat for 50 percent off on Wednesday as part of a “pre-opening celebration” to help train staff.

Lunch hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner hours are 5-9 p.m.

For the pre-opening event, you’ll need to reserve a spot by calling 330-400-4427.

Tuesday also was a pre-opening day, when customers could dine for half off. The discount does not apply to alcoholic beverages and tips.

Leo’s, at 2251 Front St., is part of the Chef Art Pour restaurant group headquartered in Chagrin Falls. It’s a new concept for Chef Art Pour, which owns nine Burntwood Taverns in Northeast Ohio.

The new restaurant will feature some items available at other Chef Art Pour eateries, including M Italian in Chagrin Falls and Rose Italian Kitchen in Solon.

Regular hours are 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; and 11 a.m. to midnight Thursday through Saturday. A 3-6 p.m. happy hour seven days a week, featuring half-price appetizers, is planned.

In 2017, Chef Art Pour said it was planning to open another Rose Italian at the site.

Then, the restaurant group decided to go with the Leo’s concept.

Leo's is among new businesses on the stretch of Front Street that previously was a pedestrian mall. It was opened to vehicular traffic last year.

Donatos coming to Ellet

Donatos Pizza, the Columbus-based chain, is set to open in a formerly empty storefront at 2749 Albrecht Ave. in Akron’s Ellet neighborhood.

The location is slated to open early this month. No date was available at press time.

We’ll likely see more Donatos.

Vice president of Development & Franchising Jeff Baldwin said in a prepared statement that “Akron could sustain up to 10 total locations in the metro area.”

Donatos is known for its thin crust pizza that is cut into rectangles. It offers Edge-to-Edge pizzas, with toppings that go to the edge of the pizza.

The Ellet location is owned by franchisee Harold Simon, who owns three other Donatos — in Cuyahoga Falls, North Canton and Massillon.

Donatos was founded in 1963 when Ohio State sophomore Jim Grote bought a small pizza shop in Columbus for $1,300.

McDonald’s bought the company in 1999 and then sold it back to Grote and his daughter, Jane Abell, in 2003. They refocused on take-out and delivery. McDonald’s had sought customers who wanted to eat on premises.

Donatos’ menu includes salads, subs and boneless or traditional baked chicken wings. Donato's phone is 234-226-4777.

Local Food Hero

The Summit Food Coalition has named Erin Molnar, director of food programs at the nonprofit Countryside, as the recipient of the 2019 Liam Murray Local Food Hero award.

The "Local Food Hero" is a community member who has made a significant and positive impact on the local food system in Summit County.

Countryside's programs include the operation of farmers markets in the area. The nonprofit also nurtures small-scale farming in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. 

The Summit Food Coalition's efforts include giving mini grants for community gardens, supporting groups seeking to increase access to local, healthful food through farmers markets and other means, helping food entrepreneurs find kitchen space and organizing education forums focusing on food.

"Receiving the Liam Murray Local Food Hero award is affirmation that an equitable food system — one that values all people, including those who require social support and farmers — is valued by our community,” Molnar said in a prepared statement. “We have much work to do towards a truly just and healthy food system, but the food access programs that Countryside offers and facilitates, and I am privileged to lead, are a strong foundation towards making larger changes that reflect the same ethics."

The award was renamed this year to honor the life of Liam Murray, a local activist who was involved in sustainable agriculture work.

“He often did his work under the radar, but was universally admired for his dedication and leading-by-example ethos," coalition Executive Director Beth Knorr said in a prepared statement. "He passed away last fall, and we wanted to recognize his quiet yet steady and impactful contributions to our local food system.”

The coalition will give the award to Molnar at the Savor the Summit Local Food Hero Celebration & Fundraiser, which takes place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 10 at the Trailhead at Cascade Lofts, 21 W. North St., north of downtown Akron.

Tickets are $45 if purchased before Sept. 20 and $55 after that. VIP tickets are available for $75 and will include a signature cocktail and souvenir glass. The event's snacks will be catered by Nosh Eatery in Hudson.

For more details or to buy tickets, visit savorthesummit2019.eventbrite.com or email Knorr at summitfpc@gmail.com.

Twisted Tailgate planned

The Twisted Olive in Green begins Twisted Tailgate in its lower-level pub from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays through Nov. 30.

College football games will be on the TV, and discounted appetizers and a Bloody Mary bar will be offered.

This Saturday, the Ohio State Buckeyes play the Cincinnati Bearcats at noon.

Twisted Olive is at 5430 Massillon Road, next to Southgate Park. The 14,000-square foot former home became a restaurant in 2014, after extensive renovations.

Phone is 330-899-0550. Website is www.thetwistedolive.com.

It's clambake time

Clambake news is starting to come in.

The Ido Bar & Grill's clambake returns Friday and runs through Sept. 14.

Hours are 4 p.m. to close each day at the Akron restaurant.

Cost is $28.99 for clam chowder, and a boil of little neck clams, mussels, shrimp, sausage, corn on the cob and red skin potatoes. Bread and butter is included. Combine with a lobster tail and the cost is $45.99. Reservations recommended. Call 330-773-1724.

The Ido is at 1537 S. Main St. in the city’s Firestone Park neighborhood.

Digital Jewish Deli

Temple Israel Sisterhood of Temple Israel in Bath is taking orders for its first Digital Jewish Deli through Oct. 15.

The Digital Jewish Deli is so named because you can order online. Pick-up is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 3, and those getting food won't leave their cars. Rather, they'll drive under the covered entrance of Temple Israel at 91 Springside Drive.

The Sisterhood is the same group that organizes the biennial Art and Jewish Food Festival at the temple. The festival will return Nov. 15, 2020.

The Digital Deli will feature many of the eats available at the festival, including chicken matzo ball soup, stuffed cabbage, corned beef sandwiches, potato latkes, noodle kugel and baked goods.

To order and pay online, go to www.jewishdeli.net. You also can download the order form from that website and mail the form and payment to Temple Israel, 91 Springside Drive, Akron, OH 44333.

You also can pick up and complete the order form at Temple Israel and pay by cash or check.

Questions can be answered at questions@jewishdeli.net or call 234-200-6011.

Oktoberfest this weekend

The three-day German Family Society Oktoberfest is Friday through Sunday at 3871 Ranfield Road in Brimfield Township, south of Interstate 76.

German fare such as schnitzel and cabbage rolls will be on the menu. Beer, dancing and polka bands also are big parts of the festival. An outdoor Biergarten and a Jäger tent will be available for adults.

Attractions and games for children will be offered Sunday, though each day is billed as family friendly. German pastries will be available at the Kuchen Haus (cake house).

Hours are 6 p.m. to midnight Friday, 3-11 p.m. Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $5, ages 12 or younger free. Call 330-678-8229 or go to www.germanfamilysociety.com.

Kent International Festival

Kent's International Festival — featuring food and beverage samples offered by downtown businesses — will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Dan Smith Community Park in downtown Kent.

The event will feature performances and the annual Passport Excursion, which includes food and beverage samples offered by downtown businesses — each representing a different country.

Passports are $5 and will be available for purchase at "Customs" in the park on East Erie Street, north of state Route 43.

Passport Excursion participants get a stamp for each destination. The first 100 people to return to "Customs" with their completed passports earn a prize. For details, go to www.mainstreetkent.org/kent.

For information on the Run The World 5K race that precedes the festival, go to www.kent.edu/RunTheWorld. The race benefits scholarships for study abroad programs. (Race participants receive free passports.)

Cristina Scarpellini Wine Dinner

Vaccaro’s Trattoria in Bath will host a five-course Cristina Scarpellini Wine Dinner, at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 17. Cost is $65.

Scarpellini is head of the Tenuta Scerscé winery in the Lombardy region in northern Italy.

See the Vaccaro's Trattoria Facebook page for more information. Call 330-666-6158 for reservations.

Vaccaro's is at 1000 Ghent Road. Website is www.vactrat.com.

In case you missed it

In case you missed the story last week, the longtime TGI Fridays in Copley abruptly closed.

The eatery, on Restaurant Hill, shut down early last week. It opened in the early 1990s and was one of the original restaurants on the hill off state Route 18.

You can find the story here: https://bit.ly/2Zr7Z0v.

Also in case you missed it, Royal Docks Brewing Co. and Crave are teaming up to open Royal Docks Brewing + Crave Kitchen at Liberty Commons, 1244 Weathervane Lane, in Akron's Merriman Valley. You can find the story at www.ohio.com/beer.

 

Beacon Journal staff writer Rick Armon contributed to this column.

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