Here's four area food scene happenings:

Fred's Diner turns 30

"It's hard to believe," says owner Fred Spencer, who was 29 when he opened his Akron place in 1989. "It just passes too fast... it goes [by] just daily," he said, his voice trailing. Yep, daily, and then yearly and then a decade passes and then three decades.

The actual birthday of the popular old-school diner — known for its breakfasts and hefty portions of bacon — in the nondescript white building was July 5. But Fred's wife, Debbie, thought it would be fun to celebrate last week (at another local spot), marking the diner's anniversary and Fred's birthday. He turns 60 this month.

His son, Donald, the place's manager, has thought about taking over the business at 930 Home Ave. someday, but hasn't decided. "He's thinking maybe 'yes' or maybe 'no,' Spencer said. If he doesn't want to do it, I understand. It was my dream," to start the place 30 years ago. 

The big challenge these days, Fred Spencer said, is getting kitchen help. He's not alone, and theorizes that infrastructure and other construction work in the area may be attracting people that might otherwise opt for a restaurant job.

He's grateful to be running a busy breakfast-and-lunch place and working with family members. One of his daughter's, Jenna Esworthy, runs the front of the house. Son Max helps out on the weekends.

And he's still pleased he won that bet. He and childhood friend, John Herbert, had a bet on who would be the first to open his own business before turning 30. "I beat him by a couple of months." He notes that Herbert still has his business too, a civil engineering firm in Florida.

Call 330-535-3733 or go to http://fredsdiner.net.

 

Spotted Owl getting ready to hoot

Cleveland's Spotted Owl, known for its mix of creative cocktails and beer-and-shot pairings, is poised to open its Akron place before the end of the year.

A black awning emblazoned with "The Spotted Owl" in white letters is now outside the future site of the Akron Spotted Owl, the old fire station at 60 S. Maple St. in the city's West Hill neighborhood. A round black-and-white sign with an image of an owl face is perched above the awning.

Inside, though, is where all the action is happening.

Will Hollingsworth, who started the Spotted Owl in Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood in 2014, is giving the Akron place a "dilapidated Hollywood Regency, Copacabana" look, with vintage chandeliers, brass accents and banquettes. Ornate picture frames and mirrors dot a wall.

Behind the long bar is a mural featuring a green tropical scene (lots of leaves) designed by Cleveland artist Dana Oldfather. Hollingsworth is talking about bringing in some faux palms.

When Hollingsworth and I met over the weekend at the site, I knew he was referring to the old Copacabana nightclub in New York City. But a friend I had dragged along to the meeting had to tell me what Hollingsworth meant when he said "Hollywood Regency." It's a design style typified by the glamorous homes of Hollywood "Golden Era" (1920s through the 1950s) celebrities.

OK, that's our design course for the day.

Hollingsworth, 33, says it won't be too long before training of staff members begins. He said he plans to do some soft-opening events and then a grand opening before the end of the year.

The place, like the Spotted Owl in Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood, will feature cocktails as well as lower priced beer-and-shot combos. He's planning to have some type of eats, but he stresses the place will not be a restaurant.

He's installed a new garage door that can be opened to let in the breeze. No outdoor seating is planned yet. Hollingsworth would eventually like to have it.

 

Village Inn for sale

I had been meaning to give Village Inn Chicken owner Scott Marble a call for some time. I'd heard the Village Inn — the former Milich's Village Inn Barberton chicken restaurant — was for sale. It's actually in Norton at 4444 S. Cleveland-Massillon Road.

Marble, who bought the place in December 2014, shortly before the then owners were planning to close it, confirmed late last week what I'd found on the interwebs.  The place — which remains open — is for sale for $479,000. The purchase price includes the 2.06-acre property boasting a 10,920-square-foot restaurant with a built-out kitchen with a hood system. Also included is a liquor license.

Marble said he listed the place — with Hoff and Leigh — earlier this summer. It's the right time to sell, he said. He didn't want to give much detail, but said he's been talking with a "prospective buyer."

Marble previously owned the Dairy Queen on Portage Trail in Cuyahoga Falls. Prior to buying the Village Inn he owned the Handel's ice cream in Alliance.

Village Inn is one of the four remaining Serbian fried chicken restaurants that made Barberton the "chicken capital of the world." All of the restaurants are within a 2-mile radius. And all are known for their chicken fried in lard, fries, vinegar-based coleslaw and hot sauce — the rice, pepper and tomato mixture served with the chicken. The oldest is Belgrade Gardens, which opened in 1933. Milich's Village Inn — now just the Village Inn — opened in 1955.

The restaurant's phone is 330-825-4553.

 

'Gluten friendly' at Wally Waffle

"Gluten friendly" is the somewhat confusing term restaurants are using to describe food that is not made with flour, but cannot be billed as "gluten free."

That's because the restaurants can't guarantee that in the preparation of the food there isn't cross-contamination with gluten.

At the three Wally Waffle eateries in the area, the "gluten friendly" waffles, which are proving to be a hit, are made with brown rice flour and yellow corn flour. But the waffle irons used to cook them aren't dedicated only to these waffles.

"I simply don't have the space to add more irons," said Justin Miletti, co-owner with his brother, Josh, of the Wally Waffle eateries.

Miletti said he fiddled with the recipe for the "gluten friendly" batter until he created something that "tricked employees," who thought they were eating a traditional waffle.

The new Montrose Wally Waffle — which opened earlier this year in the Acme Plaza off state Route 18 (Medina Road) in Bath — was the first to carry the gluten-friendly waffles. They joined the menu at the locations in Akron's Highland Square and Tallmadge last week.

Miletti said the "gluten friendly" batter can be used to make most of the many types of waffles the restaurants offer, including one of my faves featuring bacon in the batter. 

 

QUICK BITES

• Cleveland Clinic Akron General will offer a two-part cooking series “Dining With Diabetes” from 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 11 and 18 at the Akron General, Atwood/Frasche Classroom on the ground floor of the hospital at 1 Akron General Ave. in Akron.

The classes are for people who have diabetes and pre-diabetes, who are at risk for diabetes or who cook for people with diabetes. The classes are presented by certified diabetes educators and a chef, and include cooking demonstrations. Attendees will learn how to prepare healthy meals and be able to taste a variety of main dishes, sides and desserts. Cost is $10 for the two classes.

Registration is required. Please call 330-344-7791 or go to akrongeneral.org/events and search with keywords “Dining With Diabetes.”

• It's that time of year —  the blue and white Annunciation Greek Festival signs are going up. The festival returns for its 61st year to the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church of Akron on Sept. 19-21.

The church is at 129 S. Union St., adjacent to the University of Akron.  Hours will be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sept. 19 and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sept. 20 and 21.

Admission and parking are free. Attendees can buy gyros, pastitsio, moussaka, soutzoukaki, dolmas, spanakopita, Greek pastries and more. There will be dancing, a silent auction and the Attic Treasures sales area. Carry out and drive-thru will be available. For information, call 330-434-0000 or go to the church's Facebook page.

• The second annual Native American Foods dinner to commemorate Akron's North American First People's Day will be at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 6 in the outdoor pavilion at the Schultz Campus for Jewish Life at 750 White Pond Drive. Cost is $50 a person. For reservations, go to http://bit.ly/NativeAmericanDinner.  The dinner will be one in a series of events commemorating Akron's North American First People's Day, which this year is Oct. 7. Akron City Council unanimously approved the day in 2018. 

• The Ido Bar & Grill's clambake 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. 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.

• 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.

• Papa Joe's, 1561 Akron-Peninsula Road, in the Merriman Valley, is hosting another five-course Burgess Wine Dinner at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 23. Steve Burgess will be on hand; his father, the late Tom Burgess, a native of Cuyahoga Falls, launched Burgess Cellars in Napa Valley in 1972. Cost is $95. Courses include basil gelee with organic buttermilk crema, fresh organic beet and wild mushroom tartare, rosemary rack of lamb with crushed potatoes and prime rib strip steak rubbed with kona coffee. Call 330-923-7999 for reservations.

 

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.