Crave Restaurant is set to open in a spacious historic building in downtown Akron (photos)

Akron, Ohio – Downtown Akron has undergone a series of changes, from restaurants to businesses to the Main Street Corridor project that rebuilt the road over the course of several years. The final void was fine dining.

Until now.

You can say that CRIF added a new old. Owners Aaron and Dana Hervey are transforming and developing the enterprising restaurant, formerly located on E Market Street, near his new home in Maine.

Downtown – Main Street in particular – has had limited fine dining options in recent years. There are plenty of places to eat in the pubs, and Cilantro Thai & Sushi is located along the Main on the same side as the Crave. But Bricco closed the street, and the options were limited.

“It’s been a long time,” said Aaron Hervey. Opening day is Monday 27 June.

The impetus for a fresh start came as a result of Covid restrictions and rental costs, and Aaron Hervey can’t wait to officially open the doors.

“Although we used to do well from the (Akron) Civic and Lock 3 shows, now we are at the top,” said Hervey.

The restaurant is located in the Bowery District, which is experiencing a revival. The condominiums across the street are filling up, he said, a block of town hall, county building and courts.

It’s just so accessible,” Hervey said.

Even if you missed the inscription engraved on the facade of the building, when walking inside the cavernous space it is easy to see the bones of the ancient banks. With its massive ornate white roof, Hervey said, the Akron Savings and Loan Building will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2023.

Crieff covers 5,200 square feet on the main floor at street level. Upstairs is another 3,300 square feet of lobby-style space for additional dining or private spaces, with 88 seats and 12 additional seats in the bar. The restaurant is easily accessible for the disabled.

Crave initially opened in Northside — another area since recharging in downtown Akron — two days after 9/11. After two years of running the kitchen at this location, the restaurant moved to E. Market Street.

Hervey said talks began 15 months ago with Welty, the owner and owner of five buildings in Bowery. Although supply chain and other economic factors drove some prices up, Hervey kept his head low, his eyes fixed on the end game.

“The worst and most expensive time ever to build a restaurant,” he said. “The train had kind of left the station – so he buckled up, we signed the papers, and there we are.”

Two unique features are included in the restaurant:

A retail wine store is located in the outdoor dining area.

“(The bottle selection) in the store is not the things on our list,” he said.

This means diners have choices: pick up a bottle, pay the corkage fee and enjoy dinner. Or get a bottle to go after the meal – considering there are quite a few places nearby to buy a bottle of wine. Or, for those with a meal, quickly peruse the offerings and buy a bottle or two for dinner at home.

The 24-hour self-propelled kiosk section will contain selected items. Everything from chicken salad wraps to Gatorade to assorted dry goods will be available. A frozen machine and two refrigeration machines will be installed.

“It’s another source of income that we didn’t have before,” Hervey said. Eventually, he added, dinner offerings can be filled from the menu.

The restaurant benefits from its views: Main Street outside, and from the dining room at the back, overview of the nearby lock, outdoor walking area, little waterfall and artwork. Crave is located within the extended DORA, the designated outdoor refreshment area that allows people to enjoy a place to have a drink, if preferred.

Some funky glass fixtures from the old space are used in the new site, along with other artistic touches.

“We couldn’t install anything, we couldn’t hang anything from the ceiling – nothing,” Hervey said of having to keep the building intact. “How are we going to light it? We knew we could make sconces on the walls and columns. How would we get some ambient lighting?”

To solve this challenge, tasteful “laser lights” were hung between the pillars. Earth tones are used throughout, with fixtures and artwork providing a colorful contrast.

Speaking of lights, the surface of the main strip lights up.

The bar area is on the first floor and the rest of the dining room is separate. In the dining room, the booths from the previous site have been reshaped, re-foamed and remanufactured. Tables can accommodate a variety of sizes.

And at these tables expect a variety of dishes that do not follow any particular culinary discipline.

Having been a part of Akron’s dining scene for a long time, Herveys helped steer the menu with Chef Jimmy Pintiello, who heads up the kitchen’s staff of seasoned chefs. The Crave has a large kitchen with two large coolers on the main floor and one upstairs.

“You know what they (restaurants) go in and what they don’t and what moves things forward,” said Aaron Hervey.

“Every time Jimmy and I were sitting in my house we’d have 18 cookbooks and really try to push it to get some new ingredients and new flavors. (It’s) an amazing new spot; we wanted to up our game across the board.”

One of the “firsts” on the menu is the Akron-style giardiniera, which is a concoction of pickled peppers, olives, garlic and herb oil, served with Feta-Boursin whipped cream spread, focaccia, ciabatta and baguette.

“I’m a pickled pepper and olive guy, and I got messing around during Covid and playing with all these different chili, chili, making giardinera,” said Hervey, who also created the Feta-Boursin spread. “This is basically a bread service if you want it for your table. But it does come with butter and oil for dipping and olives. It was—pun intended—breaking some bread with everyone at the table, ‘Let’s have some bread before we choose some other things.'”

Crab cakes, calamari, steak, pierogi, and hamachi with avocado mousse and cilantro are among the dozens of “others”. The appetizer menu includes salads, duck confit, tomato soup and grilled cheese. It’ll cover “so on” burgers, cornflake-crusted chicken, vegan chicken sausage, bacon, scrambled cod, and more. The “So Forth” will be appetizers – short rib, hanging steak, bucatini carbonara, various fish dishes and more.

Hervez was busy. Crave Cantina, a 24-foot-wide taqueria, was one of the first places to go to the renovated Front Street in Cuyahoga Falls when it opened in May 2017.

At the new location, a 45-seat patio with soft seating is in the works on the road, and Sunday brunch is a possibility this winter.

“He’s a big kid,” Hervey said. “There are a lot of things going on.”

Coming out of Covid and with more than two decades of experience in the local dining scene, Hervey is taking building challenges at a fast pace.

“Living in limbo for a long time is in the construction phase,” he said. And now, she’s like, ‘She’s really here?’ “”

if you go

where is she: The Crave is located at 156 S. Main St. , about 38 miles from downtown Cleveland.

parking: The adjacent streets and the Cascade deck, which will lead diners to the elevator to the first floor. A server will also be served.

hours: Opening hours are set but likely to be 11am Monday through Thursday with food service interrupted at 10pm; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday, then open at noon on Saturday until 11 p.m. closed on Sunday.

I’m on cleveland.comThe Life and Culture team covers food, beer, wine and sports-related topics. If you want to see my stories, This is a guide on Bill Wills from WTAM-1100 and I usually talk about food and drink at 8:20 am on a Thursday. Twitter: @ mbona30.

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