A long-standing South Akron tradition is Ido on South Main Street. Sitting in an inconspicuous little building just down the block from Bridgestone America’s brand new (nearly complete) Akron Technical Center, Ido has been serving burgers in Firestone Park since 1943. Today, this neighborhood burger joint’s menu has expanded to salads, sandwiches, steaks, prime rib, a variety of “comfort food” favorites, and seafood.
For the love of food and all things BBQ and ribs, we headed down to Rib White & Blue, Akron’s annual 4-day fourth of July Rib Festival. Boasting ten vendors from around the country this year, the rib festival shuts down Main Street around Lock 3, making for an enjoyable evening of BBQ favorites and live music. I was a bit surprised by the number of vendors. Only ten? Shouldn’t this be a local thing with hundreds of participants? I was envisioning an event more like Taste of Canton, with lots of local stands set up, charging a few dollars for a rib or two. That way you can hop from stand to stand and try them all! Instead, we have the rib “kings” from across the country, with their full-size traveling displays and practically commercial kitchen set-ups. Not exactly what I expected.
I wouldn’t be a true Akronite (or Cantonian) if I didn’t take a moment to sing the praises of Swenson’s. If you grew up in Akron, have lived in Akron, or even visited a time or two, you know about Swenson’s. It’s legendary, almost as much for the nostalgia as for the burgers and shakes. Swenson’s has been around since the 1930’s, and in many ways it still feels like an “old school” drive-in, especially the West Market location in Akron (the original store). Growing up I have the fondest memories of many fine high school boys running up to the car to take our order, literally seconds after we pulled in. Luckily my dad is Swenson’s lover from way back (he’s been in Akron longer than Swenson’s), so he’s been taking me there for as long as I can remember. By the way, the boys still run to your car, but there are some girls now too (sigh).
So onto the food. First of all, it’s not hype, these really are the best (fast food/takeout) burgers. (In-and-Out, take note. You are forever second to Swenson’s, although I do love you, animal style.) I personally order a regular cheeseburger because I always must have a shake and a side too, but most people go for the famous Galley Boy. The Galley Boy has two beef patties, cheese, and two “special sauces.” My belief is that there are two main ways that these burgers pull apart from the competition. First: the meat. It has been a love-standing unconfirmed rumor that they put sugar in their beef patties. Is it true? I would tend to say yes – they are a bit sweet and taste unlike any other burger I’ve ever had. (Side note, my boyfriend bastes honey on his burgers as they’re finishing up on the grill, and that little bit of sweetness is killer.) The second way that these burgers shine rests in the bun. I do not know what they do to these wonderful buns, but they are flaky and crusty, but also soft, buttery, and perfect at holding all the flavors together and letting the ingredients “marinate”.
Apart from the burgers, the next big draw is in the milkshakes. Hands down, best milkshakes around. And they have just about any flavor you can imagine, including my two weaknesses: Chocolate peanut butter and banana. I thought about asking them if they could marry the two, still haven’t done that – it might just be too much to handle. My mom loves the malts because virtually nobody serves malts anymore. Too good, too good I tell you.
On the side they have an awesome assortment of fried deliciousness as well. In the picture above you see potato teezers, which are basically breaded and fried hash browns with cheese and jalapeno inside. YUM! Other favorites: fried zucchini, potato puffs, and onion rings. C’est magnifique! You’d be crazy not to check the website for one of the eight locations if you’re in the Cleveland-Akron-Canton area.
You always know summer has officially arrived when the outdoor festivals begin. Tonight we were faced with the decision of Blues Festival in downtown Canton or the Irish Festival at the Riverfront in C-Falls. We ended up choosing the Irish festival, partially because the kids don’t dig sitting in one place all night watching blues bands, and partially because Irish fest was bound to have some delicious eats! We were right, but not the Irish fare that we expected. For the most part, it was a collection of typical fair food carts, which don’t get me wrong, I love it all – stromboli, corn dogs, cotton candy, etc. but I was hoping for something at least a little Irish-authentic. Is that too much to ask?
We ended up settling on a german cart (ironic) but were pretty pleased with the result, which included potato pancakes, pirogies, and a polish sausage smothered in sauerkraut and mustard. Pretty tasty.
The highlight however was a trip to one of my favorite stops in the Riverfront “strip”, Metropolis Popcorn. This little place is small and funky, but offers an unbelievable forty-two varieties of popcorn in three “categories” (seasoned, candied, and deluxe) with flavors including Loaded Baked Potato, Caramel Apple, Cookies-n-Cream, and Peanut Butter Cup, to name a few. The kids opted for Rice Krispy Treat, very buttery and marshmallowy, a hit with all of us. The adults went for the Super 3 Cheese (a mix of cheddar, white cheddar, and nacho cheese) because I can’t resist cheese-corn and this seemed to cover all the bases. The standout was definitely the nacho, with just a hint of jalapeno-ish spice.
We also went for a sweet bag (of course) and chose a combo (not mixed) of Smores and Caramel Cashew. The Caramel Cashew was very buttery, with a plentiful supply of whole cashews. But the star of the night, and possibly my week, was the Smores……..Oh. My. This popcorn has just the right mix of chocolate (not too much), marshmallow, and crumbled graham crackers. Oooooohhhhhhhh. This one in a must try, and get the big bag because you’ll want to share the love. Bottom line, you’ve GOT to get up to Metropolis Popcorn and try some of these…and just a tip, they are very generous with the pre-purchase samples. Now, back to my popcorn. Be gone, scavengers!