Downtown Akron's Crave has an eclectic menu filled with surprises

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Executive Chef Jeff Kucko’s perfectly seared scallops feature mushroom risotto, butternut squash caponata, butternut cream sauce and pine nuts. (Photography: Benjamin Margalit)

By Mitch Allen

If you ask chef/owner Aaron Hervey what kind of restaurant his downtown Akron Crave is, he’ll hesitate, then say, “New American” or perhaps, “Eclectic.” That’s because Crave cannot be pigeon-holed. It’s American, yes, but also Latin, Thai, Cajun, Italian, Hawaiian, etc.

It’s fine dining, yet casual, and it’s busy at both lunch and dinner. You can order a $32 pan-roasted filet of beef or be just as comfortable with a $9.50 root beer-braised pulled pork sandwich on a pretzel bun.

“That’s what we love about this place,” Aaron smiles. “We have guests enjoying a four-course dinner and a nice bottle of wine before the symphony and a few tables over are some guys having a beer and chicken wings.”

Granted, these are confit chicken wings.

You’ll find Crave near the crest of the hill at 57 East Market Street, a few feet farther down the hill and it would be on West Market Street. When Aaron constructed the restaurant back in 2005, he knocked a hole in the wall between two historic buildings. The bar is located in an 1890 Acme location where grocery shoppers would arrive in horse-drawn carriages and send messages over telegraph wires. Stop.

The dining room is in the original home of the Akron Law School, founded in 1921, the forerunner of The University of Akron School of Law. The building also reportedly served as Jerry Springer’s local campaign headquarters when he sought the Democratic nomination for governor back in 1982.

Crave’s exposed red-brick interior walls are lit by custom, hand-blown pendant lights that are so exquisite you’ll never know they’re made from recycled Coke bottles by a Crete family with Akron connections. Meanwhile, the bold, abstract paintings on the walls were done by legendary local artist George C. Roush II.

“Although our flavors are from all over the world, we like to keep things local when we can,” Aaron says. “That includes using locally-sourced ingredients whenever we can get them.”

What To Eat
The Crave menu features a dozen appetizers like Buttermilk Fried Alligator Tail (see photo), Crab Cakes, Pierogies of Sweet Potato & Ricotta, and Executive Chef Jeff Kucko’s take on Paella—mussels, salmon, cured chorizo, shrimp, bomba rice, roasted vegetable sofrito and lobster saffron broth.

Available salads are Poached Pear, Kale & Beet, Baby Iceberg Wedge (with crispy prosciutto instead of the traditional bacon) and CZR (pronounced “Caesar”), which is baby romaine, Manchego cheese, lemon basil croutons, anchovy, frico and white truffle.

For your entrée try the Red Breast Half Chicken with cilantro chimichurri, Spanish rice and piri-piri sauce, or go with the ultimate comfort food: porcini-crusted Braised Short Rib with root vegetable mashed potatoes and a red wine demi-glace.

A half dozen seafood options include the Red Snapper Linguine—squid ink linguine, mussels, sambuca cream sauce, caramel fennel, roasted shallot, sun-dried tomato, Kalamata olive and arugula.

A good option for your vegan guests is the Stuffed Poblano with sweet potato, corn, smoked tomato, vegan cheddar, chipotle sauce and black bean purée.

Now, here’s the true brilliance behind Crave which manages to satisfy diners at lunch and dinner—with the same menu. The “So Forth” section of menu features lighter fare that is perfect for either lunch or an affordable, smaller-portion dinner with no sacrifice in quality. These items include Banh-Mi (see photo), the popular Vegan Impossible Burger, Duck Confit, a Muffuletta sandwich, Pork Schnitzel, and a Blackened Haddock Po’ Boy with Cherry Pepper Lime Remoulade and Fried Crawfish. Every one of the more than a dozen offerings in this section of the menu is priced between $9.50 and $13.50.

What To Drink
Crave’s substantial wine list features over 100 different vintages, and Aaron’s wife— Dana—is the head bartender, overseeing the 20-seat bar where she offers a rotating menu of more than a dozen specialty cocktails. Right now unwind with the White Peach Tini, which is Ciroc peach vodka, white peach purée, peach schnapps, and créme de violette. Or put on your boots and waistcoat with Crave The Caribbean—Captain Morgan, Giffard Caribbean Pineapple liqueur and orange juice.


There are plenty of dessert options, including a gingerbread cookie-stuffed French toast served with vanilla bean ice cream and espresso créme anglaise. If that’s not enough, wash it down with the Crave Bread Pudding. That’s not a typo; it’s a drink—Crown Royal Maple, Jackson Morgan Bread Pudding Liqueur, coffee, cinnamon brown sugar and whipped cream.

Crave also features a party room for up to 40 people and a 16-seat outdoor patio during the season.

You can join the happy and loyal happy hour crowd from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday with $3 select craft beers, a dollar off all drinks, and three to four rotating flatbreads for just $6. Plus, General Manager Chuck Baker has devised wildly popular Monday night monthly beer dinners, which offer up different brews along with a chef-inspired five-course meal.

Meet You Where?
When you ask your friends to meet you at Crave, be sure to clarify. Crave is located in downtown Akron, but Aaron Hervey also owns two other restaurants—Crave Cantina is in Cuyahoga Falls offers Latin fare and globally inspired tacos, while Craft Cantina recently opened in the Merriman Valley boasting build-your-own guac, tacos, burritos and bowls. When using Google or a GPS app, it helps to enter “Crave Akron.”

When I ask Aaron about parking at Crave in downtown Akron, he laughs. “There’s valet parking right out our front door, plenty of on-street parking and a 690-car parking deck across the street. You’re good.”

Crave is located at 57 East Market Street in downtown Akron. Kitchen Hours are Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Saturday 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Reservations are highly recommended, especially on Friday and Saturday evenings. For reservations, call 330-253-1234 or visit Parking is free on Mondays while valet is available Tuesday through Saturday during peak hours.