By Loren Shaum
AKRON – In 1836, the first settlers arrived at this uncharted area that was a major trail crossroad for Potawatomi and Miami Native Americans. They named the settlement Newark after their previous hometown in Ohio. In 1855, it was renamed Akron, and after the railroad came through, the town was incorporated in 1909.
Today, Akron is a vibrant farming community and an ideal place to raise a family. Surrounded by large farms, many of them egg farms, the town has a population of over 1,100 people. Downtown, there are many locally-owned businesses including a grocery, pharmacy, doctor and lawyer offices, a hardware store, two funeral homes (Interesting that the community can support two funeral homes?), a floral/gift shop, and others. What more do you need!
Surprisingly, there are seven restaurants. Within the town limits are two Mexican restaurants, a pizza parlor, a cozy burger joint, a chain and two upscale bars.
Kristy’s Hometown Bar and Grill
Owner Kristy Myers Nelson grew up in Akron and worked at this location when it was called Sloane’s. When the property became available in 2017, she jumped on it and hasn’t looked back.
This quaint joint is adorned with nautical paraphernalia, and the very cool, but small bar has a sloped tin roof that reminds one of a Tiki bar.
The menu has some southern influence with the likes of fried clams, grilled shrimp, and catfish. The latter is on the dinner menu and is breaded with their stellar house-made mix.
There is an extensive appetizer section with 15 items. Local favorites include pork cracklings (not found elsewhere in and around Lake Country), potato skins, wings and onion rings. Being onion ring connoisseurs of sorts, we had to sample those golden rings. They were outstanding!
We watched Kristy hand-dip those fresh-cut rings in a beer batter, and once flash-fried, they had a tempura-like texture. The crispy coating crunched with each bite, and that followed with a solid bite of onion. Likely these could win the “best onion rings” for 2021!
The menu includes 14 sandwiches with “Kristy’s Hometown Favorite Burger” as the headliner. Each sandwich comes with a choice from six sides with the waffle fries being a signature side.
Salads are made to order, and soups are made fresh daily. The taco salad is very popular, plus they feature a salad of the day.
The dinner menu is served after 5 p. m., and there are 17 entrees. Favorites include any one of the hand-cut steaks, Kristy’s signature ribs, frog legs, walleye, bluegill and, of course, catfish.
There are also daily specials with all-you-can-eat smelt on Monday, prime rib each Friday and on Saturday night, Kristy features a seafood special. On this day, the specials were Alaskan pollock and bluegill dinners.
Dilly’s Bar and Grill
Just down the main drag is another Akron icon. Housed in a 1912 building with original wood plank floors and exposed brick walls, this funky joint has served locals for years. While sitting in the rear bar, we admired the sign stating: “Why limit happy to an hour?”
The menu’s starter section includes 12 items, but sadly, no onion rings. There are, however, two interesting egg rolls, and their signature sidewinder fries. These fries are loaded with cheddar cheese, bacon bits and topped with a gob of sour cream.
There are ample burger and sandwich offerings that spark interest. Their ground beef is locally-sourced, and the humongous farmer’s burger is a one-pounder that includes bacon, onion and beer cheese. It’s a gut-buster!
Steaks are featured and the farmer’s ribeye is a manageable one-pounder from a local source. It’s served with a sautéed mushroom medley.
There’s also a large salad selection with a seasonal salad featured.
Soups are made daily with French onion being a favorite.
Lastly, they have 20 craft beers on tap and flights are available.
It’s a bit stunning on how the Akron area can support all these restaurants, but each appears very successful. Both of the bars we visited are worthy of a return.
Then there’s Jonesy’s Junction, which wasn’t open on this visit. Rumor has it that their pork tenderloins are the best in these parts, and the brisket is also a must-have!
Akron is a unique little farm community just south of the Kosciusko County line at the intersection of State Roads 25 and 19. It’s about a 50-minute drive from Lake Country through some glorious farm country with much of it Amish. Akron is definitely another luscious location!
If You Go
Kristy’s Hometown Bar and Grill: 108 E. Rochester St. Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays; 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; noon to 10 p.m. Saturday Phone: (574) 893-4563.
Dilly’s Restaurant and Bar: 117 W. Rochester St. Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays; 10:30 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday Phone: (574) 598-2222.