Baxter's Bar
 Akron, Ohio        Date of Visit  08/03/13 

Someone was nice enough to hook us up with a night featuring the self-deprecating humor of Jim Gaffigan at the Akron Civic Theater and we were looking for a place to enjoy some chewing prior to the show. If the jokes are going to be 70% about food, we should enjoy some before the laughter. For convenience we chose Baxter’s Bar, right across the street from the theater and next to The Lockview. The location is convenient but the convenience of parking simply sucks.



The Nuts From Next Door Best Thing On The Table By Far

Once we were able to find our way out of the county parking deck (no kidding…90% of the exits are locked) we traversed the steep decline to S. Main St. and entered the restaurant.

The place is nicer than expected with an open patio on the street courtesy of a large garage door, old world light fixtures and an enormous bar. It is seat yourself at your own risk and we ordered a couple of adult beverages here instead of overpaying for them across the street. What surprised me here was at a place that advertises being the “17th best brewery in the world” they can’t offer me a dark beer more unique than Guinness.  Guinness is awesome…had it over and over…the Bourbon Barrel beer I ordered…awesome…had it here and there. Something unique would be better. 17th best in the world and you can’t manage something new? Maybe the 17th best brewery on the street is more appropriate.

"Creole"-less Shrimp Dip

The Bread Was Really Well Done

The service is a kinda do-it-yourself free for all which worked when we arrived to a half empty place…once it filled up (which it did) the service devolved into a sort of gladiator battle for seats. There were swords, lances and even one of those guys with a trident and net. The ability of the servers to manage their work load also devolved into a survival of the weakest, no one really survived. Too bad. The place is actually pretty cool inside with antique light fixtures and a mix of modern age. The décor doesn’t begin to make up for the tragic deficits in service. 

Waiting for our entertainment benefactor to navigate her way through the parking conundrum we ordered three appetizers and her Guinness. The apps were the antipasto plate, the creole shrimp dip and Baxter’s nuts. What’s first…best or worst? Best were the nuts. Originating at the nut shop and with each variety seeming to sport a different spice profile, every pinch of nuts made for a different combo each trip, salty, sweet, spicy, nice. I’m not sure if they are just buying different nuts next door and mixing them together or spicing them in house but they work. The creole shrimp dip featured a blend of cheeses (mostly cream) with Cajun seasoning and shrimp. It was alright at best with overcooked shrimp and little Cajun to speak of. The bread it was served alongside was really the highlight of the dish, warm, crispy and flavorful it was better without the dip. The antipasto plate was a disaster. Mediocre meats appeared as though they were sliced by slamming them against the wall, even less inspiring cheeses, interesting pickles and luckily more bread. If you could order just an app of the bread you would have a winner.


Uninspired And Sloppy Mess

The Cuban Looked Super Boring And UnCuban

The entrees were a Cuban and three tacos. The Cuban was reportedly good but it looked suspiciously un-Cuban in a terrifically boring sort of way. Loin and prosciutto instead of ham and pork, swiss, mustard and bread. It may have been good but had I seen it at another table I would have gone another direction. I'm surprised it didn't come with mayonnaise.

We were most excited about the pork tacos…bourbon apple pork with a pickled green bean slaw. They didn’t have any so we ordered the only other three available on the menu.

The tacos are served on the most traditional shell, which I often find poorly done, the same here. Blanco corn tortillas are fine with some fresh heat on them, a little blister, but these are rawly doughy and mealy and they completely distract from the filling. I have yet to tour Mexico but if this is the authentic taste and texture I will suffer with imposter Americanized tortillas.

Three Tacos Looked Colorful

Root Beery Braised Beef With Feta

Functional Chicken

Overdone Shrimp Didn't Help This Version

We did try the braised beef, the shrimp and the chicken. The shrimp were again cooked to a nicely vulcanized bubble gum with very little spice and some veggies in a dressed slaw.

The chicken was a little better with pico and lime crème fraiche.  If you ate it without the tortilla it was okay. There was at least some noticeable seasoning and the pulled chicken was much more tender than the shrimp.

The beef is braised in root beer, not the first braise I have had with root beer but this one actually carried the flavor through to the final product which was a surprise. Not my favorite flavor with beef but it did deliver as promised. Topped with pickled shallots, feta and cilantro it was my preferred taco of the three, but far from my preferred taco.

If you have an event at the Civic Theatre in Akron, Baxter’s is close. That about sums it up.




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