Friday, May 26, 2017

Crave Cantina -- Cuyahoga Falls, OH

On Tuesday, May 23 Crave Cantina opened in Cuyahoga Falls. You might recognize some familiar touches from Akron's longtime staple Crave located on E. Market street -- Crave Cantina is owner Aaron Hervey's second concept restaurant focusing on pan-Latin cuisine. Dave and I made a reservation for May 24 and were able to get a spot on the second day that Crave Cantina was open.

One thing we struggled with was parking, note that Crave Cantina is located on a pedestrian only street -- we parked on Riverfront Parkway which runs parallel to Front Street. Parking is also available in the Red and Blue Decks which are owned by the city of Cuyahoga Falls.

On the inside of Crave Cantina, there are subtle touches connecting the two restaurants, for example the artwork at both was created by Akron native George C. Roush II, and the signature handblown glass lights from Crave have been reimagined by the creators in Crete for the new location. After the cosmetic similarities, the two locations diverge into two distinct restaurants.

The cocktail menu at Crave Cantina focuses on rum and tequila cocktails -- some drinks are made with locally owned and created Portside Brewery and Distillery rum.

I selected the Bing Cherry Caipirinha made with "lime infused cacha├ža rum, muddled bing cherry + lime and brown sugar." I've only had a caipirinha once before when we mixed them up at home prior to the 2016 Olympic Opening Ceremony in Brazil (fun fact, the caipirinha is the national drink of Brazil). I enjoyed this drink, it's not too strong, you get a good feel for what all of the ingredients are in the glass, and I appreciated that it's a twist on the classic.


Dave ordered the Pineapple Express from the margarita menu made with "terremoto churros tequila, licor 43, pineapple puree, lemon, cinnamon, simple syrup, smoked cinnamon + paprika (pimenton) rim." We both enjoyed this drink as well, the margarita is delightfully mixed, I thought the smokey rim really made the cocktail. I usually see mango and a smokey or spicy rim, never pineapple.

In our quest to taste something from almost every category we ordered a guacamole and a salsa for our appetizer. Pictured is the small portion of each, all guacamoles and salsas also come in a large size, and trio option.

When the Crave Cantina menu was first released the Watermelon, Mango, Habanero, Basil, Mint Salsa was one of the items that I was most excited to try. The combination of ingredients is refreshing and pairs nicely with the saltiness of the tortilla chips.

We also ordered the Chili Roasted Sweet Potato Guacamole made with salsa verde, poblano, and radish. We liked the guacamole, but preferred the salsa this time. There are three other vegetarian guacamoles, so we'll need to order a different one during our next visit.

The menu mentions that a lot of items can be made vegetarian upon request, but we decided to try everything in it's unaltered glory. Our meal was the two vegan tacos available on the menu -- the Vegan Chinese BBQ Jackfruit and the Nashville Hot Tofu Tacos. All tacos are served on your choice of flour or corn tortilla.

The first and third are the Vegan Chinese BBQ Jackfruit Tacos served with Beijing slaw, scallion, and fried wantons.The second and fourth are the Vegan Nashville Hot Tofu Tacos served with Bahamian slaw, house pickles, and shaved radishes. 

My favorite was the Nashville Hot Tofu Taco, the tofu was nice and crispy, the sauce was flavorful, and the pickles helped tie everything together. Dave felt the same way because the corn tortilla we had it served in was superb.


Nashville Tofu.
BBQ Jackfruit

On the side we enjoyed an order of Mexi Corn traditional street style with mayo, cotija, chili salt, butter, and lime. I wish we had ordered two of these, it was exceptional. The blackened corn gave a great depth to the flavor profile.

The best dessert I've had to date is at Crave, so in order to round out our experience we ordered a Waffle Cone Choco Taco -- Dave kept insisting that it tasted like the Choco Taco which was a popular ice cream treat a while ago, I think it tasted just like a Drumstick. I almost wish we hadn't shared this, because it was that good. It was a fun way to end the meal while keeping with the theme of the restaurant.


Overall we left full and happy, if it wasn't a work night we probably would have had a few more drinks. The server kept walking by with drinks for other tables that looked spectacular. If you're not into tacos, Crave Cantina has several salads, sandwiches, and entrees on the menu. During the construction taking place on Front Street Crave Cantina will not be open for lunch, just for dinner and weekend brunch. Once construction is completed there are plans to create a lunch menu and to open up a rooftop patio. 

Make sure to make reservations! This space only holds 100 guests and it is going to be packed, especially once the weather is nicer. I loved Crave Cantina so much last week, that I already have reservations again for next Friday to meet a friend after work. Dave and I cannot wait to check out the brunch menu and to follow along as Crave Cantina blooms into a powerhouse in Cuyahoga Falls, just like Crave is in Akron. 

My rating for Crave Cantina:

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Four Kids Coffee -- Canton, OH

Dave recently suggested that we spend the summer checking out all of the local coffee shops in the area. Between our desire to read more books and the constant stream of work that needs done on our computers -- it seemed like a really good idea. On Saturday we woke up to rain in the forecast and then headed out to Four Kids Coffee near Belden Village Mall. The timing of our visit was even more opportune, because Four Kids Coffee just opened a brand new location in Alliance, OH right across the street from the University of Mount Union campus. As I've mentioned before Mount Union is near and dear to my heart and I'm slightly disappointed that this wasn't available while I was a student, I would have spent a lot of money at Four Kids Coffee (more on why later).

Four Kids Coffee is a "family focused coffee shop" named for the owners' four kids. There is a meeting room available for larger groups (you can reserve the meeting room by stopping into the shop or by calling) as well as a play area for children known as Creative PlaySpace (more details here). Aside from these two amenities, there is plenty of seating inside for individuals/small groups, an outdoor patio, and a drive-thru.

Owners Catherine and Jason developed their special mission focused on an allergen free space after their youngest child Lilly-Kate developed very severe food allergies as a child -- the Sacketts decided to turn their newly planned cafe into a place where anyone with food allergies could enjoy food without worry. All of the products at Four Kids Coffee are "Lilly-Kate Approved (LKOK)" meaning they are free of -- gluten, dairy, soy, wheat, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, artificial food colorings, and refined sugar. Guests are also reminded at every entrance to leave outside food and drink in their car, since some people are so sensitive to their allergens that even some particulate in the air can trigger their allergies. Due to the complexity of each individual's reaction to allergens, guests with food allergies (and the parents of those with food allergies) are encouraged to examine labels; ask questions; and take a peek in the kitchen at Four Kids Coffee. You can find more information about the Lilly-Kate kitchen and the policies and procedures followed by Four Kids Coffee here.

As a result of Four Kids Coffee removing the top eight allergens along with everything Lilly-Kate is allergic to from their menu, a lot of of the items at Four Kids Coffee are vegan/vegetarian friendly.

We arrived at Four Kids Coffee's main location in Canton a little after 11:00 and there were already quite a few people in line ordering. I picked a table and set-up my laptop and gave Dave free reign to order us whatever food and drink he thought we would both like off the menu.

Dave selected a Cappuccino for himself (a favorite of his since we have a cat named Cappuccino).

I had a White Chocolate Frappuccino with a double shot of espresso.

A Veggie Wrap -- "a blend of veggies, house made black beans, basmati rice, and balsamic vinaigrette" (vegan).

A House Veggie Salad -- "our house lettuce blend covered with carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions" (also vegan). 

And a brownie. Doesn't that brownie look so good, I can only assume that this brownie is also vegan since there is no dairy or eggs used as an ingredient. As a longtime vegetarian, I'm no stranger to vegan baked goods, but if I'm being honest they sometimes scare me. If you've ever had a bad vegan baked good, you know what I'm talking about. 

If someone had presented this brownie to me at work and left out the fact that it is free of "gluten, dairy, soy, wheat, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, artificial food colorings, and refined sugar" I don't know if I could have identified that there was something "different" about this brownie. It was delicious, moist, and had the consistency of a regular (egg, dairy, gluten, and refined sugar filled) fudgey brownie.

We happily ate our lunch and ended up staying at Four Kids Coffee for about two and a half hours instead of our intended one and a half hours. The free wifi allowed me to get work done and even though it is a family friendly shop (which of course includes a lot of both happy and sad screams from visiting children) Dave was able to finish reading the book he had been working on for a week or so. 

The decor for the most part was very industrial with clean lines and chrome tables. But mixed in with the industrial decor elements was a hint of nature.

Overall, this was a very successful Saturday visit to a new coffee shop. The food was good, the atmosphere was great, and I managed to get a lot of work done. Since we'll be cafe hopping throughout the summer I might not be back to sit down and have a cup of coffee at Four Kids Coffee, but I will certainly be using the drive-thru. I prefer to support local coffee shops and I'm happy that we've found such a great place close to home.