Between COVID-19 cabin fever and this glorious summer weather, I’ve been itching for road trips lately. If they involve patios, food and cold beverages, all the better.
On Tuesday evening, I visited Lock 15 Brewing Co. and had a sublime experience. Open since August 2018 at 21 West North St., Lock 15 is near downtown Akron and yet surrounded by nature in its Cascade Metro Valley Metro Park location. There are wooded trails nearby and rushing water.
Lock 15 is in a 100-year-old building that originally was home to Swinehart Tire and Rubber Co. In addition to the brewery-restaurant there are 24 loft apartments.
Approaching Lock 15, my friend and I noticed planters holding a bounty of vegetable plants. When ready, the summer squash, zucchini, jalapenos, kale, tomatoes and more will be harvested for kitchen use, John Taylor, Lock 15’s executive chef, told me.
"The owners of Lock 15, Colin Cook and Joe Karpinski, had a vision that they wanted to keep everything as locally sourced as possible and wanted to support local farmers and local business," Taylor said. "They’re both from here and they really love Akron.
"This is a true scratch kitchen. We make 95 percent of our menu in-house," the chef said. "We want to give the best possible meal we can every day."
Our four menu items were sensational in terms of freshness, ingredients, presentation, flavors and generous portions.
After a quick stroll through Lock 5’s spacious interior, which includes a bar, beer tanks, well-spaced tables and an industrial decor, the hostess led us out to the tented patio, which was relaxing and oasis-like. Tables are socially distanced and employees wear masks.
We were seated at a long table with comfortable park bench-like seating. Our server, Molly, was friendly and knowledgeable of the food and beer menus. From the lengthy list of Lock 15 brews, I chose Killer Fog, a quenching and hazy New England IPA (7.5% ABV), 16 ounces for $6. My friend got a Jameson and ginger cocktail ($6).
We started with the ultra-fresh Lock Salad ($10), whose hydroponic lettuce (from Great Lakes Farm in Burton), is tossed with lemon-ginger-tea cauliflower, quinoa, farro, sweet red and yellow baby tomatoes (also Burton), honey-Aleppo dressing and a teaspoon of chopped, charred fennel. This seemed like the essence of summer.
The artfully plated Farmers Hummus appetizer ($9) is a must-try. The vibrant hummus features cayenne chick peas, roasted garlic and garlic oil, and is served with candied jalapenos, roasted mango, lemon-ginger-tea cauliflower and farro, drizzled with olive oil, topped with microgreens and accompanied by a crusty baguette with oats and sesame seeds. (Molly brought us a second baguette upon request.)
I’m a shrimp-and-grits aficionado, and Lock 15’s version ($15) is as wonderful as I’ve had anywhere.
"It’s probably our No. 1 selling dish and something I learned how to really hone my skills on in the south of Georgia," Taylor said.
Served in an aluminum bowl are a dozen medium sauteed shrimp with housemade Cajun seasoning, atop grits dotted with pieces of fresh corn, wilted Swiss chard, and thin-sliced jalapenos in a rich broth with wine, tomatoes, garlic and shallots. This entree alone is worth the drive to Akron.
Last was the volcano-cut pork shank ($13), a mighty slab of tender white meat, braised for three hours, brushed with housemade blueberry BBQ sauce and served atop corn fritters. The only misstep of the meal was this entree’s two grilled peach halves, which were hard and non-ripe.
A server walked by carrying an eye-catching plate to the next table. Upon asking, we learned that the towering entree was a Nashville-style half chicken ($19) with a breast, thigh, drumstick and wing, waffles, roasted tomato salad and pickle chips. The current Lock 15 menu, created by sous chef Sumer Cape, is filled with many such temptations.
After our feast-like supper, we walked across North Street from the restaurant and followed a winding, shady and scenic trail that leads into downtown Akron. We needed the exercise and wanted to extend the evening’s enjoyment.
Reach Dan Kane at 330-580-8306 or email@example.com
On Twitter: @dkaneREP