The Merchant Tavern | 1824 Merriman Rd | Akron, OH
I frequently hear people from Akron talk about “the Valley.” Truth be told, whenever it comes up, I just nod aimlessly and pretend like I understand what they’re talking about. In reality, all I know—or vaguely remember—about the area is occasionally checking out its bar scene in my 20s. From what I gather, my friends and I had fun when we visited. However, the memories are a bit faded … I guess we had one too many beers while there.
So, when my wife Tiffany suggested we check out some restaurants in the Valley, I was intrigued. I went online to do some research. Turns out the area is more than just a strip of bars for 20-somethings looking for cheap drinks and a good time (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
So, what is the Valley all about you ask? Per its website, the Merriman Valley (the fancy official name)—northwest of downtown Akron—is an area by the Cuyahoga Valley National Park that houses restaurants, bars, apartments, places of interest and lots of retail, including salons, spas, markets, entertainment, sports/fitness, medical and pet services.
Valley highlights include the Akron Dog Park, Blossom Music Center, Summit Metroparks, Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens and Hale Farm/Western Reserve. As for restaurants, we recently visited the same one twice—The Merchant Tavern. Side note: The Valley is less than 10 minutes away from Summit Mall. So, if you’re like me and live in the southern suburbs of Cuyahoga County, it’s a relatively quick drive.
Let’s get to The Merchant Tavern. Tiffany and I popped in for a quick Friday night bite followed by a Tuesday happy hour with my mom.
First things first, I’m a big fan of the restaurant’s atmosphere—it employs a spacious bar with a throwback/vintage vibe, a sizable patio and a casual dining room.
The food and drink menus are robust. Notable items include mussels, steak fondue, salmon salad, a garlic truffle burger, a date pizza, a hot chicken sandwich and fisherman’s stew. As for drinks, The Merchant Tavern has something for everyone—wine, handcrafted cocktails, drafts from local and national breweries and lots of bottles and cans … you name it, they have it.
On our Friday night date, Tiffany and I shared crab hushpuppies and fried ravioli. Side note #2: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—this body is no accident.
I appreciate the creativity in offering crab hushpuppies. While there was a bit too much Old Bay seasoning for Tiffany’s liking, the dish was tasty, overall. The hushpuppies were crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and had a nice kick.
The fried ravioli won the night, hands down. Crispy and golden brown, these bite-sized delectables featured a deliciously creamy ricotta cheese and were devoured in about three minutes. What can I say, we’re fast eaters.
The Merchant Tavern’s happy hour is available anywhere in the restaurant from 3:30 – 6:30 p.m. on Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. All I can say about it is wow. An impressive selection of appetizers—including fish & chips, shrimp & grits, mussels, calamari, lettuce wraps and poutine—are available for $5 to $8. Drinks include $5 and $6 cocktails, $5 glasses of wine, and discounted beer and Ohio spirits.
Our table shared shrimp & grits, fried ravioli, a Bavarian pretzel and calamari. Thumbs up all around, as there wasn’t a crumb to be had.
My mom and I both ordered a Peppermint Joe to drink. Featuring espresso vodka, homemade hot chocolate, whipped cream and peppermint, this may be the perfect drink for cold winter months. If there’s anything better, I’ve yet to discover it.
I’d like to make note of the service at The Merchant Tavern. It was exceptional on both visits. Special kudos to Geralyn, whose genuine warmth and enthusiasm added to our overall experience.
🍷🍷=Average 🍷🍷🍷=Good 🍷🍷🍷🍷=Excellent
🍷🍷🍷🍷 The Merchant Tavern may very well have the best happy hour in Akron. One thing is for sure—it’s worth checking out. See you in the Valley. Cheers!
Coming Friday: Destination dining. We’re headed to Marbleroom Steaks & Raw Bar in downtown Cleveland.