Monday, March 25, 2013

Alan Brooks

This Band Could Be Your Life: Singer/Songwriter Alan Brooks
by Brit Charek

Photo courtesy of Rutabaga Photography
Akron-based Cleveland native Alan Brooks started playing guitar at the age of twelve when he found a dusty old guitar in the basement of his parents' house. He took that love for songwriting off to college with him in the Windy City, where he started playing gigs and developing his unique songwriting style: a combination of folk, 50s bebop with R&B influenced vocals. 
It was there in Chicago he wrote songs for his first EP Getting From A to B. He recorded the record with a full band, following traditional folk-rock formulas with a handful of rhymes thrown in to lighten the mood. Anyone who has been to Chicago can hear the city's influence in Brooks' lyrics while he tells us simple stories of being young in the big city: waiting for the train, following the city lights by foot, and a missed connection story worthy of Craigslist.
"Probably Never," off Brooks' first EP Getting From A to B
Now that Brooks is back in Ohio, he has stripped down his sound to just his voice and guitar, making it instantly more soulful. He was been performing in art galleries and wine bars as well as sharing the stage with national touring acts and local bands.
Brooks' next album, Alibi, which will be released on April 19th, is a lot different than Getting From A to B. "I've been playing more solo these days," explains Brooks, "And with the whole Bill Evans type philosophy I wanted to leave room to improvise and change things on the spot. As far as the listener, I think it will give a more intimate and honest sounding experience."
To hear more of Alan Brooks' music, check out his website. Or, you can catch him performing his new songs for the first time at Uncorked Wine Bar downtown Akron April 19th at 9pm. He will be joined by musicians Dave Hammer and Morgan Mecaskey. There is a $5 suggested donation. To learn more or RSVP, click here.
Photo by Rutabaga Photography


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Food Network Casting Call

Akron Area Food Network Casting Call
by Joanna Wilson

Do you or someone you know love to cook?  Ever desire to own your own restaurant and want to be on a TV show on the Food Network?  The Food Network is currently casting a brand new series called Food Court Wars and they are looking for people in the Akron area.

They are searching for local teams (i.e. friends, family, couples, co-workers) who believe they have the winning formula to successfully run their own locally inspired and original eatery. The eatery concept must be specific to the local Ohio region.

This new TV show is to be hosted by Tyler Florence, and two teams will battle head to head to win a restaurant space RENT FREE for an entire year within one of Ohio’s malls; a prize worth up to 100K!

Are you interested?  Deadline to apply is Wednesday March 27th, 2013.  Check out the flyer for more details:

For more information, please visit  And, GOOD LUCK!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mr. G's Pizzeria in Fairlawn

Mr. G's Pizzeria
by Brit Charek

As a food lover, one thing I've certainly learned is that you don't have to spend a fortune to get a great meal, and sometimes the best gems in town are hidden right under your nose. Say, for example, in a strip plaza between the DMV and a drugstore.
I was originally lured into Mr. G's with a coupon (I'm not cheap-- I'm resourceful!) and have been back dozens of times since then either to grab a New York-style thin crust pizza to go or dine in and enjoy one of the terrific nightly specials.

This last time I was there, I started off with the brushetta, which is served with an extra side of Mr. G's marinara which is the perfect blend of sweet and savory, along some of their traditional Italian Wedding Soup, which is made fresh daily. As an entree, my boyfriend and I shared the lobster ravioli which was served in a creamy wine and butter sauce. I think it was only available during lent, so you might want to hurry back if you want to try it!

And I almost forgot to mention my favorite part about eating at Mr. G's --the restaurant is BYOB! Which means you can bring a bottle of wine (or a fancy Belgian beer, see above.) and enjoy it while eating your meal, without breaking the bank.

Mr. G's is a family business that is locally owned and operated. The original "Mr. G," Francisco Giardina, arrived in New York from Italy in 1912. Today, it is his children and grandchildren that keep the tradition alive in just a few choice cities-- New York, Miami and Akron.

I'd highly recommend the white pizza!

Mr. G's Pizza is located at 2955 West Market Street in the same plaza as the BMV at the intersection of Market and Miller Road. To learn more about their story or to puruse their menu or some exceptionally delicious looking fan photos, visit their website. Also, make sure to like their page on Facebook. They're open until 10pm everyday except Friday and Saturday, when they're open until 11pm. You can call them at (330) 836-1111.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Givits Thrift and Recycle

Givits Thrift and Recycle Center
by Joanna Wilson

Givits Thrift and Recycle in Hudson is creating a different sort of space for antique, vintage, and used items.  This is certainly not your typical thrift or consignment store.  Givits is working more towards building a community--one where people can buy old and used items, drop off unwanted or unneeded items--or maybe learn how to turn what you already have into something more useful or better.

There's also this expansive outbuilding behind the house filled with antiques, furniture, and parts.

When you go there, you will find a house full of rooms, each stuffed with items.  It's like an indoor garage sale and a treasure hunt at the same time.  But furniture, appliances, outdoor & lawn items, and more can be found in the garage, the back area, the barn, the front yard, and all around.

Yes, one of my first must-see locations is always the books, records, CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes, paintings, and cameras.
Want some fresh eggs?  They can sell you some of those, or a chicken coop to raise your own chickens--or even the supplies to build your own chicken coop.  That attitude is part of what makes Givits more of a community.  They strive to be a place where you can figure out how to find, build, grow, and create what you need.  Want to learn how to start an herb garden? I'm told that this spring they'll help you with that--as they are starting one of their own behind the house as well.

At Givits, you can find things the other thrift stores don't carry, such as parts, pieces, and broken items--the perfect resource for people looking to fix, repair, or improve what they already own.  It's also a tremendous resource for creative and artistic people looking to make something new or non-traditional.  I wouldn't exactly consider myself artistic but I first stopped at Givits looking for a non-traditional bookshelf and came away very happy with a metal grocery store display shelf that is a conversation-starter in my living room!

This eye-catching, aluminum sculpture Rooster doesn't belong in a landfill--I'm thinking a front yard in West Akron!

A vintage bicycle that belongs on the Towpath this spring.

As the weather gets warmer, they are also looking to have musicians come in and entertain.  Givits is hoping to create more of a social atmosphere for people to connect and help each other find what they want to pass on to people that have a need.  Givits has only been open for about a year but I look forward to seeing their growth and everyone embracing their community spirit.

Givits Thrift and Recycle is located at 5153 Darrow Rd. in Hudson
Facebook page link: Givits Thrift and Recycle
hours: Tues-Saturday 10am-5pm (summer hours will likely expand)
phone number: (330) 342-9000

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Review: 'A Behanding in Spokane' at None Too Fragile Theater

Review: 'A Behanding in Spokane' at None Too Fragile Theater
by Brit Charek

When you really get down to it, 'A Behanding in Spokane' is just the story of a guy trying to find a missing piece of himself.

Symbolically and literally.

The drama's antihero, a curmudgeonly one-handed man named Carmichael, is on a quest to find his missing appendage that had been cut off 37 years prior in Spokane, Washington. A quirky bickering interracial couple, Toby and Marilyn, try to pull one over on him by selling him a phony, but this is clearly not a first for Carmichael.

The story goes down at a hotel where we discover that the receptionist, a dimwit roaming around in his boxers named Mervyn, has a bone to pick with Toby and a crush on Marilyn. Needless to say, he's not too helpful when Carmichael leaves them handcuffed to a radiator with a lit candle in the mouth of a gas can, classic James Bond villain style.

The whole play takes place in a single room.

Just when we are about to write Mervyn off as a bumbling idiot rambling on about what other people should do and how he wants there to be a massacre so that he can be the hero, he turns around and says one of the most profound lines in the entire play, "Where's a story like that gonna go?" Crazy as it sounds, Mervyn is much like Hamlet's Polonius, who rambles on and on giving others unsolicited advice with the occasional inspiring quote-- Good luck finding a graduation ceremony where you don't hear, "To thine own self be true"-- and just like as with Shakespeare, we leave the play not really knowing what kind of guy Mervyn is.

'A Behanding' is a delightful roller coaster of an evening, as long as you can handle some offensive language, a considerable amount of racial tension, and the occasional bloody severed hand thrown across the stage in a  nonchalant manner all in an intimate black box style theater setting.

Make sure to grab some grub from Pub Bricco before or after the show.
None Too Fragile is located in the same space as Pub Bricco in the valley. To learn more, check out their website or the post we did on them when they first opened.

'A Behanding in Spokane' closes this weekend. Make sure to catch it Friday, March 8 or Saturday March 9 at 8 pm. Tickets are $20 or pay-what-you-can.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Walking Tour of Downtown Akron's History and Architecture

Look Up, Ohio!--book authored by Doug Gelbert
Review by Joanna Wilson

I was recently urged to check out a new e-book which offers information about a self-guided walking tour of downtown Akron.  Since I'm always curious about history and need all the exercise I can get, I thought I'd look into it.  Not only did I get some much needed fresh air but I was quite excited about the fresh perspective I had looking at the downtown buildings I've looked past most of my life.

Check out the gorgeous Art Deco building--hey! it's the old YMCA building visible from Lock 3.

Author Doug Gelbert identifies 25 distinct buildings within a one mile loop around downtown Akron of historical significance and architectural interest.  In the book, Gelbert tells you where to start and what to look at--providing a bit of background history of each of the buildings.  But the value here is actually doing the walking tour and looking for yourself at the structures we see, some of us on a daily basis, from a whole new perspective.  Though I'm no expert on architecture, I could easily find and appreciate the stylish decorative elements in each of the 25 buildings.  The key for me was simply remembering the book's commanding title: Look up!

Have you ever taken the time to notice the amazing columns and the detailing on the Savings & Loan Building on Main Street?

How about the Art Deco detailing on the Polsky Building on State Street?

Would you believe this gorgeous cement feature is clearly visible on the Mayflower, visible from the back parking lot on State Street?

Gelbert suggested starting and ending the walking tour loop at Lock 3.  But I started at Main Library--parking was easily available (and free!) at the parking deck across from the Akron Art Museum.  It's a loop so it doesn't really matter where you start.  I took my walking tour just last week (in February) but the weather wasn't too horrible.  I had one advantage: there aren't any leaves on the trees that surround many of these buildings so my visibility was unobstructed!  Consider that if you're interested in taking your own photos.

I've always wondered about this building across Market Street from the Akron Art Museum.  Turns out it was originally built as a Carnegie Library in 1904.

Looking up, I see amazing detail in the arches of the windows and the top of the structure--it's the building on Market Street where Crave is located!  How come I never noticed these details before?

I really enjoyed this experience more than I expected I would.  I can imagine this would be an easy and enjoyable activity for a group of people, perhaps a bit of entertainment for family and friends from out of town.  Of course, you'll have to do it during daylight hours! 

What's neat about Gelbert's book is that he includes seven additional walking tours of Ohio cities as well.  In addition to Akron, you can discover the history and architecture of Cleveland, Canton, Youngstown, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton.  I think I'll bring my e-reader with me the next time I visit with friends in Columbus.

Look Up, Ohio! by Doug Gelbert
Click HERE for the link to the book on