A Taste Of Old Akron

The Webner family social media wires were burning up yesterday with the news that Swensons, an Akron-area tradition, may be planning on opening up a new hamburger joint in the Columbus area.  According to the article, Swensons has begun franchising and has indicated an interest in the Columbus market — they’re just looking for the right place.

e2fb43610d0ce3cec3e0f3ac6dabdfd1-akron-hit-theThis potential development burst like a bomb among the members of the Webner clan, because Swensons’ hamburgers were one of the foods we associate with our days growing up as kids in Akron.  Some days, we would buy sacks of burgers and milkshakes at Swensons, where to my recollection the meat had a very distinctive, somewhat sweet taste, and then go to the nearby McDonalds to get french fries because Grandpa Neal insisted that McDonalds’ thinner-cut fries were preferable to the Swensons’ variety.  Other times, we would go to Sky-Way, just a few miles down Market Street, which also was an old-line burger place.  At Sky-Way, you would drive up and park and then get served by kids who would skate up to the window of the car, attached a tray to the drivers’ side door, and bring your order directly to you without falling down.  The Sky-Way burgers were good, too, but it was the delivery method that really made an impression.

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Swensons, or Sky-Way?  In Akron, it was the eternal question and the basis for endless debate.  The Webners were enumenical on the issue — we happily consumed both.

I haven’t had a Swensons burger in years, but it and Sky-Way are enshrined in my fast food memory banks, right up there with the cheeseburgers UJ and Grandma and Grandpa Neal and I got at Riviera Lanes and broasted chicken and the old-fashioned pizza Mom got from a place with an Italian name that I don’t remember.

And when I hear that a Swensons might be opening up, I think two things.  First, if I go there, will the burgers taste like what I dimly recall and live up to my expectations?  And second, if Swensons is coming, can Sky-Way be far behind?

Jack’s, In The Alley

In the alley behind the State Office Building in downtown Columbus, you will find Jack’s — a small diner serves one of the best lunches in central Ohio.

This is one of those places that is frozen in time.  I’ve been going there for more than 25 years, and it hasn’t changed in that time.  It still has the slowly spinning disco ball on the ceiling, the ’50s vintage signage, the lights strung from wall to wall, and the bright aluminum backsplashes behind the grill.  The friendly wait staff has been there for years, too, and the menu hasn’t changed much, either.

When I go to Jack’s, I get the same order every time:  the double cheeseburger special, with the two hamburger patties cooked on the open grill so that they have a slight crust, crinkle-cut french fries, and a chocolate milkshake made with real milk and real ice cream, mixed in a large blender in huge steel glasses.  It’s the best milkshake in Columbus, so thick you have to work hard to suck it through your straw, and one of the best cheeseburgers, too.  I have mine with a raw onion, melted American cheese, and ketchup, and it goes down easy.

I know we’re supposed to eat healthy these days, but there is nothing — nothing! — like a good cheeseburger, fries, and a chocolate shake for lunch.