It must be instinctive.
Much like the birds that fly south for the winter, the people of Akron crave a good scoop of sauerkraut around New Years.
And for some, this delicious aperitif born here there are many champagne toasts is a must-have all year round.
These fried sauerkraut and ham concoctions rolled into a ball and then covered in a batter are so popular at Akron’s legendary Waterloo restaurant that they have to bring in a crew of workers just to prepare them. They are rolled up by the thousands this time of year to be served in the dining room or take out, or for catered events in and around town.
And like good champagne, they have to age – in this case, overnight – or the batter will simply fall off when fried to golden perfection.
I, too, craved the Akron-centric treat and ventured with my dear wife, Jennifer, to visit Waterloo Restaurant for the first time.
Even though I had never been there, it was like visiting an old friend – the restaurant, of course; I would never call my wife old.
It was fun waiting for our lunch table and wandering the lobby, looking at old menus and newspaper ads. They date back to the early days of the family restaurant in the late 1950s and over the following decades.
A bucket of 12 pieces of fried chicken could once be bought for just $ 3.50 and a so-called beef sandwich for only 75 cents.
The prices have changed a bit over the years, but the Bahas family have done an admirable job keeping the place and menu familiar to longtime patrons, with new modern touches like the large, sleek metal W’s on the sides. walls of the main dining room.
They recently completed a refurbishment of the restaurant bar which looks very inviting to spend an hour or two.
To start, we ordered the “award-winning” sauerkraut balls which were quickly served hot with a side of cocktail sauce for dipping.
I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive about cocktail sauce as a dipping choice, but it turned out to be a nice addition with the horseradish adding a tasteful mix of sauerkraut and ham.
Serving a sauce to dip sauerkraut dumplings in is not uncommon at restaurants in the Akron area, but Ruben’s lover in me wonders why they aren’t served with a Thousand Island dressing.
I’m sure that’s heresy for purists – so dismiss my Thousand Islands nonsense as being a newcomer who has only been working in Akron for 21 years.
Either way, the appetizer, priced at $ 5.50, didn’t disappoint.
The sauerkraut dumplings and the hot and fresh little loaf of bread that is served before your appetizers arrive could have satisfied us for lunch.
Damn. Who am I kidding? Our hunger may have diminished, but we were still looking forward to our meals.
Jennifer ordered the cabbage rolls, served with mashed potatoes ($ 11.99), which were exactly like the ones I remember being served at the wedding receptions I attended as a child. .
And, speaking of weddings … Personally, I believe that – aside from loving someone for life and the kids and the house and all that – the best part of being married is sharing the food. . Don’t judge me … it’s Jennifer’s job.
Fortunately, we both believe in sharing our marital assets and, in this case, cabbage rolls. We are a match made from mashed potatoes.
In turn, I graciously shared a portion of Dena’s Mediterranean salad ($ 9.95) which was really big enough for two.
It contained a generous serving of freshly chopped romaine lettuce, feta cheese, Kalamata olives, pepperoni slices (more on that later), red onions, cherry tomatoes, pepperoncini, and a cup of delicious. Homemade thick Greek dressing. They even threw in some pita bread to mop everything up.
And believe me, despite the aperitif, I wiped it all away.
I also had to try a cup of French onion soup which had me say “homemade croutons” on the menu.
The soup with its thick melted cheese on top was the remedy for a cold winter day.
Gary McDonnell, Waterloo’s director of operations, stopped by our table and chatted with us about some of the restaurant’s offerings.
I was especially curious about the pepperoni included in the restaurant’s traditional Greek salad.
McDonnell explained that years ago a longtime customer recommended adding pepperoni to the salad, so they gave it a try and decided it should stay. It doesn’t hurt that the salad’s namesake, Dena Bahas – a family member who owns the place – eats hers this way, too.
McDonnell said he had worked at the restaurant for about 34 years and can’t remember a time when it wasn’t in the salad.
And over those many years, McDonnell said, he’s also helped make his fair share of sauerkraut balls.
In the days leading up to Christmas and New Years, he said, the kitchen is filled with platters of baubles, helping to keep a unique tasty Akron tradition alive for generations of families.
Jennifer and I did our part by quickly polishing our plate. We wouldn’t mind coming back for more.
Craig Webb, who can’t wait to try Waterloo’s “famous” fried chicken next, can be reached at [email protected]
What: Waterloo Restaurant
Or: 423 E. Waterloo Road in Akron
Hours: Open on site and take away seven days a week
For more: Visit https://www.waterloorestaurant.com/