Aaron Hervey opened Crave
in Akron 12 years ago, but he’s been itching to expand for almost half that time.
“I’ve been trying to do something else for the past five years and I just couldn’t get there; I got there as fast as I could,” he says.
Much of the delay, he notes, has been caused by his inability to find the perfect spot. But then he expanded his search to Cuyahoga Falls and landed on just such a place.
“I knew it was right for my Latin concept the first time I laid eyes on it,” Hervey says of the old building on Front Street, in the heart of the historic downtown that currently is undergoing significant capital improvements.
When it opens in early spring, Crave Cantina will be a chef-driven, pan-Latin concept that will cross many borders. In addition to Mexican dishes, there will be flavors representative of South and Central American, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, to name a few. Hervey’s longtime cook at Crave, Monica Valdez, is from Peru and her talents and experiences will come in handy.
“She has been underutilized at Crave,” Hervey admits.
Set in a long, skinny building that is a mere 24-feet wide at every point, Crave Cantina has all the charms one would expect from a 110-year-old building.
“It’s been a bar, restaurant or tavern since the 1960s,” Hervey reports. “At one point it was an old soda fountain. When people ask me what it looks like I say it looks like a bar that’s been there for 80 years with eight different owners.”
The focal point of the 2,800-square-foot space is the ornate back bar. Other features include an original tin ceiling and blown-glass lights, a signature look borrowed from Crave in Akron.
“When you walk in you’ll instantly recognize that it’s associated with Crave in that the color schemes are similar, the art on the walls, and the same blown-glass lights from Crete.”
The rustic interior will be home to a 100-seat restaurant serving a wide range of latin-inspired dishes. In addition to the usual suspects like guacamole, empanadas and tacos, there will be arepas, ceviche, Cuban paella and Latin poutine. That dish will consist of yucca fries with pickled fresno chiles topped with cumin gravy. There will be salads, sandwiches, and entrees that cover many bases.
To drink there will be a full bar and plenty of tequila- and rum-based cocktails.
When the dust finally settles on the construction, Hervey intends to expand to the second floor, including the use of a rooftop patio.
Crave Cantina will be dinner and brunch to start, with lunches coming later.
“It’s such a great area,” he states. “The entire neighborhood is getting ready to go through quite a transformation. People are snapping up properties left and right.”