There are restaurants that become chic. They offer unique food and for a brief period of time are full of the young and hip, eating the latest in trendy dishes. They are the supernovae of cuisine, who burn brightly and fast.
Gus's Chalet in Akron, Ohio is not one of those restaurants. It's old school, but then so is Gus. Remember that scene in Boogie Nights where Dirk Digler worked when he was discovered? Yellow glass decorations, dark stained spindle work dividing the booths? You know the seventies, the days of disco and coke-spoon necklaces. The age of shag carpet. Granted Gus's doesn't have shag carpets (not too practical in a food service environment), but the moment you step inside Gus's you take a step back in time. Have your leisure suit ready.
This is a place where little or nothing has changed in decades. See the hot babe behind the bar? She's in her late forties, but trust me she's still turning heads. Gus is moving slower and more sits at the bar and talks to his patrons, but then his restaurant is forty years old. And many of his clients have been going there the whole time.
One reason is the food. It's basic Americana, steak and fish, a few Greek favorites like mousaka and pastitso but everything is very fresh, very tender and tasty. Appetizers come automatically, pickled carrots, peperoncini, and a really, really wonderful bean salad. The bread is good but nothing special.
And they give you a piece of toast, with melted cream cheese sauce on top. It's all old school, but trust me it works. Prices are quite reasonable, with few entrees passing $20 and a few at $10. The hot babe at the bar mixes a mean Manhattan.
It's also very friendly. Gus has a lot of long term customers. But the waitresses (this is an old school place) have also been working there since the seventies, and in one case maybe the sixties. Gus must be a pretty good guy to work for. They know you, and you know them. There's lots of friendly conversation at the bar.
And the other hand the restaurant's days are probably numbered. Both patrons and staff are aging, and there are few young people patronizing the establishment. They'd be welcome, of course, particularly if they were the kind who liked stories, enjoyed a well-cooked and reasonably priced steak and didn't mind all the gray matter. But without new blood sooner or later both patron and staff will be gone.
And so will pass a fine restaurant that has been feeding (and treating) people well for decades. But for the moment it's still open for business, and the waitress will treat you like a friend and bring you the best bean salad you've ever tasted while your waiting for your dinner. It's a great little time capsule of old-school dining.
938 E. Talmadge Ave.
Akron, Ohio 44310
Gus's is located just east of the Talmadge Ave. Exit of State Rt. 8 in the northeast side of Akron. It's a brown building with false timbering on the north side of the street. And well worth it.