The Stray Dog has long been known for its fleet of food carts, but the business now has two brick-and-mortar restaurants in town. Along with the Stray Dog Cafe next to the downtown Main Library on South Main Street, the business has reopened a North Hill staple with the Stray Dog Grill at Akron Tavern on North Main Street, known for many years as the Office Bistro, and then the Office City Tavern.
Owner and founder Charly Murphy has retained the spirit of the former Office bar and restaurant with a more affordable and more Akron-centric menu. “We’re trying to maintain the same expectations people had with the Office Bistro, with a little bit lower prices, and we’re super happy to be in North Hill,” says Murphy, a lifelong North Hill resident who has a string of community-minded businesses.
Not only is the menu locally focused, it’s creative. For example, there’s the Akron Burger, which features barbecue chip-chop ham and an Akron pickle alongside fresh cut potato chips served with Lawson’s chip dip (a nostalgic throwback to the former Lawson’s convenience stores in town); there’s also a Big Chuck and Little John, which is a chicken slider atop a burger (in homage to local TV-movie hosts and comedic actors).
Stray Dog Grill’s offerings also reflect the diversity of its North Hill home, with scotch eggs (hard boiled eggs wrapped in seasoned sausage and breading that are fried and served with Stray Dog’s signature mustard), Nepali-inspired dumplings, sauerkraut balls and mahi mahi mac and cheese. “There’s a broad spectrum of ethnicities reflected in the food,” says Murphy.
On the drink menu, there’s an Archie the Snowman martini, a Kenmore Grassman martini and the Quaker Square.
Murphy, a local entrepreneur, says the tavern also enables him to feature award-winning recipes sold by the Stray Dog carts throughout the warmer months, like French onion soup (which won first place at a local ramp festival) and his vegetarian burger that’s taken honors at downtown Akron’s annual Hamburger Festival.
“Almost all of these reflect food that we serve on the carts,” he says. “We’re taking those things that have won awards once a year and we can make them every day.” Murphy’s brand also includes Stray Dog Sauces, 12 different locally made condiments. In fact, diners may find a Stray Dog mustard on every table in the restaurant.
He adds that the restaurant is available for private parties at affordable prices. Call (330) 524-1419 for details.
Better Block beginning, collaboration
The seed for Murphy’s latest endeavor can be traced back to the Better Block North Hill celebration in 2015. He set up a popup diner that served hot dogs in one of owner Frank Caetta’s buildings, so a collaboration was on Caetta’s mind.
“Rather than me building a kitchen somewhere, he had a kitchen that wasn’t being used. It took us about 24 hours to put a deal together and get going,” says Murphy, who also collaborates with a number of other local food-based businesses, like Not Yo Daddy’s Mexican Hot Sauce, Akron Honey Company and Norka Beverage. “We serve a Not Yo Daddy’s margarita that’s amazing, and we have an Akron Honey hot toddy and a Norka dreamsicle,” says adds.
“My interest in food businesses is driven by my passion for hiring people,” says Murphy, who guesses he has helped employ at least 100 people since delving into food-based businesses, many of them people just starting a career or embarking on a new job path.
And now the indoor locations will help his food cart business run smoother during warmer months. “Half of what inhibits my cart business is transportation,” he says, adding with only one vehicle to tow the carts, logistics have proven difficult. Now, he can operate two carts from the Main Library location in downtown Akron and two from the North Hill tavern.
The Stray Dog Grill at City Tavern, located at 778 N. Main St., is open Tuesday through Saturday (3 to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday). For info, visit the Stray Dog Grill on Facebook.