Niko’s sandwich board is a Wallhaven favorite
Niko’s sandwich board is a little hidden, but worth finding.
The Akron Restaurant at 1947 W. Market St. is tucked away in a small plaza behind the CVS store where Lou and Hy’s deli has stood for over 30 years in Wallhaven.
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Owner Niko Manolis serves handcrafted sandwiches, fresh salads, and small-batch soups in the charming, cozy cafe. There are classic deli sandwiches like Reubens, hot pastrami and roast turkey as well as vegetarian offerings like curried lentil wraps and falafel pitas.
My wife, Susie, and I ate very well the other night. Whether on site or to take away, we have been customers for years.
Every time I go there, the memories come back to me. Niko is a direct descendant of where I worked in college.
souvenir sandwich board
Original owners Dick and Regina Hardman hired me as a cook in April 1982 when they had Sandwich Board locations at State Road in Cuyahoga Falls and at West Market and North Hawkins Avenue in Wallhaven.
It was hard work in the kitchen and I came home every night smelling of raw onion and blue cheese, but I still had fun bouncing between the two restaurants. For two years I shared lots of laughs with my colleagues Alicia, Nancy, Karen, Ray, Jan, Joni, Chris, Dana, Lugina, Paula, Theresa, Lisa, Michele, Cheryl and so many more.
I remember when we launched a new line of pita sandwiches. My claim to fame named three: The Pita Fonda, The Pita Hayworth, and The Leaning Tower of Pita.
When I left in 1984 for an internship at the Richfield Coliseum, I hid dozens of goodbye notes all over the Wallhaven restaurant. My colleagues kept finding them for months.
The Sandwich Board closed for five years, but Regina Hardman reopened the business in 2007 at its current location. Niko took over in 2015 after operating a restaurant in Detroit for a few decades. He kept part of the menu while adding his own signature dishes, including more vegetarian and vegan options.
A real gem in Wallhaven
The colorful, laid-back restaurant has a cheerful atmosphere with Greek-themed decor, exposed ductwork, ceiling fans, overhead track lights, and booths made from sections of wooden pews. Alternative music is played on an FM radio tuned to The Summit.
Over the years I’ve enjoyed many sandwiches on the menu including Blue Jack City (roast beef, blue jack cheese, horseradish, onion and tomato on a French baguette), Greek Toast (tomato, spinach, basil, oregano, kasseri cheese and extra virgin olive oil on ciabatta bread), The Knickerbocker (hot ham, cheddar, lettuce, tomato and mayo on a brioche bun) and the Reuben (corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian vinaigrette on grilled sliced rye the hand) .
Susie and I particularly like Three Cheese Toast, a panini sandwich where you select three cheeses from the following: Swiss, Cheddar, Provolone, Pepper Jack, Kasseri, Feta, and Vegan Daiya.
Fresh salads include Big Fat Greek, Sweet Pea, Classic Chef, Spinach Strawberry, Niko’s Power Salad, Walnut Crunch and Greek Village Salad. All dressings are homemade.
As a former Sandwich Boarder, I’m proud to see that some of the sandwiches from the 1980s are still on the menu: Le Pita Gabriel (cream cheese, Greek olives, avocado, onions and sprouts), Le Pita Pan (butter peanut, honey, bananas, raisins and sprouts), The Pita Delight (cream cheese, apple slices, walnuts, raisins, honey and sprouts) and The California Pita (avocado, tomato, Swiss, sprouts and balsamic vinaigrette ).
Niko’s soups are great
It was a cold, rainy night, so my wife and I started our dinner with soup. I ordered a bowl of tomato basil ($4.99) and she opted for a cup of lemon chicken rice ($3.99).
They arrived hot. Mine was still smoking five minutes later. Sweet and savory, Niko’s Tomato Basil is wonderfully tangy and totally comforting. It’s one of my all-time favorites.
I’m also a big fan of Lemon Chicken Rice, which is Niko’s version of Avgolemono Soup. It’s no small compliment to say that it reminds me of the homemade soup my Greek-American mother used to serve all the time when I was growing up.
“It’s nice and tangy,” Susie said. “Because of the lemon, I think it’s refreshing.”
By the way, the matzo ball soup is also very good. You can’t go wrong with the soup at Niko.
Bring the sandwiches!
For my main course, I wistfully ordered Le Pita Gabriel ($8.79). I still remember when my colleague Jan, a big fan of English band Genesis, named the sandwich nearly 40 years ago for singer Peter Gabriel.
“So, is Pita Gabriel singing for you?” Susie asked laughing.
Loud and clear, Susie. It’s a top of the charts.
The pita bread is stuffed with sprouts and onions, but I usually skip the onions. Fresh avocado, smooth cream cheese and salty olives are a divine combination. I absolutely loved it and can’t wait to have it again.
Sandwiches come with crispy fries and a dill pickle or customers can substitute fresh fruit for $2.99.
That night, Susie decided not to have the Three Cheese Toast.
“Even though I like it, I wanted to try something different,” she explained.
Instead, she ordered the Assassin Wrap ($9.79), which includes roast beef, turkey, cheddar, provolone, honey mustard and jalapeno relish.
“It sounds dangerous but delicious,” she joked.
When the food arrived my wife was not disappointed. The meat was juicy, the cheese was gooey and the taste was pungent.
“Mmm, delicious,” she said after taking a bite. “The sauce really does it. I’m glad I tried this.
For dessert, we share the last remaining piece of cheesecake, which Niko makes from a Lou & Hy’s recipe. Ours was drizzled with blackberry and red raspberry sauce. The cheesecake was rather dense and not very creamy. Next time we will order the baklava.
Our sweet and smiling server, Alaya, was as friendly as they come. She answered all of our questions, delivered our food promptly, and treated us with courtesy. Thank you Alaya.
All in all, it was a lovely evening – and for me, a bit melancholy. With drinks and tax, our total bill came to $33.69, not including tip.
Niko’s sandwich board is ideal for eating in or taking out. It offers something different from the usual fare.
Of course we will be back.
Mark J. Price can be reached at [email protected].
Place: Niko’s sandwich boardhttps://nikossandwichboard.com
Address: 1947 W. Market St., Suite 104, Akron
Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
Option : Indoor dining, take-out, terrace, delivery, catering
More information: nikossandwichboard.com and 330-794-5444
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