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New owners of Urban Eats offer changing/customized menu

Located at 17 Maiden Lane, Urban Eats Café isn’t new to the restaurant scene, but it has undergone a number of changes since co-owners Nathan and Samantha Franks took over its operation in June 2017. Breakfast sandwiches have been added and the owners now change the menu every two months to accommodate seasonal favorites.  (Photo courtesy of Urban Eats Cafe).

Legal News Reporter

Published: January 10, 2019

Tucked away in downtown Akron’s historic arts district is a cozy café catering to patrons with a changing palate and an appetite for fresh homemade food.

Located at 17 Maiden Lane, Urban Eats Café isn’t new to the restaurant scene, but it has undergone a number of changes since co-owners Nathan and Samantha Franks took over its operation in June 2017.

“While we still have wraps, flatbread pizzas and paninis we have reduced the number of items on the menu,” said Nathan. “We also began changing the menu every two months to accommodate seasonal favorites and keep things interesting for our customers.”

In addition to the sandwich and pizza choices, Urban Eats also features salads, soups and a variety of specialty coffee choices ranging from Cappuccino and Macchiato to Chai Latte and their signature Dirty Chai, which contains a shot of espresso.

“We get our beans from the Pearl Coffee Company in Akron, which has been in the city for almost 100 years,” said Nathan.

Nathan also added several breakfast sandwich options and portion sizes have increased as well, but the prices remain affordable.

“Most items are $8,” said Nathan. “Our soups cost $4 for a cup or $5 for a bowl.

“I make all our soups and the sauces for the sandwiches from scratch,” he said. “I usually have one soup of the day. Hungarian mushroom is extremely popular. I make a triple batch and it’s always gone.”

For Nathan, the ability to design his own culinary creations is a childhood dream come true.

“I always wanted to open up a restaurant,” he said. “When I was in fifth grade I started decorating cakes and selling them and I continue to do that today.

“I think my love of cooking comes from my family. I used to cook with my mom and grandmas when I was a kid.”

After graduating from Waterloo High School, where he met his wife and business partner Samantha, Nathan began working at Magrell’s Pizza in Atwater, Ohio. He later enrolled in the culinary arts program at Stark State College, receiving his associate’s degree in 2015.

Nathan said he was managing Magrell’s when his father-in-law Bert Frohnapfel told him that the owners of Urban Eats were selling the business, suggesting that he might want to consider taking it over.

Frohnapfel works with Akron developer Tony Troppe, who owns the building where the restaurant is located.

“I try to create a template for success by bringing in talented individuals,” said Troppe.

“The previous owners of Urban Eats had been there since 2010 and created a strong brand with a solid foundation,” he said. “The new owners have surpassed their predecessors. They are taking culinary excellence to a new level. I view myself as a choreographer bringing in great dancers who excite the audience’s palate.”

In fact, Troppe is not only the landlord he’s also a daily customer.

“I love the soups,” said Troppe. “They are prepared fresh each day and once you try them you can’t resist.”

While Nathan and Samantha are glad they took the plunge, Samantha said owning a restaurant was not initially part of her life plan.

“I was not like Nathan, who always knew what he wanted to do,” said Samantha, who has a bachelor’s degree in interpersonal communication from Kent State University. “In fact, I still have not settled on a passion.

“I knew that Nathan’s dream was to own a restaurant, so when the opportunity presented itself I jumped on the bandwagon with him.”

Samantha did have experience working in a restaurant. In high school and college, she was a cook and a waitress at Bob’s Pizza & Drive Thru in Randolph, where they both grew up.

“It was Magrell’s competition,” said Samantha.

When they first took over Urban Eats, Samantha devoted all her time to making the restaurant a success. Today she spends her days working as a driver qualification specialist at Kenan Advantage Group in North Canton, helping Nathan with the business in the evenings and on weekends.

Nathan said Urban Eats is quickly becoming a popular location for people who work in downtown Akron.

“The atmosphere is very homey and rustic and we are off the beaten path so to speak,” he said.

The restaurant also features the work of local artists.

“The pieces are supplied by Eartha Vision and we change the pieces so customers can see various artists.”

Linsea Angel has been coming to Urban Eats for almost a year.

“Not only is it super convenient, the food is outstanding and it is a very comforting atmosphere,” said Angel, who works at nearby CRESurveys. “The menu is seasonal and I usually have a favorite or favorites each time, plus they give you old-fashioned popped corn while you are waiting for your food and it is so good!

“A few of my favorites over the past year are the tuna melt, muffaletta, broccoli cheddar soup, French onion soup, Greek pizza, balsamic mushroom pizza, taco pizza and the Chicken B4.”

Longtime customer Aubrey Calvert, who works at Musica, said Nathan accommodates her “vegetarian taste,” and is “so friendly and personable.”

Calvert said her favorite item is the customized breakfast sandwich that Nathan prepares for her, which features vegetables on a croissant.

Nathan is looking to expand the menu by adding more pastries and vegan options.

“We do cater to customized requests so if someone cannot have gluten, we will turn our wraps into salads,” he said. “We have even turned our pizzas into salads.

“I would like to add gluten-free bread so that people with dietary restrictions can order sandwiches.”

Urban Eats is generally open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“We sometimes do weekends if there is a concert at the venue next door,” said Nathan. “Even if we don’t open we often cater events on the weekends and I make customized cakes for special events like birthday parties.”

Nathan said the business is profitable, with patrons primarily learning about it through word of mouth or on Facebook and Instagram.

Currently, the employees are all members of the family.

Although Nathan and Samantha are focused on increasing their business, they won’t rule out adding a second location in the future.

“If the venue becomes too small, we will consider expanding and I will give up my day job,” said Samantha.