Delanie's, elevated: Tallmadge restaurant offers a fresh twist on the classics

Krista S. Kano
Akron Beacon Journal
Nick Dadich, owner of Delanie's Gastro Bar, formerly Delanie's Neighborhood Grille in Tallmadge, talks about the changes to his  restaurant with a new updated menu; a new chef, Rob Geul; and plans for a new dining patio.

Nineteen years ago, Delanie's Bar and Grille burst into Tallmadge as the first full-service restaurant to serve alcohol after an 80-year prohibition, but since then, things at the popular eatery stayed largely the same. 

Owner Nick Dadich continuously served up an award-winning cheeseburger wrap and the popular seasoned and coated french fries, along with a bevy of other fried bar staples from a massive menu.

But he knew that the local clientele weren't really coming for the food. 

"Our cheese sticks were awesome, but they were still cheese sticks," Dadich said. "It was like Cheers, where everyone knows everyone, but I don't want the core competency of the business to be anything other than product: the food, the atmosphere and the service. Not just the fact that everyone knows everyone."

With the recent overhaul of the entire menu and plans for a major expansion, however, Dadich and new executive chef Rob Geul are working to turn the recently renamed Delanie's Gastro Bar into a destination restaurant that is accessible enough to satisfy regulars but novel enough to draw a whole new kind of diner. 

The fare

"Being from Tallmadge, I know we're not adventurous eaters. We want our sauerkraut balls. So I put them on the menu, but they're not what you get at the grocery. That's what we're doing here: giving people what they like but giving it a twist and elevating it," said Geul, who previously served as executive chef at Cleveland restaurateur Zack Bruell's Tremont fine-dining restaurants Parallax and Fahrenheit. 

So, Geul's house-made kraut balls? They're a custom blend of sausage, kraut, Swiss cheese and the blind squirrel sauce — a tangy condiment made from scratch. His Philly cheesesteak? A beef brisket hoagie with wild mushrooms, grilled red onions and horsey sauce. His fried mozzarella? Local fresh mozzarella, lightly breaded, flash fried and topped with fresh basil and shaved asiago. His fish and chips? Pretzel crusted cod, with house cut fries, creamy coleslaw and a jalapeño honey tartar sauce. 

A cheeseburger sits in the window as Rob Geul, the new chef at Delanie's Gastro Bar works in the kitchen. Geul is a Tallmadge High School graduate, and also a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.

But at the center of it all is the Grind — a selection of burgers ground in-house from a variety of different meats, seafood and veggies, an idea that Geul had wanted to bring to his previous restaurant, the now-closed Jammy Buggars in Lakewood. Geul has also been a teacher for Joshua's Restaurant at Stow-Munroe Falls High School, and has worked at One Red Door in Hudson and the now-closed Inn at Turner's Mill in Hudson.

"This menu is very adapted from Jammy Buggars because I knew it would work here. [There,] we were all about Ohio grass-fed beef, but here I wanted to do different grinds. I wanted to build burgers out of different products, not just beef," he said.

Keeping with the accessible-yet-adventurous style, Delanie's now maintains a classic beef burger, but also has one that includes pepper jack cheese, mango jelly and cashew butter, known as the PB&J. Then, there's the more unusual blends: chorizo, bratwurst, mushrooms and lentils, chicken, turkey and even shrimp (topped with cucumber, lettuce, wanton crisps and sriracha aioli).

"We're already developing signatures," Geul said. "People are never going to let me take chicken and waffles or the Philly hoagie off the menu."

Geul hopes to add a Sunday brunch menu at the beginning of football season, and intends to make parts of the menu seasonal, so that he can experiment with and highlight the freshest ingredients. 

The only holdover from the previous menu is the pistachio cake, which is made from Dadich's late mother's recipe. 

To complement the food, Dadich, who started in the restaurant business as a bartender, is in the process of designing a new cocktail menu that uses only house-made syrups from locally grown produce. He anticipates that his biggest seller will be the salted watermelon mojito, using his own watermelon syrup. 

"I love blending good flavors together and with these cocktails, I'm bringing flavors together that are fresh, but not pretentious," Dadich said. "There's no perfumes, or smoke bombs or elderberry or dragon fruit. We're doing simple drinks, reinvented with fresh juices and organic sugar cane and agave." 

Dadich is also planning to install a new tap system that will allow them to serve 24-32 selections from local microbrews and craft breweries, like R. Shea, MadCap and Lock 15, which also created their house brew. 

The space

While the new menu launched on April 12 to positive reviews, it is only one part of Delanie's entire transformation. 

During the pandemic, Dadich began reinventing the space by redoing the main dining area and investing in new plateware, but the big transformation is still ahead. 

In May, he will appear before Tallmadge's Planning and Zoning Commission to seek their approval for his big vision to turn Delanie's current Devil's Den private event area into an industrial, open space covered in large windows and also to create a front patio dining area that will extend all the way to the sidewalk. 

Dadich estimates the entire remodel will cost between $75,000 and $100,000.

Nick Dadich, owner of Delanie's Gastro Bar, plans to add an outdoor dining patio that extends all the way to the sidewalk to his West Avenue restaurant.

"The biggest reason for all of this, is that if we can't go outside, my business was going to die," Dadich said. 

While the pandemic gave Dadich time to regroup, it also presented a massive financial burden that knocked his 2020 sales down by 45% compared to the previous year. Dadich booked 27 parties, showers and rehearsal dinners in the event space in November and December of 2019, and in 2020 he hosted one, meaning that as a renter, he was paying for space he wasn't using. 

"We were able to weather this year, but there's no way we could do another," he said. "We got one of the small business PPP loans, but it goes quick. I am the quintessential candidate because I would have been out of business. I almost didn't make it while I was waiting for the loan." 

Dadich currently rents the building but will be paying for all of the changes. He already has permission from the building's owner. 

"I had a vision of what this patio would look like, and I love it. It adds 70 seats, and more volume, so to do that, we had to make a menu that was shrunk down and easier to get food out quicker," Dadich said. 

Current plans are to build the patio facing West Avenue, so that diners can see and be seen. Dadich hopes to install a 16-foot fire pit, which would be encircled by Adirondack chairs, along with zig-zagging festoon lighting and a whole new landscape design. 

Dadich's brother and investor, Rick Williams, also has plans to have a smoker on the patio so that he can overnight slow-smoke meats, vegetables and seafood. Williams spent much of his life in San Antonio, and is calling it "Tex-Oh BBQ."

"On a nice day, our food, our drinks outside on a patio? They're just going to pop," Dadich said. 

Delanie's Gastro Bar

Address: 67 West Avenue, Tallmadge


Hours: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, CLOSED Sundays

Restrictions: No parties of more than 8, no reservations

Reporter Krista S. Kano can be reached at 330-541-9416, or on Twitter @KristaKano ABJ.