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Beau Grille lead
Beau Schmidt's chicken sausage has achieved a national reputation.
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Ahi Tuna at Beaus
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Beaus Island Salad
It was around 1985 or '86 when I first discovered Chef Beau Schmidt cooking at Crocker's in the Valley. It didn't take me long to figure out that this guy, more or less self-taught (having opened his own restaurant at the tender age of 19, and getting all those early mistakes out of the way!) chef knew what he was doing with a variety of international cuisines.
After nine years with Crocker, Schmidt more or less took over that operation and, for the next seven years, he and a business partner operated Beau's Tavern In The Valley. This was a restaurant that was about as eclectic as they come, with a lot of emphasis on creole and southwest riffs with meat and fish, but always a counterpoint of some traditional European dishes. This was the place where his nationally recognized signature Chicken Sausage with Creole Mustard was first developed...an appetizer that is practically entree-sized, and which can best be described as “Poland meets the southern USA”.
This plate of mild, yet well-seasoned, chicken sausage links swimming in the flavorful mustard is as delightful as it sounds. The sausage is perfectly grilled, and the sauce is sublime...not overly sweet nor over-poweringly sharp...just right for a milder chicken-based link. Pair it up with homemade rolls, butter, and a glass of the right beer (and I was lucky enough to get Great Lakes Christmas Ale with mine!) and it a meal by itself.
Ten years ago, the Fairlawn Hilton joined the trend of bringing in top local chefs to develop first-class restaurants inside hotel properties. This was not unusual in the '20s and '30s, but by the '70s, most of the finest restaurants were stand-alone operations. Hotel operations are generally more complex because the food services must be offered on a 24/7 basis, the restaurant must develop a breakfast menu to go with lunch and dinner, and there will be banquet demands as well. For a long time, many of best classically trained chefs thought their personal reputations would be hidden or tarnished within the overall hotel business plan, where lodging and volume food service was emphasized.
When this began to change, it actually worked out better for many chefs, and fortunately, for the foodie culture too. Hotels have deeper pockets, for one thing, so money can be spent on room design, ambiance, and maintenance. Capital can also be invested in menu experimentation, and the best in kitchen equipment and line staff. By the turn of this century, it was not uncommon for the best cooks in any city to be found in the top of the line hotel dining rooms, and we certainly have two or three of the best here in Akron.
So, Schmidt moved his restaurant to the Hilton in 2000, changed the name slightly to Beau's Grille, and set about developing and expanding a menu that touches on just about every culture. I wouldn't call this “fusion” cuisine, either. Rather than blended dishes that take a little from here and little from there, Beau's menu simply ranges around the globe, including food with its roots in Italy, Eastern Europe, France, Thailand, Japan, New Orleans and the American Southwest. Each dish maintains its regional purity, and frankly, it's a bit amazing that one kitchen can carry off so many different (and sometimes extreme) twists and turns, all the way from breakfast to late night room service.
While Beau's has been rated by several services and publications as the “Best Place For Lunch” and “Best Business Lunch” in Akron, I think you can only get a feeling for how extensive and wide-ranging this menu is at dinner. For one thing, there are no less than nineteen appetizers on the menu, all of which are generous by most standards. There are also at least two soups, and eight salads, all of which can be customized with meat, fish or other ingredients. Several of the entree plates can be ordered in half-portions, further extending the number of smaller (there is no such thing as small!) plates available to those who like three-course and five-course meals.
On a recent visit, I started with the Sesame Crusted Rare-seared Ahi Tuna appetizer which was accompanied by a spicy Asian seaweed salad, tempura fried sweet potato rounds, and a sweet Szechwan sauce. A Wasabi drizzle added bite to the tuna, while the little salad cooled the palate and the sweet potato cleaned things up.
From Asia, I allowed Beau to take me to the islands with a spinach salad with avocado, tomato, wonton crisps, mango, and a sharp chipotle ranch dressing. Then it was on to the Mediterranean for a half order of grilled salmon, couscous, dill beurre fondue and asparagus. Of course, I had to try the chicken sausage described above, and then, to complete my globe hopping without leaving my seat, an order of the homemade cheese and potato pierogies with caramelized onions and sour cream. Yes, dear reader, I did take a great deal of this home!
Of course, if I had been really hungry, I could have stayed close to home with Beau's Lake Perch and Fries, ordered up a long shank veal chop served with pasta marinara, tried the stir-fried wok vegetables with baked potato for the vegetarians in the crowd, or given in to my inner carnivore with the 20-ounce Angus Cowboy Steak with onion home fries and onion rings. And visit Boston or New York for lobster or steak, too.
I presume you get the picture. This is a long and wide-ranging menu, and everything I have tried so far is carried off exactly as Schmidt designed it. The wait staff understands meal pacing, and I never felt either rushed nor waited too long for a dish. The wine list is a carefully chose 80-100 bottles, and like the food menu, had enough depth that you can match anything. I was pleased to find 25 wines offered by the glass, and a wide range of sparkling wines.
Beau's Grille is located inside the Fairlawn Hilton at 3180 West Market Street. The phone number is 330-867-5218. Here is a link to the restaurant web site if you would like to take a look at all the menus: