Dedicated to those side jobs that help make music dreams come true
by Holly Brown
Setting: Gasoline Alley. I sit, perfectly content, underneath the old school bicycles, carefully hung overhead. I’m joined by my most frequent dining companion, Maya. The two of us are perfectly content on the first Friday of the long awaited first-spring-break of our graduate studies career. Bloody Marys are a necessity (but I’ll get to talking about those later).
My eyes are always moving in Gasoline Alley, between the bikes, the menu (which makes it borderline impossible to choose something) and the memorabilia on the walls spanning the entire 20th century and then some. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, of all of the places I have eaten in Akron, Gasoline Alley is the most “Ohio.” Perhaps it is the commitment to transportation décor and Ohio obviously and notably being the birthplace of aviation. Perhaps it is the un-deniability of everything fried. Regardless, it is almost middle America, almost northeast, and the second you step through that door, you feel not only hungry, but ready to be fed.
This time around, I opted to order fried zucchini in the place of my beloved sauerkraut balls. Though this was a tough call—Maya and I definitely went back and forth more than once—we were certainly not disappointed. Literally an entire zucchini goes into one single order; rather than dropping a cup of French fry-sized zukes off at the table, we received whole cross-sections of zucchini fried just enough so that it actually tasted like zucchini and was anything but soggy. I have never and probably will never see fried zucchini like that anywhere else. We sat at the table posing with the giant zucchini cakes because we literally couldn’t believe it.
As I had to decide to “really go for it,” this was going to be my dunchfast. That is, all meals in one. And there it was, the Jewish Italian: fried bologna, salami, provolone, mozzarella, and onions on a toasted homestyle roll. As a small child, I exclusively ate bologna and ketchup sandwiches, so every time I see bologna, the kid in me starts screaming, and 4-year-old Holly was not disappointed That sandwich was LOADED with meat and cheese, bread soaked with the drippings. Because I had such a craving for bologna, the second I took my first bite the back corners of my tongue started salivating, ringing in the rightness of my choice with a sting. A truly American sandwich for an all-American girl looking for a celebratory meal.
I heard the legend of their Bloody Mary months before I even stepped foot in the parking lot. More like a meal than a drink, it comes with every fixing you could imagine (two olives, cherry tomato, pickle chunk, cucumber slice, pepperoncini, and shrimp cocktail, all toothpick-ed into an epic stalk of celery easily considered food sculpture), but I digress.
This being the music issue and all, you might be wondering what’s particularly musical about Gasoline Alley? …Besides the fact their Bloody Mary makes me want to turn skyward and sing hymns in its praises, of course. Well, as a student at the University of Akron, Patrick Carney of The Black Keys was working in the kitchen at Gasoline Alley when he decided to leave school and devote himself fully to music.
While this was not my first time on the Gasoline Alley rodeo, this was the first time that I was there that I found myself thinking a little more about the more private passions of the people who help to make me feel so fed.
This one goes out to all of the people that work jobs to support the art that they love to do. More often than not, these people fall into the food service category and whether that be line cooks, servers, bartenders, or cashiers, it all comes down to what you stuff your face with. Food is art, albeit often art on the side of more entry level jobs (I heard whisperings that both Pat Carney and Dan Auerbach worked at the Arby’s on West Market). While catering to my insatiable craving for fried foods might not be your dream job, I am sincerely happy someone, somewhere does it if it means they’re closer to their art …while I live out my dream to write about it.