www.primos-deli.com Tue-Sat: 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM Sun, Mon: closedI have a lot of fond memories of the Romig Rd./Wooster Rd. (err…V. Odom Blvd.) area around Rolling Acres Mall. My grandparents lived right near the intersection of the two streets, one of my best friend’s grandparents lived 500 feet away, I (and several friends) had many birthday parties at the McDonald’s (and this was before they had PlayPlaces, mind you) , I was a frequenter of the Toys ‘R’ Us and Children’s Palaces and Rolling Acres was my mall. But now it simply breaks my heart when driving by. The whole area is a veritable ghost town. Most of the stores and fast food joints that lined the street are long gone. My grandparents’ house was torn down and replaced with an Aldi (same address and all) and, aside from a JC Penney Outlet and a few scattered stores, Rolling Acres Mall is all but abandoned. I take comfort in knowing, however, that Primo’s Deli is still up and running. And, after 31 years, it is still doing very, very well. Thanks to the establishment’s extensive menu featuring only premium, non-processed meats, prepared-in-house pulled pork, roast beef, corn beef and mac ’n’ cheese, bottomless potato chip baskets, a splendid wine selection, the most impressive beer selection I have ever seen (14 on tap, over 300 in the cooler…and not to forget, of course, their daily $2.99 “Mystery Beer” special) and homemade salad dressing and chip dip, we’re talking “a short wait at lunch every day” well. (Primo’s does take reservations.) “There has been no recession for us,” says Paula Barlett, the Akron institution’s manager who has been at Primo’s since the very beginning. “We have been so fortunate. We haven’t missed a beat.” And, unquestionably, their continued success in one of the most desolate and run-down areas of Akron can be attributed to one thing (other than the food, of course): their love of, both, the Akron area and their loyal customers. “I’ve seen people come here on dates, eventually get married, bring their kids here…and now I see them with their kids!” Bartlett says. Eschewing advertising for the entirety of its 31-year existence, the restaurant has built its strong reputation and loyal customer base the old-fashioned way: years and years of word-of-mouth. The restaurant has shown their appreciation for the community by endorsing the Barberton Motor Speedway (as well as some cars that race there) and supporting a number of charitable organizations, including Hattie Larlham, The Humane Society (“We all love animals here,” says Bartlett. “Even though we serve ‘em.”) and leukemia research. The restaurant also hires many of its employees from Weaver School, affording them an opportunity that others may not. Granted, I hadn’t been to the award-winning restaurant (their Spicy Italian Sub and Reuben sandwiches were voted “Best in Akron” in 2008 and 2009, respectively, and Zagat’s ranked them #3 in Ohio “sometime in the mid-90s”) since I was 11 or 12 but Primo’s is exactly as I remember it. The old cubby holes and drawers in the back of the deli (from the property’s past life as Burke’s Hardware) are still filled with bags of potato chips and an awe-inspiring assortment of beer; the tables are still covered with old-school, red-and-white-checkered tablecloths; the walls are still covered with everything from neon beer signs and old album covers to advertising stand-ups and signed photos of local musicians/celebrities that have dined there (Chrissi Hynde, Lou Rawls and current sensations Zach and Rachel Roberts were just a few that I caught a glimpse of); and the staff was still friendlier and much more outgoing than most restaurants’ staff. Now, it would have been wise, perhaps, to get one of the award-winning sandwiches mentioned above…but, I was in the mood for a burger. Blasphemy? Perhaps. But, I am a notoriously picky eater and I love hamburgers…so, I got that instead (no worries…I fully intend on returning frequently to try some real deli sandwiches). And, being the huge burger snob that I am, I have to say that it was the best burger I’ve had in ages. It was huge (even with my pickiness leading me to order the burger with only bacon and ketchup), cooked to perfection and juicier than any burger I’ve consumed in recent memory. That, along with half a basket of chips, was more than enough to satisfy a full-day’s worth of famished-ness. Since 1979, Primo’s has been the delicatessen/restaurant in terms of atmosphere, price, menu selection, friendliness and pure, unadulterated Akron pride. If you haven’t been there yet, shame on you! Go there for lunch tomorrow. I guarantee you will not regret it.