Jeff Hendershot, the owner/chef at Baker’s Cafe ’33, wasn’t bragging when he told me that on an average Wednesday, he had sold six lobster-tail dinners at $57.95 apiece. Nor was he gloating when he noted that on this Thursday night, he had reservations for parties of 39, 12, 10, 10 and 8.
Instead, Hendershot was delighted and maybe a little mystified.
As anyone who has dined at Baker’s knows, it is not remotely a fancy place, although its steak and seafood entrees run $22 to more than $30. It probably looks much the same inside as it did when it opened in 1959. There is one long dark room, with red vinyl booths lining one wood-paneled wall and a bar lining the opposite.
“We do a bangin’ business here with steaks and fresh seafood,” said Hendershot. “I started here as the chef in 1982. We’ve added a filet and a ribeye to the menu, and people just go crazy for them.
“We’re a steakhouse,” he said. “But we sell so much seafood. I think it’s because it’s fresh. I get in scallops twice a week, the largest you can buy. Salmon I get once a week. They had no seafood when I started here.”
Hendershot was preparing to clean the 45 pounds of pickerel that are delivered to Baker’s each Thursday. “It’ll be gone by Saturday,” he said. “Maybe sooner.”
Sadly, Hendershot is highly allergic to all seafood and has to be careful preparing it.
Baker’s suppliers are entirely local. “I spend every penny in Stark County,” Hendershot said. “I get bread from Norcia’s every day. All my produce is from Farris in Massillon. All my meat and seafood is from Canton Hotel. I use Wallace and Atlantic Foods.”
Hendershot’s wife, Midge, makes all of the desserts at Baker’s, the top seller being a rich slab of creamy peanut butter pie topped with hot fudge and whipped cream. The restaurant goes through 14 peanut butter pies weekly. She also makes the daily soup offering. “We do everything from scratch and old-school here,” Hendershot said.
Asked to describe his clientele, he said, “We’re blessed with common working people and doctors, lawyers, judges. They come from as far as Columbus and Cincinnati. We get Amish people that come. It’s bizarre when I sit down and think about it.”
Baker’s has become an unofficial clubhouse for pro golfers during the Bridgestone Invitational held every year in Akron. Their autographed photos line one wall.
“They stay at Glenmoor, and we feed them,” Hendershot said. “Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros started this down here, and it’s just continued. Sergio Garcia tweeted last year that he was at his favorite steakhouse in the world.”
Hendershot is unapologetic about Baker’s dated decor. “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. It’s part of our niche. A lot of people come here because it’s familiar.”