Restaurants & Taverns

The Smoke Pit

The Smoke Pit was opened in 1968 by Matthew Ebenezer. He was awarded a loan from the Small Business Administration because he had a dream and a secret barbecue sauce recipe. And with that dream he became a well known and successful Black businessman in Akron.

Photo. Stewart Collection from The University of Akron Archives.

One of his goals was to franchise The Smoke Pit just like McDonald’s and have it reach all over the country. His first location was at 345 S. Maple Street, and after a year of being open he decided to expand and open more locations in the Akron area. He next opened up a location at 1097 S. Arlington Street, and Ebenezer stated that this location was important because when he first opened up his restaurant 90% of his patrons were white, but they soon became afraid of the area around Maple Street. He wanted them to have access to his food in an area where they felt safer.

He also had a location at 708 N. Howard Street. This location only had its doors open for a year and a half, due to issues that were happening in the neighborhood. “That neighborhood completely changed in the time I was up there… There were neighborhood problems and the customers were really getting harassed.” said Ebenezer in an interview for the Akron Beacon Journal. Ebenezer made it clear that he really wanted to cater to all the customers to make sure everyone was comfortable and able to enjoy a bite to eat. He was so set on having this be a comfortable family establishment, and his 10-year-old daughter would even help host on her summer breaks from school. After his three Akron locations he went on to open a location in Barberton, located at Second Street and Snyder Ave. 

According to an Akron Beacon Journal article in 1976 entitled, “Smoke Pit Can Offer Entertainment,” the Barberton location was looking at offering live entertainment for its patrons. The article states that Ebenezer had a temporary permit from two years prior for live entertainment but nothing had happened quite yet. So, this article is the result of him being granted another year’s permit. This decision to grant The Smoke Pit and Ebenezer another year for the possibility of hosting live entertainment events didn’t sit well with other neighboring businesses. The article states, “George Asad, owner of a restaurant and tavern opposite the Smoke Pit, said he was told there was going to be a public hearing. He was prepared to offer evidence the Smoke Pit is a nuisance.” The planning directors of the area ignored requests to review complaints because they were only concerned with the issue of live music, which had not yet been established at the location. They were looking forward to seeing what would happen next, regardless of what other businesses had to say. At this time, there is no information on any of the other locations having live music and entertainment. 

In a 1969 article from an Akron Beacon Journal article, the writer of this article refers to The Smoke Pit as the “Snake Pit”. The use of this term looks like a Freudian slip, an error in speech due to the interference of an unconscious idea or thought. There are multiple articles within the Akron Beacon Journal that talk about “snake pits” and their negative connotation at the time. A “snake pit” is what is considered to be the receiving room for the “mentally ill” and there was one of these located at a facility in Cuyahoga Falls. As of 1954, “snake pits” still existed within Ohio. At that time, Dr. John D. Porterfield, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Hygiene and Correction, was quoted in the paper as saying ‘some hospitals still have snake pits,’ he said, ‘if by that term you mean large locked rooms full of mentally ill persons who are not being treated.’” This Freudian slip seems to be a large issue within the timeline of the Smoke Pit being established and what people around other neighborhoods thought. There are no further findings on this mistake or the effects of it.


  • Advertisement. The Akron Beacon Journal. April 26, 1974. Page 33.
  • Advertisement. The Akron Beacon Journal. October 31, 1975. Page 67.
  • No Title Clip. The Akron Beacon Journal. August 12, 1969.
  • No Title Clip. The Akron Beacon Journal. September 10, 1969. Page 98.
  • Photo. Stewart Collection from The University of Akron Archives.
  • “Receiving Hospital No ‘Snake Pit.’” The Akron Beacon Journal. December 5, 1954. Page 98.
  • “Smoke Pit Can Offer Entertainment.” The Akron Beacon Journal. October 7, 1976. Page 23.
  • “Smoke Pits Big for Black Restaurateur.” The Akron Beacon Journal. July 28, 1975. Page 14.
  • “‘Snake Pits’ Are Still With US– Porterfield.” The Akron Beacon Journal. November 24, 1954. Page 17.
345 S. Maple St, Akron, OH

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