WTGW 7/15/15: Eldorado’s Pizza Pub, Kent

So, we’re back in Kent, and it’s a place Ted hasn’t been to or picked yet. What’s this all about?

Honestly, Eldorado’s has been on both Amanda and Shane’s radar for a bit now – but neither of them wanted to pick it because they weren’t sure exactly where it was located. Until last week, as we were driving to Mike’s and Shane spotted it on a side street, tucked behind a gas station. Because that shouts slightly shady, but OK.

Let me clarify, Eldorado actually not shady at all – but at first glance, I can see how one would get that impression.

Anyway.

This time of year there’s a lot of places running these “Christmas in July” specials, and Eldorado’s is no exception. Which means that of course Ted went with the Christmas Ale on special. Just as predictably, Amanda and I ordered Summer Shandy. And Shane was elated to find a bar serving the Shock Top Summer Shandy, which he swears is better than the Leinenkugel that us girls enjoy so much.

And that, my friends, is what you call a group of happy alcoholics.

Eldorado’s is known for their stromboli, which definitely sounded delicious, so that’s the direction Amanda and I went with our orders. I got the meatball (Italian meatballs and provolone cheese), and Amanda ordered the All-American (pepperoni and sausage with shredded cheese). I’m not really sure how the cheese thing was different, except that mine seemed to have sauce on the inside of it, too. Which they didn’t mention on the menu. And was slightly weird – not to mention unfortunate for me since I don’t really care for sauce as much. Amanda’s on the other hand had more cheese and no sauce inside. So basically we should’ve swapped.

And not that we couldn’t have done so. Because – and here’s our PSA on this place … portions are HUGE, particularly for the stromboli. When you look at the menu, the size options are small, large, and extra large. Seems normal, no?

For the love of all things holy, only order the extra large if you intend to feed half the population of a small country. Or you want to be the poster child for the word “gluttonous.” Because Amanda and I each ordered a large size – one size smaller than the extra large – and I think just one of our meals would’ve been enough to feed the entire table. Well, if the entire table was just four people like me and Amanda anyway. Or maybe one Ted, or one Shane. You get the idea. Freaking huge.

It doesn't look so big until you realize that plate underneath is like 2ft across

It doesn’t look so big until you realize that plate underneath is like 2ft across

I mean, it’s embarrassing when for once the guys had less food on their side of the table. Yeah. For real.

Also embarrassing: seeing the two ladies at the table next to us sharing one small pizza, and then leaving with leftovers. Thanks for that.

Ted got the Wednesday special of a $5.00 small one item pizza. He chose pepperoni for his one item. And then he ordered a meatball sub – you know, on the side. Right. Because that’s what people order as a “side,” Ted. At least he passed on the fries.

That's a whole lot of cheese there, Ted

That’s a whole lot of cheese there, Ted

Reminder: he still had less food in front of him than either Amanda or me.

Shane ordered a NY style pizza with pepperoni, sausage and hot peppers. He was hoping to get a 16 inch, but was told that the NY style only comes in 12 inch. You could see obvious disappointment when the server informed him of this.

The entire table: Oh, that won’t be nearly enough food for you.

Needless to say, we kept a menu in case he needed to supplement his order later.

Meanwhile, on Shane's plate ...

Meanwhile, on Shane’s plate …

Our server – who was also the bartender – was seemingly shocked by the shear amount of food that would be arriving at our table shortly: “Boy, you’re all hungry, aren’t you?”

Now, in all fairness, she could’ve warned me and Amanda about the size of the stromboli. But I’m sure it was more fun for her to laugh at us from behind the bar. So, once again, thanks for that.

Luckily Shane never had to order more food, as I had enough stromboli to feed, well, everyone in the bar. I think Amanda and I made it through about a quarter of each of our meals before throwing in the towel. Which, honestly, was probably still a lesser portion than what the small size of that particular food works out to be, but whatever. It was really tasty, but just a lot of food. Even with Shane’s help, I think I’ll still be eating leftovers until next WTGW.

Hopefully Ted doesn’t pick Italian next week.

Seriously. How many cows were involved in the making of the cheese that went on this?

Seriously. How many cows were involved in the making of the cheese that went on this?

Amanda joked that she was so hungry she was going to eat all of it … ala the Merchant challenge from a while back – but backed down once money was put on the table. Smart woman. We also of course had to bring up the Belleria trip and how the boys ordered entire sheet pizzas each, and our friend and guest diner for the evening, Jenny, was utterly embarrassed to be seen with us.

Good times.

Shane thought the pizza was excellent. The sauce was sweet, which is right up his alley. He joked that since Ted works in Kent a lot he’ll need to start a delivery service just from this place to our house after work.

Ted, meanwhile, was busy for a bit picking off all of the cheese he forgot to request not be put onto his meatball sub. I think he’s been ordering the meatball splash sub at the aforementioned Belleria for so long now that he’s clearly forgotten that he actually has to specify. Once that task was finished, he got to work double-fisting the meatball sub and slices of pizza. Because why finish one first when you can mix flavors like that?

But he said they were both delicious, so the strategy must’ve worked.

All in all, the atmosphere was good at Eldorado’s, and other than the slight judgement we might’ve gotten for our food gluttony, we never felt like outsiders or newbies in a “regulars-only” kind of place. Our server was very nice, and very much on top of service – especially considering it was only her behind the bar to deal with bar patrons, table and patio … and people like us who clearly misunderstand portion sizes and make her carry party-sized platters out of the kitchen to our tables.

The music selection was somewhat of an enigma to us, though … it started with country (OK), then eventually we heard 80’s rock (still up our alley), then Lionel Ritchie (wait, what?), then something resembling show tunes (um, you’re losing us), then back to country. If one person was controlling those selections I think they might want to seek help for multiple personality disorder.

Amanda

Amanda

Ted

Ted

Steph

Steph

Um, Shane?  I don't know what symbol that is.

Um, Shane? I don’t know what symbol that is.

Take two. Your guess is as good as mine.

Take two. Your guess is as good as mine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Amanda

Drinks:  Decent draft selection, especially for a smaller bar. 
Food:
 It’s all Italian fare, so if you’re not in the mood for sauce and cheese it’s probably best to move on. And if I haven’t mentioned it enough already, the portions are huge. So come hungry. Or bring 20 of your closest friends. Whatever.
Service:  Very good. We appreciated her not openly mocking us for the amount of food that ended up on our table, and for keeping the beer coming to help us wash it down.
Overall: We’ll definitely be back, or at the very least requesting Ted pick up carry out orders before he returns home from the jobsite.

Next Pick:  Ted

 

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WTGW 7/8/15: Mike’s Place, Kent

What can you really say about a place that has an X-wing fighter sitting outside the front door, an old trolley car on the patio and sections of the building that look like they were just kind of dropped in the same area by a tornado and then fused together Frankenstein-style by some architect mad scientist?

Um, that it’s awesome.

I feel like we're walking into a cartoon

I feel like we’re walking into a cartoon

Mike’s Place is pretty much legend – wait for it – ary to the Kent area, especially to those that went to college there. But since that excludes all but one of us, that’s probably how we went this long without discovering it. And even though one of us had technically been there like 700 times before, it was still a safe WTGW choice … because we all know Ted’s long-time affiliation with the area grants him a pass, as long as he isn’t the one who actually picks the place.

Hey, they’re our rules, get over it.

In any case, I checked in at Mike’s on Facebook and immediately heard from friends who had gone to Kent and hadn’t been back in years, wondering how the placed had changed (or not). From the reactions as I posted pictures, the majority seemed to think it’s pretty much remained the same.

Which, let me say again, is pretty much awesome.

So, the first thing you’ll notice as you settle into your seat at Mike’s: there’s a lot to look at. Like, a lot. No really. It’s like a Ruby Tuesday’s on steroids. I never knew there were enough nails in the world to put up this many wall decorations.

The second thing you notice: they like words. Maybe more than they like unique wall decorations. The menu is just a tad overwhelming. I mean, honestly, I think I’ve seen college textbooks that are smaller than this menu.  Or short stories. Or books of poetry. Seriously. Although I can only imagine how much larger the menu would be if they hadn’t used the absolute smallest font imaginable and probably permissible by printing standards to write the entire thing. I mean, for real. It’s like they’re trying to fit a novel on a postage stamp here.

Words. So. Many. Words.

Words. So. Many. Words.

OK, maybe I’m exaggerating just a tad – but still, I think the entire table – well, except Ted, of course, who had probably just been there for lunch like three days ago – spent about a half hour flipping and turning and reading. Because the awkward sound of pages turning as we all search in silence for something delicious to jump off the menu at us is a fun dinner game.

Luckily they must get this a lot, as the waitress gave us plenty of time to study the menu once she heard we were newbies. But for real, if you’re craving something and you can’t find it on the menu, chances are it doesn’t really exist. And you probably shouldn’t eat out that often. 

So we decide on meals, the server takes our menus, and I think we’re all done with the required reading for the day … and then I see these on the table …

Oh, look, more words

Oh, look, more words

The place mats are also full of words. For real, when do we stop reading??? My head hurts.

Trying to remedy that with alcohol wasn’t an easy task at Mike’s, as there wasn’t much of note on the drink list. Especially once they crossed out Summer Shandy, indicating they had run out. Blasphemy. And clearly they were not expecting us. Boo. I ended up with an Angry Orchard, Amanda got a Blue Moon, and Ted had a Murphy’s Stout.

Shane skipped the first round of alcohol (which makes perfect sense seeing as this was one of only like three times ever that I’ve driven on WTGW. Thanks honey.) – but later cracked and ordered a Bloody Mary. He was a bit intimidated by the description on the menu that said it was like a meal, but really when has ordering two or three entrees really deterred him? Exactly.

We got pretzel sticks for an appetizer. Or, as Shane kept referring to them, horse cocks. And maybe it was because Shane insisted on repeating those words, but I wasn’t thrilled with the app. I mean, they were just OK, nothing special. Admittedly I think I’m pretty much over this pretzel-sticks-as-an-appetizer fad that seemed to have blossomed over the last few years. Because, really, they’re just predictable. You can’t screw them up, but you can’t make them interesting either.

But, in any case, they were edible – and once again we were hungry enough to start eating them before I took a pic. Dammit.

Once again, I wasn't fast enough with the camera

Once again, I wasn’t fast enough with the camera

After pretty much just closing my eyes and putting my finger on a spot on the menu because I was tired of reading everything looked good, I ended up with The Roast Beast (roast beef) and a basket of sweet potato fries. It was really good. The sandwich was covered in cheese, so you know Ted hated even sitting across from it – but I liked it that way. And the cinnamon sugar dip for the sweet potato fries was to die for.

I think the picture alone might make  cheese-hater Ted vomit

I think the picture alone might make cheese-hater Ted vomit

Amanda got The Corny Dagwood (corned beef, in case you haven’t found your secret decoder ring yet), which I had been eyeing also. She said it was really good. It was very – although we all detest the use of that word, it was the best one we could come up with to describe it – moist. Yes, bring on the HIMYM references.

"And that was just the first 20 minutes of the show ..."

“And that was just the first 20 minutes of the show …”

Anyway. She got the regular fries and they were good also.

At least it's covering all of the words

At least it’s covering all of the words

Shane had the full rack of ribs. Our server told him he got two sides with his dinner, which discouraged him because he thought he was going to have to wade back into the dictionary of a menu to find his choices. So we joked that if you just say something you want, it’s probably on the list of side dishes, so try that first. Fries and cole slaw, check and check. How did he guess?

He said the ribs were good, and the cole slaw was peppery but not too much so, and also just a touch spicy. Said he could taste “a hint of cilantro.” Thanks Master Chef. At least it wasn’t ginger again.

Meat and sides of choice

Meat and sides of choice

Ted got the AYCE fish. And probably made the cook angry, as he was ordering his next plate every time one arrived at our table. Although we commended him for being so healthy, since he was eating the broiled fish, and as his two sides he chose mashed potatoes and broccoli. What? Where does he think he is? Other than far away from cheese of any kind, that is.

This kind of health food doesn't belong on our table

This kind of health food doesn’t belong on our table

So after three rounds of broiled fish – and a small amount of harassment from the peanut gallery – Ted then decided to mix it up with one round of fried Fish. And that was his downfall. That plate of breaded, battered and deep fried what-might-be-fish-underneath-it-all did him in before he could even get through one piece. We of course joked that that was the only way the cook could get him to stop eating. Well, that, and by scalding the remaining bits of the roof of his mouth into oblivion.

Ted:  “I think they cooked this on the furnace of hell.”

Finally. That healthy stuff was getting old.

Finally. That healthy stuff was getting old.

We had a little scare this evening, as we nearly saw the return of Healthy Shane – who, if you remember from last year – brought the party to a standstill when he tried to avoid burgers, ribs, and basically anything fried on our WTGW outings. We started to get nervous when he didn’t finish all of his fries.

Me: “Who the hell are you?”
Shane: “I’m changing my ways.”
Me: “You’re not bringing back Moderately Healthy Shane, are you? We don’t like him.”

I then reminded him how it felt to sit across from Ted at The Game last year and watch him eat that massive burger with grease dripping down his hands, while Shane essentially ate two different versions of tortilla chips.

He then proceeded to finish off the pretzel sticks and the cinnamon dip that came with my sweet potato fries. So that worked.

All in all Mike’s is a really fun place. After we ate, Ted put on his tour guide hat and showed us the different areas of the restaurant:  the bar area is the inside of the castle,  you can dine in the captain’s quarters of a ship, or inside a bus overlooking the patio.

Which way to go?

Which way to go?

Hey, there's a lady on your boat ...

Hey, there’s a lady on your boat …

Why didn't we use our bus like this?

Why didn’t we use our bus like this?

Inside the boat

Inside the boat

The men's room was "sausages." Clever.

The men’s room was “sausages.” Clever.

Patio, as seen from the bus

Patio, as seen from the bus

Speaking of the patio, it actually looked way fun – but, par for the WTGW course, it was too chilly to get out there this time. Which just means we have to add this one to the list of places to revisit just to see what things are like in a different section of the place. Actually, we joked that we could come back every WTGW for the next year and still never see everything – or order the same thing. I may have to invest in some reading glasses if we’ll be frequenting this place that often.

Steph

Steph

Amanda

Amanda

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Steph

Drinks:  For all the words on the menu, there aren’t nearly enough of them that fall under the “alcoholic” category. Some of the specialty mixed drinks sounded intriguing, though.  
Food:
 Seriously, if it’s not on the menu here, I doubt that it actually exists. Pancakes? Check. Ribs? Check. Pizza? Check. Swordfish? I didn’t see it, but that’s not to say it’s not there and I just didn’t read that far. You get the idea.
Service:  Good. I give her bonus points for actually knowing even 3/4 of that menu and being knowledgeable enough to talk about it. She must be good on exam days.
Overall: Good food, interesting atmosphere, fun place. I feel like everytime you go it could potentially be a completely different experience, just based on where you sit and what you order.

Next Pick:  Amanda

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WTGW 7/1/15: Sassy’s Bar & Grille, Twinsburg

I dare you to think of a place with the name “Sassy’s” and not immediately have your mind conjure up some insanely neon 80’s themed Miami Vice decor. I mean, really, who uses the word sassy anymore? Well, other than us, as we’re teasing Shane about his “feeling all sassy” when he made this pick.

Because we’re 12. I know.

In all honesty, there is a bit of neon inside Sassy’s. Just visiting the website gives you a little taste of that. But it’s not as bad as the Crocker & Tubbs -esque hangout I was sarcastically envisioning. They actually have these cool lights on the floor near the bar that change florescent colors – which, as you can probably already guess, entertained us for far longer than I’m willing to admit here. But the topper on the neon-themed tree was a literal tree outside on the patio, which we noticed as we left was lit with purple Christmas lights.

(Side note: I was about to ask where you would even find those, but then I remembered we have this amazing thing called the internet. Thank you, Google and eBay, for bringing miraculous things such as this right to our fingertips.)

So there’s that.

Amanda and I continued our quest to make sure Summer Shandy is available at every bar in the greater Cleveland/Akron area. Meanwhile Shane returned to his rum and diets, and Ted – after discovering they didn’t have one of the dark beers on tap that he likes – ordered something called a Sierra Nooner. He actually tried a sample, deemed it OK and ordered a tall … then instantly regretted it since it was not really as drinkable as he thought it would be. Interesting.

We ordered the loaded tater tots as an appetizer. And made Ted try them, despite the fact that there’s melted nacho cheese on them. Because we’re the kind of awesome friends you want in your life for sure. He actually dipped his finger in the cheese and declared it “not horrible” – but he also wasn’t tempted to really indulge in the appetizer either, so I guess “not horrible” doesn’t exactly translate to “yes, I’ll have some.” The tots were crispy – probably deep fried, because, you know, that’s how all good bar food is created –  but the toppings were kind of lacking. Other than the sour cream, which they gave us enough of to feed everyone in the bar. Awesome.

Once again we eat before we photograph. Dammit.

Once again we eat before we photograph. Dammit.

Our waitress recommended the wings or the burgers. Because if you know us, you know that definitely helped narrow our choices from “things we’re thinking about getting” to “things we’re STILL thinking about getting.” Thanks for that.

Actually, as we perused the menu, we all took notice that they had funnel cake fries at Sassy’s, and vowed to save room for those. Then Shane orders a the Biker Burger and 10 garlic parm wings, so clearly he’s heeding the whole “save room” thing. Right.

I tried a few of his wings and we both agreed they had little to no flavor. It was almost like they forgot to put the sauce on them. His burger, ordered medium rare as he always does, came out pretty much the exact opposite. Because that’s awesome. But even so, he said it was still in his top five burgers, and that if it had been done correctly it would have been perfect.

Does this look like Top Five material?

Does this look like Top Five material?

(Keep in mind that Shane’s “Top Five” list changes with pretty much every new place we go to, so I’m not sure I’d take that as a glowing recommendation. Just saying.)

Wings, minus the flavor

Wings, minus the flavor

Amanda, meanwhile, ordered the same burger done medium – and it was pinker than Shane’s. I’d give them the benefit of the doubt that they just gave her the wrong burger, except that she ordered different fries and that maybe should’ve tipped them off. Just a thought. She ordered the side of garlic parm waffle fries – which I ordered, too – and at first glance/taste were delicious. In fact, Shane was immediately disappointed he didn’t order those instead of “boring fries.” But then about three fries in, you start to realize that pretty much all you can taste is butter. Like they took a page right out of the Paula Dean cookbook. I had visions of them just soaking whole potatoes in a bathtub of melted butter somewhere in the back room.

Shane: you do realize each of those is like 1,500 calories, right?

So naturally both Amanda and I gave our leftover fries to him. I think we were expecting more like a dry butter rub on them with parm flakes (what other place did we have those at? Hooley House maybe??) – but these were just drenched, like the top pieces of shriveled popcorn when they pump the butter sauce on the tub at the movie theater. Maybe the sauce they put on our fries was really supposed to go on Shane’s wings? Just a thought.

Fries shouldn't glisten like that. Just saying.

Fries shouldn’t glisten like that. Just saying.

I got the caprese burger. It was also overdone for medium, so much so that the edges tasted burnt and I pretty much just picked my way around to eat the middle portion. It was on a ciabatta bun, which we all know is my favorite carb of all time and so of course was delicious. Shane and Amanda also liked the buns their burgers were on, even though they weren’t ciabatta.

I'll take the 5,000 calorie fries please

I’ll take the 5,000 calorie fries please

So, to recap: buns, good … fries, not to much. Moving on.

And then there’s Ted, who ordered a hangover burger and 10 spicy garlic wings. And had to watch as our food comes out, and his doesn’t. I guess the kitchen got backed up, and his order got set behind. Which seems weird, since we’re all at the same table – but I guess that whole separate check thing threw them maybe? Or maybe they ran out of butter after they made our fries and got busy melting 15 more sticks so they forgot about poor Ted?

It’s a mystery to this day.

So then his food finally comes … and lo and behold, there’s cheese on the burger. Which he obviously would’ve asked to have taken off. So, just to sum up Ted’s day: he was late waking up this morning, encountered/mediated arguments all day at work, ended up with a beer he thought he would like but didn’t, wasn’t able to eat the appetizer we ordered because it was coated in cheese, had to wait extra long for his meal while staring at ours, and then had to work to remove parts of it just to make it edible.

**sigh** Clearly the universe was out to get him today.

But he did say that the wings were the only good thing about his entire day. So you can file that recommendation right next to Shane’s “Top Five” pick, I guess.

Before he dissected it

Before he dissected it

Wings, with flavor

Wings, with flavor

After letting our meals settle through another round of drinks and conversation, we did in fact order the funnel cake fries before we left. And they were very good- I mean, really, if you screw those up there’s pretty  much no hope for you – although they did lack any sort of dip, so The Basement still holds the title for best funnel cake fries within the WTGW crowd. I’m still dreaming of that caramel sauce. But at least they didn’t offer us buttery anything with the funnel cake fries, so I consider that a small victory.

Whoever invented these is a genius.

Whoever invented these is a genius.

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

Amanda

Amanda

Ted

Ted

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Shane

Drinks:   A lot of domestics and things like PBR and Miller on draft. Although when Ted asked about dark beer in bottles the waitress almost seemed offended that he implied they didn’t have anything. 
Food:
 It all sounded good on paper … then came out all wrong or not like we thought it would. So there’s that.
Service:  Good. The waitress was also the bartender, and we all know how that can turn quickly – but this time we rarely had to wait on drinks or flag her down to get her attention. Now if only she’d gotten the order right …
Overall: It was like a roller coaster of emotions – nervous about the place before we got there, relief once we got inside and started looking at the menu, disappointment when nothing we ordered was as we imagined. I think overall we’d give it another shot, but we weren’t initially over impressed.

Next Pick:  Steph

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WTGW 6/17/15: Ray’s Place, Fairlawn

Yes, I know, we’ve technically been to Ray’s before. But that was the Kent location. This is Fairlawn. This location is newer, with some added menu items. And trust me, Shane gave Ted enough of an ordeal about this very topic while we were out that we really don’t need to go into it here. Ha.

Ted also got an earful because it surfaced that he had actually been at this same building back when it was a Winking Lizard. According to Shane, he’s just breaking all the WTGW rules this time around. Anyway, Ted thought he remembered a patio when it was the Lizard – but it turns out that they turned it into more of an enclosed sun room. So at least we weren’t going completely for patio dining tonight, even though we technically probably could’ve squeaked a patio night out of this one. Although with our luck and the way the weathe has been around here lately, it probably would’ve downpoured on us as soon as we ordered our drinks. Because nothing says welcome back from a week’s worth of beach vacation like a boatload of rain. Thanks Mother Nature.

Anyway.

Another of Shane’s gripes about this Ray’s location – and I have to admit, something which we all found a bit odd – was that all of the servers were dudes. Like seriously, not a woman waitress in sight. It’s like the exact opposite of Johnny J’s over in Merriman Valley. I wonder if they did some big study that said they would get a different type of customer in if they only had frat boy looking male servers? Or was that just all who applied? Or are they all friends with the owner? Or maybe they only hire people named Ray?

So. Many. Questions.

In any case, this Ray’s wasn’t busy when we arrived, so the hostess (who was also a guy. Seriously.) told us we pretty much had our pick of seating locations. Ended up in the aforementioned sun room area. Because, well, why not.

The place has a pretty extensive draft beer list – and, even nicer, it’s readily available at each table when you sit down, thus knocking out all that “what do you want to drink?” “well what do you have on tap?” nonsense that we usually have to banter through when we first arrive. Of course we ended up with Summer Shandy for the girls.

Ah, the taste of summer

Ah, the taste of summer

Ted ordered a Mill Street Lemon Tea Beer … which honestly did sound rather tasty. Enough so that it even prompted Shane to follow suit. Shane then proceeded to make a bitter beer face every time he took a sip. So I guess not so tasty after all, at least by Shane’s standards. Although he later ordered a second one, which surprised the hell out of us. I guess it all tastes better after the first round? Or he just likes making that face when he drinks. Whatevs.

BTW, Ted’s second round was something called a Dirty Little Freak. **insert obvious and obligatory perverted comments here**

For our appetizer, we ordered the parmesan crusted calamari. Because, well, it was on the menu, and by now you know that’s what Shane gravitates to. It was actually really good. So good, in fact, that we devoured over half of it before I remembered to snap a picture, so sorry for that. My bad. Hey, it’s hard to get back into this blogging thing after vacation, yo.

It's like a pack of hungry dogs took over our appetizer

It’s like a pack of hungry dogs took over our appetizer

In any case, it was just a touch spicy but not too much so, with a light breading and very good flavor. And there was a lot more of it on the dish before I snapped that picture.

Keeping with the seafood theme – and because, honestly, after a week in OBX, we didn’t have nearly the amount of seafood (actually, let me clarify – good seafood) we thought we would’ve had – I ordered the steamed mussels. They were very good, served in a butter/olive oil/tomato broth that I actually wish would’ve had a little more girth to it, but was still tasty. I also wish they had gone with a crustier bread than Texas toast on the side, but it was still delicious.

I come back to Ohio to order seafood. Because that makes sense.

I come back to Ohio to order seafood. Because that makes sense.

Wait, back up … did I just use the word “girth” to describe food? WTF is that about?

Huh.

Moving on …

I also ordered a basket of fries, which I ended up sharing with Shane after the waiter heard him about to order one as well and warned us that it was about a pound and a half of fires in each basket and surely that would be enough for both of us to share. Um, right. Clearly he’s never met Shane or witnessed his eating prowess.

But the server turned out to be correct. I think we even had fries left over. I know, shocked the hell out of me, too.

Along with 3/4 of my fries, Shane also had the blue moon sandwich, which is a new item on the menu. It’s slow roasted pastrami and Swiss cheese on toasted rye. And it’s delicious. I tried a sliver of the pastrami and was immediately jealous of his order.

I think we'll all be ordering this next time

I think we’ll all be ordering this next time

The third and final item on Shane’s side of the table was an order of 12 of the Wasabi dry dusted wings. Which he shared with Ted … um, hello, who is this guy sharing all the food all of a sudden? Last I knew, Shane didn’t share food. Interesting. In any case, they both said the wings were OK but definitely could’ve used more flavor, and not as hot as something with the word “wasabi” in them would imply.

Shane's shared fries and wings. Who is this guy?

Shane’s shared fries and wings. Who is this guy?

Ted’s supplement to half of Shane’s wings was the Italian burger, which he said was good. It was nothing special, but still good. Which I guess is better than absolutely awful, so there’s that.

Burger, no cheese ... this must be Ted's plate.

That’s marinara sauce, not an overabundance of ketchup.

Amanda stuck with her usual – and the sandwich she got the last time we ate at Ray’s in Kent – the Cuban. She said it seemed to have a different bread this time around – it was served on more of a flatbread than the usual sandwich-esque bread that you would expect a Cuban to be served on.  And she was thankful that the sauce was on the side because she said it would’ve ruined the sandwich if it had been mixed in. She requested regular mustard instead, and said that all in all it was a decent meal.

It looks like a quesedilla. Did I say that the last time?

It looks like a quesedilla. Did I say that the last time?

So, remember what I said earlier about the place being like the opposite of Johnny’ J’s? Well, that seems to hold true in the gender of the servers … but not necessarily in the style of service they provide. At Johnny’s it seems to be that you don’t just get one server at your table – you get whoever passes by and happens to notice that your glass needs refilled, or that you haven’t ordered yet, or that you’re missing silverware … you get the idea. It’s the same concept here at Ray’s. We started out with what seemed to be one waiter, who got us our first round of drinks and brought our food and I think even our second round … but then somewhere along the way he just kind of disappeared. Maybe he wasn’t upselling us on enough drinks. Maybe his shift was over and he just forgot to tell us. Maybe it was his first day and as part of his hazing they shoved him in a back broom closet somewhere and stole all of his tips. Who knows.

What we do know is that somewhere along the line he was replaced in part by a guy with hair in a man bun who appeared out of nowhere and cheerfully asked us if we needed more drinks. He was very talkative and knowledgeable about the beer selection (maybe the first guy just realized he couldn’t keep up with us alcoholics and Ted’s willingness to try anything on the menu with a strange name?) – so of course that translated into getting us to try all kinds of different beers. Which is always a good idea on a Wednesday night, right?

Case in point, Shane was convinced to try something called Magner’s Irish Cider, which sounded good on the menu and in the explanation, but we all sampled and agreed that it was awful. I swear there were ground up flowers in it. For real.

Me: It tastes like a funeral home smells.

Because that’s a good marketing statement.

Speaking of which, Amanda also learned the hard way that you don’t try Ted’s beers, no matter how delicious those crafty marketers make it sound on paper.

I love the look of sheer joy on Ted's face

I love the look of sheer joy on Ted’s face

I lost track of what Ted was ordering but lets just say the beers got darker and darker until they rivaled the color of his shirt. And that’s not just because the lighting was disappearing in the sun room as the evening wore on either.

Although I think this server’s proudest moment was when he convinced Amanda to relinquish her Summer Shandy for a grapefruit flavored shandy (the “Illustrious Traveler”). I had agreed to give it a try, after he talked it up to us as a nice “upgrade” from the Summer Shandy, although Amanda staunchly stood her ground and refused.

Ted: You even covered your glass when he asked if you wanted to try something new, like he was going to just pour it in with your Summer Shandy.

But lo and behold, Amanda sampled my drink, and declared it good enough to replace Summer Shandy for a round. I have to believe the server gave himself a pretty good pat on the back for that one.

All in all, we liked this location better than the original Ray’s in Kent.  The wait staff seemed to be much more personable (although we can’t forget that the one in Kent did go ask the cooks in the back about the mysterious spice Shane tasted in the wing sauce that he ordered there – thus sparking the infamous “is that ginger I taste?” catchphrase for our group) and with more room to move in the place it didn’t seem as much like they were just trying to turn over tables or shove as many people as they could in and out of the room during peak times. Definitely had a great time here, and the food was good. I’m sure we’ll be back.

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

Amanda

Amanda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Ted

Drinks:   Impressive draft beer list, which seems to rotate based on month or season. Bonus points for finally sending over the server that had a real knowledge of the list and could match our tastes to the beers. 
Food:
 A little of everything – sandwiches, salads, dinners, etc. Decent sized portions, and everything we tried was tasty.
Service:  Hey, I don’t care how many guys you send over to my table to wait on us, as long as they’re all friendly and attentive I’m not complaining. (Just be sure to let the first guy out of the broom closet sometime soon, will you?)
Overall: While I wish the sun room was still a patio – since I think this would up the frequency of our return visitorship – I’d still put money on us returning sooner rather than later. It would probably be a fun place to catch a game or just have drinks while out in the Fairlawn area.

Next Pick:  Shane

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WTGW 6/3/15: Tres Potrillos, Fairlawn

And once again we managed to outsmart Mother Nature for a WTGW adventure. I know, it seems a little silly to be this proud of a chance to sit on a patio, but if you haven’t figured out our ongoing war with Mother Nature by this point in time then clearly you need to start reading this blog more often. She tried tricking us by bringing out the cloud cover while we were waiting for Shane to get home from work so the group could head out, but yet we weren’t deterred. It was like a staring contest. And Mother Nature blinked first, allowing the skies to clear as we were seated and happily eating on the patio. Yes.

And as if that weren’t enough excitement for one week, I’m proud to say this was also the week I also finally got to say that I’ve dined at the place associated with the generic “Mexican Restaurant” sign high above Rt 77 at the Rt 18 exit.

Because who really remembers the name anyway?

Because who really remembers the name anyway?

Clearly it’s been quite a week.

Anyway.

I think I have to be that excited over the little things surrounding this week’s adventure, as Tres Portillas itself didn’t seem to give me much else to talk about. And thank the lord we were able to sit on the patio, as I think that was the most redeeming factor of the entire visit – for me at least. Ouch.

Let’s start with drinks (as if you’d suspect otherwise with this group, right?). Of course we ordered margaritas, because, well, what else do you order at a Mexican place? They didn’t seem to have quite as many flavors to choose from as some of the other Mexican places we’ve been to, but enough for each of us to try something different. I had the mango, Amanda had peach, Shane had raspberry, and Ted ordered the guava. Which I’m still really not sure what flavor that is, but whatever. Ted’s was also the only one served on the rocks, thus proving once again that he just has to continue to be different from the rest of the group.

This photo makes me happy

This photo makes me happy

As does this one

As does this one

I will admit to being intrigued by something called the “Octopus Margarita”on the menu, which apparently is sangria and a lime margarita combined. I know, right? I like sangria. I like margaritas. But the two together? That can either be disastrously gross … or delicious enough to be dangerous.

Regardless, my liver was not up to the challenge this time around. Maybe next time.

We all agreed from the start that it seemed as though our server wasn’t exactly thrilled to see us. Which is always an endearing realization as you sit down for your meal. She also wasn’t exactly fluent in English. Which, hey, I’m all about authenticity at an ethnic restaurant … but after I’m well into a margarita it becomes a little harder to understand normal English, much less broken.

But at least we never felt like she was rushing us out. In fact, I have to believe that the word “rush” didn’t exist in her vocabulary, no matter what language. I would describe her pace as somewhere between a geriatric turtle and a sailboat on a day without wind. Which is extremely helpful when she also insisted on making a separate trip for every. single. thing. we. could. possibly. need.

Trip one: Take drink orders. Walk away.
Trip two: Deliver chips and salsa. Walk away.
Trip three: Bring water. Walk away.
Trip four: Drop off margaritas. Walk away.
Trip five: Oh, hey, did you want to order dinner now? It’s only like a half hour later by this point, no biggie. I’m half surprised she didn’t ask us if we were ready, then walk away for 15 minutes to get a pen and paper.

I mean, I’m no expert in the food service industry, but it seemed to me maybe a few of those trips could’ve been combined, no?

Bonus points for missing the silverware in all of that, too, so we had to ask for it after we got our food. Luckily we were able to flag down another server for that, or else we might still be sitting there staring hungrily at our plates to this day.

So there’s that.

I got the spicy grilled burrito with steak. Which seemed to be neither spicy nor grilled, so clearly that name is super appropriate. But it did have steak in it, so score there, I guess? The chorizo on top of the burrito was I think what was supposed to lend most of the “heat” to the meal, except it actually wasn’t spicy at all. And there seemed to be no sauce covering it either. The rice also had zero flavor – and without even a salt shaker on the table to help me there, I ended up leaving most of that on my plate. So unless my taste buds were just taking the night off, I was not finding this meal to be anything spectacular.

Burrito, side of flavor please

Burrito, side of flavor please

Ted had the carne asada – minus cheese of course, although it didn’t go unnoticed that this was really the first time in the past few weeks that he’s actually had to speak those words of request. He said the meal was just average.

Ted's two week streak of cheese avoidance continues

Ted’s two week streak of cheese avoidance continues

Shane and Amanda both got their usual Mexican restaurant staple, the fajita quesadilla. Can you tell they’re related or what? They both liked their meals, but it was definitely a lot of food, as Amanda was stuffed long before the end of hers. Shane also ordered extra guac for his meal – which in most places would be like a whole cup or small bowl full. But when the meals came out, we quickly realized that “extra” at Tres Portillas kind of just meant that he got two spoonfuls of guac on his plate, compared to the one that Amanda had on hers. Gee, thanks. He finally flagged someone down (again, not our actual server) and asked for a real side of it … which we then noticed on the bill later was an extra charge of $5.00. Ouch. Did they ship the avocados in special just to prepare his side?

"The usual" for the Keefer siblings

“The usual” for the Keefer siblings

BTW, this is "extra" guac.

BTW, this is “extra” guac.

So all in all, I think we decided that the patio was by far the best part of our visit. Well, that, and the completely inappropriate dinner discussion about weights of organs and tumors which led to us discovering that our dear friend Ted has never seen the movie Jerry Maguire. I know, right? It seems impossible.

Anyway, like I said, the patio was well worth the price of admission, and even if you just wanted to enjoy some chips, salsa and $5 guac with some drinks it would be well worth it. It’s quiet (although they do have what looks like a stage for bands) and nice lighting fixtures around. Definitely better than the food in my opinion, but I think I’m the minority on that one, as evidenced by the photos below. Or maybe they all just should’ve stopped at one margarita.

Amanda

Amanda

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Amanda

Drinks:   I’m sure they have drinks other than margaritas – and I believe we passed a full bar on our way to the patio – but we stuck with the tequila. And were not disappointed.
Food:
 Typical Mexican restaurant menu. Although you may want to bring your own salt. Or hot sauce. Or really seasoning of any kind.
Service:  I think we got the server who didn’t expect to get another table this evening. She didn’t seem especially happy to see us, nor did she move very quickly. So that’s always helpful.
Overall: I seemed to be the only one completely unimpressed, although the patio did sway me a little. Maybe.

Next Pick:  Ted

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WTGW 5/27/15: Otani, Hudson

So I was kind of limited for my pick this week, since Shane was working late in Hudson and I – being the nice wife that I am – wanted to stay close by so he could still join us out sometime before 9PM. My initial thought was to once again try Flip Side, but then again I didn’t want to break Ted’s illustrious streak of never eating there. I mean, really. At this point it’s too impressive.

I had heard about Otani a few times in recent months, as they seemed to be pushing their new “pub” side – which, lets be clear, is really just the space adjacent to the original Otani in the strip plaza that they apparently bought out. This side is very small, but definitely much more our style than the restaurant side. I mean, there are hibachi tables on the other side, and it’s brighter. And further from the bar, which we’ve established many times is never a good idea for this group.

Being the trendsetters that we are, we were the first ones to grab a table on the pub side of the place this night, although it did start to fill up pretty nicely afterwards. Like I said, trendsetters. Or all the good tables were taken on the other side. Whatevs.

Amanda and I went with Smith & Forge Hard ciders. Ted started with a Guinness mix (black and gold – so Guinness mixed with Great Lakes Dortmunder), and then moved onto something I can’t pronounce let alone remember how to spell … and then I think eventually a Jack and coke to finish out the night. Because that all seems logical.

It's like a mirror image

It’s like a mirror image

One thing to note, if you sit on the pub side, the bartender also doubles as the server and food distributor for that side of the place. So naturally that meant that as it got busier, our service slacked considerably. Don’t get me wrong, he was very nice and definitely personable … when we saw him over the sea of other patrons, that is. And by sea I really mean like three other tables and 10 or so seats at the bar. But still.

Since we had no idea what time Shane would make an appearance, the three of us went ahead with ordering without him. Because, well, we’re hungry. And we all know how well that works out for us. I started with the crab rangoon as an app.  Which really just Amanda and I ate, because of Ted’s aversion to all things made of or containing the word cheese. Oops. It was good, but the filling wasn’t as sweet as the usual takeout orders, so it wasn’t outstanding. We actually left some for Shane, which considering how hungry we were really should tell you something.

Fried goodness, Japanese style

Fried goodness, Japanese style

I bet this will come as a shock to you, but we all ended up ordering sushi for our main meals. What, what? I know, please contain your surprise. I mean, I’m sure after our visit to Twiisted and the, like, 200 pieces of sushi that graced our table of four people, I’m sure you had no idea that we actually liked that stuff.

I’ll give you a minute to pick yourself up from the floor and continue reading.

Ready? OK.

I got the Hudson roll, which our waiter/bartender said was one of the favorites at Otani, and an order of the spicy tuna. I have to say, the Hudson roll was excellent. So I guess there’s validity to that whole favorite thing. Ted tried a piece of it and agreed, it was very tasty. Because apparently when Shane isn’t there yet I’m the next best person for him to share food with. Makes sense.

Is that sushi, or meatloaf?

Is that sushi, or meatloaf?

Amanda got the Morgan roll, which had been deemed another of the faves, and of course a Philadelphia roll. She liked them both, but the Morgan roll was eight large pieces – which she wasn’t expecting – so it was a lot of food. And she couldn’t even offer it to the boys since Ted over-ordered and was stuffed, and Shane is allergic to shrimp. Backfire!

You can always spot the Philly rolls

You can always spot the Philly rolls

Ted, whose eyes were once again bigger than his stomach when it comes to sushi, ordered the Volcano, Typhoon and uni maki, which I guess is eel – BTW, anyone else think of the “unagi” Friends episode every time they order sushi?

tumblr_lx6x357cgq1qzydh2o1_250

tumblr_ljrnx511Zi1qhzaruo1_400

Maybe it’s just me.

Anyway.

Back to Ted, he said the Volcano had a kind of sauce that was almost mayo based, and he didn’t like it as well as the others. I had ordered a Volcano roll at Twiisted and wasn’t crazy about it, although it didn’t really look like Ted’s Volcano roll from this place. So clearly we just put whatever names we want on things then? That’s cool. He said the Typhoon was the best one, although it had a shrimp-y flavor that he wasn’t really expecting. I tried that one and it was OK – but definitely not as good as the Hudson. I’m sticking to my favorite.

At least the presentation is nice

At least the presentation is nice

Since our sushi seemed to take forever to come out – I mean, really, how long should that take, it’s freshly rolled food? – we put Shane’s order in for him when he let us know that he was leaving work down the road. Of course he got the Philly rolls (again, the king of variation) – four orders, which, if we’re trying for continuity and going by Twiisted’s terminology is also called a “buttload.” He said they were OK, comparable to pretty much any place else. Although, I mean, he did eat all of them … but don’t let that be the judge of quality because he was also really, really hungry, too. So there’s that.

Shane, the master of variation

Hey Shane, what kind of sushi is that again?

So Wednesdays are karaoke nights in the pub at Otani … which if you’ve been following us you know that it seems no matter where we go, “karaoke” is really just code for “interesting entertainment.” And this was no exception. It was a highly interesting crowd. From the young couple who was alternately fighting and making out, to two girls who ruined certain country songs for us forever, to a guy who sang nothing but obscure Sinatra. Because that’s always a crowd pleaser.

Me: Um, so, what year is it?
Ted: Judging by this song, it’s 1966.
Me: Sweet, I’m not even born yet.

But perhaps the icing on the cake was the family letting their teenagers get drunk with them to celebrate one’s high school graduation. Tip: Maybe don’t announce that that’s the cause for celebration as the kid has a glass of Guinness in his hand. And also after you made it loudly obvious to the entire bar that he may have just been vomiting in the bathroom a few moments prior. But whateves. It was seriously the weirdest Partridge-meets-Duggar family we’ve ever encountered. The mom kept dancing around as a stranger was singing karaoke, doing something that could only be described as “The Elaine” from Seinfeld.e67e74a33743448bf9b4715b02e7c543

And the inebriated son was joining her, doing a dance which I had last seen my drunk uncle perform at a family wedding back in about 1998. Um, OK. I bet that will be a hit with all the college ladies. Good luck to you, kid.

Eventually I think their entertainment factor morphed into genuine embarrassment for them as the evening wore on – I know I, for one, completely lost the ability to keep the look of complete “OMG” horror off my face right in front of them, especially when the drunken mother was practically molesting the younger, non-drunk son – and we just had to get out of there. We didn’t even take the time to do our thumbs up/down pics, that’s how much we just wanted to get away from this circus.  just proof, my friends, that sometimes there is not enough alcohol in all of the bar to help make certain shenanigans acceptable.

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Steph

Drinks:  Full bar on the pub side, and some craft beers on tap as well as some Japanese alcohols. No Summer Shandy, though, so boo. 
Food:
 Typical Japanese fare – sushi, hibachi, fried rice dishes, etc. Well at least I think that’s what they have. We honestly didn’t get past sushi at our table, but you’ll have that I guess.
Service: Started out OK when we were the only ones in the place, but then dropped off as, well, anyone else showed up. 
Overall: Eh. The drive to Twiisted is only maybe 10 minutes more in the opposite direction, I think we’re more likely to return there.

Next Pick:  Amanda

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WTGW 5/20/15: Howie’s on the Lake, Portage Lakes

So as you probably noticed, we were technically off last week, as I was in NYC for a work conference. Although the rest of the group did keep up the tradition of ruining their livers at least getting out of the house on a Wednesday night, and decided to do a throwback to one of our recent favorites, the Blue Rock Cafe in Hudson. Which, if you recall, we left with thumbs up all around and an assurance that we’d be back.

Yeah, that changed.

Apparently this time around the group was outrightly ignored, eventually given drinks but not even asked if they wanted menus – all the while as the owner/server (who had waited on us the last time) obliged all of the other tables around them. Dost thou offend? After about 25 minutes, and as they were pretty much getting up to head out the door, he finally gave them a halfhearted “oh, did you want to eat?” No, it’s only dinner time on a weeknight. So I guess they didn’t look hungry enough? I mean, I don’t think we proved ourselves to be complete raging alcoholics the last time we were there, did we? They even went back and re-read the blog post, thinking maybe my snarkiness in the review might’ve offended in some way (what, me? No!) – but let’s face it, if you can find something in that post that offends you enough to deny repeat paying customers, then maybe you should rethink your line of work.

So instead they ended up down the street at Kepner’s – another repeat, although I don’t think Ted’s post-dinner-at-another-establishment order of XXX hot wings really counts as a complete dining experience. I’m not sure what they all had this time around – well, other than to say that they did not have those wings – but they said the food was good, the atmosphere was fantastic, and they made new friends … which I received photos of them doing shots with via text messages at 12:30 AM while I was in the Big Apple.

Because we all know shots and post-midnight WTGW outings are the staple of a good time in our books.

Ironically, that’s is a perfect segway into this week’s adventure …

Howie’s on the Lake is a little neighborhood bar right on one of the Portage Lakes. And I mean right on the lake. As in, if Mother Nature had cooperated with us like she did a few weeks ago and given us a beautiful 80+ degree night perfect for patio drinking, we would’ve been parked on one of the picnic tables outside on the water’s edge, enjoying the view and the sunset over the lake as we ate our dinners and sipped our beers.

But no, instead she was back to her usual whoreish ways, and served us up an evening of wind, grey skies and temps hovering around 50. Thanks for that. Glad to see our relationship is back to the level I’m used to.

Although I have to admit, had we not sat inside at the bar on this particular evening, I doubt we would’ve left with the new friends, laughs, fond memories – and of course rounds of shots – that we ended up enjoying. So there’s that. The world works in mysterious ways, I know. Take that Mother Nature.

Anyway.

So remember when I said Howie’s is a neighborhood bar? Yeah, not only does that speak of the atmosphere inside, but also the actual location. It’s smack in the middle of an actual residential neighborhood. Which – knowing Shane’s penchant for finding the scariest places around (um, The Annex, anyone?) – made us more than a little worried as we were driving in.

Me: So, did you call ahead to this person’s house and let them know to expect four more for dinner this evening?

Shane was not as amused by that as the rest of the car.

Howie’s is a bit on the small side inside, although that seems perfectly understandable considering their big draw is the lake and the patio outside. We ended up sitting at the bar partially because that was one of the few places left inside to sit on this blustery day, and also because that’s apparently where all the cool people sit these days, so that’s our new thing. Trying out that atmosphere for a bit, why not.

That's a big fish

That’s a big fish

It took us a hot minute to figure out that you actually have to order your food at a little walk-up counter on the other side of the place (called “The Shack) and then they bring the food over to you. Yeah, we’re a bit slow, we know. Ironically, alcohol actually makes us better when it comes to these things. Crazy, I know.

The bartender on Wednesday was Claudia, who we later found out was part owner or married to the owner or something of that nature. She was great, and once she realized we would be drinking her out of Summer Shandy she made sure to bring out enough to keep on ice for us for the duration of the evening, which we very much appreciated, even if we then did feel obligated to drink ALL of them before the end of the night. Twist our arms, I know.

Yes please

Yes please

Although I will say that the drink prices at Howie’s are a bit on the high side – $4 for a bottled Summer Shandy was reminiscent of what I’d paid for drinks in Manhattan the week prior, and a bit surprising considering the rest of the atmosphere. Again, not to say it stopped us from drinking them, but just pointing that out.

Claudia recommended the wings, saying they’re a crowd favorite, along with something called the Howie Sandwich – which appeared to be a variation of a hot ham and cheese. We all went with wings. Because, well, us.

We had a bone to pick with chickens this week

We had a bone to pick with chickens this week

Although the boys were thrown a curve ball when we went over to the window to order and saw the sign announcing Wednesdays as “Steak Night.” What’s this, you ask? Well, it turns out that you can get an 8 oz strip steak, salad and fries for just $10. $10! I know, right? And because this just happened to be the last Wednesday steak night before Howie’s took the summer off from the special … well of course the boys had to partake in it. I mean, because what if they decide not to bring it back in the fall and they never have that opportunity again?? The horror!

Exactly.

It should go without saying that of course they also still got wings in addition to the steaks. Because, well, them.

So because apparently he’s majoring in game time decisions this week, Shane’s second choice on the fly came in the form of the dry rub for the wings. Which came after the cook poured a bit of it into a little cup so he could sample it before he made up his mind. I had already pretty much decided that was the sauce I was going to get for my wings, but I will say that being able to sample it to make sure I would like it was a nice touch. It was definitely tasty, just spicy enough to have a kick (especially on the after taste) but not enough to make it unedible (a.k.a. Ted’s wing choice from Kepner’s last summer). I ordered six of those wings, and was not disappointed.

I also ordered a side of breaded mushrooms, which would’ve been 150% better if they’d actually been hot when they arrived. I eventually took the breading off and just ate the mushrooms inside. Hey – it makes me feel like I’m eating some vegetables, so step off.

You may want to check your heat lamps

You may want to check your heat lamps

By contrast, Amanda’s side order of breaded mushrooms about took a layer of skin off of her fingers just picking them up. I could see the steam rising off of them as she bit into them. And was insanely jealous. Clearly they made both of our orders together, and mine got to sit while the rest of mine and Shane’s dinner order (*ahem* someone’s steak *ahem*) was cooked. Boo.

Amanda also ordered 12 of the spicy bleu cheese wings, which she said were good, but could’ve used more sauce on them.Howie's on the Lake, Portage Lakes

Shane had six of the dry rub wings along with his steak special, all of which he enjoyed. While he’s clearly easier to please with rare steaks as opposed to his rare-but-not-so-rare-I-think-you’re-going-to-kill-me burgers, this one was done to his liking and said it had good flavor. Especially for $10. I mean, to put it in perspective – we pretty much each had that price surpassed in rounds of Summer Shandy by the time we were done with our dinners.

Shane's eating vegetables? Is that allowed?

Shane’s eating vegetables? Is that allowed?

All this for the price of 2.5 Summer Shandys

All this for the price of 2.5 Summer Shandys

Ted also enjoyed his steak, as well as six of the Sweet Heat wings. Because apparently Ted’s quest is to order that particular seasoning at every place we go to these days. He said that the spice on these wings was less salty than The Basement’s Sweet Heat – and also not a dry rub like theirs – so he said it had a lot more flavor and he liked it a lot better.

So if you’re keeping score, so far it’s Howie’s > Basement in the race for the best Sweet Heat wings in the area. Stay tuned for more.

Ironically I think it was this very conversation about The Basement that introduced Ted to the guys sitting next to him at the bar – and who became our new BFFs for the night. They were very cool and fun to talk to – turns out one of them also runs a Facebook group showcasing “Life on the Lakes,” which highlights all of the cool bars, boats, events and people in the immediate area. We of course became members of the group, and initiated ourselves with photos with these guys and the 5-ish(?) rounds of shots we ended up doing with them as the night wore on. Remember my saying about knowing how much we like a place based on how long we stay and how many rounds of shots we end up doing? Yeah, at this rate we better put Howie’s on our secondary address list, because I’m not sure we wanted to actually leave.

And that of all things was what I think impressed us the most about the place. You can tell they have their regulars, and there’s definitely a “Hey Norm!” Cheers-esque kind of vibe in the place … but conversely the record didn’t screech to a halt and no one stared daggers at us when we first walked in either. People were friendly and talkative. Shane and Ted scored random free desserts from some of the locals seated on the other side of the bar. Claudia was later joined behind the bar by the owner (Eric), and the two of them are fantastic at making people feel right at home there. I mean, of course you can’t go wrong by serving up some free shots – but even if it was a ploy to win our business, it definitely worked, as we then bought several rounds after that. What can I say, we’re easy like that.

It all starts with free shots ...

It all starts with free shots …

Shots with new friends

Shots with new friends

New friends, minus the shots

New friends, minus the shots

We gained a few more ... and more shots

We gained a few more … and more shots

Guess what? More shots!

Guess what? More shots!

Are you keeping track here?

Are you keeping track here?

It's all fun and games until the shot-ski comes out

It’s all fun and games until the shot-ski comes out

Howie's on the Lake, Portage Lakes

This is definitely our kind of place. Now we just have to figure out if we can get them to open a second location closer to us, or if we need to sell our house and move closer. Ha.

Steph

Steph

Amanda

Amanda

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Shane

Drinks:  Bottles and a few craft beers on draft. A bit on the pricey side for bottles, but you know you can win our love just by having Summer Shandy available, no matter what the price tag.
Food:
 Not a huge selection, mostly burgers and things that can be cooked in a fryer – but again, you know that bodes well for us. The wings were good and the steak special was definitely a winner.
Service: Excellent. We were in love when she brought out the new case of Summer Shandy and restocked to make sure we had plenty of reserves.
Overall: The atmosphere was what really won us over. We felt like we’d been accepted into a new family. Will definitely return, especially on nice patio days.

Next Pick:  Steph