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

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 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

WTGW 5/6/15: On The Rocks, Merriman Valley

It’s Wednesday, it’s early May, and we got to sit on a patio.

Let me just let those words sink in for a minute.

Because you know how much Mother Nature tends to crap all over our plans over here on Where To Go Wednesdays, I have to believe she was way off her game this week and didn’t realize she had served up a beautiful, 80+ degree day on a Wednesday until it was too late to change things. Either that or she’s trying to extend an olive branch for all of the blizzards, tornado warnings and blustery 60 degree “we typically never get THIS kind of weather in July” Wednesdays she’s served up to us over the past nearly two years.

In which case, apology accepted. And I will cease calling her a whore … until next Wednesday rolls around and she’s back to her old tricks.

Thank you Mother Nature. Today you are not a whore.

Thank you Mother Nature. Today we are friends.

Anyway.

In light of all of the above, we were a little off of our own games this week – since Ted’s original choice was a pizza brew pub over in Ellet. But after stepping outside from his office for the first time at about 5:00 that day, he realized that being holed up inside and next to a brick pizza oven was not the best use of an unusually spectacular Wednesday evening. So he called an audible – albeit without a playbook – and just decided we throw rules out the window and hit the nearest patio we could.

(Honestly, I think there’s a clause in our WTGW rulebook somewhere that says we can pick a place again if it has a really awesome patio that we never got to sit on. Right?? No? Well, if that clause doesn’t exist, I’m making it right now. There. Done.)

So we headed to the Valley. Ted’s first pick was Bricco – which I know you’re all saying, wait a minute, I know you’ve been there before – but honestly Ted had never been to that location, so even though the other three of us have AND we’ve all four been to what has to be every. single. other. Bricco location in the Akron/Kent area – since Ted had never been to the Valley one and it was his pick, he was allowed to choose it.

Our rules are fuzzy, get over it.

But all that discussion was for naught anyway, since the patio at Bricco was jam packed and we definitely weren’t getting a table there. Strike one.

So next we ventured across the street to The Merchant – again, a place we’ve been, but not on the patio, and especially not since they redesigned it and make it a cool little space. I mean, it still overlooks a parking lot, but at least there’s a bit more to it now than just some tables and a makeshift fence separating you from incoming vehicles.

But we were a bit late to the party there, too, and all tables appeared to be filled. Strike two.

So as a last ditch effort, we headed back around the corner to On The Rocks – a place we’ve all had drinks at more than once, but somehow none of us have ever gotten around to trying the food. Hmm, this fits all the WTGW criteria. And their patio – another spectacular parking lot view – was virtually empty. Score.

Upon walking into the place, we realized it wasn’t just the patio that was nearly empty – the entire place was the same way. I think there may have been more people working there at that moment than there were patrons. We ordered our first round of drinks at the bar – two very large Summer Shandys for the girls, a McKensies Seasonal Reserve cider for Ted, and a very strong rum and diet for Shane – and then wandered back to the (very small) patio to settle in.

Uh, Ted? Your bottle is invisible.

Uh, Ted? Your bottle is invisible.

Where it seemed that not long after, the rest of the patrons on the patio also left. Hmm, way to give us a complex. We showered, we swear. Is there a curfew in this portion of the Valley that no one told us about? Oh well, more space for us. Actually, correction, more space for Shane to scoot around on the rolling office chairs that serve as patio chairs. I honestly have never seen anything like that before in my life. It was like they looked around and said “well damn, we have all of these metal patio tables, but no chairs … hey, wait, that office supply store is having a liquidation sale, lets just get chairs there!” Right, because giving drunk people rolling furniture is always a good idea.

Are we in a meeting? Or sitting on a patio?

Are we in a meeting? Or sitting on a patio?

Speaking of drunk people, let’s go back to Shane’s drink for a second. I think I mentioned it was strong? Yeah, we’re talking like rivaling Windsor Pub and their quarter-bottle-pours strong. The bartender at On The Rocks also mentioned they were out of Captain Morgan’s, so the rum they used was some kind of generic stuff called Sailor Jack. By the middle of the second drink of the night Shane was starting to look a little glassy eyed. By the end of the third one, when I asked him how he as feeling, he got that goofy grin and his head kind of swiveled back and forth like a bobble head when he tried to argue his sobriety. So that was fun. I’m thinking the Sailor is a bit stronger than the Captain in this game.

Anyway.

Shockingly, we decided against appetizers – I know, who are we, right? – and just ordered our meals. Although the guys kind of got apps, as they each ordered a six-pack of wings in addition to their dinners. So there’s that. Shane got the honey mustard wings, and Ted had the hot wings. They both said they were just OK.  Shane’s comment was that they were “crispy” and Ted called his the “standard hot wings, nothing special.” Take that as you will.

Shane's personal appetizer

Shane’s personal appetizer

The unhealthy way to eat chicken

The unhealthy way to eat chicken

Apparently Ted had a bone to pick with chickens this week (see what I did there?), because for his meal he opted for the chicken kabobs. He rated these much higher than the wings, saying they were very tasty. So tasty, in fact, that he practically licked his bowl clean. Hey Ted, remember when there were more people working here than dining/drinking here? I bet someone can wash that for you.

The healthier way to eat chicken

The healthier way to eat chicken

Shane went with the feta pizza. A choice which confused me because the last I knew, he despised feta cheese. Interesting, right? Just to clarify – apparently it’s gross on its own, but when heated on a pizza it’s perfectly OK and actually quite yummy.

OK, so we’re using Ted’s philosophy on cheese in general for this one. Gotcha.

Apparently feta is acceptable only on pizza

Apparently feta is acceptable only on pizza

Amanda had the buffalo chicken pizza. Which does not have feta, but does have bleu cheese. And maybe ranch? The verdict is still out on that one. It does have hot sauce, we know that for sure. And chicken. There was also a debate as to exactly how the pizzas were cooked, since Amanda’s and Shane’s seemed to both have a different consistency. So there’s that.

A lovely pizza just for me

A lovely pizza just for me

I opted for the Monster Burger, mainly because it’s served on ciabatta bread (my personal favorite) with melted provolone (another favorite) and banana peppers. Sounds like it should be a winner, right?

It looks promising enough

It looks promising enough

Yeah, not so much. I mean, unless you like dry food, because that was basically the theme of the entire meal. The “medium” burger was charred to black on the outside and very dry inside. And while I typically think ciabatta bread is a form of heaven, in this case it was by far the worst part of the meal. Wait, what? That’s a sentence I don’t think has ever come out of my mouth until now. Note to cooks everywhere: dressings, spreads – even butter, for crying out loud – were created for a reason. It helps hold the sandwich together. Melted cheese is not enough. Especially with ciabatta, which has the texture of an English muffin. The nooks and crannies are there for a reason. Please utilize them properly.

This is not something you typically see on my plate

This is not something you typically see on my plate

Fun side note: they actually buttered the ciabatta bread that came with Ted’s side salad, but not the stuff used for my sandwich. So, thanks.

The service was also not spectacular. We had ordered our first round and taken it out with us, but the server that ended up coming out to help us was extremely unhelpful, impersonal and just seemed to want to be rid of us. Because those are great qualities to have when you’re in the service industry. When she came out to take our orders we kind of hemmed and hawed a bit – normally servers would say something like “you know what, I’ll give you a minute and come back.” Nope, this girl was apparently on some sort of a timer. Like you’d think the kitchen was closing and we had to get our orders in right at that second, lest we never eat again.

Amanda: I’ve never felt so rushed in my entire life to just pick something to eat.

And the end of the night was the same way, there was no option to cash out, but instead a “ok, here’s your checks, you can pay me now.” Hey, thanks. It’s like she had some timer behind the bar with her that went off when we should be at different stages of the dining experience. Ding: time to order now. No, not in a minute, and you can’t come back. I said now. Ding: time to get them another round, but don’t tell them it’s the last one you’ll bring them. In fact, make as little conversation with them as possible. Ding: time to cut them off and send them on their way, closing time is a mere four hours away. No time to waste.

So, yeah, I’m not guessing even the proximity of OTR will get us back in the door – or on the patio – for dinner any time soon. Drinks, sure – especially if we want to get crocked on generic hard liquor – but we’ll make sure to eat elsewhere. By far the winner of this week’s WTGW was the weather – so, Mother Nature, if you want to bless us with nice Wednesdays for patio drinks but the trade off is that we won’t be happy with our meals, I’d like to go on the record right now and say that I’m personally OK with that.

Hopefully this is the first of many photos like this over the next few months

Hopefully this is the first of many photos like this over the next few months

Yay for patio weather

Yay for patio weather

Ted

Ted

 

Amanda

Amanda

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Ted

Drinks:  Decent selection of bottles and drafts. Being able to find both McKenzies and Summer Shandy in one place is like hitting the alcoholic jackpot 
Food:
 I think I’ll stick to the alcohol diet the next time we come here. Or get what Ted had.
Service: If you like to make choices under pressure while someone shoots daggers at you with their eyes, then this is the place for you. Oh, that makes you uncomfortable? Weird.
Overall: Because this place is so close to us, and we now know they have a patio that doesn’t get very busy, chances are we’ll be back at some point or another. But most likely only for drinks. Which we’ll order from the bar ourselves. So basically we should maybe just stay home and drink on our own patio then? Hmmm.

Next Pick:  Shane

On the Rocks on Urbanspoon

WTGW 4/29/15: The Basement at Waterloo, Akron

If you take anything away from this review, it should be these three words: Funnel. Cake. Fries.

For reals. If you go to The Basement for no other reason than to order those, you won’t be disappointed. Unless, of course, you hate funnel cakes. And if that’s the case then you should just stop reading now, because I’m pretty sure there’s no reason we could ever agree on anything.

Anyway.

So full disclosure, we were a bit nervous to venture into this part of town again, as our last outing to Waterloo Road wasn’t exactly a shining star. We actually drove past that restaurant on our way to The Basement, and noted that there were no cars in the parking lot. Zero. Like we actually wondered if the place was even still open.

It is, BTW. So at least we don’t have another Gus’s Chalet on our hands. Whew.

Conversely, the parking lot for The Basement was packed. Well, OK, it’s about the size of my living room, so “packed” is really kind of a relative term … and we didn’t notice the auxiliary lot across the side street until we were leaving later (color us observant, I know), so we all kind of did a little happy dance when we saw a car leaving and were able to snag what we thought was the last spot available. Good thing we didn’t consider ourselves super lucky and go throw money away on lotto tickets, I guess.

The place was much bigger on the inside than it appeared to be from the front. Seems to be a trend with us lately. I’m not sure what that says about us exactly, other than maybe go get our depth perception checked? Hmmm.

Anyway, we grabbed a booth in the bar area, and it didn’t take long at all for a server to greet us. It appears that the group is back on an all beer kick: Summer Shandys for all of us except Ted, who of course had to abide by the “one of us has to be different” rule, and went with a Rebel IPA. Welcome to summer.

One of these things is not like the other

One of these things is not like the other

Although, word of warning, the glass sizes can be tricky. At the end of the night Amanda and I decided to downsize to smaller beers (thank you, full stomach) … but when the server brought them over the glasses really weren’t that much different in size from what we were already drinking. In fact, when I poured my new beer into my old glass, it still nearly filled it up – despite a supposed 24 – t0 – 16 – oz ratio. Just something to keep in mind. Numbers are hard.

"Short" and "tall" are really relative terms here

“Short” and “tall” are really relative terms here

For appetizers, we ordered the pretzel bites, and the aforementioned funnel cake fries. The pretzel bites were good, although I have to admit I don’t really remember them that well because the funnel cake fries truly pushed them off the stage and stole the show.  It really wasn’t even a fair fight.

I'm sorry we ordered you along with the funnel cake fries, that wasn't really fair

I’m sorry we ordered you along with the funnel cake fries, that wasn’t really fair

So the lesson here is that if you’re going to order these – and you damn well should – just don’t order any other appetizer at the same time. Because it’s just not a fair comparison. I mean, that other app is just going to feel bad that no one is fighting over the last one (or, really, even the first one) in the basket once they taste those fries. Ted called them “brilliant.” That’s pretty high praise, my friends.

Pure brilliance in a basket

Pure brilliance in a basket

Not to mention that considering our luck with lackluster meals following up exemplary (*ahem* excuse me, “brilliant”) appetizers such as this – it’s no surprise that we all honestly thought about cancelling our dinners and just ordering about 18 more orders of the funnel cake fries. With caramel sauce.

Yes, I know that’s not healthy. Because clearly we’re the poster children for clean eating.

Right.

So anyway, despite the fries being a tough act to follow – I’m happy to report that the streak is broken … for once the stars aligned, and all four of us were actually very satisfied with our meals this time around. Hallelujah!

I got the turkey club melt, and opted for a side of chips with the spicy dry rub wing sauce on them (at the suggestion of the waitress, who said they were like a spicy BBQ chip). I was not disappointed. The chips definitely lived up to their advertisement as spicy, but in a good way. And my sandwich was on a thick sliced Italian bread, so you know right away I’m in carb heaven. Delish.

The lighting in this place was weird. My meal wasn't really pink. Trust me.

The lighting in this place was weird. My meal wasn’t really pink. Trust me.

Our server had noted that the Phillies were one of the things that the place is known for, and they have a good number of options on the menu. Amanda went with the Classic one, which she said was very good, with lots of cheese (sorry Ted) and real steak, not steak ums. She also got a side of the non-spicy-dry-rubbed chips. She said the one thing that was missing was a dip for the chips. While the side of ranch dressing was OK, she really thought (and I agree) that they could’ve been much better served with a french onion dip like some of the other places we’ve been to. I mean, maybe they could take a cue from The Lockview and just bring us a plastic container of dip from the convenience mart down the street? (stop laughing – that was pre-blog, but a true story nonetheless)

Non-steak-um steak philly

Non-steak-um steak philly

(Hey – did I mention the funnel cake fries? I feel like a few minutes have gone by without me doing so. I just wanted to throw those in there again for good measure.)

In other news, Shane is back on a wing kick lately, following a successful eat-off competition with one of his co-workers a few weeks ago. Now I don’t know about you, but eating 31 wings in one sitting would probably sour me from eating them, well, ever again … but for Shane it’s only seemed to fuel the fire. So it was really no surprise when he half-jokingly said he should go big and get the 50-piece order at The Basement.

Amanda: You know if you do that, you can only still get two sauce flavors, right?

Ted: Yes, because Shane is the captain of variety.

Ha.

He ended up with almost half that amount – 24 – and then I think just to spite us and our snarky comments, did split it into two different flavors (garlic butter and sweet heat dry rub), even though it meant having to pay for two separate orders of 12 in order to do so. In all honesty I think it was only about $1.00 more than ordering a straight basket of 24. Slow down, big spender.

A boy and his 24 wings, all for himself

A boy and his 24 wings, all for himself

Ted also got the sweet heat dry rub wings – but only a six pack, as he also got a meatball Philly as well. Because, why not?

I think if you look up the word “overindulgence” in the dictionary there is just a picture of the four of us out on a random Wednesday.

In any case, the boys loved the sweet heat wings. They both said they ranked up there at the top of the list for them – and as you know, they’re both pretty well schooled in the art of wing eating, so that’s some pretty high praise. Shane said his garlic butter wings were OK – but, much like the poor pretzel bites, were upstaged by the better option on the table.

As for the meatball Philly, Ted said it was good, but – and take this with a grain of salt – it had too much cheese. Hmm, where have we heard this before? Surprise, Ted, most of the known universe enjoys a meatball sub (or, stromboli, or pizza, or, really, any Italian food) slathered in melted cheese. Shocking, I know.

I can see the cheese from here

I can see the cheese from here

Really, he’s not human.

I wonder what would’ve happened if we had put cheese on the funnel cake fries? No, strike that, even I’m grossed out by that. Ick.

Overall, The Basement was a fun place, and actually earned the elusive TWO thumbs up from the entire group.  The service was good, there were lots of TVs with various sporting events on to keep our attention, the music was good – I mean, anyplace where we can end the night in a debate over the lyrics to Ice Ice Baby is good in my book. (Right?) The only thing I found annoying was the lighting. Did you notice at all how most pictures in this post are tinted either red, green or blue? Apparently there was a sale somewhere on mini tri-colored strobe light strips, because they’ve bought about 100 of them, and adhered them to the ceiling all the way around the perimeter of the restaurant. And before you think I’m just being picky … trust me, it’s more than a bit unnerving to eat your dinner while a mini-rave rages across the tabletop. Yeah. It’s 7:30 PM. Let’s save Dance Party USA for at least after the sun goes down.

Amanda

Amanda

Ted

Ted

 

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Amanda

Drinks:  The beer was cold, and the selection was probably decent, although once again most of the table stopped listening after Summer Shandy. Sorry. 
Food:
If you don’t know yet what item off the menu you need to be ordering, you clearly need to pay better attention.  
Service: Good. We sat in the bar area but it seemed like everyone around the large dining area was well taken care of, and our server was very personable.  
Overall: I think we’ll be back. If nothing else for the funnel cake fries alone.

Next Pick: Ted

The Basement on Urbanspoon

WTGW 4/22/15: Chugger’s Bar & Grille, Streetsboro

I discovered this place during the same high-tech internet search that brought us to the Happy Moose a few months back. So I guess by proxy I’m the official Streetsboro faction these days. Back off everyone, I got this area. Well at least for this pick anyway. Then we might be tapped out. Because, well, Streetsboro.

So, as if the name weren’t enough to imply it, Chuggers definitely has a bit of a sketchy vibe from the outside. First off, it’s located in an old strip plaza tucked away from the main road that has certainly seen better days – and hopefully more tenants at one point in time. Apparently when half the place moved out they took the maintenance service along with them, because the parking lot is rougher than the surface of the moon. And the sign is literally a vinyl banner pinned to the front of the building.

But there’s a kid’s jump palace next door, so that always bodes well for a really good dive bar, no?

However, we were pleasantly surprised when we walked inside, as it was actually really nice. I mean, for a bar. In a strip plaza. But in all honesty, the setup actually reminded us a lot of the Blue Willow over in Macedonia that we visited a while back. Except far bigger. Much bigger than I think any of us truly expected when we walked inside. It’s like the clown car of strip plaza bar & grilles.

At least that made it easy to find an open table, so score for us. It took a hot second for the waitress to come check on us after we sat down, but we was at least personable and admitted she was practically brand new, so we went a little easier on her. Shane ordered his usual rum and diet, and Ted settled on a Guinness – since that was about the fanciest they offered, not a lot of craft variety available there. I wouldn’t know, as Amanda and I stopped listening to the beer list after “Summer Shandy” – which lo and behold they really had on tap, not just a “we’ll write it on the sheet and trick you into thinking we have it but really we don’t” false alarm. Done.

I'm not sure you could get more opposite than this

I’m not sure you could get more opposite than this

Although I have to admit, just judging from the clientele that came in after us, I’m not surprised that most of their crowd is of the Miller/Bud/Coors variety. And not that there’s anything wrong with that – in fact, I would probably be more surprised to hear they had a plethora of ales, lagers and IPAs just chilling out on the tap system. Let’s just say that I felt out of place not wearing a hoodie. Again, not judging – just wishing I’d had time after work to leave the heels at home for this one.

Anyway.

The menu had a ton of options, but – unlike last week – at least this time they all seemed to fall into one of two categories: Bar Food or Italian. No random Greek appetizers or Mexican pizzas. Those only confuse people.

Options of deliciousness

Options of deliciousness

As usual, we ordered a crapload of appetizers, because, well, us. We ordered fried green tomatoes – because few things make Shane’s eyes light up like seeing the words “calamari” or “fried green tomatoes” on an app menu; mozzarella sticks – because I’m a sucker for fried cheese; and something called “monkey balls” – because that just sounds like something you need to order lest you be disappointed you never tried them. And because we’re 15.

Everything was good. Shane raved about the tomatoes, so much so that I decided (against my better judgement) to give them a try – only to realize that, yes, my aversion to the mushy texture of cooked tomatoes is still in full effect. Yay me. But the breading was good, I’ll give it that. Shane and Ted thought they were insanely good, which is really the review you want to remember on this particular item. The mozzarella sticks were basically no different than the kind you pull out of the freezer and throw into the fryer, but – hey – it’s fried cheese all the same so we weren’t complaining. The monkey balls – a mixture of Italian sausage, peppers, cheese and spices rolled up and deep fried – weren’t quite what we were expecting, but Shane and I still thought they were delicious.

There were a few more when they arrived. Fried cheese doesn't last long with us.

There were a few more when they arrived. Fried cheese doesn’t last long with us.

More fried food. Surprise!

More fried food. Surprise!

Ted didn’t quite share our joy, however, as apparently he missed the fact that the monkey balls (hee hee) had cheese in them until his first bite. There’s a fun surprise for the cheese hater at the table. Ironically the rest of us tasted no cheese whatsoever, so either he got the only ball that actually had any in it, or we’re just immune to the almighty power of fried cheese at this point. Especially in balls.

OK, I’m done being 12 now.

Balls. Enough said.

Balls. Enough said.

So our best takeaway from Chuggers – and really, the last few places we’ve gone lately – is that if the appetizers are really good, we should just stop while we’re ahead, order more of those, and not try anything on the main dinner menu. Because for the past few weeks we seem to be stuck in some sort of vortex that sucks us in with delicious apps … then drops us hard on our asses with disappointing dinners.

I’m not sure what that’s all about or what food god we need to pray to in order to reverse this curse, but it really needs to change.

Amanda ordered the BBQ beef brisket sandwich. In all honesty, she went out on a limb trying something new – but she was tired of ordering the same few familiar items on the menu, and we all agreed that sandwich sounded particularly delicious. But in the end it was a bad move, as she was disappointed. She just didn’t like the taste of it, and ended up leaving most of it behind. Even the fries weren’t especially good. Boo.

Lesson learned, stick to what you know.

Lesson learned, stick to what you know.

I had the beef & Swiss sandwich. I was thinking of ordering a panini or a stromboli, as they all sounded equally delicious – but once again I was led astray by the choice of bread, in this case seasoned sourdough. Damn carbs anyway. The bread was good, but I think there was more seasoning there then on the actual roast beef, as it was rather bland. The onion rings were fresh battered – a nice surprise after the freezer-to-fryer mozzarella sticks – but they also didn’t have much taste to them. I ended up taking half my sandwich and a few rings home.

Once again, carbs led me astray

Once again, carbs led me astray

Shane had ordered the monkey balboa panini – along with a side of six wings, because, well, his metabolism is un-human – but after hearing Ted quiz the waitress about the size of the stromboli, decided to cancel his original idea and go that route instead. So once again the boys ended up with the exact same meal – well, except that Shane did keep the side of six wings. Because of course he did.

And he was happy about that, as those wings were the best part of the meal for him. He said they were the best dry rub ranch wings he’s ever had. So there’s that.

The best part of Shane's evening

The best part of Shane’s evening

The stromboli, however, was disappointing – to both Shane and Ted. First of all, let’s just say that the waitress should not be trusted to give sizing approximations. The knowledge of which of course opened up the pathway to many jokes about certain other things for which size can be misconstrued – because, as we’ve already established, we’re 12 – but that’s a whole other conversation. Let’s just say that these definitely were not as big as she made them out to be in her description, and leave it at that.

Aside from the size, Ted’s biggest problem was the amount of cheese in the stromboli. Which, really, we shouldn’t be surprised about, because, well, first of all, it’s Ted … and second, after he was the one person at the table to detect the presence of cheese in the monkey balls, it shocked the hell out of us that he would even order a stromboli in the first place.  But I guess it falls under the same category of pizza, and something about how the mixture of it all makes it bearable. OK, whatever. Conversely, Shane said that he thought there was too much dough.

So maybe Ted should’ve donated his cheese to Shane, and Shane could’ve broken off some of the extra unfilled dough and given it to Ted, and they could’ve created their own perfect stromboli and both been happy?

Just an idea.

The underwhelming stromboli

The underwhelming stromboli

In any case, let’s just say that our opinion of Chugger’s tended to decline as the night went on. Just like our service. Many times we were left with empty glasses, and our waitress was nowhere in sight. Or she would come out onto the floor and wait on one table at a time, without so much as a glance around to see how the other tables were doing. Again, I know she admitted to being new – and she seemed to be one person taking care of a large area of tables – but the place also wasn’t jam packed either.

Now, a word of honest warning: Wednesdays are karaoke nights at Chuggers. Which excited us for a brief moment – you might be aware by now that “Shane Newton” is a sucker for karaoke, at least when it comes to one song in particular that can’t be sung when there are children in the establishment. But then we realized that the group running the karaoke business clearly has their own following of people/friends that accompany them to their gigs. And none of them can actually sing. None. Not a one. Which is weird, because I always thought there was some sort of audition process to buy one of those karaoke outfits, since that seems like it would be a prerequisite part of the business. You know, like how tax people really should be good with numbers. Or painters really should know how to color in the lines. That sort of thing.

But not this group. It’s like you could picture them all having parties together in someone’s basement, with some cheap tabletop karaoke system they bought from Wal-Mart, and all telling each other they sounded totally awesome … and then probably pooled together to buy some rig that someone was selling on Craigslist for cheap after the whole “hire us for karaoke at your wedding” idea didn’t exactly pan out.  Maybe they’re tone deaf. Who knows. The point is, there wasn’t enough alcohol in that establishment to make us want to stay once those people kept taking over the stage. No thanks.

So overall it was kind of a mixed review for our group. Had we just come in, stayed for a few apps and some drinks, never had actual meals – or our eardrums assaulted with horrible singers – this review probably would’ve been a little different. We definitely didn’t think the place was awful. And they do have a strong Browns Backers presence (as evidenced by the no less than 10 different items hanging on the walls adorned with the name and logo of the Browns Backers club), so I think we all agreed it might be fun to check out a game there. We’ll just stick to apps. And hope no one gets hold of a microphone.

Steph

Steph

Amanda

Amanda

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Steph
Drinks:  Amanda and I stopped listening after Summer Shandy, but Ted said he thought the draft beer list was severely lacking. Definitely seems to be a bottle/domestic kind of bar.
Food:
We’d have been better off to stick to a table full of shareable appetizers. This seems to be our luck as of late.
Service: OK at first, slower as the night went on. Our server admitted she was new, but it still seemed to take quite some time just to get draft beers from the bar.
Overall: Not as horrible as we all feared it could be when we first pulled up, but also probably not at the top of the must return list.

Next Pick: Amanda

WTGW 4/15/15: Papous Tap & Grille, Aurora

So the theme of this week’s WTGW adventure really should be 20 Questions. And really not enough answers.

The burning question, of course, is a basic one … how the heck do you pronounce the name of this place?? Papaya? Papa’s? Papoose? Platypus? WHERE ARE WE?

And once you get past that question, the second one should be, literally, where the heck are we? Located at the end of a somewhat interestingly placed strip plaza, Papous Tap & Grille isn’t the easiest establishment to spot. If you don’t know it’s there, you probably won’t find it, because it’s not one of those places you just “happen” past.

To that end, I’m not sure how Shane discovered it. I want to say maybe it was a recommendation from someone at work? Because that worked out so well for Ted in the case of the infamous Gus’s referral. Clearly we haven’t learned from our mistakes.

Upon arrival at Papous the questions continued. Before we even walked inside we were intrigued by the neon orange sign on the door touting their “HOT” corned beef. Um, OK. What does that mean? Why the quotation marks? Is it maybe warmed up, and maybe served cold? Is it kind of spicy? Or do you just simply not know how to use quotation marks properly? WHAT???

The mystery remains unsolved to this day.

We walked in and immediately declared ourselves as first time patrons when we loitered around awkwardly trying to decide if we should just seat ourselves or wait for someone to seat us. Again, a question: is it really that hard to put up a sign?

We finally threw caution to the wind and just seated ourselves in the bar area. The place has king of a strange layout, with the bar area immediately to the left as you walk in, and then a whole other are to the back that maybe looked like it could’ve been more like a less bar-y dining room? But we didn’t actually venture back there, so it’s hard to say for sure. We just gravitated close to the bar. You know, in typical us style.

The decor is kind of like a Quaker Steak and Lube knockoff. Only far less cool. The sides of the bar were covered in a checkered pattern, items like car parts and race memorabilia adorned the walls and hung from the ceiling, and a really cool front half of a classic car was mounted over the far wall. OK then. But why stop there? I mean, why have one motif when you can mix in a little bit of a sports theme (framed jerseys, neon sports signs, photos), a splash of typical bar theme (more neon signs, this time with beer names) and – just for fun – some random antique items like croquet sets and old bicycles? Sure.

But at least the menu matched the motif – I mean, if you’re going for the confused, 25-personality, just throw everything at the wall and hope something sticks theme, may as well go all out, no? There were just a lot of options. Not 17 pages of menu options, just a lot of different kinds of food in one place kinds of options. Which made it really difficult to tell what they really specialize in. Is it greek? They have gyros, Mediterranean dips, pitas, and chicken souvlaki. OK. Or is it Italian? There’s a whole page for pizza. Or typical bar foods? You know, burgers, sandwiches, salads, wraps – check. Or maybe higher end American restaurant? Because there’s also steaks, duck, and a variety of seafood dishes. Hmmm.

My personal favorite, though, was the Wednesday special, which included a whole half chicken, rice and a vegetable, for the bargain price of … wait for it … $4.99. I’m sorry, what? How is that possible? I’m not even sure you can get a McChicken Meal for $4.99 these days.

Which immediately screams to me less “special” and more “take your chance on chicken we’re about to throw out anyway.” But that’s just me.

BTW, are you counting the questions so far? I think we’re well over 20 at this point. And we haven’t even ordered yet.

Speaking of ordering, our waitress wasn’t much help when it came to deciphering the specialties or making recommendations, either. If you ask her – and we did – what she recommended, everything there is “good.” Because that’s helpful. We asked what they’re known for, and she responded that everything they made there was good. OK. Shane asked about the pizza … “it’s really good.” Ted asked about the corned beef, and we all heard her tell him that it’s thin sliced and “good” … but when Ted mentioned he’s picky about his corned beef, and that he likes it thick sliced and flavorful, her response was “oh you’ll really like the corned beef here then, it always has really good flavor and comes thick sliced.” Um, OK. You do know that thick and thin are complete opposites of one another, right? And that you just used both of them to describe the same dish? Right.

So there’s that.

Add to that a paper beer list classily taped to the wall (that’s a new one) that wasn’t completely accurate (super helpful). Amanda and I thought we might score Summer Shandy – and not just leftover ones from last season, as has happened to us a few times already this year – because we saw it on the list. Yeah, no. The waitress informed us they were out of that. Because printing a new paper list and re-taping it to the wall would be too much trouble, I guess?

So for my second choice I decided to try for a Not Your Father’s Root Beer – which was also on the list … and was told she would check, because she wasn’t sure if those were in stock or not. OK, great. I’ll cross my fingers. It’s like a game show – spin the wheel of alcohol and hope you come up with a winner. Yay!

In this case, I did luck out with the NYFRB, so score for me. And, really, the rest of our group, because after the first round they all followed my lead and ordered the same thing. Yes, it’s just that good. And surprisingly we didn’t manage to drink the bar out of it, so I guess it really was our lucky night. In that respect anyway.

The preferred drink of this week's WTGW

The preferred drink of this week’s WTGW

Although it is worth mentioning that Ted’s first round was perhaps the lightest beer I’ve ever seen him drink willingly and without wincing. It’s no wonder he switched.

Shane's mixed drink and Ted's beer haven't been the same color since the Windsor Pub

Shane’s mixed drink and Ted’s beer haven’t been the same color since the Windsor Pub

So, anyway, back to food. Shane shocked us all and for once didn’t immediately stop reading the appetizer list at the word calamari – instead he wanted to get the Mediterranean dip. Which turned out to be an excellent choice. It was like a spinach artichoke dip with extra spices, cheeses and olives, and served with crispy pita chips. Delicious.

On a side note, we tried to get Ted to try it by telling him that you really couldn’t pick out the cheese taste in it, although it only took one bite for him to immediately disagree with us. Oops.

But we didn’t feel bad for him for too long, because he had his own delicious appetizer on his side of the table, the almond crusted duck. The breading was amazing, and the sauce that came with it was really, really good. It was almost like a teryaki, but with a ginger-y flair. And we all remember how much Shane loves ginger.

Delicious apps

Delicious apps

The dip was so good Shane literally licked the bowl clean. Classy.

The dip was so good Shane literally licked the bowl clean. Classy.

For my meal, I went with the Kobe burger. Which looked great when it arrived, but unfortunately didn’t taste as good as I’d hoped. It was very salty, and the mozzerella cheese had a weird seasoning on it that I couldn’t quite decipher. I guess we’re keeping with the guessing game theme in this regard, too. Awesome. At least the fries were good, even though they were pretty much no different than the frozen steak fries you get at the grocery store. So there’s that.

The burger that almost turned me into a cheese-hater like Ted

The burger that almost turned me into a cheese-hater like Ted

Amanda had the roast beef french dip. She said it was good, although she did point our that usually that’s a really difficult sandwich to truly mess up. So take that as you will, I guess.

The other "beef" on the table

The other “beef” on the table

Whether it was to truly fact-check the waitress or because he just had a taste for it, Ted went ahead and ordered the corned beef. He likes to live on the edge. Aside from nearly burning a layer of skin off of his mouth and fingers with the first bite of his fries, he thought the meal was just OK. And we still don’t know if the corned beef was technically thick or thin cut, but he did say it was a little salty. That must be the only seasoning they have in the back. Well, that and whatever it was that they put on the slice of cheese on my burger.

Are the fries thicker than the corned beef?

Are the fries thicker than the corned beef?

Shane decided to go with an old standby, the build-your-own pizza. He chose pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms and extra cheese. The waitress had told him when he ordered that the sauce was “kind of sweet”  and … wait for it … “good.” But according to Shane, it was neither of those things. Hmmm. He said it was more like canned spaghetti sauce than anything else. And definitely not sweet. But also not salty, so I just they missed his meal with the seasoning de jour somehow.

We also joked when he got the pizza that the “extra cheese” looked strangely like a random few pieces of shaved Parmesan thrown on the top of the pie. As Ted put it, “that’s the only extra cheese pizza I’d actually eat!”

Look at all that "extra" cheese!

Look at all that “extra” cheese!

But despite not really liking it, Shane still ate the entire large by himself. Way to muster on, soldier.

All in all, we weren’t that impressed with Papous/Papyas/Poppyseeds/Pocketbooks/Papas/whatever-the-heck-the-actual-name-is. Even if it was closer to us, I don’t think we’d be running to make a return visit. The atmosphere was nothing special (despite trying to be a whole lot of different things at once), our waitress didn’t really seem like she wanted to be there (even if everything was supposed to be so “good”) and the food was just OK. Plus pondering so many questions is just exhausting.

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

Amanda

Amanda

Ted

Ted

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Shane
Drinks:   It’s like Russian Roulette with the drink list. Don’t get your heart set on anything until it actually arrives at your table. 
Food:
Chances are you’ll see something on the menu that you want to order, since they have a very wide variety of options. But will you like it? That’s another gamble.
Service: It’s not as “good” as she claims everything on the menu to be. Ironic, no?
Overall: I’m going to wager a guess that we won’t see the inside of Papous again. Which is probably good, considering we still don’t know how to pronounce it. “Where are you?” “We have no idea.”

Next Pick: Steph

Papous Tap & Grille on Urbanspoon

WTGW 4/1/15: Blue Rock Cafe, Hudson

Full disclosure here, we were all a little bit worried about this week’s pick, being that 1) it fell on April Fool’s Day, 2) it was the one year anniversary of our ill-fated trip to the place that serves tarter sauce on toast and 3) it was once again Ted’s pick.

So you see how this had the possibility to end badly.

Luckily, our trip to the Blue Rock Cafe was about 1,386 times better than our last beginning of April adventure. Whew.

I had actually had this place my ever-evolving list of possibilities a while back, but then when I went to check them out again online prior to my week at bat I realized they had closed down for a few months for renovations. Thank you, internet. And then honestly I just kind of forgot about finding out when they would open again.

But then Ted was out with a friend picking something up at a shop in the same plaza, and lo-and-behold his nose led him straight to Blue Rock. Literally. Like he walked in and asked what it was that smelled so good.

And so here we are.

I’ll admit, my first impression upon walking in what that the place was just a touch on the edge of scary. Especially being that it was almost 7PM, and there was only one table of people eating, a few stragglers at the bar, and a guy singing cover tunes with a guitar and a mike on the bare stage. You know, all things that scream “this place is awesome.”

About this point in time I vaguely remembered that my previous search of this place online had revealed a website that catered (you see what I did there?) more toward the bands and other featured entertainment of the space than the actual menu. Hmm.

But not to fear, Ted’s nose was correct – the Blue Rock Cafe serves up some good food. We definitely left happy. And full. There’s little to complain about there for sure.

Our waiter for the evening was also the owner of the establishment, and was definitely very personable. Imagine that chatty coworker you know you all have who loves to tell you the story behind every poster on her wall, or sweater she wears, or lunch that she brings in … that’s this guy. Only not annoying. Maybe that’s because he’s also allowing you to consume alcohol while he talks, but whatevs.

Guess who had the mixed drink?

Guess who had the mixed drink?

So needless to say, the owner/waiter essentially picked out our meals for us that evening. Actually, in all honesty the four of us were pretty much set on ordering the exact same meal – one of this month’s specialty burgers – after this guy talked it up so much … but then Shane insisted that we should really try something else on the menu so we could get an overall feel for the place. OK, valid point. So Amanda and I obliged … and then Shane and Ted proceeded to order the same burger we were all salivating over. So basically he meant that just the girls needed to order something else. Thanks, honey.

In any case, that burger was the BB King burger. Which is infused with bacon. Yeah, you read that right. And I bet your reaction is about the same as ours was when we first heard it, which is that it sounds freaking delicious. It also doesn’t come with cheese (because why ruin the carnivorous theme you’ve already got going on there), so it’s really no wonder that Ted gravitated to it. And technically that alone should’ve made him the rightful owner of it under the “individuality clause” Shane tried to invoke, but whatever.

No cheese. On purpose

No cheese. On purpose

Anyway, needless to say, the boys were not disappointed. The burger was cooked perfectly for Shane, without him even having to order it that way. In fact, the owner explained to us that all of the burgers are actually seared on the griddle, so the outside is crispy while the inside is a bit more rare. Shane and Ted both agreed that this gave it lots of different flavors.

This = happy Shane

This = happy Shane

After being banished from the bacon burger ordering crew, Amanda instead turned to the other specialty burger this month, the Reuben burger. And while it was about 6,000 times messier than the burger the boys ordered, it was still just as good. It was basically a burger and a Reuben smashed onto one bun – so you can see how the messiness figures in. But she raved about the coleslaw, which the owner told us was homemade daily.

It's like two sandwiches in one

It’s like two sandwiches in one

I went with the Philly steak. I must have looked a bit indecisive – and like I was trying to be somewhat healthy – when I was ordering, because the owner tried to sell me on two different chicken options (a new tomato basil wrap he’s putting on the new menus that debut next week and then a grilled chicken sandwich with chipotle mayo). But after last week’s slab of potentially undercooked and definitely flavorless chicken I was still a little wary of that particular meat. Fortunately the Philly steak was a good choice. It’s made with chopped up ribeye steak, not glorified steak-ums, so it’s very flavorful and tender.

Seriously, those fries

Seriously, those fries

We all ended up with fries as our sides, following a story about some 90-year old who never takes food home from restaurants with her, but specifically asked for a to-go box just for the fries. I mean, really, how can you not try them after that sales pitch? Shane didn’t even need ketchup, they were so good. His comment was that they were “like an anorexic chip” – while Ted said it was “like a chip and a fry had a baby.”

You can probably see now why neither of them are in product marketing.

Because we clearly hadn’t had enough food yet, and because Ted had been voyeuristically salivating over it as it was being made in the kitchen behind us, the boys also decided to try the carrot cake that had been brought out on a platter and placed under a glass case on the bar a la the rose in Beauty and the Beast. And as you probably already guessed, there was a story behind this item as well: the owner said that the cook (his wife) makes it fresh daily, and people call ahead on the weekends to reserve slices of the cake because it goes so fast. Apparently there’s a secret limit on carrot cake production per venue in Hudson? Why not just make more cake? Right. In any case, they were glad they tried it and agreed that it was delicious. Maybe not call ahead reservation delicious, but still.

If it has carrots in it, it has to be healthy, right?

If it has carrots in it, it has to be healthy, right?

Dessert and alcohol, how can you go wrong?

Dessert and alcohol, how can you go wrong?

All in all, the Blue Rock is a winner in our books. While the decor and layout of the space is definitely geared toward concerts or open mic nights (which we had the joy of experiencing on our visit … we likened it to karaoke with instruments. And learned quickly that some are definitely better to endure than others) – and that seems to be what they’re getting known for in the area, as it definitely got busier as the night went on and we officially entered open mic hours – don’t let that deter you from trying out something on the menu. Because they definitely take pride in their creations. And you can tell the owner is extremely proud (and rightly so) of the space and the business he’s built there. I should actually say he and his family, as not only is the owner the bartender/waiter, but his wife cooks, and they both come up with recipes. And what we assumed to be their teen-aged daughters were camped out on couches at the back of the room watching TV and playing on their phones. Because I’m sure that’s a fun way to spend most evenings.

To that end, note that the Blue Rock is closed on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays – which I’m pretty sure is just a tactful way of saying that they need to actually enjoy their own home at least a few nights a week. Smart move.

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

Amanda

Amanda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Ted
Drinks:   Decent variety on draft and bottles. 
Food:
Menu is small but mighty. We’ll be interested to see how much it changes with the new items that the owner referenced. You can tell he definitely takes pride in his work and the items he comes up with.
Service: Good, although it definitely got a bit slower as we finished our meals and the place got busier. I’m hoping they have reinforcements for the busier times on weekends.
Overall: Definitely worth a return visit. If nothing else for the fries alone.

Next Pick: Shane

Blue Rock Cafe on Urbanspoon