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 fires, 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

WTGW 3/11/15: The Annex / Station 43 Tavern, Solon

Today we bring you the tale of two WTGW locations, all for the price of one. And also a good lesson in back-up plans.

First let’s rewind a few days, when Shane – reluctantly and under extreme interrogation from me and Amanda – finally gave up the name of the place he was choosing for this week’s pick. Before we had a chance to Google it on our own, he was showing us pictures of what looked like an actual house, and claimed that there was a real bar inside. Where real paying customers went to eat and drink. Yeah, um, that sounds a little shady. And probably not the best way to sell the place to us, BTW.

So over the course of the next few days I did a little bit of research into this mythical “house of alcohol,” and, after reading some admittedly surprisingly favorable reviews, decided that maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t going to be so bad after all. I think my exact text to Shane was something along the lines of “I think we only have about a 40% chance of getting shot there, so let’s give it a try.” Life on the edge, folks. 

Fast forward to the drive there, where you could visibly see Shane’s anxiety level rising as we got closer and the jokes about any one of the shacks we passed potentially being our actual destination escaladed. And then this conversation happened:

Amanda: “Well the place does have a website, so it has to be kind of OK, right?”

Me: “Yeah, but did you see the part of the website that said it was actually created by some random super fan of the place, and not anyone actually affiliated with it?”

I think Shane almost turned the car around right there.

But we soldiered on, and eventually found The Annex in Solon. And they aren’t lying, it truly is a house. And not a very big one at that. But there were cars in the parking lot, and we could hear music coming from inside through the open window, so I think at that point we all figured it couldn’t be nearly as bad as we were making it out to be.

Let’s just say this much: The Annex is billed as “Solon’s best kept secret.” And I guess it will stay a secret to our group, because –  for the first time in WTGW history – we ditched out before we could even order anything. But not for lack of trying, though.

The place was packed, so we grabbed the first (and I think only) empty table available, right by the door. We waited for a few minutes, then finally realized that, for all the people in the place, only two of them were actually working there. There was one bartender behind the bar, and then one cook – who we could clearly see grilling up burgers in the back corner of the house. Call me crazy, but it seemed a bit unsafe (and potentially slightly unsanitary) to have someone cooking with fire and grease right out there in the open inches from the bar, no? I mean, I like open concept and all, but that was a bit much.

So the boys went up to the bar to get drinks, and that’s when we realized the real “best kept secret” about The Annex: you only get served if you’re a regular. Not once but twice they were very obviously overlooked in favor of someone who walked up after them and who the bartender clearly knew the order for.

Well then.

So we left. Because there’s no need to give money to a place who clearly cares not if you’re there. And also the whole chance that we might contract salmonella from the insane kitchen setup – but that was really reason #2 in our book. Because, well let’s face it, if we haven’t died yet from some of the places we’ve eaten in, chances are this wouldn’t have killed us either.

Although I can say the place definitely followed us, as it only took about two seconds in the car for us to realize that we all smelled like one giant collective grease trap. Awesome.

Fortunately Shane had a back up plan for the evening, which should probably tell you something about the place right from the get-go, but whatevs. We headed a few miles down the road, and arrived at Station 43. A place which not only acknowledged us when we walked in the front door, but seated us promptly, and served us drinks. And also didn’t reek of animal fat. What?

Of course we started out with drinks – in what seems to have become our new regular order, it was a Fat Tire for me and Ted, Miller Lite for Amanda, and rum and diet for Shane. Which was considerably darker than last week. And not $2.25.

Now that's a much better rum-to-coke ratio

Now that’s a much better rum-to-coke ratio

It's more difficult to do the color test when bottles are involved

It’s more difficult to do the color test when bottles are involved

For appetizers we went with calamari – because, well, Shane – and steak bites – because, well, Ted. Both of the apps were outstanding. The presentation was nice on the calamari, and the sauce was really tasty. The steak bites, while not exactly the “meat flavored cotton candy” we’d experienced at Teschner’s a while back, were still tender and delicious.

If there's calamari on the menu, chances are Shane will order it

If there’s calamari on the menu, chances are Shane will order it

Not-quite-meat-flavored-cotton-candy

Not-quite-meat-flavored-cotton-candy

Our waitress (Allie?) was great. She clearly loves the place and taking care of her customers. She was chatty and funny and just overall personable, which – call me crazy – seems to be a good quality for anyone in the service industry. And the exact opposite of what we’d just encountered at The Annex, so there’s that.

We all had kind of decided what we wanted for our dinners, but when Allie (I’ve pretty much decided that’s her name, my apologies if it’s really Susan or something not even close) came to take our order we of course asked what she recommended – and she was such a good salesperson that I think 3/4 of the table changed their minds.

Case in point, Ted was the first of us to set down his menu and declare his order (perch platter) but after hearing Allie’s recommendations he did a 180 and went with the Rueben sandwich instead.  As did Amanda, who had been wavering between that and a burger, and made her decision after Allie’s proclamation that she could eat it like every other day.

And I’m happy to report that neither of them were disappointed by their sandwiches. The corned beer was thinly sliced, and not salty at all. Ted said it was second only to Slyman’s – which anyone from the Cleveland area will know is quite the compliment.

Second to Slyman's, Impressive

Second to Slyman’s, Impressive

Shane had had his heart set on a burger, especially after staring hungrily at the plate of the woman seated at the table next to us, and noticing that the burger she had was done pretty much the exact way he liked them cooked. I mean, we didn’t bring out the photo from the Happy Moose a few weeks ago for reference or anything crazy like that, but it seemed pretty spot on. However, by the time Allie was done with us Shane had switched up to a full rack of ribs and a 6-pack of garlic parmesan wings … which had started out as only garlic, Allie suggested adding the parm … and as you can guess it was a done deal.

 

I swear, I think she could’ve sold us oceanfront property in Oklahoma at that point. Maybe she’s related to the guy from Moe’s?

Regardless, Shane was not disappointed either. Full, yes – but disappointed, not at all.

Half of Shane's meal

Half of Shane’s meal

And the other half

And the other half

I had the Solon Grande burger, which I also decided on via the plate of the stranger sitting at the table next to us, so thanks for that. Mine was cooked medium, and it was still pink inside – which means Shane really probably would’ve been just as happy with his order if he’d gone that route. It was delicious. And the fries. Fresh cut, thick fries. Yum.

Can't beat good fries

Can’t beat good fries

Burger, medium

Burger, medium

Seriously, how we all don’t weigh about 400 pounds is beyond my realm of comprehension some days.

Even though we were all nearly bursting and complaining about how full we were, our used-car-salesman-turned-waitress almost sold us on desserts, just because they sounded insanely good. Pumpkin roll? Carrot cake? Apple pie? Good lord. I think we finally had to shoo poor Allie away from the table before she sweet talked us into anything else.

Ted: Those desserts sounded really good. I want one but I literally just can’t eat it. Why am I so full?

Amanda: Well you did just basically eat a sandwich and a steak.

So there’s that.

All in all, I think we ended up at the much better place. Station 43 has great decor – it’s all done in a fire station theme, and we loved the canister lights made out of re-purposed air canisters, as well as the various photos and other fun wall decorations.

I don't think they sell those at Lowe's

I don’t think they sell those at Lowe’s

We were fortunate enough to score a fun and personable waitress, and the food was terrific. I mean, it even scored the ever-rare double-thumbs-up from Shane, so you know that speaks volumes all in itself. Hopefully they didn’t judge us from the grease smell we still carried with us from our first choice of the evening. Or maybe they get people in our situation a lot and are used to it by now. Hmm.

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

Amanda

Amanda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE (… for Station 43. Because I think you pretty much already get the jist of our feelings towards The Annex)

Picked by:  Shane
Drinks: Mostly craft beers on tap, and the usual suspects in bottles. While the sticker shock was a bit much after last week’s pick, that says more to the fact that last week’s place was just dirt cheap.  
Food:
It’s a good sign when we’re stuffed but yet we can’t stop eating because it’s so good. And we’re tempted to order more just because we know it will continue to be delicious.
Service: Let’s be honest, after our first attempt of the evening it really wasn’t going to take much to impress us. But even without that in the equation we still would’ve been impressed here.
Overall: Another on the list of “why are you a half hour away?” Seriously, is there some way we can just get all of the places we really like to move to within a 5-7 mile radius of us?

Next Pick: Steph

Station 43 on Urbanspoon

Annex Bar and Grille on Urbanspoon

WTGW 2/25/15: Windsor Pub, Akron

So there’s a sign outside of the Windsor Pub that proclaims they have “the best burgers on this Earth.” And since we’ve been on a burger streak lately I guess it’s only fitting that we venture in and find out how close to reality that statement is.

Your sign has a bit of an ego

Your sign has a bit of an ego

Although, side note, “this” Earth? What other Earth might we be talking about here? I mean, in fairness, that sign looks like it’s been up for a hot minute, so maybe at that time we really were into the “life on other planets” debate. And god forbid we insult their burgers, I guess.

Anyway, I have to admit that the Windsor Pub isn’t much to look at – from the inside or outside. It’s on a stretch of road where a lot of the bars are actually semi-seedy strip clubs. And those that aren’t are, well, pretty much like this one:  dive bars with a base clientele that haven’t been updated in 20 years.

Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that. I love me a good dive bar, and I think we all secretly wish for the Cheers-esque greeting whenever we enter one. I grew up frequenting a similar place with my dad, sitting at the bar drinking Pepsi and getting schooled in the finer points of billiards and Atari baseball with stick figures.

(BTW, these days spending the afternoon at the neighborhood bar with your friends and your 4-year old would probably be considered bad parenting. But in the 80’s that was just called “babysitting.”)

However, the irony of the Windsor Pub having a floor mat at the front door advertising the new season of Bar Rescue was not lost on any of us, as I think we all agreed that this place would probably be a prime candidate for that show. Not that I think it’s necessarily hurting for business – there seemed to be a good crowd of regulars there at 7:00 on a Wednesday night – but just the overall decor begs for a bit of an upgrade. Like seats with springs that aren’t trying to reach out and steal fries from the table next to you.

And we’ll get to the bartending skills later.

As with most dive bars, there’s a very small list of beers on tap. Here this included all the usual domestics and then Fat Tire, which Ted and I both went with. Amanda had Miller Lite. And Shane ordered Rum and diet … which in a strange twist actually ended up being lighter in color than any of our beers. So there’s that.

Which is lighter, the beer or the rum and diet?

Which is lighter, the beer or the rum and diet?

We ordered appetizers, because, well, us. But this was clearly a rookie mistake, as I’m sure anyone who has ever eaten at this place will tell you. You either order apps, or a meal. Never both. I don’t care if you haven’t eaten for three days, or if this is your last meal before a starvation diet. Just trust us on this.

Unnecessary onion rings

Unnecessary onion rings

Now, to be fair, our waitress warned us that the actual meals – and in particular the burgers – were giant. But this was after we had already put in our appetizer order and she had come back to take our meal orders, so no take-backsey’s. And thanks for the head’s up. We had ordered pretzel sticks and onion rings, and basically should’ve just taken that money we paid for those and fed it to the hungry springs in the seats underneath us because we barely even touched either of them.

OK, I’ll admit I had a pretzel stick – because, well, I love carbs. But the onion rings in particular were way too greasy and heavy to even think about eating – especially since our meals arrived about two minutes after the apps, and we about passed out from the amount of food we were staring at on our table after that.

See also: gluttony.

Since burgers were the specialty, and we had to test the validity of the outdoor sign, naturally that’s what we all ordered. There are two sizes on the menu for the burgers – a regular and a junior – and  the waitress was nice enough to explain to us that she can only just barely finish the latter of those options. Amanda and I both appreciated her telling us that, because in all honesty “junior” sounds like the kid’s version, and we all know that both of us girls can handle our meat.

Hee hee.

We ended up with three Windsor burgers (which include onions, mushrooms, mayo and cheese) and one Rocket burger (which has salami, pepper rings and ranch dressing. And usually cheese, but this one was without – because, well, it was Ted’s). Boys had regular size and girls went with juniors.

(Interesting side note: when the meals arrived, only the regular size gets a knife to cut them with. #discrimination)

Cheese-less burger

Cheese-less burger

Have some burger with your mayo

Have some burger with your mayo

So as we were placing our orders, the waitress didn’t ask how we wanted the burgers cooked, something all of us overlooked. Except Shane. Of course. So naturally Mr. Particular asked if he could do his medium rare – and she said no, all the burgers are done well. And that there was a reason for that but she couldn’t remember what that reason was.

I could tell Shane was scared, but he wasn’t going to back down.

And he was glad he didn’t. Because the burgers are delicious. They’re large, fresh made – they crumble apart but not because they’re dry. They have really good flavor. And they’re so, so filling. Almost too filling. I really wanted to eat the last of the potato wedges I’d gotten with my burger, but I literally couldn’t fit another thing in me. Even beer was a challenge. And that was on the junior size burger. I can’t even imagine if I had ordered the regular size.

It's still a potato, but somehow the wedges make it fancy

It’s still a potato, but somehow the wedges make it fancy

Burger, from afar

Burger, from afar

Or, better yet, the “Windsor Challenge,” which we saw a sign promoting on our table. What’s this, you ask? Oh let’s see, just THREE of the regular sized Windsor burgers stacked on top of one another. Three. That has to be, like, an entire cow. And if you can eat it in 30 minutes you get it for free. Along with a side of heart disease and high cholesterol.

Hey Ted, doesn't all that cheese look appetizing?

Hey Ted, doesn’t all that cheese look appetizing?

So, remember Shane’s rum and diet that was lighter than our beer? Yeah, by the end of the night we were marveling at the fact that his drinks only seemed to get clearer. By the time we watched the bartender pour his third drink, I think one of us was ready to pull out our phone and get John Taffer from Bar Rescue on speed dial. Three long pours and a splash of coke in a tall, skinny glass. What? You may as well just give him the bottle of rum and a straw at that point.

Although when we got out bill at the end of the night, we realized that the waitress had forgotten to charge us for two of those tall drinks. Which we promptly pointed out to her, because a) we’re honest and b) it was only going to add $4.50 onto our bill. That’s right, the one drink she did charge us for was $2.25. Holy crap.

To quote Shane: “Nine shots for $6.75? That’s a bargain!”

Or an alcoholic’s version of heaven. Whateves.

In any case, I’m fairly positive this won’t be our last trip to the Windsor Pub. While the decor and ambiance leave a little to be desired, the food was excellent and the prices are definitely worth it. I mean, for under $10 you can get a giant burger, fries and a draft beer (or half a bottle of rum, take your pick). How can you complain about that?

That burger is half a ten dollar bill. Size and money-wise.

That burger is half a ten dollar bill. Size and money-wise.

Ted

Ted

Amanda

Amanda

Steph

Steph

Shane (noting that his rating is based on the giant burger)

Shane (noting that his rating is based on the giant burger)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Ted
Drinks: There’s nothing special about the beer list, but it’s cheap so you don’t complain. If you’re an alcoholic, though, definitely go with the mixed drinks. Because you get about a quarter of the bottle of rum in a tall drink. For $2.25.  
Food:
We can only speak for the burgers, but we dare say that sign out front is damn close to the truth.
Service: Good. I mean, forgetting to charge you for drinks is far better than overcharging, so there’s that.
Overall: This is another of those “we really wish this place was closer to our homes” examples. Great low-key, dive bar atmosphere with good food and cheap drinks.

Next Pick: Shane

Windsor Pub on Urbanspoon

WTGW 12/10/14: Scoreboards, Northfield

Or, as the sign outside more appropriately read “SCORE OR S”. Which just happens to be near a “ESTONE” tire place. Apparently Northfield has some sort of a light bulb shortage in effect. Happy holidays?

Scoreboards is located in a strip plaza – where, if we were to return during normal business hours, we could also get a tattoo, work out at an off-name-brand gym, buy a used bedroom set, get our license renewed and score some sweet deals on secondhand clothing. Adventures abound, for sure.

There could probably be even more interesting shops in the plaza (seriously, I think all we’re missing is a liquor store and semi-shady looking massage parlor for the win) if not for the fact that Scoreboards takes up what must be three or four storefronts all in itself. For real, the place is huge inside. One side was all pool tables (and a ping pong table, just for good measure I guess) and some high tops, the other was giant space of bar and tables. I think there might’ve been a patio as well, but we didn’t venture that far into the vortex.

(Side note: it was also extremely bright on the inside for a bar – at least until about 8:35, when apparently the “mood lighting” kicked in. I’ll take the Miller Lite special with a side of ambiance please.)

The place was fairly busy, and it seemed a lot of the tables were regulars from nearby offices. Or groups of people who just really like to wear name tags in public places. Whatevs. Wednesday is also wing night, with 12 traditional or 10 boneless wings for $5 – which seemed to be the dinner of choice for most of the tables.

Scoreboards is one of those walk in and seat yourself places – or, as if you’re like us, it goes more like walk in, look around, look at one another, try to look inconspicuous, ask quietly amongst the group if we just sit down or wait, start walking toward a table, look around to see if anyone stops you,  sit down and then wonder if the waitress really did see you come in. Because putting up a sign is definitely too much hassle? Exactly.

Anyway, after all that it definitely took a hot minute for the waitress to greet us – but once she came over she was bubbly and nice, and when we said it was our first time there she quickly pointed out the specials and the drink list. She also scored major bonus points with us when she returned to take our food order, and was able to commit all of it – complete with insane last minute audibles and questions – to memory. And it actually all came out as we intended. For reals. Meanwhile I’m over here forgetting the name of the intern we’ve had at work for six months now, or how my husband of four years takes his coffee.  Awesome.

So for our meals, Amanda went with the Jack’s Philly Burger. Which by description is supposed to be like a mushroom and swiss burger, but with pepper jack cheese replacing the swiss. Except that Amanda didn’t really think they did that. She said it was a little bland. Which you don’t expect from pepper jack, so I have to believe she was right.

Once again we're trusted with large knives

Once again we’re trusted with large knives

I had the Buffalo Chicken Wrap. It wasn’t bad. It had just enough kick to make it tasty, but not too much that it left your mouth on fire. Which I’m thinking is kind of the point. Maybe if they’d put whatever sauce they used on my wrap onto Amanda’s burger we’d be on to something here.

That's cheese sauce, not mustard. Please.

That’s cheese sauce, not mustard. Please.

The boys had a lengthy discussion about what types of sharing and trade deals they could work out in order to get the most for their money (and grumbling stomachs). Because, well, boys. They ended up with two small pizzas (one veggie and one meat lovers – talk about opposite ends of the spectrum) and one and a half wing specials (12 spicy garlic and 6 Cajun BBQ) between the two of them. And a basket of mini egg rolls, which technically were meant as a appetizer but showed up with the meal instead. OK, so technically the waitress did get something wrong. Suddenly I feel a little better about my own memory. Maybe.

Probably the one thing we all agreed we liked

Probably the one thing we all agreed we liked

Unfortunately the guys pretty much struck out all around. The pizza was just plain not good. It was definitely frozen “bar pizza,” and the consensus was that we could’ve brought our own DiGiorno’s and been happier. Ted said his wings were cold, like they were the first things done and then sat under a lamp waiting for the pizza to finish up before it all came out together. Or maybe they were waiting on the appetizer egg rolls? That would be ironic. And Shane was not a fan of the sauce for his Spicy Garlic wings. At all. In fact, he even left four of them on the plate – and declined the take home box. *gasp*

The boy's side of the table

The boy’s side of the table

We're men. We like food. Grr.

We’re men. We like food. Grr.

By far the best thing about the place was the drink specials. Happy hour is until 9, and featured $2.25 large domestic drafts. Amanda and I took advantage of that and went with Miller Lites. Ted went with Christmas Ale – much to the waitress’s delight, who told him “I somehow knew you would pick that. You look like a Christmas Ale kind of guy.” I’m not sure what that means exactly, but none of us could really argue, since he does order that a lot. Shane started with a Coors Light and then switched to the Angry Orchard with the shot of fireball for his second (and final) round. He’s living dangerously for a Wednesday night.

Overall Scoreboards is probably not a place we’ll end up back at. I was the only one who didn’t really find fault with my meal, which is why I differed from the rest of the group and gave a “thumbs middle” to the rest of their “thumbs downs.” The atmosphere was no different from 27 other bar and grills we’ve been to over the years, and there really wasn’t anything impressive enough for us to put it on the must-return list. Sorry “SCORE OR S” – I don’t see us contributing to your light bulb fund again in the near future.

Shane

Shane

Ted

Ted

Steph

Steph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amanda

Amanda

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Shane
Drinks:  Mostly domestics, nothing fancy (other than Christmas Ale, which is more common than fancy in NEO this time of year anyway). Decent drink specials.
Food:
Mine was decent, but nothing worth seeking out again. The rest of the group would probably choose a lovely evening at the local McDonald’s before a return visit.
Service: A little slow when we first arrived, but overall personable and good. And props for remembering our incredibly convoluted order without writing it down.
Overall: Three thumbs down and one “eh.”

Next Pick: Steph

Scoreboards Sports Grill on Urbanspoon

WTGW 11/26/14: Larry’s Main Entrance, Akron

I guess it was only inevitable, right? I mean …

I guess if you're reading that, it's true

I guess if you’re reading that, it’s true

Consider that your warning.

Larry’s Main Entrance is located on W. Market St., right next to Ken Stewart’s Grille. Apparently this is the part of town where we just put our names on businesses instead of coming up with some catchy title. I wonder if Larry and Ken know one another? It’s like Sesame Street.

Since the place is basically a storefront on a fairly busy street, we were slightly confused on where to park upon our arrival at Larry’s. But we quickly discovered that if you look kind of lost and smile nicely at Ken’s parking attendant they just might let you park in the lot they apparently borrow from Jiffy Lube (not “Tom’s Liffy Lube”? Someone didn’t get the memo.) across the street. Seriously, I’m not sure where you’re actually supposed to park for Larry’s Main Entrance, but this worked out OK, so I’m not complaining.

Also confusing: the entrance itself.

Larry's Main Entrance

You can see how this is confusing, right?

Define irony.

Anyway.

Larry’s is another on the list of top contenders for tiniest dining establishments. We seriously have to start finding places with more than 10 tables. OK, so this place probably has at least 15, but we were still lucky to grab the very last one big enough for our party of four. Four. Thankfully our WTGW group isn’t bigger than a bobsled team.

For drinks, Amanda and I went with the Miller Lite drafts. Talls. And they came out ice cold, as in with a glacier ice cap on the top. Nice.

It's like it's wearing a hat

It’s like it’s wearing a hat

Ted went with Christmas Ale, and Shane had bottles of Angry Orchard. The beer list isn’t that extensive, although given the size of the place I’m not sure where they’d put it if they had more, so that’s probably a good thing.

Our server, upon hearing this was our first visit, highly recommended the sauerkraut balls for our appetizer. So we ordered that – because, well, we’re gullible. And also the calamari – because, well, Shane loves calamari.

No, those aren't onion rings

No, those aren’t onion rings

Neither was that outstanding. The calamari was freezer to fryer, decent taste but nothing original. Although Shane claimed the marinara was really tasty. The best word we could use to describe the sauerkraut balls was “interesting.” The sauce that accompanied them was a zesty cheesy something-or-other (yes, that is the official name of it – at least at our table), which neither helped nor hurt the flavor.

See? “Interesting.”

Larry’s is known for the burgers, so of course that’s what we ordered (see “gullible” above). Amanda had the mushroom and swiss, Ted and I both went for the Buffalo burger (a regular cheeseburger made with bison meat) and Shane had the bleu cheese. Which had real bleu cheese dressing on it, not crumbled bleu cheese. The server made that clarification when he ordered, which was probably a good thing.

The dressing, not the cheese

The dressing, not the cheese

My burger was fine, nothing special. My biggest gripe was that I specifically ordered it without onion, and got this:

"No" means "no" there onion

“No” means “no” there onion

Ted said his was OK as well. Nothing to write home about.

At least for Ted's sake the cheese didn't follow onion's lead

At least for Ted’s sake the cheese didn’t follow onion’s lead

And the same verdict from Amanda, but here’s a photo of hers just for fun also.

Larry's Main Entrance

Probably the biggest complaint of the evening came from Shane, with regards to the “doneness” of his burger. He’s on a quest to get the perfect “just right pink” burger, and had a lengthy discussion with our server about medium vs medium rare. Scarred by his “nearly eating live cow” experience at The Rail a few months back, he’s abandoned his usual rare order and now typically orders medium. And is quickly realizing that means very different things at every restaurant.  As in, some places that’s closer to well done, and others it’s practially still mooing. At Larry’s he ordered medium, and the server even made a note that he wanted some pink – but when his burger arrived it was still brown all the way through. Disappointing, and most likely greatly influenced his opinion of the place in general.

Overall Larry’s isn’t a horrible place, but there’s really nothing overwhelmingly impressive about it either. With only two small TVs over the bar, it’s not really the place to go if you want to watch sports. Also, there was a weird burning smell coming from the kitchen (or at least that’s where we hoped it was coming from anyway) at various times throughout out meal. Call me crazy, but that isn’t the most pleasant aroma when you’re awaiting your meal. Although maybe that was them chargrilling all the really well done burgers? Who knows. And did I mention it’s kind of tiny?

Plus apparently people – like the ones seated just behind us – like to bring just-barely-learned-to-walk toddlers into the place, and let them roam free while they enjoy their drinks. Because that’s fun and safe in a bar.

We did find one fun thing we liked for sure: chalkboards in the restrooms. There’s an interesting and fun (although not exactly hygienically appealing) party trick. Also the start of many “for a good time call” threats at our table.

What, no phone number?

What, no phone number?

Being the night before Thanksgiving, we had to pretend as if we weren’t a group of late 30-somethings, and go out to join the “biggest party night of the year.” I guess those crowds don’t come out until well past 10PM, because we definitely didn’t see them. Hit up the downtown Akron Barley House, and then the Red Fox, and both were moderately dead. But they did serve yummy shots, so I guess that counts for something, right?

Because shots are always a good idea

Because shots are always a good idea

See also: we may be late for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow

See also: we may be late for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow

Sidenote: we’ve decided to start a new feature on WTGW, and that’s our “Thumbs Up, Down or Middle” rating system photos. Essentially this is more for my benefit, so I can remember exactly how everyone felt about the place when I go to write this blog, but since we’ve got the photos, why not share with everyone, right? So here you go:

"Thumbs Middle"

Amanda

Thumbs Middle

Ted

Thumbs Middle

Shane

Thumbs Middle

Stephanie

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Amanda
Drinks:  Not a huge draft/bottle selection, but good enough for us. 
Food:
OK. Nothing overwhelmingly special, but definitely not horrible.
Service: Good. Our server seemed kind of excited that we hadn’t been there before, and was helpful.
Overall: “Thumbs middle.” If we lived down the street and this was our neighborhood bar, we would definitely go back. But overall nothing special compared to all the other places we’ve gone to, so we won’t go out of our way to go back.

Next pick: Ted

Larry's Main Entrance on Urbanspoon

 

WTGW 11/19/14: Teschner’s Tavern, Richfield

I know, I know, we’ve been gone for a few weeks. Did you miss us? You can thank my work for an event the first Wednesday, and then one of our dogs for an impromptu visit to the emergency vet the following week. He’s fine, and I think faked his way through that visit just to be an “only dog” and have an evening alone with mom and dad. Because he’s awesome like that.

I can also assure you that no place we will ever visit on a WTGW trip will rival that evening in terms of the bill at the end of the night. And if it does we better be far more hungover the next day.

Anyway, on to this week’s pick …

So I’m kind of hedging in on Shane’s “hole in the wall” category with this one. And he was bummed he missed this place for one of his picks. Well, at least he was before we went, when he thought it might be a diamond in the rough winner for top of the list.

Sorry to ruin the surprise … but yeah, no.

Since Teschner’s falls on the side of town closer to the highway than our house, it was just easier for me to meet the rest of the group there on my way home from work. I pulled into the tiny parking lot next to what I thought was Ted’s car and went inside fairly confident that I was the last to arrive. And then looked stupid when I proclaimed to the bartender that I was meeting people … who weren’t there yet. Oops.

And I definitely wouldn’t have missed them if they were there, because once again I was in a space that rivaled the size of our living room. Apparently between this place and our last adventure (Frank’s) we’re cornering a market on the tiniest dining establishments in the area. Be glad we aren’t claustrophobic.

So once I established that the people seated at any of the six available tables were not my husband and friends, I asked the bartender to go ahead and put us in for a table for four. She then asked me if I was sure I was in the right place. Well, yes, because, well, I could read the sign out front. But clearly I was a) new and b) overdressed in my work clothes. So thanks for that. She also started to tell me about the Long Island and other mixed drinks she could make, and I think was surprised when I chose an uncomplicated bottle of Miller Lite. See also: heels and scarves don’t make a girl high maintenance, thanks.

So I grabbed a bar stool and my Miller Lite and waited for the rest of the group. Meanwhile the bartender snagged the “big table” when that party got up and held it for us. Again, I’m sensing a theme over the last few weeks.

Upon arrival, Shane and Amanda also ordered Miller Lites. Because, well, that’s how we roll. Ted went for the Christmas Ale on round one, and then one of the other two craft beers on draft for round two. Because, well, that’s how Ted rolls. You all should really kind of know this by now.

Mine and Amanda's side of the table. Obviously.

Mine and Amanda’s side of the table. Obviously.

From what I’d seen online, Teschner’s is known for their burgers. And when we saw them coming out of the kitchen we realized why. They looked giant. And delicious. AND they’re $2.00 off on Wednesdays, so score.

So that’s what Shane, Amanda and I all ordered. I had the BLT burger, which doesn’t come with cheese but I added cheddar and was glad I did. It was tasty. I’m not sure what part I actually enjoyed more – the burger or the bacon. I also went with a side of onion rings, which are beer battered and delicious at well. I was not disappointed.

I'm all about the onion rings

I’m all about the onion rings

Amanda, however, had the burger with blue cheese, which she said was a bit overpowering. She also got the fries, because she thought would be fresh cut like fair fries. But when they came out as crinkle cut fries, she realized that was actually how they’re listed on the menu. Oops.

They trust us with large knives

They trust us with large knives

Although in her defense, it’s really, really dark inside Teschner’s. Like if the TV hadn’t been on above us, we might not have been able to see our menus. Because a few candles on the tables, or even some festive-year-round white Christmas lights, would infringe on the “ambiance” too much? Thank God no one tuned the TV to a CSI marathon or we’d really been out of luck.

Shane had the burger with a brandy sauce on it, which he wasn’t crazy about either. The burger patty itself was good, but the sauce made it not so much.

So basically the takeaway here is go simple on the burgers. Skip the fancy sauces and gourmet cheese, and just make a really good cheeseburger. Which they do, but then ruin it with all the elaborate fixins. Boo. 

Because the other special on Wednesdays is 10 wings for $4.50, and, well, Shane likes to eat all his daily meals in one sitting, he also had 10 of the garlic wings as well. And garlic they certainly were. Let’s just say that no vampire was coming within a 50 mile radius of our group once those wings were placed on the table. Or probably anywhere near Shane for the forseeable future, as all that garlic oozes its way out of his pores. So, lucky me.

Can I get some garlic up in here?

Can I get some garlic up in here?

Because it's too hard to wait until after the photo to sneak a bite

Because it’s too hard to wait until after the photo to sneak a bite

Ted also went with the wing special, along with sides of fries and steak-on-a-stick. If only those had been fair fries, he would’ve been reliving a summer day at the county fair over there on his side of the table. He made yummy noises all through eating the steak-on-a-stick, so he was clearly happy with it. And for like $4 how can you not be? He almost ordered another one just because.

Classy steak on a stick

Classy steak on a stick

Our server – who was also the bartender, because, well, six tables – was pretty good to start off, but then we kind of lost her after the food was delivered. Sure, I get it, we’re not top priority once the orders are up and the true alcoholics/regulars are racking up tabs at the bar … but it seriously took about 20 minutes to even catch her attention enough to get the check at the end of the night. Which may be another point in the favor of extra lighting in the place. Just sayin.

So all in all, Teschner’s wasn’t exactly the gem of a place that we were hoping for, or that we’ll necessarily go back to. Between the wierdly uncomfortable setup of the place (the restrooms are located in a hallway where I would think a front door would make more sense, and essentially back up to the bar, so you have to shimmy your way through a narrow passageway in order to get from the dining room side to the pool table/open mic night area), the lighting for those with eyes better than bats, and the strangely flavored burgers, we just weren’t overly impressed. Plus it’s just maybe a bit too much of a “regulars” hang out for those of us who can’t commit to that status. Oh well.

Because we never actually remember these, so photos are necessary

Because we never actually remember these, so photos are necessary

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Steph
Drinks:  Only a few beers on draft and they were craft beers. Kind of surprising for a place that also serves PBR in cans, but whatevs.  
Food:
 Keep it simple stupid might be more of a rule to live by here. The burgers themselves were delicious, but the additions were just a bit over the top and not as well thought out flavor wise as they could’ve been.
Service: Good at first, but then we kind of lost her at some point after the food was served. I think the “regulars” got more of her undivided attention.
Overall: Eh. I think I had hopes of a Muskateer’s-esque environment, and this just fell short.

Next Pick: Amanda

Teschner's Tavern on Urbanspoon