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

WTGW 10/29/14: Frank’s Place, Akron

So, I think Shane is trying to take the lead on discovering the most “hole in the wall hidden gems” out of our WTGW list. Or “places that look scary on the outside but surprise you once you’re inside.” Whatever you want to call it.

(I guess after a year+ of doing this, we’re slowly finding our niches. For example:  Ted has, well, all of Kent. And Shane has … places next to a scary motel, in areas of town we normally don’t travel, and that we’re dangerously close to drawing straws on who gets to open the front door first. To each his own.)

Frank’s Place definitely falls into Shane’s territory. Located on the corner of W. Market St and Merriman, across from a cemetery, we drove by once before realizing we passed the place, and then nearly again when we thought that “couldn’t possibly be it.”

Just in case we forgot where we were ...

Just in case we forgot where we were …

Our second thought after we made it into the parking lot was that we hoped half the vehicles in the lot were somehow abandoned there, because we weren’t sure how all the people they belonged to could possibly fit into that tiny building.

Tiny maybe isn’t even the correct word to describe this place. I think I’ve had living rooms bigger than this place, and I certainly haven’t resided in mansions. If most restaurants are Lincoln Navigators, Frank’s would be a Fiat. Or a Smart Car. Or maybe a Scooter.

To make it worse, we unknowingly arrived on dart night, which we discovered takes over half of the ridiculously small number of tables on the floor out of commission.

(Side note, beware of entering through the front/only door on dart night, as it’s situated smack between the two dartboards. It’s a little intimidating to open the door and find someone seemingly aiming a dart at your head.)

But before we could get discouraged, our server approached us, quickly realized we were new to the place (that lost look on all of our faces – and the fact that we tried to sit at one of the dart tables – must’ve given that away) and that we had come on a night with a reduced amount of seating. She pointed to the one table large enough to accommodate our group of five, which was at the moment taken up by a group of older folks, and kindly told us they would be leaving soon if we wanted to just get some drinks and wait it out to order food.

Deal.

And sure enough, we had barely gotten our first round of drinks before that group was gathering their things and heading out. Actually, watching our server talk to the group as they left, it was clear she’d been taking care of them there at Frank’s Place regularly for many years. We asked and she said they come a few times a month, and had been for years. Gotta love that. Especially since that will probably be our little group one day. Ha.

Frank’s has a pretty impressive list of craft beers, which was a little unexpected for a place that had the look and feel of a dive bar. We all went Miller Lite … except, of course, for Ted, because, well, Ted. I’m not sure exactly what his first pick was (probably something I couldn’t pronounce or spell anyway), but then afterward I know he went with the Smutty Pumpkin (which may or may not have been a “guilt move” after the server put some on ice for us “just in case” we’d want to try it later) and then a Vanilla Porter.

As is becoming common practice for us, we asked the server (I’m beginning to realize I really should’ve gotten her name if I’m going to be mentioning her this much) what her favorites were on the menu. And she was great – she went through and picked out an item in each section of the menu, since she “wasn’t really sure what we were all in the mood for and didn’t want to leave anything out.” Nailed it.

One of the things she raved about the most was the spicy stuffed pepper balls on the appetizer menu. As you can probably guess, that took very little twisting of our arms to order. And wow. Take everything you love about a spicy stuffed pepper, roll it into a ball, and deep fry it. I’m really not sure how exactly you can go wrong there.

You can deep fry anything and we'll eat it. For reals.

You can deep fry anything and we’ll eat it. For reals.

For dinner, Shane, Amanda and I all had burgers. I had the BBQ Bacon, Shane had the Black & Bleu, Amanda had the Bourbon. Shane and I both thought they were delicious, while Amanda said the bourbon sauce didn’t have much flavor.

Crinkle cut fries = awesome

You don’t see crinkle cut fries nearly enough anymore.

I opted for the sweet potato fries instead of the regular fries, and definitely wasn’t disappointed. Unlike the ones I had at The Game a few weeks back, these ones were truly sweet, with a cinnamon twist to them. You know, how they’re supposed to taste. Delicious.

Sweet potato fries count as a vegetable, right?

Sweet potato fries count as a vegetable, right?

On the chicken side of the table, Ted got the Cajun Chicken entree, which he really liked. He said it had the perfect blend of seasoning on it. He used the sauteed spinach as more of a condiment than a side dish, though. Jenny had the Chicken spinach wrap, which she also liked. They both said the chicken itself was really good.

The other "non-burger" plate

The other “non-burger” plate

One of these meals is healthier than the other

One of these meals is healthier than the other

Ted apparently brought his Genie lamp to dinner with us, because after we ate the conversation somehow turned to our infamous trip to the frozen yogurt bar a few weeks back, and Ted mentioned that he could actually go for something sweet or dessert-like after his meal this time around, too. We joked about not really thinking Frank’s was the type of place to have a dessert menu – unless it was of the alcohol variety.

No joke, ten minutes later our waitress shows up out of the blue with a plate of five mini apple muffins. Just drops them off at our table and walks away, no explanation. Interesting. And delicious. But interesting nonetheless.

Magic muffins

Magic muffins

The muffins get the Turtle Stamp Of Approval

The muffins get the Turtle Stamp Of Approval

Then about ten minutes after that she reappears with five pumpkin pie shots, and sets those in front of us as well. What what?

We really should start wishing for alcohol more often

We really should start wishing for alcohol more often

Our lesson here is that clearly Ted should learn to use his cosmic wishing powers on things like cars, fancy vacations and stacks of cash. But we’ll reap the benefits this time around, no worries. Thanks buddy.

But I do admit, that was such a nice gesture by our server. She was honestly one of the best parts about our visit to Frank’s Place. She clearly knew from the start that we were “virgins” to the place, and it was nice of her to make us feel so welcome the whole time. She had a great personality, and you could tell she just 100% loves the place and the people there. Whether it was the table of regulars whose kids and grandkids she probably knows all about the lives of – or the five of us who stumbled in for the first time ever – she treated everyone as if they were lifelong friends and guests in her own home. These things make a difference.

Overall Frank’s is a wonderful little (and I do emphasize little) hidden gem. Our one and only complaint about the place really is the size, but even that didn’t seem to matter once we got settled in. I would recommend trying to go on a night that they don’t have something else going on, although that seems a hearty task based on the posters on the walls advertising upcoming events. We do know that dart night is Wednesday. And apparently they do kareoke on Sundays, although we couldn’t for the life of us figure out physically where in the hell they would set that up. But I’m sure it would be entertaining.

No, we aren't members of the Dart League.

No, we aren’t members of the Dart League.

I apparently didn't get the "grey" memo

I apparently didn’t get the “grey” memo

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Shane
Drinks: The usual suspects, plus a pretty impressive list of craft beers for such a small place. And did I mention the pumpkin shots? 
Food:
 Good. Everything was obviously made fresh. And get the stuffed pepper balls. Trust us.
Service: Outstanding. Instead of looking at us like outsiders, we were given star treatment. From making sure we had a big enough table to making honest recommendations on menu items, to the free dessert and shots – we were all rather impressed.
Overall: This place is truly a hidden gem. Aside from being super tiny, I’m not sure we really had any complaints about the place. I could definitely see us making a return appearance … or joining the dart team, whatevs.

Next Pick: Steph

Frank's Place on Market on Urbanspoon

WTGW 9/24/14: Papa Don’s Pub, Akron

I have to admit, we were all a little bit nervous to visit this week’s pick. Well, except, of course, the one who made the pick (Shane). And we’re not sure how exactly he discovered this place – but let’s just say that it’s definitely not in the most desirable of neighborhoods. Maybe that should tell us all a bit about how he spends his spare time? Hmmm.

Actually, Amanda admitted that she has driven through this area on her way to work, and when Shane gave her the name of the place she was thinking it was actually the building next door. Which, we realized as we drove up, is rather frightening. It turns out that Papa Don’s is only slightly less intimidating looking from the outside, but score for us that at least Shane didn’t pick that other place.

However, it’s worth mentioning that as we walked in there were two matching convertible Mercedes parked near the door, so that helped shudder our nerves a little.

Inside the bar is a whole different world, though. It’s not the most glamorous of places – just one big room filled with tables/booths and a large bar at the back, and then an enclosed patio off to the right side. The boys voted for the patio, but Amanda and I decided it was a bit chilly to go that route. Yes, we’re girls. And it is fall, after all. 60 degrees is not warm this time of year.

Wednesday nights at Papa Don’s are .50 cent wing and $1 Bud Light drafts. OK, suddenly we’ve forgotten what the exterior of the place looked like or the dark, slightly shady neighborhood it’s located in – because specials like that are hard to come by. Naturally we went with the $1 beer specials … except Ted, who likes to be different and is apparently made of money, who opted for a Great Lakes bottle.

$1.00 Bud Lights. And whatever else that sign says. Glorious.

$1.00 Bud Lights. And whatever else that sign says. Glorious.

We opted for the appetizer platter – which, for $14, includes half orders of your choice of four different appetizers. This is right up our alley, since that way instead of having to agree on something to share, we could all pretty much just pick what we liked. Nice. Our choices were mac ‘n’cheese bites (a regular staple for us), breaded mushrooms (our closest attempt at being healthy for the night), queso bites (who wouldn’t love deep fried hot cheese? Oh, right, Ted), and pizza rolls (because everyone loved Totino’s back in the day … and this is pretty much exactly what these were). Everything was good, and came out piping hot. I mean, I think Ted lost a layer of skin on the roof of his mouth from his first interaction with a pizza roll. That should teach him to be over-eager.

A tray of fried goodness

A tray of fried goodness

For our meals, Shane and I both went with wings. I had the hot garlic parm, and Shane got six each of the honey mustard, 6 pepper and regular garlic parm. Mine were good, just not as spicy as I thought they would be, especially considering they have a hot and a regular version on the menu. I guess I should’ve really stolen one of Shane’s regular ones to try them, since he voted them as #1 out of the three kinds he ordered. Although that being the case, you know he was also coveting them and not sharing. Oh well.

Leave it up to Shane to have the most food on the table.

Leave it up to Shane to have the most food on the table.

Amanda went with her tried and true order – a steak wrap with fries. She said it was good, just not the best thing she’s ever had.

Steak + cheese + wrap = good

Steak + cheese + wrap = good

On a complete curve ball, Ted ordered an actual dinner – the prime rib. He said it didn’t have much flavor. Although I’m not really sure what he expected from a neighborhood bar with wing and Bud Light specials? He also said he was glad he finished off the meal with one of Shane’s 6 pepper wings, which apparently had enough flavor to totally redeem the whole trip for him.

Ted shows off his meat ... without spilling his beans. Impressive.

Ted shows off his meat … without spilling his beans. Impressive.

Don't laugh or you'll lose it!

Don’t laugh or you’ll lose it!

Hey, wait … should I be offended that Shane shared wings with Ted and not his own wife? Hmmm.

Speaking of wings, I noticed one of the flavors on the menu was “BBQ potato chip.” I was intrigued … but then Amanda reminded me of the Taco flavored wings I had back at Ripper’s Rock House that were also “intriguing,” but not actually good. Point taken.

The service at Papa Don’s was good. The bartender was also our waiter, although throughout the night a few other bartenders must’ve come on shift because from time to time a random would also stop over to fill our drinks or see if we needed anything. Or maybe they didn’t work there but were just really concerned patrons. This place definitely had that Cheers sort of feel to it where the person behind the bar may not necessarily need to be an employee.

Side note – some of the reviews we’d read before coming in made mention of how bright the place was on the inside – you know, for a bar. And I have to admit that they weren’t lying. I mean, it wasn’t surface of the sun bright or anything, but if you’re looking for ambiance … well, let’s just say first of all that maybe you need to look up the meaning of the word before you think of this place , but there definitely aren’t any dark corners to hide in (so to speak) here either.

All in all a good visit. It didn’t skyrocket to the top 5 on our list, but they do have good specials ($1 Bud Light drafts on Wednesdays and during Browns games, $2 Blue Moon on Thursdays, etc) and the food, while not over-the-moon fabulous, was decent. And because of the insanely cheap specials, it meant that our bill rivaled that of The Big Dog a few weeks prior – so you know that made us happy. I could see us coming back to take in a game or just grab some wings and check out the crowd on another night.

$5.00 for all this.  Awesome.

$5.00 for all this. Awesome.

We so should've made him wear a hat like Don's in order to be in this picture.

We so should’ve made him wear a hat like Don’s in order to be in this picture.

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Shane
Drinks: Thank you, $1.00 Bud Light drafts, for the second under $30 bill we’ve had in the past month. Enough said. 
Food:
 Typical bar food, and Wednesdays are 50 cent wing nights. There were specials for every day on the menu, but that was the only one we actually paid attention to.
Service: Good. Despite the place having that neighborhood “Cheers” kind of feel, no records came to a screeching halt when we walked in and we weren’t ignored in favor of the regulars.
Overall: Nice little neighborhood bar in a bit of a scary neighborhood. If you can get past the exterior and the area it’s worth a chance.

Next Pick: Steph