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

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

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

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

Anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's a whole lot of cheese there, Ted

That’s a whole lot of cheese there, Ted

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, on Shane's plate ...

Meanwhile, on Shane’s plate …

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

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

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

Hopefully Ted doesn’t pick Italian next week.

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

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

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

Good times.

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

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

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

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

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

Amanda

Amanda

Ted

Ted

Steph

Steph

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

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

Take two. Your guess is as good as mine.

Take two. Your guess is as good as mine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Amanda

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

Next Pick:  Ted

 

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WTGW 7/8/15: Mike’s Place, Kent

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

Um, that it’s awesome.

I feel like we're walking into a cartoon

I feel like we’re walking into a cartoon

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

Hey, they’re our rules, get over it.

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

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

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

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

Words. So. Many. Words.

Words. So. Many. Words.

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

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

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

Oh, look, more words

Oh, look, more words

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least it's covering all of the words

At least it’s covering all of the words

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

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

Meat and sides of choice

Meat and sides of choice

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

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

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

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

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

Finally. That healthy stuff was getting old.

Finally. That healthy stuff was getting old.

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

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

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

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

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

Which way to go?

Which way to go?

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

Hey, there’s a lady on your boat …

Why didn't we use our bus like this?

Why didn’t we use our bus like this?

Inside the boat

Inside the boat

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

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

Patio, as seen from the bus

Patio, as seen from the bus

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

Steph

Steph

Amanda

Amanda

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Steph

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

Next Pick:  Amanda

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

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

Because we’re 12. I know.

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

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

So there’s that.

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

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

Once again we eat before we photograph. Dammit.

Once again we eat before we photograph. Dammit.

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

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

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

Does this look like Top Five material?

Does this look like Top Five material?

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

Wings, minus the flavor

Wings, minus the flavor

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

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

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

Fries shouldn't glisten like that. Just saying.

Fries shouldn’t glisten like that. Just saying.

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

I'll take the 5,000 calorie fries please

I’ll take the 5,000 calorie fries please

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

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

It’s a mystery to this day.

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

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

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

Before he dissected it

Before he dissected it

Wings, with flavor

Wings, with flavor

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

Whoever invented these is a genius.

Whoever invented these is a genius.

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

Amanda

Amanda

Ted

Ted

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Shane

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

Next Pick:  Steph

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

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

Yeah, that changed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway.

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

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

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

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

That's a big fish

That’s a big fish

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

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

Yes please

Yes please

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

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

We had a bone to pick with chickens this week

We had a bone to pick with chickens this week

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

Exactly.

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

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

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

You may want to check your heat lamps

You may want to check your heat lamps

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

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

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

Shane's eating vegetables? Is that allowed?

Shane’s eating vegetables? Is that allowed?

All this for the price of 2.5 Summer Shandys

All this for the price of 2.5 Summer Shandys

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

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

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

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

It all starts with free shots ...

It all starts with free shots …

Shots with new friends

Shots with new friends

New friends, minus the shots

New friends, minus the shots

We gained a few more ... and more shots

We gained a few more … and more shots

Guess what? More shots!

Guess what? More shots!

Are you keeping track here?

Are you keeping track here?

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

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

Howie's on the Lake, Portage Lakes

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

Steph

Steph

Amanda

Amanda

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Shane

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

Next Pick:  Steph

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you Mother Nature. Today we are friends.

Anyway.

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

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

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

Our rules are fuzzy, get over it.

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

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

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

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

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

Uh, Ted? Your bottle is invisible.

Uh, Ted? Your bottle is invisible.

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

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

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

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

Anyway.

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

Shane's personal appetizer

Shane’s personal appetizer

The unhealthy way to eat chicken

The unhealthy way to eat chicken

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

The healthier way to eat chicken

The healthier way to eat chicken

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

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

Apparently feta is acceptable only on pizza

Apparently feta is acceptable only on pizza

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

A lovely pizza just for me

A lovely pizza just for me

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

It looks promising enough

It looks promising enough

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

This is not something you typically see on my plate

This is not something you typically see on my plate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yay for patio weather

Yay for patio weather

Ted

Ted

 

Amanda

Amanda

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Ted

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

Next Pick:  Shane

On the Rocks on Urbanspoon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway.

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

Options of deliciousness

Options of deliciousness

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

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

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

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

More fried food. Surprise!

More fried food. Surprise!

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

OK, I’m done being 12 now.

Balls. Enough said.

Balls. Enough said.

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

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

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

Lesson learned, stick to what you know.

Lesson learned, stick to what you know.

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

Once again, carbs led me astray

Once again, carbs led me astray

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

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

The best part of Shane's evening

The best part of Shane’s evening

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

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

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

Just an idea.

The underwhelming stromboli

The underwhelming stromboli

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

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

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

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

Steph

Steph

Amanda

Amanda

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

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

Next Pick: Amanda

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

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

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

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

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

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

The mystery remains unsolved to this day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So there’s that.

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

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

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

The preferred drink of this week's WTGW

The preferred drink of this week’s WTGW

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delicious apps

Delicious apps

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other "beef" on the table

The other “beef” on the table

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

Are the fries thicker than the corned beef?

Are the fries thicker than the corned beef?

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

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

Look at all that "extra" cheese!

Look at all that “extra” cheese!

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

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

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

Amanda

Amanda

Ted

Ted

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

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

Next Pick: Steph

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