WTGW 1/20/16: Hodge’s Cafe, Barberton

Standard

Ah Barberton. It’s been a while. We’ve missed you.

And by that I mean we’ve missed traveling through neighborhoods on the way to our destination that make us question our decisions on life insurance policies. Case in point, about halfway to Hodge’s we passed a totally questionable looking establishment on a street corner that was really nothing more than a small building with no name and no windows … oh wait, I take that back, there was one window, but it was taken up completely with a giant neon red OPEN sign and hours too small to be read from the street. What they were OPEN for, however, was completely up for grabs.

Shane (whose goal in life is the find the scariest place imaginable for us to visit) of course exclaims, “OH, we HAVE to go THERE.”
Me: Absolutely not.

We really need to start utilizing an “avoid ghettos” feature on Google Maps.

Anyway.

So we get to Hodge’s, and park in a somewhat less questionable parking lot, only to walk inside the place and be greeted by lighting that somewhat resembles the surface of the sun. Not quite what I was expecting from a little neighborhood dive establishment, but I guess you’ll have that. I also didn’t expect to see a Tony Stewart NASCAR themed crock pot staring at me from across the way on top of the popcorn machine, but I guess you’ll have that as well.

Anytime you can find $2 bottles of Summer Shandy in January … well, honestly it probably means that the bar just found a few cases in the back room and dusted them off mere seconds before their expiration date so they could clear the space. But if you’re me or Amanda you just chalk it up to a win and move on. We aren’t going to ask questions on this one, except for the obvious “how many do you have left in there?” Because we all know how this group has been burned on our favorite beer finds in the past.

Anytime you can find this in January life is good

Anytime you can find this in January life is good

Although in this case we didn’t have to worry, because we didn’t run out the stash. And they also had grapefruit shandy available on the specials board, too, so at least we had a backup.

Shane, meanwhile, went the tall Captain and diet route. Which he observed them pouring and commented that it contained at least four shots. And which we learned later at the end of the night was only $1.75 more each than my outdated Summer Shandy.  Oh, hello Windsor Pub redeux. Nice to meet you.

For apps we got fried pickles and clam strips. Because, dive bar and fried stuff. And us. The clam strips were more like batter strips that kind of maybe tasted a little bit like clams. Maybe they just deep fried some batter in clam juice? Who knows. The bigger pieces were OK, but a lot of the dish was just pieces parts of, well, fried batter. Yummy. And the pickles were spears instead of chips, which was not at all what any of us were expecting. Of course I had to comment that “that’s a lot of pickle at once.”

That’s what she said.

Pickles on steroids

Pickles on steroids

Despite what it says in the background, this is not meatloaf

Despite what it says in the background, this is not meatloaf

Hodge’s is known for its burgers, so naturally that’s what we all got. Plus there’s not much else of note on the menu to choose from, so that made the decision easier, too. I mean, we didn’t come all the way to Barberton for hot dogs and grilled cheese, right? Although they do also feature the random AYCE spaghetti special or veal parmesan. Those must be reserved for those “fancy” dinners like first dates and birthday celebrations.

And I’m still confused what the Tony Stewart crock pot is used for exactly.

Ted got the Italian burger with fries. Jerrid went with the Big Hodge burger with onion rings, Amanda got the mushroom and swiss burger with fries, and Shane got the black & blue burger with fries. Our server asked Shane if he wanted a small or large order of fries, to which Shane looks at me and asks “are you eating any?” I said that, well, honestly I really shouldn’t, what with trying to be a bit healthier and all – and that’s why I got a side salad with my BBQ burger.

Shane: Large then.

Thanks, honey.

Speaking of that salad …

So. Many. Comments.

So. Many. Comments.

So, yeah, be warned that Hodge’s version of a salad is really nothing more than a heap of cheese over some lettuce. So, OK. So much for the whole “healthier” thing. If I were Ted and said I didn’t want any cheese on my salad, would they have just brought me out a head of iceberg and a fork? But the best part is that wasn’t even the weirdest thing about the salad. If you look at that photo again, you’ll notice something to the side …

So. Many. Comments.

So. Many. Comments.

Yes, that’s an actual bottle of salad dressing. When I said I wanted the dressing on the side, I kind of just meant a little cup … not the entire bottle on the side of my salad. It’s almost like the cook was like, “well, hell, I don’t know how much to pour in a cup – I usually just put it on the salad directly. I can’t measure any other way. Just give her the whole bottle and let her do it herself.” Hmm. Are these people related to the folks over at the Lockview in Akron, who just gave us the plastic Helluva Good container from the corner store as part of our “house made chips and dip” order??

They also brought us an extra basket of fries after our food came out. Because they didn’t hear Shane order the “large” just for himself, I guess? Or maybe they really did think I was going to eat all of his after all. Or maybe the cook just really isn’t good on measuring fries as well as salad dressing. Who knows. But regardless, I have to admit it was a nice gesture.

Oh good, more fried stuff

Oh good, more fried stuff

I think they missed the cheese on half that burger?

I think they missed the cheese on half that burger?

I think they missed the cheese on half that burger?

I think they missed the cheese on half that burger?

Why is the pickle on the top? I'm confused.

Why is the pickle on the top? I’m confused.

Or it would’ve been, if they’d actually given us time to eat said fries – as well as actually refilling our beverages – in the meantime. Pretty much after the food came we didn’t see the server/bartender again. It was like they vanished into thin air after our meals hit the table. They never came to check on us, ask if we needed anything else, ask if we wanted more drinks … but when it was obvious we were finished eating suddenly they reappeared and delivered the checks to the table. It was almost like they’d been huddled around a security camera in the back room, waiting for that last morsel to leave our plates or for us to utter the words “that’s it, I’m full” so they could swoop in and clear the plates and drop the check. Again, they didn’t ask if we wanted the checks – just like they didn’t ask if we wanted anything else, or needed refills on our drinks – they just brought the checks.

Notice the empty glass. Because the server sure didn't.

Notice the empty glass. Because the server sure didn’t.

Because nothing says thanks-for-coming-but-don’t-let-the-door-hit-you-on-the-way-out like that particular action.

By the way, lest you think we were overstaying our welcome, getting all rowdy and holding the place past closing … it was all of 8:30 PM at this time. 8:30. And what time do they close, you might ask? 9:30. A full hour later. And also not even that late, considering most places like this stay open at least until 11, if not 2AM.

At Hodge’s, clearly they’re used to locking up and heading home by 9. Because at 8:30 on a Wednesday, we were the last table left in the place. The few other tables who had been sharing the place with us earlier in the evening left about a half hour prior to our checks arriving at our table. Either there’s a curfew in effect in Barberton that we’re not aware of, or everyone locks themselves in their houses before 9:00 so they can enjoy a date with DVR’d episodes of Dr. Phil and Wheel of Fortune.

Or maybe they all hit up the OPEN place. Who knows.

In any case, that non-welcoming sense of “get the hell out now” is probably a big part of why we won’t be running to return to Hodge’s. I mean, the food was just OK. My burger seemed a bit overdone (they don’t ask how you want them, must just cook them all “medium” – because we all know how well that usually works out). And I didn’t hear anyone in our group particularly raving about theirs either. I certainly didn’t hear anyone mention their “Top 5” lists … so I can only imagine this burger wasn’t going on any of them.

Now, as far as salads with your own personal bottle of pre-opened and partially used dressing, however, this is up there …

I can't stop looking at the pile of cheese in the background

I can’t stop looking at the pile of cheese in the background

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

Jerrid

Jerrid

Amanda

Amanda

Steph

Steph

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Ted

Drinks:  Of course I give props to any place I can find a Summer Shandy in January. But apparently finding one after 8:30 PM is a whole other story.
Food:
Eh. Nothing out of the ordinary from what we’ve had at other burger joints. Except of course for the salad dressing straight from the bottle.
Service: Clearly ends an hour or so before the actual closing time.
Overall: I guess if you’re a local, this would be a nice little neighborhood bar. But we aren’t, and we can get better service for the same caliper food closer to home.

Next Pick: Jerrid
Hodge's Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 11/11/15: Kevin O’Bryan’s, Akron

Standard

So in contrast to last week, when it was the smaller than normal group of three (just me, Shane and Ted) … this week we had a larger than normal group of seven, with a few special guests and friends who wanted to join us to check out this particular spot. Apparently we’ve latched onto the Goldilocks and the Three Bears scale of dining groups. Maybe next week we’ll hit “just right?”

Kevin O’Bryan’s is a place that’s been on my radar for a little while now, but for some reason I just never pulled the trigger on actually picking it. Maybe because when you zoom out on the google map, the area of town is just a tad bit on the side of shady. I mean, not that that’s necessarily stopped us from visiting places in the past (Papa Don‘s, anyone?) … but let’s just say that as we approached the place – which turned out to be a non-descript block building with few windows across from a Family Dollar which we realized later had one of the world’s last working pay phones out front – I was only slightly nervous about what we were getting ourselves into.

Although everyone else tried to make me feel better by pointing out that there was another pub on the opposite corner of the street that seemed to be almost a carbon copy (from the outside anyway), so we could probably just hop back and forth if my place sucked. Thanks, guys.

But I’m happy to report that we had absolutely nothing to be worried about. This place is definitely a hidden gem. And we already can’t wait to go back.

Our server in particular was outstanding. You have to love someone who basically just lets you walk in and start pushing the tables around to however you want in order to accommodate your big group. I mean, there weren’t a ton of other people in the bar, and I’ll admit we can be kind of pushy as a group in general sometimes … but still. It was nice of him to not approach us with a “WTF do you think you’re doing there, new people I’ve never seen before in my life?” attitude.

He also took note of Shane’s Cleveland hoodie and commented that he could use Shane’s help to basically push out another group of not-Cleveland fans that were planning to watch the game there this coming weekend.  In his words “so, they’re Steelers fans, and I mean, I can’t kick them out all together … because, let’s face it, I still want their money … but I just don’t want them to have this great of a table. I’d rather you guys – Cleveland fans – had it.”

Ah, rivalry.

The beer list on the table was outdated, although the server mentioned that the new one was on his computer at home. Because that helps us not at all – unless we’re road tripping to go pick it up – but whatever. I noticed the tap for McKensie’s Cider at the bar and asked if they had the seasonal reserve – which they did – so I went with that, as did Amanda.

Although in true us fashion, that lasted two rounds and then we ran out the keg. It’s like they see us coming.

The server brought over another cider to try after that – I think maybe it was also from McKenzie’s(?), and I know he specifically said it was something with chamomile in it (he said he had to write the name down before he brought me the sample – “I’m usually good remembering this stuff but even I had to write it down, the name is jacked.”) So of course I liked it, but now have no idea now what the name of it actually was. Except the chamomile part. And that just makes me confused, like is it tea or is it cider? I mean, really. It wasn’t awful – to be honest, it tasted kind of like the seasonal reserve, minus the cinnamon and nutmeg. But note to companies – how about we stop trying to have 50 flavors that are all just OK and instead focus on making five or six that are really, amazingly good? Just a thought.

Speaking of really, amazingly good alcoholic beverages, Jerrid started the night drinking what is probably the exact opposite of that … Bud Light. Well, at least, anyway, until he mentioned wanting to do shots and the server recommended the “PB&J” – which is basically just a shot of Jameson (“J”) served along side a tall boy can of PBR (“PB”). For $6.50.

Shane: So really that’s a $6 shot and a $.50 can of beer then?

Note to anyone going out with our group: sometimes it’s easier to just not admit you’re a fan of certain beers, lest you be ridiculed until your dying day about them.

So since Kevin O’Bryan’s is known for it’s burgers (their website touts “Best Burgers in Akron!”), that’s what most of the table ended up getting. Although honestly, we had to admit the breadth and variety of the menu was a bit surprising to us. For a place that looks like a little dive bar on the outside, they really offer some interesting foods – not just your typical wings, frozen burger patties and random chicken sandwich selections. I mean, how many other bars serve fried green tomatoes as an app? (keeping in mind we’re in Ohio here, not anywhere near the southern U.S.)  Or buffalo calamari? Or a burger with pimento cheese and remoulade? Exactly.

But in any case, back to the burgers. So when I asked about the whole “Best in Akron” label on the website, the server told me that that was, in fact, the case – in his words, the only place that might compare to them is Swenson’s. Which I admittedly have heard of and driven past several times, but have never actually tried.

Server: You’ve never been to Swenson’s? Do you not live around here?
Me: No, we live in Cuyahoga Falls.
Server: Then how is it possible you’ve never been to Swenson’s? They’re, like, famous around here. You found us but you haven’t been there?
Me: But Swenson’s doesn’t serve alcohol.
Server: Point taken. Yeah, we’re definitely better than them then.

I like him.

Shane meanwhile took that opportunity to stir up the great “Burger Wellness Scale Interrogation” that we seem to go through at, well, every place we even think about ordering burgers. I’m beginning to think he should just create and carry some sort of a photographic reference that he can point each server to when describing to the level of pinkness he would like his burger to contain. Because in over two years, we still have yet to reach a universal similarity to the words “rare,” “medium rare,” and “somewhat rare.”

The struggle is real, y’all.

Amanda and I kept up our twinning routine and ordered the exact same entrees – the blue cheese burger with an added topping of sauteed mushrooms, and tater tots on the side. And we were not disappointed.

Can I have some of your tots?

Can I have some of your tots?

Not to be outdone, Shane and Lou also went the twinsies route and got the Livie Burger (the one with the pimento cheese referenced above) and fried green tomatoes as a side. They were also very satisfied with their choices.

Shane also got an order of wings – because, well, Shane. He chose the Irish Dew sauce, which is a house specialty. I only somewhat overheard the conversation about what it was made of (I clearly skipped the class toward my journalism degree called “paying attention when people talk”) but I do know it involved boiling down Tullamore Dew whisky as a base, and then mixing it with spices. In any case, Shane thought it was excellent.

Burgers and wings. The WTGW staples.

Burgers and wings. The WTGW staples.

Ted also got wings – because, again, that’s how the boys of WTGW roll – but he went with the hot garlic. Which he said kind of missed the mark on the whole “hot” part. He also got the Wednesday Special, a strip steak with potatoes and fried green beans.

That looks like a real meal.

That looks like a real meal.

The steak comes with a hot pepper on top of it … and you know of course Ted ate it. He didn’t regret it quite as much as the time he ate the pepper out of Shane’s drink at Tim Owen’s Traveler’s Tavern a few weeks ago … but it was definitely close. You know, like when you eat all the cookies you were supposed to take to your company holiday party, so now you don’t have anything to take with you and your stomach is really upset with you … but the cookies were super delicious, so it was actually kind of worth it. That level of regret.

Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.

He later asked the server what kind of pepper it was, and was told it was just a fried banana pepper. Which apparently had been farmed on the surface of the sun, according to Ted’s reaction. When Ted told the server that the pepper was hotter than his entire batch of hot garlic wings, the server’s reaction was “well, I guess that means we need to step those wings up a notch then, thanks for letting me know.”

That’s what we’re here for, folks. Saving the world from bad and/or wrongly labeled foods, one entree at a time.

Jerrid ordered a burger with tater tots, and the full appetizer order of the fried green tomatoes instead of just the side. He kept trying to get everyone at the table to try the fried green tomatoes – and in particular the sauce they came with. There’s only so many times you can hear “you need to get more of the sauce” before your mind just naturally goes to a dark place.

Again, don’t pretend you don’t get it.

Fried green tomatoes. Fancy.

Fried green tomatoes. Fancy.

Shanda, meanwhile, had a salad as big as my head. Does that still mean it’s healthy? And is that even allowed at our table of fried sin and burger deliciousness? The jury is still out.

Is that healthy food? Who allowed this order?

Is that healthy food? Who allowed this order?

So the overall opinion here was that everything was delicious – I don’t think there was anything we weren’t happy with, except maybe the fact that they ran out of our cider after about 30 minutes … but, hey, we’re used to that, no harm done there. Our server kept up well with what we admittedly realize can be a loud, demanding and over zealous group (especially once Jerrid and Ted decided it was o’shot-thirty … because that always ends well) … and did so with a sense of humor, more patience than I probably would be able to muster and a smile the entire time. We all admitted we were a bit nervous about the location and the exterior of the place, but the staff and the food are well worth getting past all of that. Plus that Family Dollar I mentioned was visible just outside the front window behind us – and who knew a pay phone could be so popular? – so we were afforded constant entertainment all evening. We’ll definitely be back. I mean, Shane even gave it his “dive bar stamp of approval” … which if nothing else just made me super glad I picked it before he had a chance to.

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

Amanda and Shanda

Amanda and Shanda

Ted and Jerrid. And shots. Obviously.

Ted and Jerrid. And shots. Obviously.

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Steph

Drinks:  When the list is updated, it’s pretty impressive. But judging from the outdated list, what they had over the summer looked delicious too. Quite a few crafts on draft, and bottles ranging from craft to PBR. What’s not to love.
Food:
Delicious. They aren’t kidding about it being the best burgers in town. They are definitely cooked to order. Shane didn’t even have to reference his power point presentation.
Service: Awesome. Again, we know we can be a demanding bunch (and there were more of us than usual this time) but we were definitely always well taken care of.
Overall: We’ll be back, whether to kick out rival fans for a Browns game or to maybe check out the Thursday night karaoke scene. Shane Newton needs new audiences …

Next Pick: Amanda
Kevin O'Bryan's Irish Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 10/28/15: Dante’s Game Day Grille, Akron

Standard

Another week, another perfect example of the rule “don’t judge a book by its cover.” I’m almost thinking we should change the name of this blog to something along that lines. Because we visit some shady looking places, y’all. And have yet to be shot at, kicked out of or completely disappointed in – well – most of them. Not too shabby.

So, yeah, Dante’s is definitely a bit shady on the outside. Like we drove right past it at first because we weren’t sure a) that was the place, and b) it was open. We finally realized there must be parking behind the building, since there were zero cars on the street. However, that lot was really no less daunting than the front of the building. As we parked, Shane noticed a light on above the creepy looking basement door.

Shane: what’s up with that basement?
Me: that’s where people go to die. You watch enough horror movies, that should be obvious to you.

We then had a lengthy discussion about how I would most definitely be the first one of us to die, since I was the only girl in the group for the night (Amanda was home sick, boo) and I was wearing 4-inch heels. So there’s that.

Anyway.

Dante’s is way tiny inside. Like small enough that the whole “put a mirror up on one wall to make it look bigger” trick almost works. But it’s small in a good way, in that it just makes it feel homey. Like a neighborhood bar, which really is exactly what the place truly is. I mean, it even has the stale smell of old neighborhood bars. You know what I’m talking about … the smell of about 57 years worth of nicotine and spilled beer in a place that can never open a window. And it hits you like a wall as soon as you walk in. But in a good way.

All that being said, you might expect the records to screech to a halt and the regulars to stare us down as soon as us “newbies” walk through the door. But that’s one of the best things about Dante’s, we realized … everyone there is treated like they’ve been coming to the place for ages, regardless if that’s truly the case, or if they just walked in for the first time. Our server/bartender was the first to greet us, and she did so with a smile and wave as if we were old friends. Maybe we are? I mean, we’ve been to a lot of places these past few years. Hmm.

And in fact we trusted her as if she were an old friend – it seemed that everything she old us to order we jumped on like a kid in a bouncy house. She was great at giving suggestions once we told her it was our first time there, and didn’t judge us one bit for saying we were slightly afraid to come in to the place before this night. Although she did judge Shane, who was switching things up and ordering a vodka & Red Bull for his drink (since the Long Islands effectively kicked his ass last week) and, when asked what kind of vodka he wanted, just replied “I don’t care, well is fine.” You’d have thought she was just told to go shoot puppies out back and use their blood in his drink by the way she feigned shock. She replied that “I’m Ukrainian, we don’t believe in well vodka. I can’t serve you that, I have to give you something with at least a name.” Well played.

Meanwhile Ted went the complete opposite route and ordered an IPA (Pine something, maybe?) solely on her recommendation. So he’s clearly still on her good side.

I went with the Woodchuck, since there was nothing on the beer list that necessarily sounded good to me.

Ted: You don’t know how proud it makes me that the beer list included Miller, Coors and Bud, and you said that “nothing sounded good.”

I seriously thought he might cry.

So for food, we all went with burgers, since the server told us that’s one of their specialties. I think at this point we might’ve ordered a pile of old boots deep fried in motor oil, that’s how much we trusted her recommendations. Ted ordered the Chuckie (which has salami on it), Shane got the Hot Pepper Burger (guess what that has on it?) and I had the standard Game Day Burger, with added mushrooms. The guys also got wings (Jamaican Jerk and Garlic Butter), because, well them.

Burger, fries and a drink. Our version of a happy meal.

Burger, fries and a drink. Our version of a happy meal.

Shane also ordered the Game Day Fries – another of the specialties and high recommendations of our server. These are basically regular fries covered in melted cheese, bacon, and ranch dressing. A combination which is music to the ears of my ranch-loving husband … but somehow that Midwestern gene skipped me. I also – thanks to an incident with a sink full of dirty dishes and a wet cracker from when I was about 8 years old – can’t stand soggy things, which is exactly how those fries end up after the cheese gets cold and the ranch seeps into them. But that’s just me. Which meant more for him, and he was perfectly OK with that.

There are fries under there somewhere. Honest.

There are fries under there somewhere. Honest.

The burgers were good. I was stuffed full after only half of mine, and about 1.5 onion rings. Shane said his hot peppers on his burger weren’t especially hot, but there was some sort of sauce on the sandwich that was made from one level of the surface of the sun, so that helped balance it out. Ted commented that he thought Dante’s must get their burger meat from the same place that supplies the Windsor Pub, because they tasted very similar.

Do they put ranch dressing on everything here?

Do they put ranch dressing on everything here?

About three onions had to die to make this side dish

About three onions had to die to make this side dish

The wings were OK – Ted said he thought that the Jamaican ones would’ve had more of a kick to them, but they were actually more like a sweet BBQ. And they were very salty. He said they weren’t bad … just “different.” He likened them to eating a bag of BBQ potato chips. Only the chips were made of chicken. So there’s that.

BBQ chip wings. I think we may be on to something here

BBQ chip wings. I think we may be on to something here

One thing we did be sure to note – we noticed it on a card on our tables and had to ask our server to be sure we weren’t seeing it wrong – Thursdays are $1.00 burger nights. $1.00. Right?? We didn’t believe it either. I mean, that’s like a holy offering to food lovers like us. Now granted they are 1/4 pound burgers (every other night – including the ones we had – they’re 1/2 pound), but still … I mean, it’s $1.00. You can buy four of them, mask them together and make a one pounder … and you’d still have change from a $5 bill. It’s kind of a no brainer.

Half of this for $1.00 on Thursdays. Not a bad deal

Half of this for $1.00 on Thursdays. Not a bad deal

So all in all, Dante’s is a nice little neighborhood bar. It’s definitely no frills, just a great little dive bar with lots of TVs tuned to the latest games and a few regulars keeping the bartender company after the dinner rush. It’s one of those places you almost want to become a regular in, just because you can tell there’s a good atmosphere and people are fun to be around. Like most dives, there’s not an overly impressive beer list, but they have the basics and it’s cheap and just a cool place to hang out. Just steer clear of the basement. I mean, even now that we’ve been inside the place I still don’t want to know why that light is on.

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Shane

Drinks:  Not a very impressive list, unless you have trouble deciding between Miller Lite, Coors Lite and Bud Light. Then you’re in the right place for sure. 
Food:
Typical dive bar fare – burgers, wings, anything you can make in a deep fryer. But a few surprises and specialties, like the game day fries. We took note of the $1 burgers on Thursdays. Because we like burgers, and that’s cheaper than McDonald’s. For real.
Service: Excellent. You know I love a server who can give any of us a run for our sarcastic and/or idiot sense of humor selves, while still doing a good job getting orders correct and giving suggestions. This was no exception.
Overall: Now that we know it’s not nearly as scary on the inside as it looks from a quick drive-by outside, I’m sure we’ll go back.

Next Pick: Steph

Dantes Gameday Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

WTGW 10/21/15: Tim Owen’s Travelers Tavern, Akron

Standard

Well that’s a mouthful.

If this place looks familiar, it’s because we were actually here once before. Almost two years to the date, actually. Back when the place was known as Ripper’s Rock House. But then this little TV show called Bar Rescue came along and did a makeover, so we figured it qualified for a revisit. Especially since that specific Bar Rescue episode airs in just a few weeks, we agreed this would be the perfect time.

Ted actually called an audible on his original pick for tonight, which was some Italian place in Canton. But then we got stuck in traffic trying to get there, which gave us plenty of time to exemplify our worries that this place could be another Gus’s Chalet (a concern I had voiced to Ted in text earlier in the day, after being rather unimpressed with their website) and before we knew it we were hopping across four lanes of standstill traffic (in true “pardon-me-excuse-me-I-have-my-blinker-on-can-I-just-squeeze-my-small-vehicle-through-here” style) to get off at a random exit and Google Map our way through the non-highway and somewhat ghetto streets to Traveler’s.

But seriously, can we just for a minute about this new name? WTF. I mean, John Taffer may be a genius at firing key staff members, increasing productivity and making a place look and feel desirable again … but let’s go back to Marketing 101 here – if they can’t remember the name, they won’t come back. I mean, really. Tim Owen’s Traveler’s Tavern. It’s a tongue twister. May as well call the place “Simon Sells Seashells By the Seashore.” It sounds about the same rolling off the tongue.

I mean, I’ve been talking about this place for all of about four paragraphs now, and I already managed to shorten the name to just “Traveler’s.” I get why Tim’s name is there (former front man of Judas Priest, Akron boy, part owner of the place, etc) – but it’s just not catchy. How about “Traveler’s Tavern … by Tim Owens”? Or “Tim’s Travels?” Or “Owen’s World Tour”? I mean, really.

Hey Taffer, want to join forces? I’m only half joking.

Anyway.

All that being said, we were a bit disappointed to discover that the place really hasn’t changed much since the last time we were there. It’s a tad bit brighter (maybe?) and the DJ booth was moved closer to the bar (we think?), but there’s still a stage, they still do karaoke on Wednesdays (which means Shane still had to represent and once again sing his signature Adam Sandler song), and they still specialize in wings with exotic flavors from around the world.

It's a tad bit overwhelming

The wing list. It’s still a tad bit overwhelming

So really, we just changed the name. Because that was the worst of our worries? Hmmm.

One thing we did notice was that they got rid of the chalkboard walls that held the names of the draft beers. The only beer list is “right up here, ” said our server, while pointing to her head. Mental note, that’s not really helpful when you aren’t a mind reader. Just sayin’.

In any case, we conjured up our secret mind powers, and ended up with Harvest Patch Shandy for me and Amanda (well, until they ran out in the 4th round, and we had to switch to the hard root beer. #notsurprised). Ted went with a Pumking, and then later a Guiness. Shane, meanwhile, was still on his “girly drink” kick … although I have to give him credit that at least he managed to pick the most manly sounding one on the list. Something containing habanero-infused pineapple juice, some type of vodka or gin, a cayenne pepper garnish on the rim, and an actual habanero pepper in the glass. So, yeah.

Although it was still served in a martini glass, so you know he caught some flack for that.

Fancy

Fancy

The drink definitely had some kick to it.  I mean, I took one sip and – while it was tasty – ten minutes later my tongue still burned. Although I’m not as crazy as Ted, who took Shane’s dare to eat one of the actual habanero peppers submersed in the drink. His first reaction was “not bad.”

"It's not hot ... yet."

“It’s not hot … yet.”

Then about ten minutes later we realized his eyes were watering and half his beer was gone.

Ted: I think that pepper is making my mouth hotter, and it’s not even there anymore.

So needless to say, after one round Shane traded in his martini glass his old favorite, Long Islands. Which he made the mistake of telling the server he wanted “something with more shots” when he ordered, so what he got was pretty much all alcohol.

Sidebar: three rounds later he certainly didn’t seem to complain about that as much. So I guess they served their purpose.

Shane, three Long Islands later

Shane, three Long Islands after “fancy.”

So the guys each went with their own 30-wing-and-fries platter … although Ted tried to rationalize the amount of food and say that us girls could really just eat part of their orders and we could split two 30-wing platters for the table. But that seemed like a lot of math, so we just did our own thing. Thanks anyway, smarty pants.

Each platter could do up to five sauces, so Shane went with the Wild Wasabi, Golden Garlic Bridge, Kentucky Bourbon, Mango Habanero and Little Italy (which is basically a garlic parm).

Ted had the Mango Habanero, Bloody Mary, Kentucky Bourbon, Garlic Express and El Diablo.

Amanda and I each got plates of 12; she had six of the Bloody Mary and six Little Italy, and I had six of the Kentucky Bourbon and six Wild Wasabi.

So … basically we all got various amounts of the same flavors, and the guys did take some of their huge portions home … which means that, yes, technically Ted was correct in thinking we could’ve just split the larger orders. But at the time he presented the idea, it just seemed too much like one of those  “if a train leaves the station going 75 mph and another train leaves a totally different station 1800 miles away when the sun it at a 65 degree angle, how long is the shadow on person sitting in the second car of another train we haven’t even told you about yet” math word problems, and let’s face it, no one enjoys those. We enjoy beer. And the two definitely don’t go together.

Plus we like to freak people out with the insane and quite frankly gluttonous portions of food we continuously manage to cram at one table for our small group. You’re welcome.

One plate of 30 ...

One plate of 30 …

Two plates of 30 ...

Two plates of 30 …

That makes 104 wings on our table. 104.

That makes 104 wings on our table. 104.

Did I mention 104?

DID I MENTION 104?!?!?

Enough said.

The wings were various degrees of OK. The Little Italy were voted least liked out of all of them, as both Amanda and Shane said they had no flavor. Never in my life have I seen my husband put down a partially eaten wing and not go back to it … until he tried those. Yeah. That should tell you something. He took that batch home to “doctor up” when he reheats the left overs. Amanda got through hers only with the help of a side of blue cheese.

Shane raved about the Wasabi right off, but the first one I tried I wasn’t too thrilled with – I later realized that was because it barely had any of the sauce on it. Once I actually got one that the sauce touched, they were pretty tasty.

The Kentucky bourbon was also a favorite. The pieces of bacon on the top totally made the whole thing worth it.

Amanda said the Bloody Mary was spicy, but Ted tried his and didn’t think so. Of course he had just eaten a habanero pepper that had been immersed in habanero-infused alcohol, so he may not have had any taste buds left in his mouth at that point. Take that as you will.

The presentation is nice

At least the presentation is nice

All in all, Traveler’s was a fun atmosphere – and definitely and not as scary as our last visit, when some random girl tried to get Amanda to split fries with her and the started talking about her bra. I wish I was kidding. The place this time around was an interesting mix of people, everything from the hard core heavy metals group to post-work-office crowd, to the obvious barflys, to the family who looked more dressed for church than a dive-ish bar that serves wings.

And we’re happy to report that the karaoke proved to be as interesting as last time, with a whole new range of singers to scratch our heads over. I mean, really, where else will you see an 80-year-old doing Sinatra, followed by a lady completely overdoing Alanis Morissette in a nasily voice, followed by a leather jacket clad guy singing Billy Idol (see also: cliche), and topped off by a guy who looked like John Malkovich but whose voice sounded like Kermit the Frog and who kept singing Weird Al songs. All in a bar owned by a former lead singer of a heavy metal band.

Exactly.

Ted

Ted

Amanda

Amanda

Steph

Steph

Shane, take one

Shane, take one

Shane, take two

Shane, take two

I have a feeling I use this look a lot

I have a feeling I use this look a lot when “three martini Shane” makes an appearance. 

If you ever wondered what it's like to sit across from us on WTGW, this is probably a pretty good representation

If you ever wondered what it’s like to sit across from us on WTGW, this is probably a pretty good representation

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Ted

Drinks:   If you’re telepathic, they have a huge beer selection. If you’re not, well, just throw a few names out there and see if something sticks. Beware of the strong pour on mixed drinks, though. Apparently John Taffer didn’t teach them well enough.
Food:
If you like wings, you’re in the right place, as there’s bound to be something on the menu that pleases you. While we didn’t try anything else, the burgers and sandwiches we saw coming out to other tables looked to be on the delicious side.
Service: Gotta give props to a server who can roll with the drunk guy at the table who just finished singing an explicit Adam Sandler song to the bar. I mean, really.
Overall: Well, drunk Shane proclaimed we have to go back EVERY WEDNESDAY so he can sing. So there’s that. But even so, while the wings weren’t the best we’ve ever had (and I think that was the consensus the last time we were there as well), the change in atmosphere and clientele may just be enough to keep this place in the running for a return (or would it be return-return?) visit.

Next Pick: Shane

Rippers Rock House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 9/23/15: Prestier Pub, Canton

Standard

Apparently we’re on a Canton kick lately. Hey Cuyahoga Falls peeps, build some new places!

So, fair warning, Prestier Pub is way shady looking from the outside. Like beyond most of the places we’ve visited in the past, and that’s really saying a lot. It’s located at the tail end of a strip plaza (hey, another one! surprise!) that I think has more available spaces than rented ones. And those that are occupied are filled with things like a church (because God preaches best in a former empty storefront), a dollar store (duh, that’s a strip plaza staple) and a place advertising “real human hair extensions” (enough said).

Keepin it classy, Canton.

Plus if you come in the back way – like we did, thanks Google Maps – you’ll be looking at the very side end of the building and not the front of it … which isn’t the best view. Give that a minute to seep in, considering what I just told you about this plaza. We actually drove all the way around the back of the building just to park in the lot out front. I think we’re all feeling fortunate it was still daylight when this part of the adventure occurred.

Why am I telling you this? Well, because as an avid reader of restaurant reviews myself, I felt like I was at least somewhat prepared for these sights upon arrival, just based on what, well, essentially everyone in the known universe (or the Akron/Canton area, whateves) had said about Prestier already. I believe the most common phrase was something to the effect of Prestier being the epitome of dive bar … but that the food was really good, so it was worth the adventure.

I’m not sure we’d all use the words “really good” to describe the meals we had here … but I think we’d all agree that the menu was definitely a surprise compared to what you would think a place like this would serve you. Dive bar usually means bar food: greasy burgers, frozen chicken wings, deep fried anything. Instead we had actual meals. Like pasta with seafood. And garlic bread. And dinner salads.

Hmm.

We sat out on the front patio on our visit – partially because 1.) it seemed pretty packed and non air-conditioned inside the bar, 2.) we weren’t really certain how the whole seat yourself vs wait for a hostess to seat you situation was played out there, and 3.) it was actually nice enough to sit outside. Did you hear that Mother Nature?? It’s mid-September, and we still sat out on a patio. It may have gotten dark about 3.2 seconds after we sat down, and of course there wasn’t much to help illuminate the table other than the giant “OPEN” sign on the door (ambiance, be damned) – but we were still on a patio. So there. Guess we haven’t done that for so long that you forgot that you’re supposed to crap all over us weather-wise on Wednesdays, eh? Ha ha. Tricked ya.

Although, side note, my mention above about the darkness of the patio should be taken into consideration when viewing the photos from this visit. Then again, it kind of just looks like we lived inside of an Instagram filter for the evening. Take that, hipsters.

In any case, whether it was because we essentially sat ourselves out there or because the patio is apparently not commonly used for meals on September evenings after dark, it took a hot minute for our server to come find us. In fact I think Ted actually had to go inside at one point and just alert someone – anyone – that we were, in fact, sitting out there. But once she finally was able to come greet us it was all good from there.

The Harvest Pumpkin Shandy from last week has become the new group favorite, as me, Ted and Amanda all jumped on that as soon as we saw it on the seasonal list. One of us clearly needs to buy stock in Leininkugel Brewing Company. And hard alcohol of some kind, too, as Shane is apparently still in his “sissy drink” phase. Which equated to  two Long Islands (which he swore later were actually whiskey sours) and then a switch to rum and diet. Or just rum. It was hard to say.

We had a special guest with our group this week, Amanda’s boyfriend Jerrid. Who ironically enough actually has a history with our group and the whole WTGW experience, as that’s how the two of them met. I know, right? It’s a story for another time, folks, but let’s just say that if they ever get married I have a strong feeling I know where the reception might be. Ha.

Since we were now a group of five, clearly that was just begging us to order more food. I mean, really. We hardly ever order enough for just us, and now there’s another mouth at the table? For real. I think we miscounted, though, because the sheer number of appetizers alone was probably enough to feed us and half the people gathered around the cool-ass bar inside Prestier. We joked that we probably should just pull another table over near ours and make an appetizer buffet that we could all graze through over the course of the evening.

It’s really too bad that most of the apps and wing orders came out at a different time than the other actual meals or else the picture of the entire table covered in just plates of food would’ve been spectacular. Or sad. Whatever.

Jerrid ordered the Southwest egg rolls, which sounded weird but were actually really good. They were like tiny bean burritos rolled up in a shell and deep fried. So, really, how can you go wrong there?

Tiny fried burritos

Tiny fried burritos

Ted jumped on ordering the calamari, after he nearly fell out of his chair in shock that Shane didn’t do so himself. We all tried some of it, and agreed it was excellent. It definitely had a spicy kick to it, but that just made it better. And the garlic sauce that came with it was equally fantastic – so much so that we made a point to ask what kind of sauce it was.

It's definitely fresh

It’s definitely fresh

Side note – had we waited until the end of our meals, we wouldn’t have had to ask. I’m going to break some glass for everyone reading this: the not-so-secret ingredient in everything at Prestier is garlic. And salt. Or maybe garlic salt. In any case, I’m not sure we had one item this evening that didn’t have garlic of some kind in it.

I kind of feel like there should really be a giant vampire in a red circle with a slash across it on the front door of this place. It seems like a lost marketing opportunity somehow.

The guys all also ordered wings as apps – because, clearly, wings aren’t just enough to be meals on their own anymore. My bad. Plus a dozen wings were only $5.99. Wait, what? Exactly. It’s like they had to order them just on principle after seeing that.

To the same point, Ted ordered two pork chops – because, well, to order just one chop was only $4.00 less than ordering two, so why the hell not? Clearly we need a lot of fancy marketing to encourage this group. His meal came with mashed potatoes and asparagus, all of which he said was really good, but just very salty. See comments above on that one.

Not the presentation you'd expect from a dive bar

Not the presentation you’d expect from a dive bar

Jerrid got a cheeseburger with “all the cheeses.” That’s not actually the name of it, or how it’s prepared … but when the waitress gave him three cheese options to choose from, Jerrid’s response was just “yes.” So if you like cheese, remember that’s apparently an option.

All the cheeses, please

All the cheeses, please

Also, Jerrid is essentially the exact opposite of Ted. It’s like finding your reverse doppleganger.

Amanda and I were both a bit ready to take a break from burgers and wings and all things deep fried, and went the pasta route this week. I had the Seafood Pasta in the olive oil (not creamy) sauce. Which was good, but almost had too much going on in one dish. Two big pieces of shrimp, 4 or 5 mussels, scallops, large mushrooms, spinach … and of course pasta. Because nothing in that list sounds filling at all, thanks. Amanda also was pushing the last remnants of her meal – the Fettuccine Alfredo with chicken – around her plate for a while, trying to find room to fit it all into her stomach.

Seafood extravaganza

Seafood extravaganza

You know what we did leave on our plates, though? The full cloves of garlic. It only takes biting into one of those once to realize you want to do your best to avoid that experience again. Which, as mentioned previously, is easier said than done in this particular establishment.

Cooked with love. And garlic

Cooked with love. And garlic

Shane took advantage of some of the group’s previously mentioned mad review-reading skills, and ordered the full rack of ribs off the “specials” menu. Because, in addition to warning us on the shadiness of the place, everything we read in advance also said that if the ribs were available on special, you should definitely order them. And, knowing Shane, you know that ordering ribs doesn’t require much arm twisting. So there’s that. They came with two sides, so he got the garlic mashed potatoes and the garlic toast. Which really could’ve just been called “mashed potatoes” and “toast,” because I think at this point the garlic is just implied in everything.

No, that's not a smoker's lung

No, that’s not a smoker’s lung

Also, his wing flavor from his appetizer? Honey garlic. Which was completely gross. I mean, he still powered through – this is WTGW after all, we don’t waste food. But still. Enough already. There’s a nearby garlic farm somewhere that stays well in business just from this place alone. 

Honey + garlic = no thank you

Honey + garlic = no thank you

So all in all, Prestier isn’t horrible. I mean, on our rating scale, it’s definitely no Gus’ Chalet. But it’s also not up to what the 4.5 – 5-star ratings we saw on the other reviews would imply.  While it’s definitely a nice change to be able to get more “dinner-ish” type meals than sandwiches and fries – especially at a dive bar – it wasn’t something any of us were running back to rave to our friends about, either. And the novelty of ordering meals like that in a place like this will really only get you so far if the actual food quality isn’t there. Wings aside, some of the meals – particularly my pasta dish, and basically anything involving seafood – were really a bit pricey, especially considering the atmosphere. Also, our bottles of beer were warm – and while she did realize this and bring us cold glasses with the first round, those glasses weren’t replenished along with the new (still warm) bottles. I’d have to say that even if I found myself in this area again – which, I mean, let’s be honest, unless I have a sudden desire to invest in some “real hair extensions,” is probably a resounding not-a-chance-in-hell – I’m not sure this would be the first name to come to mind on my list of must re-visits.

Steph

Steph

Shane

Shane. And the infamous “OPEN” sign lighting the patio

Ted

Ted, whose thumb blends into his shirt

Amanda

Amanda

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Steph

Drinks:  If warm seasonal beer and mixed drinks that may or may not be what you actually ordered are your thing, then you’re in the right place. 
Food:
Vampires beware. And whatever is repulsed by salt. Those may be the only two spices this place owns.
Service: OK. I mean, yes, we did kind of seat ourselves. And I realize the patio isn’t all that appealing after dark. But to say we felt ignored at first would be an understatement.
Overall: I’m puzzled at how this place gets decent reviews. While I’ll admit it was different getting real meals in a dive bar atmosphere, that novelty doesn’t appeal enough to any of us to warrant a return trip.

Next Pick:  Amanda

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

Standard

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

 

Click to add a blog post for Eldorado's Pizza & Sports Bar on Zomato

WTGW 7/8/15: Mike’s Place, Kent

Standard

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

Click to add a blog post for Mike's Place on Zomato