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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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