WTGW 11/11/15: Kevin O’Bryan’s, Akron

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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

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