WTGW 7/12/14: Manchester Tavern, Portage Lakes

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This place has been on my radar for a little bit now, thanks to a finely tuned and ultra precise choosing mechanism I use at times called Google Maps. Cutting edge, all day long here, folks.

Or maybe I just have too much time on my hands some days and am at a loss for a new pick. You decide.

Manchester Tavern doesn’t have a website, which is usually a bit of a deterrent … because, you know, you hate to drive 25 minutes to a place only to discover they’ve converted it into a senior citizens’ billiards hall or a throwback 70’s disco club sometime since the last Yelp review. Not that either one of those couldn’t be awesome, but when you’re expecting a good bar burger and some wings it’s a bit of a letdown to have to play a round of pool with Uncle Johnny before you’re allowed to leave and find a real restaurant.

But since Manchester Tavern does have a recently updated Facebook page, and a wealth of good reviews from within the past few months, I figured it was safe.

There were several cars and motorcycles in the lot when we pulled up, although the place is so tiny that really it seems now like a rather disproportionate number and I’m not sure where all of those people could’ve been hiding. Perhaps on the large patio space – I swear it could be bigger than the actual interior – which we avoided since it was about four billion percent humidity outside with a slight threat of rain.

Thank you, Mother Nature, for once again turning NEOhio into a tropical rain forest on the one evening of the week we actually venture out in search of great patios. You’re awesome.

The menu at Manchester Tavern is relatively small (which makes it somewhat baffling as to why it’s not available online anywhere, since it wouldn’t take up much space) and mostly bar food – wings, burgers, fried appetizers and a few other sandwiches. There’s also the random steak dinner, fish dinner … and my favorite, the 21-piece shrimp platter. Because nothing says living on the edge quite like trusting raw seafood served out of a bar kitchen that primarily consists of deep fryers, no?

Yeah, I’ll pass.

Not surprisingly, the drink menu was even smaller than the food menu, so Shane went back to his standard Bud Light draft, and I went with a tequila and soda. Ted ordered an IPA that the server suggested … but was out of luck when she returned a few minutes later saying they unfortunately were all out. Jack and coke it is. And I guess Ted is now the proud owner of the “sorry, we ran out of that drink” curse. Sorry, my friend.

There was a debate at our table about who would order what appetizer, as we all gravitated to the southwestern egg rolls – but of course we can’t all logistically share one appetizer, because, well, we all like food too much. So Ted said if we ordered that one then he apparently had a “back up plan.” Shane and I jumped on that offer and ordered the egg rolls as our app. Ted’s backup plan, meanwhile, was apparently a whole meal – 12 wings. Because, of course it was.

Let’s just say that the server was never really sure when she could safely put her notepad away while we were ordering because we just kept adding on more food. Shocking, I know.

Let’s tally it up … our final total for the table was five meals (two orders of wings, a sandwich, a burger, and the steak dinner) and an app (the egg rolls). Plus the dinner salad that came with the steak dinner. Totally logical for three people, no?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, thank you metabolism for not making any or all of us individually 400+ pounds yet thanks to these adventures.

Anyway.

In case you were taking guesses on who ordered what above, let’s play a little game to see how well you know your WTGW crew, shall we? I own up to the sandwich, which was the Tavern Hoagie. We already know that Ted got 12 wings (Cajun), and he also ordered the burger, which was called the “Brunch Burger.” That leaves Shane with the other order of wings (garlic parm, but only six … he’s trying to cut back), and the 10oz steak dinner.

Any winners? I’ll make you a ribbon.

Shane:  We’re on the high protein diet
Server:  What will you do with all the bread then?
Shane:  No, I’m kidding, we just like food

We joked when the girl came out from the kitchen with all of our meals that she was probably expecting to see about six people sitting at our table. Surprise!

The egg rolls turned out to be an excellent choice. Although I think they were delivered straight from the surface of the non-existent sun outside, as I about lost two fingertips when I hungrily reached for them too quickly after they first arrived. Clearly the fryers are set to the right temperature. But they were worth the wait for them to cool off – and the momentary loss of feeling in my fingers – as the taste was excellent. The chipotle ranch dipping sauce made it even better.

My fingers will never forget you, egg rolls

The Tavern Hoagie was pretty good. It’s basically copied straight from the Mr. Hero Romanburger playbook – a few thinner burger patties, ham, salami, lettuce, tomato, etc on a sub bun. Or, in this case, a glorified hot dog bun, but whatevs. It wasn’t quite the same as it’s fast food counterpart, but still tasty. The patties were pretty thin, but there was enough other stuff on the sub to make that kind of unnoticeable.

I also got my sandwich with jojos instead of regular French fries, which was an excellent choice – even thought they appeared to be cooked in the same seven billion degree setting as the egg rolls. But again it was worth the wait, as they were perfectly cooked – crispy on the outside and mushy on the inside.

Fryer still works

Ted was two bites into his burger when he declared that he “wasn’t sure if it was necessarily Top Five material, but it had to be at least close.” In case you haven’t been following along with us, that’s high praise right there, kids. I’m not sure I even knew Ted had a Top Five list until that moment, but to have this burger show up and walk right into the midst before he was even halfway done eating it is pretty much the equivalent of getting your first driver’s license and then heading over to the track to take the crown at the Indy 500.

Seated across from Ted, Shane was slightly jealous of all of the grease flowing off of the burger at every bite. Kind of like when we went to The Game and Ted got the giant heart attack on a plate that they call a burger while “healthy Shane” essentially ate a salad.

Speaking of salad, Shane’s meal came with one, but he dug into it before I was able to even get a hand on my camera to take a photo of it. He may have been a little hungry. Or maybe he was just tired of rules after our adventures last week. Regardless, it looked pretty standard – you know, lettuce and vegetables in a bowl. Kinda hard to mess that up … but yet manage to create one of Ted’s favorite burgers of all time, ya think?

And maybe it was jealousy over the burger, but Shane said his steak was just OK. I mean, we are in a bar, too, so expect what you will for an $11 steak.

There’s a steak under all those fries, I promise

As for the wings, Ted said his were OK – but they definitely didn’t match up to the burger. He had asked the server for the hottest ones on the menu, and she told him to go at first with the Buffalo – but then switched to Cajun because something about them being breaded and grilled then fried … I think? I didn’t quite hear the full explanation clearly, but whatever it was it persuaded Ted, so there’s that. Unfortunately they weren’t the hottest he’d ever had by a long shot. Maybe she thought he meant hot as in temperature, not flavor … and that whole grilling and frying thing seemed like it would make them hotter that way? Just speculating.

Meanwhile, Shane took offense to the menu declaration of “the best wings in town” and was slightly glad he didn’t live in a town with such low standards. Clearly his wings were not his favorite part of the meal. They, like his steak, were just OK.

Ted definitely thought the burgers were under-marketed, and that they should be pushing that item as the “best in town” instead of the wings. Or else point us in the direct of the place in town that holds that title, because we want to try those burgers. I actually think Shane may lose sleep over the regret he was feeling for not ordering a burger at Manchester Tavern. We’ll see how that plays out.

We’ll see you in our dreams, burger

While our meals may not have been the best bar food we’ve ever tasted, I do have to say that the service was great. Our server greeted us as soon as we walked in, even though she was in the midst of counting out Queen of Hearts tickets that were being sold at the table behind us for a drawing that was under an hour away. She came right over to take our drink orders, was friendly to us even though we were clearly not regulars (and all the regulars were pretty obvious, as they were greeted by name by both our server and the other bartender … and the other patrons … let’s just say we were definitely in the minority for not knowing anyone’s names). She apologized when she hadn’t been over for a bit to check on us, too.

Maybe we’re just scarred from last week, but we were definitely impressed.

Overall Manchester Tavern is a great little neighborhood bar. It’s definitely a Portage Lakes equivalent of Cheers, and because it was Queen of Hearts drawing night it got quite busy for a hot minute around the actual drawing (which was something out of a John Taffer highlight reel as the bartender yelled at everyone to shut the eff up so that the number could be heard) – but then thinned out shortly after. Or maybe everyone was just out on the patio. We did notice quite a crowd standing at the front railing just watching traffic go by when we left, kind of like it was someone’s large front porch. I guess that’s high entertainment in these parts?

The setup is a little cramped – there’s a room in the back with a pool table and more seating tables, but you’re definitely secluded from everyone else and I’m not sure how fantastic the service would be there. Out of sight, out of mind, perhaps – especially since the two bartenders/servers seemed pretty busy taking care of the area near the bar as well as the patio. The guys mentioned that the men’ s room “could use a little work on the infrastructure” – but it also wasn’t the worst they’ve ever seen. I guess that’s saying something.

We were too engrossed with watching the Classic MTV (with real music videos!) that was playing on the TV over the bar, as well as the World Series of Poker that was on the TV by our table, and forgot to take our usual photos before we left … but I would call it a thumbs up visit. It might be a little too far out of our radius to return fairly often … but if we do make it back I have a feeling a burger will be the one thing we all make a point to order.

Picked by: Steph
Next pick: Ted

 

Manchester Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

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