I remember seeing this place years ago when Shane and I stopped in at the country western shop across the street (which, can we just talk for a moment about the randomness of a country western shop – we’re talking cowboy hats, boots, horse riding gear, all the bells and whistles – being across the street from a place with “saloon” in the title? In the middle of northeastern Ohio? It’s like this intersection stepped into 1950s Texas) Anyway, we weren’t sure back then if this place was actually open – and even after looking at reviews prior to tonight’s visit I have to admit I still wasn’t 100% sure. Because that speaks well for business, no?
Also, a sidenote on said reviews …. if you happen to look up Dante’s it seems that either they are talking about two very different places on the same review site, or this Dante’s has been redecorated fairly recently. And neither of those ideas really seem plausible, since the “new” decor doesn’t really look like a recent renovation (unless there’s a new decorating trend to make things look worse than before?) … and also the chances of two places being a name that uses the word “saloon” in the title are less than likely. But OK.
Shane was mad I picked this place, because as soon as we pulled up he knew it had “him” written all over it. I mean, “saloon.” Of course.
There were plenty of cars parked outside – leading us to assume correctly that it actually was open – but then we walked inside and there’s this teeny tiny interior. Like so small we wondered where all the people driving those cars were hiding. Did we miss a secret entrance to a side room somewhere? Is everyone in the kitchen with the cook? Do half those cars not even run and are just parked there to help people like us believe it’s a real place? Interesting marketing strategy, if that’s the case.
In addition to the small bar and dining room area, there was a giant covered patio out back (which looked more like a park pavilion than a patio) but it also wasn’t too full there. Hmmm.
But back to the inside … there are 12 tables. I counted. And it’s definitely a regulars kind of place. The guys sitting at the table nearest the door weren’t officially bouncers, but they may as well been given the looks they shot us newcomers as we walked in.
There are no draft beers at Dantes, only bottles. That was a touch surprising. Add it to the list, I guess.
I had read that the burgers were good, so I went with the mushroom swiss. I found it odd that the menu gave a description of that particular burger, when it seems pretty obvious by the title. I mean, the saloon burger? Sure, that needs an explanation. The fiesta burger? Again, could use some help here. But the mushroom swiss burger? I think I got this one, thanks.
Anyway, it comes with a side, so I got fries, and then also ordered a small side salad. Balance.
Shane got the same burger, only he mistakenly got the fritters as a side because he thought the burger automatically came with fries and he was adding on the fritters.
OK, so maybe those explanations are helpful after all.
He also got a pound of the garlic parm wings. Because clearly our table was going to be bare.
Ted got a pound of the Jamaican jerk wings, and also the “Maui steak.” Which spurred a debate later, as I thought that was under the salad portion of the menu, but ted thought it was just a steak prepared “Maui style.” Which he had never had before (quick poll: has anyone ever even heard of that as a way to prepare steak? No? Weird), but was excited to try.
Yeah, I was right, it was a salad. But the presentation was lovey, and he did say later that it was fine, because it turned out to be delicious. It actually earned the distinction as like one of three places he would admit to being happy about ordering a salad from, since it was that good. It should be noted that the other salads that he listed in his top favorites were horribly unhealthy and included toppings like fries and fatty dressings. So score for this place that a real, bona fide, healthy salad made the list.
But going back to our usual array of unhealthy entrees … the wings were huge. And apparently baked on the surface of the sun, as Ted discovered the hard way. Both Ted and Shane agreed that the wings were too salty. The Jamaican jerk was OK as a seasoning, Ted said he wasn’t used to that being a dry rub but it was alright. Shane said his wings were definitely garlicky and he’d not be able to get that taste out of his mouth for some time.
As far as the burgers, Shane said his didn’t have much flavor and that it wasn’t as big as he was expecting it to be. But I thought it was OK. It was done as ordered, but it wasn’t overly flavorful. Maybe they should put that in the description? I mean, that seems to be the less obvious point about that particular burger anyway.
We did observe that, for tiny, hole-in-the-wall place, though, it looked like there was a real chef in the little kitchen in the back. Like the kind that wears the fancy jacket and all. And he seemed to take real pride in his work. There was no “I went to culinary school and now all I get to cook are obviously described burgers at a saloon” attitude about him. He actually came out once as he was leaving and asked a table how things were, and genuinely cared about the answer.
Dante’s is definitely a place of regulars, but not completely unwelcome. Well, once you get past that initial bouncer table anyway. Although we did notice a difference in the level of service for us versus the regulars. Like, for instance, the server wouldn’t bring me a second drink until I finished my first. It was like she didn’t trust me with the glassware. I mean, OK, if you open up our cupboard of glasses at home you would probably notice a few with special bar emblems or sports team schedules printed on them – so, yes, we’ve been known to sneak out a glass from time to time. But these were nothing special. So basically don’t flatter yourselves, Dantes. Please.
Overall I’d say I’m not sure it’s worth the trip back. I mean, if we were in the area and wanted to try out the pavilion area in the back, or if Ted’s in the mood for some healthy greens, then sure. But beyond that, let’s just say it seems we’re better off riding into the sunset toward greener pastures there partners. Yee haw.