WTGW 3/20/19: Thirsty Dog Taphouse, Akron

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THE WHERE (we went)

Hey, look kids, it’s someplace that’s not a half hour away in the middle of nowhere!

Which makes it all the more surprising that we haven’t been to Thirsty Dog Taphouse prior to this visit. While the brewery itself has been around for a while (and we’ve definitely sampled their beer offerings at other locations around the area over the years), the taphouse with food offerings is fairly new. Maybe it opened last summer? You’d think a group like ours would know these things, right? And especially when it’s this close to home, we’re usually quicker to jump on them. Instead we’re busy fleshing out spots on backroads in Massilon. Whateves.

Another plus – TDT not only serves their own craft beers, but also has a full bar available. So those nights you’re just not feeling the 12% porter, go ahead and get yourself a few stiff shots of Jameson instead.

THE WHAT (we ordered)

Flights of beer. Duh.

High tech post it note abbreviation system

That was all me, Shane and Ted. On the other side of the table, Cassi stuck with the raspberry ale, while Jason tried a couple of different full sized glasses.

On the food side of things, it seems our table was decisively either Team Sliders

Pulled pork, meatball and sausage. It’s hard to tell which is which, but they’re all there.

or Team Pizza

Cassi’s pepperoni and banana pepper

Ted’s jalapeno and sausage

My sausage, mushroom and extra cheese

Well, except Jason, who had to be different and get the pulled pork.

And Shane, who apparently just couldn’t get enough of sandwiches this evening, so he added a full kielbasa to his order of sliders.

That’s a lot of bread

And Ted got both the sliders and pizza. Way to be impartial.

So there’s that.

We also got a few orders of pretzels for apps, because we obviously had no idea how many carbs were about to arrive at this table.

The pretzels were really good. We all liked them, and the cheese and mustard dipping sauces were all good, too – if not completely inappropriately portioned to the amount of pretzel that came with them.

Oh, and Cassi also got a salad.

Everything was very good. The pizzas were tasty, and giant – so definitely enough for a take home container. I was glad to have splurged on the extra cheese as a topping, it was well worth the $2.00 upcharge.

Ted voted the pulled pork slider the best of his trio, with the meatball coming in second and the sausage last. When he threw this vote out, Shane had only eaten the meatball. Because, you know, he had that whole kielbasa sandwich to get through first. Technicality. So he saved his pulled pork slider for last, based on Ted’s vote.

So trusting.

But it worked out for him, he was I agreement that that was the best of the three. So maybe Jason was on to something with just ordering that full sandwich from the get go, eh?

THE WHO (we saw)

Hey, Wednesday night, thanks for bringing your party to the Taphouse! In March, no less. Not too shabby of a crowd for the middle of the week – or maybe we’re just scarred from last week with the old timers and melancholy jukebox hero from Wil’s. In any case, tonight we were joined by a few other full tables of folks, plus a couple of groups at the bar.

All this, and they’re only open until 9pm.

Wait, what now? That seems a tad Cinderella-ish to close down the party that early in the evening. Let’s just say we were the last table out the door, and they were literally locking it behind us. At 8:55.

Huh. Noted.

Our server was also the only bartender on staff this evening. So considering what I just mentioned, they really could’ve used more than one person, no? It took her a hot minute to come get our drink orders after we arrived, which she told us was because someone had come in wanting to fill a growler. Well OK then.

And when she finally did take our food order she was not at all impressed with how much of the menu we selected. Bonus points for when I inquired about what she recommended in the battle of the pizza vs. sliders … and her reply was the old classic “they’re both good.” Bravo. We all know how much this group finds that answer super helpful and not at all dismissive.

We also found ourselves in another “you ordered last so you get to watch everyone else eat” situation. When she brought Shane’s and Jason’s sandwiches she warned us it would still be a full five minutes on the last pizza. Oh, cool. That might’ve been better information to have when I ordered, but thanks.

THE HOW (much we spent)

In case you can’t read the fine print, that’s $75 before tip. So almost $90 total out the door.

Ouch.

That definitely makes this one of our more expensive nights out in a while. And it’s not like we got steaks and bottle service. Also, the menu itself isn’t even that extensive. I think approximately half of the available items ended up on our table at some point in the evening.

It did seem like the pizzas were kind of pricey, but I’m guessing they probably expected groups of people to split those. Little did they know that this table is more like

THE WHY (they may see us again)

Cool vibe, although literally rolling up the sidewalks at 8:55 was a bit of a downer. The food was pretty good and so was the beer. And it’s close to home, which is always something we’re searching for. But the hefty price tag may make us rethink this as a crowd favorite.

Picked by: Ted
Next pick: Shane

Ted

Jason

Cassi

Steph

Shane

WTGW 2/6/19: Fire and Ice, Akron

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THE WHERE (we went)

Fire and Ice, which is located … well, to hell if I really know. With the dense fog and darkness it could’ve honestly been the set of every horror movie, ever.

I do know we encountered an unusual number of roundabouts, and Ted also made a wrong turn onto a divided highway – so for a brief time we were literally that famous scene from the movie  Planes Trains and Automobiles.

And then trying to get to the parking lot was one giant never ending u-turn. You know it’s going to be a good night when you almost get killed getting there, right?

THE WHAT (we ordered)

A whole lot of pretzels to start with, as everyone but Ted enjoyed those as an appetizer.

Double take

They were tasty. And good enough to somewhat distract Cassi from her annoyance that the soda she had mixed with her tequila was flat.

I got the mushroom Swiss burger with onion rings.

Why is my burger wearing a pickle hat?

It was good. The bottom bun was toasted but the top wasn’t so that made it a little interesting. But overall it was a decent burger.

Shane got 12 wings, on recommendation of the bartender. More on that in a minute. She listed the mango habanero and sweet Thai chili as the best flavors for sauces, so he trusted her judgement and selected those, so six and six.

I’m not sure why Shane seems armed to punch someone in this photo. Maybe they stepped too close to his wings.

It should be noted that we all just stared at Shane after this portion of the order, as we expected it to be followed with the order of a burger, or a pizza, or hell at this point even a salad … just something else to accompany his meager 12 wing dinner. When he announced that was all for him and the server could move on to the next person, we all immediately expressed our concern that he might quite literally suffer from starvation with such a light dinner.

You all need friends like this in your lives. Take note.

But he liked all of the wings, so at least his gamble on only getting one meal worked in his favor. He said there wasn’t too much difference between the two flavors, but at least they both tasted good so it didn’t much matter.

Ted got The Godfather, which is this place’s fancy name for an Italian sub.

Colorful

This earned him a coveted “good choice” from the server – which, can we just sidebar here for a minute so we can all agree that hearing these words makes you feel like you just picked the lucky menu item whenever that happens? Like balloons should drop from the ceiling and you should get to pose for a picture holding one of those giant checks that just reads “GOOD CHOICE” on the front of it. No matter what mood you’re in, hearing a server tell you that you picked a winner on the menu is like scratching off the lucky symbol on a lottery ticket that already exposed two identical sums of money.

Anyway.

Because he’s not on the Shane diet this evening, Ted also got six of the Cajun dry rub and six mango habanero wings. The Cajun were the clear winners in his book. He said the others were just OK, and that they didn’t have a lot of flavor to them – especially compared to the Cajun.

He liked the sandwich, too, but maybe not as much as the server did.

Jason got the Fire and Ice burger with fries, which he seemed to like well enough. I think his word was “decent,” so take that as you will.

Another pickle hat. Maybe someone should tell them the condiments belong on the other side of the bun.

Last at the table to order, Cassi got the Chicken Philly, with onion rings.If Ted won the award for best choice at the table, Cassi took home the test of your patience prize, as she watched all of our food get delivered and then suffered through a good awkward pause before the server reappeared and asked us if we needed anything else. Uh, the fifth meal for the table? Just a thought.

They swore it was just taking longer to cook the chicken, but we think they legit just straight up forgot about her order. Although once it arrived she said it was well worth the wait – that the bun was toasted and there was a ton of chicken included on it, so she was more than happy. Definitely a better outcome than waiting all that time for crap.

THE WHO (we saw)

First of all, watch out for this guy.

The bouncer looks a bit … stiff

I can’t speak for the group but I know personally that mannequin was the cause of a few startled moments in my evening.

Our server was also the bartender, and she did a pretty good job considering she was the only person handling the entire floor and bar area. Now granted it’s not as if the place was totally packed … but I’m guessing the crowd was somewhat significant for where and what this place is on a random Wednesday evening.

In any case, she was super nice, although perhaps not exactly overly excited about answering our varied and substantial menu questions. Case in point: when Shane asks her which she prefers, the burgers or wings (because, you know, that’s all we ever order), she says without hesitation that the wings are better. OK. Seems reasonable. But then later as the rest of the group is giving their orders she lets it slip that she’s actually not a burger person. Like that she usually doesn’t even ever eat them. So that kind of negates her instant and definite pick for the wings, now doesn’t it? I mean, because obviously she’s not choosing the burger in that scenerio. It’s like saying “hey, there’s a gun to your head, you can choose the thing you’re horribly allergic to, or the other thing I haven’t said yet but obviously I’ve left you no choice but to select.”

In a perfect world, she could’ve prefaced her recommendation with “well I don’t really like burgers, so obviously I would take the wings … but given the choice between [insert menu item she really likes here] and wings, I would choose …”

So there’s that.

Also, special shout out to the kitchen girl who announced in the exact opposite of a library voice that The Godfather and the wings would be coming out at some point after the burgers. So, you know, at least Shane was prepared when his curse of getting his food after most people at the table continued. But still, probably could’ve done without human megaphone announcing that to the entire bar.

Wednesdays are also pool league nights, or we just happened to pick the night to share the bar with all of the intensely serious pool players who bring their own pool sticks in carrying cases. In any case, we definitely weren’t venturing away from our group with a table full of what could be considered legit weapons sitting nearby.

THE HOW (much we spent)

The $4 mixed drinks were a hit, as were the far cheaper Bud Lights. I think the app was a bit pricey at $6, even if it was delicious I’m not sure it should’ve been basically the same price as six of the wings. But overall still not a bad evening out. Maybe Shane needs to only order one meal for dinner more often.

THE WHY (they may/may not see us again)

Overall the service was good – I mean, other than the whole forgetting one of our meals thing, but at least the sandwich she was eventually served was literally hot off the grill, and wasn’t just lost to the heat lamp in the back corner because they didn’t realize it belonged at our table. But over the course of the evening we found the bartender was quick to make eye contact with one of us at the table to get a feel for who needed drink refills before she walked over, so that she could arrive with the next round when she came to check on us. Keeping us full on alcohol is always a good pitstop on the path to our hearts.

I think we would return. If we could find it again on a map anyway.

Picked by: Shane

Shane

Cassi

Steph

Jason

Ted

WTGW 1/15/19: Craft Cantina, Merriman Valley

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THE WHERE (we went)

That’s a question best answered by first telling you where we didn’t go: Springfield, Ohio. As is 180 miles away from us. Not Springfield Township, where we’ve been frequently. Jason learned an important lesson in checking the directions before thinking the place was too good to be true.

But, you know, if we ever are 180 miles away, the Hickory Inn sounds like an amazing pick. Just sayin’.

So we ended up with a collective vote to check out Craft Cantina in the Valley, after throwing out around 27 other options and driving aimlessly around Cuyahoga Falls for about 15 minutes. But at least that drive was educational, in that we learned the old Barmacy space in the Valley is currently uninhabited, and a sketch place in Akron that Shane has been eyeing doesn’t have food, so that was out as a pick.

Using our time wisely, folks.

Craft Cantina is also the younger and smaller sister to Crave Cantina, which we visited a while back when the then-new downtown Cuyahoga Falls location opened. So this isn’t exactly a revisit, more like just choosing another location of a chain, something some of us in the group are prone to doing every now and again. Not naming any names or anything.

THE WHAT (we ordered)

Drinks of course and foremost … because, well, you should know that about us by now. Plus we had just been driving around for what felt like an eternity so we had to make up for lost time.

Cassi and I went with mixed drinks. I highly recommend the Tiki Mojito. It was delicious.

Meanwhile, Shane ordered a beer, which Ted at least had the courtesy to wait until the server walked away before announcing that Shane would definitely not enjoy drinking.

Newsflash: Ted was right. His prize was Shane’s beer.

For apps Cassi and Jason got the Disco Fries. Which did not arrive with a tiny mirror ball attached to the plate, so I feel a little cheated and like that was a marketing opportunity completely lost.

So. Many. Possibilities.

Regardless, they said they were delicious. I guess that’s more important.

Shane and I got the queso dip with jalepenos. Or Rotel. Or something that gave it some chunkiness without a lot of spice. Which I realize sounds disgusting but trust me it was tasty. The chips were also really good – they had some sort of dusting on them, kind of like Dorito’s in training.

All of us did some fashion of the make your own tacos or bowls – the ordering system of which pretty much confused the hell out of most of us, but somehow we powered through. I mean, I get that this is the new trend for Mexican and Latin American restaurants, but some direction might be helpful. From the server. Or the menu itself. Or, well, anywhere really.

I did the make your own bowl with steak.

It was just OK. The steak wasn’t very good, and the bowl overall just didn’t seem to have a ton of flavor. Maybe that goes back to the whole guidance on ordering thing, as I could’ve probably used some in the area of “sauces-that-add-flavor-without-sacrificing-every-one-of-your-taste-buds-or-your-will-to-live.”

Jason made his own giant burrito with brisket and pineapple. Let’s just say that they aren’t kidding about that giant thing.

This photo seems aggressive

This was something Shane probably would’ve preferred to know before he placed his order – which was not only a create-your-own flank steak burrito, but also one of the fried chicken tacos.

One of these things is unnecessary

Shane ate his taco first, something that probably contributed to his later taking half of his burrito home with him. Because we all know how it pains anyone at this table to ask for a to-go box.

Jason ate his entire burrito, but was a bit regretful of that afterwards.

Ted got three tacos – one of the Buttermilk Fried Chicken tacos from the House Specialties section of the menu, and then two tacos that he created himself – a blackened chicken with pineapple, and a fried chicken with Verde sauce.

He liked the fried chicken the best. He said they were all good, bit that was the favorite.

Just to be clear, I’m still not exactly certain how the fried chicken and the buttermilk fried chicken are different from one another. I mean, aside from the absence of buttermilk in one of them and all. Come on now. But like who knew there were two ways to make fried chicken that goes on tacos?

He also got a side of dirty rice. Because there clearly wasn’t enough food already on the table.


Cassi made her own tacos – one with chorizo and one with fish.

She liked one better than the other. I could let you guess, but let’s just say that the one that rhymed with “dish” was the clear winner.

We also got orders of house made fresh guacamole – pico for me and Shane, cotija cheese for Cassi and Jason. And yes I had to consult the menu in order to get the spelling of that cheese correct. Listening to Shane try to pronounce it resulted in several variations that aren’t suitable for print.

It pains me to even have to say this, but the guacamole was a little disappointing. Shane said it had too much lemon. The rest of us thought it didn’t have too much of anything, except maybe avacados.

We also had to order the entire large side order just so that Shane could have guac as a side for his burrito – since this whole fresh-made system means you can’t just get a small portion slapped into a tiny side container like in regular Mexican restaurants. That seems excessive, no?

I mean, I’m only sort of complaining, because you really do’t have to twist my arm to eat guac. Even when it’s not to tasty. And of course there were more of those Dorito-ish chips, because we definitely could’ve eaten our weight in those throughout the course of the evening. And don’t think we didn’t try.

THE WHO (we saw)

No one. Literally no one.

Well, OK, the server like two or three times. And one other group at the bar. But in the dining room, yeah, well, we were kind of it.

We also think Elton John might’ve been there in spirit, as the jukebox literally never stopped playing his songs. So either someone before us played the joke of programming the next five hours of songs on their way out the door, or one of the staff members really, really likes his work. Or maybe they got a deal on the machine since it can only play his music. We may never know.

THE HOW (much we spent)

Well I forgot to note the receipt, so it’s hard to answer that one in this post. It’s a new concept for the blog, it takes some getting used to. Stop badgering me.

THE WHY (they will/won’t see us again)

Well I’m sure they would like for us to come back, since it seemed like they could use the business. And I think we all would go back, just maybe order something slightly different than what we got this time around. Shane and Jason said they would just get the tacos again, but not the burritos. They said they “were too much.” And those are definitely not words that get thrown around lightly in this group. I would get a bowl again, but not the steak and definitely with more spicy sauce of some kind.

Of course, given the ordering system, we might try to order something different and then end up with the exact same thing we got this time without even trying. Hard to say.

Picked by: Jason

Jason

Jason, mid-decision

Cassi

Ted

Shane

Steph

WTGW 1/2/19: The Noisy Oyster, Merriman Valley

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Happy New Year!

To kick off the new year, we’re trying a bit of a simpler format for this little blog here. I’m calling it a little more just the facts, and a little less let’s write a novel about a place where we had a meal.

Because, you know, we’ve all thought we found the perfect recipe online and when we click through instead we’re treated to 17 paragraphs about how their Aunt Rose’s love of pancakes, pineapples and visiting flea markets on Saturdays is in some way connected to this amazing FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, GINA, I HAVE GUESTS SHOWING UP AT MY HOUSE IN 45 MINUTES AND I JUST NEED TO KNOW WHAT TEMPERATURE TO PREHEAT THE OVEN. Damn.

But don’t worry, one thing that won’t change is the sass. Obviously. Because I still speak fluent sarcasm, people, no matter the length of the speech. I don’t think I know how to exist without that element.

Anyway.

THE WHERE (we went)

The Noisy Oyster, a place in the Valley we have all driven past about 2,874 times but honestly were a little afraid to walk inside of.

See also:  about 87% of the places we’ve been to over the past 5+ years. So, you know, just another Wednesday night with this group.

We actually did walk into the Noisy Oyster a few weeks ago, but realized that Wednesday nights are apparently “you-can’t-get-a-seat-if-you-arrive-after-7” nights, a.k.a. trivia nights. But since it’s still the holidays and the late arriver home (me) was still on vacation, we were actually able to get out to dinner at 5pm, where we found a completely different atmosphere.

Cue jokes about the Golden Buckeye Card Holders and 4PM Early Bird Dinner Specials.

It’s worth mentioning, though, that the parking lot was deceptively full for the three occupied tables inside. Apparently it was laundry night for all of the other cars parked in the shared lot.

Insider tip – the view by the windows will seem enticing, but unless you enjoy chilly drafts and giant spiders I would recommend going elsewhere. Trust us on this one. Jason tried a few times to fix the draftiness, but we were concerned his efforts might actually just push the window into the stream below. Which would also bring us closer to the giant scary spiders hibernating on the other side of the glass.

We finally just gave up and moved to an open high top toward the back of the bar. Sometimes we’re smart.

THE WHAT (we ordered)

The guys started out the evening attempting to order their old friend, the $2.00 16oz Hamms special. I’m sure you can already tell by the tone of that sentence how far that got them. The server blamed New Year’s Eve for the empty Hamm’s cooler, a statement which may tell you more about this place than this entire review.

We ended up with DownEast ciders for three of us, and a draft IPA for Jason. Fashionably late, Ted also opted for the IPA when he arrived.

The menu features a lot of seafood, which I know is shocking given the name of the restaurant. Given Shane’s allergy to shrimp (which he for some reason hates for us to talk about so, shhhh, keep it a secret between us, ‘k?) we of course hoped that Shane didn’t order anything that might be cooked in the same oils, fryers or grills as the element that might kill him.

Living on the edge to start 2019, kids.

And we can definitely trust a place which still has placards on the table advertising a seasonal cocktail that appears to be left over from summer.

Did we travel to the Southern Hemisphere?

Cassi and Jason got an app of calamari.

Fresh from the freezer, not the ocean.

Cassi started off with a side salad, which I’m not sure what it’s usually served on the side of, but it was about as big as the regular salad I ordered.

This is a very generous side salad, no?

Then she had the breaded shrimp platter with waffle sweet potato fries for her meal.

This looks like the unhealthy version of what Ted ordered

Jason got the honey mustard wing dings

Along with the mushroom Swiss burger with fries

Ted got smoked oysters to start

Anyone else not picture oysters looking this way in their minds? No, just me?

And the Cajun shrimp

This looks too healthy to be at our table

I got the garden salad, with six of the Thai chili regular wings

I think the primary difference between the side salad and the real salad is the two dressings

Shane got a regular cheeseburger with cheddar cheese and the Saratoga chips

And six garlic parm wing dings

Garlic parm with extra breading please

I’m sure the million dollar question on your mind right now is “what the eff is a wing ding, and how is it different from a regular wing,” right? Well, it should be, because if it’s that obvious and we didn’t know then I feel pretty stupid right about now.

According to the server, the wing dings have more breading than the regular wings. Um, OK. Which seems a little unusual then that they are actually done faster than regular wings. Like 15 minutes faster.

Must be some new quick bake breading they invented.

In any case, I’m not sure we determined which kind were better. But the good news is that we liked both kinds, so I guess that counts for something? I really liked the regular wings, the sauce was tasty. Jason gave the wing dings a thumbs up. Shane really liked his, too, claiming that he could eat 25 of them. He was done with his before mine even hit the table – which I guess really isn’t that much of a shock, but still.

THE WHO (we saw)

The crowd was … well … interesting. We’ve already established that is was definitely much older, and that the majority cleared out after the early bird dinner hour was over but before the beginning of Jeopardy. Trivia brought in a few younger folks to fill those empty seats, but not enough to make us not feel like we were still the youngest ones there.

On another note, the group tried their hands at trivia again. Unlike the last time we tried this endeavor, we were in 5th place going into the final question – which meant we maybe had a real shot at winning.

Yeah, not even close.

So the streak of the Moist Towelettes is over. Well, I mean, if you can call one win a streak. Which I believe the guys did.

THE HOW (much we paid) 

Who doesn’t love paying $4.75 for a can of cider? This group.

Plus when the $2 beers were gone, there was really nothing on the menu close to being able to replace that. Shane got a $3 Modelo draft … but said that wasn’t exactly the same. Or the preference.

Sorry Modelo. You just got rated lower than a $2 can of Hamm’s. Ouch.

THE WHY (they will/won’t see us again)

I think a return visit may come down to us deciding we need to go someplace close by on a night when we are able to eat dinner at the hour of the 80 year olds. The food was good – both kinds of wings got a thumbs up, as did both kinds of shrimp. Ted wasn’t really impressed with the oysters, but said he wouldn’t let that deter him from returning. Jason mentioned that although he always gets nervous when he orders a burger and they don’t ask how he wants it cooked, this time the gamble paid off in his favor.

I think overall the consensus was that the food would be worth a repeat trip, but the interesting crowd (including the spiders) and a losing trivia experience kind of put a sour note on things – making this a sold “maybe.”

Like I said, living on the edge.

Picked by: Cassi

Cassi

Steph

Shane

Jason

Ted

Noisy Oyster Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 11/28/18: The Getaway Pub, Merriman Valley

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This week we have another tale of failed places to start our journey, thanks to an accident on the highway that made me extremely late getting home from work (why is it that people seem to always forget how to drive on Wednesday evenings?) – and since Jason’s pick was going to be in the far-off-land of Barberton we decided to put that one off a week because it was so late and we were all, of course, starving. Shocker, I know.

On to Plan B: Cassi had a pick on deck in the Valley – The Noisy Oyster – so we thought we’d just try there since it was close … but apparently that’s the new hot spot on Wednesday nights, thanks to trivia. Who knew. So since we couldn’t get a table – or even really more than two seats at the bar there – we took a strike on that one and adjourned to the car to try and figure out our next move.

Just as we were about to settle with a revisit to Pub Bricco or The Merchant, we remembered there was actually another little place in the Valley that we’d driven past 1,000 times but never actually set foot in … The Getaway.

Commence “are we sure we really want to try this place” vs “how much longer can we wait for food before we chew our own limbs” debate.

After a brief online search to confirm that yes, they do actually serve food, The Getaway wins. Let’s hear it for Plan C!

Given our past history with menu scavenger hunts, Ted made a beeline for the bar as soon as we walked in, managing to request menus and memorize the draft list before any of us even got ourselves situated at a table. Which means he already worked harder for Jason’s tip than the server we had last week, so score there.

This turned out to be a good move, because Ted also learned on his round-the-bar travels that The Getaway doesn’t have servers – everything is done directly at the bar with the one employee that was on duty for the evening. Good to know. Although on the flip side of things, I have to believe Ted began to regret showing so much initiative once we named him honorary employee and started fielding all of our random menu questions his way.

For drinks, Jason and Ted opted for the Rhinegeist Truth in cans. Which makes them the smart ones, as the rest of us took one sip of our mixed drinks and instantly wished we’d ordered something we might somehow recognize the taste of. Shane was pretty much drinking straight Jameson, while an entire bottle of tequila might’ve died for the combination of mine and Cassi’s drinks. Apparently the bartender here graduated from the Windsor Pub school of mixology?

I also got a lemon with my drink, which I realize starts with the same letter as the lime that was asked for, so points for being somewhat close there.

Jason switched to the (cheaper) Hamm’s tall boy can after the first round. The can arrived pretty dented and scratched, leading us to believe it had lived a life before it got to Jason’s hands. Oh the stories I’m sure it could tell … you know, if only beer cans could talk.

That’s a somewhat terrifying thought.

Anyway.

For a place that we didn’t really realize actually served food, the menu looked pretty promising. I was in favor of the appetizer list actually telling us how many pieces came with each order. Especially since Ted wasn’t really answering Shane’s questions about which order he would get the most food out of.

It’s like a Sesame Street episode

Server-wannabe Ted won him back, though, when he made a point to make Shane aware of the note on the menu that indicated all of the burgers would be cooked to the taste of cardboard.

OK, so really it said “due to food borne illness all burgers are cooked well done – unless otherwise requested by the customer.” But since well done is not how any of us prefer our burgers, we definitely appreciated the warning.

Here’s a fun fact: even though I think we were the only ones in the whole place doing more than drinking, it still took forever to get our food. Jason joked that maybe they just had a small George Foreman Grill in the back and had to cook one burger at a time.

We also started having flashbacks to our recent adventure to the dive bar in the middle of nowhere, in that the food arrived at our table order by order based on how they were placed. Hence, I give you a timeline of our dinner:

7:50pm (20 minutes after ordering)

Ted’s Spicy Garlic Wings arrive, along with the “Sean’s Stinger” Burger – which is the unfortunate name for a burger topped with Jalapeños and marinara – and usually also pepper jack cheese, but of course Ted requested that be omitted.

No vampires will be coming near this table

Ted decided this was a 1/3 pound patty. And since he apparently works here, we believe him.

8:05pm

Cassi and Jason’s potato skins arrive. OK, at least they got their app before the meal, this seems promising.

Loaded and baked, just as promised

8:17pm

Cassi and Jason’s meals show up. Denny Burger (grilled onions, mushrooms, and cheese) with bacon for Cassi, and the Andy Boy Burger (cheese, lettuce, pickle and tarter sauce) for Jason. Yes, I said tarter sauce. We all thought it was strange, too – and I think that was part of the reason he ordered it.

There are toppings under that bun, honest

All I see is lettuce

8:18pm

Oh, hey look, here’s Cassi and Jason’s pretzel sticks that they also had ordered as an app. Oops. I take back that promising comment from a few minutes ago. It’s almost like someone forgot the pretzel sticks were part of their order, and brought them out thinking that maybe they were ahead of the game on the next group of orders. Yeah, no, still them.

When they said “2” on the menu they probably should’ve mentioned they were gigantic

Table update: about 50 minutes after ordering, Ted is halfway through his wings, and has finished all of his fries … Cassi and Jason have an app, their meals, and another late-game app … and Shane and I still don’t even have any food, including that onion ring app we ordered.

Just as Shane and I were discussing the extreme similarities to the New Milford Café – no menus, having to go to the bar ourselves, watching the rest of the table devour their meals before even our app arrived – we looked over to the bar and noticed the (male) bartender doing shots with the patrons sitting at the bar. It’s like we stumbled upon the city cousin to that farmtown bar. What weird portal do we need to close in order to get back to normal service?

Meanwhile, a band started up. Let’s just say we wished they hadn’t.

Shane and I eventually followed Jason’s lead and switched to cans of Hamm’s – primarily because we didn’t think consuming entire bottles of liquor was wise on our empty stomachs.

8:27pm

Hey, our onion rings finally showed up! Along with Shane’s Frisco Melt (2 burger patties with cheese on Texas toast with tangy fresco sauce). Cool. I mean, you know, appetizer first would’ve been great, but at this point we’ll take anything that comes to the table with our names on it.

Apparently the deep fryer only works when the George Foreman gets unplugged?

It’s like a burger sandwich

So at this point we’re just missing my food. To catch you up on the rest of the table, Ted has finished his wings and fries, but still had a whole burger to tackle. Cassie was halfway through both her burger and her fries, and Jason has about 1/4 burger and three fries left.

8:33pm

Finally, my ill-cut Steak Sandwich with fries arrives. Good thing I wasn’t sharing with anyone.

Someone failed fractions in school

Please remind me to make Shane tackle everyone else out of the way the next time we have to order at the bar, so we don’t go last. Ever. Again.

To recap, it was pretty much just over a full hour from the moment we sat down until all of the plates finally arrived at the table. And while I’m sure we’ve waited longer for our meals at other places, at least we all had small plates of food to hold us over. I mean, isn’t that really the concept of appetizers? This whole system of an entire order arriving at once before the other parties at the table even get an appetizer maybe could use some refining.

But we had to admit that at least these burgers were worth waiting for, and – unlike our adventure a few weeks ago – we didn’t sit for an hour just to eventually be served burgers smaller than those you can get at McDonald’s, topped with some chicklet onions. Everyone who ordered one said it was delicious. Cassi only took one bite before declaring it one of the better burgers she’s had. She said it was obvious that it was a handmade patty, not frozen, and that it was seasoned well.

Shane rated it in his Top 7. I’m not sure what position it takes, or who exactly that knocks out, since that list rotates about every time he eats a good burger, but I guess putting on the list means something?

Sure.

Ted didn’t give it a place on any list, but did say it was tasty.

My sandwich was also very good. I realize when you order a steak sandwich you could get anything from steak-um’s to an actual slab of meat on a bun, so I was happy to see this arrive as very thinly sliced steak with lots of toppings and flavor.

We also had to give props to the bartender, who – despite his shot rounds at the bar – did manage to bring us over all of our meals and deliver them to the correct people, as well as walking back over after we were finished to collect our plates. And he was really nice – as he was picking up our plates he apologized for how long it took to get our food, saying that he wasn’t sure what the issue was and that it’s usually not like that. Shane made sure to tell him that “if that’s what it takes for something that good then we’re OK.”

Shane mentioned to our group after the bartender walked away that we’re probably the first people to order food there in like two years, so really we should be glad that it all at least came out edible. Also, it’s not like we’re just one or two people ordering a sandwich. There’s five of us, and we all know we order enough food for whoever is cooking back there to probably think that the place just got his with a surprise birthday party.

Also, mine and Shane’s bill totaled up to just $38 before tip. So only $5 more than the much referenced but ill-fated dive bar $1 burger night excursion – and although we do have a few questions (how are the onion rings almost as much as our sandwiches? why is Jose Cuervo so much cheaper than Jameson?) this time we each had strongly poured mixed drinks along with much better food, so I’d say that $5 was well spent.

Two Hamm’s for the price of one Jameson. What were we thinking?

All in all, The Getaway is a nice local neighborhood bar, with good food and a decent atmosphere. We weren’t treated like total outsiders because we were new, which is always a plus on the side of coming back again in the future. Honestly the food delivery timing was about our only complaint with the place. Oh, and the strong pour. Which we realize not everyone will see as a checkmark in the “con” column, so take that as you will.

Picked by: Cassi (we gave her the option and she actually did claim this as her pick, which is an endorsement all in itself)

Cassi – the thumbs up is for the food, the thumbs down is for the drinks

Steph

Shane

Ted, with a Vegas-style background. We’ll have to come back after Christmas to see if those lights are up year round?

Jason

 

WTGW 11/21/18: Mac’s Cabana #9, Akron

Standard

Twas the night before Thanksgiving, and … well, we were out eating and drinking, because it’s always a Wednesday night.

It’s only been five years now, folks. Pay attention.

Shane had a special request to take on this year’s annual pick, so we shuffled things around a bit to give him the honor. And let me tell you, what an honor it was.

Mac’s Cabana #9 is … well … about the furthest thing you can get from a cabana, ever. I think from the name we were picturing something resembling a tiki bar, perhaps, or maybe something beach themed. Yeah, no. It’s clearly just another dive bar, which happen to be in an old Lawson’s or Dairy Mart or whatever convenience store you most align with. Because that screams “welcome to our beach bar,” no?

No.

Although you have to wonder right off about a place that has a number sign in the title. Yes, kids, I said NUMBER SIGN – because long before # was called a hashtag, it was used to denote numbers. But, like, why is it #9? Is this the ninth attempt and they finally feel they got it right? Are there eight more somewhere else? Does Mac just like nines the best? WHAT DOES IT MEAN???

In our case I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it means “9 times out of 10 we won’t choose to return here.”

Not that I think any of the regulars would be upset about that, since we pretty much heard the record screech and the deafening silence after our group of newbies entered. That was after we passed a guy on the way in who stopped dead in his tracks to stare at our group, and said aloud “Oh, well, OK then.”

Good to see you as well.

Moving on … we find a table for the group, and realize we’re actually out early enough for happy hour. Yay! Hey, nice bartender lady, what specials might we be able to take advantage of?

Yeah, she had no idea. Super.

Instead, she asked if we were eating, and then – in what has become a somewhat weekly and definitely unwelcome game – she had to go search out some menus. All three of them. And when we asked about any food specials she pointed and said “whatever is on the board over there.”

Oh, wait, you mean the board that we couldn’t see from our table because there was a giant crowd of bar patrons standing in front of it? That’s helpful. Why can’t you just walk over and read them to us? Or maybe glance at it enough times to perhaps have committed a few of them to memory? I mean, you do pass it every time you have to come to our table and all.

But then again we also asked her what beers she had on draft, and were basically told to read the handles ourselves. So even though she’s behind the bar all the time, she didn’t know. Or couldn’t remember. Or just didn’t want to tell us. DO YOU EVEN WORK HERE?

I’m not sure if all of this is painting a better picture of her personality or the place in general.

Wisely, Shane didn’t even bother asking her what meals were good there. By this point I think we were all starting to realize that no one really eats at Mac’s. Or talks to strangers. Or knows how to do their jobs.

So this seems promising.

But hey, since the whole point of this is to try new places, of course we stuck it out and put in our food orders. And then just crossed our fingers that they arrived at the table correctly.

So far so good on the appetizers. Although when you order an array of fried things, you kind of hope that falls on the difficult to screw up list. Shane and I ordered mozzarella sticks, and Ted got the fried green beans.

Looks normal

The only acceptable way to eat vegetables in our group

Ted liked his app. He said the breading was Italian seasoned, and they were crunchy without being overdone.

Ours were, well, cheese sticks. I mean, there’s really nothing new I can say about them except that they tasted like breaded cheese, so at least we know we got the right thing.

Cassi and Jason were a little more adventurous, choosing the bacon cheddar fries. They didn’t say much about them, but did eat them, so I’m going to assume they were acceptable.

Just proving you can add cheese to anything to make it better

For meals, it was burgers for four out of five of us. Because, you know, even when given the choice to pick anything off of a menu that has more than two things, that’s typically still our go to option.

Ah, that joke never gets old. Right, Shane?

Anyway.

I got the Bacon, Mushroom and Swiss burger with onion rings.

The real toppings are hiding apparently, because this looks a lot like just a lettuce and onion burger

Ted got the Cabana Burger, which was like my burger, but it had the seasoning baked into it and was topped with a wasabi mayo. According to Ted, it was “just different enough that he had to order it.”

It sure doesn’t look different. Maybe we should’ve turned the flash on?

Shane got the Bacon Cheeseburger Special with fries. So did Jason. Try to hide your surprise on that one. Instead focus on the fact that something from the specials menu actually did exist.

OK, never mind on that flash. Some things are more appetizing in the dark. It is a dive bar, after all.

Meanwhile, the only non-burger order of the group goes to Cassi, who chose the BLT with egg and cheese, along with a side of onion rings.

One of these things is not like the other

Shane also got six of the Sriacha Bourbon jumbo wings. Or at least that’s what the menu called them. They arrived looking strangely like just normal sized wings.

Cassi: Those are jumbo?
Shane: I guess to some people.

Must’ve gotten the runt of the “jumbo” chicken group

The food was … well … about as impressive as the service at this place, which should tell you about everything you need to know at this point. But I’ll elaborate anyway.

The burgers were dry. Which I guess we should’ve known was coming – because, as Jason pointed out, when they don’t ask anyone how they want the burgers cooked, we should pretty much assume that means they’ll arrive more well done than those hot dogs you see that have clearly been on the gas station roaster for the past 24 hours.

Ted’s was slightly better because all of the seasoning was baked into it – which is saying something considering his also had no cheese holding it together – so I guess his attempt at ordering something different paid off in this case. But by slightly better that also doesn’t necessarily mean it was by any means good, so take that as you will.

According to Shane, the only reason to order that burger again would be if there was a battery acid spill somewhere nearby that needed cleaned up. Because that’s a raving endorsement, no?

We did agree that the bun – which was buttered and toasted – was by far the best part of the sandwich. So I guess if you’re in the mood to pay $9 for some bread then this is your place. Although to that I’d say that a full bag of hamburger buns – even the fancy kind – and a stick of butter are far less expensive at the grocery store, and you’ll probably also get better service, so maybe just go that route.

Hey, speaking of, let’s check back in with that server who didn’t know the specials, or the beers, or really anything about the place other than how to serve drinks to the regulars crowded around the bar, shall we? Yeah, well, we’d love to, but we haven’t seen her since our food arrived at the table, so guess we’re on our own here. Jason was waiting for ketchup for pretty much the entirety of our meal – which makes the time we asked for ketchup and got a boatful of it sound pretty appealing in retrospect. The next time we saw our delightful server was when she happened to glance over and take a cue that we were ready to make our way out the door, so she thought best to bring our checks before we disappeared.

And – shocker – she also managed to screw those up. Our check had Jason’s name on it, while Cassi and Jason’s had Shane’s on it. I get that they ordered the same thing, but really they are different people. And Ted even took the time to walk the server through who was on what checks before she went to draw them up.

Hi, my name is ______

*sigh*

It wasn’t until she tried to run Jason’s card that she realized the mistake she had made with the names on the checks. Oh, hi there reality, welcome to the party. She came back over and admitted her mistake, because apparently the computers were down – after our card and Ted’s were both run with no problems, so that’s kind of weird, but whatever. Since we were more than ready to get out of this non-Cabana by this point, Jason just gave her cash … and then we waited for her to return with change. And waited. And discussed where to go next to get more drinks, since it was still early and this place was not worthy of any more of our money.

But wait … apparently our server thought she was just that, as it soon became obvious that “do you need change” was a question of the rhetorical variety in her book. Because as we watched, she went back about serving patrons at the bar, clearly thinking we were about to just be out of her life forever without another thought. Um, no. See, funny story, you only get to keep that amount of money if you actually pay attention to your patrons. You know, like those regulars at the bar that you definitely prefer talking to – they probably tip you well. And it’s probably well deserved, considering the number of shots you’re convincing them to buy, and the quickness with which you refill their beers. But us new people at the table who don’t know the beer handles by heart … well, let’s just say we don’t tip ghosts over here.

After an awkward confrontation in which Jason had to approach her and explain that no, really, you aren’t worth all of the extra money left over from the bill, we naturally got the hell out of there faster than a gang of bank robbers. Which means we forgot to take our photos first, because, well let’s just say we all enjoy NOT getting into bar fights, especially early in the evening before a holiday.

While Mac’s was a bust, that’s not to say the entire evening was a wash, as we ended up getting a few rounds of drinks down at the new South Point Tavern in Green (which only serves drinks, no food, so it was worth a stop as a #2 on an already-number-themed WTGW) and then ended the evening with an epic karaoke session at The Clubhouse – where we almost did see a bar fight – over napkins, apparently, of all things – but it had nothing to do with our group so it made it far more acceptable. And since we didn’t eat there, it’s still a solid choice for someone down the road, so I’m guessing we haven’t seen the last of this place for the WTGW crew. Just putting that out there.

We’ll bring our own napkins, though, just in case.

Picked by: Shane

WTGW 8/22/18: Lock 15 Brewing Company, Akron

Standard

There are two types of people in this world: those who rush out to see a movie the first weekend it’s open, even though it means fighting crowds and sitting in an extremely full theater … and those who avoid that situation like the plague, even if it means usually forgetting the movie exists until well after its hit the 2nd year of availability on Netflix.

I fall into the latter category. I’m not one to flock to the latest thing just because it’s the latest thing, or to rush through the open doors of a new restaurant/bar/store five minutes after they’re unlocked for the first time.

Which makes perfect sense as to why we’re here at Lock 15 Brewing Company on only the second day of its existence. And that it was my choice.

See also: things I vow to never do again, because clearly the universe was trying to punish me for this decision this time around.

More on that later.

So Lock 15 Brewing Company is a brand new space located in the newly renovated Cascade Lofts building, just on the edge of downtown Akron. I’d been watching the space’s social media accounts, which I thought had hinted to the opening actually being earlier this summer. I’m not sure exactly why, but it seems this was instead pushed back to the end of August. Technically still summer, although closer to “end of” than “early in.”

I hesitated on the pick when I looked online and noticed that their online reservation system showed no openings for private tables between 7 – 7:30PM. But knowing that they had several “common tables” (read: long tables you might end up sharing with other guests) I wasn’t overly concerned that we wouldn’t find a place to seat ourselves. Also, reservations are a bit taboo in this group anyway. We all remember the last time we tried making one of those, only to end up eating tarter toast and not-sweet bean salad in a room that clearly was not going to be standing room only.

So, yeah, I’m not sure if they only take four reservations per half hour time slot, or if literally all of those people who made online reservations ditched out at the last minute, but we had zero problem getting a table when we walked in reservation-less at a little before 7PM. Because the place is one big open room and we could clearly see the door and any line that did or didn’t form at the entrance area, I can also tell you that the time periods of 7:30 and 8:00 would’ve been free of any mad rush for seating as well.

The place itself is pretty nice. You can definitely tell they put some money into the renovations and the decor of the space. Which apparently they are trying to get back via the cost of food. Snacks and starters range from $7 – $13 – with  wings being among the most expensive item on the section. Hmmm, not our typical ballpark, but OK. Sandwiches are in the $15 average range. The dinners actually seemed surprisingly low in comparison, with most running around the same price or just a little more than most of the sandwiches.

The menu is also pretty much what our group would consider to be “fancy,” especially when served in combination with beer. I mean, they have the staples like burgers and salads, but they throw you off with culinary vocabulary like “spent grain bun,” “Vegan brioche bun,” and “pork belly croutons.” In particular the Arugula Goat Cheese Toast Salad sounds like something my fried-food-loving body would run screaming in the opposite direction of, but whatevs. But then they also have highly intriguing – read: sounds less healthy – things like a Pork Belly BLT, Ghost Pepper Mac and Cheese, and Nashville Hot Chicken. Huh.

But let’s start with the beers.

Horray for beer!

I got the Hefe, IPA for Jason, Porter for Shane, Pilsner for Cassi … and nothing for Ted, who had a work event this evening, but didn’t tell us until like 5:00 so we couldn’t make alternative revisit arrangements. Bad Ted.

Apparently they also have flights of beer, so you can try samples of the different offerings before you commit to a giant 16oz glass of something that maybe tastes like burnt coffee and motor oil. But we weren’t aware of this until we saw one getting carried away from the bar to a neighboring table. File that under: things we wish they had advertised in some way.

Of course, on the night I leave my “telepathy for beginners” manual at home. Never fails.

For apps, Cassi and Jason got the nachos, while Shane and I opted to carb load with a giant pretzel.

Chippy nachos

Proof that looks can be deceiving

The nachos ended up being the winner here. Wait, what? How is that possible? I mean, did you not see the photo?

Yeah, well, let’s just call this pretzel the appetizer equivalent of that person across the bar who you think is totally hot until they walk over and open their mouth to reveal an IQ that gerbils would be embarrassed about.

At first sight it looks amazing. But then you take a bite, and realize it’s drier than pool towels left out in the sun all day, with about as much flavor. It’s like eating a loaf of bread made entirely of heel slices.

Let that thought sink in a little bit.

The cheese and mustard dipping sauces might’ve helped … had they given us a larger portion. You can’t baste a turkey with an eyedropper, but thanks for trying.

I mean, come on. WTF are we supposed to do with this?

Meanwhile the nachos were actually made from potato chips instead of tortilla chips, and had tons of toppings. #appetizerenvy

I’d like to say things improved for us from this point, but I don’t want to lie to you. I think I’m safe to say that the nachos were the highlight of the evening. Getting our apps and drinks was definitely the epitome of our service for the night, because after that it seemed to take longer and longer for our server to appear anywhere close to the proximity of our table. And, again, the place is one giant room, so we would’ve seen if she had been busy with tables on the other side of the space or something like that. But no, she just would seemingly get kidnapped into the back for like 19 minutes out of every 20. Because that’s helpful.

In any case, I guess it’s good that we were done with the appetizers before she even took our meal orders, because there was no way all of that food would’ve fit along with the app plates. As it was the meals for four people barely left us with any table space to set our drinks.

If it looks like we’re sitting on each other’s laps … well we almost are

Shane and Jason both ordered burgers. I know you’re shocked about that. Shane got the Black and Blue burger, while Jason opted for the Lock 15.

It looks like a breakfast sandwich

Filed under ultra-messy

I tried to order the chili … but was informed they were all out. On day two?  Either that was the crowd favorite on the official opening the night before, or maybe cheese and mustard aren’t the only things that are portion sized into eyedroppers around here.

So I got the pork belly BLT instead.

FYI, bread with holes in it should not be used to contain items that spew grease

Cassi ordered the hush puppies. And then sat and watched us start to eat our food, since apparently there was also a run on those early in the restaurant’s short lifespan, as she was informed as our food was being delivered that hers would take a bit longer due to just having been started.

I would say something to the effect of letting us know that not long after we ordered would’ve been helpful, but let’s just say that by this point we were just thrilled that someone who worked there came out of hiding long enough to even approach our table and deliver most of the meal. Be very still and don’t scare them away too quickly.

How long does it really take to make this many hush puppies?

All of us were genuinely disappointed in the food. It arrived looking great, but when you tasted it … well … it just didn’t overwhelm any of us. Shane said his burger was just OK, but nothing special that he would feel the need to return for. Cassi said the hush puppies might’ve been better with a different breading, but that in their current state they just don’t have much flavor. Seems to be a theme here with things of the carb-laden variety,

Meanwhile I was channeling Cassi’s pizza experience of a few months ago with a mushy bottomed sandwich. I blame poor bread choice on this one. Seems to me something sturdier than holey sour dough might be in order when you’re dealing with a pork product, no?

The items making up the “T” portion of my sandwich were also weird. I don’t have a better word to describe them than that. Weird. Take that as you will.

The consensus seemed to be that the giant pretzel should really just be the mascot of the entire menu. Looks great when it arrives, but they need to learn to deliver the taste to the table as well.

(Side note, if you pull up Lock 15’s menu online, the photo at the top is that of the pretzel. Which made me giggle, because while I didn’t notice that until after I wrote this review, clearly we’re on to something here.)

In any case, the non-flavorful food is a real shame, because we had high hopes for this place. The space is great – and will be made even better once the outdoor patio opens, since we could see where it’s intended to be and were slightly jealous we couldn’t be seated there already. It’s also nice to see a local brewery with a full bar to offer for those who aren’t in the mood to for gluten heavy drinks. I do think overall it still has potential, but that there are definitely some kinks that need to be worked out.

One of which is this:

I don’t imagine these can be re-used

If you’re going to seat people in close quarters and give them cold glasses of beer, I hope either there’s a large line item on the budget for reams of paper, or part of your staff also moonlights at the local Kinko’s. As Cassi stated when she pointed this debacle out: “that will never work.”

Oh – and you’re going to have to go another week without our smiling faces, since we once again forgot to take photos before we left the restaurant. And we’ve learned that dark parking lots are not the venue for this either. I think we’re all still having nightmares about the last time we tried this