Special Event – 4th Annual Scruptious Showdown, Aurora Farms


Alright kids, here it is: our annual reminder that food judging is harder than it looks.

No really.

All eye rolling aside (you can stop already, I know you’re doing it), we were honored to be asked by the good folks out at Aurora Farms to once again come out at the beginning of June and lend our stomachs and taste buds to the annual Scrumptious Showdown food truck event. The event is in its 4th year, three of which Shane, Ted and I have tested our stomach capacity and will to keep standing upright with all of the buttons still done on our pants like civilized people while sampling some 20 food options over the course of 90 minutes.

So, basically, in less time than it took us to get our entire meals at the Wadsworth Tavern, we were able to try 20 different items.



Thanks – I think – in part to Ted’s general hatred and overall aversion to cheese, we were selected as the group to test all of the meat entries this year. The other group of judges had all of the vegetarian dishes, and then all of us joined together to try all of the desserts. Because it’s just not fair to keep anyone from dessert.

Our day of carnivorous dining was divided into two categories: all things just containing meat in general (read: lots of BBQ and assorted meats of the pulled variety), and then wraps.

Our very first sampling came from the Slop Truck – who apparently think that an entire entrée of pulled pork with a side of ribs and Mac’n’Cheese was sample sized. Perhaps they read this blog and know what kind of portions we treat ourselves to on a regular basis, so thanks, I guess?

Although if they read this blog, then they should also know better than to serve one of the three of us in this group a side dish where cheese is not only one of the main ingredients but also in the title. I have to believe they lost points for that.

After that we tried two variations of hot dogs: the “Polish Girl” from Jones Bones, which was topped with fries and cole slaw, and an unnamed selection from Top Dawg which featured chili, potato straws and mac’n’cheese as toppings.

Wait, what? Because clearly we’re just lazy enough now that we have to eat all the side dishes on top of the hot dog instead of separately?

For those who like to eat their whole meal at one time

Spoiler alert: it still eventually involved a fork, so are we really saving anything here?

Also, I’m sure you noticed that Ted’s nemesis strikes again, so this clearly wasn’t his day.

The amazingness that is the DiLaura’s Wood Fired Pizza truck was back again, serving up the pepperoni pizza with hot honey sauce. If you haven’t seen this marvel of a trailer that heats up to about 4 billion degrees and cooks a pizza in 90 seconds check out the photos from last year’s food truck judging. Seriously. If there was a category for coolest food truck out there they would win hands down every time.

And rounding out the group was Smoke This with a pulled brisket slider which Shane claimed he would eat 15 of if he could. But thankfully he didn’t, because, well, we still had about 15 other things to sample before the afternoon was over.

Full yet?

Don’t worry, only four wraps to go. And dessert. NBD.

In the wraps category, our first sampling was from Funky Truckeria, with a tequila chicken taco.

The second truck I had to go back and try to find the name of on the wrap-up email (see what I did there?) from our friends at Aurora Farms, because, well, let’s just say that that the entrée they served us was just as unmemorable as their name. We were unimpressed. Also, the name wasn’t included because clearly they didn’t win anything. Shocker.

So we’ll just leave it at that.

The third sample was a giant chicken burrito that must’ve weighed as much as my head. Normally this would be a selling point for our group, but honestly it seemed like this one just had altogether way too much going on inside for us to deem it delicious. So much so that I can’t recount any one thing that was in there, just that there was a lot mixed together. It’s like when you’re decorating your living room and can’t decide between beach, cottage, and southwestern themes, so you just try to mash them together and tell everyone it works.

Newsflash: it doesn’t. Stop trying.

Our final wrap was the annual gyro from George’s. A tried and true favorite on its own, but this year they spiced it up a little with some new toppings and some flavor that really made it stand out.

And that’s saying a lot considering which we barely got two bites of it before dessert came around. But hey, it was enough for them to win the category, so good for them.

Shane, as we boxed up the gyros and did a few mental jumping jacks to prepare ourselves for the final round of the afternoon: Hey, I think I’m finally starting to get that full feeling.
Me: well good thing there’s only seven desserts left to go.

Which is why next year I vote that we turn things on their heads and start with dessert. Because, seriously, I think that category just doesn’t get a fair shake having to be judged after we’ve eaten literally everything else in the parking lot.

Although I have to admit that the fact that we could still enjoy these delicacies after everything else we just stuffed ourselves with really does say a lot for the quality of these items.

Take all that as you will.

And they certainly did not disappoint. We started out right back at George’s, with a piece of baclava swimming in ice cream. I say swimming, because, well, remember it was about a billion degrees out there on the blacktop, and so we had to devour this one quick so as to actually enjoy it.

Because I feel about baclava about the same depth that Ted feels about cheese … well … you can guess this wasn’t my favorite in this category. But Shane and Ted were crazy over it, so there’s your benchmark, I guess.

I was more partial to the Italian cherry soda float from Cookery. I mean, if I haven’t already mentioned, it was a little on the hot side out there, and a beverage filled with fruit flavor and whipped cream was somewhat delightful in my opinion. I may have been the only one in our group to think that, but, hey, guess it kind of balances out the baclava debate, right?

In the categories of things you don’t really think would be dessert options, we had fried naan from the Chapati Indian truck, and apricot pierogis from Pierogi Joe’s. Neither of those really wowed anyone in our group. Which is odd, because I seem to remember the fried naan being a favorite from last year. Hmm.

Naan and baclava and iced drinks and WE NEED BIGGER TABLES

What  happens when you let a catering truck give you dessert? Well, let’s just say you definitely get points for presentation and originality. Robestos served us up a little platter of delightfulness, including tiny bite sized portions of yogurt, peaches, waffles and a sidecar of syrup. And guys, tiny plasticware. I mean, come on.

Finally (seriously how many of you thought we HAD to be done by this point? Yeah, us too. Us. Too.) we ended the dessert category with mint chocolate chip custard from Stoddards, and a sundae from East Coast Custard that thankfully Shane and I got to share since there was no way we were going to eat the whole thing ourselves by that point.

Remember what I said at the top of this post about how this whoe food judging thing is harder than it looks. WHO’S ROLLING THEIR EYES NOW, EH?


So to recap, the winners for the day – as voted on by our groups of judges – were:
George’s Gyros – Best Wrap
Smoke This – Best with Meat
DiLaura’s Pizza – Best without Meat (the other group’s pick, as they tried the cheese only slice)
Robesto’s – Best Dessert (I’m telling you, it was the tiny plasticware that won everyone over)
And the Fan Favorite, voted on by those actually paying to purchase food that afternoon: George’s Gyros

Thanks again to the good folks at Aurora Farms for still considering us celebrity status enough to come back out and judge once again, as well as all of the participating trucks for supplying us with enough food to not go hungry for about a week after the event.

So the next time you read a post and think we’ve outdone ourselves eating enough food for a small army … just tell yourself it’s training for this event next year. I mean, that’s what we do.

And stay tuned for the date of Scrumptious Showdown 2020 – we’d love to see you there!

Group shot of all the judges


Someone roll us to the car, please

WTGW Special Event – Second Annual Scrumptuous Showdown, Aurora 6/2/18


Folks, if you ever wonder to yourselves why we keep up this little food blog – I mean, other than to remind ourselves of the various mistakes we’ve made in our picks over the past 4+ years and all of the reasons why we should all truly be dead of heart attacks by this point – let this annual post serve as a reminder of the true reasoning behind our actions.

Food. Truck. Judging.

For the second consecutive year we were honored to be invited to serve as judges for the annual Scrumptious Showdown at Aurora Farms Outlet, a free event that offers a space for various local food trucks to open and sell food to patrons for few hours on a Saturday afternoon. Several awards are given out at the conclusion of the event (that’s where we come in), including a fan favorite voted on by the public (the one category we are not invited to judge). This is the event’s third year, and our second year serving as judges.

Celebrity status: activated.

Back off, commoners

The weather for this year’s event was cool and overcast, which was much more conducive to spending a few hours standing on blacktop stuffing ourselves silly than last year’s blazing hot sun and high 80 degree temperatures. I think we’re still trying to blame last year’s water intake for our stuffed-as-a-sausage feeling by the end of the day – even though in reality we know it was really our inexperience with the “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” philosophy that should accompany any event asking you to sample more than 20 foods in one short time span.

I know, it sounds great until the first time you do it. Trust me on this one.

Once again we were separated into two judging groups, with Shane, Ted and I serving as one team. Because we were return judges and hadn’t had the opportunity to eat our way through the “meat” category last year, the event organizers this year gave us that one to start with. We had six entries to judge in that group (while the other group of three judges worked their way through all of the “non-meat” sandwiches). Then the six of us judges combined forces to judge wraps (four entries) and desserts (four entries).

Just in case you don’t feel like using your math skills, that equals 14 samples in the course of about 90 minutes.

Hungry yet?

Now, if you’re like we were last year, you’re probably foolishly thinking that doesn’t sound like much. Don’t let the term “samples” throw you off. Several of these places are known to give out entire sandwiches, thus leaving it up to us to use the word “sample” as a verb of our own accord.

Can we just talk for a minute about how food you have to eat standing up could maybe be a little less messy?

Let’s just say we definitely learned last year to take the organizers up on their generous offering of to-go boxes.

So in this year’s meat category we tried a BBQ chicken sandwich from Jackpot Chicken, a “Judas beef” sandwich from Smokin’ Rock ‘n’ Roll, a sloppy joe from Hatfield’s, all-American burgers from Robesto’s, and a hot honey pepperoni pizza from DiLauro’s Pizzeria.

Our favorite – and winner of the category – was the Judas Beef. It was very tasty, the meat was smoked just to perfection and pretty much melted in your mouth.

Although we have to give props to Robesto’s for the presentation involved with their burgers. Mini root beer floats? Please.

This looks like something I would pin on Instagram under a ridiculously titled and never used board like “picnic goals.”

And special mention also goes out to DiLauro’s, for the amazingness that was their wood fired oven in a trailer. Let me say that again, in case you missed it: a full fledged wood fired pizza oven in the confines of trailer that gets hitched to the back of a truck. The entire group of judges made a pilgrimage to their truck to learn more about this engineering marvel that cooks a personal sized pizza in 90 seconds at 1000 degrees. Apparently it takes three hours to heat up, and then 4-5 DAYS to cool down. That’s right, while you’re at work for an entire week, this trailer is just literally chilling out, waiting to get back to normal temperature. But it’s fully insulated, so after the event they could just close up the sides and drive off. Like, oh here, let me just close up my giant oven and take it back to grandma’s house to park. Cool.

Engineers are smart people.

Pizza truck genius

I mean, come on. It’s a giant oven on wheels. How is that not amazing?

In the wraps category, we sampled a chorizo meatloaf wrap from Wrap It Up, chorizo balls with goat cheese from The Funky Truckeria and a gyro from Gyro George.

While I could appreciate the goal of putting together something different with the meatloaf wrap, honestly there was just way too much going on in that one. Tater tots, corn, sausage = overload. Like, hey, let’s put an entire meal into one flour tortilla and save ourselves the steps of having to actually take out a fork and eat it separately. Ted liked it, but probably more so because his other options were a basic gyro (that Shane was a bit salty this year skimped out on the entire meal of fries and baklava) and something filled with cheese.

Newsflash: the cheese item won. Because the rest of the group can appreciate a tasty cheese-filled item wrapped up and deep fried. Sorry, Ted.

On to dessert, where we were given fried naan from Chopati (who had already won over the non-meat group with their Indian sampling earlier), banana pudding from Hatfield’s, chocolate covered strawberry frozen yogurt from The Little Penguin, and strawberry custard from Stoddard’s.

Side note: can we only judge this category next year? Or at least do it first? Because it’s a little unfair to give us things like ice cream that are impossible to box up and save for later AFTER we’re already full from sampling the rest of the categories. Just sayin.

The Little Penguin truck was definitely the most original of the bunch, since it was essentially a mobilized soft serve frozen yogurt shop. Instead of paying by weight you just pay by container size, then step up to the side of the truck and fill the container yourself from the soft serve taps, then add a variety of toppings.

Where was this place when Ted and Shane had the famous 8 lb sundaes? Because it seems this route might’ve saved us some money.

The group was divided on the winner of the dessert category. It really came down to a toss up in the first two desserts (the naan and the banana pudding), since they were both delicious. Commence internal struggle. I think my pen hovered over the scorecard for what seemed like eternity as I tried to decide which to score higher.

By vote of whole group the naan took it.

Fried dough will always be a winner in my book

But we will surely see you in our dreams, banana pudding. Until we meet again.

I felt slightly less upset about the great banana pudding upset when Hatfield’s took home the fan favorite award, though. At least they got some recognition for their deliciousness.

So another fun year under our belts, and as always we are grateful to the presenters of the event for inviting us back and trusting our love of food as the basis of prestigious awards. Be sure to mark your calendars for Saturday, June 1, 2019, to come check out the fourth annual Scrumptious Showdown at Aurora Farms Outlets along with us. And definitely say hello if you see us there.

Do we look stuffed? Because we are.

In the meantime, if you see us out and about with giant tables of food in front of us, let;s just all agree that we’ll be considering it “training.”  Stop laughing.

WTGW Special Edition – Second Annual Scrumptious Showdown 6/3/17


OK, so you know how we often go into places and declare we’re ordering ALL THE FOOD because we’re so hungry? Or how many times the guys end up getting two full meals and an appetizer each, which prompts comments from me about the copious amounts of food we have at one table?

Well, I think we finally met our match.

A month or so ago I was contacted by one of the lovely marketing peeps at Aurora Farms Premium Outlets about our team from WTGW being food judges for their Second Annual Scrumptious Showdown – an event at the outdoor shopping center that invites various local food trucks to not only sell food to patrons but also be judged by a panel for the opportunity to win bragging rights and gift cards to Aurora Farms.

So of course we said yes – because, I mean, hello, have you met us? You want us to come out and eat stuff then tell you what we thought of it? Clearly we have no clue how that concept works.

Although I think we can all admit now that, while we know food, the concept we were a little clueless on was food judging. To say we were slightly unprepared for what we were getting ourselves into is like the astronauts of Apollo 13 telling Houston they have a problem. I mean, we obviously like food. But I don’t think in my whole life I have ever eaten so much in one 90 minute time span.

Must. Train. Better. Next. Time.


When we arrived on a beautiful, sunny Saturday we met not only our hosts from Aurora Farms, but also the rest of the judges. They had invited six judges total – all area food and event bloggers – and split us up into two sets of three for the judging so that all of us didn’t have to judge every category. Which at first we were like, wait, why, we got this. Uh, no. See above comment about ill-preparedness. Because about 45 minutes into the competition I realized the organizers were actually really smart people.

So our group had four categories to judge: best wrap, best vegetarian dish, best cold dessert, and best sweet treat. The other group had both the cold and sweet desserts along with us, and then “best between two buns,” which was sandwiches that weren’t wraps.

Everyone knows when you have a clipboard you’re official

At first I kinda thought we got the worse end of that deal – why do they get burgers and sandwiches while we get boring wraps? But in the end I think we lucked out, because not only were the wraps we tried far from boring, but also all of our trucks gave us so much food that we ended up filling several take home containers.

Seriously, So. Much. Food.

That’s right, back off, you ordinary people. Our gluttony will take over this table.

There were six entries in the wraps category alone. Six. Now, granted, it’s not like we had to eat a full wrap from each truck – but you’d be surprised how quickly a few bites of each flour tortilla filled sandwich can fill you up. Especially when what’s on the inside of those tortillas includes things like meats, cheeses (sorry, Ted) and even pasta. Um, OK.

So the six wraps we tried included a BBQ chicken mac & cheese wrap from Wrap It Up, a slow roasted beef and cheese wrap from Hatfield’s Goode Grub, a chicken wrap from Wholly Frijoles Mexican Street Food, an Open Faced Cuban wrap from Off the GRIDdle, Ahi Tuna Tacos from The Beachcomber Truck, and a gyro from Gyro George.

This is only my corner of the table

The three of us individually scored each item based not only on the taste, but also on things like the uniqueness and presentation. Hatfield’s scored the best on all of our sheets for the wraps – the flavor was out of this world, plus they were the only truck to actually send someone over to talk to us about the dish and how it was prepared, so that definitely scored them points for presentation. They ended up winning the category.

As far as other standouts, the mac and cheese burrito definitely got points for originality. And it should be noted that Ted The Cheese Hater’s first words were “well that cheese isn’t so awful,” which anyone who reads this blog regularly knows to be a compliment. This was also the first item we were presented with after we’d pretty much starved ourselves all morning to be ready for this event, so we had to remember to pace ourselves and not eat the entire thing at once. In the words of a wise person being interviewed by a TV station at a Browns tailgate (i.e.: me), “it’s a marathon not a sprint.”

Hmm, I want mac and cheese … no, I want a buffalo chicken wrap. Let’s put them together!

The Cuban got points for originality, but the meat was slightly dry. The chicken burrito was good, but lacked the uniqueness of some of the other wraps – if you’ve been to Chipotle, you’ve had this item. Ted liked the ahi tuna wrap … but Shane and I thought it lacked flavor. Although I do think mine was missing a lot of the pineapple-y sauce that Ted raved about, so there’s that. And the gyro was very tasty – but, again, it’s not that original (I mean, really, how can you change up a gyro?). But we did appreciate that he gave each of the three of us an entire gyro meal – a sandwich, cheesy fries and baklava – so you now that was going down as dinner later. Thanks, Gyro George. You may not have won the vote, but you won a special place in my stomach for that move.

In the vegetarian category we only had three entries – a stuffed mushroom served in a cute little mini martini glass from Robesto’s Catering, black bean tater tots with a dipping sauce from Off the GRIDdle, and a vegetarian taco from Wrap It Up. The guys were wowed by the mushroom – or maybe just the tiny doll sized martini glasses, it’s hard to say exactly, but they couldn’t stop raving about it. Meanwhile, I was more of a fan of the veggie taco. The sauce on it was so flavorful and a touch spicy without blowing your mouth up. We all thought the tots were super original – and also really good. Personally I would order those in any restaurant. So we were all across the board individually in our scoring, but after the votes were tabulated later it seemed the mushroom in the tiny glass took the prize.

Damn you boys. No more getting wowed by plastic ware. I mean, come on, I didn’t even take a picture of it so it couldn’t be THAT impressive. Sheesh.

So by now you’re probably hungry after reading all that – but we definitely weren’t after eating it. Which means we were absolutely thrilled to find out we still had two categories left to judge. Yay!

And of course it’s my favorite – desserts. Can we please do these FIRST next time? I mean, seriously. I need to leave more room for these things.

This pretty much describes my feeling about desserts

They split the desserts up into two categories: cold, and, well, basically not cold. Personally I think that was just a ploy to get us to walk around a bit more and try to work out a corner of our stomachs for all of the remaining food – but hey, they’ve been smart so far, so I didn’t question them on this either.

For cold desserts there was a turtle sundae from East Coast Custard, iced coffee from Floured Apron, and a cherry chunk custard from Stoddards‘.

I was a fan of the cherry custard – I thought it had good flavor, with just the right amount of chunks in it (that sounds way more disgusting that it meant to, really). A lot of the other judges seemed to like the sundae, but for me there were too many nuts involved. And yes, before you say it, the guys didn’t miss out on the opportunity to joke about that sentence once I made the mistake of letting it fall from my mouth.

But overall in that category it was the iced coffee that won. It was very good, and we did get a nice explanation from the owner about the type of coffee she uses and how it’s brewed. And I have to believe the pink flamingo straw played a big part into presentation.

It’s like having a drink with a friend

I mean, come on. How cute is that?

After we cleansed our palettes with cool treats, it was time for the final category of the day – sweet desserts. At which point the organizers said to us “OK, it’s time for the sweets category, let’s all head over to Jackpot Chicken for our first entry …” Wait, what now? Did you just say “desserts” and “chicken” in the same sentence? That’s like saying let’s go pick out some shoes from Pet Supplies Plus. Hmm.

Turns out they were serving warm apple empanadas. Which were somewhat tasty, although really sticky and difficult to eat until someone chased us down some plastic silverware. Negative points for presentation, thank you very much.

We all also had a laugh when one of the other judges from the other team approached the chicken truck to ask what the shells of the empanadas were mad of, since they were orange and that’s slightly unusual. The answer was this stellar and clearly well rehearsed marketing line: “I don’t know, we buy them frozen.” Genius. Maybe those people should be here showcasing their product instead of you. Just a thought.

After that it was two kinds of cupcakes, a buckeye cupcake from the Sweet Mobile Cupcakery, and a S’mores cupcake from Floured Apron.

Keep ’em coming

While they were both tasty and very well presented (including talks from the owners of both trucks about how the cupcakes are made and why they chose those particular flavors to have us judge), Floured Apron took the majority of the vote to win that category.

Get out the brooms, folks, because that’s a SWEEP for Floured Apron in desserts. Nice job, ladies.

In addition to our judging, people purchasing food from the trucks had the opportunity to place votes for the day’s “Fan Favorite” – which ended up going to Gyro George.

Overall it was a great event. Whoever put the order in for the weather must be better friends with Mother Nature than I am, because we had a picture perfect day to be walking around outside. And regardless of what our stomachs might have to say to us on the subject, we all thought it was fun to be judges. Even as we were unceremoniously stuffing those last bites of cupcake into our mouths, we still realized we were lucky to have been asked to be a part of this fun and interesting event.  Thank you to Aurora Farms for inviting us, and for trusting our sometimes super picky food tastes to judge these trucks and their amazing dishes. We’ll definitely do it again!

That being said, does that give us an excuse to keep ordering ALL THE FOOD so that we can stay “in shape” until next year? I mean, if we tell our doctors we’re “training” for something, that makes the weight we’re sure to gain acceptable, right? 

Do we look full? Because we are.

WTGW 12/30/15: The Mason Jar, Aurora


Our last WTGW of 2015 takes us to a place that definitely has potential … with a little work. And by work we really mean workers.

These are the fun ones, my friends.

So, The Mason Jar is located right on one of the main roads in Aurora, and the first thing we noticed is that they need way more parking. Especially since they share a lot with a building that seems to host all sorts of fitness classes – which, can we just talk about that little ploy for a second? Either it’s an unfortunate lease on the side of Mason Jar, or brilliance on the side of the fitness place – because nothing says “yes, let’s go eat huge burgers and heavy appetizers” like seeing people getting fit on the other side of a very large window. Especially during an already precarious time of holiday food shaming.

Thanks, ladies in the window doing Zumba or Jazzercise or whatever the hell it was you were doing. You’re awesome.


So once you avert your eyes, shove down the shame and get inside, the place is actually pretty cute. And by cute I mean it’s got charm, but not a lot of space to show it off. Great decor, definitely potential for a great atmosphere and gathering place … for about 10 of your closest friends anyway. It seems like there are only really a few tables, and especially when groups larger than four come in that really fills up the place in a rather hot second. Like when the party of eight arrived and claimed the only big high top table that would fit all of them … and then a party of two other complete strangers to that group had to try and sit at the two open seats at the end of said big table without seeming like awkward, creepy eavesdroppers.

Good times.

Although we had to admit by the end of the evening that it was probably a blessing that the place wasn’t bigger or had more tables, since the wait staff seemed severely overwhelmed with just the ones they did have. And here we have our group’s biggest complaint about The Mason Jar … the service is SUPER slow. Like slower than molasses slow. Like slower than a race between one-legged turtles slow.

Like order a drink and wait for it for the next 20 minutes slow. *gasp* THE HORROR!

And let’s not pretend that it took the bartender that long to make the drink because it was super complex, or that everyone in the place rushed the bar with orders, or that it was new bartender day and the person was all Tom Cruise in Cocktail when he first starts bartending and can’t make a martini. OK, part of it was that there was only one bartender, and she also had to serve some of the tables in the place. But honestly, even so, we could’ve walked over and picked the drinks up off the end of the bar, where they were just chilling out for about 15 of those 20 minutes, waiting for our server to notice them and deliver them to the table.

Amanda and Ted were actually the smart ones, ordering beer right from the start. Easier to pour = the server can actually just hang out and wait for the few seconds it takes to get the liquid in the glass. Done.

Shane and I win the idiot awards for the week, as we decided to choose from the “specialty drink menu” (i.e., a nice way of saying “girly drinks”). We both started with Hazy Mojitos. Which, once we received them, were deemed really tasty … and as such, we determined that they were served in way too small of a glass for the amount of time it takes to actually drink them. I mean, we sucked them down in less time than we waited for them to arrive. And then waited for the server to notice the empty glasses and ask if we wanted more.

And waited.

And waited.

Looks pretty ... until it disappears two seconds later

Looks pretty … until it disappears two seconds later

Meanwhile, Ted had put in and order of Diablo Mussels for an app when we put in our drink orders. Shane and I were going to put in an app order also, but the server ran away before we could make a snap decision on what we wanted. Like literally ran away.

That was the only time she seemed to move quickly with regards to our table all night. Just sayin’.

Needless to say, Ted’s app was pretty much on it’s way to the table before we even got the chance to put our order in for the appetizer portion of Mason Fries. Because that’s helpful.

So anyway, the mussels come out, and they’re served covered in some sort of spicy marinara sauce. OK, interesting. We all agreed we’d never seen that presentation before on that particular dish, but whatever.

Ted, upon trying it: I take that back, it’s a spicy pepper sauce, not marinara.

Well still, it’s different.

I wasn’t particularly crazy about it over the mussels. I think we all agreed that the mussels were good, the sauce was good … but they should be served separately. Like maybe over pasta, that sauce would be fantastic. Or pasta with the mussels de-shelled and mixed in. Or basically any  combination that was not how it arrived at our table that evening.

If that was pasta we might've been happier

If that was pasta we might’ve been happier

So the specialty at Mason jar is stuffed burgers. And of course that’s what 3/4 of the table got. Amanda had the Greenman (essentially her usual mushroom and swiss – just with the toppings inside the burger instead of on top), Capri for me (fresh mozzerella, spinach and tomato inside), Smokehouse for Shane (BBQ fillings).

Ted, back to his trend of having to be the different one in the group, went with the Jumbalaya. Showoff. 

Meanwhile … we’re still waiting for round two on the drinks. Due to the small aforementioned small amount of tasty liquor in tiny glasses that take too long to arrive, Shane and I decided to switch it up – he went with the Long Island, which is on special on Wednesdays for $4.00. I asked if perhaps the Mojito could just be served in a bigger glass – like make it a double and just charge me appropriately? Yeah, no, that can’t happen. Although it took, like, 10 minutes for her to find out. And then there was a debacle about cancelling the order for the Mojito  (when really I thought hadn’t actually ordered that drink, I’d asked if it could be made in a bigger glass?) – so Ted just said to leave the drink and charge it to his bill, he would take it. Which still caused confusion about how she was going to change it around to add to his bill.

Really? Is this day one?

Ted, after she left: I don’t even want that drink, I just figured it was easier to keep it somewhere on one of our bills.

We agreed that we would just put it in the center of the table as a “gimme” for whoever finished the next round of drinks first and needed refreshment. Kind of like a twisted form of alcoholic Russian Roulette.

Meanwhile, this exchange occurs:
Server, to Shane, for the third time: What was it you ordered to drink, sweetie?

I had to respond “Long Island” for him for fear that his head would explode if he opened his mouth.

I switched to a Fat Tire beer, because, well, it was just easier. And as I suspected, it arrived to the table long before Shane’s Long Island – which he had ordered long before I did.

Ironically, that drink-that-no-one-wanted-but-Ted-still-kept-on-his-bill-to-help-the-server-not-fall-apart also still came out a full 10 minutes before the Long Island Shane tried ordering three times. Hmm.

Obviously, we have some issues to work out here, ya think?


On to the best part of our visit – our actual meals. Once they actually arrived, that is.

Ted’s jumbalaya was very good. It was served over bowtie pasta instead of rice, which he said was a nice change actually. The peppers in it gave it really good heat. He also liked that it had lots of different meats in it – chicken, shrimp, and sausage. And we all know how the guys in this group revert to caveman status when faced with meat on a plate.

Odd man out. And there's that pasta we were looking for earlier.

Odd man out. And there’s that pasta we were looking for earlier.

Amanda raved about the seasoning on the burgers, saying that alone put the burger in her “top five.” Ted tried a bit of it and immediately said it was Cajun seasoning. Amanda said she didn’t care what it was, it was good. So there.

You can't see the seasoning here, but trust us it's good

You can’t see the seasoning here, but trust us it’s good

Although can we just take a minute to ponder that it’s kind of strange to be raving about what’s ON the burgers instead of what’s IN them … when the restaurant specialty is stuffed burgers? No? Well, whatevs.

I agreed, though, the seasoning was good. And actually much better than the stuffing, at least in my case. I took the burger off of the bun after eating half of it – as I often do, it’s a thing, get over it – and the bunless half kind of dried up and lost it’s stuffing. Huh. I mean, it might’ve just been the particular kind of burger that I chose – fresh mozzerella and spinach don’t exactly like to stay put when not melted, I guess. But anyway.

This looks healthier than it really is

This looks healthier than it really is

Along that same lines, I was somewhat intrigued by the burger with mac and cheese in the middle. If that has the same issues, there’s something wrong.

Remember that app we ordered – the mason fries? Yeah, well, the kitchen eventually did, too – so we got it pretty much at the same time as our meals. We weren’t really impressed, though. I mean, it seemed like just regular fries with a bit of bacon and scallops on them. And a tiny drizzle of cheese. Underwhelming.

Kind of like regular fries, but different

Kind of like regular fries, but different

Hey, guess what? Shane’s drink finally arrived! Yay!

Shane didn’t say much about his burger, other than that it was good. He was too upset about the service to really talk much at that point. Or maybe his mouth was just too dry from going so long without a drink.

Hope those fries aren't too salty, what with the lack of beverages and all

Hope those fries aren’t too salty, what with the lack of beverages and all

Ted, after Shane finished his Long Island and was slurping the watery bits at the bottom for some regreshment: Did you want another?
Shane: No, I’d like to get home before midnight.

So all in all – and as if you couldn’t already tell – our main gripe about the place was the service, which was even more underwhelming than the mason fries.  The food definitely is good, and the place has strong potential – if they would just have more than one server and one bartender/extremely chatty server working.  I mean, come on, let’s be honest here … you’ve read about our shenanigans long enough now to know that we’re drinkers. We would’ve spent way more money here if we would’ve gotten drinks in a timely fashion. How often do we go somewhere and only have one or two rounds of drinks? Exactly. I think we could’ve driven ourselves down to the nearest corner store (hint, there’s not one anywhere remotely close by) and come back with a 12-pack in less time than it took to have one round of our two specialty drinks delivered to the table. I have to believe at the end of every night there are still like four drinks just hanging out at the end of the bar that were made but never quite made it to their rightful owners. Maybe Shane can go back next week and pick up that final Long Island, drive-thru style. That might be the only thing that could redeem this place for him.





Shane, not one for mincing emotions

Shane, not one for mincing emotions



Same rating, different hand. Just testing.

Same rating, different hand. Just testing.


Picked by:  Shane

Drinks:  When you finally get them, they’re good. But don’t come thirsty, because the bar is apparently located about a two mile walk away for the amount of time it took to get each drink. And then when you do get your drink, enjoy it slowly. Or order five at once. Your call.
Very good. In fact, the only good thing we took away from this place. But again, don’t come hungry, because nothing is arriving at your table quickly.
Service: If you like repeating your drink order several times and practically chasing down servers to put in appetizer orders then this is the place for you. If you like good service, then best to look elsewhere.
Overall: Yeah, sorry, the service lost this one for us. Can we just show up and make our own food and drinks with the stuff provided? That may be the best way to win us back.

Next Pick: Steph
Mason Jar Grill & Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 4/15/15: Papous Tap & Grille, Aurora


So the theme of this week’s WTGW adventure really should be 20 Questions. And really not enough answers.

The burning question, of course, is a basic one … how the heck do you pronounce the name of this place?? Papaya? Papa’s? Papoose? Platypus? WHERE ARE WE?

And once you get past that question, the second one should be, literally, where the heck are we? Located at the end of a somewhat interestingly placed strip plaza, Papous Tap & Grille isn’t the easiest establishment to spot. If you don’t know it’s there, you probably won’t find it, because it’s not one of those places you just “happen” past.

To that end, I’m not sure how Shane discovered it. I want to say maybe it was a recommendation from someone at work? Because that worked out so well for Ted in the case of the infamous Gus’s referral. Clearly we haven’t learned from our mistakes.

Upon arrival at Papous the questions continued. Before we even walked inside we were intrigued by the neon orange sign on the door touting their “HOT” corned beef. Um, OK. What does that mean? Why the quotation marks? Is it maybe warmed up, and maybe served cold? Is it kind of spicy? Or do you just simply not know how to use quotation marks properly? WHAT???

The mystery remains unsolved to this day.

We walked in and immediately declared ourselves as first time patrons when we loitered around awkwardly trying to decide if we should just seat ourselves or wait for someone to seat us. Again, a question: is it really that hard to put up a sign?

We finally threw caution to the wind and just seated ourselves in the bar area. The place has king of a strange layout, with the bar area immediately to the left as you walk in, and then a whole other are to the back that maybe looked like it could’ve been more like a less bar-y dining room? But we didn’t actually venture back there, so it’s hard to say for sure. We just gravitated close to the bar. You know, in typical us style.

The decor is kind of like a Quaker Steak and Lube knockoff. Only far less cool. The sides of the bar were covered in a checkered pattern, items like car parts and race memorabilia adorned the walls and hung from the ceiling, and a really cool front half of a classic car was mounted over the far wall. OK then. But why stop there? I mean, why have one motif when you can mix in a little bit of a sports theme (framed jerseys, neon sports signs, photos), a splash of typical bar theme (more neon signs, this time with beer names) and – just for fun – some random antique items like croquet sets and old bicycles? Sure.

But at least the menu matched the motif – I mean, if you’re going for the confused, 25-personality, just throw everything at the wall and hope something sticks theme, may as well go all out, no? There were just a lot of options. Not 17 pages of menu options, just a lot of different kinds of food in one place kinds of options. Which made it really difficult to tell what they really specialize in. Is it greek? They have gyros, Mediterranean dips, pitas, and chicken souvlaki. OK. Or is it Italian? There’s a whole page for pizza. Or typical bar foods? You know, burgers, sandwiches, salads, wraps – check. Or maybe higher end American restaurant? Because there’s also steaks, duck, and a variety of seafood dishes. Hmmm.

My personal favorite, though, was the Wednesday special, which included a whole half chicken, rice and a vegetable, for the bargain price of … wait for it … $4.99. I’m sorry, what? How is that possible? I’m not even sure you can get a McChicken Meal for $4.99 these days.

Which immediately screams to me less “special” and more “take your chance on chicken we’re about to throw out anyway.” But that’s just me.

BTW, are you counting the questions so far? I think we’re well over 20 at this point. And we haven’t even ordered yet.

Speaking of ordering, our waitress wasn’t much help when it came to deciphering the specialties or making recommendations, either. If you ask her – and we did – what she recommended, everything there is “good.” Because that’s helpful. We asked what they’re known for, and she responded that everything they made there was good. OK. Shane asked about the pizza … “it’s really good.” Ted asked about the corned beef, and we all heard her tell him that it’s thin sliced and “good” … but when Ted mentioned he’s picky about his corned beef, and that he likes it thick sliced and flavorful, her response was “oh you’ll really like the corned beef here then, it always has really good flavor and comes thick sliced.” Um, OK. You do know that thick and thin are complete opposites of one another, right? And that you just used both of them to describe the same dish? Right.

So there’s that.

Add to that a paper beer list classily taped to the wall (that’s a new one) that wasn’t completely accurate (super helpful). Amanda and I thought we might score Summer Shandy – and not just leftover ones from last season, as has happened to us a few times already this year – because we saw it on the list. Yeah, no. The waitress informed us they were out of that. Because printing a new paper list and re-taping it to the wall would be too much trouble, I guess?

So for my second choice I decided to try for a Not Your Father’s Root Beer – which was also on the list … and was told she would check, because she wasn’t sure if those were in stock or not. OK, great. I’ll cross my fingers. It’s like a game show – spin the wheel of alcohol and hope you come up with a winner. Yay!

In this case, I did luck out with the NYFRB, so score for me. And, really, the rest of our group, because after the first round they all followed my lead and ordered the same thing. Yes, it’s just that good. And surprisingly we didn’t manage to drink the bar out of it, so I guess it really was our lucky night. In that respect anyway.

The preferred drink of this week's WTGW

The preferred drink of this week’s WTGW

Although it is worth mentioning that Ted’s first round was perhaps the lightest beer I’ve ever seen him drink willingly and without wincing. It’s no wonder he switched.

Shane's mixed drink and Ted's beer haven't been the same color since the Windsor Pub

Shane’s mixed drink and Ted’s beer haven’t been the same color since the Windsor Pub

So, anyway, back to food. Shane shocked us all and for once didn’t immediately stop reading the appetizer list at the word calamari – instead he wanted to get the Mediterranean dip. Which turned out to be an excellent choice. It was like a spinach artichoke dip with extra spices, cheeses and olives, and served with crispy pita chips. Delicious.

On a side note, we tried to get Ted to try it by telling him that you really couldn’t pick out the cheese taste in it, although it only took one bite for him to immediately disagree with us. Oops.

But we didn’t feel bad for him for too long, because he had his own delicious appetizer on his side of the table, the almond crusted duck. The breading was amazing, and the sauce that came with it was really, really good. It was almost like a teryaki, but with a ginger-y flair. And we all remember how much Shane loves ginger.

Delicious apps

Delicious apps

The dip was so good Shane literally licked the bowl clean. Classy.

The dip was so good Shane literally licked the bowl clean. Classy.

For my meal, I went with the Kobe burger. Which looked great when it arrived, but unfortunately didn’t taste as good as I’d hoped. It was very salty, and the mozzerella cheese had a weird seasoning on it that I couldn’t quite decipher. I guess we’re keeping with the guessing game theme in this regard, too. Awesome. At least the fries were good, even though they were pretty much no different than the frozen steak fries you get at the grocery store. So there’s that.

The burger that almost turned me into a cheese-hater like Ted

The burger that almost turned me into a cheese-hater like Ted

Amanda had the roast beef french dip. She said it was good, although she did point our that usually that’s a really difficult sandwich to truly mess up. So take that as you will, I guess.

The other "beef" on the table

The other “beef” on the table

Whether it was to truly fact-check the waitress or because he just had a taste for it, Ted went ahead and ordered the corned beef. He likes to live on the edge. Aside from nearly burning a layer of skin off of his mouth and fingers with the first bite of his fries, he thought the meal was just OK. And we still don’t know if the corned beef was technically thick or thin cut, but he did say it was a little salty. That must be the only seasoning they have in the back. Well, that and whatever it was that they put on the slice of cheese on my burger.

Are the fries thicker than the corned beef?

Are the fries thicker than the corned beef?

Shane decided to go with an old standby, the build-your-own pizza. He chose pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms and extra cheese. The waitress had told him when he ordered that the sauce was “kind of sweet”  and … wait for it … “good.” But according to Shane, it was neither of those things. Hmmm. He said it was more like canned spaghetti sauce than anything else. And definitely not sweet. But also not salty, so I just they missed his meal with the seasoning de jour somehow.

We also joked when he got the pizza that the “extra cheese” looked strangely like a random few pieces of shaved Parmesan thrown on the top of the pie. As Ted put it, “that’s the only extra cheese pizza I’d actually eat!”

Look at all that "extra" cheese!

Look at all that “extra” cheese!

But despite not really liking it, Shane still ate the entire large by himself. Way to muster on, soldier.

All in all, we weren’t that impressed with Papous/Papyas/Poppyseeds/Pocketbooks/Papas/whatever-the-heck-the-actual-name-is. Even if it was closer to us, I don’t think we’d be running to make a return visit. The atmosphere was nothing special (despite trying to be a whole lot of different things at once), our waitress didn’t really seem like she wanted to be there (even if everything was supposed to be so “good”) and the food was just OK. Plus pondering so many questions is just exhausting.




















Picked by:  Shane
Drinks:   It’s like Russian Roulette with the drink list. Don’t get your heart set on anything until it actually arrives at your table. 
Chances are you’ll see something on the menu that you want to order, since they have a very wide variety of options. But will you like it? That’s another gamble.
Service: It’s not as “good” as she claims everything on the menu to be. Ironic, no?
Overall: I’m going to wager a guess that we won’t see the inside of Papous again. Which is probably good, considering we still don’t know how to pronounce it. “Where are you?” “We have no idea.”

Next Pick: Steph

Papous Tap & Grille on Urbanspoon