WTGW 3/4/20: Tommy’s Bar & Grille, Akron

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Oh Tommy’s, where have you been all of our existence? Or, at the very least, where were you last week as we were experiencing the thrill of unreliable service and feeling like we inconvenienced bartenders as we asked them to let us know what the White Claw flavors might be? 

Ironically, as it turns out, we were pretty much right around the corner. Just going to show that it’s amazing what different worlds exist probably not even a half mile away from one another.

I mean, there’s still pizza. But that was pretty much the only similarity. 

Speaking of pizza, do you think that symbol next to the numbers 9, 12 and 16 denotes the size of the pie, or the number of slices?

Because we heard nine slice pizzas are kind of a thing now, especially on this side of town. 

If you don’t get that last line, I implore you to go read last week’s post. It will make more sense than you want it to after that. And quite honestly if you’re going to continue to read this blog, you probably want to be in on this little inside joke, as chances are this isn’t by any means the last time we’ll reference it. We like to beat these things into the ground with this group.

I mean, anyone up for a trip to Gus’ Chalet? No? 

Anyway.

Tommy’s is definitely off the radar, and by that I mean it seems we might be about the only people who realized it was open on a Wednesday night. Well, I take that back – there were a few people who came in to pick up take out orders. They definitely seem to be busier at the to-go counter than on the bar side of the space. But other than the five minutes or so each of those customers stayed in the place to grab their orders and pay, it was pretty much just our own little private party with the bartender.

Not that anything is wrong with that, of course. Again, if you want to reference last week, when we couldn’t get the attention of not one, not two, but three different bartenders … it was a relatively nice change of pace to be the sole apple of this person’s eye for a few hours. 

 

WHAT WE ORDERED

Pizza. Duh. It’s apparently the new “burgers and wings” of this group. 

Jason, Shane and Ted all decided to take their chances for another week with this option, even though the nine slice pie was apparently not something they acknowledge at this particular locale. 

Ted got the Road Kill pizza, which is just basically a less fancy way of saying “give me a pizza with every kind of meat possible on top of it.”

Shane got the Deluxe Pizza.

He got a smaller size pizza because he also wanted to get six of the Jumbo Garlic wings. Old habits die hard.

I don’t think there was a fancy name for Jason’s pizza because he just picked the size and added the toppings himself. His had pepperoni, sausage and mushroom on it.

Jason and Cassi also got the garlic bread to start off with. They opted for the small order, which is only four slices. FYI, the large is eight slices. Which sounds excessive but I guess for $11.95 it better be.

They look like tiny little French bread pizzas, no? Points just for cuteness factor alone.

Cassi and I both got Italian subs for our meals, after Cassi took over for Shane in the usual bartender inquisition of the menu and asked what he liked best. He was adamant about the Italian sub being his absolute favorite on the menu, so despite throwing a bit of a wrench in the plans since that wasn’t something either of us were even considering before he said it, we both decided to try it. I mean, what the hell, right? 

I also got a side of fries, since the menu stated they were “fresh cut,” and we all know that’s like advertising that they’re made with liquid gold. Also the guys were talking about McDonald’s fries on the drive over, so in full disclosure that may have influenced my decision just a tad as well.

Taking over for my husband in the category of “trying to order as many items on the menu as possible,” I rounded out the order with an attempt to be healthy by also getting … you guessed it … a side salad. Which I debated about because it was $5.95, a seemingly somewhat exorbatant price for a salad meant to accompany your meal and not be the only item on it. When I asked if it was giant, that was because I was slightly scared of what might arrive.

It certainly wasn’t giant – which may have made me slightly put off about the price, except that the pepperoni, mozzarella and black olives wore me down. I mean, $5.95 for just some lettuce and cucumbers would’ve been disappointing, but this was by far more acceptable. 

 

THE VERDICT

Hey, here’s a fun question that I bet you’ve probably never truly pondered before … what would you do for fresh, delicious, soft bread? 

You’re welcome for the new party ice breaker. 

But I ask that, because I think it’s pretty clear in this group that some of us would probably be convinced to jump from a tall building or walk through a pit of fire if that prize were awaiting us at the other end. 

Fortunately in the case of Tommy’s, no one is requiring American Ninja Warrior style heroics just to get our food, but I think we would all agree that some lengths would be unquestionably scaled in the future for anything that arrived in front of us in some sort of carb-laden form after this visit.

From the garlic bread to the pizza dough to the piece of bread that came with my salad, we were definitely ready to gobble up anything doughy that came near our table. 

I think I called my salad roll “fluffy like a cloud.” So, you know, there’s that. 

Shane was happy because the wings that were advertised as “jumbo” on the menu most definitely arrived looking so, so that was a win. We also won’t have to worry about being visited by vampires any time soon, because I think the amount of garlic they were made with will keep us all under cover for some time. That scent certainly wafted to the opposite end of the table pretty quickly.

And since we all left with to-go boxes at the end of the evening, we weren’t complaining at all about the size of the meals for the prices that we paid.

Also now that we’re tried and deemed the bread and wings truly delicious, this item on the menu that’s actually named the “delicious chicken dinner” holds a lot of street cred. Who volunteers to get that the next time we come in?

I’m sure that Tommy’s will be seeing us again sometime soon. Everything we tried was good, and the service was excellent. I mean, I realize we were practically the only ones there, so it would be interesting to go back when it’s busy and see if that changes things – but honestly I don’t think it will. It seems like the kind of place that just takes care of people no matter what.

Plus, bread-things. Enough said. 

Picked by: Shane (as his “make-good” for the forced pick of awfulness from last week)
Next pick: Cassi

WTGW 2/26/20: Giovanni’s Pizza & Sports Bar, Akron

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Time for a WTGW Riddle: this week’s pick is a place that brings back quite a few memories for us on the WTGW crew, because we’ve actually been there several times in the past … although this time around it’s technically not a revisit. How is this possible?

Answer: it changes names. A lot. 

Probably the best way to immediately put a mental picture in anyone’s head of where we went this week would be to give you these two names. J Dublin’s (and our subsequent revisit), and Johnny Malloy’s. 

In Shane’s defense, he had a super scary sketch pick up lined up over in Bedford, but tonight’s “I’m not letting you get over winter that easily” snow storm kept us local. So we decided to come here and see what’s new other than the name.

Spoiler alert, nothing.

Now known as Giovanni’s, the place still serves up pizzas, wings and sandwiches. It still has the same huge and strangely arranged interior with a giant bar in the center of the large room, and tables around the edges.

And it’s still not busy.

By the time you’re done reading this you’ll probably have a pretty good idea as to why that is.  

So let’s just dive right in, shall we?

WHAT WE ORDERED

So, yeah, it’s a funny thing about working at a bar or restaurant, it actually helps to be nice to people. And maybe know a little bit about the place you’re working. 

We sat down at a table on the far right side of the room (it’s seat yourself, not shockingly), and our server was great about approaching us and immediately asking if we want drinks. Um, sure, but maybe here’s where a beer list, or specials board, or perhaps just use of the English language would be helpful in pointing us toward the direction of what we might like to order? 

Yeah, no such luck. We got a blank stare until Cassi asked if there were any specials (“no”) and then I countered with “Do you have White Claw or Truly?” which earned me a look as if I has just asked her to please take a plastic straw and stab me repeatedly in the eyeball. 

And don’t even get her started on ACTUALLY HAVING TO WALK TO THE COOLER TO CHECK ON FLAVORS.

I mean, the nerve. 

I’m just going to throw this out there, probably making a list of some kind could eleviate all of these issues. Just a guess. I’m not positive. 

But considering the shape of the photocopied menus in various states of sun fading or perhaps paper color choice we received when she returned with our drinks, I have to admit I’m not at all surprised that another printed listing of any kind might be an issue.

Alright then.

So we get our drinks, and the menus, and apparently we must all look like we have issues comprehending food options, because like 20 minutes later still no server has reappeared to see what we might want to order.

I should also reiterate here that it wasn’t at all busy, there were three bartenders doubling as servers, and they could all clearly see our table from their places by or behind the bar.

I mean, the girl who originally gave us our menus and was not at all pleased with having to walk over to consult the cooler to know if our drink options were in stock was clearly SUPER BUSY flirting with one of the pool players who kept appearing at the bar to order shots of Crown Royal, so I can see how that totally would take every moment of her very busy shift to handle.

I have to believe that these are the very statements that the rolling eyes emoji was created to express the emotion behind. 

So, OK, let’s fast forward to the point when we were just about to gather our things and ask for the bill for our drinks, as we consulted phone apps to see what other restaurants in the immediate area might be open and actually wanting to serve us, when one of the other bartenders I think sensed our restlessness and approached us to see if we still needed to order. 

And so we stayed. *sigh* 

I mean, at that point it was really a game of who might be able to serve us faster: another place that we would have to drive to and start all over with, or this place that was clearly already dropping the ball. Nothing like playing Russian roulette with your dinner service. 

But I’m glad to share that we did eventually get food. And of course more than a few comments to go along with it. 

Lets start with Ted. He ordered the side of jojos as an app.

So far so good. 

But then for his dinner he opted for a French dip with a side of chili.

Wow, that chili looks a lot like French Fries. I mean, call me crazy, but someone seems to have taken some cooking liberties there. 

Oh wait, there it is.

Because we always need more food at our table.

Meanwhile, Shane and I started with the southwestern egg rolls.

Shane got 15 wings. He asked the server about the Giovanni dry rub sauce, to which he was told that it was “it’s spicy, but not, but it is a dry rub.”  Oh, well, thanks. Clears that right up. Glad to have asked. 

So he ended up with five of those, along with five Cajun and five honey mustard.

I got a side salad and 10 wings, which I split between the mango habanero and spicy honey BBQ. 

Cassi and Jason got the parm puffs as an app.

Or, as Cassi renamed them after one bite, little pieces of heaven. They may want to rethink their marketing. I mean, it’s not as clear cut as a dry rub wing sauce that says so in the name, but maybe it would at least give the servers something to talk about with patrons. 

For dinner, Cassi got a side salad and a calzone. 

Jason ordered a BBQ chicken pizza.

Now, we need to talk about this pizza or a minute before I show you a picture of it – because I have a feeling this is something that may well be referenced well into eternity with this group. (wait, us beat something into the ground? Never!) But seriously, we’re talking “Russ’ Ballet” level of legacy here. 

So, when Jason was contemplating this pizza, he asked our lovely server how many slices were in each size. And was told that the small pizza is six slices, and the medium pizza is nine.

Wait, what now?

Nine? 

Um, that’s impossible.

Like, how do you equally cut a circle into nine pieces? I’m definitely no math major, but even I was scratching my head at that level of geometry. If this is possible, I think we just invented a new shape. Alert the proper authorities!

Never mind, false alarm.

Yeah, so as you can see from the picture, it actually has six slices. So, wait, is this the small pizza then? 

Well it doesn’t really matter, because we were told as we were waiting for the orders to come out that the pizza would actually be comped because the cook supposedly put the order in wrong.

So maybe it WAS supposed to be a nine slice pizza after all then? I’m so confused. 

But ironically, the pizza came out at the same time as Ted’s chili (the real bowl, not the one that looked like French Fries), which was approximately three minutes after the rest of the food. Hmmm. OK then. Could he maybe have just “misplaced” all of our orders and we could’ve just called this evening a wash? 

THE VERDICT

Well poor Ted had to eat his chili with a fork since he wasn’t offered a spoon. But considering how greasy it was, that utensil may have actually been more appropriate. 

It was definitely more helpful in terms of his sandwich, which unfortunately arrived with a large helping of cheese, and we all know how thrilled Ted of all people is about copious amounts of that particular condiment. He spent a good amount of time de-cheesing his sandwich before he could even take one bite.  

And when he did, let’s just say that it’s a good thing his avertion to cheese isn’t due to dairy intolerance, because the bread was saturated in butter. Like someone dipped it in a stick of melted margarine and let it soak up for a while.

Mmmmm. Tasty. 

Speaking of saturation, they definitely used that recipe for the wing sauce as well, at least for mine. It was like my wings had their own private swimming pool. It’s too bad the flavor seemed to be missing from the recipe when they quadrupled it to make such an abundance. I mean, it was OK. Not great. Just … OK. 

Cassi only ate one slice of her calzone, but that was more because she was so full from the “little slices of heaven” and not because it was anything awful. And she did take the rest home, so it wasn’t a complete loss. 

But I think the thing that has earned Giovanni’s a place in our minds, conversations, and as the certain brunt of many, many of our future punchlines is … you guessed it … the 9-slice pizza. Well, I mean, it wasn’t really … but that will forever be our memory of it. And, I mean, let’s face it – if they were truly forward thinking here, they would find a way to actually make that happen and market it.

Because honestly, a signature item like that may be just what this place really needs to finally give it the footing it takes to survive in this obviously cursed spot of ill-fated Italian restaurants and sports bars. Otherwise, it’s no different than the last two names that preceded it. We can get Italian food at 25 other local places, and most of them would offer us better service that didn’t have us looking for a new location 20 minutes in or making us feel like we’re greatly inconveniencing the servers and bartenders with our thirst and hunger. At this point, we don’t have any reason to go back. 

But a 9-slice pizza … I mean, come on. That’s something special right there. 

It’s also refreshing to see White Claw is basically the same price as tequila. Because, you know, they’re pretty much the same.

This post has evoked so many emoji usage options, and not in a good way.

Picked by … well, Shane, kind of. But since his hands were a little bit tied on this one, we all agreed to give him a do-over for next week. So he gets another try before Cassi takes over the following week.

WTGW 12/21/19: Harmon’s Pub / That Christmas Bar, Canton

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Welcome to Harmon’s Pub: where the sign at the entrance says “seat yourself” but more than half of the open tables have “reserved” signs on them. How does that work, exactly? Do you have to time travel yourself into the future to get yourself a table so that you can place the sign before you actually arrive?

Hmmm.

And then when you finally do find an open table that hasn’t been previously reserved … you get legit yelled at by staff because putting a fifth person at the end of the booth would apparently be a fire hazard. Like, not a friendly “hey, I know it’s busy and you just want to grab a table but unfortunately we can’t have you sit like that.” Or a “you know what, that won’t work, but let me help you find another spot.” Nope, like screamed at because apparently our sitting in that location would cause a literal logjam to the stampede that would surely occur should someone decide to strike a match anywhere in the close vicinity.

And who says Canton isn’t hospitable? We should totally alert the CVB of a new campaign idea.

Luckily a different server saw us looking like we might just head for the hills and perhaps say something unfavorable about our experience (who, us??) and decided to step in. She found another booth on the opposite side of the restaurant in an area that seemingly supported end-of-the-table dining and asked the party of two occupying it if they would kindly switch with us.

And they did.

And we then sent them a drink.

See what being nice gets you, kids? Alcoholism. Let that be a life lesson for you.

Another good life lesson: don’t be an asshat when someone asks you is they can use one of the five unoccupied chairs from your table. Like I get that maybe other people are going to come sit with you eventually, or maybe your group of imaginary friends you’ve invited out for the evening don’t like to be crowded … but, like, our REAL LIVE friend is standing right here and kind of wanting to take a load off to enjoy the meal he’s anxiously waiting to order, so perhaps you can just calm the eff down there, Susan?

This is also how NOT to have us send you a drink as a thank you, even though you seem like you could use about 27 just to put you in any sort of enjoyable mood this evening.

It’s four days before Christmas, folks. Are you feeling festive yet? I mean, the beginning of our trip this week is kind of like the restaurant equivalent of heading to the mall during the holiday season.

WHAT WE ORDERED

But for all our troubles, at least they have White Claw! Yay!

And trivia, but that’s like a more muted yay.

Speaking of trivia, what’s one thing Ted will always order if it’s on any menu, anywhere?

If you answered meat on a stick, you’ve obviously been reading along with us for a hot minute. But yes, that’s one thing that Ted seemingly cannot resist in any restaurant setting. In this case, it was steak – but he has been known to order a lamb lollipop from time to time as well. So for future reference, pretty much meat of any kind is acceptable, as long as its on a stick.

So. Many. Jokes.

He also got the spicy garlic wings.

Fewer jokes, unless we want to go down the path of the fated burger and wing night at the Springfield Tavern.

Shane and I got the sausage dip as an app, as did Cassi and Jason.

Because you can never have enough sausage …. ok, never mind, between that and the meat on a stick story it seems we’re traveling down a dangerous road.

Anyway.

I got the bacon pretzel burger with a side salad.

Shane got the Reuben, after asking the server the age-old question of preference between that and a burger of any kind.

The server recommended the Reuben … and then in what I can only assume was an attempt to be helpful, but since she doesn’t know us at all she has no idea the implications of what she’s about to suggest … she points to me and says “well since she ordered a burger, you can always just split your orders so you each can try the other’s.”

As if. Clearly she doesn’t read this blog, or she would know that SHANE DOESN’T SHARE FOOD.

I mean, how many times do we need to share this GIF on this blog? I mean, before I revert to photoshop magic and change Joey’s face to Shane’s anyway.

I clearly need more free time in my life for these important projects.

Cassi got the wings dinner.

So it’s like wings, but with sides. Interesting concept. It seems like we’ve been ordering this in other forms for quite some time now, right? How nice of them to just make it a compact little ordering process for us.

Jason got the Western burger with fries, along with an order of BBQ wings.

Clearly we don’t have enough food here.

THE VERDICT

Remember that time just a few minutes ago when Shane almost ordered a burger? Well it’s a good thing he didn’t, because having just TWO arrive at the table – mine and Jason’s – was clearly more than our server could handle. She literally couldn’t tell them apart, and had to request assistance to do so.

I mean, I hate to state the obvious and all … but one of them is literally named a “pretzel burger,” which – in my mind anyway – would point a pretty direct finger at the burger that was positioned on a pretzel bun, and not a regular bun. Call me logical and all. But, like, you don’t even have to see the condiments or toppings to figure this part out.

Well since we’re talking about that part already, I should point out that was my favorite part of the sandwich. The actual burger was just OK. So, I guess Jason could’ve taken that part, but just saved me the bun?

Although the burger was actually was the same size as the bun, and we all know that’s a rarity.

Ted’s steak on a stick didn’t exactly rate in his Top 3, but it was still good.

The fact that he can even have a Top 3 in this category is something that should be noted here. I’m not sure what that note is, exactly, but it’s been taken.

He also said that the wings could’ve been spicier.

The jury was out on the sausage dip, with Cassi and Jason liking it, but Shane and I thinking it was a little … strange. Maybe it’s harkening back to our tailgating days where we just heated up some sausage crumbles and Velveeta in a crock pot and called it a hearty dip, but we weren’t crazy about all of the peppers and other things hanging out in this dip. We would’ve preferred just the basics.

Shane liked the Reuben a lot. So the server gets the points for that assist on that one.

Cassi liked her wing dinner, she said that the breading on the boneless wings was really good. But said that the service really soured the visit in general.

Which we would all agree was truthful. Aside from the whole “let’s yell at the new people for trying to seat themselves in an area they aren’t supposed to even though we didn’t tell them it was off limits” debacle that started the night … and the whole “let’s get the chef to come out and inspect the burger situation because I can’t tell a pretzel bun for a regular one” … our  server at our “approved” table was a bit touch and go.

For instance, when a server asks you, after you’ve placed your order for a sandwich, “fries with that?” … well, you kind of think that they’re included, right, and the server is just asking you if that’s an OK option or if you’d like to substitute out, no?

Um, no. Each of those side orders was $2-$3, which we didn’t know until we got the bill. I mean, kudos to her for upselling us, but that sales tactic is a little risky in my opinion.

On top of that, Cassi got charged for a side salad when her meal was a dinner – we’ve been over this already – and should’ve had a salad and tater tots included. So much for revolutionizing the way we order. I take it all back. We’re clearly doing just fine on our own, thank you very much.

Probably the saddest part about our disappointment at Harmon’s Pub is that we had hoped we might have made this a more frequent location, thanks to it’s proximity to That Pop-Up Bar, located across the street.

If you haven’t heard of this place yet, it’s a bar that continuously changes themes, based on the time of year. Being that we’re four days out from Christmas, we of course wanted to make a stop here while it’s themed as “That Christmas Bar.”

I mean, we had to wash the taste of Blitzen’s out of our mouth, right?

And that we did, only in Shane’s case it was replaced with the taste of … well … bourbon. And lots of it.

Let’s just say that this warning on the menu is legit,folks. 

But overall this place was worth the price of the inhospitable nature of our dinner choice across the street and the bourbon hangover that Shane will likely be facing tomorrow. From the décor to the music to the drink specials to the crowd of people under the age of 90 … this is what pop up Christmas bars should be like.

We can’t wait to see what the next theme is. This may become a game to see who can pick the best place nearby each time it changes?

Picked by: Jason
Next pick: Shane

WTGW 11/26/19: Kepner’s / Blitzen’s, Hudson

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Happy Night Before Thanksgiving!

Or, depending on your preference …

Happy Biggest Going Out Night of the Year!

So, you know, no pressure on this pick to be – wait for it – legendary or anything.

I think we’ve all had our rounds at having to choose on this night, seeing as it’s the one “holiday” that always falls on our favorite night of the week. We’ve seen the night Shane got food poisoning and left me to cook my first ever 22lb turkey for his entire family the next day, the night we all got into a heated discussion about the type of breading used on a fish dinner and then made Ted sit in a stack of booster seats (yes, at a bar), the night of many shots, and of course last year’s epic choice of the strangest cabana we’ve ever sat in.

Which brings us to 2019, and our visit to Kepner’s. We had a lengthy conversation about whether this should actually be classified as a revisit, since honestly we’ve been to this place about 4 billion times over the years. Most notably, we celebrated Ted’s birthday here one year (not on a Wednesday), and it’s the place where previous WTGW team members Amanda and Jerrid actually met for the first time (on a Wednesday but when I was out of town so it wasn’t an “official” outing).

But somehow, despite all these visits and feeling like this is one of our go-to divey bars on this side of town – and honestly probably the only one allowed within Hudson city limits –  we just never managed to officially review it.

So here we are.

I specifically chose Kepner’s not only to finally make them WTGW official, but also because we’d heard that there was a new Christmas-themed popup bar called Blitzen’s that was celebrating their opening night this same night. And what says Happy Night Before Thanksgiving like an entire bar dedicated to holiday decorations, music and themed drinks?

We’ll come back to that later. First, let’s eat.

WHAT WE ORDERED

One of the things we love most about Kepner’s is that despite being small and having a divey, neighborhoody feel, they actually have a decent list of craft beers and ciders in bottles/cans, and things other than Bud Light on draft.

In fact, when Shane literally tried to get a Bud Light on draft, he was told that they only have it in bottles, and that Miller Lite was the domestic draft of choice.

So there’s that.

Cassi and I both settled on bottles of a mango habenero cider that according to the description was also aged in a tequila barrel. Well now that just seems like a lot of things all thrown together in one big pot to stew, now doesn’t it?  But, because we all love starting the night with complicated alcohols, we took a chance.

I’m happy to say it was worth it.

Ted, Cassi and I all went through the same progression of thought on what to order for our meals:
Choice #1, the turkey club. Which sounded good under normal circumstances, but then again maybe starting on the turkey consumption 24 hours before Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t the best choice. I mean, given that we also would also be staring at leftovers for much of the forseeable future.
OK, so Choice #2, wings. But again with the poultry.
So then we’re at Choice #3, burgers. But that came with a sidebar a) which burger, since each specialty option had at least one condiment included on the list that we weren’t crazy about.

Yep, this is us, folks. Making dinner as complicated as possible since 2013.

And yet also so simple at the same time … anyone shocked that two of those items on the list were burgers and wings? Anyone? Bueller?

Didn’t think so.

Shane and Ted remembered a burger being on the menu during one of our previous visits that they really loved (called the Clocktower, maybe?), but it seemed to have gone MIA this time around. Because you know how much we love when that happens.

Almost as much as we love when there are things available in the kitchen that aren’t on any of the menus, so we have to rely on the server to maybe – or not – tell us about them. And then maybe – or not – change our minds about what to order after we’ve already scoured the menu for 10 minutes trying to decide what to order. That’s a fun game.

Which we played on this evening, as Jason was all set to order the Ohio State burger, until the server mentioned to us that there was this special “non-menu” burger, which I can’t remember the name of but the description of had something to do with two burger patties being dusted with brown sugar and grilled, then topped with bacon and cheese.

Jason caved and ordered that.

I was surprised Shane didn’t follow suit. He claimed it was because of Thanksgiving being tomorrow, and that he didn’t want to eat that much tonight. Um, who is this person and what have you done with my husband? Anyone remember the full sheet pizza incident?

Instead he got the Unreserved burger, along with, well everyone else at the table except for Jason.

Side note, in case you’re wondering, the house sauce is actually Worcestershire. That will save you the question that we asked the server. Because calling it a “house sauce” when it’s really a simple and already known condiment is always way less complicated than just putting said condiment in the menu description, no?

Ted also got six of the dry rub Cajun wings.

Cassi and Jason got the chorizo stuffed mushrooms as an app, which arrived looking like mini sausage patties. I think “stuffed” should be replaced with “overflowing.”

Cassi joked that they came served on her Grandma’s china. So Thanksgiving came a little early here at Kepner’s.

THE VERDICT

Cassi thought the texture of the stuffed mushrooms was a little strange, but luckily Jason liked them a lot and was willing to clean up what she didn’t want.

Ted said the wings didn’t have a lot of flavor. And his sweet potato fries were salty, which was a new thing that he didn’t remember from our past visits. Or, really, any visit anywhere. Who puts salt on sweet potato fries?

Well other than Cassi, but that’s a whole other thing.

In any case, Ted felt bad giving Kepner’s a bad review, since this is probably the first time it’s ever fallen under that category for us. Our notariety must have come off the radar this time and they caved under the pressure of our first “real” visit.

I almost wrote that without laughing.

But don’t worry, it wasn’t all off-kilter this time around, as the burgers were truly the usual deliciousness we’ve come to expect from this place. I mean, Jason even threw out the words “Top Three” when referencing that special burger. And we all know that’s high praise.

I mean, it almost doesn’t seem fair to other burgers, am I right?

Although because it also wasn’t technically on the menu, we all know that also means we should be get too attached to it, lest it be gone forever after tonight. But here’s hoping.

And here’s also hoping that the service we got tonight was more like Ted’s wings – an abnormality from what we’re used to – than the new norm. Because it was … well … let’s just say it wasn’t good. It was very inconsistent, and while I get that the upstairs area was busy, it’s also only like 10 tables worth of customers so it’s not like even if every table is full we’re talking about a giant crowd or anything.

We also need to talk about the pricing for a minute. Remember that draft Miller Lite that Shane begrudgingly ordered? Yeah, it was $5.50. For a draft domestic, and not in a giant glass like we’ve happily encountered at other locales. And those interesting sounding ciders that Cassi and I ordered? $7 each. For bottled ciders. So, yeah. I switched to a different one after the first round, but that only saved me $1 a bottle. Guess apples really are going out of season?

Ted and Jason were the smartest ones at the table, getting something called the “House IPA” for $3 each. Which if we’re taking a cue from the “house sauce” revelation, was probably just a Lagunitas served with a fancy name.

So speaking of things in disguise … let’s move in to the visit to that holiday themed pop up bar, Blitzen’s, next door.

Yeah, I’m not even sure what to say about this place, other than that our group was horribly out of place there. Like, imagine a bar that’s trying to be cool and trendy with the whole popup holiday thing that seems to be the rage right now … but like 95% of the people in the place were probably approaching their teenage years when the original It’s a Wonderful Life first came out.

Because nothing says trendy like sharing a space at the bar next to your Grandma.

And the drinks – while very tasty – just honestly didn’t seem worth the $8 – $10 each that they were charging. I’m pretty positive had we stayed there for more than one round we probably could’ve easily spent more on just drinks than we did collectively on both meals and drinks next door.

But we did get these cool holiday headbands, though

Shane apparently took the holiday camoflauge option, as he looks like he’s blending into the background. But only facing that direction. Had the other direction been the backdrop what you would’ve seen was pretty much just the restaurant Hudson’s – who holds the liquor license for Blitzen’s – with some sparse holiday decorations thrown up. And more folks seemingly out way too late for the dinner service for their age group. Is the group tour bus late in picking everyone up?

And so we left, and ended the annual “night of more than one stop since we’re apparently pretending we don’t have family get togethers tomorrow” at Bailey Rd Tavern. Where all great nights end up, am I right?

I mean, how much more proof do you need?

And next year, this post will likely be classified as the night we hit two dive bars, with a stop for some expensive cocktails with our grandparents in between. Good times.

Picked by: Steph
Next pick: Ted

WTGW 11/13/19: Two Bucks Food & Spirits, Parma

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This week’s pick brought to you by a distant relative of the genius behind the naming of retail chains like Five Below and Dollar General.

Well not really. But I think you see where I’m going here.

So Two Bucks takes it’s name, presumably, because several of the items on the menu are only $2. Like sliders, fries, domestic beers and more shots than you would think it’s advisable to offer for only a few dollars each. On top of that, several liquors, like Tito’s, are only $3, including mixers.

Alternate name: Let’s Get Sloppy Drunk for $20. But I suppose that doesn’t fit well on a storefront sign.

But speaking of signage, the interior of the place is decorated with posters advertising all kinds of specialty drinks and liquors, the most intriguing of which was probably a peanut butter whisky called Screwball. Jason was so curious that he got a shot of it (hey, it was only $4!), which we all ended up sampling after it was proclaimed to be surprisingly delicious.

They also feature a large specialty cocktail list. Because nothing goes better with alcohol than lots and lots of written words.

So, all that being said, it would make total sense that the specialty food for Two Bucks is … Mac and cheese?

Wait, what?

Yeah, not exactly what you’d expect in a place adorned in alcohol advertisements and table tents touting under $5 drink specials. But according to the menus and website, it’s been cited a “Cleveland Best” in that category.

Mac and cheese, that is. Not bad decor or drink pricing. In case that wasn’t obvious. But I’m sure we could offer some suggestions for either category, no?

Anyway.

WHAT WE ORDERED

It’s probably not surprising, then, that when we asked the server what she recommended on the menu, the top item was the Mac and Cheese. I mean, it has won major awards and all.

But that menu item was closely followed in the server’s book by … well … pretty much almost everything else on the menu. So that’s helpful.

Cassi and Jason decided to start with pretzels and beer cheese.

Ted got the cauliflower wings with the teriyaki sauce. Thus proving there always have to be wings in some form or another on our table.

Shane and I got the “two buck” fries, and – even though it was clearly stated that the pickles were served in the form of spears and not chips – the fried pickles.

We take our chances in this group. Nothing like living on the edge.

Shane also initially wanted to order the fries along with the onion tanglers, I think because they were the only two apps on the menu under the “two buck” category. OK, like I totally get the desire to be economical, but – as Cassi said – there’s a million other good sounding things on the menu and that’s what you go for?

Exactly.

Moving on to meals, Cassi got the Chicken Philly with a side of the Mac and Cheese.

Jason got the Bucket Burger – the distinctive factor of which is that it has a fried egg on it – as well as onion straws and cheese.

Ted got the same thing. Minus the cheese. Of course.

I got the Steak Philly, and also chose the Mac and Cheese as a side.

But then because I wanted a side salad also, I asked if I could just get a small salad to go along with the meal … which then turned into a whole discussion about how the Mac and Cheese only comes in one size, so really getting it as an add-on side wasn’t any different than getting the side salad as an add-on side.

So wait, what now? The side and the meal are the same size? This seems odd, no?

There was already a lot of confusion at the table after that discussion, so we decided to just trust that the server knew what she was talking about and I wouldn’t end up paying $15 for a side salad.

Apparently not sensing the confusion already at the table, Shane gets the complicated order award with his choice of the “meal” of Mac and Cheese – not the plain kind that Cassi and I would be getting as the “side” order, but the special Three Way style (which, yes, we all giggled at when he ordered, because we’re 12) – along with two of the smoked kielbasa sliders and one BBQ bacon slider.

Yes, we were all pleasantly surprised when everything arrived at our table as ordered. Because we all know that could be its own separate award category.

THE VERDICT

After all the talk about the Mac and Cheese, you’ll be happy to know that it was good. I mean, I’m not sure we agree with all of the awards – Cassi stated that it certainly wasn’t her favorite ever – but it was definitely tasty.  I thought even the “plain” version had really good flavor. And in retrospect I really could’ve just ordered that and a salad and avoided the steak philly altogether, since the sandwiches were the least favorite part of both mine and Cassi’s meals. Cassi said her chicken was super dry. And while my steak was OK, it was nothing I ever need to eat again.

I ended up taking half of my sandwich and half of the mac and cheese home. And already I think we all know that only one of those halves will actually get eaten.

Cassi liked the pretzels, but said that they could’ve used salt. Color us all as shocked about that as we are when Ted orders something without cheese.

But speaking of cheese, make sure you don’t pull a Ted and skip the cheese with the pretzels. It was delicious.

Ted said the cauliflower was good, but that it really wasn’t spicy at all. Cassi tried one and said that’s what she should’ve ordered as her meal, so presumably she enjoyed that one piece more than Ted did the entire order.

Shane actually liked the fried pickles in the spear form (can we all just agree that it’s normal to start singing a Brittany Spears song everytime that word is read or typed?). But then said he added that he was really hungry, so that could’ve affected his decision. So that’s helpful.

I thought they didn’t have much flavor. The breading wasn’t overwhelming – which was a plus – but overall they could’ve used some seasoning. On a scale of Three Brothers to Dilly D’s, it was somewhere in the middle.

Apparently another specialty of the place is a new kind of French Fry that should probably be called “scraps” or “bottom of the barrell,” as they seemed to be fashioned after the tiny bits of potato chips you find at the very bottom of the chip bag. We thought when our app came out with those little pieces that maybe we were just unlucky enough to get the end of the bag of frozen bits dumped into the fryer … but then the fries that came with Jason’s and Ted’s burgers arrived looking exactly the same, so I guess that’s just how they make them? Either that or someone in the kitchen got mad at the frozen potatoes and ran them all over with their truck out back before bringing them into the kitchen? I mean, I’d take option one out of those two, but who knows at this point. Especially with all of these $2 drink specials.

Our bill was really good considering all the food we ordered. Both apps together came to just $5.50, which is less than we pay for one at most places. And my mixed drinks off of the specialty drink menu were only $4 each, which seemed super cheap. The actual meals were the most expensive things – which may be the most logical sentence I’ve typed in this entire review. Oh, wait, Ted’s beers actually beat the cost of most of our individual meals, as it was a full third of his final bill.

Even as we left, we were all still scratching our heads at the whole vibe of this place. Like the name and the drink specials pretty blatantly scream dive bar. But the touting of the award winning, “gourmet” Mac and Cheese along with the atmosphere in the place definitely screams a need to want to be more upscale than that. It’s like the bar version of the movie Pretty Woman.

The playlist also fluctuated somewhere between 70’s rock and tech dance club, which is a grey area I’m sure no one has thought necessary to give a genre name to yet, but I have to imagine this is what would happen if Bad Company and David Guetta suddenly decided to tour together. So there’s that.

We all agreed that while Two Bucks didn’t serve up the best food we‘ve ever had – Ted summed it up perfectly when he said that everything tasted good, but nothing had a ton of flavor to it – it was still tasty and we would eat here again.

And also, cheap drinks. I’ll take Things We Will Never Complain About for $1000 please, Alex. Because we never said we couldn’t be bought.

Picked by: Shane
Next pick: Cassi

WTGW 10/9/19: Erie St. Kitchen, Kent

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Did you miss us? Because we sure missed you, friends.

Or, well, let’s be honest, we missed going new places with you. Yes, we realize it’s been a hot minute of revisits since our last true pick. It seems like the past month has been a game of tag within our group, as each week brought a new reason for one or the other of us to not be available.

See also: life. Adulting is hard sometimes.

Anyway.

So, since it’s been a good amount of time since we had a real pick, I bet you’re assuming that we have a real good one lined up for our first week back to normal, right?

Well, we all know what happens when we assume.

There’s your set up, folks. Read the rest at your own risk.

On a positive note, I can say that at first glance, Erie St Kitchen showed quite a bit of potential. Cassi had looked up the menu online before picking it (duh, who doesn’t? Oh, well, us, sometimes, I guess – but really I think that’s more the establishment’s fault for not having a website in the first place) and was confident about her findings. And as we were sitting in the booth staring at the printed menus, we agreed. The specialty seems to be a lot of southern style food like jambalaya, plantains, gumbo, po boys and so forth. And when you can get Nashville style hot chicken in Kent, Ohio, you can’t pass that up, can you?

Um. Well. We’ll get back to that one, but let’s just save everyone some time and say that the answer, apparently, is yes, yes you can.

We should’ve realized our misstep when we sat down in the booth at the far corner, and in assessing the lay of the land, realized that we would need to get up and visit the bar for a drink, and the kitchen window for the food. Hmmm. OK. So basically this is just one step above a drive thru, then? Nice. I mean, they do bring the food over to you, you don’t have to get back up and pick it up from the window. But still. That’s like saying when you order fries at McDonald’s from the drive thru and they tell you that they just ran out but are making a fresh batch, and instead of making you come in to claim them you just have to pull over to the side and wait for someone to run them outside to your car. Cool.

Or not. Not cool at all, Erie St Kitchen.

Well, while we’re waiting for our food and not conversing with wait staff at all, let’s look around and try to figure out the vibe, shall we? I mean, we’re in a college town, so obviously we expect to see students around us. OK, check. But then there were also several tables of folks old enough to be our parents. OK. Professors, maybe? Townies? Parents of students in town for that elusive and probably not entirely welcome mid-week surprise visit? It’s a mystery.

Interesting.

WHAT WE ORDERED

Ted went full southern on us, ordering the fried plantains and jambalaya.

All of which arrived in front of him approximately 3.2 seconds after he ordered it. Like I don’t even think Jason and Shane were back from placing our respective orders yet by the time Ted’s arrived at the table. And his plate was almost clean before ours even left the kitchen.

So let this be your takeaway: if you’re hungry, apparently plantains and jambalaya are the salsa and chips of this place. So place that order and have no worries about hitting that hangry phase before your food arrives.

You’re welcome.

Cassi and Jason ordered what may be one of the strangest items ever to grace an appetizer menu: deviled eggs.

Because nothing screams bar kitchen like some eggs filled with mayo and mustard. I mean, it’s not tarter toast. But. Well. You get where I’m going here.

Anyway.

Cassi got the Nashville chicken dinner with the pimento mac & cheese. She also subbed the cole slaw for a side salad.

Yes, you read that right – pimento mac & cheese. That alone almost swayed my decision in that favor. But instead I went with the Nashville chicken “snack,” which is apparently a code word for “chicken tenders.” I also opted for a side salad.

Shane and I started off with a basket of tots.

On the “we love burgers” side of the table, Shane got the bacon blue burger with a side of fries and Jason got the goat cheese burger.

THE VERDICT

Ted gave a big thumbs up to the plantains, saying that the sauce was a little bit spicy but the plantains themselves were sweet.

He was not as vocal about the jambalaya, calling it just OK.

The deviled eggs got that same verdict.

Shane was not a fan of the burger. He said it had zero flavor at all. He had to douse it in some of the sirachi mayo that came with my chicken tenders just to make it edible.

Although I think I would take no flavor over the flavor I’ll lovingly call “WTF” that was all over my tenders. The chicken was spicy, sure – as Nashville hot chicken should be, duh – but the initial taste was more like a vinegary floury … mess.

Because that’s what you want in a product description, no?

I couldn’t even eat them.

Thank god for the smallest bowl of lettuce ever and a crapton of tater tots, I guess. Dinner of champions.

Cassi’s chicken was much better, which was strange because, well, essentially it was supposed to be pretty much the same thing as what I ordered. Hmmm. We eventually deduced that hers came with sauce on it and mine came with the sauce on the side, so perhaps the five alarm fire hot sauce was just masking the initial taste?

The only salvageable thing for me was the white peach margarita I had, although the amount of sugar in it probably equals about 75 candy bars.

Overall I’m gonna go out on a limb and say we won’t be returning to the Erie St Kitchen. I mean we could basically get the same service if we go get takeout and bring it back to our own kitchen to eat. And at least then there’s also ingredients there to doctor it up when it’s not edible too.

Picked by: Cassi
Next pick: Steph

WTGW 9/18/19: REVISIT – Frank’s Place on Market, Akron

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As mentioned in our last post, we’re on a revisit month here at WTGW, while we all take turns rotating out for work and life commitments. Because clearly we’re still not a big enough deal for the rest of our lives to catch up and realize this is what we do on Wednesday nights.

This week we’re missing Ted, who was out of state for a family wedding.

After our difficulty finding a place in Cuyahoga Falls to revisit last week, we thought it best to branch out to nearby Akron for this week. And it’s been more than a hot minute since our last visit to Frank’s Place (five years!) – but of course we remember we liked it because we got free booze and desserts the last time we were here.

Yes, we’re that easy. Have we not all realized this by now?

Our other memory was that we nearly got nailed by sharp objects as we walked in the front door, thanks to dart leauges on an already busy night and some improperly placed dartboards. Which seemed slightly sketch and maybe not the best way to make a good impression on folks as they try to come in and enjoy a beer and some dinner. But whatevs.

WHAT WE ORDERED

Well as much as we’d like an appetizer of a trip to Jamaica, that seemed somewhat unfeasible and a little much to splurge on for a Wednesday night. But thanks for giving it a page in the menu, that was fun to read.

Shane and I opted for the spicy hot pepper balls instead. Because that’s almost the same.

Cassi and Jason got the chips and dip, after a lengthy discussion about not being able to get the special dip when you get the chips as a side – only as an app. Anyone else think this is weird? Like what makes this dip so special that it only comes as part of the app?

Hey Shane got a burger and wings. Anyone shocked? No? Didn’t think so. He got the regular burger with pepper jack cheese.

Cassi got the same, just a different cheese and a side salad instead of that side of fries that seems to be so popular with our group.

I got the wise guy burger with a side salad.

Jason got the cowboy burger with crinkle cut fries.

Also while they did have Black Cherry White Claw, we opted for the Natural Light hard seltzer – because who doesn’t feel classy drinking a form of Natty Light at a place where the evening’s dinner special is salmon?

THE VERDICT

So I ordered my burger cooked medium, and was served one that was very much looking like it was the color of the inside of a grapefruit. Hmm. I’ve seen those color charts on the chain steakhouse menu that basically depict “grilling colors for dummies,” and that doesn’t seem to match up. Might’ve wanted to leave that one on the grill a bit longer there, chief.

That made Shane nervous to even cut into his, which he ordered medium rare. And we all know how he feels about places that serve burgers that seems to have just been killed fresh in the backyard.

See also: why we haven’t been back to The Rail in, well, ever.

Let’s just say that if you’re reading this then that means that neither of us died from some sort of food-borne undercooked meat disease, and that might be something short of a miracle.

Fingers crossed.

Cassi ordered hers well done, and that seemed to have been the best choice on the non-sketch scale. So the moral of the story here seems to be that you should take into consideration the color you want your burger to be, and order about two levels up on the cooking scale for this place.

Apparently the special you-can-only-get-it-as-part-of-the-appetizer chip dip was the bomb. So let’s just go back to this, because we’re still a bit perplexed about why they can’t make this available as a part of any other order of chips on the menu? I mean, here’s an idea, why not sell it as a side with the chips that you’re already making people upsell to get as a side dish. $2.00 for chips, $2.00 for the dip.

I’m not saying we’re brilliant or anything, but if you try that for a year and then cut us a check for that extra compensation maybe it will make it more obvious just how smart this really is?

The salads were good. Croutons were a hit. And the crinkle cut fries were hot and delicious also.

Plus who doesn’t love getting a receipt with a line item for an $8 order of “balls”?

Overall a good little gem of a place that it’s surprising it took us five whole years to return to. It seems that Wednesdays are no longer dart nights, a change that means not only is it easier to get a table this time around, but your chances of getting impaled by a dart upon entry have greatly decreased as well.

Although if impalement is your thing, you can take your chances that you may have a sharp knife rolled in your silverware setting. Or it may be a butter knife. Who knows? You could make a drinking game out of guessing which one you might uncover.

If you haven’t learned by now, we definitely make our own fun wherever we go, kids. Whether that’s playing with sharp objects or ordering slightly sketch meats.

Good times.

But we did miss getting free desserts and shots here this time around. That’s something you shouldn’t take away, ever.

Restaurant owners, take note.