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.

WTGW 8/14/19: Nathan’s Patio Bar & Grille, North Canton

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So full disclosure, we’ve all technically been here before, but only for drinks, and not food. On a night a few summers back we returned to a previous WTGW spot, The Ignorant Owl, to check out a band … which was so awful that it literally drove us across the street in search of better times elsewhere.

We ended up on the patio at Nathan’s, enjoying several cocktails and a much better band. So essentially we credit Nathan’s for turning that evening around for us.

Well, and the ensuing 3AM Taco Bell run, which involved Ted knocking on the window of the drive thru as we pulled up after placing our order and emphatically declaring that we were “gonna need some orders of cinnamon twists.”

But that’s a story for another time.

Back to this week’s adventure (spoiler alert, it did not end at Taco Bell, or at 3AM for that matter). We tried to once again visit the patio area of Nathan’s but as we walked out to that area we looked around to discover that there were only about a handful of very small tables that maybe would’ve fit about 1/4 of our usual food order. So that was disappointing.

I mean, I guess we could’ve all four just sat by ourselves and yelled from table to table. But that would’ve probably gotten annoying to the other patrons at the bar area out there, and we kind of didn’t feel like getting beat up that evening.

And we didn’t see menus anywhere, or anyone else eating on the patio … so by our secret decoder ring settings that usually implies that they don’t serve food in that part of the establishment.

Boooo.

So back inside we went. We grabbed a table along the far wall, and studied the helpful calendar of specials.

Hey look, it’s $4 burger night! And you know this group typically doesn’t turn down a burger. Or wings.

What are we on, like week #427 of mentioning that now?

Plus, trivia. I mean, granted we were down one member of the Moist Towlettes trivia team, but of course we weren’t about to let that stop us.

However, our general lack of knowledge for pretty much anything pertaining to this particular game of trivia did stop us from winning any portion of the game, but that’s neither here nor there.

WHAT WE ORDERED

Uh, duh. I pretty much already gave this one away. Even someone as awful as we were at trivia that evening could guess the answer to that question.

So Nathan’s classifies their burgers into categories: regular, super, mega, etc. Seems someone was a little overly concerned with size when they put this menu together, no?

I have to give props to our server, as she was a giant help in placing our orders. No complacent “everything here is good, can’t go wrong” answers from this one. She basically ordered Cassi’s entire meal for her, and had quick answers to the firing range of questions that were thrown at her during that process: which burger is better, mushroom or Italian? what’s better, fries or onion rings? which fries, steak or regular?

It was like watching an eye doctor go through the “which is better, one or two?” portion of the eye test, but at like 100x the normal speed. And some would argue with greater consequences.

BTW, the answers to those questions were Italian, fries and steak. Which is exactly what Cassi ordered.

I went for the lesser of the server’s choices in Cassi’s scenario, the mushroom Swiss burger. And the side salad, which no one asked about. Because, well, we all know this group doesn’t do vegetables well.

Ted got the mega-sized Big Piggy burger. Which was delivered looking just as unhealthy as it sounds.But it did come with its own very sharp utensil, so I guess I really should watch what I say about it.

Shane got the regular burger … and also the kielbasa burger. Because, why not? Clearly I’m eating all the vegetables in our family, so he has to take on some of the bad habits to make up for my health, right?

We should point out Shane was shocked to see that both of his sandwiches contained a burger patty. Wait, what now?

Yeah, he thought he was just ordering one burger, and the other would just be kielbasa on a bun. Ok. That might’ve made sense had that sandwich not also been listed under the section called “burgers.” But sure. Guess that extra meat was just bonus.

That what she … oh never mind.

We also started out with a nice big bowl of queso with tortilla chips, just for Ted.

Just kidding. That was for the entire table, minus Ted. He opted for fried pickles.

Let’s just talk for a moment about that sauce for the pickles, shall we? Oh wait, we couldn’t, because it was so spicy that all we could do after first trying it was gulp down about a gallon of water or whatever other beverage might have been sitting in front of us at that moment. Even habanero-eating Ted declared it to be “pretty spicy.”

I mean, don’t get me wrong, it was also good. Just consider this more a word of warning to like not even think about trying it if your glass is almost empty.

Also, maybe don’t order the queso in the same sitting, or else you’ll leave thinking it had zero flavor. I’m sure it did have at least a little, but it was like just putting a bit of squashed, unseasoned cauliflower on a tortilla chip in comparison to the pickle sauce.

Plus we could’ve used about another whole serving of chips with the queso.

Oh, and in our never-ending quest to get hard seltzer at every single bar we visit, we were thrilled to discover they have both White Claw and Truly. But – in true “us” fashion – of course the flavors are held under top secret clearance until the server makes about 15 trips to our table. This evening our server was convinced there was a raspberry back there, until she returned holding mango.

So. Close.

AND THE VERDICT IS:

The burgers were really good. They were cooked to order, and actually stayed pretty close to those specifications. So Shane wasn’t going to die this time.

Always a plus. The Rail will clearly never be forgiven for their murderous attempts. Of like 5 years ago. But whatever.

Cassi thought her burger was a little too done for what was supposed to be medium well, and mine was just past well done for what was supposed to be medium – but regardless they still had good flavor.

I ended up not eating the bun because it was a little too toasted for my liking. Meanwhile, on the other side of the opposite train, Cassi thought hers had a mushy bottom.

This was also definitely one of the cheaper nights out for us in a while.

Cassi’s bill for herself was only $14. She spent more on alcohol ($4 each for each White Claw?!) than her $5 burger and $1 upgrade to fries.

#pride

Our bill was $39, which breaks down to two rum and cokes, two white claw, three burgers, and one app.

Not too shabby.

The service was far better than I think we expected to see when we walked into the place. Our server was always nearby and super friendly, greeted us promptly, and gave helpful recommendations.

Oh how our standards have fallen over the years, right? Like basically just pay attention to us and be friendly and we’ll love you forever. We’re like a group of stray puppies.

Which is what I’m sure you’d rather look at as opposed to the usual pictures of our group at the end of our posts … and since we forgot to take our pictures this week anyway, here you go.

You’re welcome.

Picked by: Ted
Next pick: Jason’s back in rotation

WTGW 7/17/19: Old Stone Jail, Norton

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THE WHERE (we went)

Remember my last pick, when I mentioned that Jimmy’s was chosen solely on the need to be out on a patio that evening? Yeah, well … this was the place that got edged out.

The plus side of that deal is that at least we got to experience Jimmy’s – and drool over Ted’s delicious giant burger – before it closed forever. But the crap side is that Shane will gloat about the Old Stone Jail being his awesome pick for about the next 47 years.

Such is life in the WTGW crew, kids. It’s pretty cutthroat.

To be fair, the Old Stone Jail does have a patio, but I think it’s about the size of my bathroom. Because eating in tiny, enclosed spaces makes everyone happy, right?

It must, because the inside of the place really isn’t much bigger. Like were talking about as many tables as Wadsworth Tavern, of both the pool and the seating variety. So once again we ended up seated at the bar.  Three cheers for easy access!

Plus Ted realized early on that his seat included a view of the cook making fresh cut French fries in the kitchen – county fair trailer style – so score one for free entertainment. And yes, sometimes we are just that easily amused.

THE WHAT (we ordered)

When there’s an obvious sign advertising Truly and White Claw then Cassi and I know that already things are looking good for a win this evening. And not like the “yes the servers are all wearing the t-shirts but that doesn’t mean we actually have any left in stock” debacle that was our evening at Pick’s.

Heaven in a can

Also, places offering burger specials on Wednesdays are like the new Taco Tuesday. I’ll give $1.00 to the first marketing genius who can come up with the tagline that ties “burger” and “Wednesday” cleverly into one catchy slogan.

Go on, I’ll wait.

In the meantime, we’ll just be over here enjoying a myriad of $5 burger and fry combo deals.

Which is exactly what Shane, Cassi and Jason all did on this fine evening.

Because all of the wing flavors sounded freaking delicious – think lots of things involving bourbon, peppers, chipotle and siracha, because nothing bad ever comes from flavors with those elements, right? – Shane also got six of the Maple Bourbon dry rub wings.

Ted also got wings – the Xtra Hot flavor – and one of the specialty burgers that weren’t part of the $5 deal, but included fun toppings so seemed to be worth the extra $2.50. Ted opted for the Breakfast Burger, which I’m sure if I gave you three guesses you could correctly identify all of the toppings included in order to deserve that name.

You’re smart people. I know.

I got the Warden burger – also not on special, but sounded less threatening than the Death Row burger or the Shake Down burger – but unlike Ted’s burger wasn’t as obvious in the naming rights. The Warden is apparently fond of the bacon cheeseburgers, though, because this burger was exactly that – bacon and Swiss – with an extra bonus of mushrooms. Score.

If you’re thinking that burger looks awful lonely on that plate, that’s because I was the only one in the group to skip the fries in favor of a side salad. Early warning, we just booked a beach vacation for early September, so I’m going to be serving as your health food poster child for a bit. Well, I mean, kind of. Because I was still eating a giant burger.

Balance.

Everyone who got the burger special said that the burger was a little over cooked, but that it was still good overall so they were willing to overlook that little misstep. Which, if any of you remember Shane’s bout of testing all burgers to the n-th degree of cooked medium rare from a few years back, will know that’s actually high praise on the flavor of the patties and the seasonings used.

My burger seemed to be cooked a little less well done – think true medium in most places – so my guess would be that maybe the non-special burgers are a little thicker than the patties that they make for the $5 Wednesday specials? But regardless it had really good flavor. And the bacon was real, so there’s always that.

It’s sad that I now have to make sure to note that, no? #saynotofacon #cantfoolmetwice

Ted preferred the wings over his burger. He said it’s been a while since he’s had an order of good hot wings. No specialty flavor, no dry rub, just a good, hot sauce. Maybe not “xtra” hot like the menu promised – at least to Ted’s “I can eat a habenero and not be affected” taste buds – but still very good.

Remember those fries that Ted was entralled with watching the cook prepare? Yeah, well, according to the rest of the group, apparently it would’ve been worth whatever extra cash we would’ve had to pay by holding off a week on booking that beach trip, just to have the opportunity to try those instead of a salad. To quote Cassi, “if I’m going to kill calories on French fries, these are exactly what I would want them to taste like.”

There’s always next time?

Or, for all of your sake, just don’t be Steph. Get the damn fries.

Cassi and Jason has also ordered breaded mushrooms, but when they hadn’t arrived in front of us by the time the rest of the food had been served up, they finally asked the bartender about them … who admitted that she totally forgot to put the order in. And then she pushed the order to the front of the line, ahead of everyone else who had orders in after our group. And then when they came up she said she wouldn’t charge them for the order.

Now, friends, that’s what I call good customer service. I mean, is it really so hard?

THE WHO (we saw)

Aside from our friend the good bartender – who was the only person working out on the floor or behind the bar to serve up both food and drinks – there was just one equally as overworked person in the kitchen. I mean, we’ve already covered the point that it’s a small place, so I do get it. But between the Wednesday burger special, and a group like the five of us who show up together and like to eat as if the world will run out of food tomorrow – well, let’s just say it wasn’t exactly a quick turnaround on the food-to-table process. And you know how much we love it when food arrives in stages. But in this case we kind of couldn’t fault the staff. Especially when we even heard the bartender tell the cook at one point that she really thought it was time to think about getting someone else to help in the kitchen on nights when they have specials like this. So, yeah, we get it.

Although, which nights do you pick when there seems to be a special on all of them?

Also, there seemed to be about 15 more cars (or, check that, trucks) in the parking lot than there were people in the place. So either there was a big party going on in the back of the kitchen, or no one here knows the meaning of the word carpool. Or maybe the entire city of Norton parks here and gets bused to their homes after dinner. Whatevs.

And special shout out to the poor group who were unlucky enough to have chosen the table directly in front of the photo op wall to try and have a nice meal, when we interrupted and asked if they would mind taking our photo.  I have to believe they truly had no idea what they were getting themselves into when they agreed to be a partner in crime (see what I did there?) to that process.

Let’s just say that this photo is the only one I feel comfortable publishing in a public forum.

But you’re welcome for the laughs. I’m sure they lasted well into the time after the door hit our group in the ass on the way out.

THE HOW (much we paid)

Well that was cheap. Except for the $4 Trulys, the rest of the bill was super reasonable.

Our bill

Cassi and Jason’s bill

But to be honest, the menu really does have decent prices. Most apps are $3-$6. Wraps and basic sandwiches are $4.75, or $6.25 with a side of chips or fries, and some of the heartier sandwiches like philly cheesteaks or grilled chicken with bacon and ranch were $7.75, including fries.

The wings were the only things that seemed to be a little bit expensive, as an order of six was $7, or an order of 12 for $13. But I guess be sure to stop in on Thursdays, when they’re only 50 cents each.

THE WHY (they will likely see us again)

This was definitely a fun little neighborhood dive bar. We didn’t get treated like outsiders when we walked in, despite the fact that you could tell this was definitely a Cheers-esque “everyone knows your name” kind of place. And the table we asked to be our photographers didn’t throw drinks at us and make us climb over their table to get a silly photo, so that’s a plus. I’m not sure if we could really ever use this one as a patio revisit pick – especially considering now that we know how understaffed they are on a busy night, and that we would likely have to go in and pretty much pick up the orders from the bar ourselves if we ever wanted to eat. But the wait for the fries alone might be worth it. Just so long as we schedule that visit well out of the time frame of any fantasies any of us have about eating somewhat healthy, ‘k?

Picked by: Shane
Next pick: Cassi

Shane

Ted

Steph

Jason

Cassi