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

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Happy New Year!

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

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

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

Anyway.

THE WHERE (we went)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE WHAT (we ordered)

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

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

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

Living on the edge to start 2019, kids.

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

Did we travel to the Southern Hemisphere?

Cassi and Jason got an app of calamari.

Fresh from the freezer, not the ocean.

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

This is a very generous side salad, no?

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

This looks like the unhealthy version of what Ted ordered

Jason got the honey mustard wing dings

Along with the mushroom Swiss burger with fries

Ted got smoked oysters to start

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

And the Cajun shrimp

This looks too healthy to be at our table

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

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

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

And six garlic parm wing dings

Garlic parm with extra breading please

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

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

Must be some new quick bake breading they invented.

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

THE WHO (we saw)

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

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

Yeah, not even close.

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

THE HOW (much we paid) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like I said, living on the edge.

Picked by: Cassi

Cassi

Steph

Shane

Jason

Ted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s a somewhat terrifying thought.

Anyway.

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

It’s like a Sesame Street episode

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

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

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

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

7:50pm (20 minutes after ordering)

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

No vampires will be coming near this table

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

8:05pm

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

Loaded and baked, just as promised

8:17pm

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

There are toppings under that bun, honest

All I see is lettuce

8:18pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

8:27pm

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

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

It’s like a burger sandwich

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

8:33pm

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

Someone failed fractions in school

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

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

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

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

Sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steph

Shane

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

Jason

 

WTGW 11/21/18: Mac’s Cabana #9, Akron

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

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

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

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

No.

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

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

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

Good to see you as well.

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

Yeah, she had no idea. Super.

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

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

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

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

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

So this seems promising.

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

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

Looks normal

The only acceptable way to eat vegetables in our group

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of these things is not like the other

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hi, my name is ______

*sigh*

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

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

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

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

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

Picked by: Shane

WTGW 10/18/18: New Milford Cafe, Rootstown

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You guys. I think we’ve finally done it. I think we’ve may have finally found one of both the cheapest meals and the diviest bars (that we actually stayed to eat in anyway) in all of WTGW history.

Shocker that it’s under the same roof, I know.

And that roof belongs to a house.

Although the real shocker is probably that Shane didn’t pick this one this time. Say what? Since he took one for the team last week with the Missing Mountain fiasco that landed us at the table of $2 burgers at the Bailey Rd Tavern, I was up this week. And accepted the unofficial challenge to find a place that has burgers for even less than last week.

That’s right, $1 burger night.

I mean, sure, you literally have to drive to the middle of nowhere to find them. A few times I’m not even sure we were on an actual road. And then you have to park in a lot that could also double as the beginnings of a junkyard. Next to a house. And a specials sign that none of us could read because it was covered in weeds.

Sounds promising, no? Shane couldn’t stop saying “oh my goodness” as we parked the car and walked in.

For all of this trouble, we were rewarded with awkward side eye glances from all of the regulars (read: the entire bar) as we trounced our way through the maze of rooms that make up this commercial house party on steroids trying to find an open table.

Good times.

Once we finally got settled in, we were able to read the sign behind the bar, which advertised a brief list of things you could get for $1 in this establishment that evening:

  • Burgers
  • Canned domestic beers
  • Well drinks
  • Hot dogs

So, for like $10 each we could plausibly leave this place fed and semi-drunk? Score.

Spoiler alert: that didn’t happen. But my guess would be some regulars of this place leave this place much more than $20 lighter and a whole lot more inebriated most Wednesdays of the month.

After about 10 minutes of sitting around, we started assuming that the neon specials board and these wonderfully artistic Sharpie menus might be the only clue as to what the kitchen was serving that evening.

Classy

I mean, because the table tent marketing worked so well for us the last time we were faced with these, right?

We meet again, old friend

But then after the guys’ second trip to the bar to get drinks – because we all know cheap drinks go down faster, right? – after which time we still hadn’t been offered menus from the bartenders, asked if we were interested in ordering food, or seen a server come anywhere near our table – one of the guys finally got up the nerve to ask if there was anything beyond the $1 menu.

Behold, they do have printed menus in this place! And in slightly better shape than the ones we got last week. I have to say that was just as surprising as … well … forget it, pretty much everything about this place is surprising in some way by this point, so never mind.

But it was because of those menus that we realized not only could you get a regular old burger for $1, but one of the “specialty” burgers for $3.50. What? Mushrooms and cheese and onions and basically all the other condiments you usually get on burgers anyway for only a mere $2.50 more? Bargains.

Or so we thought. How naive we are.

In any case, Cassi and I went that route, with both of us ordering the mushroom Swiss burger. We also got side orders of onion rings. Not the blazin hot onion rings from the table tent, though. We learned the insider tip on that one a few weeks ago, thank you very much to that server guy.

Shane also joined the $3.50 burger bandwagon, and got something called the Hillbilly burger. Because if any place is going to get that particular item correct, it seems it would be this one.

Or one would think anyway. More on that later.

Jason and Ted, meanwhile, went the cheap route and got a couple of the $1 burgers each. And fries. Apparently Shane has been replaced as Jason’s food soulmate? Such a sad day.

Shane and I also ordered the pepper jack cheese bites, and Shane got a side order of wings.

Side note: if you think wings are a strange thing to order as a side item, you obviously don’t read this blog often.

Anywho.

The server/bartender made little effort to hide the fact that she was more than a touch perturbed at having to come over all the way around the bar and over to our table to actually take our order. For shame. Forgive us for inconveniencing you, princess. I mean, I get it, you’d rather do shots behind the bar than write down some words and then later run our collective $20 worth of food to our table – but still. It is your job, after all.

Apparently job security is little more than a passing thought at this place – maybe because you probably have to live practically next door to think about driving to this netherlands more than a few days a week – but in any case let’s just say I think 60 year old waitresses at any one of those little run down truck stop diners you see by the side of the highway in the middle of nowhwere, America, could outperform her 2700 times over.

Unless it was at doing shots with patrons. As mentioned before, she was pretty good at that.

So here’s a novelty, the food arrived at our table in exactly the same lineup in which we ordered it, only with extremely large and quite noticeable time differentials between our checks. What group of five people dining together doesn’t love that? Especially when you’re hungry. Because that’s not an awkward situation for anyone, no matter how well you know one another. Do you go ahead and eat, even though you know your friends are also starving and sometimes too polite to eat from your offered plate? Do you literally watch your food get colder by the second, all the while cursing the kitchen for taking so damn long to bring out the next plate?

It’s a great test of friendship.

So Cassi and Jason’s entire order arrived first

That looks … well … like food. I think.

The fries look slightly better

They had their food for like 10 minutes before the server broke free of the bar long enough to come back over to tell Shane that they’re out of the slaw that’s supposed to go on his Hillbilly burger. Shane didn’t even remember that’s the chosen condiment that was supposed to be on his specialty burger, so he wasn’t all that concerned.

If this were a short film about our evening, this is the time when a deep and forboding narrator’s voice would say something like: BUT HE SHOULD’VE BEEN.

Hey, it’s been another 15 minutes and Ted’s order finally shows up! Horray for small miracles!

(I didn’t take any pictures of his, because it was literally the same as Jason’s. So refer back to the photo above if you want a reminder)

That just leaves me and Shane, who I guess will eat around midnight. Cool. Clearly we picked the wrong side of the table to sit on.

But, to pass the time, here’s a brief list of things we were able to enjoy about the ambiance of the place while we waited:

Continued stares from the regulars as if we’re some band of misfit outsiders. Oh, wait, to this group we probably are. I mean, I was wearing a scarf as an accessory and not just something to keep my face warm in a snowstorm, so I can see how that would be strange. Also Cassi and I both I clearly missed the memo that hoodies were the required uniform, even on women. So yes, we get it, we’re new here. Obviously being welcoming isn’t something they teach in these parts. Noted.

Music louder than the last concert I attended. And it continuously got louder as the evening wore on. We think they may have blown a speaker at some point – which, logically, only made them turn things up louder. Because distortion and partial static sounds amazing at 10,000 decibels, thanks.

Solicitation, in the form of some random woman approaching our table asking if we want to buy candy bars to help support her daughter’s prom. Whoa, what? I mean, props for figuring out that a group of bar-goers on $1 beer night is a solid audience for this type of purchase. But prom? Really? It’s October. I’m slightly curious about where that money will reside for the next seven months or so until that dance typically occurs on a school calendar.

Four of us in the group: we don’t carry cash
Ted: Sure, I’ll buy one

We also did this.

Concentration

See what happens when you leave us with nothing to do with our hands and a growing collection of empty cans on the table? Let this be a lesson to you.

The kicker was when the place ran out of Bud Light Cans after our 4th round. OK, who dropped the ball on this one? That’s like the time I walked into Starbucks and was greeted with a sign saying they ran out of coffee.

If it were me, I would tend to think that restocking would be the #1 priority on Tuesday, knowing this particular item would be essentially on fire sale the next evening. But then again priorities aren’t something that this place necessarily seems to have any sort of handle on, so again, not surprised. And at least they still had canned beer, in the form of Miller Lite, so we could continue to enjoy $1 beer night in our secondary fashion.

I should also mention that Ted – who includes both cheese and canned domestic beers on his list of things he’s not at all a fan of – went for the mixed drinks instead of beer throughout the course of the evening. He started out with Jack and coke, but then realized that “well bourbon and coke” will suffice if it falls under the umbrella of the $1 well drinks special.

This is an important point that we’ll come back to in a little bit.

Just like our meals, which finally arrived, just a hair under an hour after we placed our orders. Yay! Who doesn’t love waiting until 8:35 to eat?

Maybe the best part of the meal. That means a little more when I mention that they also weren’t totally melted inside

Why do these onion rings look different?

Before he lifted the bun to see exactly what was on the burger

Yeah, we still aren’t real sure

So, let’s take a good look at that last picture of Shane’s burger, shall we? Do you notice anything? Like maybe, just maybe, the missing slaw was the ONLY condiment on the burger that would’ve made it anything close to being “specialty”?

Because without it, he essentially just had a burger with ketchup, mustard, cheese and onions.

Mmmmm.

We even looked at the menu again (because why would the server return to pick them up from our table? Clearly no one else is using them but us) and confirmed that, yes, those were the condiments that were supposed to be on that burger. Plus slaw. Which they mysteriously don’t have. So good thing they still charged him $3.50 for it.

Me: I think McDonald’s burgers look better than that mess, with about the same condiments, and they’re only $1.

So, yeah, I’d love to say the food was worth the strange and seemingly completely unnecessary wait … but I can’t. The burgers were all burnt. Hey, here’s a clue, maybe don’t cook them so long next time and we can all eat quicker – or maybe at least at the same time?

Shane’s wings were … strange. They were almost beer battered before they were deep fried, so they looked huge – but it was like the chickens they took the wings from were also on steroids. It was like eating fried chicken, only all the pieces were in wing form.

Wait, did they just have KFC deliver something?

We also about had a battle over French fries, thanks to the fact that Ted’s fries had ALL.THE. SALT, while meanwhile Cassi (the undeniable salt lover of the group) was basically rationed about 12 little pellets over the entire order that she was sharing with Jason. And theirs came out first. How do we get such different batches? Did the server finally bring the salt shaker back after another round of tequila shots? Or did the cooks just switch shifts in the time between our separate checks of meals being finished? I mean, we were there for pretty much an entire evening between the time we placed our orders and actually ate, so I suppose it’s possible.

Speaking of being there for a while, I guess the server must’ve taken a liking to Ted and his $1 bourbon and coke orders, because his drinks seemingly got progressively bigger over the course of the evening. Like he was on some graduated plan – you mastered the rocks glass, now try a collins glass, and  … ok, now a pint … well, screw it, let’s just go straight to a 16oz drink glass.

I think if we had stayed there another hour they might’ve had him drinking bourbon and coke out of one of those giant boot steins they use in German bier halls.

He also said his last drink had no less than three large shots in it. For $1. Please tell me how they make money here.

Oh, nevermind, I know the answer to this, because I’ve seen our bills for the evening. Ready for a fun little math lesson?  Keep in mind it’s dollar burger, beer and mixed drink night, which is what the majority of us were enjoying.

Mine and Shane’s bill was $33. What? How is this more than last week’s $2 burger night? I’ll tell you – the sides. The (not very good) fried cheese balls were $4.50, and the fried chicken masquerading as wings was $10. $10! That’s 10 burgers! Or 10 beers! That’s about $1 a wing, and if he had known what was going to arrive in front of him when he ordered those, I’d wager a guess that Shane would’ve jumped that count down considerably.

Looking at his bill, Ted commented that his first real Jack and coke was 25% of his total bill. Wait, check that, the drink and the side order of fries ($4.99) were 60% of his total bill.

Even so, his entire bill was $18. For two burgers, some fries, approximately 7 tons of salt, and about half a bottle of bourbon. OK, when you look at it that way I guess that’s actually not too shabby. And it’s definitely one of the cheapest WTGW bills any of us have ever seen.

But then again, given the atmosphere of the place, and the lack of service, and the really awful food … well, it seems they really probably should’ve actually paid us to be there. Although, with this kind of intelligence behind the bar, maybe in some ways they did:

Must be that new math

And at least we left them some new table decorations. You’re welcome.

Our gift to you, New Milford Cafe

Picked by: Steph

Ted. The thumbs up is for the $18 bill. The other is for … well … everything else

Cassi

Jason

Tell us how you really feel, Shane

Steph

WTGW 10/10/18: Bailey Rd Tavern, Cuyahoga Falls

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This week on WTGW we bring you … a Tale of Failed Places.

Or Third Time’s the Charm.

You decide after you read this which title is more appropriate.

This was technically supposed to be my pick this week, so our initial stop was Missing Mountain Brewery in Cuyahoga Falls. It seems the Falls have become a hotbed for new brewery action – and while I’ve learned my lesson about going to a place literally days after opening, I hoped that waiting until this one had been open for a hot minute would have a better outcome.

Yeah, well, chalk that up to a huge fail.

Here’s a tip for the MM folks: it gets cold and rainy in Ohio pretty much any time of year, but especially in the fall. While it may have seemed like sinking your cash into the gorgeous patio overlooking the river was an optimal plan in early spring and summer when you were getting up and running … you might want to turn that pocketbook toward the interior these days, and get some more seating action up inside this place. Literally. Because the short order of tables available inside was no help to our party of five that really wanted food, stat.

Also not helpful: the rope across the stairway to the upstairs. I’m not sure what hidden lair awaits at the top of that staircase, but if it had seating options and a food menu you would’ve had five satisfied customers this evening. Well, OK, so I can’t guarantee the satisfied part, since we do tend to be hard to please at times – but we still would’ve paid you even if we weren’t satisfied, so that has to count for something, no?

Anyway.

Fast forward to a quick google search of the nearby area, which did nothing more than really highlight the fact that MM clearly took an opportunity to place food in a barren part of town. Turns out there are very few sit-down restaurants with liquor licenses in the general vicinity, and even fewer that we haven’t seen the inside of for food of some kind already.

Except – oh, wait – Chelsea’s by the River! We know this place! We’ve been here for drinks after eating out at a past WTGW, and the Google reviews mention burgers, so it seems like fair game!

Yeah, no. Clearly those Google reviews were written in days of yore, because Chelsea’s no longer has a working kitchen. You can eat there – but only after ordering from Euro Gyro next door and carrying it over to the bar. Classy. Or maybe they deliver? We didn’t stick around long enough to inquire about that one.

Instead, our visit to Chelsea’s pretty much consisted of an awkward walk in, a slightly loud few moments of settling in at a table, a glance around for menus, a general wonderment amongst ourselves if maybe we missed something on the reviews that spoke of food, a rebuttal of a few side eye glances from the regulars, and then finally a silent line march out of the establishment.

That was fun.

On to stop #3 in our awkward bar hop that has thus far left us without beer or food of any kind. Because that’s an event that everyone rushes to sign up for.

And that stop was Bailey Rd Tavern, another familiar name from our early pre-blog WTGW days, back in the time when we would actually eat at one place and then hit up another for drinks on the way home. Either we started earlier in the evenings back then, or these past five years has really adulted us, because it seems we complain on nights when we’re getting home after 9PM anymore, so I’m not sure how those outings didn’t kill us.

Regardless, ever since that first stop years ago, Shane has been gently suggesting that we stop back at BRT for an actual meal. After a quick group vote – during which time Shane sensed my hesitation and offered to take my pick as his own this week because I wasn’t sure I wanted my name on the docket for this one – it was decided that we would check it out.

And that’s the long story of how Bailey Rd Tavern because Shane’s new favorite dive bar, as well as one of the cheapest WTGW on record.

We were somewhat shocked to find the place pretty packed on a Wednesday night. Well, I mean, packed for a place that really only has a handful of tables that aren’t of the pool variety, as well as seats at the bar. We ended up having to go all the way to the back of the place, behind the bar and near a weird hallway that we weren’t sure led into the bathrooms or the kitchen (or both, as we discovered later), as well as – shocker – another pool table.

The bartender/server comes over and asks if we want the “Wednesday burger special” – at which time we realized this was probably the reason that the place was so packed on this particular night – and we were like OK, yeah, that’s probably what we’ll end up with, but can we also see a menu? I mean, this table decoration is lovely and all, but maybe you have more to offer us?

Looks like someone gets the “hey, I learned how to make my own posters on the computer and laminate them myself” award

She agrees and disappears for another five minutes, during which time Shane almost chewed his own arm off out of hunger.

But the wait was definitely worth it when she returned with this.

Well that’s seen better days.

OK.

We cut her a little bit of slack, because clearly she had to break out the time machine to unearth that little piece of history. If only it could talk about the things its seen in its years hiding behind the bar.

So, yeah, $2 burger specials all around. Because although so many other things on this menu definitely intrigued us, I can honestly say it wasn’t necessarily because we wanted to order them.

Among the topics of conversation were WTF is this breakfast and movie special on Sunday mornings? And how do they make any money with prices this cheap?

Moving on.

So when the server finally came back to take our orders, we went with pitchers of beer (at her recommendation) as well as the touted $2 burger special. The guys all got two burgers each, while Cassi and I opted for just one a piece. And then of course chips and fries for sides.

I’m not going to bore you with redundancy of five pictures of the same thing. Imagine a table full of this. Enough said.

This too.

Hey, anyone remember that time we went out to a place that Shane picked and the menu only consisted of two items, burgers and wings? And we all give him crap continuously about it? Just checking.

Cassi and Jason also got onion rings. Cassi said they were the best part of her meal. I’m not sure exactly what that says about the burgers, but it says something I think.

They don’t look like much, but apparently they’re winners

That statement may mean more when you take into consideration Shane looked at his burger before biting into it and realized that the bun was actually two top buns, no bottom. Huh. Are there just like a giant pile back there on the counter, and they grab what they can?

Hopefully it’s not next to whatever drawer these ketchup packets live out their lives in.

Generically frugal

I think 1997 called, they’d like their condiments back, please. You’re giving pride a bad name by using it on that label. Although it is “fancy,” so I guess that makes up for something?

OK, I’ll stop. But I could go on for days. Trust me.

But wait! The server had an idea … instead of opening all of those packets, she should just bring us some ketchup so we won’t be so wasteful. Rejoice!

Mmmmm

Um, maybe not. That’s like a literal vat of ketchup, and lord only knows what magical condiment faucet it was poured from. We kind of thought maybe she would just bring us a bottle for ourselves, but I guess that’s not acceptable here?

We can’t be trusted with nice things. I should’ve known.

But other than not trusting us with ketchup bottles, the bartender/server was good. She checked in on us a fair amount, especially given our non-prime location and the fact that she literally had the entire place to watch at the same time. She made sure to write our names on our orders as she took them so that she could remember who got what when it arrived (although since we all got burgers, I have to ask: was it truly that difficult?). Or maybe she just wanted to be friends. I’m OK with either.

Can you tell we’ve had some pretty awful service experiences lately or what? It’s like we’re in abusive relationships and have set our excuse parameters super low. “It’s OK that she never brought us our food, she’s just crazy busy.” “Sure we all only ordered burgers, but she asked for our names and that means she must care about us, right?”

Is there therapy for this kind of situation?

So here it is time to cash out, let’s take a final tally on our bills, shall we? We did realize there was some interesting math going on, when the side orders of chips were $3 but each of the burgers were only $2. Hmmm. OK. But even so, the total bill for me and Shane combined was only $21. $21! That’s like less than what we pay for a few six packs and the fixings to grill out at home. Cassi and Jason had $26, although they also got the order of onion rings and had one extra pitcher on their bill. Ted was the big spender at $22 for just one person – but he was drinking fancy bottled Guinness instead of our cheap Bud Light pitchers, so serves him right, I guess.

So overall, it wasn’t the worst place we’ve ever been. It’s certainly not fancy – I mean, I think if you look up “dive bar” in a dictionary it may have a photo of this place instead of a description – which of course means Shane was in love with the place before we even sat down – but the food didn’t kill us and we all paid less as a collective group for the evening than we have individually at some of our adventures, so that certainly counts for something.

Plus the sign outside offers wise words of wisdom.

Aw, stop. You’re making me teary.

So when someone finds out what the movie is this weekend, give us a shout and let us know, ‘k?

Picked by: Shane

Shane

Steph

Jason

Cassi

Ted

WTGW 8/29/18: Dilly D’s, Sagamore Hills

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You guys, you’re about to witness history. When we speak of this night in the future, it will forever be known as the night that the WTGW guys won the most prestigious award ever bestowed upon this collective group.

It’s very exciting

Do we frame this, or actually use it?

This will make more sense by the end of this post. Trust me.

So if we’ve actually been inside the building before, but it was under a different name and the menu was different, should this be considered a new place or a revisit? I’m a little sketchy on the rules here. Which, being that I’m usually the one that makes said rules up, is saying something.

I’m not sure what exactly it is that it’s saying. But something.

Anyway.

So the last time we set foot in this establishment, it was 2016 and the place was then called The Pit Stop Bar & Grille. We learned then that the place was good for sides but not main meals, they didn’t know how to bring appetizers out ahead of dinners, the lighting left our photos looking like we lived in an Instagram filter, and the server didn’t care much at all for small talk.

Sounds delightful, no? Amazing that we didn’t go back at all until now. Also, spoiler alert, a few of those things haven’t changed at all in these past few years.

But of course once we heard the new name, we knew we had to give is another try. If nothing else so that Shane could dress appropriately.

At least someone told him the name ahead of time.

Upon looking at the menu, Cassi immediately announces that she wants the Dilly Dills – which, if you can’t figure out the witty code words, are fried pickles. Jason objected under the pretense that they had been ordering fried pickles at various places a lot lately, and he would like to try something else.

Cassi: Well when someone orders them I want to have one

Consider the gauntlet thrown.

I actually didn’t believe they were really called Dilly Dills until I looked at the menu. But yep, that’s the real name.

See also: Dilly Nachos, the Dilly Philly, and something called the Dilly Dang Hot Burger.

I’m sensing a theme here.

Of course we asked the server what was good – because, well, that’s Shane’s favorite question. Her response was that it was literally her first day, and she admitted that she hadn’t yet tried anything on the menu. Well, OK then. Props for honesty, dear server. Believe it or not we prefer that answer to the alternative of just smiling at us and saying “Everything. It’s all good. Yep, eat anything, you’re sure to love it all.”

So since she was no help in our food selections, we had to resort to asking about the daily specials. Turns out Wednesday is pizza night – which equates to a 12 inch pizza with one topping for the bargain price of $7.99.

And just like that she’s Shane’s new best friend again. He ordered the pizza special, along with six wings.

I opted for the BLT with tater tots. And of course we ordered the prerequisite Dilly Dills, lest Cassi be disappointed.

Ted ordered breaded mushrooms. And Cajun wings. AND the lake perch dinner. To which the server couldn’t contain her amazement at the sheer volume of food. Or maybe she was trying to gently suggest that Ted’s imaginary friend couldn’t possibly be hungry enough to help him finish all that. In any case, we all reassured her that this is really nothing unusual. I mean, come on. We’ve seen worse. Need I bring up the the giant sheet pizza incident?

Exactly.

Cassi ordered the Hot Italian Sub, with fries. Jason, meanwhile, did a twinsies order with Shane – the pizza special and six boneless wings.

Shocker, I know.

Our server arrived back at our table a few minutes after taking our order, a move we’ve all come to realize means one of us has spun the roulette wheel and ended up on “disappointment.” This time it was Jason, whose order of six boneless wings was an illegal substitution, and he had to either move to six bone-in wings or up the order to 12 boneless.

Twelve it is. Challenge accepted.

Wings, minus bones

Wings, with bones

Speaking of challenges, Ted claimed to have read this entire blog after Shane once again began teasing him relentlessly about his penchant for choosing a second or third location of a chain that we had visited prior (a conversation started by the news the South End Tavern is opening a new location in Akron), and claimed he only found two instances where he chose someplace of the same name after someone else picked the original. If anyone cares to fact check this statement and take the “I’ve Read Five Years Worth of These People Talking About Eating Lots of Food” challenge, please let me know.

I’m sure we can come up with a prize. I mean, beyond the obvious useless party conversation knowledge of what all of us prefer on our pizzas or how many times Ted has asked for something without cheese.

Or how many times we’ve been out on Wednesdays and it happens to be trivia night at the place we’ve picked, and we’re all extremely excited to join in on that little game.

OK, I’ll give you a head start and answer that last one for you … because it’s only happened one time, and this night would be it. I blame the food taking a hella long time to reach our table. The guys were worn down by hunger, and thought it would be super fun to form a trivia team … then feel way stupid when the questions involve things like world geography and metaphysical science, and you’e not allowed to ask Google or Siri for help with the answers.

Good times. We’ll come back to that little experiment in a bit.

Wings, with a side of trivia

So back to our dinners, someone who is allowed to use Google and works in the in the kitchen at Dilly D’s may want to inquire about the meaning of the word “appetizer.” Because while I can’t tell you offhand what the actual definition is … what I can tell you is that it’s NOT “stuff that comes out alongside a meal just to add more food to the table.” I mean, if that was the case then why make it a whole separate section on the menu and all.

Weird, I know.

Also, this has apparently been an issue for two restaurant names and menu changes now, so maybe it’s time to start looking into this issue a little further?

Just a thought.

So here we are with ALL THE FOOD on our table – which, sidenote, was thankfully an appropriate size this time around so we could actually hold it all at once without having to balance plates on our laps.

And, OK, all the food except for Shane’s pizza, which we were told was “going to take a bit,” because “there was a mistake and we have to remake it.”

Translation: They never put the order in.

It’s not our first day, kids. Please. We may not be good with trivia questions about which mammal lives in camoflague in a river in Southeast Asia, but we’re pretty quick to decode server lingo when it comes to food delivery.

But alas, at least Shane still had our pickle appetizer to eat while he waited, right? Yeah .. about that …

I don’t even have a witty comment for this mess

That would be three pickle spears … disguised by a whole vat of batter. Which I know sounds delightful. But, well, no.

Oh wait, that wasn’t the full order. They “ran out” as they were making our app, and would bring us a full order to go later. We weren’t clear if they ran out of batter (which would make sense, seeing as it was an insane amount, especially when you also take into account it was also used on Ted’s order of breaded mushrooms) or the pre-cut pickle spears … which, I’m guessing, was maybe more so the case, and they just sent someone next door to the convenience store to pick up a new jar.

It’s like looking at corn puffs under a microscope

Newsflash: they could’ve saved themselves the trouble, because we really didn’t want to finish the three pickles in the “incomplete order,” much less the *ahem* FOUR that arrived at our table in the to-go box later in our meal. But it’s the thought that counts?

In contrast to the apps, Ted said that the batter on his perch was surprisingly light. We’d suggest they use whatever recipe that is for all things battered and fried from here on out. But that’s just us.

Appetizer cook, take note

Moving on to sandwiches. My BLT was just OK. The “B” was really good, very crunchy without being burnt. Trust me when I say that’s kind of an art form to perfect. And while the bread was OK as far as taste, it gets a lesser grade just because the texture of it caused me to lose a layer of skin on the roof of my mouth from biting into it. Meanwhile Cassi’s Hot Italian had a mushy bottom. Which is something you definitely don’t want in a sandwich … or really life in general, I would think.

Things that go crunch

There’s a sandwich under all those fries, I promise

The pizza was the clear winner of the evening. Despite being cut into strangely non-uniform pieces (as Jason pointed out when he picked up the tiniest piece ever to be called a “slice”), it was tasty. Shane loved that it was super cheesy (something that certainly wasn’t lost on Ted, as he had to sit nearby and watch Shane pull the gooey slices apart) and he said the flavor was excellent. Cassi tried Jason’s and I think was ready to try to trick him into a trade for his meal – but was clearly at a disadvantage when all she had to offer was a mushy bottomed hot Italian.

This post has taken an odd route.

Ted hit the nail of this experience on the head when he pointed out that usually our downfall when we go places is that the apps are great but the rest of the food not so much  … but this place was the complete opposite.

So, future us, when reading this while seated at a table during our eventual revisit, heed this warning: skip the appetizers. Aside from the fact that they will just arrive with your dinners anyway, they won’t be worth the extra calories or money. Just go straight for the pizza.

#winning

And the reason I know we will eventually be back at this place is … well … refer back to the photo at the top of this post.

Yes, that’s a gift card back to this very establishment. And why, you may ask, would we have this?

Because the guys won trivia.

That’s right, the team that knew virtually zero of the answers and were at the very bottom of the scoreboard following every round, somehow managed to come back at the very end and take the lead by going “all in” on the final question.

Life is strange, folks.

And so was the team name.

If this were an article in the “most insane news you really don’t care about” department, the headline would be “The Moist Towlettes take the trivia world by storm with a come-from-behind victory in their first ever competition.”

So that happened.

I think this redeemed the place a little for them

In other news, we actually remembered to take our pictures this time, so you get to see our smiling faces and attempt to decipher our thumb position rating system once again. I know you’ve missed it.

Picked by: Shane

Steph

Ted

Jason. And no, his thumb isn’t broken, he just believes that this was the best way to say “I liked the pizza, but everything else was no good”

Shane, also giving two votes

Cassi, meanwhile, has no indecisiveness at all

 

WTGW 8/8/18: The Upper Deck, Portage Lakes

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I’m not sure how we’ve been doing this for 5 years now – with 3-4 months out of every year pretty much solely devoted to a continuous and seemingly never-ending quest for the perfect patio space – and yet this is the first time we’ve managed to end up at The Upper Deck. I mean, this place appears to have all of our criteria. Alcohol? Check. Bar food? Check. Decent sized patio? Check – and given bonus points for a view overlooking a lake. Great service? Well, OK, you got us there. You can’t win ’em all I guess.

But have I mentioned the view?

Are we on vacation?

I mean, really.

Ted was actually going to pick an Italian place in Ravenna, but once he realized Mother Nature was going to play along and give us a nice evening he called an audible and went with this place instead. Because we can sit inside and eat pasta in December. Or the next time Shane’s pick rolls around, since he claimed “dibs” on that restaurant as soon as Ted mentioned he was giving it up for this week.

It’s cutthroat around these parts.

As we pulled into the parking lot for The Upper Deck it became painfully obvious that we weren’t the only ones smart enough to realize Mother Nature only stops being a whore for so long, and that we really should drop everything to take advantage of the ability to have cocktails outdoors on a nice evening. We found a parking spot, but Ted wanted to run inside to make sure we could secure a table on the patio without having to wait until after dark to actually sit at it.

Because we never get enough of lists within this group, I proudly give to you The Top Five Reasons Not to Leave The Rest of the Group Alone in a Running Car:
1.) Someone will mention re-parking the car before Ted returns
2.) Someone will mention driving the car very close to the edge of the lake or boat ramp and leaving it there
3.) Someone will mention all of us getting out of the car, leaving it running, and hiding nearby to see Ted’s look of confusion when he returns to an empty vehicle
4.) Someone will mention all of us getting out of the car, leaving it running, hiding nearby … and all of us having to run after it as it gets stolen
5.) All of us will come close to forgetting to turn off the car and take the keys with us when Ted finally texts us that he has a table on the patio an we should just go meet him there

Yes, we’re 12. That’s been established repeatedly by this point.

Anyway.

The patio was decently busy, although not as much as one might think for an evening with little humidity and only a slight chance of rain. Ted mentioned that if the patio hadn’t worked we definitely could’ve been seated inside, since there were only about two claimed tables.

We don’t want to be friends with those people.

The server arrived with a drink for Ted before the rest of us even had a chance to look at the drink menu, which prompted us to wonder exactly how long we’d really been waiting in the car after all. Or if Ted was really a regular there and his celebrity status was showing through.

We ended up ordering beers all around, except for Cassi who got a tequila and soda. And then a Truly hard sparkling water after her mixed drink arrived with more than one fruit fly taking an alcohol bath in the glass. John Taffer would not be pleased.

Side note, that Truly almost arrived as a Truth beer, when the server didn’t hear her correctly and asked about Cassi wanting it on draft. Luckily we’re seasoned drinkers and questioned the ability to get hard sparkling water on draft at this point in its young alcoholic shelf life. Life skills, people. Don’t let anyone tell you street smarts aren’t important.

The server started off taking our app orders, and both Cassi and Jason, and Shane and myself ordered the app platters. Which, can I just add, I have a bone to pick with pretty much every other establishment out there for not giving this option more often. It’s like the ultimate slice of heaven for people who like every. single. item. on the app menu. Can’t decide between cheese sticks, onion rings and fried peppers? Now you can have a few of each! I mean, seriously, they all just get thrown into a deep fryer, it’s not like there’s some elaborate cooking skill being exuded here.

Although it does end up sounding like a boatload of food, as Cassi and Jason picked out the mac & cheese bites, soft pretzels and pizza rolls for their platter, while Shane and I chose the same offerings – just switching out the pretzels for a basket of fried peppers. Because clearly we don’t share food.

Ted: Um, I thought we were just ordering apps?
Shane: We are. Duh.

I mean, really, who are we if we aren’t ordering an entire tableful of food for four people? Come on.

Not that it mattered, because even though Ted avoided appetizers in favor of getting wings AND a meal, he was ready to order all the food anyway, so we just went back around the table after his order and put our meals in. I think the server was slightly perplexed.

Newsflash: it wouldn’t be the first time.

Our turn at the perplexed wheel came a few minutes later, when a different server stopped by and dropped off a basket of potato chips at our table. Uh, we didn’t order these? Are they complimentary? Did they have extra and they could tell we were hungry? Did our original server mistakenly tell that other server to take them to our table, and meanwhile someone else is missing out?

I bet you’re not surprised that we ate them without actually uttering any of those questions to the universe. OK maybe someone wondered aloud if they were really free. But we still ate them before asking answers of someone who could actually provide them.

And then the apps arrived, and we thought maybe someone was just watching us to see how gluttonous we could really be when surrounded by plates of food. Uh, have you met us? We eat anything and everything you put in front of us.

One half of the appetizer party at our table

The other half of the fried goodness

The pizza rolls were by far the crowd favorite out of all of the apps in our respective platters. To be honest, I think all of us were expecting a basket of knock off frozen Totino’s to appear in front of us – but these were actually little crispy roll-ups filled with pepperoni and melted cheese. So more taquito than Totino.

They should really put that on the menu. And I should really be in marketing. Oh, wait.

The second runner up was the fried pepper basket, which was seemingly never-ending in addition to being tasty. I made a comment that the ranch dip was kind of spicy, to which Cassi reminded me that I was dipping fried hot banana peppers into it, so that might be more of where the spice was coming from. Noted.

Ted got Cajun wings as his “appetizer”, and then the grilled shrimp dinner with fries and cole slaw for his dinner. Although they all arrived at the same time, so really that was just Ted’s specifications and not ones made public.

It’s like a gradual healthy to non-healthy progression

Ted said the wings were good. He thought they probably would’ve been too hot for most normal people, but to someone who only sweats when eating an actual habenero pepper then they were just fine. He also said the shrimp was grilled perfectly.

I got the Italian sub with onion rings, which was all good. The onion rings were still hot when they hit the table, and they had just the right amount of batter without being all breading. I took home half of the meal, because, well, as I’ve already mentioned, we had a crapload of food at our table already.

Oh look, lunch tomorrow

Shane got the Bleu Cheese Burger. Not to be confused with a blue cheeseburger. Grammar and enunciation is important, kids. One of those things sounds pretty tasty, while the other sounds like something you find in the back of the fridge a few months after you forgot you brought home leftovers.

Meat and fried vegetables. How can you go wrong?

There were no leftovers in this case – Shane liked his burger, as well as the onion rings – so we don’t have to worry about this burger morphing into the other in the depths of our home fridge.

Jason also went the burger route, choosing the Deck Burger with fries. He liked his as well. The photo definitely doesn’t do it justice.

There’s meat under that bun, I swear

Cassi got the portabella salad, which she was impressed with.

Served on the fanciest of disposable plates

What she was not impressed with was our service throughout the evening. This declaration may or may not have come right around the time we tried ordering another round of drinks and completely perplexed the server because we all pretty much said at once that we were ready for another (insert name of our respective drink here). Usually – because let’s be honest, we aren’t always the most polite bunch, so this happens frequently – the server just nods and says something like “so another round” or “so another one for everyone then?” But this time it was like we had just announced that the sky was turning orange and a giant monster was clamoring out of the lake toward us, because she looked equally as if she wanted to ask questions but also run screaming for her life.

Good times.

Despite that, I have to believe we’ll be back to the Upper Deck at some point. Overall our experience was positive: the patio really is pretty great, and while the food was nothing special we haven’t seen elsewhere (well, outside of the pizza rolls anyway – those alone are enough of a reason to come back. Can we just order the sampler platter with three orders of those?), the simple act of enjoying it on a tiered deck next to an outdoor bar and overlooking a lake definitely elevates the standings.

Picked by: Ted

OH – and stay tuned for next week, as Jason may get his very first WTGW pick. He’s not nearly as excited about this as everyone else.

Ted

Steph

Shane

Jason

Cassi’s vote for the food

Cassi’s vote for service