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

WTGW 3/13/19: REVISIT – Wil’s Grille and Pub, Portage Lakes

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THE WHERE (we went)

Poor Jason.

So on his last pick Jason realized the importance of checking addresses on maps to verify exact locations, lest he try to take us damn near to the furthest state line to enjoy a weeknight meal.

Fast forward to this week, and a lesson in calling ahead to make sure a place in the area that seems too good to be true is actually, well, open.

It’s like the Goldilocks and the Three Bears of WTGW picks. So next time will surely be just right.

But anyway.

Let’s talk first about where we didn’t go … The Harbor Inn, in Portage Lakes, which was Jason’s first pick that he was all super proud of until we pulled up in front to find the parking area overtaken by a giant dumpster, and no sign of life anywhere near the place. Hmmm.

Shane: Maybe they’re all parked in the lake?

Considering it’s March, I’m going to assume that’s a no.

But wait, Jason has a backup plan! The Smokin’ Claw! Located just around the lake near our old friend The Upper Deck that we visited back when sitting outside wouldn’t give you frostbite. And the website said it was open. Let’s go!

Just kidding. That’s closed, too. Or at least that’s all we could assume when we pulled up to where we thought the place was supposed to be and found zero cars and again no signs of human involvement anywhere.

To say we were confused was an understatement.

Short lived attempt #3 was Howie’s, which we’ve always loved but fully admit that we never visited enough. I think our grand total was three visits before we heard it was sold last fall. Gleaming a small bit of knowledge from the past 20 minutes of our evening, we took a few moments in the maybe-Smokin-Claw-parking-lot to try to find the place online before we drove in that direction … at which time we learned that apparently either it hasn’t yet or will never reopen, as a google search brought up the dreaded “permanently closed” banner where the hours should be, and a quick phone call served us an unwelcome “this number does not exist” message.

Lovely.

So that’s the story of how we ended up at Wil’s. Our last visit wasn’t too long ago – last summer, July 2018 – which we fully admit is a little early for a revisit, but I think at this point we were about ready to knock on a door of any house that looked inhabited by somewhat normal people and ask to join them at their dinner table, so going instead to a place that might not call the cops on us for entering was indeed a much better plan.

And hey, look, Jason dressed appropriately!

Looks like this is the official shirt of Jason’s visits to Wil’s Grille & Pub

THE WHAT (we ordered)

Another blast from the not-so-distant past – potato skins. A quick check back on our post from the last visit affirmed that they were what made mouths water when Cassi and Jason ordered them the first time around. OK, well, I guess mine and Shane’s anyway, since I have to believe that in Ted’s mind this is pretty much the picture of what hell would be filled with.

LOOK AT ALL THE CHEESE

The sheer amount of cheese involved here almost made Ted move to another table once two full orders arrived on the table in front of him during this visit.

Meanwhile the rest of us found them to be little cups of heaven. Enough said.

For drinks, it was tequila and soda for the girls, bottled bud light for the guys and dark draft beer for Ted – which, unlike last week, actually wasn’t the color of a bright sunny day.

Beyond those items, we all were on the struggle bus when it came to choosing our meals for the evening. I think part of it was that no one had a real taste for anything in particular, and the other part was that we remembered all of the food here as being decent, so other than the potato skins there wasn’t a clear standout on something we absolutely had to order.

Two separate times we asked the server about what she recommended, or the whole “if you had to choose between this or this” scenerio. And two separate times we weren’t really given clear answers, so I feel like we just kind of closed our eyes and pointed at something on the menu that seemed like it would be a decent choice.

Russian roulette of dining experiences. We live on the edge.

I think Ted was the first of us to set his menu aside and finally make an unwavering decision on a meal. He chose the crab cake dinner, with sides of jojos and cole slaw.

That looks very … brown

Hey, color!

The jojos were the star of Ted’s meal here. He said the crab cakes were just OK, claiming that they tasted more like a pre-packaged item from the frozen food section of the supermarket than something that should be on a restaurant dinner menu. Not exactly a stellar review … although let’s be clear, he did still finish them, so there’s that.

Jason had inquired about what was better – the steak sandwich special or the fish sandwich. Our friendly but not-too-helpful-in-the-decision-making-department server answered that by way of explaining that the fish sandwich was two large pieces of fish on a giant bun. Which I’m sure she didn’t believe would truly be helpful, but it definitely was. I mean, if you can’t recommend the best tasting item, always go with the option of which delivers the most food for your money.

At least with this group anyway. Maybe she reads this blog.

As advertised

And he liked it. So bonus, when the item you were just served a giant portion of actually turns out to be something you really want to eat.

Cassi decided on the chicken tender dinner with a baked potato and side salad.

The potato arrived with a giant slab of butter on the top which seemed better suited to creating cake batter than as a condiment for a vegetable. It took a bit of surgery but she was able to extract it without much harm to the taste or the meal.

And she really liked the chicken, claiming it was “just what she was hoping for.” She said it was perfectly breaded and very tasty – even with no sauces or dips of any kind (which she was offered, but refused) to go along with it.

I got the fish and chips with jojos and side salad.

A tad bit difficult to tell which of these things are the fish and which are the chips, no?

 

And don’t forget the giant basket of bread. Totally completes the salad.

It was very good. The breading on the fish was very light, which made it extra tasty without feeling like you were eating a bag of flour as part of the meal. And the fish itself was light and flaky.

Unlike Ted, I wasn’t as much a fan of the jojos though. I thought they were too dry. Maybe I should’ve taken Cassi’s butter extraction and used it as a dipping sauce? Because that’s good for the arteries. 

Shane got the roasted chicken dinner, after seeing  delivered to another table and asking the server what it was because it looked delicious.

Brown is definitely the theme of our meals this evening.

Our server asked Shane as he was ordering this dish if he was OK with the sides that come with it – which are cole slaw, hot rice and fries. Shane just nodded. Sounds good.

And then when this appeared he just tried to push it over toward Ted like it was supposed to be part of Ted’s meal.

Oh look, a side of “I-didn’t-know-before-today-what-hot-rice-really-looks-like”

I was like, uh, you know that’s yours right?

Yeah, he didn’t.

But Shane ate it anyway, although he said it tasted like salsa. Kinda looks like it, too, so I guess I can kinda see the point there.

But it was quickly forgotten about when the chicken finally arrived, which he immediately not only recognized but was super happy to devour. He agreed with the table on the already stated verdict on the breading, and really liked the overall flavor. And it was so much food that he even took a piece home. Which happens so rarely that I feel like we need to make a special note of it when it does.

THE WHO (we saw)

Well, it’s not really as much who we saw, but what … and that’s decorations.

Lots and lots of St Patrick’s Day flair going on up in this place. We remembered that last time the ceiling and walls were decked out in July 4th decor, so I guess just arrived prepared with the knowledge that it’s going to look like the party store section of whatever holiday is closest just threw up in there.

It also seems that Wil’s wasn’t nearly as busy this time of year – which seems to be a theme in this area, like I get that most of your business is in the summer when those lakes for which the area is named are more useful than when it’s under 30 degrees out, but still. I know there are still people around, and don’t they need to eat? Or do we all just hibernate for the winter in these parts?

Those that were out dining with us this evening were definitely of the older variety, which meant that by the time we left the place after 9pm there were only a few tables remaining, and one lone guy at the bar who was making an evening of playing obscurely old and melodramatic country songs on the jukebox. Fun.

But we’re happy to report that everyone is still as friendly as they were last summer. Once again we had probably four different servers or staff members stop by our table to say hello and see how our evening was going. To which I’d venture the answer was much better than jukebox guy, so maybe they should go entertain him for a bit. But still, we appreciated the check-ins.

THE HOW (much we paid)

Here’s a fun lesson in bar math: four tequila and soda mixed drinks are only $1 more than the cost of four Bud Lites. Huh. That’s interesting.

Our total was $64 – for an app (that I took home part of), two meals (that Shane also took home part of) and a grand total of 8 drinks.

THE WHY (they may see us again)

Well, if no place else ever opens on Portage Lakes again, then I guess this will always remain in our back pocket as a standby. In all honesty, though, I have to believe Wil’s will always be a crowd favorite. There’s decent food and cold drinks for a reasonable price, as well as friendly people to chat with. Well, other than the jukebox guy, he was kind of questionable – but that’s besides the point. And you always know what holiday is closest on the calendar, just from looking around the place. Bonus.

But I have to believe we can only go back on nights when Jason is wearing this shirt. New rule.

Picked by Jason
Next pick: Ted

Is this 2019 Jason or 2018 Jason? You decide …

Cassi

Steph

Shane

Ted

WTGW 12/19/18: Bison Street Burgers and Brews, Massillon

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Our trek to Bison Street Burgers and Brews began by driving for about a year and a half to get to the place, between Ted’s directionally challenged map advisor and the fact that this is pretty much the other side of the world from our house. The final leg of the drive also involved meandering through some residential neighborhoods – thanks for the holiday light displays, people of Massillon – so of course we were totally convinced that this week’s pick would actually end up being at someone’s house.

I joke because it’s happened before. Ok, well not really, but this certainly isn’t the first time we’ve had these thoughts.

Finally we’re here! And it’s not a house!  Yeah, no, instead it’s some giant building that looks like it should be a commercial trucking company or pool chemical distributor.

Welcoming. Where have you brought us, Ted?

There’s also some sort of strange maze of concrete pilons all over the parking lot. Seems an odd choice for a place that advertises “brews” in the name, no? Is this their version of sobriety testing before you can head home?

If not for the giant banner on the side of the building announcing “Now open to the public!” we may have second guessed this choice, cut our losses, and tried to find our way back to civilization before searching out some food and drinks.

Thankfully we all had our adventurous pants on this evening, and ventured ahead into the mysterious giant building.

And – spoiler alert – we were not at all sorry. This place is definitely a hidden gem. Emphasis on hidden.

The inside of Bison St made us all think perhaps the place used to be a private club of some sort – you know, Eagles, Moose, Lions, whatever animal seemed to be a good name for a club that popped up in pretty much every small town in Ohio at one time or another. It’s a giant room, with a decent sized bar at one side and tables throughout. Also, lighting. Which sounds strange to say, but given the darkness we’ve eaten in over the past few weeks it was actually kind of nice to be able to see our food for a change.

Given the name of the place, of course we all ordered beers with our meals. I had just gotten home from a quick overnight work trip to NYC – which of course involved personal challenges to close down bars that stay open until 4AM – so alcohol was about the furthest thing from my mind. And then naturally I ordered a Christmas Ale. Logical, I know.

Our server came over and let us know that all of the apps were half off. I can’t remember if this was because it was Wednesday or because we were there during happy hour, though, so don’t quote me on being able to get this special ever again. Did I mention I didn’t get much sleep the night before?

There were two apps that weren’t part of the special – the loaded fries, and something called The Titan, which turned out to be a giant one pound pretzel. We saw one of these delivered to a nearby table before we placed our orders, and we can vouch that it is aptly named. But we didn’t order it – because, hello, there were a wealth of other items to choose from that sounded just as delicious but were part of whatever special we were told about.

Frugality is a strong point of this group. You should know this by now.

Speaking of things you should know by now, Cassi and Jason ordered the fried pickles as their appetizer. Ted also decided to get his own order as well.

Where did they find such skinny spears?

Shane and I opted for the cream cheese poppers, because they sounded delicious. And also the onion rings, because after the special they were $2. I mean, seriously.

Why don’t we order these more often?

Definitely not from the same “small veggie” garden that the pickles are grown in

Perhaps because we’ve been slacking on our normal menu inquisition of our dear servers, we decided to try our luck on that line of questioning again this time. To which we were greeted with the time-honored and oh-so-helpful answer of “everything.”

Uh oh. We’ve been down this road before.

But then she mentioned that the place is known for its burgers – which, come on, you’re not really going out on a limb with that one considering it’s in. the. name. of. the. establishment. – and also the gourmet grilled cheeses. OK, now we’re getting somewhere.

Then she went on to say that the flatbreads are also good. And that the Cowboy burger is the best seller.

OK, we get it. Just stop before you creatively manage to reinforce your initial statement about everything on the menu being worth ordering.

Have we mentioned The Titan yet? Yeah, well, so did she. We’re beginning to be sorry we asked.

Hey, Ted managed to pick one of the few items on the menu that the server didn’t point out! He chose the strip steak with mashed potatoes, claiming he had been having recent cravings for a good steak.

Obviously he was also having cravings for just food in general, since Ted literally didn’t speak to the group the entire time he was eating. It was like we weren’t even there. At one point I think the other four of us actually stopped eating so that we could just watch him clean up every morsel of food on any plate that was in front of him.

It wasn’t until the server arrived to take the plates from the table that he seemed to look up and realize he was among a group and could rejoin us again.

So clearly he hated it.

I’m surprised I was able to get a photo of this before it disappeared

I kid. He said that it was delicious, and actually it was one of the better steaks he’s had in some time. The meat wasn’t overly seasoned, but because it was cooked to perfection it had a ton of flavor.

It wasn’t until he paid it the highest compliment of saying he liked it “as much, if not a lot more” than that infamous steak special at the Dougout that Shane’s ears perked up.

I already see a revisit, just so Shane can order this entree and try it for himself.

Jason got the aforementioned Cowboy Burger, and also an order of Coney dogs. The server explained – probably as she realized Jason was essentially ordering two full meals just for himself – that the Coney dogs weren’t anything to sneeze at, the order was actually two large-ish dogs and a full order of fries. So, yeah, a crapload of food.

But hey, he still went for it. Because when have statements like these really ever stopped us? It’s more like a challenge.

And clearly she doesn’t read this blog.

Plus Cassi stepped up to say that she would eat some of the fries. This is how marriages succeed, people.

The one stipulation was that she needed to be able to get a side of beer cheese to dip the fries in. And while what showed up wasn’t quite the swimming pool’s worth of melted goodness that arrived on the table at that place in Barberton, it was definitely close.

Maybe it’s a good thing Ted never looked up long enough to see this giant bowl of cheese?

The Coney dogs turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. They definitely looked better than they tasted – which seems to be an oxymoron of a statement all on its own, being that Coney dogs are made to look like a bit of a hot mess on a bun – so I guess what you can read into that is that we were all far more excited to see them arrive on the table than Jason was to eat all of them. Jason said they weren’t horrible, per se, but mainly that the chili was too sweet.

Proof that looks can be deceiving

I mean, he still he still ate everything, though, so take that as you will. He just thought maybe the value was more at a $3 level instead of the $5 they charged.

Yes, this is the level we’ve hit, folks. You know you’re pro when you can play The Price is Right with menu items.

Lest you think fries with cheese sauce were Cassi’s only source of nourishment for the evening, she also got the half pesto flatbread and six spicy garlic boneless wings. And it only took about a bite and a half of each one before she said she wished she had nixed the flatbread and just gotten a double order of wings. The wings were small, but the flavor was outstanding … while the flatbread was the exact opposite of both of those things

But at least it’s pretty?

I think Cassi wished this was one of those never ending baskets

Because I apparently wasn’t paying attention during the part of the evening when we realized that the server was going to be not helpful in the least when it came to decision making, I pushed my luck and inquired which was better: the Philly grilled cheese or the Ranch burger made with Bison meat.

I bet you already can’t guess how influential this was to my decision.

So I chose the burger … at which point Shane says “hey, you know what? we always get burgers when we go out. maybe you should try something new.” … so I crossed back over into the grilled cheese camp.  And vowed to Shane that if my meal sucked I was holding him personally responsible.

This is also how marriages succeed. We should totally teach a course.

What was that we said about looks being deceiving?

I’m glad to say Shane was allowed to live, because my meal didn’t suck … but it also wasn’t so great that I didn’t kind of still half wish I’d ordered the burger instead. It’s like the Sliding Doors of food orders. The sandwich was just OK. It was made from braised short rib – which the server did tell me going into the order, so I wasn’t expecting processed Philly steak like other sandwiches. Maybe that’s why I had higher expectations. And, I mean, it tasted good … but it just wasn’t at the top of the list of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

Maybe it was the sourdough bread, which usually I love but in this case just didn’t seem to go with the sandwich.

Thumbs way up on the fries, though. I got the steak fries (compared to the rest of the table’s fresh cut) and was not disappointed there.

Shane got the Flaming Hot Burger, which he wasted no time in exclaiming how amazing it was. Per the previous few paragraphs, I wasted no time in not pretending that didn’t annoy me at least a little bit.

I like that they hide the hot peppers under a sheet of cheese. Tricky.

Mine and Shane’s bill was $35, which got us two appetizers, two Bud lights for Shane, one Christmas ale for me (which was the Beer of the Month, so cheaper than usual), and two full meals – of which I ended up taking half of my sandwich home, probably thanks to the two apps worth of fried stuff we started out the meal enjoying. Not too shabby at all.

Plus the place had a cool atmosphere on the inside – and despite the fact that the server wasn’t the best at giving solid recommendations, the service was great. I mean, it’s better when the server can’t decide what to recommend because she honestly loves everything they make, and not because she doesn’t care or hasn’t been there long enough to have really even opened a menu.

I could definitely see us making a return visit to Bison St. Especially after we noticed on our way out that there seems to be a fairly large covered patio area outside, so it will be interesting to see if they have bands there, or just make it into a cool outdoor area for the summer. It only it weren’t over the river and through the woods away from our house … but at least in the summer it stays light out longer, so maybe it won’t feel like midnight before we even make it into the concrete-hazard-laden parking lot. Can y’all leave the Christmas lights up for us?

Picked by: Ted

Ted

Shane, decked out in his holiday finest

Steph

Jason

Cassi – up for wings, down for flatbreads

WTGW 12/5/18: REVISIT – Tim’s Pizzeria, Cuyahoga Falls

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We were just a foursome this week since Jason had to work late. And since last week’s last minute changeup means it’s technically his pick this week, we decided to just do a revisit this week.

It wasn’t until we were seated inside Tim’s that we started to ponder exactly how long it had been since our first and only visit to what remains one of our favorite pizza places in the area. Thank you, faithful blog, for being our weekly diary and allowing us to go back in time to … well, almost exactly two years ago -December 7th, 2016. Something about the holidays must scream let’s go out for pizza and pasta? Sounds logical.

Actually, once we realized the date I recalled that at that visit we had been talking about seeing a sign for an upcoming holiday party … and sure enough, fast forward back to present day, and I look up by the bar on the neon signboard to see another notice for this year’s party, taking place in a few weeks on December 17th.

Commence exact same conversation about whether or not we should attend. Welcome to WTGW, deja vu style.

To be honest, we were all pretty surprised to realize it’s been two years and that this was our first time back. I mean, the last line of the blog post from that visit reads “You can only keep Shane away from his new love for so long, right?”

But I guess when he’s also being introduced to new things like sketchy $1 burgers or places that only have two things on the menu or $7 steak specials over the course of the next two years, the fight to be the object of his affection changes weekly.

The struggle is real, folks.

Tim’s was pretty busy when we walked in around 6:45. We lucked out and got the last open table in the main bar, which means yet again we have to only wonder what the “additional seating” area looks like beyond the restroom doors. And also the patio, because, well, it’s December, and we aren’t that desperate.

Speaking of desperate, it seems that’s exactly how some of the residents in the area surrounding Tim’s are getting when it comes to protecting their lawns and driveways from patrons. There really isn’t much of a parking lot for the restaurant, so many people park down the side streets around the place. Beware of the house with the homemade sign warning you to stay 5ft away from the driveway, and the person on lookout from the window to ensure you heed the warning. Just saying.

In any case, the place started to clear out a little after about 7:30. Not completely empty by any means – but a few more tables definitely opened up. So if you want to avoid “I may have a gun or a baseball bat or just be downright cray-cray” parking monitor, maybe just come after that time.

Consider that your PSA. You’re welcome.

So while we were reminiscing about our last visit to Tim’s of course we had to check to see what dishes we liked the last time – other than the pizza of course – so we didn’t miss out on ordering them again. The breaded mushrooms were a big hit, so Shane and I opted for those again. Shane asked the server how many you get in the order and she said it was done by weight, not count.

Translation: you’re probably going to be disappointed, so just order two batches. Plus they’re only $2.50 each, so no brainer.

Ted decided not to get the three. full. meals. he ordered the last time … and instead just went with 10 hot garlic wings and an 8-cut pizza. With no cheese, of course, because that was probably the thing that endeared Ted the most to this place.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world will just be over here thinking about all the things pizza without cheese sounds just as disgusting as. Like pumpkin pie without cool whip. Or well done steak without any sort of steak sauce. Or mashed potatoes without gravy. Or bread without butter. Just, why.

So, remember how I said Ted decided to not order as much this time? Well … so, looking back it seems that last time he got a smaller 4-cut pizza along with his wings and an order of ravioli … and this time he upsized the pizza to an 8-cut but left out the ravioli. Kind of evens things out, no?

I can say it didn’t seem to buy us any more room on the table, if that counts for anything.

Shane barely had to look at the menu to decide that he was getting the same stuffed banana pepper pizza that he ordered the first time we came. It had gotten rave reviews online prior to our last visit, and he definitely added his to the long list.

I asked the server what was better – a pizza (which sounded good and I was afraid I would have food envy once everyone else at the table had one) or baked rigatoni (which I got last time and liked). She immediately responded that the rigatoni was better, so that’s what I got.

It came with a side salad and a giant basket of bread, too, neither of which you can go wrong with.

Cassi got an 8 cut pizza – pepperoni and mushroom, with banana peppers on half – and a side salad. She also got a side of the cheesy garlic bread.

Our salads arrived first, full of cheese just like we like them, along with the basket of bread.

This is more like our version of health food

The giant basket of bread is essentially the Italian restaurant version of chips and salsa

Then the mushrooms.

Smart choice on that whole two orders thing

Then the garlic bread – which smelled great from the moment it arrived at the table. Ted even commented that it smelled delicious. Although once he finally looked at it and noticed the copious amount of cheese it was covered with he changed his tune a little. It’s like walking into a house thinking someone has been baking cookies all day when it reality it’s just a few cleverly placed candles.

They should just call this plate “heaven”

Next came Ted’s wings. Which totally negated the garlic bread smell by just smelling, well, hot.

Those are bigger than some of the “jumbo” wings we’ve seen other places

I joked that it seemed like every 15-20 minutes someone was just going to show up at the table with a new plate of food for us. Like the revolving door of food options.

I know, it sounds magical, right? This is definitely a world I could get used to living in.

And at least this time each new plate was for a different person at the table. After our past experiences of late with one order being delivered in its entirety all at one time, we really weren’t complaining.

The pizzas all arrived next, one by one, as I think the servers were trying to figure out if we had enough room on the table for all of the giant plates.

One giant pizza all for one person. The lack of cheese means none of us will touch it.

Cassi’s split order

Shane’s hot banana pepper pizza. Aren’t the toppings supposed to go on top of the sauce?

And then my rigatoni.

I asked for Ted’s cheese on my dish. OK, I didn’t – but I should’ve.

Everything was so good. Cassi took one bite of her pizza and immediately declared it delicious. Over the course of the evening the rating migrated from an initial spot in her Top 5, to her Top 3 … and by the time we left she was calling it her favorite pizza in the entire Akron area.

Ted mentioned she was stealing Shane’s rating system. Although he was too engrossed in his pizza to really notice. He once again was not disappointed with his choice, which is not only tasty but also served as a great nasal decongestant due to the heat of the peppers.

There’s a commercial in there somewhere. Tim, let’s talk.

My rigatoni was really good. It was definitely straight from the oven – the layer of skin I lost with those first few bites can attest to that – but honestly it was well worth the sacrifice.

Shockingly, all of us needed to-go boxes. I know, this is new – but also keep in mind we had a lot of carbs on our table – plus the beer and other drinks – and despite our weekly training our stomachs can only take so much. And I think we made a good effort. Ted ate his entire pizza and took the wings home. Shane had a few pizza slices he couldn’t manage, and I had about half my rigatoni.

Meanwhile Cassi took home half of her pizza which I think is supposed to be a late meal for Jason after he gets home from work … but we’ll see if she actually even tells him or just hides it in the back of the fridge for her own dinner another evening.

I know what I would do. Just saying.

OK Tim, let’s make a pact not to not let another two years go by before we meet again, ‘k? We’re too good for each other not to be together. Really.

Picked by: Steph (well, kind of. I suggested the revisit. Basically we’re all out of order now, so we may just flip a coin at this point to see who goes next for picks)

WTGW 7/25/18: Wil’s Grille & Pub, Barberton

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That feeling when someone else picks a place that has been on your list for a while but you just never got around to picking … and then it turns out to be really good.

Cassi’s choice this week was Wil’s Grill & Pub in Barberton. Not to be confused with Ted’s sushi & pub pick of a few months ago. As if. Wil’s Grill & Pub (I keep saying it because rhyming is fun, step off) a little unassuming building in that middle of the nowhere region that is partway between Barberton and Portage Lakes.

Shane, as we pull up: This has me written all over it.

Apparently tiny buildings with no windows and an uncertainly marked entryway are right up his alley. Noted.

Inside they definitely make the most of the tiny space. There were several tables, but only a few that would hold a group our size that weren’t already occupied. There appeared to be a family dinner taking place in the middle of the space, which required several tables to be pushed together. This is for sure the kind of place that I could see regulars holding their weekly family get togethers.

As we settle in at the table, Shane makes a beeline for the restroom … and returns shortly afterwards. As in, not in enough time for him to actually have used the facilities. To which we all assume means they were uninhabitable.

Nope, just that when he opened the main door he heard a tiny child’s voice announcing to the unknown visitor “I’m pooping.” That was enough for Shane to decide he could hold it for a bit longer, and to just exit quietly.

That frank openness kind of set the tone for the rest of our stay at Wil’s.

To say that the place is friendly is an understatement. From the time we sat down until …. well, the rest of the evening … we were welcomed or given a friendly “hey guys!” by pretty much every single one of the staff members. And some people who cross the line between actual staff and regulars who occasionally wander behind the bar. I’m kind of surprised the other patrons didn’t raise their hands in friendly salutes as well. It was like dining in Mayberry.

Once the server found out we were newbies, she pretty much ran through the entire menu to tell us what the best things were to order. Of course that impressed our resident interrogator, Shane, who usually takes pleasure in prodding those details out of the staff.

Of highest recommendation where the burgers, the chicken sandwich that was on special for the evening, and the weekly steak special. Which were pretty much all the items our group  had been looking at ordering already. Thanks for nothing, kind server who loves her job and her restaurant.

One choice that wasn’t too difficult was our drink order, due largely to the fact that they only have two beers on draft: Miller Lite, and Amber Bock. So basically light and dark. Bet you can’t guess who ordered which one?

Bonus points if you sensed the trick question and guessed that the girls skipped beer altogether to go with tequila and sodas.

Cassi and Jason ordered the potato skins for their app, after the server described them as “little potato cups of cheesey goodness.”

Ted, of course, was repulsed.

The server did not lie, the potato skins ended up arriving at the table looking exactly as the server described them. Read: amazing. The potatoes are cut in half instead of longways like most potato skins, and therefore do create these little cup-like devices that are perfect to fill with a copious amount of cheese. Cassi and Jason definitely enjoyed them. And will continue to enjoy them in the days following our visit, as there were far too many for even our whole table to share (well, minus the cheese-hater). They were truly enough to be a meal all on their own.

This must be what they serve in heaven

Shane and I ordered the breaded mushrooms.I guess this is our thing now, despite the fact that Shane usually has to let them cool to less than room temperature so as not to be the victim of the hot oil disaster that is biting in too soon.

Hot oil time bombs

They were just OK. Really nothing special from any other place we’ve ever ordered them from in our lifetime. To be fair, I’m not really sure what exactly would make a breaded mushroom stand out in that fashion, but it seems we’ll continue to try them until we figure that out.

Ted got the “Firey Fingers.” Which didn’t arrive on fire (boooo) but instead were basically just chicken fingers with a spicy breading and/or sauce. Thanks for the letdown. Plus when I asked Ted which substance was responsible for the nomenclature, he admitted he wasn’t really clear on that based on the description in the menu, and had to do a bit of A/B testing once the dish arrived in order to determine it.

This is probably the only dish where you could confuse chicken for jojo potatoes

It turns out it was the sauce. Which was basically a cocktail sauce with a slightly spicy hint to it. So “firey” might be a tad misleading in the adjective department, but points for trying.

I really think they should go with the whole lighting it on fire idea. I mean, that would make it stand out for sure.

For meals I was on the fence between my usual affinity for a mushroom swiss burger and the special chicken sandwich of the day consisting of chicken, Swiss, bacon and guacamole on ciabatta bread. So, again, I’d like to thank the server and her seal of “yep, both of those are outstanding, can’t go wrong either way” for assisting in my decision. Ted was actually my tipping point, when I mentioned being in a conundrum and he said to me that when he heard what was involved with the chicken sandwich it sounded to him like it was made just for me.

I’m not sure how I got such complimentary friends in my life.I mean, I hope all of you have people surrounding you who think of you when certain foods are mentioned. *tear*

Needless to say, I wasn’t unhappy with my decision. I mean, first of all … ciabatta bread. Need I say more? But I also don’t order chicken much anymore, thanks to the issue at the Hooley House years ago where the cook was apparently trying to make medium rare poultry a thing (spin the salmonella wheel and see if you’re a winner! yum!). But my risk was rewarded this time around.

Even if I only ate the bread, this would be a win

That’s a very geometrically correct salad

Ted got the strip steak special with jojo potatoes – and also the cole slaw, which the server recommended as “really good.” Upon eating it, Ted rephrased that to  “adequate.” Not exactly high praise, but I guess it’s better than “effing disgusting,” so there’s that. Maybe if he’d eaten the jojos first, since they were apparently hot enough to remove layers of skin/taste buds and he may not have been able to taste the cole slaw by that point?

Chivalrous potato wedges trying to save the meat from the oncoming knife

How can you screw up shredded vegetables?

Ted said his whole meal was “solidly good.” He wouldn’t necessarily put anything he ate in his Top 10, but he would rate it all as very good.

Hey, speaking of Top 10’s, anyone remember that time Shane ordered a steak special for under $10, and it was a way better value than the one offered *insert place we’re currently eating at here*? No? That’s weird, because he uses literally every other steak special in the universe to reminisce about that fateful day last summer when all his food dreams came true.

This is my plea to all the places we go on Wednesdays to stop advertising steak specials on that particular night of the week, unless you can beat the one offered at the Dougout.

Moving on.

Since OBVIOUSLY this steak special didn’t meet his expectations, Shane followed the server’s recommendation that the burgers were outstanding and ordered the Bourbon Burger. As did Jason. To prove they weren’t twinsies, Shane got onion rings, and Jason got fries. Cassi also went with a burger – the bacon Swiss – with sweet potato fries.

I have bread envy

Take two, change of side

Our table sure did their part to ensure the dairy industry stays in business

And just like everything else the server told us about, they were not disappointed. Shane said his burger was very good. He typically doesn’t like all the embellishments (read: healthy things like lettuce and tomato) but on this one he didn’t pick it off, and said it actually gave the burger more flavor. Both of the guys agreed that the sauce on the Bourbon burger was really good, too.

Since we ordered pretty much everything that the server had recommended to us, are you surprised when we ended up with dessert as well? Right. I also blame Ted, who was talking up how he would give up patio weather in favor of the season in which all things pumpkin return to NEOhio … which of course brought us to the deliciousness that is pumpkin love at 3 Brothers … which made us all hungry for sweets right about the time the server came over to ask if we’d saved room for dessert.

Cohoots, I tell you.

Cassi and Jason opted for the chocolate bundt cake, Ted got the brownie with ice cream, and Shane and I shared the caramel apple pie and ice cream. I have to believe that was literally one of everything on the dessert menu.

Tell me again why we don’t order dessert more often?

I mean, how can you go wrong?

A lovely little sundae, all for Ted

Ted, five minutes after finishing his dessert: I’m probably going to regret that, but damn was it good.

Spoiler alert: that entire statement was in fact truth.

But being over-full was pretty much the only regret we could muster from Wil’s. This place is definitely a favorite, with a menu almost as big as the place itself, and amazing service. Plus it’s super cheap – mine and Shane’s bill was under $60, which covered three drinks each, an app, two complete dinners and a dessert. Well, truth be told, we could’ve gotten out with a tab under $10 … thanks to a mistake by the server when she manually keyed in the amount to the credit card machine, thus resulting in our card only getting charged $5.69 instead of the correct price of $55.69. But of course we couldn’t take advantage of the situation, and told her about the mistake – for which she was super appreciative. Because, well, despite what you might think of our ratings toward some of our picks and my fluent use of the sarcastic tongue, we aren’t complete jerks. Please.

And we definitely want to come back here. Wil’s really one of those little gems you kind of wish you lived next door to, except for the rampant alcoholism and high cholesterol levels that visiting far too often would likely predispose us to. It’s great to go into a place that clearly has regulars, and be welcomed as a new group. And maybe it’s because Shane threw out the “we’re food bloggers” statement like a shield at the top of the visit, but throughout our visit we were never at a loss for people stopping by our table to say hello or check to see if we needed anything. The server even gave us a copy of the specials for the month, which was reminiscent of the lunch menus we used to bring home from grade school so we knew what days to pack our lunches, and what days we would be begging our moms to pay for a slice of cardboard covered in cheese that they tried to tell us was pizza.

If that last sentence means nothing to you then just put down the blog and walk away slowly, never mentioning how old you think we must be because of it. Seriously.

I bet Shane is glad we didn’t come on Shrimp Kabob day

Next pick: Ted

Ted

Jason

Shane

Steph

Cassi


Wil's Grille & Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 7/11/18: TD’s Tailgate Grill, North Canton – REVISIT

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Welcome to the summer months of WTGW, where we spend copious amounts of time screwing up the stats on our blog because we’re all scouring it trying to find the last good patio we went to so that we can pay it a revisit. Yay technology!

Shane claimed he had anther good pick lined up for this week (read: super scary dive bar that we probably would be intimidated to actually eat in), but a consultation to the weather channel over the weekend reminded us that we need to take advantage of these nice weekday evenings while they still exist. And so the quest to remember a good patio began.

Sidenote to our web designer: make the patio category easier to search. Oh wait, that’s me. Yeah, I’ll get right on that.

Anyway, that’s the long-winded explanation of how we ended up at TD’s Tailgate Grill for this week’s pick. It’s been three years since our last visit, at which we were forced to grab seats at the bar since all the tables were full upon our arrival, and Ted decided he wanted friends outside of our circle so he started a conversation with a regular who kept raving about the fish tacos.

Sounds spectacular. Tell me again why it’s taken us this long to return?

This time around we were able to snag a table for the five of us – but just in the nick of time, it seems, as the rest of them filled quickly behind us. With families. Explain this one to me, if you will: since when did sports bars become the happening place for families with packs of small children? This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this phenomenon. Because nothing says “family atmosphere” like a place with 27 beers on tap and a whole page of fried food on the menu.

But I digress.

The beginning of our visit was like a story I’d like to call “Shane and the Three Beers.” The first one he tried to order – Shock Top Lemon Shandy – was one he knew he liked, but I turns out they were sold out. The second one he asked for – an IPA that Ted warned him he wasn’t going to like but Shane said he wanted to try anyway – was promptly declared a big old hell no after a sample was brought to the table and he took one sip (while Ted laughed). The third one – a Bud Light, because by this point he was just really thirsty and wanted a beer – was just right. Well, more like just “this will have to do,” but you get the idea.

Meanwhile Ted and Jason were enjoying their Christmas Ale (it’s Christmas in July season again!), Cassi had a mixed drink, and I had a delicious Berry Shandy that the server recommended when she delivered the bad news about the Lemon Shandy being gone.

We ordered four apps for five people. Because of course we did. Hey, what did I say in my last post about the food truck event? We’re training for next year already. Step off the judgement train, please and thank you.

Shane and I ordered the fried pickles. Why we continue to think we should order such things after we’ve had the deliciousness that is 3 Brothers is beyond me, but whatever. Especially when these ones arrive and they’re breaded spears, not actual chips. How the hell are you supposed to eat those? These were clearly created by the same person who invented the hot oil time bombs that are breaded mushrooms. But at least the dipping sauce was really tasty.

Excuse me, our pickles are trying to act like potato wedges

Ted got the coconut shrimp, the plate of which Shane wouldn’t even touch as it grazed over his portion of the table on it’s way to Ted. All fear the shrimp allergy. Unlike our decisively tasty pickle dipping sauce, the dip for the shrimp was somewhat unremarkable.

I’ll take Things That Would Kill My Husband for $1,000 please

Cassi and Jason ordered the chips and dip, along with an order of the hot tots. Note to restaurants: can we please start portioning things correctly when it comes to dips and the vehicles by which said dips must make it into our bellies? It makes no sense to have an entire bowl of dip if there are only about 8.5 chips available to dip into it. Seems to me you’d be better served to give away a whole platter of chips – because, I mean, those seem pretty simple to make (Get potato. Peel. Slice. Throw in deep fryer.) in comparison to the variety of measuring and mixing that presumably needs to go into a homemade dip.

But what do I know.

Is there a potato shortage we aren’t aware of?

Anyway.

Ted was quite fond of the fish tacos that his new friend highly recommended on our last visit, so I latched onto the dual recommendation and went with those this time, as did Cassi. Cassi got hers with a side of the homemade ranch sauce because, well, to quote her “I will order that anytime I see it on a menu.”

Ted will dream of this plate for another three years

Ted definitely had food envy when he heard our orders – because he also remembered fondly the goodness that was a good fish taco (why did I feel dirty just typing that?) – but he said he wanted to try something new, so he got the voodoo chicken with the drunken beans as a side.

Hey, remember that time Ted ordered something that sounded like the name of an opening band at some Mardi Gras festival? Well, he probably won’t long after this visit. Let’s just say he definitely wished he’d ordered the tacos.

Not that his meal was bad, by pre-I’ve-tasted-the-fish-tacos-and-am-judging-everything-else-by-those standards. But the fact that he still remembered how good those were (did I mention it’s been three years?) combined with them literally surrounding his food on the table once mine and Cassi’s meals arrived caused a bit of a letdown in comparison. He said his sandwich was just OK. The drunken beans – which were described as spicy and probably could be so to anyone else, well, on the planet – were no match for Ted’s taste buds that can’t detect spice unless it’s in the form of a raw habanero pepper.

The name is fancy, but it’s really just something your Aunt Marge would serve up at the annual family picnic

Shane got the triple stack grilled cheese and a pound of garlic Parmesan wings. I know it sounds like I’m judging his wing order sarcastically, but it literally was a pound of wings. Because some places prefer that as a measurement to just counting them out. I can’t for the life of me figure out which is actually better on the eating side of things.

If you’re going to base it on weight, it should be served on the scale

Again, I ask about the potato shortage, because that seems like a ridiculously small amount of fries

He tried to consult me on what his opinion had been of the mango habenero wings the last time around, but Ted spoke up instead – you know, just like he had with regards to Shane’s IPA choice. Uh, boys? Should I be worried about this bromance extending past the food level? If Ted starts reminding you that you’re almost out of soap or that it might be time to replace a few pairs of socks I may have to intervene.

Where’s the bun?

Jason ordered the crunchy fish sandwich, which he liked. Cassi and I also put our stamp of approval on the fish tacos. I was super full by the end of my meal and ended up having to get a box for one of my tacos – well, after offering it to Ted, who regretted having to turn it down because he was full as well.

There are a whole bunch of jokes in that last paragraph, but I’m trying really hard to use my adult voice and not point them out.

Anyway.

So probably the biggest downfall we can give TD’s this time around was that the service was a bit sketch. I mean, our server was super nice, and we definitely appreciate that. The issue was that she wasn’t around much … literally and figuratively. When we did see her we about pounced on her to try and order more drinks, which then backfired on us because she would get so flustered she would forget one or more of them. Case in point, when we ordered another round for the table, and then she returned with three drinks. There’s five of us. That’s like Math 101. I’m so glad we’re trusting you with our credit cards at the end of the evening.

And while the tables around us did fill up, we didn’t necessarily see her waiting on all of them as well as us, so I can’t buy the “give her a break, I’m sure she was super busy” reasoning that I’m sure half of you are saying to your screens right now. Also, one walk to the restroom was all it took to realize that we weren’t the only ones with the “it’s super nice out, let’s find a patio” thought bubbles over our heads this evening. The inside of the place may as well have turned out the lights and hung up the closed sign. Definitely a change from three years ago.

Hey, remember when we all said we were full after our dinners? Just kidding! It seems this group will find room for dessert these days, especially when it comes in the form of fried cookie dough balls. Yes, you read that right. Cookie dough, rolled into little balls, and deep fried. Listen, I don’t care if you have to unbutton your jeans in public just to breathe, if you explain that it’s due to this little slice of heaven in a basket then all is forgiven. We got an order (and by we of course I mean me, Shane and Ted, because, well, refer back a few paragraphs to our newfound coupledom), as did Cassi and Jason. And for a brief moment, everyone forgot that they couldn’t possibly eat another bite of their real meals like five minutes previously.

I think we each needed our own basket. For dinner.

Move over fish tacos, these are the best thing on the menu. Hands down.

Four of us, as we walk out to the car: Man, I’m really stuffed now. Like the cookie dough was good, but it really put me over the top.
Shane: Oooh, look, a Dairy Queen.

Seriously?

Next pick: Cassi

Cassi

Jason

Ted

Shane

Steph

WTGW 4/25/18: Niko’s, North Royalton

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Alternate title: that time we took a 45 minute road trip to basically sit in a place the size of my living room with wall decor reminiscent of an Applebee’s on steroids, where we waited another 45 minutes before consuming gyros the size of our heads.

So for those of you too busy to read the rest of this post, you pretty much get the gist of what happened this week. You’re welcome. Carry on.

North Royalton is a new branch on our city tree, although its really no further away than some places we’ve visited in the past. So of course Shane immediately declared everything in the immediate vicinity “his” for picking.

(Hint: it wasn’t much. Unless we want to go tanning or order some take out Chinese food, neither of which fit the WTGW protocol)

Shane was reluctant to give any of us the name of the place in advance, lest we tease him about going all ethnic like we did with Ted a few weeks ago.

Me, after finally learning the name and looking it up online: so a few weeks ago we gave Ted crap for picking “sushi and bar,’ but this week we’re supposed to be OK with “Greek and bar”?

Sounds reasonable.

Niko’s would be a great place to hang out if it was like four times the size with about half the regulars taking up all of the tables. Granted there was a Cavs game on tonight, so that meant people hung around drinking a little longer than they (maybe?) usually would … and the large patio (from which you could see the TV screens) was underused thanks to the 50-ish degree air temp outside … but still. Even our vulcan stare-down moves on those with to-go boxes sitting in front of them weren’t causing people to budge from their seats. Tough crowd.

But the host told us when we put our party of five on the wait list that it “shouldn’t be long.” Uh, in dog years, maybe. Five minutes turned into 10 … we ordered drinks from the bar to pacify ourselves … 10 minutes turned to 20 … Shane took to loudly claiming he was about to eat his arm off while staring creepily at those who were finished with their meals … 20 minutes turned to 30 … I resorted to Google Maps to research any place at all that might serve something that resembled food within a five-mile radius …

Well at least they made it easy to spot while we waited

And they had this

It was during this waiting period that I realized we could probably implement some sort of a friendly challenge between this place and Gasoline Alley just to see which one is a) overall smaller, b) has more random crap per square inch of wall space, and c) has the least available and most awkward waiting area for those unlucky enough to have a table.

Anyone?

At about 40 minutes we resigned ourselves to leaving and heading to the nearby Brew Garden just to salvage some portion of the evening before we passed out from low blood sugar. But just as we were assembling ourselves to head out, we were called to sit.

Hallalujah!

And from there the evening got a lot better. Let’s just say that if future me could go back and give a bit of advice to impatiently waiting me, it would be that it was totally worth it and you would’ve been sorry that you left.

Also, how do I get a future me? Because having that kind of angel on my shoulder sounds a tad awesome.

Anyway.

This place definitely deserved to be Shane’s pick once we heard from the server that the portions were huge. FYI, that tip came after Shane unabashedly asked her what he should order to get the most bang for his buck when he’s super hungry and wants a lot of food.

We ask the tough questions here at WTGW. Again, you’re welcome.

The server also greeted our admission of being newbies to Niko’s with “Oooh! New People!” Which had us slightly nervous about what kind of initiation process we might be facing as the evening wore on.

She did, however, tell the guys about the pineapple IPAs that were on special for $3.00 that evening – a little secret the bartender apparently didn’t share when the guys went to the bar during our waiting period and ordered drinks. Cassi and I stuck with our ciders.

For apps both Jason and Cassi and Shane and I got the fried cheese. Which is basically like saying a giant “screw you, get your own appetizer” to Ted. Oops.

But he had his sights set on the Thai chili wings as his app, so I don’t think he was super disappointed. His excitement only grew when, after they arrived, he discovered that they were served with carrots … but not like carrot sticks – like giant silver dollars.

The carrots are nearly as big as the wings

Go carrot fork yourself? That doesn’t make sense

This is something new. And apparently exciting, as you can tell from his face in that photo.

The fried cheese arrived looking somewhat like a slice of pizza. Which we were warned was about as hot as the surface of the sun on the inside, so leave it the hell alone for a few minutes before trying to dig in. Well, OK, so maybe those exact words weren’t used, but we inferred based on past experience with really warm edible things.

Cheese and bread. See also: the only food groups necessary for survival.

And the wait was worth it. It was delicious. Not to mention the extra fun of causing Ted personal trauma as he had to watch us pull the melted cheese through the air to break it.

What are friends for, right?

We also learned that there’s a thin line between waiting for the cheese to cool and letting it sit long enough that it resembles a pale yellow brick on the plate in front of you.

Shane, in reference to the cheese sitting for too long: It’s starting to get hard.
Me: Then eat it.

So many comments followed that little interlude that I don’t feel are appropriate for printing. Use your imagination, kids.

Anyway.

Perhaps in fear of our initiation process that may or may not have been on tap with the server, we gave her a little one of our own in the period between when we ordered and when the food arrived. Thanks to a strange arrangement that left the couples sitting diagonal to one another (don’t ask, it was like a game of duck, duck, goose when we finally made it to at the table and we all rushed for seats – I blame the hunger), once the appetizers arrived we thought it might be a little strange for us to have to reach over one another to share fried cheese, so Jason and Shane switched places to be sitting across from Cassi and me, respectively. Our server did a quick double take, then adjusted the orders accordingly so they still ended up in front of the appropriate person.

She passed. Not that I know what would’ve happened if she hadn’t, but let’s just be thankful we didn’t have to resort to that.

Of course we all ordered gyros, because, well, let’s be honest, the large table of obviously Greek men who regularly frequent Niko’s seated next to us were slightly intimidating and we didn’t want to insult them … and also, the variety on the menu was intriguing. But maybe slightly more the first reason. At least in my case.

Ted got the salmon gyro, which he said was good. And after eating all of that plus the nine wings that came in his appetizer, he admitted he was “kind of full.” So there’s that.

It’s like a fish taco, but better. And Greeker.

Cassi and Jason each got the chicken club gyro. They both agreed that it could’ve used more chicken and less of the other filler toppings, but overall still pretty good. They would probably try something else if we were to return, though.

Chicken bacon, minus too much chicken

Times two

I got the stuffed cheeseburger gyro. Stuffed is a good word to use, not only because the filling was an entire burger patty with cheese stuffed inside of it, but also because that’s definitely how I felt after eating it. Seriously, so much food.

Oh look, more cheese

Undeterred by all the fancy options, Shane got the traditional gyro. It kind of fell apart on him as he was eating it, so it became just another in a long list of foods he has been known to eat with a knife and fork. He commented that there were way too many onions on the sandwich, and that he probably won’t be able to stop tasting them for days.

I’m a lucky girl, ladies and gentlemen. Thanks, Niko’s.

You can’t see the onions, but trust us, we all know they’re there

Remember earlier how I compared this place to Gasoline Alley? I give you the following conversation as more proof:

Jason: Where are the restrooms?
Ted (who had already scoped this situation out during our wait time): In the kitchen.

Sadly, he wasn’t joking. You have to go through a portion of the kitchen to access the men’s restroom. Always appetizing, no? And it’s just a one stall room, so that makes waiting a tad awkward. Like, hey, you need some help assembling those sandwiches while I stand here looking creepily over your shoulder? No? Weird. The women’s restrooms are at least on the other side of the room, but still across from the sand alone freezer. Here, let me toss you some frozen fries while I bide my time waiting. Just trying to be helpful.

Aside from that strangeness, Niko’s is a decent place. We never endured an initiation (that we know of … if something was slipped into that fried cheese before it arrived at our table I’m at least still alive to speak about it), but our server was always good at checking on us, and we never went long with empty glasses. Well, until Jason ordered a water, anyway, but I guess that was a bit out of character for our table by that point. Once we decided it was time to cash out and give up our table the server seemed to turn invisible (seriously, do they teach that in server training or something?) but aside from that I give any server willing to put up with us with a good sense of humor a bit of extra credit. 

The crowd is an interesting mix of older regulars – like the table of men next to us, who clearly frequent the place – and younger couples/groups – like the table on the other side of us, who I think were taking up space just to drink a beer and visit with one of their friends who was working as a server. See also: people we stared at prior to being seated, and who endured similar stares from the undying crowd in the waiting area still waiting for tables well past 9PM. I would definitely recommend arriving before you’re actually hungry, since waiting seems to be a regular occurrence.

Picked by: Shane

Shane

Steph

Cassi

Jason

Ted

Niko's Bar & Gyros Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato