WTGW 11/1/17: The Brew Kettle, Hudson

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Hey, we remember this place, only the last time we were here it was called Varsity. And that was, like, a year ago. When did that place close? I missed that memo somehow.

Needless to say The Brew Kettle – which has locations in Strongsville and Amherst that have been in operation for some time – has only been open in Hudson for a hot minute. They even still had the Grand Opening signage up, although we all know in restaurant terms the time span of a “grand opening” is similar to some stores starting to promote Christmas just after Labor Day.

We were a party of five tonight as Cassi’s fiancé Jason had a rare night off school. With the larger party, it was somewhat impressive that it only took us about 20 minutes to get seated – not bad considering: 1) this is still a new place, and 2) it’s fairly small inside. Like smaller than the time we were here when it was Varsity. I’m not certain, but it seems like they actually eliminated seating since those days. Interesting business move, no?

I mean, there’s still the same big bar in the middle of the room, but the number and placement of tables seemed all different – like they eliminated a whole room or something. And, I mean, sure, the last time we were there it didn’t seem like all of the seating was necessary – judging from the sparse crowd on our visit, anyway … and, well, from the fact that that place closed, so clearly those crowds didn’t increase. But looking around at the more than full crowd on a random Wednesday night shortly after opening … let’s just say that they might eventually want to rethink that decision.

Anyway.

At least we were able to get drinks from the bar while we waited. There are lots of craft beers here, many of them their own brews. Shane chose a chocolate milk stout that – for once – actually lived up to the delicious-sounding-ness of it’s name. I avoided beer altogether and chose a pumpkin cider. Hey, it’s officially “pumpkin everything” season, and I haven’t really taken the time to fully appreciate that yet. Step off.

Only thing to note – when you’re in the bar area, the only way to see the names of the beers on tap is to watch the TV screens above the bar. I get that this is a super efficient way of keeping up with an ever-changing menu without having to print new one every week, and I also may be a bit older and not one to pass an eye test with flying colors on a normal day … but seriously can you not print things on tiny screens in miniscule lettering, especially when we’re consuming alcohol? Just a thought.

Once we were finally seated, the server apologized profusely for our wait. Which was nice – I mean, 20 minutes wasn’t super long, but thanks for acknowledging that we weren’t able to just stride right in and sit down to dinner? OK. Guess that says something about the usual wait time there on a weeknight. Or maybe we just looked like starved wolves who haven’t had a meal in weeks, since she said more than once that “we must be hungry” and “I’ll get your food orders in quick to make up for the table wait.” Thanks??

Since we had to live up to our ravenous reputation, Shane and I went for jalepeno corn bread as an app, while Cassi and Jason opted for the pretzels. Ted ordered … nothing. Wait, what? Who is this imposter allowed to infringe on our table?

In retrospect, that was a wise decision. More on that later.

Mmm, a whole loaf of bread just for us

Beer cheese overflowing

The Brew Kettle features lots of different things on the menu that you don’t see other places. Like barbequed spaghetti. That’s a new one. Or burgers made from either bison, lamb or chorizo. Again, not your standard brewery fare.

Shane asked the server what was good on the menu and she actually listed off a numer of things she liked, instead of just the generic “everything is good.” She specifically mentioned the various BBQ items, as well as the different types of burgers.

I decided to try out one of those different burgers – the chorizo one – and chose for my side the “potato de jour,” which tonight was a creamy red potato with some sauce that I’m not sure now what exactly it was, but it sounded good when it was described to me.

This place clearly believes that foods should not touch one another

And it was. Far better than the burger, if I’m being honest. I’m not sure if it was because it was made with chorizo – which usually I love as a compliment to pasta or pizza – or because it was charred on the outside, but the whole sandwich just tasted burnt. I mean, it was spicy, like chorizo is meant to be … and the few internal pieces I dug out seemed to taste OK. But by the time it was all said and done it wasn’t worth doing surgery on my dinner just to extract a few edible morsels.

Cassi ordered the fish and chips, with sweet potato fries and an extra side of mac and cheese. She said the fries and the mac and cheese were her favorite things.

Fried goodness

How can pasta and cheese ever not be good together?

So far we’re 0-2 on our main courses. Maybe this is another of those places where we need to come and just order apps and sides, and forget sandwiches and dinners?

Jason got the chicken parm sandwich with the sweet potato fries. He didn’t say much about either of those things, but he did finish them so I guess that says something, no?

Now that’s a sandwich

Rounding out the bunch, food twins Shane and Ted opted for the Triple Pig sandwich. Which is a 12-inch sandwich full of smoked pork loin, pulled pork and bacon. And then grilled up Cuban style.

I’m honestly a bit full just thinking about all of that.

Triple pig + sides, stacked

I’m trying not to think about how many pigs were killed to make both Shane’s and Ted’s meal

Shane also got the fried green beans as a side, and then tried to order something called “Santana fries,” which he swore that Cassi had just ordered with her meal. Uh, yeah, that was “sweet potato,” but close.

Shane said his sandwich was very dry. He was looking around the table for basically any condiment he could find to put on the meat. I thought at one point he might just dip it directly into his beer or water glass. He ate almost half, then took the rest home – where undoubtedly he’ll empty the fridge of any BBQ sauce we own as he tries to finish it off.

He also said the fried green beans had too much breading. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard Shane complain that he wanted MORE vegetable and LESS fried stuff, so this is definitely new.

Ted, on the other hand, ate his whole sandwich. The entire thing. And his cole slaw side. And then admitted later that maybe this wasn’t the best choice, since he was uncomfortably full by the time we left the restaurant.

Guess he knew what he was doing when he skipped out on that whole appetizer thing, though.

Overall, The Brew Kettle is a nice little brewery, although probably more our style for just apps and drinks in the future than for a full meal. They offer flights of beers so that you can try several of the crafts – and the tables have actual papers with descriptions so that you don’t have to rely on those TV screens once you sit down away from the bar. Although it seems they could use a little bit of guidance on how to deliver the flights, since no one at our table – including the server – seemed to be able to clearly identify the small glasses of beer upon arrival. I mean, everyone still drank them, of course – but if you’re encouraging patrons to drink more of a certain kind that they like, you might want to make it easier to identify. Just a thought.

Beer flights. I can’t remember who ordered what – although neither really could anyone

Why are all of Shane’s beers that dark?

I’d be curious to visit after The Brew Kettle is open for a bit and see if it’s still as busy as it was the evening we were there. Or if they do add more seating. Or if this place falls prey to the curse of that location that has already gobbled up at least two other businesses since we’ve lived in this area. Time will tell, I guess.

Picked by: Shane

Steph

Cassi

If you give Jason a minute, he apparently changes his vote

Jason

Ted

Shane

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WTGW 9/14/16: Varsity, Hudson

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Yes folks, this week we have yet another in the list of places that epitomize “reasons why WTGW was created.” These are places we drive past about 64.8 times and somehow never get around to going into, despite saying “hey, we should go there sometime” every. single. time. we drive past.

In the case of Varsity, part of the issue was that it really doesn’t look like a sports bar from the outside. Nothing about the boring, blue, block letter sign on the nondescript concrete building screams “come inside and enjoy a nice cold drink while watching sports on 500 TVs.” In fact, for the longest time when we passed by I kind of figured it was some new sporting goods store, until I got a flyer in the mail one day announcing weekly specials. Huh. So direct mail isn’t dead.

But still, change the sign. Or the building. Or something.

Also, just because direct mail is apparently front and center on your marketing plan, let’s not completely go back to 1998 and forget one of the biggest assets to any company today … a website. Seriously people. It’s 2016. I’m shocked by the number of restaurants that won’t pony up the money for a decent webpage. You know, with a menu that people can look at in advance, and maybe your daily specials, along with your location. See also: ways to convince people to come into your establishment.

Because, assuming you know that Varsity is, in fact, a bar and grill, naturally you do a quick Google search to find out more about what they serve. And if you type “Varsity Hudson” into Google, and click on the 4th option down – because the URL looks promising – you might be pleased.

But then at some point you realize it’s actually a website for a bar & grill in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Not Hudson, Ohio. I spend damn near 15 minutes picking out a meal and dreaming about Wednesday being $3 Captain mixer day before I realized this was a tad out of our WTGW travel zone.

Rats.

And I say this only to help our friend Varsity, because the place really does have potential on the inside. First off, the space is huge. There are giant big screen TVs over the bar – as you would expect for a place called Varsity (once you actually realize it’s a bar anyway). And there’s a giant bar in the middle of the place with seating for several – again, as you would expect from a place that wants to be a hangout for sporting event viewing. And they have a patio. With a fire pit.

These are all things that scream of success in sports-driven, game-watching, we-want-to-be-outdoors-when-its-nice-out Northeastern Ohio. **sigh**

Speaking of the bar, that’s where we sat. Again. Apparently we’re back to this being our thing.

Angry Orchard was on special – we weren’t clear if it was just for that day, or all Wednesdays, or the month of September in general (*ahem* I bet a website would tell us that *ahem*) – but whatever, sign Shane and me up. Ted got the BumbleBerry from FatHead’s, and immediately made Jerrid jealous with his choice. He ditched his Stella after the next round and switched to the BumbleBerry.

See also: bromance.

So the menu  – like everything else in the space – is huge. And it has a lot of variety. It’s not your typical sports bar that only serves burgers and wings – they have pizza, ribs, sandwiches, salads, soups – you name it. And maybe I was just hungry, but everything looked really, really good.

Which could explain why Shane and I gravitated toward the “limitless chips & salsa” as our app. Because diving into anything limitless just before you eat a real meal is really just proper planning on our part, right?

If you know us, you know the correct answer to that is yes.

Limitless = we had two

Limitless = we had two

Jerrid and Amanda got the loaded tater tots. Because, again, how can you go wrong there? Tots and cheese and yummy toppings. They were definitely pleased with their decision.

Cheesy tots

Cheesy tots

While we weren’t clear if Angry Orchard was a Wednesday special, we did discover that wings definitely were, at 59 cents/wing on Wednesdays. Not bad. Although the only one in our group to take advantage of that was Ted, who got six of the dry rub Jamaican Jerk wings to go along with his Breakfast Burger – which, as the name implies, comes with bacon and a fried egg of top.

Breakfast on a bun. Brilliant

Breakfast on a bun. Brilliant

He said the burger was juicy but kind of bland. Which is surprising for something called a “breakfast burger.” Maybe they need to add some maple syrup or flavored bacon to the mix. Or go the McDonald’s route and put it in between pancakes. Because clearly that would help.

Ted didn’t say anything about the wings, which probably means there wasn’t much to say. Ouch.

They really should get smaller bowls for a 6-wing order

They really should get smaller bowls for a 6-wing order

Keeping up our twinsie routine from last week, Amanda and I both got the Buckeye Burger – which is a fancy way of saying “Mushroom and Swiss Burger” at Varsity. Big surprise we both gravitated to that one, I know.

Unfortunately our burgers didn’t fall under the “juicy” category like Ted’s burger did. I guess maybe his burger got all the juice, because both of ours were dryer than the Nevada desert in the middle of August. And barely pink inside, which we all know is not typically how, well, really any of us in this group like our burgers.

Although honestly I don’t remember the server asking how I wanted my burger done, so I guess “almost well” is just the standard here? Awesome.

I got tater tots with my burger – because, hello, they’re delicious, and not always a staple on menus like fries are, so grab them when you can. But these particular ones were a bit too salty. And I like salt. But these were overkill.

You gonna eat those tots?

You gonna eat those tots?

Jerrid got the capreze pizza and a side of fries. He said the pizza was very good. And he even took some of it home. Wait, what now? Is this allowed?

Shane also belonged to the doggie bag club this evening, as he only ate about half of his full rack of ribs. Must’ve been that limitless chips and salsa that set him back. He said the ribs were OK, but he wasn’t a huge fan of the sauce. Which, I mean, is kind of an important component to ribs, no? Without sauce it’s really just the same cooked meat with no taste that you could make at home by yourself. Fantastic.

Can you wipe the sauce off, please?

Can you wipe the sauce off, please?

The service was great. I mean, we did sit at the bar, so that helped … but even so our bartender/server was very attentive and made sure our drinks were never empty and plates were taken away quickly. Although we did notice she was a bit soft spoken for a loud, cavernous place like this, so they may want to consider holding future interviews inside the restaurant with the music on just to test the voice decibel levels of servers down the road. But aside from having to concentrate to hear her, she was great. She even let us move outside to the patio fire pit (see, told you we enjoy these things) later in the evening without worrying we would take off without paying, or holding us up to cash out bills, etc. I mean, there were also only about 10 other people in the whole place, so I’m assuming she figured she could chase us down if need be, but still.

It's officially fall

It’s officially fall

So I guess overall Varsity has a ton of potential … but they need work on perfecting their brand, as well as several of the food options. Like I mentioned, there’s a giant menu – and when we first looked through it we were all pointing out about 150 things that looked good … but afterwards none of us were so overly thrilled with what we’d tried that we felt compelled to schedule another visit in the immediate future to try anything we didn’t have a chance to. Perhaps they should take the menu down a few pages and work on just perfecting those items, rather than having a selection the size of a Cheesecake Factory menu. Just a thought.

Jerrid

Jerrid

Amanda and sad Jerrid

Amanda and sad Jerrid

Ted

Ted

Moments after this his head exploded in flames. OK, not really, but he did say he could smell burning arm hairs.

Moments after this his head exploded in flames. OK, not really, but he did say he could smell burning arm hairs.

Ted apparently doesn't have time for auto focus. He may be fired as my official photographer.

Ted apparently doesn’t have time for auto focus. He may be fired as my official photographer.

Picked by: Jerrid
Next pick: Amanda

WTGW 5/27/15: Otani, Hudson

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So I was kind of limited for my pick this week, since Shane was working late in Hudson and I – being the nice wife that I am – wanted to stay close by so he could still join us out sometime before 9PM. My initial thought was to once again try Flip Side, but then again I didn’t want to break Ted’s illustrious streak of never eating there. I mean, really. At this point it’s too impressive.

I had heard about Otani a few times in recent months, as they seemed to be pushing their new “pub” side – which, lets be clear, is really just the space adjacent to the original Otani in the strip plaza that they apparently bought out. This side is very small, but definitely much more our style than the restaurant side. I mean, there are hibachi tables on the other side, and it’s brighter. And further from the bar, which we’ve established many times is never a good idea for this group.

Being the trendsetters that we are, we were the first ones to grab a table on the pub side of the place this night, although it did start to fill up pretty nicely afterwards. Like I said, trendsetters. Or all the good tables were taken on the other side. Whatevs.

Amanda and I went with Smith & Forge Hard ciders. Ted started with a Guinness mix (black and gold – so Guinness mixed with Great Lakes Dortmunder), and then moved onto something I can’t pronounce let alone remember how to spell … and then I think eventually a Jack and coke to finish out the night. Because that all seems logical.

It's like a mirror image

It’s like a mirror image

One thing to note, if you sit on the pub side, the bartender also doubles as the server and food distributor for that side of the place. So naturally that meant that as it got busier, our service slacked considerably. Don’t get me wrong, he was very nice and definitely personable … when we saw him over the sea of other patrons, that is. And by sea I really mean like three other tables and 10 or so seats at the bar. But still.

Since we had no idea what time Shane would make an appearance, the three of us went ahead with ordering without him. Because, well, we’re hungry. And we all know how well that works out for us. I started with the crab rangoon as an app.  Which really just Amanda and I ate, because of Ted’s aversion to all things made of or containing the word cheese. Oops. It was good, but the filling wasn’t as sweet as the usual takeout orders, so it wasn’t outstanding. We actually left some for Shane, which considering how hungry we were really should tell you something.

Fried goodness, Japanese style

Fried goodness, Japanese style

I bet this will come as a shock to you, but we all ended up ordering sushi for our main meals. What, what? I know, please contain your surprise. I mean, I’m sure after our visit to Twiisted and the, like, 200 pieces of sushi that graced our table of four people, I’m sure you had no idea that we actually liked that stuff.

I’ll give you a minute to pick yourself up from the floor and continue reading.

Ready? OK.

I got the Hudson roll, which our waiter/bartender said was one of the favorites at Otani, and an order of the spicy tuna. I have to say, the Hudson roll was excellent. So I guess there’s validity to that whole favorite thing. Ted tried a piece of it and agreed, it was very tasty. Because apparently when Shane isn’t there yet I’m the next best person for him to share food with. Makes sense.

Is that sushi, or meatloaf?

Is that sushi, or meatloaf?

Amanda got the Morgan roll, which had been deemed another of the faves, and of course a Philadelphia roll. She liked them both, but the Morgan roll was eight large pieces – which she wasn’t expecting – so it was a lot of food. And she couldn’t even offer it to the boys since Ted over-ordered and was stuffed, and Shane is allergic to shrimp. Backfire!

You can always spot the Philly rolls

You can always spot the Philly rolls

Ted, whose eyes were once again bigger than his stomach when it comes to sushi, ordered the Volcano, Typhoon and uni maki, which I guess is eel – BTW, anyone else think of the “unagi” Friends episode every time they order sushi?

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tumblr_ljrnx511Zi1qhzaruo1_400

Maybe it’s just me.

Anyway.

Back to Ted, he said the Volcano had a kind of sauce that was almost mayo based, and he didn’t like it as well as the others. I had ordered a Volcano roll at Twiisted and wasn’t crazy about it, although it didn’t really look like Ted’s Volcano roll from this place. So clearly we just put whatever names we want on things then? That’s cool. He said the Typhoon was the best one, although it had a shrimp-y flavor that he wasn’t really expecting. I tried that one and it was OK – but definitely not as good as the Hudson. I’m sticking to my favorite.

At least the presentation is nice

At least the presentation is nice

Since our sushi seemed to take forever to come out – I mean, really, how long should that take, it’s freshly rolled food? – we put Shane’s order in for him when he let us know that he was leaving work down the road. Of course he got the Philly rolls (again, the king of variation) – four orders, which, if we’re trying for continuity and going by Twiisted’s terminology is also called a “buttload.” He said they were OK, comparable to pretty much any place else. Although, I mean, he did eat all of them … but don’t let that be the judge of quality because he was also really, really hungry, too. So there’s that.

Shane, the master of variation

Hey Shane, what kind of sushi is that again?

So Wednesdays are karaoke nights in the pub at Otani … which if you’ve been following us you know that it seems no matter where we go, “karaoke” is really just code for “interesting entertainment.” And this was no exception. It was a highly interesting crowd. From the young couple who was alternately fighting and making out, to two girls who ruined certain country songs for us forever, to a guy who sang nothing but obscure Sinatra. Because that’s always a crowd pleaser.

Me: Um, so, what year is it?
Ted: Judging by this song, it’s 1966.
Me: Sweet, I’m not even born yet.

But perhaps the icing on the cake was the family letting their teenagers get drunk with them to celebrate one’s high school graduation. Tip: Maybe don’t announce that that’s the cause for celebration as the kid has a glass of Guinness in his hand. And also after you made it loudly obvious to the entire bar that he may have just been vomiting in the bathroom a few moments prior. But whateves. It was seriously the weirdest Partridge-meets-Duggar family we’ve ever encountered. The mom kept dancing around as a stranger was singing karaoke, doing something that could only be described as “The Elaine” from Seinfeld.e67e74a33743448bf9b4715b02e7c543

And the inebriated son was joining her, doing a dance which I had last seen my drunk uncle perform at a family wedding back in about 1998. Um, OK. I bet that will be a hit with all the college ladies. Good luck to you, kid.

Eventually I think their entertainment factor morphed into genuine embarrassment for them as the evening wore on – I know I, for one, completely lost the ability to keep the look of complete “OMG” horror off my face right in front of them, especially when the drunken mother was practically molesting the younger, non-drunk son – and we just had to get out of there. We didn’t even take the time to do our thumbs up/down pics, that’s how much we just wanted to get away from this circus.  just proof, my friends, that sometimes there is not enough alcohol in all of the bar to help make certain shenanigans acceptable.

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Steph

Drinks:  Full bar on the pub side, and some craft beers on tap as well as some Japanese alcohols. No Summer Shandy, though, so boo. 
Food:
 Typical Japanese fare – sushi, hibachi, fried rice dishes, etc. Well at least I think that’s what they have. We honestly didn’t get past sushi at our table, but you’ll have that I guess.
Service: Started out OK when we were the only ones in the place, but then dropped off as, well, anyone else showed up. 
Overall: Eh. The drive to Twiisted is only maybe 10 minutes more in the opposite direction, I think we’re more likely to return there.

Next Pick:  Amanda

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WTGW 4/1/15: Blue Rock Cafe, Hudson

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Full disclosure here, we were all a little bit worried about this week’s pick, being that 1) it fell on April Fool’s Day, 2) it was the one year anniversary of our ill-fated trip to the place that serves tarter sauce on toast and 3) it was once again Ted’s pick.

So you see how this had the possibility to end badly.

Luckily, our trip to the Blue Rock Cafe was about 1,386 times better than our last beginning of April adventure. Whew.

I had actually had this place my ever-evolving list of possibilities a while back, but then when I went to check them out again online prior to my week at bat I realized they had closed down for a few months for renovations. Thank you, internet. And then honestly I just kind of forgot about finding out when they would open again.

But then Ted was out with a friend picking something up at a shop in the same plaza, and lo-and-behold his nose led him straight to Blue Rock. Literally. Like he walked in and asked what it was that smelled so good.

And so here we are.

I’ll admit, my first impression upon walking in what that the place was just a touch on the edge of scary. Especially being that it was almost 7PM, and there was only one table of people eating, a few stragglers at the bar, and a guy singing cover tunes with a guitar and a mike on the bare stage. You know, all things that scream “this place is awesome.”

About this point in time I vaguely remembered that my previous search of this place online had revealed a website that catered (you see what I did there?) more toward the bands and other featured entertainment of the space than the actual menu. Hmm.

But not to fear, Ted’s nose was correct – the Blue Rock Cafe serves up some good food. We definitely left happy. And full. There’s little to complain about there for sure.

Our waiter for the evening was also the owner of the establishment, and was definitely very personable. Imagine that chatty coworker you know you all have who loves to tell you the story behind every poster on her wall, or sweater she wears, or lunch that she brings in … that’s this guy. Only not annoying. Maybe that’s because he’s also allowing you to consume alcohol while he talks, but whatevs.

Guess who had the mixed drink?

Guess who had the mixed drink?

So needless to say, the owner/waiter essentially picked out our meals for us that evening. Actually, in all honesty the four of us were pretty much set on ordering the exact same meal – one of this month’s specialty burgers – after this guy talked it up so much … but then Shane insisted that we should really try something else on the menu so we could get an overall feel for the place. OK, valid point. So Amanda and I obliged … and then Shane and Ted proceeded to order the same burger we were all salivating over. So basically he meant that just the girls needed to order something else. Thanks, honey.

In any case, that burger was the BB King burger. Which is infused with bacon. Yeah, you read that right. And I bet your reaction is about the same as ours was when we first heard it, which is that it sounds freaking delicious. It also doesn’t come with cheese (because why ruin the carnivorous theme you’ve already got going on there), so it’s really no wonder that Ted gravitated to it. And technically that alone should’ve made him the rightful owner of it under the “individuality clause” Shane tried to invoke, but whatever.

No cheese. On purpose

No cheese. On purpose

Anyway, needless to say, the boys were not disappointed. The burger was cooked perfectly for Shane, without him even having to order it that way. In fact, the owner explained to us that all of the burgers are actually seared on the griddle, so the outside is crispy while the inside is a bit more rare. Shane and Ted both agreed that this gave it lots of different flavors.

This = happy Shane

This = happy Shane

After being banished from the bacon burger ordering crew, Amanda instead turned to the other specialty burger this month, the Reuben burger. And while it was about 6,000 times messier than the burger the boys ordered, it was still just as good. It was basically a burger and a Reuben smashed onto one bun – so you can see how the messiness figures in. But she raved about the coleslaw, which the owner told us was homemade daily.

It's like two sandwiches in one

It’s like two sandwiches in one

I went with the Philly steak. I must have looked a bit indecisive – and like I was trying to be somewhat healthy – when I was ordering, because the owner tried to sell me on two different chicken options (a new tomato basil wrap he’s putting on the new menus that debut next week and then a grilled chicken sandwich with chipotle mayo). But after last week’s slab of potentially undercooked and definitely flavorless chicken I was still a little wary of that particular meat. Fortunately the Philly steak was a good choice. It’s made with chopped up ribeye steak, not glorified steak-ums, so it’s very flavorful and tender.

Seriously, those fries

Seriously, those fries

We all ended up with fries as our sides, following a story about some 90-year old who never takes food home from restaurants with her, but specifically asked for a to-go box just for the fries. I mean, really, how can you not try them after that sales pitch? Shane didn’t even need ketchup, they were so good. His comment was that they were “like an anorexic chip” – while Ted said it was “like a chip and a fry had a baby.”

You can probably see now why neither of them are in product marketing.

Because we clearly hadn’t had enough food yet, and because Ted had been voyeuristically salivating over it as it was being made in the kitchen behind us, the boys also decided to try the carrot cake that had been brought out on a platter and placed under a glass case on the bar a la the rose in Beauty and the Beast. And as you probably already guessed, there was a story behind this item as well: the owner said that the cook (his wife) makes it fresh daily, and people call ahead on the weekends to reserve slices of the cake because it goes so fast. Apparently there’s a secret limit on carrot cake production per venue in Hudson? Why not just make more cake? Right. In any case, they were glad they tried it and agreed that it was delicious. Maybe not call ahead reservation delicious, but still.

If it has carrots in it, it has to be healthy, right?

If it has carrots in it, it has to be healthy, right?

Dessert and alcohol, how can you go wrong?

Dessert and alcohol, how can you go wrong?

All in all, the Blue Rock is a winner in our books. While the decor and layout of the space is definitely geared toward concerts or open mic nights (which we had the joy of experiencing on our visit … we likened it to karaoke with instruments. And learned quickly that some are definitely better to endure than others) – and that seems to be what they’re getting known for in the area, as it definitely got busier as the night went on and we officially entered open mic hours – don’t let that deter you from trying out something on the menu. Because they definitely take pride in their creations. And you can tell the owner is extremely proud (and rightly so) of the space and the business he’s built there. I should actually say he and his family, as not only is the owner the bartender/waiter, but his wife cooks, and they both come up with recipes. And what we assumed to be their teen-aged daughters were camped out on couches at the back of the room watching TV and playing on their phones. Because I’m sure that’s a fun way to spend most evenings.

To that end, note that the Blue Rock is closed on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays – which I’m pretty sure is just a tactful way of saying that they need to actually enjoy their own home at least a few nights a week. Smart move.

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

Amanda

Amanda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Ted
Drinks:   Decent variety on draft and bottles. 
Food:
Menu is small but mighty. We’ll be interested to see how much it changes with the new items that the owner referenced. You can tell he definitely takes pride in his work and the items he comes up with.
Service: Good, although it definitely got a bit slower as we finished our meals and the place got busier. I’m hoping they have reinforcements for the busier times on weekends.
Overall: Definitely worth a return visit. If nothing else for the fries alone.

Next Pick: Shane

Blue Rock Cafe on Urbanspoon

WTGW 7/9/14: One Red Door, Hudson

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Hey, did you miss us? Yes, it’s been a month since the last WTGW adventure. We’ve been busy, yo. And by busy, I really mean we’ve been on trips to Vegas, Chicago and a Jimmy Buffett concert … but whatevs. Don’t hate. Hello, summer!

Anyway.

So we’re back – and back in style, apparently, as this week’s adventure takes us to One Red Door in Hudson.

Honestly, full disclosure here, ORD was a second choice for us, after yet another failed attempt to visit it’s neighboring restaurant, FlipSide. Because Ted really, really wants to go there – you might remember we tried this before, a few months back, and ended up at the pizza place across the street – and is bound and determined that one of these days we will find the magical less-than-one-hour wait time at that establishment.

However, sadly this was not that day. Boooo.

So here we are.

One Red Door is a bit more upscale than we usually do for WTGW. And it’s definitely a far cry from our last adventure at Legends. I mean, not only were there no drink specials, but the place was suspiciously free of mullets and tie dyed clothing as well. What the hell happened in our month away? Ridiculous.

Also the prices were a bit more than we usually look for on a WTGW place – $17 or $19 for a burger? Granted it’s gourmet, but still. I mean, we couldn’t help but notice that they share part of the service area with the coveted FlipSide staff next door – and those burgers are considerably cheaper. Can’t they just pass some of the supplies over? I mean, really.

Speaking of prices, the beer list was a bit of a shocker as well. We’re talking Summer Shandy in a bottle for $5. What, are we back in Vegas? But of course you know we ordered it anyway. Because, well, we’re suckers I guess.

Shane got a hard cider that was served in a can, and was very dry. He only had one, but I think it was $8 so I guess that’s really a blessing in disguise. Ted had the Kentucky Bourbon Ale, which he tried to get all of us to taste and we promptly refused. I’m not sure how much that was, but with something as fancy as “Bourbon” in the title – plus the fact that they actually had to pour it and not just open the can/bottle – I’m going to to out on a limb and guess we’re talking double digits.

Probably because we messed up our usual 3:1 ratio with drinks, we (unintentionally, I swear) ended up keeping that tradition with our food orders instead. Ted had the salmon, while the rest of the table ordered the pizza. I decided to take the Wild Mushroom Pizza and add Italian Sausage to it – and the idea caught on like wildfire, as the rest of the table followed suit. And I have to admit it was pretty tasty. The waitress even complimented my idea to add the sausage – which I was kind of surprised she hadn’t had anyone do before – or maybe she had and was just trying to bump up her tip with the compliment – but whatever. I ate about half my pizza (3 slices), then donated the rest to Shane, who you know was not full after an entire 6-slice pie.

It's like looking into a mirror

It’s like looking into a mirror

Someone was too hungry to wait for pictures

Someone was too hungry to wait for pictures

Ted devoured his salmon in half the time it took me to eat half my pizza, but that was probably partially because this was one of those places that cares more about arrangement of the food on the plate and less about actual quantity of said food. Ted’s comment on his meal was something to the effect of  “there’s a lot of things together on this plate that I wouldn’t normally think would go together, but it seems to work.” So, score.

Overall, One Red Door has a nice atmosphere and our food was definitely tasty – although I think we all agreed it was a bit pricey and more for a nice evening out than a WTGW pick. The service was good, we didn’t feel like the loudest people in the place – which is good, considering the wide array of topics we tend to cover during our dinner discussions. We were seated on the restaurant side – back near the kitchen, so I guess we already had that look of “problem table” about us maybe? – so not sure if the atmosphere would’ve been a bit different on the bar side or not.

Being a “fancier” WTGW pick, we didn’t think we’d get anything to take our weekly funny picture of … until Ted noticed the frame o’ skeleton keys on the wall on the way out. Nice call. I’d have given him more props if he’d actually taken one of the keys with him after we took the picture – but I’m guessing he might actually want to return to that establishment again at some point, and the disapproving look the hostess gave us from across the way while we were taking the picture was probably warning enough that we were already taking things a step too far. Oh well.

Ted chooses the keys to Door #4

Ted chooses the keys to Door #4

So, since it was all of 8:15 when we left, we decided to head around the block for a repeat visit to Kepner’s Tavern for drinks. This is another place we last visited on the first failed FlipSide trip – and, as Ted joked on the drive over, it was difficult to find this time around without the caravan with the open side door parked out front like last time. Guess in the summer they button things back down a little. Anyway, our visit to Kepner’s was much better this time around than the last – maybe due to the younger crowd (probably attributed to summer vacation and kids being back in town from all the expensive colleges far away), and maybe due to the more pleasant bartender that actually spoke to us instead of watching TV the whole time. It’s the little things that impress us, apparently.

We each had a couple beers and the guys tried the wings (because, surprise, a few beers and a few hours later, they were hungry again). If we can take away one thing from the evening, it’s that the biggest difference between a regular Cajun seasoning and a Louisiana Cajun seasoning is … well … a whole hell of a lot of spice. I hope the bartender wrote down that note, because when the guys asked her she wasn’t sure. And I think they regretted ordering the “Louisiana” the moment the first wing touched their lips. I mean, Shane only had three out of the order of 12, if that tells you anything (I know, right?!?) Let that be our public service announcement. You’re welcome.

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Ted. And he’s been told Flipside is officially off the list.
Drinks: Extensive wine list, decent beer list. Not impressed by the prices. 
Food: 
The pizza was very tasty, and one of the most economical things on the menu at $12.50. I think we got both of our pizzas for the price of Ted’s salmon, but his meal was devoured in half the time.
Service: Good. Nothing special, but our drinks were kept full and the meals arrived promptly, so there’s that.
Overall: OK. Again, probably better for a special occasion or night out than a WTGW visit, but I would definitely go back if nothing else for the pizza.

Next Pick: Shane

One Red Door on Urbanspoon

WTGT 3/6/14: 3 Palms Pizzeria, Hudson

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This post was originally titled “WTGW 3/5/14: FlipSide Burgers, Hudson.” But then I realized I was going to have to work late on Wednesday this week, so we had to switch nights (strike one) … OK, we can roll with that … Until we get to the restaurant, and there’s a 45-60 minute wait for a table. Apparently Thursday is the new Saturday night in Hudson. Or, actually in all honesty, based on the size of the place, I’m going to guess probably the only time you can get a table there without some sort of a wait is on a random Tuesday at 2:30PM, but whateves. So, yeah, there’s strike two for our evening. Rats.

Lucky for us, however,  there were a couple of other dining options in Hudson’s “First and Main” shopping area that meant we didn’t even have to move the car, so we chose the 3 Palms Pizzeria for our WTGWT outing last night.

So the first thing I noticed as we sat down was that there were lots of table with children in the place. As in, I think we were in the minority because we didn’t have a small person under the age of 10 seated with us. But that being said, it wasn’t overly loud or obnoxious, and unless you really looked around, you probably wouldn’t even notice. Apparently this is Hudson’s version of a “family restaurant.” And something tells me some of those kids could pronounce the Italian names on the menu better than we could.

Given the amount of children, the first question we had was whether or not the placed served alcohol … or, rather, I think it came out more of a warning than a question (“They BETTER have alcohol here!”). Perhaps this could explain why all of us in the WTGW group are childless.

Anyway, the answer is yes, they do have alcohol – full bar, although a limited list on the printed menu and also a limited beer selection. Ted had an Italian beer whose name I wasn’t even going to try and remember. Shane and Amanda tried the Limoncello Iced Tea  – which I had been eyeing up as well, but decided to not go with our usual “3/4 of the table orders one thing except Ted who always gets something different” and had an Espresso martini. Everything was good … but take note, there are no prices on the drink menu, and at the end of the night Shane and I discovered that two rounds each pretty much equaled our entire tab from last week at Johnny Malloy’s. So use caution.

That's $17 staring you in the face

That’s $17 staring you in the face

Shane ordered the bread plate as an appetizer, which I wasn’t going to argue with because I can’t get enough of carbs lately. It’s like the opposite of the South Beach Diet. I didn’t care for the bread with peppercorn, but the regular Italian bread was good. Ted tried the fire roasted hot peppers as an appetizer, and said they definitely weren’t lying about the “hot.” One of the peppers apparently had all the seeds in it for the entire dish. So that’s a fun surprise.

The main dish of choice at 3 Palms Pizzeria is, well, pizza (surprise!) – so if you aren’t looking for that in some fashion then this probably isn’t the place for you. All of the pizzas on the menu have fancy Italian names, and are made the traditional Italian way with fresh mozzerella, not the American way with a crap ton of shredded cheese and meat toppings. They do have a couple of sandwiches and some salads on the menu also, but not a huge selection. It might’ve been nice to see one or two pasta dishes, but unless I overlooked those somehow I didn’t notice any.

So pizza it was for the table. I had the Puttanesca, minus anchovies but with Italian sausage. I’m glad I added the sausage because that seemed to be the only flavorful part. Ted had the Rapini, which probably rates as the first time I’ve ever seen broccoli on a pizza. He also said it didn’t have much flavor. Amanda had the Polpettina, and said even the meatballs had no flavor. Are you seeing a theme here? Maybe us Americans with our shredded cheese and 15 kinds of meat are actually on to something. Just saying.

So I'll have pizza, with a side of pizza please.

So I’ll have pizza, with a side of pizza please.

The one dissenter of the group, Shane, apparently got all the flavor on his pizza, the Diavola. I tried a slice of his, and let me tell you, when they say spicy salami they aren’t kidding.

That’s what she said. Ba-dum-bum.

(OK, come on, even I laughed after I innocently typed that and re-read it. There’s more of a joke in there somewhere, but I don’t what to completely offend everyone.)

One of these has flavor, and one does not. Choose wisely.

One of these has flavor, and one does not. Choose wisely.

So overall, the atmosphere of the place was good – which is something I think we lacked last week, so we definitely made up for it this time around. It was full but not crowded, and we didn’t have to wait for a table so that was a big score for us. And as I mentioned, despite all the kids it was still relatively quiet and intimate feeling. We all commented that we liked the lighting and the way the seating was arranged – it gave a very homey, cozy feeling. And you gotta love the abundance of BMWs, Audis and even the occasional Porsche seen navigating the streets outside the windows. Fancy. 

But even so, the food just couldn’t quite bring the place into one of our top slots – I mean, when Shane doesn’t initially put the pizza into his coveted “Top 5 list” (I told you we have one of those for everything) it’s most likely not going to make the cut into the revisit basket.  Especially after dropping $80 for me and Shane on two pizzas, two rounds of drinks and an appetizer. I mean, fancy or not, it’s still pizza. 

Since the night was young when we left, we decided to make the night a double and grab a drink somewhere. We tried to head back to the coveted FlipSide (I mean, for real, they have alcoholic milkshakes. How can that NOT be a good way to end the night?) – but they still had people packed into the waiting area like sardines and no open seats at the bar, so no thank you once again. Rats.

After a drive around the block we decided to circle back to Kepner’s Tavern, right on the main square in downtown Hudson. And although not as swanky as the area around the corner by 3 Palms, apparently this is still not on the “other side of the tracks” just yet, as we passed on our way into the bar a minivan parked on the street with its side door completely wide open for the world. Huh. So I guess it’s so safe here that not only do you not have to lock your doors, you don’t even have to close them! Sweet! (Side note: about 20 minutes into our visit, someone eventually popped their head into the bar and asked if anyone owned said open bed for the homeless, and another guy at the bar who looked like he had arrived long before us scrambled to run out and close it. Which made us feel like horrible human beings for totally laughing about it and then not mentioning anything as we walked in. Oops.)

We only stayed for one drink at Kepner’s, because it seemed that once again we’d found our way back to the land of the not-nice-to-strangers. The bartender wasn’t rude, but he wasn’t especially friendly either. When we asked what he had on draft, he pointed to a not-very-noticeable sign up above his head, rather than just read off the 10 or so names. Thanks dude. And quite obviously everyone in the place was interrupting his nightly watching of Impractical Jokers, since that’s what he spent the majority of his time focused on, and seemed annoyed every time he had to turn down the volume. The place is also way tiny. Like almost claustrophobically tiny. And our group pretty much doubled the crowd when we walked in, so it’s not like it was a busy night and I would hate to be in there when it’s packed. And I guess they serve food, but I wouldn’t dare ask Mr. TV Watcher about specials or kitchen hours. Another probably not a return. Booo.

CAPSULE

Picked by: Well, kind of all four of us, after our first choice was a no-go … but initially Ted
Drinks: If you’re looking for a non-craft, American beer you’ll probably be disappointed. Good wine selection, and the specialty drinks we tried were good. Just be prepared that the “they don’t list the prices because you probably don’t want to know” rule applies here.
Food:
I understand they’re going for the authentic Italian style, but I think we were all a bit underwhelmed.
Service: Attentive and knowledgeable.
Overall: Eh. I hope we weren’t just influenced because we all originally had our hearts set on burgers and alcoholic milkshakes, but I don’t think any of us will be voting this one onto the must-revisit list.

Next Pick: Shane. And we’ll be doing another Thursday outing again next week, as I’m spending another evening working late on Wednesday. Clearly my employer hasn’t read this blog. Ha.

3 Palms Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

WTGW: Special Saturday Sports Edition

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OK, so I’m breaking protocol here, but I kind of feel like every time the four of us visit a new place together we have to review it now. Because, well, why not.

So this story actually starts out with a little lesson in customer service … in the form of how NOT to treat potential new patrons to your establishment. This past Saturday was the annual Ohio State/Michigan football game, which anyone from Ohio knows is almost bigger than a Bowl game for our fans. Plus we’re Browns fans, so usually by this point in the season this is about the only thing we have to look forward to in terms of football. But don’t get me started on that.

So anyway, off we go to Firehouse Pub in downtown Cuyahoga Falls … and back we went to the car about 10 minutes later. Because nothing says “welcoming environment” like having he bartender rudely yell “WAIT OUTSIDE, WE DON’T OPEN TIL NOON” at you as you walk in the front door. Funny, the website said you open at 11. It’s 11:40, and the big game starts in 20 minutes. And your front door was unlocked. But silly us, we’ll definitely stand out in the 25 degree cold for the next 20 minutes waiting for you to finish setting the place up. Was there a wild kegger bash in there the night before that you’re still cleaning up from? Were you getting brand spanking new tables and chairs delivered and they still needed assembled? Because last I checked, “setting up” a restaurant for customers in a sports bar really just involved making sure they were clean and maybe had some silverware. God forbid we can’t witness that.

(Sidenote, rest assured once we got settled in our actual spot for the game I wasted no time in tracking down their Facebook page, where I discovered a post about “make sure you come out and see us for the big game” and commented on how we tried to do so and were turned away. I give them credit for actually replying to said post and having a nice exchange with me about the time they open and apologizing for the bartender’s behavior. It doesn’t make me want to run back any time soon, but I at least appreciate the gesture.)

So with that bad taste in our mouths we set off on a search for another place that would let us spend our money eating their food and drinking their beer. I know, you wouldn’t think this would be super difficult, right? Unfortunately the biggest hurdle we faced was that other people had been smarter than us and planned further ahead (hey, we tried!) and with time running out before kickoff most places were already standing room only. We thought we’d be either forced to eat wings standing up near the door to one of these establishments, or actually try the food at someplace a bit on the shady side like the Melody Inn.

Until Shane remembered Sidelines. **and the sky parts**

Located on State Rd just south of the Rt 8/Rt 303 interchange, Sidelines is a little spot that has been no less than three other names in the past 18 or so months that we’ve lived in the area. It was a sports bar, then I think another sports bar, then most recently a Mexican restaurant. And each time we would exclaim, “Oh, that place on State Rd is open again now as (insert name here). We should go check that out!” And by the time we got around to remembering that, it would close again. I’m not sure what the curse is that’s on the building, but I hope for Sidelines sake it’s been lifted.

Because this place is actually pretty cool.

First of all, it’s bigger than it looks from the outside. Although it I owned the place I would open up the big room in the back with some sort of roll-up windows or something so that when patio season hits it makes it a better spot for those of us trying to enjoy the few months a year we can actually be outside without coats – but that’s just me. There is a tiny patio on the front of the building, but – much like our favorite Muskateer’s – it faces a rather shady looking rent-by-the-week motel. Now that I type that, I’m beginning to get a complex that all the places we like the most seem to be located fairly close to this type of establishment. Hmmm.

Other than the view from the patio, one of the first things we noticed about this place was that they served extremely cold beer. Like ice crystals forming on the top of the glass cold.  Certainly there are worse ways to get our attention. The waitress was very cheerful and helpful, and put up with us being indecisive about our seating arrangements so that we all had a view of the game. Even though the place did start to fill up a bit as the day wore on, she was still attentive and easy to catch for refills of ice beer. We did sample our usual round of fried appetizers, burgers and wings – and while the food was nothing particularly out of this world, it wasn’t bad by any means – especially considering the place is still getting it’s feet wet in terms of serving customers. We were a little confused in that the menus we were given didn’t seem to have a lot of options, but claimed they were still under a “soft opening” and would be expanding the menu soon … but when we asked our waitress she said they had in fact had the grand opening already and the menu would remain as printed. OK. All that being said, I do think it would be worth a trip back just to see if they did expand the menu later and to check on how things are going after a few months of being open. And hopefully the sign still has the same name on it at that point.

"I don't always pose with cardboard cutouts, but when I do ..."

“I don’t always pose with cardboard cutouts, but when I do …”

So all in all I think we ended up salvaging a pretty good day, despite our rocky start. It’s strange to be kicked out of a bar at the beginning of the day and not the end. Some time after the game ended we left Sidelines and actually somehow ended up enjoying a few rounds back at one of our WTGW picks from the summer – River City Bar & Grille over in Stow. While not quite as memorable of an experience as the last time we were there, it was still a good place for a few drinks and some good conversations. And then, in true alcoholic fashion, we ended the night by picking up munchie food to take home – although instead of our usual run to Sheetz, we ended up at a specialty popcorn shop. What? Does this mean we’re real adults now? Ha.

But in all seriousness, Metropolis Popcorn, located in downtown Cuyahoga Falls, is truly one of the hidden gems of the area . I had never even heard of it – other than driving by the downtown area and seeing the name on the side of the building – until about a week ago when Shane and I decided to meander through the downtown district on a rare day off. We popped in (see what I did there?) and after a few samples we were hooked. And started telling everyone we knew about the place. The flavors are incredible, and they’ve come up with ones that I wouldn’t think would taste good but are actually truly amazing. Hello, Dill Pickle? And the Thin Mint made us all go “oh wow” – and not just thanks to the alcohol we already had in our system. Seriously, good stuff.