WTGW 2/17/16: Joey’s Kendal Tavern, Massillon

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There are times in your life that you drive 40 minutes for a good burger. This, my friends, would be one of them.

So, I should point out that in reading reviews before picking Joey’s Kendal Tavern this week, I noticed two themes: it’s a great little hometown bar, and they have fantastic burgers.

Check and check.

It’s like someone gift wrapped a WTGW pick for our group. Well, except for the whole my-commute-to-work-downtown-is-actually-shorter-than-the-drive-here thing … but whatever. Have hunger, will travel. That’s kind of one of our unspoken mottos.

So tonight we were a few men down, thanks to a freak garbage disposal accident that put Amanda and Jerrid in kitchen cleanup mode for the evening. Boo. But rest assured the remaining three of us still managed to eat like we were a party of five tonight, so there’s that.

When you walk into Kendal’s you have to make a quick decision about which side of the restaurant you want to sit on. There’s one side with a bar and TVs, and another side with a bunch of tables and no TVs – with a giant wall right smack in between the areas. Hmm. Bet you can’t guess which side we picked, right? It’s like letting a kid chose between sitting in the living room and watching cartoons while eating dinner, or climbing up to the formal adult dining table and listening to the folks talk about work and stock prospects.

In fact, I think that – if I were to go all “Bar Rescue” on this place for just a moment – they would actually be better served to just take that giant wall out and open up the entire space into just one big room, so that way the dining area wasn’t so lonely and quiet. But then again that dividing wall probably holds up the entire upstairs … so maybe they’re being smart there after all.

Anyway.

Kendal’s claims to be Massillon’s oldest bar. Which, when you look around the place, you can totally buy that statement. The paint and wallpaper are a bit outdated, there’s definitely nothing fancy about the place, and it very much has the “old bar” stale smell. Not that any of those are necessarily a bad thing – just observations.

Also, there’s no draft beer. Interesting. I’m not sure I’ve ever been to a bar that didn’t have at least two or three staples on tap. I didn’t venture over to the cooler to check out the bottle selection, and instead just went with a basic Miller Lite – which fortunately they did have. Shane went his usual liquor route, rum & diet. Also available.

Meanwhile, Ted asked for the darkest beer they had in bottles. And was served a beer that literally said “dark” on the label.

Well, we have "dark" ... it's, um, dark ...

Well, we have “dark” … it’s, um, dark …

At least the marketing doesn’t lie on this one. After all the descriptions like “made with fresh cinnamon and vanilla with hints of peanut butter and coffee” that we’ve read on beer menus over the years (which, by the way, are complete lies – a beer like that one mentioned above sounds delicious, but really would come out tasting like lima beans and cigarette smoke. You know I’m right. And you’re all thinking of the one beer that duped you in the past. Don’t lie.) – it was a bit refreshing to just have one call it like it is.

Ted’s beer order also got the owners attention, and  – in true Ted fashion – made us a new friend for the evening. The owner – whose name is Joey, I presume – sat at the end of the bar the entire time we were there … but not in a creepy, “I’m-going-to-hover-over-my-employees-and-customers-until-they-think-I-might-be-a-stalker-that-follows-them-home” kind of way. It was more of a take-pride-in-your-establishment-and-truly-care-how-everyone’s-experience-is kind of thing. Every now and then throughout the course of the evening he would overhear part of a conversation and make a comment, or bellow over to ask us how our food was.

And he definitely knew his regulars, of which there were a few who wandered in over the course of the evening. My personal favorite was the guy who walked in, chatted with the owner for a second and barely had his coat off before the bartender opened a can of beer and set in on the bar in front of him.

Shane: Now that’s a regular.
Bartender: Yeah, I just hope as I open that beer he hasn’t changed his mind about his favorite beverage.
Me: Isn’t that the unspoken rule of being a regular, you aren’t allowed to switch without permission?

The bartender got our attention right away with the words “the cheese sticks are handmade.” Yes, we’re easy like that. So naturally Shane and I ordered them as an app – and we were not disappointed. They were delicious. You could definitely could tell they were made fresh, not just string cheese dipped in bread crumbs and frozen until time for deep frying.

Ted:I had no idea until this moment that that’s how cheese sticks are made.

See, that’s what happens when you hate cheese, people. Blasphemy.

There was one more there before I took this photo. Sir Grabby Hands strikes again.

There was one more there before I took this photo. Sir Grabby Hands strikes again.

So, since Joey’s is known for their burgers, of course that’s what we ordered. Yes, we follow the crowd well, thank you. And yes, there’s a reason why people say this about the place.

I got the mushroom Swiss burger with fries. Shane got the Joey burger – which is really the same as my burger but with added onions and two cheeses (Shane chose pepper jack and provolone) instead of one – and also which illicited a “good choice” from the owner at the end of the bar.I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that burger is named after him. Just a thought.

Two cheeses and a burger, please

Two cheeses and a burger, please

There's a burger under all that cheese. Really.

There’s a burger under all that cheese. Really.

Shane completed his order with six of the garlic parm dry rub wings – but only after Ted and I balked that a burger was really ALL the food he was going to order?? I mean, really? Who is this guy?

Very fancy for what basically amounts to tiny fried chicken.

Very fancy for what basically amounts to tiny fried chicken.

Truthfully Ted had every right to give Shane a hard time … after he ordered both a spicy cajun burger (no cheese, of course) AND a full pork chop dinner, which included rice and asparagus as well as a large chop. He could’ve added a second chop for only $4, but decided to hold off on that since … well … you know, he also ordered another entire meal.

Me: so that means one of those meals is technically your appetizer, then, right?

Our bartender just laughed.

All the burgers were delicious. They are definitely freshly made, cooked to order on a nice slightly toasted bun. The “medium” 10 oz patty was still slightly pink inside, which of course made Shane happier than, well, than most people should ever actually get about food. He was even making yummy noises. Usually that’s just Ted’s department.

Ted said that, for being advertised as a “cajun” burger, he did think his could’ve been seasoned a bit better – and that even that giant green hot pepper on the top of it didn’t help the heat much.

Two meals, straight up

Two meals, straight up

BTW, I had to ask WTF that pepper was, because a) you don’t typically see burgers with green coloring on top, and b) from my seat it kind of looked like a large slice of green cheese. Which being that Ted hates cheese – and also that green cheese is, well, disgusting, I was a little intrigued. And was rather relieved to hear it was just a pepper.

But in any case, he said it was still tasty. He actually ended up taking the last few bites home in a box (at the owner’s insistence, who kept referring to it as “tomorrow’s breakfast”) because, well, ordering a pork chop dinner as an appetizer will kind of have that effect, I guess.

Although he did mention on the way home that if he had just had the dinner and not the burger, he would probably still be hungry. So I guess it all worked out then.

The pork chop looks a little less impressive without all the side dishes.

The pork chop looks a little less impressive without all the side dishes.

Meanwhile, the girl in the group barely got through the burger. The only thing that allowed me to eat the last few bites of meat was removing it from the bun. Which kind of killed me, actually, because, well by now you know about my love for carbs.

Burger, bun on

Burger, bun on

And chalk up another week of cheap eats for our group, too – mine and Shane’s tab for this one was only $42. Now granted we didn’t have quite as much food as last week’s meat-and-fried-food-extravaganza at Caddyshack, and I think we each had one less drink than last week, too … but still. Less money spent on food and drinks means more money left over for shoes and purses.

Yes, this is how females think.

All in all, Joey’s Kendal Tavern is a great little neighborhood place. And the best testament to that is that it seems like the actual neighborhood definitely frequents the place.But it wasn’t like everyone turned their attention on the regulars and kicked us new people to the curb when they arrived, either. We never felt out of place, or like we were the outsiders who weren’t invited to the party. In fact, I think once we admitted we had never been in before the owner made it his personal mission to make sure we were having a good time, enjoying our food, and planning to return at some point. Even when we left – it was clearly a group of regulars all sitting at the bar as we were walking out, and they all said “goodbye” and “hope to see you again” as we left – like we’d all been friends for years and not just sharing a space at the bar for a few hours.

Now can you just move the place into our actual neighborhood instead?

Ted

Ted

Steph (and "that guy" apparently)

Steph (and “that guy” apparently)

Shaney happy

Shaney happy

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Steph

Drinks:  It’s a little strange to find a place that doesn’t have draft anything, but I guess when you’re the oldest bar around maybe that just means you’ve been there since before carbonation was invented? In any case, at least they had other beers and hard alcohol, so we definitely weren’t disappointed.
Food: The owner said to us at one point that “you don’t leave my place hungry.” No sir, you definitely do not. Especially if you order a burger.
Service: Excellent. We may have lucked out with the combination of sitting at the bar and being almost the only people in place … but even so, I would venture to guess this is the type of place where no one goes unnoticed or unhelped for long.
Overall: Oh Kendal’s, if only you weren’t over a half hour away. For real. Who can build a homey dive bar with good food right down the street from our house?

Next Pick: Amanda

Joey's Kendal Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato