WTGW 3/22/17: R Shea’s Brewery / Diamond Deli, Merriman Valley

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We’ve all been itching to try R Shea’s Brewery ever since it opened a year or so ago and we noticed the bevy of cars parked outside pretty much every evening. Always busy usually means the place probably doesn’t suck, right? Plus we know we like beer, and the few craft breweries we’ve visited in the area have been good to us. In particular we know that we love Akron’s Hoppin Frog brewery, and R Shea’s seemed like a nice alternative that wouldn’t involve a 60-minute round trip drive … 30 minutes of which always occurred after ingesting some high potency beers.

See also: reasons why things like Uber were invented.

The one caveat that held us back from trying R Shea’s this long? They didn’t serve food. Other than the occasional food truck we would see parked outside on random evenings. And that seemed to be stretching the WTGW rules just a tad.

But then we heard that they were teaming up with Diamond Deli, a decade-plus downtown Akron institution known for overstuffed sandwiches with creative names, to start serving sammies and select apps at the brewery.

Now we’re talking. Game on.

Apparently it’s a winning combo, as the place is still always busy. Every. Time. We. Drive. By. And as evidenced by our visit, when at 6:45 on a Wednesday night we managed to grab what I have to believe from my brief scan of the room was the last remaining table in the place. Which we then had to steal a chair from the bar to place on the end of just so it could hold all three of us.

If you know us, you know at that point we were already calculating how we would fit the copious amounts of food and beer we were about to order onto this tiny space. I won’t lie, it was tight. But, hey, all those years playing Tetris finally amounted to something I guess.

R Shea’s offers flights of five 6oz beers for $10 – which is a great way to try a few of the 15 or so beers on the list. In fact, we had trouble picking just five each to try. It’s also a great way to get relatively buzzed without meaning to, if you’re like us and forget that most of these beers are, well, a tad bit over the usual Bud Light alcohol percentage.

Beyond that the 13oz stouts and 16oz regular beers are just $5 for a pint, which is still extremely reasonable. And still continuing the “ways to get totally crocked without meaning to and not really discovering you are until you get up to walk to the restroom” experiment.

Not that any of us did that or anything. Just saying.

I took a picture of the beer menu since I knew I would never remember the names, much less the descriptions, of all the beers we tried. Thank you, technology.

Ignore the iPhone shadow. Photo taken for memory and not art.

Shane got the Uncommon Blonde, Orange-Mango Citra Shandy, Towpath Pale Ale, Chocolate Coffee Stout and The Elvis.

My flight started out looking just like Shane’s, with the Uncommon Blonde and Citra Shandy. But then I moved to the the Merriman Mild, Snicker Dude and Pecan Pie Milk Stout.

I actually was stuck on a decision between the Merriman Mild and the Pale Ale, but decided on the Mild because Ted told me it would have more of a coffee taste and be less bitter. Fortunately for him he was right.

Not surprisingly, Ted ignored the lighter beers completely and started off with the Shea’s Irish Red, and then the Belgian Quadrupel, Snicker Dude, The Elvis and Pecan Pie Milk Stout.

My flight at the bottom, Shane’s at the left and Ted’s at the top

So we had some crossover, but we each also got at least one that no one else tried. This is why we’re friends.

Ted told us the proper way to taste a flight is to start with the lightest first and move to the darker ones next. Something to do with the flavor and boldness, and saving the heavier ones for last so as not to ruin your palate.

Taking his words to heart, Shane and I proceeded to take a sip out of each of our five beers at first just to try them. We then worked oppositely – Shane drank the ones he liked best first, while I saved the ones I liked best for last.

Clearly we’re good students.

You’ll probably find this hard to believe, but we all agreed that ALL of the beers we tried were good. I know that sounds like a joke – I mean, come on, we each tried five new beers and there wasn’t ONE any of us wanted to spit out? Honestly, no. Of course we all had our preferences and favorites out of our tasters, but there wasn’t one anyone tried that earned a wrinkled nose and a group search for a drain to pour the glass out into instead of downing it.

Even the darker beers were winners in our books – and “Mr. Bud Light” and I usually don’t go that route. Shane’s favorite was actually not one that he got on his flight, but one that he and Ted ordered full 13oz sizes of after finishing the sample sizes … the weekly rotating beer called the “Lab Rat,” (or, as Shane kept calling it by the end of the evening, the “Family Rodent” – whatevs) which this week was a stout with flavors of chocolate, coconut and lemongrass. It was very smooth, not heavy or bitter at all.

Who knew lemongrass and coconut made a good beer match?

Needless to say, Ted was quite proud.

Ted: A guy who usually orders a Bud Light just enjoyed a stout. This is a great day.

He was less impressed with me, as my faves were the Blonde and the Shandy. Old habits die hard, sorry. I mean, the darker ones were good – and those are not words that come out of my mouth often with regards to craft beers, so that means something. The flavors were unique. But I’m just not sure I could’ve ordered a full 13 oz glass of any one of them. The sample size glasses were perfect for me.

Ted loved the Snicker Dude the best, followed closely by the Elvis. I sampled The Elvis from his flight (I didn’t order it on mine) and it was pretty tasty. I was kind of wishing I’d picked that over my Snicker Dude. But once again I was suckered in by the promising description (cinnamon! sugar! tastes like a cookie!).

I swear the people who write beer descriptions are right up there with meteorologists on the list of jobs that can be wrong 97.5% of the time and yet remain employed.

Because we had such a large table, of course we decided appetizers were in order. Ted got hummus, which came with veggies and pita. He didn’t say much about it – but he finished it, so that must count for something.

I also forgot to take a picture of it, but really, you’ve all seen hummus and vegetables before, so I think we’re OK there. Chill.

Shane and I ordered the pretzels with beer cheese dip, which I have to believe arrived at our table directly via teleportation from the oven, because I think I gave myself second degree burns just trying to pick one up. But it was worth it, because they were delicious. The cheese dip wasn’t as flavorful as I would’ve thought, especially since it’s made with beer from the brewery, but that’s OK because the pretzels alone were tasty enough.

My heaven is filled with hot soft pretzels. Don’t judge.

And it’s a good thing we ordered that appetizer, because it may have saved us from starvation … or, OK, on a less dramatic note, at least utter alcoholic obliteration … while we waited for our actual meals to arrive.

Ted’s sandwich arrived first. He got the “Chad’s Wait Til You Hear This Story” – which if it’s not obvious from the name is corned beef, pastrami, Swiss and spicy mustard on rye.

I mean, you knew that, right? Come on.

You have no idea how long we all stared at this sandwich

And then we waited for our other two sandwiches. My Italian Sub (pretty self explanatory) …

The “I don’t have a real name” Italian sub

and Shane’s Boxty (basically a reuben on a potato pancake).

You definitely need a fork for this one

Maybe it’s because we ordered boring sandwiches without fun names, but somehow mine and Shane’s orders seemed to get lost somewhere. We didn’t really notice it at first – I mean, we were drinking new flavored beers, first of all, so food wasn’t exactly top of mind. And truthfully we were kind of grateful for the chance to finish our apps and move some glasses around before more plates arrived on our itty bitty table.

But like 15 minutes later, we started to think they really had forgotten us. And that finally Ted was getting redemption for last week, when the server clearly hated him. So we asked one of the servers, and sure enough our two tickets had gotten lost. I give R Shea’s a ton of credit – they were super nice about the whole thing, and as soon as they realized what had happened they got our orders in right away, so our food arrived very shortly after. It was truly great customer service.

If it were our server from last week be probably would’ve just blamed Ted for our missing food and walked away.

Our sandwiches were all very good. Make no mistake – the sandwiches may seem simple on paper, but they’re very well done, and enough food to definitely qualify as a meal. Each sandwich came with a small handful of chips – which I have to admit that I was mildly disappointed to see such a small pile of on my plate … until I ate my sandwich and was grateful I hadn’t eaten anything more than what I had. Truthfully I probably should’ve stopped at only eating half my sandwich, because that was filling enough. But, well, I blame the beer for clouding my judgement.

Like we’ve all never used that line before. Probably for worse things than eating half a sandwich.

R Shea’s will definitely be a place we make a return trip to. Partially because the atmosphere, food, beer and people are all great, and partially because they also tweak and add to their beer menu weekly, so while you’re sure to find a favorite on there you can also try something new each time you come in. It’s a place you could do a full meal at, or just stop in for beers and an app – and because the beers are so filling, you’ll still leave happy. The only downside is that if you come at the busiest time you may be standing around for a while awkwardly looking at people who you hope to steal the tables of once they leave … but, hey, you can still have drinks while you do that, so it’s all good in the long run, right?

Picked by: Ted
Next pick: Shane

Steph

To-Go Ted

That’s Shane’s gang sign for “thumbs up times two”

WTGW 5/6/15: On The Rocks, Merriman Valley

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It’s Wednesday, it’s early May, and we got to sit on a patio.

Let me just let those words sink in for a minute.

Because you know how much Mother Nature tends to crap all over our plans over here on Where To Go Wednesdays, I have to believe she was way off her game this week and didn’t realize she had served up a beautiful, 80+ degree day on a Wednesday until it was too late to change things. Either that or she’s trying to extend an olive branch for all of the blizzards, tornado warnings and blustery 60 degree “we typically never get THIS kind of weather in July” Wednesdays she’s served up to us over the past nearly two years.

In which case, apology accepted. And I will cease calling her a whore … until next Wednesday rolls around and she’s back to her old tricks.

Thank you Mother Nature. Today you are not a whore.

Thank you Mother Nature. Today we are friends.

Anyway.

In light of all of the above, we were a little off of our own games this week – since Ted’s original choice was a pizza brew pub over in Ellet. But after stepping outside from his office for the first time at about 5:00 that day, he realized that being holed up inside and next to a brick pizza oven was not the best use of an unusually spectacular Wednesday evening. So he called an audible – albeit without a playbook – and just decided we throw rules out the window and hit the nearest patio we could.

(Honestly, I think there’s a clause in our WTGW rulebook somewhere that says we can pick a place again if it has a really awesome patio that we never got to sit on. Right?? No? Well, if that clause doesn’t exist, I’m making it right now. There. Done.)

So we headed to the Valley. Ted’s first pick was Bricco – which I know you’re all saying, wait a minute, I know you’ve been there before – but honestly Ted had never been to that location, so even though the other three of us have AND we’ve all four been to what has to be every. single. other. Bricco location in the Akron/Kent area – since Ted had never been to the Valley one and it was his pick, he was allowed to choose it.

Our rules are fuzzy, get over it.

But all that discussion was for naught anyway, since the patio at Bricco was jam packed and we definitely weren’t getting a table there. Strike one.

So next we ventured across the street to The Merchant – again, a place we’ve been, but not on the patio, and especially not since they redesigned it and make it a cool little space. I mean, it still overlooks a parking lot, but at least there’s a bit more to it now than just some tables and a makeshift fence separating you from incoming vehicles.

But we were a bit late to the party there, too, and all tables appeared to be filled. Strike two.

So as a last ditch effort, we headed back around the corner to On The Rocks – a place we’ve all had drinks at more than once, but somehow none of us have ever gotten around to trying the food. Hmm, this fits all the WTGW criteria. And their patio – another spectacular parking lot view – was virtually empty. Score.

Upon walking into the place, we realized it wasn’t just the patio that was nearly empty – the entire place was the same way. I think there may have been more people working there at that moment than there were patrons. We ordered our first round of drinks at the bar – two very large Summer Shandys for the girls, a McKensies Seasonal Reserve cider for Ted, and a very strong rum and diet for Shane – and then wandered back to the (very small) patio to settle in.

Uh, Ted? Your bottle is invisible.

Uh, Ted? Your bottle is invisible.

Where it seemed that not long after, the rest of the patrons on the patio also left. Hmm, way to give us a complex. We showered, we swear. Is there a curfew in this portion of the Valley that no one told us about? Oh well, more space for us. Actually, correction, more space for Shane to scoot around on the rolling office chairs that serve as patio chairs. I honestly have never seen anything like that before in my life. It was like they looked around and said “well damn, we have all of these metal patio tables, but no chairs … hey, wait, that office supply store is having a liquidation sale, lets just get chairs there!” Right, because giving drunk people rolling furniture is always a good idea.

Are we in a meeting? Or sitting on a patio?

Are we in a meeting? Or sitting on a patio?

Speaking of drunk people, let’s go back to Shane’s drink for a second. I think I mentioned it was strong? Yeah, we’re talking like rivaling Windsor Pub and their quarter-bottle-pours strong. The bartender at On The Rocks also mentioned they were out of Captain Morgan’s, so the rum they used was some kind of generic stuff called Sailor Jack. By the middle of the second drink of the night Shane was starting to look a little glassy eyed. By the end of the third one, when I asked him how he as feeling, he got that goofy grin and his head kind of swiveled back and forth like a bobble head when he tried to argue his sobriety. So that was fun. I’m thinking the Sailor is a bit stronger than the Captain in this game.

Anyway.

Shockingly, we decided against appetizers – I know, who are we, right? – and just ordered our meals. Although the guys kind of got apps, as they each ordered a six-pack of wings in addition to their dinners. So there’s that. Shane got the honey mustard wings, and Ted had the hot wings. They both said they were just OK.  Shane’s comment was that they were “crispy” and Ted called his the “standard hot wings, nothing special.” Take that as you will.

Shane's personal appetizer

Shane’s personal appetizer

The unhealthy way to eat chicken

The unhealthy way to eat chicken

Apparently Ted had a bone to pick with chickens this week (see what I did there?), because for his meal he opted for the chicken kabobs. He rated these much higher than the wings, saying they were very tasty. So tasty, in fact, that he practically licked his bowl clean. Hey Ted, remember when there were more people working here than dining/drinking here? I bet someone can wash that for you.

The healthier way to eat chicken

The healthier way to eat chicken

Shane went with the feta pizza. A choice which confused me because the last I knew, he despised feta cheese. Interesting, right? Just to clarify – apparently it’s gross on its own, but when heated on a pizza it’s perfectly OK and actually quite yummy.

OK, so we’re using Ted’s philosophy on cheese in general for this one. Gotcha.

Apparently feta is acceptable only on pizza

Apparently feta is acceptable only on pizza

Amanda had the buffalo chicken pizza. Which does not have feta, but does have bleu cheese. And maybe ranch? The verdict is still out on that one. It does have hot sauce, we know that for sure. And chicken. There was also a debate as to exactly how the pizzas were cooked, since Amanda’s and Shane’s seemed to both have a different consistency. So there’s that.

A lovely pizza just for me

A lovely pizza just for me

I opted for the Monster Burger, mainly because it’s served on ciabatta bread (my personal favorite) with melted provolone (another favorite) and banana peppers. Sounds like it should be a winner, right?

It looks promising enough

It looks promising enough

Yeah, not so much. I mean, unless you like dry food, because that was basically the theme of the entire meal. The “medium” burger was charred to black on the outside and very dry inside. And while I typically think ciabatta bread is a form of heaven, in this case it was by far the worst part of the meal. Wait, what? That’s a sentence I don’t think has ever come out of my mouth until now. Note to cooks everywhere: dressings, spreads – even butter, for crying out loud – were created for a reason. It helps hold the sandwich together. Melted cheese is not enough. Especially with ciabatta, which has the texture of an English muffin. The nooks and crannies are there for a reason. Please utilize them properly.

This is not something you typically see on my plate

This is not something you typically see on my plate

Fun side note: they actually buttered the ciabatta bread that came with Ted’s side salad, but not the stuff used for my sandwich. So, thanks.

The service was also not spectacular. We had ordered our first round and taken it out with us, but the server that ended up coming out to help us was extremely unhelpful, impersonal and just seemed to want to be rid of us. Because those are great qualities to have when you’re in the service industry. When she came out to take our orders we kind of hemmed and hawed a bit – normally servers would say something like “you know what, I’ll give you a minute and come back.” Nope, this girl was apparently on some sort of a timer. Like you’d think the kitchen was closing and we had to get our orders in right at that second, lest we never eat again.

Amanda: I’ve never felt so rushed in my entire life to just pick something to eat.

And the end of the night was the same way, there was no option to cash out, but instead a “ok, here’s your checks, you can pay me now.” Hey, thanks. It’s like she had some timer behind the bar with her that went off when we should be at different stages of the dining experience. Ding: time to order now. No, not in a minute, and you can’t come back. I said now. Ding: time to get them another round, but don’t tell them it’s the last one you’ll bring them. In fact, make as little conversation with them as possible. Ding: time to cut them off and send them on their way, closing time is a mere four hours away. No time to waste.

So, yeah, I’m not guessing even the proximity of OTR will get us back in the door – or on the patio – for dinner any time soon. Drinks, sure – especially if we want to get crocked on generic hard liquor – but we’ll make sure to eat elsewhere. By far the winner of this week’s WTGW was the weather – so, Mother Nature, if you want to bless us with nice Wednesdays for patio drinks but the trade off is that we won’t be happy with our meals, I’d like to go on the record right now and say that I’m personally OK with that.

Hopefully this is the first of many photos like this over the next few months

Hopefully this is the first of many photos like this over the next few months

Yay for patio weather

Yay for patio weather

Ted

Ted

 

Amanda

Amanda

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Ted

Drinks:  Decent selection of bottles and drafts. Being able to find both McKenzies and Summer Shandy in one place is like hitting the alcoholic jackpot 
Food:
 I think I’ll stick to the alcohol diet the next time we come here. Or get what Ted had.
Service: If you like to make choices under pressure while someone shoots daggers at you with their eyes, then this is the place for you. Oh, that makes you uncomfortable? Weird.
Overall: Because this place is so close to us, and we now know they have a patio that doesn’t get very busy, chances are we’ll be back at some point or another. But most likely only for drinks. Which we’ll order from the bar ourselves. So basically we should maybe just stay home and drink on our own patio then? Hmmm.

Next Pick:  Shane

On the Rocks on Urbanspoon

WTGT 3/13/14: Max McQ’s, Merriman Valley

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In yet another “this is why WTGW was created” pick, this week’s spot is another of those that we’ve driven by 1,500 times, usually on our way to another restaurant/bar that we’ve gone to way more than once, and someone would throw out the “hey, we should go there sometime” line. And then we kept driving.

But not this week.

I’ll be honest that I was more than a little bit suspicious about this place, just given its location in a tucked-away little strip plaza and the somewhat shady looking large sign out front touting specials like $5 pizzas and $3.99 hamburgers. And karaoke. Hmm.

Honestly, Max McQ’s is way bigger on the inside than I expected it to be. It’s a little choppy in it’s layout, but there’s definitely space to move around. While it’s not really billed as a sports bar, there were more than enough TVs in the place for all the different college basketball games that were going on that evening. Side note on that, props to the random guy who later wandered over to us with a remote in his hand and actually asked us before changing the channel on the giant TV above our table. He seemed friendly, but maybe that’s just because we let him turn on whatever game he wanted. But at least he asked nicely first.

Speaking of seeming friendly, I can say the same about our waitress, once we actually saw her long enough to get to know her a little bit. Quite honestly, we almost walked out of Max McQ’s before we even had a chance to try anything on the menu, since it took well over 20 minutes just to get our drinks. And I’m not exaggerating. We started timing her. We also made many jokes about them having Ted’s Guinness special ordered from across the pond and making the vodka for our martinis from scratch in the back room, but that’s neither here nor there at this point in time. Let’s just say that we were quickly losing patience, especially since Amanda and I were trying to get in as many martinis as possible during the 5-8PM happy hour special. Priorities, folks.

Cheap martinis are my favorite kind

Cheap martinis are my favorite kind

But lo and behold, she did finally return, apologizing and explaining to us that apparently not only did no one realize there was a huge Akron/Ohio U basketball game on that night that people might want to watch (hello, how did I – the one who doesn’t even like basketball – know that?), but also a huge 20-person party in the back room. And only two people – her and the bartender – working the floor. Ouch.

So, knowing this, we tried to keep an open mind for the rest of the visit. And by that I mean we basically just grabbed the waitress every time she was in our near vicinity and ordered something, anything, even if we weren’t quite ready for a refill. I will give huge props to the waitress, who rolled with the punches the best she could and kept a sense of humor while running her butt off for the evening – even though I’m sure she probably went in the back room every 15 minutes and punched a wall or downed a beer or did whatever she had to in order to keep her sanity.

Anyway, so as I mentioned we kept ordering things just to stay on the radar, which means I think we basically tried almost all of the martinis on the $5 Thursday special happy hour list. We also kept drinking them long after the 8PM cutoff time for the $5 special price, since we found out that they were normally only $6.50. Or $5.75 if you’re Ted. The winners were the Chocolate and the Dirty Girl Scout (which Ted may or may not have followed up his initial Guinness with, I can’t say for sure). Shane went with mixed drinks, and discovered that they certainly don’t skimp on the alcohol. Although, word to the wise, stay away from the “cheap” rum. Just trust us. 

You're not fooling anyone, Ted

You’re not fooling anyone, Ted

According to Ted, that's the way a real man holds a martini.

According to Ted, that’s the way a real man holds a martini.

Due to the circumstances, we kind of knew we wouldn’t see our dinners for a while – although I will say that our appetizer (nachos) arrived quicker than expected. Maybe they saw the amount of alcohol we were consuming and decided we needed something to tide us over so we weren’t sleeping on the table by the time our real food arrived? Smart people.

They know how to keep us happy

They know how to keep us happy

The food was decent. At first glance the portions didn’t look very big on the plate, but that must’ve just been presentation, because we all were very full by the time we left. Shane and Ted went with burgers. Ted had The Afterburner, which on the menu includes the statement (HOT!!!) after the title – that’s three exclamation points, so you know they mean business. It boasts cajun, extreme buffalo sauce, jalepenos, and – for people other than non-cheese-eating-Ted – pepper jack cheese. He said it was definitely spicy, so I guess it was made properly. Shane had the Goodfella, which means that for the second week in a row he had something with spicy salami on it. There’s still a joke in there somewhere.

It really did come with more than two onion rings. Gotta learn to be quicker with Shane's plate.

It really did come with more than two onion rings. Gotta learn to be quicker with Shane’s plate.

I had the cheese steak, which I was happy with. Just like the one Amanda had at Delanies  few weeks ago, it was made with real steak, not steak-ums or some sort of steak product. Amanda had a sub sandwich, which she kept saying really shouldn’t have taken that long to make – but I’m guessing she was brought down by all of us and our grilled meat. Sorry. 

I like how the martini totally classes this picture up

I like how the martini totally classes this picture up

All in all it was a fun night. The place definitely has a good atmosphere with friendly people, and I’ll admit that even though you can tell it has that “neighborhood-bar-with-locals” feel to it, it was nice to not get stared at like we had the plague as soon as we walked in the front door. I’m glad we got past our initial annoyance with the service enough to at least find out the reason behind the slow orders – because I think we would probably go here again, if nothing else just to give it a fair second chance.

A little something to look forward to from the WTGW group … during our Max McQ’s visit we started working on something we like to call the “Summer Bucket List” – so basically just fun stuff we want to make sure we do in those precious three months or so that we don’t call ourselves complete idiots for choosing to reside in the state of Ohio. Add to that the fact that we’ll be hitting the one year anniversary of WTGW in July – I know, right?!? – and it’s sure to be a fun summer on the horizon. Now if Mother Nature would only stop being a whore and let it finally get here …

The beginning of the Summer Bucket List. To Be Continued ...

The beginning of the Summer Bucket List. To Be Continued …

CAPSULE

Picked by: Shane
Drinks: Good selection of bar drinks and beer. Not the best martinis we’ve ever had, but for $5 you can’t really complain. Although they really need to rethink some of the names. Just sayin. 
Food:
Typical bar fare. Portions don’t look like a lot on the plate, but we all commented that we were full when we left.
Service: We were there on a night when they were definitely understaffed, so we can’t hold that against them. At least the waitress had a sense of humor – and I think if she hadn’t been responsible for a huge party and, well, the rest of the bar area then she actually would’ve been really fun.
Overall: Not bad. The service at first really turned us off, so we may have to try it again just to give it a fair chance without all the other factors.

Next Pick: Steph

MaxMcQ's Sports Bar & Grille on Urbanspoon

WTGW 1/29/14: The Merchant Tavern, Merriman Valley

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Otherwise known to us now as “The Place of 1,000 Menu Specials.” None of which really seemed all that appropriately named.

The Merchant Tavern, located in the Merriman Valley area of Akron, recently changed hands and underwent a pretty extensive makeover from it’s previous life as The Bier Haus. We had actually been somewhat regular customers at The Bier Haus for a while around this time last year, and were fans of the burgers served on pretzel buns and the extensive beer list. But we noticed the place did kind of suffer from an identity crisis, and on any given night it was almost like you could see each of the different cliques take over their respective territories within the bar and try to figure out how they would best co-exist.

So, yeah, we kind of weren’t surprised when the place closed and resurfaced as something different.

Photobomb by the guy in the red shirt falling off the barstool

Photobomb by the guy in the red shirt falling off the barstool

Now, rather than a sports bar – meets dance club – meets funky artsy hipster bar … they’ve gone the more upscale route. So does that mean the latter of that list won the turf war?

The once extensive beer list has been parred down to a nice variety of domestic and imported bottles, most of which are recognizable to the non-beer-snob. The draft list is primarily local craft brews, which is nice to see – even if most of them are heavier than my tastes. I know, they didn’t consult me before making that decision, for shame.

Now the wine list takes up the majority of the menu … which, lets just talk about the menu for a minute, shall we? Not what’s printed on the menu … but rather what the menu is printed ON. Pages of copy paper on a clipboard may be interesting for someplace that’s going with a sports theme, but here it’s just a bit, well, unfitting to the rest of the decor.

And going back to that whole “place of 1,000 menu specials” I mentioned earlier – do ya think maybe, just maybe, since your menu is hot off the copy presses anyway, you can just photocopy a few extras of the daily specials and include those with the rest of the menu? Because I think the waitress just read us a short story when she was reciting them off. Seriously, I felt like I should’ve applauded when she was finished. Or given her an award of some sort.

The actual menu is somewhat interesting, with a good mix of entrees, burgers/sandwiches, wings and salads. On the “most intriguing” list: a “hell fire” burger loaded with jalepenos and ghost pepper aioli (OK, that one kind of straddles the line between intriguing and”I really want to treat myself to ulcer pains at 3AM so let’s go with that”), and some sort of a PB&J sauce that can be used either on your burger or wings (exactly, I’m not sure how to feel about that one either). Hence you see why neither of those were on our must order list.

The Merchant also offers a “build your own burger” page on the menu – so, I have to ask, is this the new thing now? Like the grunge stage in the 90s or the “lets everyone name our girl babies Kaitlin” phase of a few years ago? Because while I appreciate the ability to come up with my own creation if i don’t find anything to my liking on the menu, I really kind of take away points from you for making me do part of your job. Just sayin’.

Ted was adventurous and got the lambchop lollipops that were on special as the appetizer (see, we did pay attention to the story she read us). He said they were good, and actually better than his meal – which was the swordfish. I know, way to fancy things up.

I mean, it is a "lollipop" after all ...

I mean, it is a “lollipop” after all …

Along that same lines, I had the goat cheese and mac with chicken. It was good – just very heavy. Like I think I walked out of there weighing 5 more pounds heavy, and I only ate about 1/3 of the meal.

Shane and Amanda both got pizza. Shane willingly ate all of his; Amanda only did because she won a 6-pack out of it, having taken a bet from Shane that she wouldn’t be able to finish the entire thing. To her credit, it’s cut in 4 pieces, so you don’t think its a lot … but back to that whole food is heavy thing I guess. Regardless she instantly regretted that bet, and I’m sure will savor the alcohol she won once she finally has room in her stomach to fit it in there. Shane also got a 6-pack of the Italian Dry Rub wings, which Ted claimed tasted like they were coated in Shane ‘n’ Bake. Kind of makes me really wonder about the PB&J ones if that’s really the case.

Deceptively large pizza

Deceptively large pizza

Another thing to note about this place – the parking lot was extremely full when we arrived. Like more cars than we ever saw there when it was the Bier Haus, and we almost thought we wouldn’t get a table full. But upon entering, there were maybe 5 full tables in the bar and one large party on the other side of the space. Now unless we’re the only ones thoughtful enough to carpool, I’m not sure who all those cars belonged to out in the lot … but I guess my point is that the place probably isn’t full to the gills on any given night, so don’t let the fullness of the parking lot deter you from stopping in.Leave that to the hell fire burger and the 1586 daily specials you’ll immediately forget as soon as the waitress leaves the table.

CAPSULE

Picked by: Amanda
Drinks: We missed the extensive beer list, as we had some fun before trying some new things. 
Food:
OK. We all went with some sort of entree, so it would be interesting to try a simpler dish like a burger or sandwich. Quite frankly we felt things were overpriced.
Service: Good. The bartenders also handle the tables in the bar, so I’m not sure how that works out when it’s super busy – but on this visit we were well taken care of. I still have to give her kudos just for reading off the specials list.
Overall: Eh. If it weren’t so pricey I’d be more inclined to say we’d be back, but I feel like it wasn’t worth it for the money. But the atmosphere is decent, so maybe this will become more of a “let’s just go grab a drink” kind of place.

Next Pick: Ted