Alternate title: that time we took a 45 minute road trip to basically sit in a place the size of my living room with wall decor reminiscent of an Applebee’s on steroids, where we waited another 45 minutes before consuming gyros the size of our heads.
So for those of you too busy to read the rest of this post, you pretty much get the gist of what happened this week. You’re welcome. Carry on.
North Royalton is a new branch on our city tree, although its really no further away than some places we’ve visited in the past. So of course Shane immediately declared everything in the immediate vicinity “his” for picking.
(Hint: it wasn’t much. Unless we want to go tanning or order some take out Chinese food, neither of which fit the WTGW protocol)
Shane was reluctant to give any of us the name of the place in advance, lest we tease him about going all ethnic like we did with Ted a few weeks ago.
Me, after finally learning the name and looking it up online: so a few weeks ago we gave Ted crap for picking “sushi and bar,’ but this week we’re supposed to be OK with “Greek and bar”?
Niko’s would be a great place to hang out if it was like four times the size with about half the regulars taking up all of the tables. Granted there was a Cavs game on tonight, so that meant people hung around drinking a little longer than they (maybe?) usually would … and the large patio (from which you could see the TV screens) was underused thanks to the 50-ish degree air temp outside … but still. Even our vulcan stare-down moves on those with to-go boxes sitting in front of them weren’t causing people to budge from their seats. Tough crowd.
But the host told us when we put our party of five on the wait list that it “shouldn’t be long.” Uh, in dog years, maybe. Five minutes turned into 10 … we ordered drinks from the bar to pacify ourselves … 10 minutes turned to 20 … Shane took to loudly claiming he was about to eat his arm off while staring creepily at those who were finished with their meals … 20 minutes turned to 30 … I resorted to Google Maps to research any place at all that might serve something that resembled food within a five-mile radius …
It was during this waiting period that I realized we could probably implement some sort of a friendly challenge between this place and Gasoline Alley just to see which one is a) overall smaller, b) has more random crap per square inch of wall space, and c) has the least available and most awkward waiting area for those unlucky enough to have a table.
At about 40 minutes we resigned ourselves to leaving and heading to the nearby Brew Garden just to salvage some portion of the evening before we passed out from low blood sugar. But just as we were assembling ourselves to head out, we were called to sit.
And from there the evening got a lot better. Let’s just say that if future me could go back and give a bit of advice to impatiently waiting me, it would be that it was totally worth it and you would’ve been sorry that you left.
Also, how do I get a future me? Because having that kind of angel on my shoulder sounds a tad awesome.
This place definitely deserved to be Shane’s pick once we heard from the server that the portions were huge. FYI, that tip came after Shane unabashedly asked her what he should order to get the most bang for his buck when he’s super hungry and wants a lot of food.
We ask the tough questions here at WTGW. Again, you’re welcome.
The server also greeted our admission of being newbies to Niko’s with “Oooh! New People!” Which had us slightly nervous about what kind of initiation process we might be facing as the evening wore on.
She did, however, tell the guys about the pineapple IPAs that were on special for $3.00 that evening – a little secret the bartender apparently didn’t share when the guys went to the bar during our waiting period and ordered drinks. Cassi and I stuck with our ciders.
For apps both Jason and Cassi and Shane and I got the fried cheese. Which is basically like saying a giant “screw you, get your own appetizer” to Ted. Oops.
But he had his sights set on the Thai chili wings as his app, so I don’t think he was super disappointed. His excitement only grew when, after they arrived, he discovered that they were served with carrots … but not like carrot sticks – like giant silver dollars.
This is something new. And apparently exciting, as you can tell from his face in that photo.
The fried cheese arrived looking somewhat like a slice of pizza. Which we were warned was about as hot as the surface of the sun on the inside, so leave it the hell alone for a few minutes before trying to dig in. Well, OK, so maybe those exact words weren’t used, but we inferred based on past experience with really warm edible things.
And the wait was worth it. It was delicious. Not to mention the extra fun of causing Ted personal trauma as he had to watch us pull the melted cheese through the air to break it.
What are friends for, right?
We also learned that there’s a thin line between waiting for the cheese to cool and letting it sit long enough that it resembles a pale yellow brick on the plate in front of you.
Shane, in reference to the cheese sitting for too long: It’s starting to get hard.
Me: Then eat it.
So many comments followed that little interlude that I don’t feel are appropriate for printing. Use your imagination, kids.
Perhaps in fear of our initiation process that may or may not have been on tap with the server, we gave her a little one of our own in the period between when we ordered and when the food arrived. Thanks to a strange arrangement that left the couples sitting diagonal to one another (don’t ask, it was like a game of duck, duck, goose when we finally made it to at the table and we all rushed for seats – I blame the hunger), once the appetizers arrived we thought it might be a little strange for us to have to reach over one another to share fried cheese, so Jason and Shane switched places to be sitting across from Cassi and me, respectively. Our server did a quick double take, then adjusted the orders accordingly so they still ended up in front of the appropriate person.
She passed. Not that I know what would’ve happened if she hadn’t, but let’s just be thankful we didn’t have to resort to that.
Of course we all ordered gyros, because, well, let’s be honest, the large table of obviously Greek men who regularly frequent Niko’s seated next to us were slightly intimidating and we didn’t want to insult them … and also, the variety on the menu was intriguing. But maybe slightly more the first reason. At least in my case.
Ted got the salmon gyro, which he said was good. And after eating all of that plus the nine wings that came in his appetizer, he admitted he was “kind of full.” So there’s that.
Cassi and Jason each got the chicken club gyro. They both agreed that it could’ve used more chicken and less of the other filler toppings, but overall still pretty good. They would probably try something else if we were to return, though.
I got the stuffed cheeseburger gyro. Stuffed is a good word to use, not only because the filling was an entire burger patty with cheese stuffed inside of it, but also because that’s definitely how I felt after eating it. Seriously, so much food.
Undeterred by all the fancy options, Shane got the traditional gyro. It kind of fell apart on him as he was eating it, so it became just another in a long list of foods he has been known to eat with a knife and fork. He commented that there were way too many onions on the sandwich, and that he probably won’t be able to stop tasting them for days.
I’m a lucky girl, ladies and gentlemen. Thanks, Niko’s.
Remember earlier how I compared this place to Gasoline Alley? I give you the following conversation as more proof:
Jason: Where are the restrooms?
Ted (who had already scoped this situation out during our wait time): In the kitchen.
Sadly, he wasn’t joking. You have to go through a portion of the kitchen to access the men’s restroom. Always appetizing, no? And it’s just a one stall room, so that makes waiting a tad awkward. Like, hey, you need some help assembling those sandwiches while I stand here looking creepily over your shoulder? No? Weird. The women’s restrooms are at least on the other side of the room, but still across from the sand alone freezer. Here, let me toss you some frozen fries while I bide my time waiting. Just trying to be helpful.
Aside from that strangeness, Niko’s is a decent place. We never endured an initiation (that we know of … if something was slipped into that fried cheese before it arrived at our table I’m at least still alive to speak about it), but our server was always good at checking on us, and we never went long with empty glasses. Well, until Jason ordered a water, anyway, but I guess that was a bit out of character for our table by that point. Once we decided it was time to cash out and give up our table the server seemed to turn invisible (seriously, do they teach that in server training or something?) but aside from that I give any server willing to put up with us with a good sense of humor a bit of extra credit.
The crowd is an interesting mix of older regulars – like the table of men next to us, who clearly frequent the place – and younger couples/groups – like the table on the other side of us, who I think were taking up space just to drink a beer and visit with one of their friends who was working as a server. See also: people we stared at prior to being seated, and who endured similar stares from the undying crowd in the waiting area still waiting for tables well past 9PM. I would definitely recommend arriving before you’re actually hungry, since waiting seems to be a regular occurrence.
Picked by: Shane