WTGW 12/21/19: Harmon’s Pub / That Christmas Bar, Canton

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Welcome to Harmon’s Pub: where the sign at the entrance says “seat yourself” but more than half of the open tables have “reserved” signs on them. How does that work, exactly? Do you have to time travel yourself into the future to get yourself a table so that you can place the sign before you actually arrive?

Hmmm.

And then when you finally do find an open table that hasn’t been previously reserved … you get legit yelled at by staff because putting a fifth person at the end of the booth would apparently be a fire hazard. Like, not a friendly “hey, I know it’s busy and you just want to grab a table but unfortunately we can’t have you sit like that.” Or a “you know what, that won’t work, but let me help you find another spot.” Nope, like screamed at because apparently our sitting in that location would cause a literal logjam to the stampede that would surely occur should someone decide to strike a match anywhere in the close vicinity.

And who says Canton isn’t hospitable? We should totally alert the CVB of a new campaign idea.

Luckily a different server saw us looking like we might just head for the hills and perhaps say something unfavorable about our experience (who, us??) and decided to step in. She found another booth on the opposite side of the restaurant in an area that seemingly supported end-of-the-table dining and asked the party of two occupying it if they would kindly switch with us.

And they did.

And we then sent them a drink.

See what being nice gets you, kids? Alcoholism. Let that be a life lesson for you.

Another good life lesson: don’t be an asshat when someone asks you is they can use one of the five unoccupied chairs from your table. Like I get that maybe other people are going to come sit with you eventually, or maybe your group of imaginary friends you’ve invited out for the evening don’t like to be crowded … but, like, our REAL LIVE friend is standing right here and kind of wanting to take a load off to enjoy the meal he’s anxiously waiting to order, so perhaps you can just calm the eff down there, Susan?

This is also how NOT to have us send you a drink as a thank you, even though you seem like you could use about 27 just to put you in any sort of enjoyable mood this evening.

It’s four days before Christmas, folks. Are you feeling festive yet? I mean, the beginning of our trip this week is kind of like the restaurant equivalent of heading to the mall during the holiday season.

WHAT WE ORDERED

But for all our troubles, at least they have White Claw! Yay!

And trivia, but that’s like a more muted yay.

Speaking of trivia, what’s one thing Ted will always order if it’s on any menu, anywhere?

If you answered meat on a stick, you’ve obviously been reading along with us for a hot minute. But yes, that’s one thing that Ted seemingly cannot resist in any restaurant setting. In this case, it was steak – but he has been known to order a lamb lollipop from time to time as well. So for future reference, pretty much meat of any kind is acceptable, as long as its on a stick.

So. Many. Jokes.

He also got the spicy garlic wings.

Fewer jokes, unless we want to go down the path of the fated burger and wing night at the Springfield Tavern.

Shane and I got the sausage dip as an app, as did Cassi and Jason.

Because you can never have enough sausage …. ok, never mind, between that and the meat on a stick story it seems we’re traveling down a dangerous road.

Anyway.

I got the bacon pretzel burger with a side salad.

Shane got the Reuben, after asking the server the age-old question of preference between that and a burger of any kind.

The server recommended the Reuben … and then in what I can only assume was an attempt to be helpful, but since she doesn’t know us at all she has no idea the implications of what she’s about to suggest … she points to me and says “well since she ordered a burger, you can always just split your orders so you each can try the other’s.”

As if. Clearly she doesn’t read this blog, or she would know that SHANE DOESN’T SHARE FOOD.

I mean, how many times do we need to share this GIF on this blog? I mean, before I revert to photoshop magic and change Joey’s face to Shane’s anyway.

I clearly need more free time in my life for these important projects.

Cassi got the wings dinner.

So it’s like wings, but with sides. Interesting concept. It seems like we’ve been ordering this in other forms for quite some time now, right? How nice of them to just make it a compact little ordering process for us.

Jason got the Western burger with fries, along with an order of BBQ wings.

Clearly we don’t have enough food here.

THE VERDICT

Remember that time just a few minutes ago when Shane almost ordered a burger? Well it’s a good thing he didn’t, because having just TWO arrive at the table – mine and Jason’s – was clearly more than our server could handle. She literally couldn’t tell them apart, and had to request assistance to do so.

I mean, I hate to state the obvious and all … but one of them is literally named a “pretzel burger,” which – in my mind anyway – would point a pretty direct finger at the burger that was positioned on a pretzel bun, and not a regular bun. Call me logical and all. But, like, you don’t even have to see the condiments or toppings to figure this part out.

Well since we’re talking about that part already, I should point out that was my favorite part of the sandwich. The actual burger was just OK. So, I guess Jason could’ve taken that part, but just saved me the bun?

Although the burger was actually was the same size as the bun, and we all know that’s a rarity.

Ted’s steak on a stick didn’t exactly rate in his Top 3, but it was still good.

The fact that he can even have a Top 3 in this category is something that should be noted here. I’m not sure what that note is, exactly, but it’s been taken.

He also said that the wings could’ve been spicier.

The jury was out on the sausage dip, with Cassi and Jason liking it, but Shane and I thinking it was a little … strange. Maybe it’s harkening back to our tailgating days where we just heated up some sausage crumbles and Velveeta in a crock pot and called it a hearty dip, but we weren’t crazy about all of the peppers and other things hanging out in this dip. We would’ve preferred just the basics.

Shane liked the Reuben a lot. So the server gets the points for that assist on that one.

Cassi liked her wing dinner, she said that the breading on the boneless wings was really good. But said that the service really soured the visit in general.

Which we would all agree was truthful. Aside from the whole “let’s yell at the new people for trying to seat themselves in an area they aren’t supposed to even though we didn’t tell them it was off limits” debacle that started the night … and the whole “let’s get the chef to come out and inspect the burger situation because I can’t tell a pretzel bun for a regular one” … our  server at our “approved” table was a bit touch and go.

For instance, when a server asks you, after you’ve placed your order for a sandwich, “fries with that?” … well, you kind of think that they’re included, right, and the server is just asking you if that’s an OK option or if you’d like to substitute out, no?

Um, no. Each of those side orders was $2-$3, which we didn’t know until we got the bill. I mean, kudos to her for upselling us, but that sales tactic is a little risky in my opinion.

On top of that, Cassi got charged for a side salad when her meal was a dinner – we’ve been over this already – and should’ve had a salad and tater tots included. So much for revolutionizing the way we order. I take it all back. We’re clearly doing just fine on our own, thank you very much.

Probably the saddest part about our disappointment at Harmon’s Pub is that we had hoped we might have made this a more frequent location, thanks to it’s proximity to That Pop-Up Bar, located across the street.

If you haven’t heard of this place yet, it’s a bar that continuously changes themes, based on the time of year. Being that we’re four days out from Christmas, we of course wanted to make a stop here while it’s themed as “That Christmas Bar.”

I mean, we had to wash the taste of Blitzen’s out of our mouth, right?

And that we did, only in Shane’s case it was replaced with the taste of … well … bourbon. And lots of it.

Let’s just say that this warning on the menu is legit,folks. 

But overall this place was worth the price of the inhospitable nature of our dinner choice across the street and the bourbon hangover that Shane will likely be facing tomorrow. From the décor to the music to the drink specials to the crowd of people under the age of 90 … this is what pop up Christmas bars should be like.

We can’t wait to see what the next theme is. This may become a game to see who can pick the best place nearby each time it changes?

Picked by: Jason
Next pick: Shane

WTGW 11/26/19: Kepner’s / Blitzen’s, Hudson

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Happy Night Before Thanksgiving!

Or, depending on your preference …

Happy Biggest Going Out Night of the Year!

So, you know, no pressure on this pick to be – wait for it – legendary or anything.

I think we’ve all had our rounds at having to choose on this night, seeing as it’s the one “holiday” that always falls on our favorite night of the week. We’ve seen the night Shane got food poisoning and left me to cook my first ever 22lb turkey for his entire family the next day, the night we all got into a heated discussion about the type of breading used on a fish dinner and then made Ted sit in a stack of booster seats (yes, at a bar), the night of many shots, and of course last year’s epic choice of the strangest cabana we’ve ever sat in.

Which brings us to 2019, and our visit to Kepner’s. We had a lengthy conversation about whether this should actually be classified as a revisit, since honestly we’ve been to this place about 4 billion times over the years. Most notably, we celebrated Ted’s birthday here one year (not on a Wednesday), and it’s the place where previous WTGW team members Amanda and Jerrid actually met for the first time (on a Wednesday but when I was out of town so it wasn’t an “official” outing).

But somehow, despite all these visits and feeling like this is one of our go-to divey bars on this side of town – and honestly probably the only one allowed within Hudson city limits –  we just never managed to officially review it.

So here we are.

I specifically chose Kepner’s not only to finally make them WTGW official, but also because we’d heard that there was a new Christmas-themed popup bar called Blitzen’s that was celebrating their opening night this same night. And what says Happy Night Before Thanksgiving like an entire bar dedicated to holiday decorations, music and themed drinks?

We’ll come back to that later. First, let’s eat.

WHAT WE ORDERED

One of the things we love most about Kepner’s is that despite being small and having a divey, neighborhoody feel, they actually have a decent list of craft beers and ciders in bottles/cans, and things other than Bud Light on draft.

In fact, when Shane literally tried to get a Bud Light on draft, he was told that they only have it in bottles, and that Miller Lite was the domestic draft of choice.

So there’s that.

Cassi and I both settled on bottles of a mango habenero cider that according to the description was also aged in a tequila barrel. Well now that just seems like a lot of things all thrown together in one big pot to stew, now doesn’t it?  But, because we all love starting the night with complicated alcohols, we took a chance.

I’m happy to say it was worth it.

Ted, Cassi and I all went through the same progression of thought on what to order for our meals:
Choice #1, the turkey club. Which sounded good under normal circumstances, but then again maybe starting on the turkey consumption 24 hours before Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t the best choice. I mean, given that we also would also be staring at leftovers for much of the forseeable future.
OK, so Choice #2, wings. But again with the poultry.
So then we’re at Choice #3, burgers. But that came with a sidebar a) which burger, since each specialty option had at least one condiment included on the list that we weren’t crazy about.

Yep, this is us, folks. Making dinner as complicated as possible since 2013.

And yet also so simple at the same time … anyone shocked that two of those items on the list were burgers and wings? Anyone? Bueller?

Didn’t think so.

Shane and Ted remembered a burger being on the menu during one of our previous visits that they really loved (called the Clocktower, maybe?), but it seemed to have gone MIA this time around. Because you know how much we love when that happens.

Almost as much as we love when there are things available in the kitchen that aren’t on any of the menus, so we have to rely on the server to maybe – or not – tell us about them. And then maybe – or not – change our minds about what to order after we’ve already scoured the menu for 10 minutes trying to decide what to order. That’s a fun game.

Which we played on this evening, as Jason was all set to order the Ohio State burger, until the server mentioned to us that there was this special “non-menu” burger, which I can’t remember the name of but the description of had something to do with two burger patties being dusted with brown sugar and grilled, then topped with bacon and cheese.

Jason caved and ordered that.

I was surprised Shane didn’t follow suit. He claimed it was because of Thanksgiving being tomorrow, and that he didn’t want to eat that much tonight. Um, who is this person and what have you done with my husband? Anyone remember the full sheet pizza incident?

Instead he got the Unreserved burger, along with, well everyone else at the table except for Jason.

Side note, in case you’re wondering, the house sauce is actually Worcestershire. That will save you the question that we asked the server. Because calling it a “house sauce” when it’s really a simple and already known condiment is always way less complicated than just putting said condiment in the menu description, no?

Ted also got six of the dry rub Cajun wings.

Cassi and Jason got the chorizo stuffed mushrooms as an app, which arrived looking like mini sausage patties. I think “stuffed” should be replaced with “overflowing.”

Cassi joked that they came served on her Grandma’s china. So Thanksgiving came a little early here at Kepner’s.

THE VERDICT

Cassi thought the texture of the stuffed mushrooms was a little strange, but luckily Jason liked them a lot and was willing to clean up what she didn’t want.

Ted said the wings didn’t have a lot of flavor. And his sweet potato fries were salty, which was a new thing that he didn’t remember from our past visits. Or, really, any visit anywhere. Who puts salt on sweet potato fries?

Well other than Cassi, but that’s a whole other thing.

In any case, Ted felt bad giving Kepner’s a bad review, since this is probably the first time it’s ever fallen under that category for us. Our notariety must have come off the radar this time and they caved under the pressure of our first “real” visit.

I almost wrote that without laughing.

But don’t worry, it wasn’t all off-kilter this time around, as the burgers were truly the usual deliciousness we’ve come to expect from this place. I mean, Jason even threw out the words “Top Three” when referencing that special burger. And we all know that’s high praise.

I mean, it almost doesn’t seem fair to other burgers, am I right?

Although because it also wasn’t technically on the menu, we all know that also means we should be get too attached to it, lest it be gone forever after tonight. But here’s hoping.

And here’s also hoping that the service we got tonight was more like Ted’s wings – an abnormality from what we’re used to – than the new norm. Because it was … well … let’s just say it wasn’t good. It was very inconsistent, and while I get that the upstairs area was busy, it’s also only like 10 tables worth of customers so it’s not like even if every table is full we’re talking about a giant crowd or anything.

We also need to talk about the pricing for a minute. Remember that draft Miller Lite that Shane begrudgingly ordered? Yeah, it was $5.50. For a draft domestic, and not in a giant glass like we’ve happily encountered at other locales. And those interesting sounding ciders that Cassi and I ordered? $7 each. For bottled ciders. So, yeah. I switched to a different one after the first round, but that only saved me $1 a bottle. Guess apples really are going out of season?

Ted and Jason were the smartest ones at the table, getting something called the “House IPA” for $3 each. Which if we’re taking a cue from the “house sauce” revelation, was probably just a Lagunitas served with a fancy name.

So speaking of things in disguise … let’s move in to the visit to that holiday themed pop up bar, Blitzen’s, next door.

Yeah, I’m not even sure what to say about this place, other than that our group was horribly out of place there. Like, imagine a bar that’s trying to be cool and trendy with the whole popup holiday thing that seems to be the rage right now … but like 95% of the people in the place were probably approaching their teenage years when the original It’s a Wonderful Life first came out.

Because nothing says trendy like sharing a space at the bar next to your Grandma.

And the drinks – while very tasty – just honestly didn’t seem worth the $8 – $10 each that they were charging. I’m pretty positive had we stayed there for more than one round we probably could’ve easily spent more on just drinks than we did collectively on both meals and drinks next door.

But we did get these cool holiday headbands, though

Shane apparently took the holiday camoflauge option, as he looks like he’s blending into the background. But only facing that direction. Had the other direction been the backdrop what you would’ve seen was pretty much just the restaurant Hudson’s – who holds the liquor license for Blitzen’s – with some sparse holiday decorations thrown up. And more folks seemingly out way too late for the dinner service for their age group. Is the group tour bus late in picking everyone up?

And so we left, and ended the annual “night of more than one stop since we’re apparently pretending we don’t have family get togethers tomorrow” at Bailey Rd Tavern. Where all great nights end up, am I right?

I mean, how much more proof do you need?

And next year, this post will likely be classified as the night we hit two dive bars, with a stop for some expensive cocktails with our grandparents in between. Good times.

Picked by: Steph
Next pick: Ted

WTGW 11/20/19: Revisit – 3 Brothers, North Canton

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This revisit pick is only about a billion years in the making. Cassi has been holding this pick for just the right time, after listening to me, Ted and Shane rave about the desserts and pickles pretty much every other time we all get together. I mean, it’s only the top of the scale by which all other fried pickles in our lives have been compared since our first visit in (look up year). And she had to choose carefully on the season, since pumpkin love is only available in dessert form in the fall.

And so begins the story of how Shane and I spent our anniversary amidst fried pickles, fish tacos, and pumpkin love. Because that’s a sentence you like to lead with and then walk away with little to no explanation.

We were slightly shocked when we walked into 3 Brothers and found the place not at all busy. That point will be relevant later, I promise.

But other than that the place seemed to be pretty much everything we remembered.  Right down to the strange “everything ends in 3’s” theme on the menu pricing, and most of the options available.

WHAT WE ORDERED

About 3.2 seconds after sitting down we placed our order(s) for pickles. Yep, that’s right, we ordered three separate orders, for a group of five people. Because 3/5 of the table already knew the magic that would be arriving at the table, and that we wouldn’t want to share.

We also usually take offense to servers that ask about food before we’ve even had a chance to remove our coats and open a menu, but in this case I think we all pretty much just screamed the word pickles at the poor girl as she approached the table, since that was a good portion of the reason we were even dining here this evening. And of course she should know that, right?

So that’s a fun way to start the night.

We spent far more time with the drink menu, which we were still perusing when the server arrived and we jumped down her throat about pickles. They didn’t have much in the way of ciders (say it one more time for the people in the back, Angry Orchard is not enough of an option) or craft beers, and the mixed specialty drinks seemed a tad on the expensive side.

Cassi and I ended up with mixed drinks, which we promptly swapped out after the first round, and the guys all went with draft beers.

In addition to the pickles, Cassi and Jason also got the loaded fries as an app.

Jason got six of the BBQ wings and something called the Bat Boy fish sandwich. Which sounds weird when you don’t know that the menu has a sports theme.

Cassi was still kind of wanting to order a Philly after last week’s less than satisfying experience with the sandwich she ordered at Two Bucks, but decided instead to go with the fish tacos after Ted raved about how good they were the last time he got them here.

I also chose the fish tacos and a side salad.

Keeping with the fish theme, Ted went with the blackened salmon.

Shane got the shortstop sliders and six of the Cajun wings. Which arrived looking like a meal for a tiny person, so of course we all had to ask him if he would be OK with just that amount of food.

He responded that he was of course leaving room for the infamous dessert of all desserts, pumpkin love. Well that seems logical enough.

But we ordered it and relative to our food it took about a year longer to come to the table. It was weird because someone other than our server took the order then our server came over to ask if we needed anything and we said someone else just ok our smdessert order and she explained he’s training … and then they all disappeared.

THE VERDICT

Cassi commented after about two bites that the pickles were everything we made them out to be.

I mean, we did make her think long and hard in comparison to the experience at Dilly D’s, but it still took longer for me to type that sentence than it did for her to exclaim that these were so much better.

Although it should be noted that at the end of the meal we saw Ted give up a plate to the server that still had some pickles on it, and of course we all had to roast him for being wasteful.

In contrast to the pickles, Cassi was not a fan of the fish tacos. Ted was shocked to hear that, since it was his recommendation that pushed her to order them in the first place, so obviously his memory was a much better one.

Cassi’s big complaint was they they’re served cold. I had the kind of opposite complaint, in that one of mine had a burnt shell so I had to abandon that one. Would’ve been nice to have a bit more flavor though.

Ted said the salmon was good. It was well seasoned and it was a large piece for a sandwich – like it could’ve been a dinner except it was on a bun.

And now for the most disappointing portion of the trip … the pumpkin love.

I had to go back and read the last review, as I’m not sure what we were thinking that made it the best dessert ever. Because this time around it was, well, overly disappointing. Like if we’d ordered that the last time, we definitely wouldn’t have ordered it again, much less raved about it for years.

Yeah, I’m not sure what happened in the few years we’ve been away, but things seem to have gone downhill.

Picked by: Cassi
Next pick: Steph

WTGW 11/13/19: Two Bucks Food & Spirits, Parma

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This week’s pick brought to you by a distant relative of the genius behind the naming of retail chains like Five Below and Dollar General.

Well not really. But I think you see where I’m going here.

So Two Bucks takes it’s name, presumably, because several of the items on the menu are only $2. Like sliders, fries, domestic beers and more shots than you would think it’s advisable to offer for only a few dollars each. On top of that, several liquors, like Tito’s, are only $3, including mixers.

Alternate name: Let’s Get Sloppy Drunk for $20. But I suppose that doesn’t fit well on a storefront sign.

But speaking of signage, the interior of the place is decorated with posters advertising all kinds of specialty drinks and liquors, the most intriguing of which was probably a peanut butter whisky called Screwball. Jason was so curious that he got a shot of it (hey, it was only $4!), which we all ended up sampling after it was proclaimed to be surprisingly delicious.

They also feature a large specialty cocktail list. Because nothing goes better with alcohol than lots and lots of written words.

So, all that being said, it would make total sense that the specialty food for Two Bucks is … Mac and cheese?

Wait, what?

Yeah, not exactly what you’d expect in a place adorned in alcohol advertisements and table tents touting under $5 drink specials. But according to the menus and website, it’s been cited a “Cleveland Best” in that category.

Mac and cheese, that is. Not bad decor or drink pricing. In case that wasn’t obvious. But I’m sure we could offer some suggestions for either category, no?

Anyway.

WHAT WE ORDERED

It’s probably not surprising, then, that when we asked the server what she recommended on the menu, the top item was the Mac and Cheese. I mean, it has won major awards and all.

But that menu item was closely followed in the server’s book by … well … pretty much almost everything else on the menu. So that’s helpful.

Cassi and Jason decided to start with pretzels and beer cheese.

Ted got the cauliflower wings with the teriyaki sauce. Thus proving there always have to be wings in some form or another on our table.

Shane and I got the “two buck” fries, and – even though it was clearly stated that the pickles were served in the form of spears and not chips – the fried pickles.

We take our chances in this group. Nothing like living on the edge.

Shane also initially wanted to order the fries along with the onion tanglers, I think because they were the only two apps on the menu under the “two buck” category. OK, like I totally get the desire to be economical, but – as Cassi said – there’s a million other good sounding things on the menu and that’s what you go for?

Exactly.

Moving on to meals, Cassi got the Chicken Philly with a side of the Mac and Cheese.

Jason got the Bucket Burger – the distinctive factor of which is that it has a fried egg on it – as well as onion straws and cheese.

Ted got the same thing. Minus the cheese. Of course.

I got the Steak Philly, and also chose the Mac and Cheese as a side.

But then because I wanted a side salad also, I asked if I could just get a small salad to go along with the meal … which then turned into a whole discussion about how the Mac and Cheese only comes in one size, so really getting it as an add-on side wasn’t any different than getting the side salad as an add-on side.

So wait, what now? The side and the meal are the same size? This seems odd, no?

There was already a lot of confusion at the table after that discussion, so we decided to just trust that the server knew what she was talking about and I wouldn’t end up paying $15 for a side salad.

Apparently not sensing the confusion already at the table, Shane gets the complicated order award with his choice of the “meal” of Mac and Cheese – not the plain kind that Cassi and I would be getting as the “side” order, but the special Three Way style (which, yes, we all giggled at when he ordered, because we’re 12) – along with two of the smoked kielbasa sliders and one BBQ bacon slider.

Yes, we were all pleasantly surprised when everything arrived at our table as ordered. Because we all know that could be its own separate award category.

THE VERDICT

After all the talk about the Mac and Cheese, you’ll be happy to know that it was good. I mean, I’m not sure we agree with all of the awards – Cassi stated that it certainly wasn’t her favorite ever – but it was definitely tasty.  I thought even the “plain” version had really good flavor. And in retrospect I really could’ve just ordered that and a salad and avoided the steak philly altogether, since the sandwiches were the least favorite part of both mine and Cassi’s meals. Cassi said her chicken was super dry. And while my steak was OK, it was nothing I ever need to eat again.

I ended up taking half of my sandwich and half of the mac and cheese home. And already I think we all know that only one of those halves will actually get eaten.

Cassi liked the pretzels, but said that they could’ve used salt. Color us all as shocked about that as we are when Ted orders something without cheese.

But speaking of cheese, make sure you don’t pull a Ted and skip the cheese with the pretzels. It was delicious.

Ted said the cauliflower was good, but that it really wasn’t spicy at all. Cassi tried one and said that’s what she should’ve ordered as her meal, so presumably she enjoyed that one piece more than Ted did the entire order.

Shane actually liked the fried pickles in the spear form (can we all just agree that it’s normal to start singing a Brittany Spears song everytime that word is read or typed?). But then said he added that he was really hungry, so that could’ve affected his decision. So that’s helpful.

I thought they didn’t have much flavor. The breading wasn’t overwhelming – which was a plus – but overall they could’ve used some seasoning. On a scale of Three Brothers to Dilly D’s, it was somewhere in the middle.

Apparently another specialty of the place is a new kind of French Fry that should probably be called “scraps” or “bottom of the barrell,” as they seemed to be fashioned after the tiny bits of potato chips you find at the very bottom of the chip bag. We thought when our app came out with those little pieces that maybe we were just unlucky enough to get the end of the bag of frozen bits dumped into the fryer … but then the fries that came with Jason’s and Ted’s burgers arrived looking exactly the same, so I guess that’s just how they make them? Either that or someone in the kitchen got mad at the frozen potatoes and ran them all over with their truck out back before bringing them into the kitchen? I mean, I’d take option one out of those two, but who knows at this point. Especially with all of these $2 drink specials.

Our bill was really good considering all the food we ordered. Both apps together came to just $5.50, which is less than we pay for one at most places. And my mixed drinks off of the specialty drink menu were only $4 each, which seemed super cheap. The actual meals were the most expensive things – which may be the most logical sentence I’ve typed in this entire review. Oh, wait, Ted’s beers actually beat the cost of most of our individual meals, as it was a full third of his final bill.

Even as we left, we were all still scratching our heads at the whole vibe of this place. Like the name and the drink specials pretty blatantly scream dive bar. But the touting of the award winning, “gourmet” Mac and Cheese along with the atmosphere in the place definitely screams a need to want to be more upscale than that. It’s like the bar version of the movie Pretty Woman.

The playlist also fluctuated somewhere between 70’s rock and tech dance club, which is a grey area I’m sure no one has thought necessary to give a genre name to yet, but I have to imagine this is what would happen if Bad Company and David Guetta suddenly decided to tour together. So there’s that.

We all agreed that while Two Bucks didn’t serve up the best food we‘ve ever had – Ted summed it up perfectly when he said that everything tasted good, but nothing had a ton of flavor to it – it was still tasty and we would eat here again.

And also, cheap drinks. I’ll take Things We Will Never Complain About for $1000 please, Alex. Because we never said we couldn’t be bought.

Picked by: Shane
Next pick: Cassi

WTGW 10/30/19: Tailgator’s, Wadsworth

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If only I had $1.00 for all the times one of us asked if we were going to someone’s house as a WTGW pick.

But, I mean, let’s be real here, restaurant owners. Can we stop putting places so far out of the way that we have to ask ourselves these things? I mean, seriously, we shouldn’t have to get off the highway and traverse across an entire town of ranch houses before we find your sports pub. And even then it’s like an oasis of fun and beer waiting for us on a dark fall evening.

But I guess at least it’s easy to know we’ve arrived. Because, let’s face it, where this particular place is located it was either Tailgator’s, the Salvation Army (which may or may not be serving food) or something called the Minit Mart (not Mini Mart, mind you – Minit Mart) across the street … which if I had to guess likely had some sort of hot dog special.

I think we chose wisely.

In fact, this was a place that had been on my neverending list of eventual choices. It can be either a blessing or a curse when someone else picks a place you have your eye on, folks. The bullet you dodge can be full of regret of many forms.

The jury is still kind of out on which instance this falls under.

So the inside of Tailgater’s is like what if you put a sports bar in the middle of a hunting lodge in the heart of Minnesota. There’s a lot of wood paneling and brick juxtaposed by posters for sports teams and beer specials.

There also must’ve been some sort of a berry air freshener plugged in nearby to our table, because I got a good whiff of it every time I turned my head.

I mean, there are worse things, I suppose?

We also noticed a patio out back – well, OK, really just part of the parking lot that was fenced in and provided tables to make it an outdoor seating/dining area … but hey, you can hang lights over anything and it immediately makes it fancy, right?

Regardless, it was raining – because we’ve already established that Mother Nature is a whore on Wednesdays (see also why it took me over an hour to get home before heading out to Wadsworth for this venture) so we couldn’t sit out there. But good to know it exists.

WHAT WE ORDERED

So, the theme of Tailgator’s is, appropriately, alligator. Clever. Which means that they do have actual alligator meat cooked into various apps and meals. But then part of the theme is also just the names of some of the meals and drinks. Like, for instance, something called Gator Juice, which from the description sounds kind of like it might just be a fancy themed name for a midori sour.

Asked if he would rather drink that or a PBR out of a can, Ted chose the Gator Juice. I’m not really sure what to make of that exactly, but just something to note.

Hey, remember those times when we ask the server what to order and then actually take their recommendations? Well, if not, then you’re in for a treat, because this is one of those times.

The server raved about the wings (kind of a given) and also the Reuben.

Ask and you shall receive.

In particular Shane, who went all in on that suggestion. He already knew he would be ordering the Erie Island wings, since that’s his most favorite seasoning, like, in the entire world. But he changed up his patented “burger and wings” order to a Reuben and wings.

Shane and I also split the pepper cheese balls for our app. Because for all the times Ted shuns cheese, you can pretty much guarantee that Shane and I will order it in some form or another.

While he did pass on the Gator Juice, Ted couldn’t get away without ordering something on theme, and so he got the gator bites as an app.

So if you’ve ever wondered what fried alligator looks like … well … kind of like a cross between clam strips and chicken fingers.

Mmmmmm.

Cassi and Jason got something called Gator Tots, which may or may not have had actually fried alligator on them or just been named for the theme. I forgot to ask. But they did include beans, a little fact that Cassi missed in the description and was not entirely thrilled about. But fortunately they also got the buffalo cheese dip, which definitely did not include alligator or beans.

I got six of the Erie Island wings and 6 of the Hot Garlic Parm wings, plus a side salad

Admittedly I should’ve stuck with just six wings and a salad, but when you can’t decide between flavors and you’re also about to eat your arm off out of hunger, this is what happens.

Fair warning.

Jason got onion rings and three orders of six wings – the honey mustard, the honey bbq and the honey bourbon

Cassi got 12 of the Hot Garlic Parm boneless wings

Ted got fries and six of the Six Pepper wings, plus six of the Honey Hot wings.

THE VERDICT

Our apps came out quickly and all at the same time, so that’s a plus. At least it wouldn’t be another of those instances where the unlucky last person to order has to wait about half an evening watching others cure their stomach grumbles.

Once we got to the wings things got a little more complicated, since the kitchen was obviously backed up dealing with the nightly special. So Shane’s Rueben arrived first along with Ted’s fries and Jason’s onion rings – and an apologetic server saying that she just didn’t want to hold those up and let them get cold while the fryers worked overtime.

We barely refrained from telling her we loved her. Barely. She had no idea how much those words mean to us.

The wings were good. The Erie Island was just as good as Shane remembered from the years when we used to order that same seasoning at Cleats. Ted wasn’t so much a fan of the six pepper, but did like the hot honey – which he said was the perfect mix of hot and sweet. And Cassi and I both agreed that the hot garlic parm really has some kick to it.

The chips were also really good. They were crispy without being burnt, a real plus.

Shane ate about half of his wings and then decided to save the rest for a take home bag and start on his sandwich. But then he ended up taking half of that home too. Not because it wasn’t good, but because he said he was just too full.

So if you’re playing along at home, a burger and wings is enough for one meal – but a Reuben and wings is too much. Noted.

In fact, out of the group Ted was the only one who finished his meal on site. Or, more appropriately, the only one who knew their limits on food intake.

And overall it was a pretty cheap night – $51 for me and Shane, which includes an app and basically two meals for him plus my one … and essentially a lunch for each of us for another time, too. The fact that it was wing night also helped – each pack of six wings was just over $4 – and then each of our beers was $4 – and the app was around $4 … hmm, maybe we should’ve stopped and played fours in the lotto at that Minit Mart across the street on the way home?

Picked by: Jason
Next pick: Shane

WTGW 10/16/19: DeLuca’s Pizza Pub, Green

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Friends, if you will, indulge us for a moment for a story.

Once upon a time a group of food testing friends came across a bar that had everything they were looking for. There were drinks. There was food. And there was a lot of fun with some new friends, which culminated in a far later night out than folks of their age should likely indulge in, but that’s neither here nor there.

And they rejoiced.

I mean, doesn’t that look like fun?

It should also be noted that we only really know about four people in all of those photos.

The name of this magical place was Howie’s. It was situated next to a lake, the likes of which they didn’t see that evening because it was a chilly spring evening, and, well, occasionally this group makes smart choices.

But they vowed to return.

And they did, once or twice, on a few weekends and one particular 4th of a July.

But then the place closed. And they were sad for taking its existence for granted.

But wait! Thanks to the power of social media, it was learned that the owners opened a new place! A pizza pub, in nearby Green, called Deluca’s Pizza Pub.

An anxious wait followed, carefully watching social media for the eventual opening and the rave reviews that followed.

And so the group finally went to check it out. And discovered … well … first and foremost, that it was really difficult to find. Because the plaza lacks signage and lighting and, well, basically the look of actually being a habitat for real human life of any sort. Maybe we should work on making the theme more “great place to come eat” and less “we’re suffering from a permanent power outage,” no?

But beyond that observation, the next thing that became blatantly obvious was, well, it’s not Howie’s. Which is not to say it’s bad … but, well, it’s not Howies.

Read on …

WHAT WE ORDERED

Uh, pizza? Duh.

But first, ALL THE BREAD AND OIL. Like seriously, entire wheat fields were sacrificed to bring this spread to our table this evening.

Yes, that’s three orders of bread and oil on one table. Because who needs variety? And also:

Ok, now that we’re past that, let’s move on to the pizzas, since that is the specialty here after all. They have all sorts of specialty flavored pizza, but they for the most part are all NY style. So it you’re looking for deep dish, this is probably not your scene.

Shane got his own pizza – the Wise Guy – because, well, see the photo above.

For clarity’s sake, this is a 10 inch pizza. Which we all took one look at upon arrival and knew would barely be enough for Shane alone, so fortunately I was wise enough to order my own meal.

Cassi and Jason got the much larger Meatball pizza to share.

That’s more like it.

Cassi also got a side salad.

Ted got a pizza he made himself with toppings, not a specialty one. Well, by “made himself” I mean he picked out the toppings, not that he actually went back into the kitchen and cooked it himself – which I would think is obvious, but just clarifying. I mean, could you imagine the outrage? We got bent out of shape when we had to go up and order our own food last week, let’s not even talk about what kind of world it would be if they expected us to enter the kitchen and cook something.

Anyway.

He chose sausage, pepperoni and meatballs. It had minimal cheese, by the server’s admission because of all the meats covering it. To which we all replied in a resounding chorus that that’s exactly how Ted likes it.

I got a calzone with mushrooms and sausage, and a side salad

THE VERDICT

So overall, taste-wise, everything was good. The flavors in the pizza and the calzone were both delicious. The dough especially was amazing, and you could tell it’s all fresh made – even without the note in the menu mentioning the lack of freezers or fryers in the back kitchen. In fact, if all four pieces could’ve been as doughy as the end two slices I might not have been able to hold myself back from eating the whole thing and getting rolled out the back door to the parking lot.

Which, fortunately is shrouded in darkness so at least no one would’ve seen. Maybe we’ve cracked the code on this while lighting situation after all.

Admittedly Shane was somewhat disappointed that the pizzas were thin crust, because he would’ve rather enjoyed the doughier version. Or at least probably been less hungry when we left.

Our bounty of bread and oil was arguably the best part of the meal. Props to the server who told us to smash the garlic cloves into the oil rather than out previous method of attempting to eat them an entire clove at a time. And the bread was really flavorful. While it didn’t soak up the oil entirely, the taste of the bread alone made up for that. It was like those pita crisp crackers turned into a full piece of bread.

Cassi liked her salad so much that she claimed she wanted them to pack her a salad for tomorrow’s lunch. Oh, hey, thank you to-go menu. That worked out well.

But in particular the cheese on the salad was amazing. You could tell it was fresh, not packaged from the Market District grocery down the street.

And the homemade sausage in my calzone was to die for.

So, if you’re following along here, so far on taste one we’re giving DeLucas a five-thumbs-up rating.

But here are our biggest issues with the place, and the reason for us saying it’s not Howie’s – and it won’t get the stellar overall rating that we gave that place. For one, the atmosphere. Look, I get the reasoning behind wanting to make the move from rowdy “let’s all do shots at 7PM” waterfront bar to classier pizza pub where mixed drinks are called “handcrafted cocktails” and seasonal pumpkin cider is served on draft.

But, well, this leap may just be a little too much for this particular area. I mean, let’s look around … by 7:30PM, we were literally the only people in the place that couldn’t walk into the kitchen without being told we didn’t belong there.

Which may dovetail into our second issue … price. I mean, we get the whole fresh-made thing. And we both enjoy and appreciate that. But, well, paying $14 for a just a step above personal pan pizza and $6 for a draft cider was a little bit disheartening. Maybe in NYC that flies, but not in Green, Ohio.

So chances are that as much as we may have enjoyed the pizzas and other bread and cheese products here … we won’t be sitting here a few years from now retelling the story of how much we love Deluca’s. At least not in the same way we loved Howie’s, anyway.

*sigh*

Picked by: Steph
Next pick: Ted

WTGW 10/9/19: Erie St. Kitchen, Kent

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Did you miss us? Because we sure missed you, friends.

Or, well, let’s be honest, we missed going new places with you. Yes, we realize it’s been a hot minute of revisits since our last true pick. It seems like the past month has been a game of tag within our group, as each week brought a new reason for one or the other of us to not be available.

See also: life. Adulting is hard sometimes.

Anyway.

So, since it’s been a good amount of time since we had a real pick, I bet you’re assuming that we have a real good one lined up for our first week back to normal, right?

Well, we all know what happens when we assume.

There’s your set up, folks. Read the rest at your own risk.

On a positive note, I can say that at first glance, Erie St Kitchen showed quite a bit of potential. Cassi had looked up the menu online before picking it (duh, who doesn’t? Oh, well, us, sometimes, I guess – but really I think that’s more the establishment’s fault for not having a website in the first place) and was confident about her findings. And as we were sitting in the booth staring at the printed menus, we agreed. The specialty seems to be a lot of southern style food like jambalaya, plantains, gumbo, po boys and so forth. And when you can get Nashville style hot chicken in Kent, Ohio, you can’t pass that up, can you?

Um. Well. We’ll get back to that one, but let’s just save everyone some time and say that the answer, apparently, is yes, yes you can.

We should’ve realized our misstep when we sat down in the booth at the far corner, and in assessing the lay of the land, realized that we would need to get up and visit the bar for a drink, and the kitchen window for the food. Hmmm. OK. So basically this is just one step above a drive thru, then? Nice. I mean, they do bring the food over to you, you don’t have to get back up and pick it up from the window. But still. That’s like saying when you order fries at McDonald’s from the drive thru and they tell you that they just ran out but are making a fresh batch, and instead of making you come in to claim them you just have to pull over to the side and wait for someone to run them outside to your car. Cool.

Or not. Not cool at all, Erie St Kitchen.

Well, while we’re waiting for our food and not conversing with wait staff at all, let’s look around and try to figure out the vibe, shall we? I mean, we’re in a college town, so obviously we expect to see students around us. OK, check. But then there were also several tables of folks old enough to be our parents. OK. Professors, maybe? Townies? Parents of students in town for that elusive and probably not entirely welcome mid-week surprise visit? It’s a mystery.

Interesting.

WHAT WE ORDERED

Ted went full southern on us, ordering the fried plantains and jambalaya.

All of which arrived in front of him approximately 3.2 seconds after he ordered it. Like I don’t even think Jason and Shane were back from placing our respective orders yet by the time Ted’s arrived at the table. And his plate was almost clean before ours even left the kitchen.

So let this be your takeaway: if you’re hungry, apparently plantains and jambalaya are the salsa and chips of this place. So place that order and have no worries about hitting that hangry phase before your food arrives.

You’re welcome.

Cassi and Jason ordered what may be one of the strangest items ever to grace an appetizer menu: deviled eggs.

Because nothing screams bar kitchen like some eggs filled with mayo and mustard. I mean, it’s not tarter toast. But. Well. You get where I’m going here.

Anyway.

Cassi got the Nashville chicken dinner with the pimento mac & cheese. She also subbed the cole slaw for a side salad.

Yes, you read that right – pimento mac & cheese. That alone almost swayed my decision in that favor. But instead I went with the Nashville chicken “snack,” which is apparently a code word for “chicken tenders.” I also opted for a side salad.

Shane and I started off with a basket of tots.

On the “we love burgers” side of the table, Shane got the bacon blue burger with a side of fries and Jason got the goat cheese burger.

THE VERDICT

Ted gave a big thumbs up to the plantains, saying that the sauce was a little bit spicy but the plantains themselves were sweet.

He was not as vocal about the jambalaya, calling it just OK.

The deviled eggs got that same verdict.

Shane was not a fan of the burger. He said it had zero flavor at all. He had to douse it in some of the sirachi mayo that came with my chicken tenders just to make it edible.

Although I think I would take no flavor over the flavor I’ll lovingly call “WTF” that was all over my tenders. The chicken was spicy, sure – as Nashville hot chicken should be, duh – but the initial taste was more like a vinegary floury … mess.

Because that’s what you want in a product description, no?

I couldn’t even eat them.

Thank god for the smallest bowl of lettuce ever and a crapton of tater tots, I guess. Dinner of champions.

Cassi’s chicken was much better, which was strange because, well, essentially it was supposed to be pretty much the same thing as what I ordered. Hmmm. We eventually deduced that hers came with sauce on it and mine came with the sauce on the side, so perhaps the five alarm fire hot sauce was just masking the initial taste?

The only salvageable thing for me was the white peach margarita I had, although the amount of sugar in it probably equals about 75 candy bars.

Overall I’m gonna go out on a limb and say we won’t be returning to the Erie St Kitchen. I mean we could basically get the same service if we go get takeout and bring it back to our own kitchen to eat. And at least then there’s also ingredients there to doctor it up when it’s not edible too.

Picked by: Cassi
Next pick: Steph