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

WTGW 8/27/19: The Basement, Cuyahoga Falls

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Oh hey, Basement, it’s been a hot minute. Or, well, three years and four and a half years, I guess – but who’s counting.

Allowing Shane to pick the new Cuyahoga Falls location of The Basement is really kind of a technicality, because not only have we a) been to the restaurant twice already, but b) he was the one to pick it the last time we visited.

I have to think that Ted might want to jump in to give Shane a little bit of hell for this, no?

But seeing as that last visit pretty much, in Shane’s (perhaps somewhat dramatic) words, tried to kill him, I guess if he wants to be the one to take his chances and return to the scene of the near poisoning, well, who are we to stop him? Especially when we already know we like the food there and have kind of just been avoiding it as a favor to him?

Clearly we’re good friends. I know.

Anyway.

So here we are again, as mentioned at the new location that has recently opened in Cuyahoga Falls. Either the opening hasn’t really been publicized all that much yet, or several others in the area have been victimized by wings and pizza in the same way Shane was after our last visit, because it wasn’t very busy inside when we arrived.

WHAT WE ORDERED

The menu is still just a few words short of War and Peace, so be sure to plan a few extra minutes in the battle of your hunger vs. your entire party’s ability to choose an entrée in a timely manner when visiting this place. Likewise, maybe don’t visit with people you haven’t seen for a while and need time to catch up with before even opening the menu. Or anyone prone to indecisiveness.

At some point you just have to pretty much commit to one particular page and then point to something before you have a chance to change your mind again.

Our group eventually unanimously agreed with taking few moments of silence just so we could all peruse uninterrupted and make a decision in a timely manner before someone bit off a finger out of hunger.

Of course even though we already made our choices, we still had to do the weekly server inquisition to see if what we chose lined up with what she recommended. She voted for the wings, hands down, and also the philly sandwiches. Which is apparently what The Basement is known for? How did I miss that somewhere in the last two visits?

Oh, wait, I think I know how … funnel cake fries. Those bastards always stole the show, even when we didn’t actually order them because we were too full by the end of the meal to do so.

Which is why Ted learned from his mistakes and ordered them right away as an appetizer.

You’ll be happy to know that they still do not disappoint.

Unlike the pizza rolls, which claim to be a “party in your mouth.” I mean, they were good and all, but that seems to be a bit of false advertising.

Samsies on the cheesy tots that Jason and Cassi got as an appetizer, which were more like non-cheese tots. Or Ted-stye Tots, as I guess they could more aptly be called.

Following his dessert-for-appetizer pick, Ted chose the chicken parm sandwich and six Louisiana licker wings for his meal.

I followed the server’s recommendation and got 12 chili lime wings and a side salad.

Of course I also ordered a black cherry white claw (which I thought they had thanks to a super helpful TV screen showing all of the drink options) … but then was treated to the dreaded return of the server telling me that they were all out. So mango it was then. At least they had another flavor choice, so score.

Shane got six pepper parm wings – which seems like a new sauce combination, no? Considering anything with pepper or parm are the two most likely for Shane to order, it’s almost like they discovered a way to give him a little peace offering for his near death experience a few years back.

He also got a basket of two sliders, I guess just in case the wings started to go south quickly?

Cassi got 12 boneless mild wings.

Jason got nine of the Kaluger wings – which apparently is the somewhat non-appetite-inducing name of their special housemade sauce. I mean, I’m sure it’s named after someone and so I shouldn’t make fun of it, but then again when has that ever stopped us? The server described it for us but clearly it wasn’t very memorable, since I can’t seem to remember now what she said it tasted like.

AND THE VERDICT IS 

After we put our orders in we were warned that the kitchen was “totally slammed” so it could be up to 45 minutes to get our food. Hmm. OK. I mean, on one hand we appreciate the warning – but then again after taking a look around and noticing about 10 other full tables in the place with us that was slightly concerning that they could be that backed up. Are they taking a cue from Wadsworth Tavern and cooking everything in two Easy Bake Ovens in the back? Seems logical.

They did get all of the apps out pretty quickly though, so that was a plus.

But when the actual meals finally started to funnel out we quickly realized that Ted’s sandwich was not among them, and quite frankly nowhere to be found. So we waited … and waited … and eventually was able to flag down the server to go check in the back to see what was up. Turns out there was a miscommunication – which was never really clarified, but we’re assuming is code for “the order was never put in.”

However, a manager did eventually appear to say they would comp his meal for him, so that was a nice gesture.

And that comp was definitely appreciated, especially when the bills came and it was discovered that Ted spent almost $20 on two beers.

Wait, what now?

Yeah, Ted’s Guinness and the first round of craft IPSs that Ted and Jason got were $8.75 each.

Yikes. Clearly they need to revise that TV screen technology to also include pricing.

And remember that White Claw I ordered? Yeah, it was $4.00. Meanwhile Shane’s tall mixed drink was only $4.25. Clearly I chose poorly. Or someone is just using a pick-the-price-out-of-thin-air scale behind the bar.

Overall, it seems like they’ve got a few kinks to work out since opening – and let’s hope they do so before any major sporting events like Browns football Sundays or perhaps Indians postseason start really filling the place up. The food was still just as good as we remember it from the other locations, but service and pricing could stand to be upgraded in order to warrant another visit in our future.

This is what we get when we ask for places we like to open up in our neighborhood, I guess. *sigh*

Picked by: Shane
Next pick: Cassi … after a brief hiatus for vacation

WTGW 7/17/19: Old Stone Jail, Norton

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THE WHERE (we went)

Remember my last pick, when I mentioned that Jimmy’s was chosen solely on the need to be out on a patio that evening? Yeah, well … this was the place that got edged out.

The plus side of that deal is that at least we got to experience Jimmy’s – and drool over Ted’s delicious giant burger – before it closed forever. But the crap side is that Shane will gloat about the Old Stone Jail being his awesome pick for about the next 47 years.

Such is life in the WTGW crew, kids. It’s pretty cutthroat.

To be fair, the Old Stone Jail does have a patio, but I think it’s about the size of my bathroom. Because eating in tiny, enclosed spaces makes everyone happy, right?

It must, because the inside of the place really isn’t much bigger. Like were talking about as many tables as Wadsworth Tavern, of both the pool and the seating variety. So once again we ended up seated at the bar.  Three cheers for easy access!

Plus Ted realized early on that his seat included a view of the cook making fresh cut French fries in the kitchen – county fair trailer style – so score one for free entertainment. And yes, sometimes we are just that easily amused.

THE WHAT (we ordered)

When there’s an obvious sign advertising Truly and White Claw then Cassi and I know that already things are looking good for a win this evening. And not like the “yes the servers are all wearing the t-shirts but that doesn’t mean we actually have any left in stock” debacle that was our evening at Pick’s.

Heaven in a can

Also, places offering burger specials on Wednesdays are like the new Taco Tuesday. I’ll give $1.00 to the first marketing genius who can come up with the tagline that ties “burger” and “Wednesday” cleverly into one catchy slogan.

Go on, I’ll wait.

In the meantime, we’ll just be over here enjoying a myriad of $5 burger and fry combo deals.

Which is exactly what Shane, Cassi and Jason all did on this fine evening.

Because all of the wing flavors sounded freaking delicious – think lots of things involving bourbon, peppers, chipotle and siracha, because nothing bad ever comes from flavors with those elements, right? – Shane also got six of the Maple Bourbon dry rub wings.

Ted also got wings – the Xtra Hot flavor – and one of the specialty burgers that weren’t part of the $5 deal, but included fun toppings so seemed to be worth the extra $2.50. Ted opted for the Breakfast Burger, which I’m sure if I gave you three guesses you could correctly identify all of the toppings included in order to deserve that name.

You’re smart people. I know.

I got the Warden burger – also not on special, but sounded less threatening than the Death Row burger or the Shake Down burger – but unlike Ted’s burger wasn’t as obvious in the naming rights. The Warden is apparently fond of the bacon cheeseburgers, though, because this burger was exactly that – bacon and Swiss – with an extra bonus of mushrooms. Score.

If you’re thinking that burger looks awful lonely on that plate, that’s because I was the only one in the group to skip the fries in favor of a side salad. Early warning, we just booked a beach vacation for early September, so I’m going to be serving as your health food poster child for a bit. Well, I mean, kind of. Because I was still eating a giant burger.

Balance.

Everyone who got the burger special said that the burger was a little over cooked, but that it was still good overall so they were willing to overlook that little misstep. Which, if any of you remember Shane’s bout of testing all burgers to the n-th degree of cooked medium rare from a few years back, will know that’s actually high praise on the flavor of the patties and the seasonings used.

My burger seemed to be cooked a little less well done – think true medium in most places – so my guess would be that maybe the non-special burgers are a little thicker than the patties that they make for the $5 Wednesday specials? But regardless it had really good flavor. And the bacon was real, so there’s always that.

It’s sad that I now have to make sure to note that, no? #saynotofacon #cantfoolmetwice

Ted preferred the wings over his burger. He said it’s been a while since he’s had an order of good hot wings. No specialty flavor, no dry rub, just a good, hot sauce. Maybe not “xtra” hot like the menu promised – at least to Ted’s “I can eat a habenero and not be affected” taste buds – but still very good.

Remember those fries that Ted was entralled with watching the cook prepare? Yeah, well, according to the rest of the group, apparently it would’ve been worth whatever extra cash we would’ve had to pay by holding off a week on booking that beach trip, just to have the opportunity to try those instead of a salad. To quote Cassi, “if I’m going to kill calories on French fries, these are exactly what I would want them to taste like.”

There’s always next time?

Or, for all of your sake, just don’t be Steph. Get the damn fries.

Cassi and Jason has also ordered breaded mushrooms, but when they hadn’t arrived in front of us by the time the rest of the food had been served up, they finally asked the bartender about them … who admitted that she totally forgot to put the order in. And then she pushed the order to the front of the line, ahead of everyone else who had orders in after our group. And then when they came up she said she wouldn’t charge them for the order.

Now, friends, that’s what I call good customer service. I mean, is it really so hard?

THE WHO (we saw)

Aside from our friend the good bartender – who was the only person working out on the floor or behind the bar to serve up both food and drinks – there was just one equally as overworked person in the kitchen. I mean, we’ve already covered the point that it’s a small place, so I do get it. But between the Wednesday burger special, and a group like the five of us who show up together and like to eat as if the world will run out of food tomorrow – well, let’s just say it wasn’t exactly a quick turnaround on the food-to-table process. And you know how much we love it when food arrives in stages. But in this case we kind of couldn’t fault the staff. Especially when we even heard the bartender tell the cook at one point that she really thought it was time to think about getting someone else to help in the kitchen on nights when they have specials like this. So, yeah, we get it.

Although, which nights do you pick when there seems to be a special on all of them?

Also, there seemed to be about 15 more cars (or, check that, trucks) in the parking lot than there were people in the place. So either there was a big party going on in the back of the kitchen, or no one here knows the meaning of the word carpool. Or maybe the entire city of Norton parks here and gets bused to their homes after dinner. Whatevs.

And special shout out to the poor group who were unlucky enough to have chosen the table directly in front of the photo op wall to try and have a nice meal, when we interrupted and asked if they would mind taking our photo.  I have to believe they truly had no idea what they were getting themselves into when they agreed to be a partner in crime (see what I did there?) to that process.

Let’s just say that this photo is the only one I feel comfortable publishing in a public forum.

But you’re welcome for the laughs. I’m sure they lasted well into the time after the door hit our group in the ass on the way out.

THE HOW (much we paid)

Well that was cheap. Except for the $4 Trulys, the rest of the bill was super reasonable.

Our bill

Cassi and Jason’s bill

But to be honest, the menu really does have decent prices. Most apps are $3-$6. Wraps and basic sandwiches are $4.75, or $6.25 with a side of chips or fries, and some of the heartier sandwiches like philly cheesteaks or grilled chicken with bacon and ranch were $7.75, including fries.

The wings were the only things that seemed to be a little bit expensive, as an order of six was $7, or an order of 12 for $13. But I guess be sure to stop in on Thursdays, when they’re only 50 cents each.

THE WHY (they will likely see us again)

This was definitely a fun little neighborhood dive bar. We didn’t get treated like outsiders when we walked in, despite the fact that you could tell this was definitely a Cheers-esque “everyone knows your name” kind of place. And the table we asked to be our photographers didn’t throw drinks at us and make us climb over their table to get a silly photo, so that’s a plus. I’m not sure if we could really ever use this one as a patio revisit pick – especially considering now that we know how understaffed they are on a busy night, and that we would likely have to go in and pretty much pick up the orders from the bar ourselves if we ever wanted to eat. But the wait for the fries alone might be worth it. Just so long as we schedule that visit well out of the time frame of any fantasies any of us have about eating somewhat healthy, ‘k?

Picked by: Shane
Next pick: Cassi

Shane

Ted

Steph

Jason

Cassi

WTGW 6/19/19: Wadsworth Tavern, Wadsworth

Standard

THE WHERE (we went)

To the place where dreams are crushed.

Not really.

But, well, yeah, kinda.

I’m just going to leave this right here, with the disclaimer that all things are not exactly as they seem at the Wadsworth Tavern.

Looks impressive, right? Specials every day! And not just any specials – super fun things like a $5 taco/nacho buffet, a Bloody Mary Bar, and $2 Long Islands (!!). And what’s that at the bottom about a FREE chili and hot dog buffet? SAY WHAT?!?!? Sign. Us. Up.

Or, well, don’t. I mean … well … more on that in a bit.

Also apparently whatever this is, happens next door.

Um, OK. I’m not sure I want to know.

THE WHAT (we ordered)

Let’s start with drinks, because – spoiler alert – that’s about the only thing that lives up to our expectations at this place. Cassi picked the Wadsworth Tavern this week not only because apparently choosing dive bars is her new forte, but because she saw a picture of some 20-ish taps, and thought that was right up our alley.

Truth.

We asked the bartender about ciders and were recommended some peach one on draft that turned out to be delicious. Three of the four of us chose that.

The other – who I may have mentioned in a previous post seems to be having a bit of an issue with his internal seasonal calendar – chose a maple ale. Because who needs to celebrate those short three months we call summer in Ohio when you can just go straight to the autumnal beverages?

The WT has a larger menu than what we expected to see when we walked in, although I think after viewing the specials board we maybe were already changing our tune a bit from our first impression. We also chatted extensively with the bartender, who gave us a lot of insight into the menu, the specials, the history of the place, what we should order, and so on.

Sounds great, right?

Yeah, let’s just say that if we had left after a few rounds and maybe just the appetizers we ordered, we might be writing a very different review right now. I can say for sure that we would’ve shaved a few hours off of our home arrival time, since the Wadsworth Tavern apparently only has four small ovens in the back room that they call a kitchen. Four. Small. Ovens. No fryers. No large stovetop. It’s like cooking everything college dorm style, with an electric hot plate and a toaster oven.

We discovered this as the bartender was taking our orders – and at least she had the sense to warn us, as we were placing our usual orders large enough to feed the small army we morph into on Wednesdays – that things were going to take a while to come out. Especially wings. Because, no fryer.

But yet we forged on. Because we’re glutton for punishment. And because we were hungry, and the menu looked good, and so far the drinks tasted great, and it’s Wednesday wing special night.

But mostly the punishment thing, I think. Because here’s the time when our final dishes of food – the wings – hit the bartop in front of us:

We’re going to be up past our bedtimes, kids.

9:10 people. Past sundown in any other season than summer. Bedtime for small children, and people over 80. The time we usually think about packing it in and trudging the 30-ish minutes home, since, you know, we all have to work in the morning. But sure, let’s get a good portion of our dinner at that time. Sounds great.

So that’s fun.

But, I mean, we’d had several stages of food delivered to us by this point (well, except Cassi, who had only ordered two different kinds of wings and some fries – so she was about to Shane’s stage of “I WILL EAT MY ARM IF THE FOOD DOESN’T COME OUT SOON” hunger), so really at least we could just package those last items up at that point and take them home for another day.

Unfortunately they were the items we were most looking forward to, a new flavor of wings called pickleback – which, when described, sounded pretty much like what it a deep fried pickle and a chicken wing had a baby.

Pickle wings

(Yeah, so, after everyone tried them later on, we can say that really wasn’t the best representation after all. Disappointingly, the flavor wasn’t there. The dill was there, but not the pickle flavor. Jason ate Cassi’s leftovers after drowning them in ranch dressing, if that tells you anything.)

Moving on …

So, as mentioned, the food came out in stages. You know by now this is a trend we are particularly unfond of. But, I mean, apps first is customarily OK in our books, so the arrival of fried green beans for Ted and potato skins for Shane and I was met with some celebration.

The healthier version of French fries

The potato skins came with a just the other side of sketch squeeze packet of sour cream that maybe would cover one potato. Thanks anyway.

Just, no

And both of those items were good. The green beans had a decent flavor to them and were crispy enough, and the potato skins had all the right toppings (well other than the sketchy dairy side product).

Next out were the sandwiches, in a very one at a time fashion.

Kids, it just goes downhill from here.

Ted got the meatball sub.

Shane decided on the chicken parm sandwich, which came highly recommended by the bartender in the usual inquisition of items we should be ordering.

I got the BLT and fries. I was given three bread choices: wrap, rye or texas toast. Looking at the picture below, what would you say I had picked?

Yeah, so, apparently in Wadsworth the definitely of “Texas Toast” is “plain white bread, non-toasted.” Noted.

Also, can we just talk for a minute about fake bacon, and why this should never, ever, be a thing on a sandwich? Especially a sandwich where it’s the main ingredient? The menu description called this sandwich a “bacon lover’s dream.” More like nightmare. I’m not sure what piece of cardboard was sacrificed and sprayed with bacon flavored cooking spray to make this delicacy, but if you’re trying to turn people to vegetarianism this is a poor way to do so.

The moral here is: if you’re going to offer something with bacon, you need a stovetop to cook it on. Not a microwave. Not a toaster oven. Not a candle and a campfire skillet or whatever Frontiersman-esque cooking device we were convinced by the end of our visit was actually back in the kitchen area.

I also traded my fries with Shane, and ate his chips instead. Again, since they are without a fryer, the fries are cooked in an oven – which means they have this odd breading over them and are less crispy and more like a breaded potato. Which worked for the green beans – but not so much the fries in my opinion. Ted also recognized the seasoning on them as Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. Such originality.

Cassi (who ordered a basket of them to go along with her wings, thankfully) and Shane seemed to like them ok, but I would definitely add those to my never-order-again list.

Although, that meant that Shane’s chips really became the highlight of my meal – because, well, compared to fake bacon and white bread and Lawry’s flavored breaded French fries, that was the one thing they really couldn’t screw up. Open bag, pour into tray. Done.

Considering the rest of the evening’s debacle, though, I’m somewhat surprised they didn’t throw a bunch of random but common spices on them – onion salt! garlic powder! oregano! – and try to call them something fancy.

THE WHO (we saw)

Um.

So counting us, there were a grand total of 8 people inside the Wadsworth Tavern this evening.

Eight.

Four of them were our group, two were a couple who roamed in to have a few drinks, one was the bartender, and one was presumably her friend – who was sitting at the bar talking to her when we came in, then left when we got settled at the bar, only to return later on.

OH! I almost forgot about the second bartender, who arrived to relieve the first bartender at the end of her shift … only she couldn’t leave yet, because she was still cooking our food over a half hour after she was supposed to be gone.

So nine.

No, considering how long it took us to get our food, I guess we should be super glad that no one else was there to make the bartender busier and less focused on the task at hand. Or to order more food. I mean could you imagine? Anyone who ordered anything after us would probably still be there waiting for it to be served to them.

Now, we did talk to bartender #1 quite a bit throughout the evening – presumably because we were literally the only ones there, and we’re also not quiet.

So that’s how we found out that she had been a chef at several upscale restaurants before coming here. She’s the kitchen manager at Wadsworth Tavern, but picked up a few bar shifts to help out, which was how she was the only one working there that evening.

And yes, she was very knowledgeable about food. She answered our myriad of questions about the menu, talked a lot about how they are trying to revamp the menu to make more sense for the establishment that they are (her comments about why a small bar in the middle of a small town needs four different salads on the menu were hilarious and spot on), and you could tell she clearly loved working in a kitchen.

Which is why we had such hope after talking to her. Why, when she explained the kitchen situatioin to us and told us it would take at least 30 minutes to get our french fries because of that, we naively thought “well, that’s OK, because it will be worth it.”

Silly us.

THE HOW (much we paid)

I forgot to get a pic of the receipt (sorry, I was half asleep by that point in the night) – but I do remember it was $59 for Shane and I, before tip. That covers an order of wings, two sandwiches, an app, and six draft ciders.

I don’t think this would’ve been too bad if we’d been happy with the quality of the meal. But when the wings are on special and the bacon is made in the microwave, I kind of expect a better bargain.

Now if we’re paying rent on our barstools, though, I’d say we got a great deal. I mean, not that anyone was exactly waiting in line to kick us off of them – but still.

THE WHY (we may or may not return)

You guys. It was such a roller coaster for us this week. Let’s just recap:

– Pull into completely empty parking lot, take in the strange sign next door … and think we might be taking our lives into our own hands walking into this place.
– But it’s nice inside! And daily specials! And lots of different kinds of beer! And HOT DOG BAR ON SUNDAYS!!! WE ARE TOTALLY NEVER LEAVING!!!
– Oh wait, we’re the only ones here. Cue ominous music.
– Hey, I’m your friendly bartender and I have a ton of experience being a chef other places, so you can totally trust that this will be a great night. GUYS, WE SHOULD TOTALLY TAKE A WEEK OF VACATION AND GET A HOUSE IN WADSWORTH AND JUST COME HERE EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT.
– Just kidding, it turns out said bartender is making all of our food in an Easy Bake Oven circa 1974, so it will be about next Tuesday before she’ll get it all brought out to us. Try not to starve! Oh, and trust her nose to tell her when it’s ready. Because I’m sure that’s taught in chef school.
– Have several more delicious ciders, and enjoy the music selection that’s just slightly younger than the oven.
– But seriously, can we just get those wings to go? Because we actually didn’t rent that house, and do have to work tomorrow.
– Fake bacon on white bread will never be something we can get excited about. Nor should we.

Cassi

Ted

Shane

Steph

Picked by: Cassi
Next pick: Steph

WTGW 5/29/19: PICK’S at PLX, Portage Lakes

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THE WHERE (we went)

Hey kids, it’s patio season again!

And this week’s pick is certainly the poster child for an evening of outdoor dining and drinks. PICK’S is a newer addition to Portage Lakes, and being that it’s located right on the waterfront of course it’s a natural crowd draw. Formerly Nicolette’s Park Place Restaurant and also the catchily named Hook, Line and Drinkers, PICK’s has new owners who remodeled and turned the building into a couple of separate-but-maybe-the-same-but-they-have-different-names-but-share-a-kitchen-but-one-is-trying-to-be-classier-than-the-other venues all under one roof and patio space.

Yet another place that probably should’ve just claimed the name Identity Crisis and been done with it. Seriously, One day we’re going to find a place that takes us up on that concept, whether by our suggestion or not.

Bet you won’t be surprised then that we had a bit of a difficult time trying to figure out just how and where to go to get ourselves a seat in this land of patios and a million names. We walked into the upstairs restaurant first (I believe that one goes by the name Table 530) – but it seemed a little fancy for the patio bar we had heard about and expected to partake in.

So we walked out and followed the noise to the back of the building, where we located a (fully seated) side bar, as well as several layers of decks over the water. And a live band.

About this point we realized we were in the right place, but needed to enlist help in order to ensure a seat. So Jason stopped a girl wearing what looked to be the same shirt that every other worker was wearing, and inquired how we go about getting a table. Her reply? “Yeah, I don’t work over here.” Hmmm. That seems highly unlikely, and more like the answer you give when you just don’t want to be bothered having to find out the real one. Awesome.

We finally flagged down another worker (wearing the same shirt, shocker) – only to have her tell us that we could just basically sit anywhere. Oh. Fabulous. Might want to share that tidbit with the girl who’s raiding your t-shirt stock. Or maybe just make a sign with that information. Just a thought.

All that to say that we ended up with a table inside and not on the patio, since we clearly weren’t the only ones with this idea tonight and we were also late to the literal party.  But at least with the garage doors rolled up it was similar to being outside. And it’s only May peeps, hopefully we still have several months ahead of us to stake out that coveted patio table. Chill.

THE WHAT (we ordered)

Hey, look, all the servers are wearing t-shirts advertising White Claw, so at least we know they have it! Yay!

Yeah, just kidding. They’re sold out. Apparently that’s all anyone was drinking over the recent Memorial Day weekend? I mean, guess there’s no sense in restocking or anything.

Oh, wait, the holiday crowd also enjoys Summer Shandy, because they were all out of that also.

Ted ended up with a Guinness. Because nothing says light, summery, patio/beachy drink like a heavy dark Irish beer usually reserved for a winter holiday.

Beer twins Shane and Jason opted for draft Bud Light.

I picked some Michelob Ultra Lime thing, pretty much only because after the two strikes with White Claw and Summer Shandy, it was the most likely option not to be sold out. Well, other than Guinness.

Cassi waited to put a drink order in on that first round, since the White Claw debacle left her unsure of a Plan B. This turned out to be a bad move on her part, since it was at least an hour before the next opportunity arose for her to ask the server to put in a drink order for her.

More on that later.

The Wednesday special is a pepperoni flatbread for $7.99. So why not order that as an app to share?

And by share I mean just for two people to share, not five – so we ended up with two giant pizzas on our table just for appetizers, as well as one order of fried pickles for Ted.

Nothing new there, I know.

Cassi and I both got the Italian Grinder with chips and dip.

Jason got a burger.

Shane got garlic parm wings.

Ted got the perch sandwich and a crock of chili. I seriously think his internal calendar is a little off. I’m not even sure why chili is on a menu in late May, but I would be a little wary. Clearly Ted is a man who takes chances.

The guys also switched to buckets of beer after Ted told them he “saw a sign” stating that they were $12 each. Yeah, he forgot to read the fine print on the sign that says during UFC fights. Whoops.

Also, you’ll notice they didn’t share a bucket. They each got their own. So five beers each, on top of the ones they had ordered in the first round.

I told you Wednesdays were the new Fridays.

Ted’s disappointment was obvious when the fried pickles arrived in the form of spears instead of chips. Note to restaurant owners: stop trying to make this a thing. If we wanted to eat pickles that look like breadsticks we would just go back to Dilly D’s. We do have an unused gift card, after all.

The flatbread was probably the best part of the meal. The crust was good, it had decent flavor, and it was served nice and hot with melted cheese – which may have been the one and only reason Ted was happy he had those fried pickles, in whatever iteration they were served.

Shane liked his wings, said they were tasty.

Cassi was not a fan of the Italian sub, claiming it fell victim to the dreaded curse of the mushy bottom. It’s not just for pizza, kids. Meanwhile, I thought mine was OK. I took half home, just because when you order a meal as an appetizer you kind of end up with a lot of food.

Or at least I tried to take it home anyway. More on that shortly.

THE WHO (we saw)

Dear server,

We miss you. We shouldn’t have to order six buckets of beer at a time just to stay hydrated until we see you again.

Oh and we like food. I mean, we kinda wanted to put that appetizer order in when you arrived with the first round of drinks, but I guess we just didn’t look hungry enough. Our bad.

Also, I’m not sure what kind of commission you get on not handing out boxes, but it must be lucrative. For the record, “I’d love a box” – or, the less friendly derivative, “Still waiting on that box” – isn’t exactly a warm and welcoming reaction to the question “how are you guys doing here?” Staring at plates of half eaten food that we already know we aren’t planning on finishing that evening wasn’t exactly the way we had planned to spend the final hour of our time with you, but I guess you had other ideas for us.

If you want to be mad at someone for the time you bounced up all proud of yourself for bringing the box I had asked for at least four times, only to arrive at our table and see that I already had one … well, you may want to speak with your manager, who knew exactly the correct translation of my mentioned-above answer when he stopped at our table. In fact, I would wager a bet that he spoke with you after we left, so hopefully that’s all clear now.

And when you finally took our credit cards and we felt like the end of this evening may finally be in sight … nope, you marched off to the patio and collected like six more checks. Forgive our mistrust in thinking we were probably going to be paying for Shirley’s PBRs or receiving back Bearded Tom’s Mastercard in place of our own.

Sorry not sorry,
Us.

So that pretty much covers the service issue.

Aside from the fun game of rationing out our drinks and taking bets on when we thought we might actually see our server the next time, our entertainment for the evening was a guy singing beach music in the opposite corner of the patio. Well, at least we think that’s what he was singing anyway. It was probably the only time ever that the music volume was more like background noise and less like something we had to scream over to be heard at our own table.

Speaking of screaming, we heard quite of bit of that from several other tables in the vicinity. Usually when he next platter of shots arrived. Seems like vodka may be the next item on the menu to go temporarily unavailable. Just an observation.

THE HOW (much we paid)

Hey, remember those beer buckets? Looks like they were only $15. I mean, still more than the sign Ted saw, but I guess paying only $3 more than anticipated isn’t so bad. We’ll file that under the “could’ve been worse” tab.

THE WHY (we may or may not return)

We all know that service can kill a place for us. And this place definitely tops the list of worst of the worst. I think by the end of the night we had dubbed it the place for which beer buckets were invented – so you can order several beers at once and then never have to see your server again in the course of your stay.

But we also noticed that several other servers seemed to be busting their butts taking care of their patrons. There was one in particular who was mixing up drinks behind the bar as well as hustling out to tables. So I guess if we could guarantee that we were to get one of those servers, we would be more likely to put this place at the top of the return column. Because honestly the food was OK – I mean, we may order some different things, but we all agreed that we would eat there again. And the atmosphere was great, it’s definitely a place to spend a summer evening or weekend afternoon, especially with a good band that you could actually hear, and nice weather.

I happened across this little gem from about a year ago in which the new owner raves about how they are “trying hard to tackle customer service … we want to be customer service friendly.”

Yeah, keep trying there, Donnie. We may just come back again before this summer is over to see how you’re doing.

Picked by: Shane
Next pick: Cassi

Shane

Ted

Steph

Jason

Cassi