WTGW 3/4/20: Tommy’s Bar & Grille, Akron

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Oh Tommy’s, where have you been all of our existence? Or, at the very least, where were you last week as we were experiencing the thrill of unreliable service and feeling like we inconvenienced bartenders as we asked them to let us know what the White Claw flavors might be? 

Ironically, as it turns out, we were pretty much right around the corner. Just going to show that it’s amazing what different worlds exist probably not even a half mile away from one another.

I mean, there’s still pizza. But that was pretty much the only similarity. 

Speaking of pizza, do you think that symbol next to the numbers 9, 12 and 16 denotes the size of the pie, or the number of slices?

Because we heard nine slice pizzas are kind of a thing now, especially on this side of town. 

If you don’t get that last line, I implore you to go read last week’s post. It will make more sense than you want it to after that. And quite honestly if you’re going to continue to read this blog, you probably want to be in on this little inside joke, as chances are this isn’t by any means the last time we’ll reference it. We like to beat these things into the ground with this group.

I mean, anyone up for a trip to Gus’ Chalet? No? 

Anyway.

Tommy’s is definitely off the radar, and by that I mean it seems we might be about the only people who realized it was open on a Wednesday night. Well, I take that back – there were a few people who came in to pick up take out orders. They definitely seem to be busier at the to-go counter than on the bar side of the space. But other than the five minutes or so each of those customers stayed in the place to grab their orders and pay, it was pretty much just our own little private party with the bartender.

Not that anything is wrong with that, of course. Again, if you want to reference last week, when we couldn’t get the attention of not one, not two, but three different bartenders … it was a relatively nice change of pace to be the sole apple of this person’s eye for a few hours. 

 

WHAT WE ORDERED

Pizza. Duh. It’s apparently the new “burgers and wings” of this group. 

Jason, Shane and Ted all decided to take their chances for another week with this option, even though the nine slice pie was apparently not something they acknowledge at this particular locale. 

Ted got the Road Kill pizza, which is just basically a less fancy way of saying “give me a pizza with every kind of meat possible on top of it.”

Shane got the Deluxe Pizza.

He got a smaller size pizza because he also wanted to get six of the Jumbo Garlic wings. Old habits die hard.

I don’t think there was a fancy name for Jason’s pizza because he just picked the size and added the toppings himself. His had pepperoni, sausage and mushroom on it.

Jason and Cassi also got the garlic bread to start off with. They opted for the small order, which is only four slices. FYI, the large is eight slices. Which sounds excessive but I guess for $11.95 it better be.

They look like tiny little French bread pizzas, no? Points just for cuteness factor alone.

Cassi and I both got Italian subs for our meals, after Cassi took over for Shane in the usual bartender inquisition of the menu and asked what he liked best. He was adamant about the Italian sub being his absolute favorite on the menu, so despite throwing a bit of a wrench in the plans since that wasn’t something either of us were even considering before he said it, we both decided to try it. I mean, what the hell, right? 

I also got a side of fries, since the menu stated they were “fresh cut,” and we all know that’s like advertising that they’re made with liquid gold. Also the guys were talking about McDonald’s fries on the drive over, so in full disclosure that may have influenced my decision just a tad as well.

Taking over for my husband in the category of “trying to order as many items on the menu as possible,” I rounded out the order with an attempt to be healthy by also getting … you guessed it … a side salad. Which I debated about because it was $5.95, a seemingly somewhat exorbatant price for a salad meant to accompany your meal and not be the only item on it. When I asked if it was giant, that was because I was slightly scared of what might arrive.

It certainly wasn’t giant – which may have made me slightly put off about the price, except that the pepperoni, mozzarella and black olives wore me down. I mean, $5.95 for just some lettuce and cucumbers would’ve been disappointing, but this was by far more acceptable. 

 

THE VERDICT

Hey, here’s a fun question that I bet you’ve probably never truly pondered before … what would you do for fresh, delicious, soft bread? 

You’re welcome for the new party ice breaker. 

But I ask that, because I think it’s pretty clear in this group that some of us would probably be convinced to jump from a tall building or walk through a pit of fire if that prize were awaiting us at the other end. 

Fortunately in the case of Tommy’s, no one is requiring American Ninja Warrior style heroics just to get our food, but I think we would all agree that some lengths would be unquestionably scaled in the future for anything that arrived in front of us in some sort of carb-laden form after this visit.

From the garlic bread to the pizza dough to the piece of bread that came with my salad, we were definitely ready to gobble up anything doughy that came near our table. 

I think I called my salad roll “fluffy like a cloud.” So, you know, there’s that. 

Shane was happy because the wings that were advertised as “jumbo” on the menu most definitely arrived looking so, so that was a win. We also won’t have to worry about being visited by vampires any time soon, because I think the amount of garlic they were made with will keep us all under cover for some time. That scent certainly wafted to the opposite end of the table pretty quickly.

And since we all left with to-go boxes at the end of the evening, we weren’t complaining at all about the size of the meals for the prices that we paid.

Also now that we’re tried and deemed the bread and wings truly delicious, this item on the menu that’s actually named the “delicious chicken dinner” holds a lot of street cred. Who volunteers to get that the next time we come in?

I’m sure that Tommy’s will be seeing us again sometime soon. Everything we tried was good, and the service was excellent. I mean, I realize we were practically the only ones there, so it would be interesting to go back when it’s busy and see if that changes things – but honestly I don’t think it will. It seems like the kind of place that just takes care of people no matter what.

Plus, bread-things. Enough said. 

Picked by: Shane (as his “make-good” for the forced pick of awfulness from last week)
Next pick: Cassi

WTGW 2/26/20: Giovanni’s Pizza & Sports Bar, Akron

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Time for a WTGW Riddle: this week’s pick is a place that brings back quite a few memories for us on the WTGW crew, because we’ve actually been there several times in the past … although this time around it’s technically not a revisit. How is this possible?

Answer: it changes names. A lot. 

Probably the best way to immediately put a mental picture in anyone’s head of where we went this week would be to give you these two names. J Dublin’s (and our subsequent revisit), and Johnny Malloy’s. 

In Shane’s defense, he had a super scary sketch pick up lined up over in Bedford, but tonight’s “I’m not letting you get over winter that easily” snow storm kept us local. So we decided to come here and see what’s new other than the name.

Spoiler alert, nothing.

Now known as Giovanni’s, the place still serves up pizzas, wings and sandwiches. It still has the same huge and strangely arranged interior with a giant bar in the center of the large room, and tables around the edges.

And it’s still not busy.

By the time you’re done reading this you’ll probably have a pretty good idea as to why that is.  

So let’s just dive right in, shall we?

WHAT WE ORDERED

So, yeah, it’s a funny thing about working at a bar or restaurant, it actually helps to be nice to people. And maybe know a little bit about the place you’re working. 

We sat down at a table on the far right side of the room (it’s seat yourself, not shockingly), and our server was great about approaching us and immediately asking if we want drinks. Um, sure, but maybe here’s where a beer list, or specials board, or perhaps just use of the English language would be helpful in pointing us toward the direction of what we might like to order? 

Yeah, no such luck. We got a blank stare until Cassi asked if there were any specials (“no”) and then I countered with “Do you have White Claw or Truly?” which earned me a look as if I has just asked her to please take a plastic straw and stab me repeatedly in the eyeball. 

And don’t even get her started on ACTUALLY HAVING TO WALK TO THE COOLER TO CHECK ON FLAVORS.

I mean, the nerve. 

I’m just going to throw this out there, probably making a list of some kind could eleviate all of these issues. Just a guess. I’m not positive. 

But considering the shape of the photocopied menus in various states of sun fading or perhaps paper color choice we received when she returned with our drinks, I have to admit I’m not at all surprised that another printed listing of any kind might be an issue.

Alright then.

So we get our drinks, and the menus, and apparently we must all look like we have issues comprehending food options, because like 20 minutes later still no server has reappeared to see what we might want to order.

I should also reiterate here that it wasn’t at all busy, there were three bartenders doubling as servers, and they could all clearly see our table from their places by or behind the bar.

I mean, the girl who originally gave us our menus and was not at all pleased with having to walk over to consult the cooler to know if our drink options were in stock was clearly SUPER BUSY flirting with one of the pool players who kept appearing at the bar to order shots of Crown Royal, so I can see how that totally would take every moment of her very busy shift to handle.

I have to believe that these are the very statements that the rolling eyes emoji was created to express the emotion behind. 

So, OK, let’s fast forward to the point when we were just about to gather our things and ask for the bill for our drinks, as we consulted phone apps to see what other restaurants in the immediate area might be open and actually wanting to serve us, when one of the other bartenders I think sensed our restlessness and approached us to see if we still needed to order. 

And so we stayed. *sigh* 

I mean, at that point it was really a game of who might be able to serve us faster: another place that we would have to drive to and start all over with, or this place that was clearly already dropping the ball. Nothing like playing Russian roulette with your dinner service. 

But I’m glad to share that we did eventually get food. And of course more than a few comments to go along with it. 

Lets start with Ted. He ordered the side of jojos as an app.

So far so good. 

But then for his dinner he opted for a French dip with a side of chili.

Wow, that chili looks a lot like French Fries. I mean, call me crazy, but someone seems to have taken some cooking liberties there. 

Oh wait, there it is.

Because we always need more food at our table.

Meanwhile, Shane and I started with the southwestern egg rolls.

Shane got 15 wings. He asked the server about the Giovanni dry rub sauce, to which he was told that it was “it’s spicy, but not, but it is a dry rub.”  Oh, well, thanks. Clears that right up. Glad to have asked. 

So he ended up with five of those, along with five Cajun and five honey mustard.

I got a side salad and 10 wings, which I split between the mango habanero and spicy honey BBQ. 

Cassi and Jason got the parm puffs as an app.

Or, as Cassi renamed them after one bite, little pieces of heaven. They may want to rethink their marketing. I mean, it’s not as clear cut as a dry rub wing sauce that says so in the name, but maybe it would at least give the servers something to talk about with patrons. 

For dinner, Cassi got a side salad and a calzone. 

Jason ordered a BBQ chicken pizza.

Now, we need to talk about this pizza or a minute before I show you a picture of it – because I have a feeling this is something that may well be referenced well into eternity with this group. (wait, us beat something into the ground? Never!) But seriously, we’re talking “Russ’ Ballet” level of legacy here. 

So, when Jason was contemplating this pizza, he asked our lovely server how many slices were in each size. And was told that the small pizza is six slices, and the medium pizza is nine.

Wait, what now?

Nine? 

Um, that’s impossible.

Like, how do you equally cut a circle into nine pieces? I’m definitely no math major, but even I was scratching my head at that level of geometry. If this is possible, I think we just invented a new shape. Alert the proper authorities!

Never mind, false alarm.

Yeah, so as you can see from the picture, it actually has six slices. So, wait, is this the small pizza then? 

Well it doesn’t really matter, because we were told as we were waiting for the orders to come out that the pizza would actually be comped because the cook supposedly put the order in wrong.

So maybe it WAS supposed to be a nine slice pizza after all then? I’m so confused. 

But ironically, the pizza came out at the same time as Ted’s chili (the real bowl, not the one that looked like French Fries), which was approximately three minutes after the rest of the food. Hmmm. OK then. Could he maybe have just “misplaced” all of our orders and we could’ve just called this evening a wash? 

THE VERDICT

Well poor Ted had to eat his chili with a fork since he wasn’t offered a spoon. But considering how greasy it was, that utensil may have actually been more appropriate. 

It was definitely more helpful in terms of his sandwich, which unfortunately arrived with a large helping of cheese, and we all know how thrilled Ted of all people is about copious amounts of that particular condiment. He spent a good amount of time de-cheesing his sandwich before he could even take one bite.  

And when he did, let’s just say that it’s a good thing his avertion to cheese isn’t due to dairy intolerance, because the bread was saturated in butter. Like someone dipped it in a stick of melted margarine and let it soak up for a while.

Mmmmm. Tasty. 

Speaking of saturation, they definitely used that recipe for the wing sauce as well, at least for mine. It was like my wings had their own private swimming pool. It’s too bad the flavor seemed to be missing from the recipe when they quadrupled it to make such an abundance. I mean, it was OK. Not great. Just … OK. 

Cassi only ate one slice of her calzone, but that was more because she was so full from the “little slices of heaven” and not because it was anything awful. And she did take the rest home, so it wasn’t a complete loss. 

But I think the thing that has earned Giovanni’s a place in our minds, conversations, and as the certain brunt of many, many of our future punchlines is … you guessed it … the 9-slice pizza. Well, I mean, it wasn’t really … but that will forever be our memory of it. And, I mean, let’s face it – if they were truly forward thinking here, they would find a way to actually make that happen and market it.

Because honestly, a signature item like that may be just what this place really needs to finally give it the footing it takes to survive in this obviously cursed spot of ill-fated Italian restaurants and sports bars. Otherwise, it’s no different than the last two names that preceded it. We can get Italian food at 25 other local places, and most of them would offer us better service that didn’t have us looking for a new location 20 minutes in or making us feel like we’re greatly inconveniencing the servers and bartenders with our thirst and hunger. At this point, we don’t have any reason to go back. 

But a 9-slice pizza … I mean, come on. That’s something special right there. 

It’s also refreshing to see White Claw is basically the same price as tequila. Because, you know, they’re pretty much the same.

This post has evoked so many emoji usage options, and not in a good way.

Picked by … well, Shane, kind of. But since his hands were a little bit tied on this one, we all agreed to give him a do-over for next week. So he gets another try before Cassi takes over the following week.

WTGW 1/29/20: Barrel Lodge Bar & Grille, Streetsboro

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Hey, it’s January in Ohio, let’s go to … the golf course?

Well, I mean, it’s pretty much guaranteed to not be busy, right?

Also can you tell we’re a little sick of your crap, Mother Nature? One week we’re at a tiki bar, and another we’re at a golf course. If you listen carefully, you might hear us trying to tell you something.

Just a thought.

But seriously, how can you not go to Barrel Lodge Bar & Grille no matter what time of year it is, when they post amazing photos like this on their Facebook page?

Patio picture included for wishful thinking, since obviously we didn’t dine there this evening. Or even glimpse it, seeing as it gets dark at like 5:30PM these days.

Still looking at you, Mother Nature. Yes, we’re bitter. And cold.

The one décor item that we would suggest Barrel Room may want to step up, though, is their outdoor lighting game. I mean, while I get drawing attention to yourselves to stand out on the obsessively dark road this place is located on, the neon white lights they chose to frame the front windows screamed more pay-as-you-go cellular in the bad part of town than classy golf course dining establishment with a log cabin décor and this impressive chandelier and fireplace.

WHAT WE ORDERED

How did we miss the memo that Truly was coming out with new flavors? Like, seriously, I don’t know how we haven’t reached influencer status with the hard seltzer water companies by this point, but someone needs to add us to the top of that email chain regarding new product launches. We love you. Please help us help you.

And to prove that point, our first review of the Mango Lemonade flavor is a thumbs up. There.

Meanwhile, the guys opted for the new PBR Hard Coffee. Which, yes, is apparently a thing. Maybe not a thing that the world truly needed or that we care to research any further after this juncture, but, sure, it’s a thing nonetheless.

Jason was clearly not a fan, although he gave it a valiant effort. Ted remarked that he wasn’t sure if the Peanut Butter Porter he ordered afterwards was somewhere on the “beer has gone bad” scale or just tasted odd because he sipped that PBR first.

So there you go.

Cassi and Jason got the loaded tots as an app.

They were really good, due primarily to the use of real cheese and not just that goopy bright yellow fake cheese sauce you usually find on fried apps. They were also crispy, which means that real cheese makes things less soggy. Score.

Shane and I got the fried mushrooms. They were giant, and also beer battered like our perpetual favorite, that giant basket of fried veggies you get at a county fair. You know, the thing that sounds like it has the potential to be healthy until it gets dipped in batter and hits the vat of boiling oil.

Ted abstained from apps since he had already decided he would be ordering a full meal … to which we asked when that has ever stopped him in the past?

Regardless, he got the perch dinner.

So, I’m not really sure how Ted felt about the perch part of that dinner, but I can say with certainty that the French fries were the clear highlight of his meal. He was in love with them.

Like, couldn’t stop raving about them. Like, the beginning of a new relationship where every minute thing the other person does is the best thing in the universe – i.e. “you should see how well she butters a slice of bread!” or “he is the best at remembering to use a turn signal, I just love him.”

I mean, during the course of our meal the group would collectively talk around the table about three or four other topics, only to then hear Ted chime in with a sentence that had nothing to do with those topics and everything to do with his fries – like “but I think they’re, like, rosemary flavored.”

We’ll just leave him in his own little world over there and come back to him at the end of the night.

Cassi got the buffalo chicken salad. She was a fan, said it was really good. And it didn’t come with 4000 olives, like last week’s unfortunate adventure. 

I mean, clearly not “Ted’s fries” level of good, but there seem to be few things in this world that can be.

Meanwhile, lest you think we forgot to have any chicken wings on our table, this week’s appearance of Healthy Shane meant ordering only 20 wings – 10 Garlic Romano and 10 Cajun. I say “only,” because normally that would be the side to his burger, pizza, or other actual meal of some kind. I think after he placed the order we all stopped and just stared at him, waiting for there to me more words to the sentence.

And of course no Wednesday is complete without an appearance by the other WTGW staple: burgers.

Jason got the Barrel Burger, which is essentially a fancy way of saying a cheeseburger with a few different types of cheese and something called “barrel sauce.” Before you ask, no, I have no idea what that is.

My mushroom onion burger didn’t have a fancy name, but I did add bacon to it and I feel like that made it fancy regardless.

I also got a side salad, because who can let Healthy Shane have all the low calorie fun in this family? Exactly.

THE VERDICT

While I’m sure this place gets busy in the summer, what with the golfing aspect and great patio that we’ve only seen photos of on the website and all, we would totally advocate going in the winter just as well. It wasn’t busy in the least on the night we were there, the service was great, and the food was very tasty.

Particularly if you love French fries – although you may want to wait for a night when Ted isn’t there, because I think, should we return, that may be all he orders. He said that he may be one of the few in the group that doesn’t do Top Five lists … but if he did, this place would be at the top for the fries alone.

That’s high praise.

While they may not have been making any Top Five lists, the burgers did rate high with the group – and succeeded in making Shane jealous when they arrived at the table and he pronounced them more appetizing than his wings, just on sight alone. He probably would’ve given the place a full thumbs up overall had he not gotten .. well, his entire order, I guess.

We also ended up visiting during Streetsboro’s Restaurant Week – which I guess is a thing, who knew? The table tent said to mention it when we ordered to get a percentage off of our bill, although when we tried the server waved us off and said that she was already planning to give us the discount. So it sounds like those printing charges on the marketing budget were well spent.

Picked by: Steph
Next pick: Ted

WTGW 1/22/20: Puckers, Canton

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If we’ve been to a place before but can’t locate the review before we decide to go back, is it really a revisit?

This would be the WTGW version of the philosophical question “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Cassi said that she had tried looking up Pucker’s on this blog before she picked it for this visit, because she didn’t believe we couldn’t have missed it on all of our years of doing this. But while most places come up in a Google search with a link to our site, this one for whatever reason did not.

Guess that’s my cue to up our SEM game.

I’m not gonna lie, the name did sound familiar. The parking lot also make us stop and think that perhaps this was someplace we might’ve been before. But honestly, we’ve said that to ourselves when faced with pretty much any bar at the end of a non-descript strip plaza with other less-than-interesting tenants like a BMV, a take out pizza place, and something called “Ladies Super Fitness.”

I’m not sure what that says about us exactly, but I’m sure it’s not something we want to mention in certain crowds of people.

But it wasn’t until we got inside the front door that it all came back to me, and suddenly I could remember the exact booth we sat in and what we ordered.

Shane still wasn’t convinced, though, until we sat down (not in the same booth, but on the opposite side of the restaurant) and opened the menus, and he immediately zoned in on something called “bottle caps.” Which happen to be deep fried jalapeños.

And then it all apparently came rushing back.

Nothing like a little bit of fried pepper appetizers to jog your memory. Again, probably not something we want to mention in select company.

Once it was clear that we had actually set foot in this place previously, Shane became convinced that he must’ve been the one to discover this magical world of fried apps and burgers … to which I countered those were strong words for someone who 10 minutes prior didn’t even remember he’d even been there before in the first place.

WHAT WE ORDERED

And after all that, surprisingly no one ordered the bottle caps this time around. What?!?!?

But when asked Ted claimed it was because he didn’t see them on the menu this time around. Huh. So general blindness is the defense he’s going with, I guess.

Instead he ordered fried banana peppers. So, similar.

Shane and I started with soft pretzels.

Cassi and Jason opted for something called the Hushpuckers. Which in case you don’t speak “pucker,” are shredded potato bites covered with bacon ranch dressing.

I got the fried pickle burger – which is exactly what it sounds like, a burger with fried pickles on it – and a side salad.

Shane got the Viking burger – a patty adorned with bacon, cheddar cheese and french fries – and a side of onion rings. Because, you know, the fries are already on the sandwich, no use getting more of those.

Jason said to hell with that logic, also getting the Viking burger, but keeping the fries as a side.

Also, if you’ve noticed, we can all breathe a sigh of relief that at least moderately healthy Shane has learned to take a back seat on Wednesdays. Although he was still struggling through sipping tequila and sodas without making a bitter beer face.

Because he was “just in the mood for a chicken sandwich,” Ted got the $5.00 chicken sandwich special with the spicy garlic wing sauce.

Cassi got the spicy teriyaki boneless wings and a house salad.

THE VERDICT

My burger was good. It was done the way I asked and the fried pickles on it were really tasty. It was like getting just a taste of the app, without having to order the full thing. And since I liked the fried pickles the last time around I’m glad they haven’t changed.

The only thing I wasn’t really a fan of, though, was the bun. As someone who prides herself in using her carb calories wisely, I would’ve preferred something with more flavor.

I mean, can’t we all just agree to use ciabatta bread for all sandwiches? That would make life so much easier.

Cassi said the wings were pretty spicy, but also very good. She also got a little extra mental energy burn as she spent about five minutes extracting all of the olives that she didn’t know would be on her salad. Fun times.

In a strange twist, Ted didn’t eat all of his fried banana peppers. It was somewhat awkward when the server had to ask him if he wanted a box.

He said the chicken sandwich was OK, nothing great but nothing awful either.

After all the fuss of getting onion rings as a side, Shane found then to be the least impressive part of his meal. So he probably should’ve just stuck with the fries after all. Or maybe gone with an entirely different order all together, because the burger was “just OK.” It definitely wasn’t gaining entry onto any top 5 lists. And we all know the high honor that is Shane’s constantly evolving Top 5 list, so if you can’t make it there then you probably don’t even deserve to be called a burger.

Jason agreed.

The kicker of the evening came when our server committed the mortal error of all restaurant visits: bringing us the checks before we indicated that we were remotely ready to leave. Because nothing says “we’d love to have you stay and continue spending money on more alcohol” like dropping off the check without checking to see if we were actually finished with our evening.

Maybe in another five years we’ll once again debate how memorable our last visit was to Pucker’s as we stand in the parking lot staring at the Ladies Super Fitness. Anyone up for a takeout pizza instead?

This pick by: Cassi
Next pick: Steph
Original pick by Shane, which he was very concerned about making known

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