WTGW 4/25/18: Niko’s, North Royalton

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Alternate title: that time we took a 45 minute road trip to basically sit in a place the size of my living room with wall decor reminiscent of an Applebee’s on steroids, where we waited another 45 minutes before consuming gyros the size of our heads.

So for those of you too busy to read the rest of this post, you pretty much get the gist of what happened this week. You’re welcome. Carry on.

North Royalton is a new branch on our city tree, although its really no further away than some places we’ve visited in the past. So of course Shane immediately declared everything in the immediate vicinity “his” for picking.

(Hint: it wasn’t much. Unless we want to go tanning or order some take out Chinese food, neither of which fit the WTGW protocol)

Shane was reluctant to give any of us the name of the place in advance, lest we tease him about going all ethnic like we did with Ted a few weeks ago.

Me, after finally learning the name and looking it up online: so a few weeks ago we gave Ted crap for picking “sushi and bar,’ but this week we’re supposed to be OK with “Greek and bar”?

Sounds reasonable.

Niko’s would be a great place to hang out if it was like four times the size with about half the regulars taking up all of the tables. Granted there was a Cavs game on tonight, so that meant people hung around drinking a little longer than they (maybe?) usually would … and the large patio (from which you could see the TV screens) was underused thanks to the 50-ish degree air temp outside … but still. Even our vulcan stare-down moves on those with to-go boxes sitting in front of them weren’t causing people to budge from their seats. Tough crowd.

But the host told us when we put our party of five on the wait list that it “shouldn’t be long.” Uh, in dog years, maybe. Five minutes turned into 10 … we ordered drinks from the bar to pacify ourselves … 10 minutes turned to 20 … Shane took to loudly claiming he was about to eat his arm off while staring creepily at those who were finished with their meals … 20 minutes turned to 30 … I resorted to Google Maps to research any place at all that might serve something that resembled food within a five-mile radius …

Well at least they made it easy to spot while we waited

And they had this

It was during this waiting period that I realized we could probably implement some sort of a friendly challenge between this place and Gasoline Alley just to see which one is a) overall smaller, b) has more random crap per square inch of wall space, and c) has the least available and most awkward waiting area for those unlucky enough to have a table.

Anyone?

At about 40 minutes we resigned ourselves to leaving and heading to the nearby Brew Garden just to salvage some portion of the evening before we passed out from low blood sugar. But just as we were assembling ourselves to head out, we were called to sit.

Hallalujah!

And from there the evening got a lot better. Let’s just say that if future me could go back and give a bit of advice to impatiently waiting me, it would be that it was totally worth it and you would’ve been sorry that you left.

Also, how do I get a future me? Because having that kind of angel on my shoulder sounds a tad awesome.

Anyway.

This place definitely deserved to be Shane’s pick once we heard from the server that the portions were huge. FYI, that tip came after Shane unabashedly asked her what he should order to get the most bang for his buck when he’s super hungry and wants a lot of food.

We ask the tough questions here at WTGW. Again, you’re welcome.

The server also greeted our admission of being newbies to Niko’s with “Oooh! New People!” Which had us slightly nervous about what kind of initiation process we might be facing as the evening wore on.

She did, however, tell the guys about the pineapple IPAs that were on special for $3.00 that evening – a little secret the bartender apparently didn’t share when the guys went to the bar during our waiting period and ordered drinks. Cassi and I stuck with our ciders.

For apps both Jason and Cassi and Shane and I got the fried cheese. Which is basically like saying a giant “screw you, get your own appetizer” to Ted. Oops.

But he had his sights set on the Thai chili wings as his app, so I don’t think he was super disappointed. His excitement only grew when, after they arrived, he discovered that they were served with carrots … but not like carrot sticks – like giant silver dollars.

The carrots are nearly as big as the wings

Go carrot fork yourself? That doesn’t make sense

This is something new. And apparently exciting, as you can tell from his face in that photo.

The fried cheese arrived looking somewhat like a slice of pizza. Which we were warned was about as hot as the surface of the sun on the inside, so leave it the hell alone for a few minutes before trying to dig in. Well, OK, so maybe those exact words weren’t used, but we inferred based on past experience with really warm edible things.

Cheese and bread. See also: the only food groups necessary for survival.

And the wait was worth it. It was delicious. Not to mention the extra fun of causing Ted personal trauma as he had to watch us pull the melted cheese through the air to break it.

What are friends for, right?

We also learned that there’s a thin line between waiting for the cheese to cool and letting it sit long enough that it resembles a pale yellow brick on the plate in front of you.

Shane, in reference to the cheese sitting for too long: It’s starting to get hard.
Me: Then eat it.

So many comments followed that little interlude that I don’t feel are appropriate for printing. Use your imagination, kids.

Anyway.

Perhaps in fear of our initiation process that may or may not have been on tap with the server, we gave her a little one of our own in the period between when we ordered and when the food arrived. Thanks to a strange arrangement that left the couples sitting diagonal to one another (don’t ask, it was like a game of duck, duck, goose when we finally made it to at the table and we all rushed for seats – I blame the hunger), once the appetizers arrived we thought it might be a little strange for us to have to reach over one another to share fried cheese, so Jason and Shane switched places to be sitting across from Cassi and me, respectively. Our server did a quick double take, then adjusted the orders accordingly so they still ended up in front of the appropriate person.

She passed. Not that I know what would’ve happened if she hadn’t, but let’s just be thankful we didn’t have to resort to that.

Of course we all ordered gyros, because, well, let’s be honest, the large table of obviously Greek men who regularly frequent Niko’s seated next to us were slightly intimidating and we didn’t want to insult them … and also, the variety on the menu was intriguing. But maybe slightly more the first reason. At least in my case.

Ted got the salmon gyro, which he said was good. And after eating all of that plus the nine wings that came in his appetizer, he admitted he was “kind of full.” So there’s that.

It’s like a fish taco, but better. And Greeker.

Cassi and Jason each got the chicken club gyro. They both agreed that it could’ve used more chicken and less of the other filler toppings, but overall still pretty good. They would probably try something else if we were to return, though.

Chicken bacon, minus too much chicken

Times two

I got the stuffed cheeseburger gyro. Stuffed is a good word to use, not only because the filling was an entire burger patty with cheese stuffed inside of it, but also because that’s definitely how I felt after eating it. Seriously, so much food.

Oh look, more cheese

Undeterred by all the fancy options, Shane got the traditional gyro. It kind of fell apart on him as he was eating it, so it became just another in a long list of foods he has been known to eat with a knife and fork. He commented that there were way too many onions on the sandwich, and that he probably won’t be able to stop tasting them for days.

I’m a lucky girl, ladies and gentlemen. Thanks, Niko’s.

You can’t see the onions, but trust us, we all know they’re there

Remember earlier how I compared this place to Gasoline Alley? I give you the following conversation as more proof:

Jason: Where are the restrooms?
Ted (who had already scoped this situation out during our wait time): In the kitchen.

Sadly, he wasn’t joking. You have to go through a portion of the kitchen to access the men’s restroom. Always appetizing, no? And it’s just a one stall room, so that makes waiting a tad awkward. Like, hey, you need some help assembling those sandwiches while I stand here looking creepily over your shoulder? No? Weird. The women’s restrooms are at least on the other side of the room, but still across from the sand alone freezer. Here, let me toss you some frozen fries while I bide my time waiting. Just trying to be helpful.

Aside from that strangeness, Niko’s is a decent place. We never endured an initiation (that we know of … if something was slipped into that fried cheese before it arrived at our table I’m at least still alive to speak about it), but our server was always good at checking on us, and we never went long with empty glasses. Well, until Jason ordered a water, anyway, but I guess that was a bit out of character for our table by that point. Once we decided it was time to cash out and give up our table the server seemed to turn invisible (seriously, do they teach that in server training or something?) but aside from that I give any server willing to put up with us with a good sense of humor a bit of extra credit. 

The crowd is an interesting mix of older regulars – like the table of men next to us, who clearly frequent the place – and younger couples/groups – like the table on the other side of us, who I think were taking up space just to drink a beer and visit with one of their friends who was working as a server. See also: people we stared at prior to being seated, and who endured similar stares from the undying crowd in the waiting area still waiting for tables well past 9PM. I would definitely recommend arriving before you’re actually hungry, since waiting seems to be a regular occurrence.

Picked by: Shane

Shane

Steph

Cassi

Jason

Ted

Niko's Bar & Gyros Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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WTGW 3/28/18: Paramount Pub, Akron

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At least we think that’s the name of this place. See if you can follow along in this fantastic lesson in what-not-to-do-in-marketing … the website says the name is The Paramount, but the directions led us to a place with a sign out front that reads The Hyde Out. OK. But the location is actually the old Grille on Waterloo that we went to about four years ago. Also if you look closely at the web page address for The Paramount, thegrilleonwaterloo.com is still the domain.

Confused yet? We sure are.

… at the place where nobody knows your name … or really even what the name of the place is …

Which is why, from here on out, I’m going to give this place a new name: The Identity Crisis Café. As you read on I’m fairly confident that name will be one of the few things that makes a clear amount of practical sense with regards to this place.

Let’s start with the menu – which I should point out says Hyde Out on the front cover, so I’m starting to catch on to the name they seem to think they want to use here. Too bad they’re going to have to change it after this review. Anyway, it starts out with a few pages of sports bar-esque American food (burgers, wings, salads, sandwiches, fried apps) followed by several pages of Asian dishes (sushi, hibachi, bento boxes, fried rice).

Um, what now?

Because those are two types of food I would probably never think to prominently feature together. I have to believe they’ve cornered the market on this specialty.

Cassi: I don’t know what to do – I mean, there are pickle chips and Crab Rangoon offered in the same place? Where are we? Why can I order both?

Also – why is every instance of the word “crab” spelled with a K in this menu?

Spelling 101

So. Many. Questions. And we haven’t even ordered yet.

As we were perusing the menu we started to tune into the background music of the place – which really should just be referred to as “music” because we were practically shouting at one another over it. It was like being in the back of a club during a concert … except there’s no band I can think of that plays a primary music catalog containing lots of 70s rock songs that go on for like 10 minutes of heavy guitar solos, then busts out an occasional Sublime hit from the 90s, followed by “Hey Jude” by the Beatles or John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

It’s like what if my dad, my grandma and 1990s college-aged, flannel-wearing me all took a road trip together and fought over the radio stations. Good times.

Hey, remember Cassi’s comment about the apps? Yeah, so, turns out we didn’t have to decide between pickle chips and crab (sorry, Krab) rangoon, because that’s exactly what we ended up with. Shane opted for bar food, while Cassi ventured into the Asian appetizer menu.

The pickle chips were OK. I mean, let’s face it, we’re ruined now after 3 Brothers. I don’t know why we even order them other places anymore since we already know it won’t live up to that standard.

Sorry, we’ve already judged you

Cassi wasn’t really a fan of the C(K)rab Rangoon, saying that she thought it was too sweet. Shane and I each tried one and thought they were OK  And then relived Shane’s last experience with something he tasted that he thought was going to be sweet.

Ah, Gus’ Chalet, you live on in infamy.

They look pretty

Most of us went with the Asian menu for our dinners – I think just because we were tired of bar food and enjoyed the change-up this week. It certainly wasn’t because we particularly trusted the freshness of any of the ingredients at this place. No raw fish for anyone at this table, thanks. We enjoy keeping our food inside our bodies as it digests. Crazy, I know.

As evidenced when Cassi ordered the Angel Hair Roll, and the server tried to talk her into the Angry Birds Roll instead because he thought it was better. One look at the ingredients – which included something raw, of course – and she was like no way, I’m sticking to my original order.

Plus who orders something named after an iPhone fad game from like six years ago? That just sounds sketch.

That’s some mad skills on the dragon, though

Shane got the General Tsos Chicken Bento Box and a side order of one Philadelphia Roll. Once again proving that even though it’s a different nationality of food, you still need more than one main dish on the table.

Shane’s first round of food

That plate is meant for those of us who don’t like their food to touch

Shane said his drawing made him think of Taco Bell. Because that’s what you want at a sushi bar.

And large dishes at that, as Shane was quite uncomfortable trying to find a place to rest his arm once all of his plates arrived on the table.

He looks so … natural

Because we all like to dangle our fork from windowsills during meals, no?

I really shouldn’t be throwing stones, though, since I ordered an Alaska Roll, a Spicy Tuna Roll and a small house salad. But while that sounds like a lot of food, at least two of those things arrived on the same plate. And I have to think that this actually may be the healthiest WTGW ever in my book. I mean, vegetables that aren’t fried? WTF. Another week like this and I might get kicked out of the group.

I think there’s a salad under all that cheese

That tree would be prettier without the iPhone shadow across it

Not one to play favorites, Ted got a Crazy Roll … and an American hamburger, no cheese. You know, because he could. He said he felt the need to make sure both menus were represented equally.

One of these things is not like the other

I think the whole “identity crisis” theme must’ve rubbed off on Shane a little bit, as evidenced by the fact that he actually … wait for it … willingly offered some of his food to me.

*gasp*

Right?!?

Now granted it was so I could taste his spring roll (that he didn’t realize came with his meal – along with that round one soup and salad) so I could make sure it didn’t have shrimp in it that might kill him, thanks to his allergy. (spoiler alert, it didn’t) But still. I think we’re all still picking ourselves up off the floor a bit from that shocker.

Speaking of shockers, Shane reported that his General Tso’s chicken – that he specifically asked the server if they could make “extra spicy” – was … drumroll, please … really spicy. Like he was struggling really spicy.

Be careful what you wish for at The Identity Crisis Cafe, folks.

Meanwhile, on the American menu side of the table, Ted had a struggle of his own going on, which involved ways to choke down an extremely dry burger. Like dip it in your water to make the patty edible kind of dry burger. Which let me be clear he didn’t actually do, but in hindsight it may have helped things a bit. When we suggested that that’s what the cheese is usually for on burgers, he said that he might be willing to try that if he thought it would help things at all, but he was pretty sure there was no saving this one.

It’s worth mentioning that it’s a bit odd that the burger was so overcooked and not moist, when it was one of the first meals to arrive at our table. Rather than bringing things out all at once, this place seems to subscribe to the Table 6 philosophy of just bringing plates out as they’re ready … except they’re like that friend everyone has who is like four subjects behind in a group conversation and never seems to know how to keep up so they just jump in whenever they think of something. The food was dropped off at odd intervals, with the burger arriving as one of the first actual meals, and the sushi as last. Which seems strange considering that’s supposed to be the most fresh, not cooked portion of our orders, but whatever.

We all pretty much thought the sushi was just OK. I mean, it was edible, but nothing you can’t find anywhere else. Ted liked his a little more than any of us … but, I mean, when you consider the other part of his meal was a sawdust patty on bread, you kind of figure that’s a no brainer.

We also had an enlightening discussion about the orange crunchy topping on some of the sushi, which involved more than one of us checking Google for an answer, and Shane declaring that he always figured it was crushed up Doritos.

Me: Because nothing says Asian food like crushed up Doritos

But with this place, who knows.

Orange toppings make Shane think of snack foods

Another fun discussion involved trying to size up the crowd, and how or why each of them found their way to this bar on a random Wednesday night. A couple wandered in at one point that seemed like they might have been on a date … except she was wearing lounge pants and actual slippers. Because nothing screams “I really just wanted to order in and I’m not happy about this whole going out in public thing” like wearing your pajamas to a restaurant. And then over closer to the bar there was a group of obvious bros all crowded around a table taking shots and watching basketball. Which begs the question … is there no BW3 within a 20 mile radius of this place? Do they all live upstairs and just migrate down for the alcohol? I mean, granted, nothing says let’s go get lit and watch some Final Four action like heading to the sushi bar in a somewhat sketch neighborhood … no?

At least no one could see us watching them, as we picked an unfortunate table next to the windows that seemed OK when we first arrived, but then was cloaked in darkness after the sun slipped behind the horizon. Which, because it’s still winter here in Ohio, happens at like 3PM these days. See also: the color difference in the pictures of our appetizers versus the color of our meals. Sorry, kids. It should also be pointed out that there were canister lights above our heads … that were missing the bulbs. Guess we know now what had to get cut from the budget in order to add that whole Asian side to the menu.

 

Picked by: Ted

Steph

Shane

Dual menu, dual rating. Thumbs up for sushi, thumbs not-so-up for the burger

Cassi

 

WTGW 3/21/18: South End Tavern, Northfield

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Remember that time we passed by a super sketch place called Johnny T’s and I vowed never to let Shane pick it for Fun Wednesday?

Well Shane certainly does.

That same place is now called South End Tavern, and I’m guessing have new owners? Or maybe they just thought a name change was in order? They certainly didn’t think cleaning up the junkyard of old cars out in back of the place was a task worth undertaking. The same old ghetto limo was still parked under a pile of snow at the far back of the parking lot, and they still have the same strange fenced in area in the middle of the lot that we think might be a sand volleyball court? Or just a really high caged in patio – which seems odd, but whatever.

We have nothing to compare the inside to, since – as Shane reminded us on the way in – I’d vowed we would never set foot in the place. But if they did get new owners, I can’t imagine they opened their pocketbooks to do much to the inside. Or I was justified in never wanting to walk into the place if how it is now could be considered “spruced up.”

Anyway.

Wednesdays are apparently trivia nights – we speculated that this may be a newfound marketing scheme along with the name change to bring in more of a crowd. And it worked, because the place was busy … until about 8:30pm. Which, considering the crowd, could potentially be when some of them went to bed. Or maybe the place started to clear out because the first round of trivia took upwards of 90 minutes. Granted we don’t usually partake in trivia, so we don’t know what normal time usually is, but that seemed excessively long, no? We joked that we had no idea how many rounds there were, but there was a good possibility we could pull an all-nighter staying for all of them.

Sidenote: we also overheard someone announce “there’s our competition” when our group walked in clearly looking like we’d never seen the inside of the place before and scouting out a table. Being that we had no clue at that point that it was trivia night, that was definitely taken out of context.

But then Cassi read the words “Trivia Night” on the super fancy mirror of specials along the back wall, and we were set straight. I feel sorry for whoever they borrowed lipstick from to write all of that. Also, 1984 called and would like it’s communication devices back.

We ended up sitting at the bar – because even though the place is fairly spacious inside it only has like three actual tables. Because that’s helpful. I think we all came up with some interior design rendition in our heads that could’ve both eleviated that problem and helped with business, but what do we know.

It’s also worth noting that sitting at the bar – in close proximity to the one bartender who is responsible for the entire place – doesn’t necessarily ensure faster service. So there’s that.

Beers for the guys (they actually have a decent draft list, lots of local crafts) and tequila and soda for me and Cassi. And when I say that, I mean that I think Cassi and I shared an entire bottle of well tequila between our two short glasses. A whole forest of lime trees couldn’t save that disaster.

So needless to say we only had one round of those, and switched to beer.

Obviously we had to get in the jokes about how – given the size and look of the place – we were a bit apprehensive about the menu options. Shane actually hoped they would only be serving wings and burgers, since he’s still trying to redeem himself from that place in Ellet. Cassi admitted she was crossing her fingers that we didn’t manage to sink below that pick to a place that only serves bar snacks and jerky sticks.

But then the bartender hands us these:

Wait, where are we?

I mean, come on

Two sided! Look at all the options!

We also took those pictures of the menus because you’ll be hard pressed to find any mention of the menu online anywhere. So, you’re welcome.

Cassi and Jason got loaded tots for an app, while Shane and I got loaded nachos. For once no one lost in this app war. Cassi really liked the loaded tots – exclaiming after one bite that they were very good. She called them “crispy and delicious.”

How can you go wrong with tiny fried potatoes and cheese?

So no soggy bottoms tonight. Check.

The nachos may not have gotten that rave of a review, but they were still good. The salsa had good flavor, and the toppings were abundant – although I’ll admit it didn’t really look like it when we first got the dish, but then once we dug in it seemed to be bottomless.

Sour cream, anyone?

Ted ordered his usual two whole meals, so who really needs apps? I’ll give the bartender credit, though, as she tried to make sure Ted’s wings came out with our apps, so that we all had food in front of us at the same time. The only problem is that she got Ted’s and Shane’s wing flavors mixed up, so when the Smokehouse wings showed up and Shane claimed those, it meant that Shane had an app and his entire meal, while Ted still had nothing.

Of course we were all more concerned about the fact that Shane ONLY ordered wings – no burger, so pizza, nothing else. What’s wrong with him? Is he trying to starve himself?

He said the wings were just OK. We all commented that they looked like tiny pieces of fried chicken. Which seems like it would be good – but Shane said that they didn’t have much flavor.

It’s like KFC Jr.

Ted got the Carribean jerk wings – which, after the bartender realized her mistake, she worked really hard to get out quickly. Kudos for that. Ted also agreed that the flavor was lacking a bit.

Times two

He also got the BBQ bacon burger. As did Jason. Hmmm, maybe Shane has some competition in the bromance department?

Ted thought the sauce on the burger was sweet – like unexpectedly sweet – and that the bacon was very tough. I mean, not wings from a pizza pub tough, but still. Meanwhile Jason thought the sweet sauce was exactly what made the burger good.

So maybe they’re not food soulmates after all. We tried to make them fight it out but they didn’t go for that idea.

The burger that breaks up friendships

I got the southwest burger with tots. Cassi was right – the tots were delicious. And the burger was very good. Good flavor, toppings not overwhelming but enough to give it something more than just the taste of meat and bread.

Crispy tots for the win

Cassi got the steak philly with sweet ptato fries. She said it was excellent. She would come back just to get that sandwich again, it was that good.

I’ll take things we didn’t expect to come out of the kitchen here for $1,000 please

Overall the crowd was odd, the mixed drinks weren’t good, and the bartender was nice but more than a little flaky … but the food was surprisingly very good and they had a decent draft list so I guess if that’s what you’re in the mood for, you’re golden. They also have a large projection TV facing into the odd little room across from the bar so at least while sitting where we were at the bar we were entertained – but note that two of the space’s three existing tables are also right there in the path of the projection (and they’re high tops to boot), so if you decide to sit there you may end up either being part of the show or wondering why everyone keeps staring at you as you try to eat your sandwich. And there may be a patio out back – I mean, aside from the large high-fenced in area – so we might have to return when Mother Nature finally decides to grace spring upon northeast Ohio and check that out.

We forgot to take our photos before we left, so you’ll have to survive without seeing our smiling faces this week. Instead I’ll just leave this here, and you can use your imagination.Picked by: Cassi

 

WTGW 2/28/18: River City Grille, Cuyahoga Falls – REVISIT

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With Cassi in Texas for a conference this week we decided it was a good time for a revisit to someplace we haven’t been for some time. Which is how we ended up back at River City Grille. I honestly think this place was one of Ted’s first official WTGW outings with us. So that had to of been at least, like, 4 years ago now? Maybe longer?

Well, because that was pre-blog, there’s no real way to fact-check, so you’re just going to have to take my word for it.

Let’s just say that it’s been long enough that we completely forgot how small the menu is. I mean, it’s your typical small bar food menu – burgers, wings, a few sandwich/wrap options, random fried apps … but that’s it. Not a lot of creativity or things that don’t involve cooking via a fryer or grill top. Which as you all know doesn’t really bother us – except that in this case we seemed to remember the menu being a bit more extensive at one time. Shane seemed to remember getting ribs, and that maybe Ted had a pork chop? But maybe it was just a random weekly special. Or we could totally be thinking of someplace else – because, you know, it’s not like we see the insides of a lot of places that seem eerily similar in a lot of ways or anything

Or, you know, maybe after four years things change. I guess that’s allowed.

Also, Ted and I were quick to point out that at least the menu wasn’t “we only serve two things here so I hope you like one of them” small. Because not many places can have that honorable distinction. Thankfully.

Anyway.

Because we gravitate to all things fried, even if they are vegetables, Shane and I ordered the fried veggie sampler as an app. He tried to say that was my idea, but I also know he’s the one who makes a beeline for that particular food stand at any county fair or festival that we go to.

Always eat your vegetables. Especially if they’re fried.

Of course they arrive at our table straight from the furnace of hell … and of course we still reached into the basket two seconds later and tried to eat them straight away. Remember the old thing about making kids learn about the stove being hot by letting them go ahead and touch it, because “they’ll only do THAT once”? Yeah, clearly we skipped that day of life lesson training.

Ted just laughed at us. Some days I think he’s the brains of this operation.

I thought they were pretty good – even going so far as to state that they were county fair quality. Shane quickly disagreed. Because obviously he’s the expert there.

Wednesdays are 50 cent wing nights, so of course Ted and Shane both jumped on that special. Because who are they to let a good wing night pass them by, especially when who knows how long it will be before we see another one?

A quick search of “wings” under the “stuff we’ve tried” tab on this blog will probably totally bring out the sarcasm in that last sentence quicker than any further explaining I might be able to type here. Just FYI.

Anyway, Ted ended up with 12 of the hot garlic wings, while Shane ordered 12 of the Cajun.

Vampires beware

The wings were big, especially for being on special. Bonus that they were also tasty. Because that’s helpful. And don’t forget being edible – because, after last week and Ted’s epic four hour chewing exercise, that’s apparently a new category by which we need to be giving judgement.

Edible wings

The guys also got burgers. Because, well, them. Come on, don’t act surprised.

Ted asked what the “Fuzzbuster” burger was. At least I think that’s the name of it. I should really start paying better attention. Anyway … whatever the name was, the server said it’s basically their version of the Big Mac. OK. So that means it’s a burger, with special sauce and an extra piece of a bun in the middle? Sure.

Low and behold, it arrives and we’ll all be damned if it doesn’t look just like a Big Mac. Only like the promotional pictures of a Big Mac and not what you actually get when you order one. Or at least one without any cheese on it. So there’s that.

Look at how the burger just slides off the bun without any cheese

Ted said basically if you don’t like pickles you shouldn’t get this burger. Or grease. Because that’s about all it consists of. I mean, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. Unless you don’t like those flavors.

I feel like this is a circular conversation.

Shane got the River City burger. Which I think is their fancy way of saying “here’s a cheeseburger with some pickles on it.” Or, here’s the fancy burger Ted ordered but without the extra piece of bread in the middle. But whatever, to each his own I guess.

Dripping with melted cheese

I got the mushroom Swiss burger, and a side of waffle fries with cheese sauce. It’s like the most unhealthy things on the menu just jump in front of me.

Bun close up

We all liked the burgers. They were definitely fresh made, big for the price ($6-$7 a burger) and had good flavor for them. The waffle fries were enough to share with the whole table, and maybe the table next to us. Clearly I couldn’t eat all of those myself. But they were good, so I gave it a valiant effort.

More fried vegetables. And cheese. Really the only food groups one needs, am I right?

All in all River City isn’t a bad place. My indifference in the vote was with the small menu – but now that I remember the burgers are super good I’ll at least know to stick to that option when ordering and not flip the menu back to front 8 billion times in the universal sign of “I can’t figure out what I want even though there are only like 10 things to choose from” like we all did tonight. Ted liked the wings and also was also surprisingly happy with the dark beer selection, which he thought had grown since the last time we’d been there. The place was fairly busy for a Wednesday night, with a lot of the clientele seemingly regulars. I’m not sure that we’ll ever achieve that status there – I mean, I guess we’d have to come back more than once every four years, right? – but I could see us coming back when we’re in a pinch for a relatively close place to get a good burger.

Ted

Shane

Steph

 
River City Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 2/14/18: Eldorado’s Pizza Pub, Ellet

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Welcome to an exciting Valentine’s Day edition of WTGW.

Given the date, I figured I’d better pick a place that wouldn’t be full of date night couples for Valentine’s Day. So naturally a divey pizza pub seemed like a good choice, no?

Plus I wanted to reunite Ted with his forever love, cheese. Because that’s what friends do.

This is also kind of a revisit for Shane, Ted and me, since we’ve been to the Eldorados in Kent. Or, rather, the place forever known as the home of the gigantic Stromboli and the Judgey McJudgerson waitress that asked Amanda and me if we were “sure” we wanted to each order a large stromboli, but didn’t give us any indication that once they arrived we could pretty much split them with an entire small European country.

Not that I’m holding a grudge or anything.

I don’t think any of us realized until recently that there was another Eldorado’s location in Ellet. And apparently GoogleMaps doesn’t, either, since the address I put into the app didn’t match up to where we actually ended up. If we followed the directions we would’ve kept going on down the street … but the sign in front of the building tipped us off that maybe we should stop there. Nice marketing, sign guys.

Speaking of the building – it’s clear that this was once a Lawson’s convenience store. Because it’s always fun to eat dinner where the chip aisle used to be, right? Too bad they don’t serve Lawson’s chip dip at Eldorado’s, it could’ve all come full circle.

Anyway.

We sat down and were brought menus … and Shane gets the menu without the pizza page. That’s pretty much the very definition of irony.

The Wednesday special at Eldorado’s is a 10 inch pizza with one topping for $5. Not bad. Honestly, it’s been a bit since we visited the one in Kent, but the menu at this location seems bigger than the menu at that location. Because aside from pizza, stromboli, meatball subs and other Italian fare, they also serve up burgers, sandwiches and wings … all of which I don’t remember being available at the other location. Because it seems like part of the reason we haven’t been back in a few years is out of respect for Ted and his inability to order anything there without having to discard half of the meal that’s been tainted by cheese.

Needless to say Ted was ecstatic about this new development. And immediately offered up a trade for Shane’s pizza-less menu. Because if you’re ever asked the question “who goes into a pizza place and orders a burger and wings?” … well, the answer is Ted. Just FYI.

He got the Blazin burger – or, well, that was his name for it, the real title is Nuclear burger. Which is why the server was slightly flustered when trying to take his order. Food synonyms are confusing.

This is what a cheese-less pizza looks like in Ted’s world

He also got 12 of the Louisiana hot wings.

Pizza for the lactose intolerant?

I got the small Spicy Piggy Stromboli. Which is slightly embarrassing to say but sounds delicious when you read the description in the menu. I also heeded the lessons learned at the Kent location and only ordered the small. Sometimes we do pay attention, even when alcohol is involved.

Whoever came up with the sizing here still needs a lesson in portion control

Cassi got the Wednesday $5 pizza special with pepperoni and mushrooms.

Not so special Wednesday special

Shane got the meat sweats pizza. Or meat lovers. Whatevs. The server asked if he wanted the $5 special instead, but he was under too much pressure flipping through the menu to decide on toppings that he just stayed with his original. Plus he would’ve had to figure out an order of wings, too, because we all know a 10 inch pizza wouldn’t be enough for him. So he stuck with his original order. #firstworldproblems

That pepperoni is very symmetrical

Shane and I also ordered the sausage jalepeno bites as an app, while Cassi got the smothered tots.

I’ll be the first to admit that the sausage bites looked thoroughly disgusting when they arrived at our table. I think our initial reaction was like, oh, cool, someone cut up a hot dog and deep fried it. Scrumptious. But if you can get past the look of it, it actually tastes really good. It has the kind of spicy bite that sneaks up on you after you’re done chewing it. But in a good way. Trust me.

Winner of the “Don’t Judge a Book By It’s Cover” category

Cassi’s appetizer tots arrived with the rest of the meals. Because I guess if you want something to come out as an appetizer here you have to particularly specify that. I had said it when we ordered the sausage bites, more out of habit than anything else, but I guess the server didn’t take the hint on Cassi’s order. OK. To make matters worse, the tots were soggy and not good. Like I get that they’re smothered in a sauce, and the laws of physics state that crispiness will usually falter in that state. But maybe if they hadn’t spent some time hanging out under a heat lamp while the rest of the meals were cooking they might’ve arrived more resembling tots with sauce than just a pile of mush. As appetizing as that sounds.

These do taste as bad as they look

Maybe Table 6 visited this place before they started their “no heat lamps” policy. Or maybe that’s why they were supposed to be an appetizer. Tough call.

It’s also worth noting that we had like three different servers in the first 20 minutes of our visit. Like are they all just stopping by to gawk at the non-regulars, and then draw straws in the back to see who actually gets to wait on us? My favorite was the one who came over to specifically ask Cassi and me if we needed more drinks, since ours were about a quarter of the way to being empty … meanwhile after she walks away Shane holds up his completely empty glass that she totally overlooked. Whoops.

Ted said that sauce on his wings was good, but the actual wings were not, and may in fact be made from a rubber chicken instead of a real one. To clarify: we all witnessed a sort of reenactment of the dinner scene in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation while watching Ted try to chew his way through them. He calculated that it was approximately five minutes of chewing per wing. Which if he were to eat all 12, that would equal out to about an hour’s worth of mouth exercises just to complete his meal. So it was no surprise that he left most of them on the table.

Chalk up one point in the argument against ordering something non-pizza at a pizza place. Noted.

Although Ted did say that his burger was good. Shane also commented that it had his version of a perfectly toasted bun, which means that it was completely soaked in butter. So much so that you could see a visible line on the side of the bun. Mmmm, heart disease.

Shane might’ve had food jealousy at that point, if not for the fact that he was completely in love with his pizza. Like disgustingly in love. Fitting for Valentine’s Day, I guess. I’m glad as his wife I could introduce him to this new true love. To quote Shane: “it almost gives me a boner just looking at it.” Beause we all needed to know that, Shane. Sharing is caring, I guess. He then went on to say that the cheese alone almost pushed him over the edge. I feel like we all know a little too much about him now.

Meanwhile, since we’re sharing, Cassi said that her bottom was mushy. So there’s that.

My Stromboli was good … kind of. The dough was good, and it was brushed with a garlic butter that gave it a lot of flavor. But there wasn’t enough cheese – like Ted could’ve lived with this one, there was so little cheese – and the sausage was the exact same as what was in our app, so I was kind of over it by that point. I ended up picking a lot of it out just because I didn’t want any more.

Yes, I was full of sausage. Bring on all the jokes.

Meawhile Shane was still on the other side of the table raving loudly about his pizza. We felt like we should’ve given them some time alone.

I think it was in searching for an escape route from Shane and his new date that we discovered this apparently adults-only patio nearby:

So. Many. Questions.

Seems maybe someone has cracked the “hey, under-agers, just wait out on the patio and I’ll attempt to inconspicuously buy four rounds of drinks within five minutes and come out to deliver them to you. be cool” code?

We continued the dessert kick again this week, with an order of cinnamon bread. Which also suffers from the “tastes better than it looks” issue. I guess at least they’re consistent? In any case, it was just OK. Personally I thought it tasted more “burnt” than “cinnamon.” Picked the wrong crayon to color that one there, chef, but thanks for trying. But you definitely get a generous portion, although the less-than-stellar presentation could use some work.

Here’s your sheet pan of dessert bread. Enjoy.

And at least this server clarified Ted’s order with “you’re only getting one, right? Because it will be more than enough for the four of you.” Maybe she needs to go give lessons to the staff down in Kent.

Overall this Eldroado’s is a decent place. The people watching was great, especially on this particular holiday. Plus we got to watch something on TV that can only be described as “House Hunters for Camping.” Seriously. I have no idea what the real name of show is, I think that description gives you enough to go on. I guess that’s a new marker as to “you know you’re in a dive bar when …”

Picked by: Steph

Steph

Cassi

Bromance. At least he stepped away from the pizza long enough to take this photo

Ted

Eldorado's Pizza & Sports Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

 

WTGW 1/31/18: Menches Brothers, Green

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When I first heard about Menches Brothers and their claim of being the ones to have invented the hamburger, I was like

I mean, OK, suuuurrrre you did. If that’s the case then I’m going to start calling my witty remarks the first insurgence of sarcasm.

But then I googled “who invented the hamburger” … and sure enough, there are their names. Color me surprised. Well, I mean, it’s not cut and dried, there’s some dispute … but at least their story is listed. And we all know that if something is on the internet it must be true, right?

As if all this fame business wasn’t enough to make us curious about the place, let’s add another marketing ploy to the list: Wednesday is burger day, which means $3 off all burgers. Perfection. Also $4 Long Islands. Which normally Shane would be all over, but he’s being all healthy these days and five different alcohols in one glass just screams calories.

I know, I’m not sure how to take that either.

Anyway,

So back to the burgers. They have 50 different kinds on their menu. Fifty. Who knew there were so many possibilities for two pieces of bread and some grilled meat? But I guess when you invent the dish, you can also take some liberties at the creativity.

Shane: I wonder how the pizza is here?

I have to be honest, though, fifty burgers with descriptions makes the menu a tad overwhelming. Not Cheesecake Factory short novel overwhelming … more like “I’ve been asked to read through my 10-year-old niece’s book report on a book I don’t know or care a thing about” kind of overwhelming. Exactly. It was enough that I was so engrossed with the burger descriptions that I completely forgot to look at the drink menu and draft beer list before the first time the server came over to take our drink orders. Fail.

Healthy Shane passed on the Long Island special, and instead ordered a tequila and soda. This is new.

He then proceeded to order breaded mushrooms as an app. Seriously, who is this guy?

Meanwhile, Cassi got pretzels. In the rock/paper/scissors game of app choices, she’s the perpetual winner of our group, as this is what appeared in front of us:

Appetizer win

And failure

Once again we chose poorly. Our mushrooms – normally little bombs of oil that take off the roof of your mouth with the first bite – were lukewarm with very little flavor. They also came out with cocktail sauce, leading the server to believe that maybe the cook got confused and thought they were actually sourkraut balls. Because that’s a logical mistake.

Meanwhile the pretzels were cooked perfectly with a slightly spicy cheese sauce for dipping.

I give up.

Ted ordered six Cajun hot wings, and told the server that he didn’t care if they came out with his meal or with the other apps. She brought them halfway in between. That works.

Wings: the perfect in-between meal

After actually asking about the pizza and getting a nonchalant response from the server, Shane opted for the Babbalouie burger. It was the biggest one on the menu, with double patties, bacon, two kinds of cheese, onions and mushrooms.

There’s a lot going on there

Good thing he’s drinking that low cal mixed drink.

He thought it was good. And as it should be – they tout it as the winner of awards at the National Hamburger Festival. The only fault he could really find was that it could’ve used more of the signature Menches sauce on it.

Ted, who at one point stated that it seemed like perhaps getting two burgers with wings might be too much, opted for the Pepper Spice burger.

Things just look lonelier without cheese

He said it was very spicy. Like he knew the name implied that and all, but so often that doesn’t really account for much so he was pretty shocked that it was actually true. Plus Ted’s taste buds are somewhat more inclined to taste fires than normal people’s, so when Ted says things are “very spicy” the rest of us might want to read that as “order only if you want to have an inferno in your mouth for about the next three days.”

Although that doesn’t really explain why he seemed to need a nipple on his beer. Props to our server for stopping over repeatedly to harass him about that after Shane made a comment when Ted passed on the second round. We always enjoy a server who doesn’t mind jumping onto our sarcasm bandwagons.

Speaking of the server, I deferred to her opinion for my meal, as I was torn between the Bacon Mushroom burger, the Chili Cheese burger and the Chipotle Ranch burger. I suck at decision making, I know. But our server offered no hesitation before choosing the Chipotle Ranch. Perfect. Sounds trustworthy.

Chip seasoning for the win

I’m happy to report that she wasn’t wrong. The chipotle ranch sauce was tasty and the toppings weren’t overpowering. Also I was glad I went with the chips as a side, because the seasoning on them – a sort of mix between a bbq and Lowry’s seasoned salt – was delicious.

Cassi also asked for the server’s option, between the Bacon Egg and Cheese burger and the Pizza burger. That one stumped the server, though, so Cassi was somewhat on her own there. She must’ve used up all of her decision-making skills with mine and Shane’s indecisiveness. Sorry about that one. In any case, Cassi went with the Bacon Egg and Cheese.

The bun with the olive looks like a little hat

And she wasn’t disappointed. She said that even though it was more well done than what she usually prefers for a burger, it wasn’t dry. And the toppings, again, were just enough to add to the burger without taking over.

Menches definitely earned thumbs up all around from us. While it’s a little bit bright inside – it definitely can’t be mistaken for a dive bar with drinking regulars who hate the light of day – the drinks were well made, the food was very tasty, and the service was top notch. I feel like it’s the type of place you could go back to several times just to try different burgers – I mean, there are 50 total, even with four of us at least 12 visits just to try all of the different options on the menu (hey, I can do math). Not to mention they also have other items, as well as specials on other nights of the week – $3 off pizzas on Tuesdays, and an Italian night on Saturdays with a choice of pasta entrees for $9.99, and 50 cent wing night on Thursdays … which is also the same night as the “kids eat for $1” special, which seems like it could make for quite the adverse crowd. I think we’ll skip that one, thanks. We knew we picked Wednesdays for a reason.

Picked by: Cassi

Cassi

Ted

Shane

Steph

 
Menches Brothers Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 1/3/18: Town Tavern, Fairlawn

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When a place changes names and redecorates, is it a new pick or a revisit?

These are the tough arguments we hash out in this group, folks.

So the Town Tavern is the old David B’s, a place we visited about four years ago – and that I almost didn’t make it to thanks to Mother Nature and her lovely need to throw snow storms at me at totally inopportune times. Always a pleasure. And even when I did finally arrive, I nearly missed happy hour because of that little stunt.

This is just one of the many reasons why we are (still) not friends.

Anyway.

So back then the menu was a bit small and unimpressive – you know, the usual bar food like burgers and sandwiches, fried appetizers, that sort of thing. We liked it not because it tasted especially good, but mainly because it was cheap. I mean, give us $5 burgers and some $2 bottled beers, and we’re pretty much best friends for life.

See also: Windsor Pub, Caddyshack Inn, and a host of other dive bars we’ve been known to frequent over the years.

But I digress.

It seemed back then that what David B’s lacked in fine dining, it certainly more than made up for in the categories of people watching and conversation eavesdropping. And before you ask – yes, those are very much important factors in a dining experience, thank you very much. I mean, come on, how many times has awful service and mediocre tasting food been totally forgotten thanks to the overheard life story of a gaggle of wine-laden women at a nearby table, or the snippets of conversation garnered from a couple who may or may not be struggling through an awkward first date?

Be honest here.

Yeah, thought so.

In any case, when I saw that David B’s had changed names, and likely ownership, to become the Town Tavern, I figured it was time for a (re?)visit.

We definitely noticed a difference in the decor as soon as we arrived. Well, I mean, except for the the sign above the front door that still says “David B’s.” Must’ve missed that one in the transition. But I guess they make up for it a bit with this.

In case you get lost

They definitely put some thought and money into the new tables and lighting. The old bar tables and chairs that screamed “welcome to any 90’s bar” have been replaced with giant wood tables, and chairs that don’t look like they’ve been sat on by the same regulars for 30 years. And while the giant chandeliers don’t give off a ton of light, at least it’s not of the neon variety that I seem to remember from before.

The place seemed pretty crowded for a Wednesday night, too. Or maybe they just took away some space with all the bigger tables. Whatever works.

But the award for biggest change definitely goes to the menu. Although be warned: it’s still pretty small and non-diverse. I mean, hey, we all don’t have to be Cheesecake Factory with a menu that resembles a short story book … but when the majority of your foods are specialty hot dogs then I have to admit you aren’t really getting my attention. It’s like they’re trying to be the Melt of hot dog restaurants.

They did have some burgers, a few sandwiches and some apps like pretzels, loaded fries/tots and mozzarella sticks. So some of the bar foods prevailed. I mean, you can’t just throw out the deep fryers, kids. There are standards here.

This week the part of Ted will be played by Jason, as Ted got invited to some swanky event at the Football Hall of Fame and ditched us for that. I’m not sure who told him it was OK to have play dates with other friends on Wednesdays, but whatevs. We’ll forgive him this time.

For appetizers, Cassi and Jason got the loaded tots,while Shane and I opted for the mozzarella sticks. Here’s what arrived:

It barely fits in the basket

Oh look, we apparently ordered the “basket of disappointment.”

Shane: I think we got shorted.

Seriously, are we even in the same restaurant?

That’s like a pound of tater tots loaded with beer cheese and bacon. Meanwhile, we get five mozzerella sticks that seemed to be poured directly out of a freezer bag into the deep fryer. Seems fair.

Obviously, we chose poorly. Learn from our mistake.

Apparently when you eat out as two couples, you’re unspokenly obligated to order the exact same meals, as somehow Shane and I ordered the exact same burger, while Cassi and Jason also played twinsies with their burgers. It’s so cute, it’s sickening. I know. I threw up in my mouth a little just typing this.

Or maybe it was the memory of the burger I ordered that somewhat prompted that response. Mine and Shane’s burger of choice was called the Ring of Fire … and let me assure you, it’s aptly named. Jalepenos + spicy ketchup = holy crap I think my tongue has shriveled up and died an angry death in my mouth because I sure as hell can’t feel it any more after eating that.

Alternate title: the “you didn’t need those taste buds anyway” burger

Most of this ended up in the basket instead of in my mouth

Good thing we had a great server who paid attention to our drink levels and always made sure we had liquids in front of us … is what I would’ve said if it had been true for that evening. Nope. He was nowhere to be found. Thanks for nothing, server guy.

Good thing I had a nice full drink to help with that heat. Oh, wait. Never mind

I should mention that while I was suffering through the anguish of seven suns burning in my mouth, Shane was eating the exact same burger as if nothing was wrong. He ate his entire burger, then jabbed a fork into the pile of toppings I had scraped off of my burger and sarcastically offered up to him.

I guess this is why we work.

He also later said that he put the burger in his Top 7. I mean, I’m not sure who’s keeping track of his Top (pick a random number) list at this point, but if that means something to you then there you go.

Meanwhile, once again Cassi and Jason won the “smart order of the night” award, as they both got the Tavern Burger. It’s one of those burgers that combines breakfast and dinner, with bacon and a fried egg as toppings. I swear, whoever was the first to attempt this must be pretty damn proud of themselves, because that burger is always a winner no matter where you order it.

This picture is making me hungry all over again

Take two. You know, in case you didn’t see it well enough in the first picture.

Cassi also got mac and cheese as a side, which I was instantly jealous of as soon as it arrived.

They both thought their burgers were very good. In particular they said that the toasted buns were a nice touch.

That’s what she said.

Sorry, I couldn’t help it.

As if I need to further demonstrate our server’s horrible lack of interest in our table, picture this little scenerio: we’ve finished or boxed up our meals, our drinks are all quite obviously almost empty, the server stops over to pick up some plates and asks if we’re OK. And we don’t order more drinks. Usually that’s like the universal clue to bring over the checks, right? I mean, I’ve never worked as more than a hostess in the restaurant world, but natural assumption would be that if the drinks are obviously low, the meals are over, and no one needs anything, then maybe our time together is almost over, and I should help things along by letting these people know how much this evening is going to cost before they can leave?

Yeah, not here. It was another 25 minutes before the server came back and even inquired if we were interested in getting the checks. Um, no, we’d like to sleep here. Thanks.

Although in all that time that we were sitting around waiting on the checks, we still forgot to take our thumbs up/down pics at the end of the night. So I guess you’ll have to live without seeing our smiling face for this week. It’ll be rough, I know.

Picked by: Steph