WTGW 5/22/19: M&M’s Taphouse, Barberton

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Did you miss us? Come on, you can admit it.

Sorry kids, for some reason it seems like between the five of us we had ALL THE LIFE COMMITMENTS happening on Wednesday nights these past few weeks. I mean, WTF, universe? Don’t you realize who we are? It’s not Where To Go Tuesdays, people. That just sounds lame.

Anyway.

THE WHERE (we went)

So our first Wednesday night out in damn near a month takes us back to the lovely city of Barberton. Specifically, back across the street from our old friend Block 7. We’d have stopped back in to say hello, but I’m not sure any of us were wearing enough layers, what with it finally being summer outside and I’m sure it still being arctic in there and all.

Instead, we head across the street, to M&M’s Taphouse. Which is either located in an old bank building, or someone just thought it would be fun to install a heavy grade vault door on the back storeroom for the hell of it. I mean, whatever floats your boat. Or fills your doorway, I guess, in this instance.

As the name suggests, the specialty at M&M’s is candy flavored beers.

I kid.

It’s actually a rotating stock of craft beers – both on draft and in cans/bottles. They also have a small-ish menu of primarily sliders, flatbreads and shareable apps.

And apparently they’ve jumped on the “keep the drinking crowd entertained and they’ll stay longer and drink more” bar game craze that seems to have found its way to 90% of the places we visit on Wednesday nights these days. From trivia to name that tune, I feel like we’re getting smarter just by leaving the house midweek anymore.

M&M’s variety is something called Beer Bingo, which is pretty much a cooler version of the game played by the 70+ crowd across America, because it involves drinking and getting prizes from local brewery (and one of our recent visits) Thirsty Dog.

Sold.

The only problem was that since the small-ish main area was pretty full of people enjoying this game, and there was a lack of seating options for parties over four who also order a crapload of food, our group ended up in the back room. Which resembled a cross between the local dive bar and the basement of every cool kid we all ever knew in high school.

Admit it, everyone knew someone with this basement. Well, probably minus the vault door

Pinball? Ping pong? Arcade games? Darts? Nintendo?

We may never leave. Seriously. Check that couch in a week or so and we may all be sitting there fighting over the controller for our turn at Tetris.

THE WHAT (we ordered)

You mean other than a few rolls of quarters to play all the pinball we could ever want?

Right. Because we actually aren’t 12 (all the time), and if you’ve read this blog before I bet you won’t be surprised to know we were all hungry and thirsty.

It took us a hot minute to figure out how to go about ordering, as the place is still kind of new and hence still figuring that system out themselves. One of the workers passing by on his way to the backroom must’ve been wearing his newbie radar – or we just had looks on our faces that gave away the fact that we were hungry and a bit clueless on how things worked there – because he was nice enough to stop by to tell us that we should go up to the bar to order, as apparently that’s where the beer list resides (on a TV monitor, we soon learned … so pro tip, maybe invest in another TV for the lack room? Just a thought).

Or maybe his radar was more of the “these people look like they could be taking notes on the place” variety, since he also made a point to tell us that he “didn’t want us to have to wait and therefore have a bad experience.”

Either way, we thank you.

But then as half the table was about to mosey on up to the bar to place some orders, a woman appeared, introduced herself as one of the owners, passed around some menus … and told us that she would be happy to take our orders … again, so we didn’t have to wait.

Well now we’re a little confused. I mean, I appreciate all of the consideration for our time and happiness, but now I can’t get that 80’s Dead or Alive song about spinning right round like a record, baby, out of my head.

Right round round round.

So, yeah, we ended up visiting the bar for drinks, but putting our food orders in via the owner/server. There, everyone wins.

Plus Shane, Ted and I opted to do beer flights, and those were definitely easier to order up at the bar.

By the way, can we just pause for a moment to say a heartfelt thank you to the person who invented the flight of beers? I mean, what a way to cater to those of us whose indecisiveness and alcoholism sometimes wager a war against one another.

Even though by this photo it looks as though I chose four of the same beer.

I realize they’re all the same color. But it’s actually two ciders, a Hefeweizen, and a blueberry shandy. So there.

Teds and Shane’s each had a little more variety.

Meanwhile on the non-flight side of the table, Jason was drinking the Thirsty Dog Blood Orange and Cassi had the dry cider – before eventually switching to White Claw.

We also heard a rumor that they were coming around with beer samples … but despite all of us hearing the bingo host say this and also seeing the bar rep pour an entire tray of samples … somehow we missed that train. Booo.

Both Cassi and Jason and Shane and I ordered the pretzel sticks for apps. They arrived straight from the surface of the sun, so that was pretty awesome for our fingers and the roof of our mouths.

And you know what goes well with a burnt mouth? About 1900lbs of salt, which is a pretty exact measurement of what was on each pretzel stick. I mean, we know one person in the group who at least was fond of that. But the rest of us did a fair amount of scraping to make them to our liking.

Beyond the salt mine, though, they were pretty tasty. And doughy. And hot without being burnt. Score, score and score again. Also, the cheese tasted way better than it looked. Just putting that out there.

You know how we love to order wings and burgers? Yeah, well, mark this one down as a moment in history, because there were actually none of either of those on our table. Which in effect breaks our (I think?) 5 or 6 week streak of having at least one order of wings on the table on a Wednesday night. Sad face.

But really it’s only because I don’t think they were offered on the menu at all, so that could be a technicality. Regardless, tonight’s table specialties were sliders and chips. Well, and Jason’s pizza.

Its very fancy

So the sliders are always two for $8, and that comes with one side. If you just want one, they’re $3.50 each ala cart, without a side.

And the chips aren’t just any old rippled regular chips poured out of a bag – they come in interesting flavors like sour cream and chive or salt and vinegar.

OK, keep talking.

Cassi got two of the Italian sliders, paired with the sour cream and chive chips.

I got the avocado BLT and the Italian, along with a side salad and another side order of sour cream and chive chips.

Ted got two orders of sliders, and tried basically everything on the slider menu except the avocado BLT. Which means the Italian, two kinds of chicken (BBQ and buffalo), and the brisket. And chips and cole slaw.

Shane also went the two order route, with the avocado BLT and Italian, and then – because he assumed from the start that he would just love it the best – two of the brisket. He also sampled both the salt and vinegar and the sour cream and chive chips.

Guess who ended up liking the brisket the best? Not Shane – who voted the Italian as the best of the bunch – but Ted. Although he admitted he might be a little bit biased, since that was the one he ate last.

Clearly we are top notch on the food tasting chain.

(Which means it makes perfect sense that we’ll once again be featured as “celebrity food judges,” for the 4th Annual Scrumptious Showdown at Aurora Farms Outlets on Saturday, June 1st, between 12-3PM. Come out and join Ted, Shane and I as we break out our most comfortable pants that can be worn in public and test the limits of our stomachs by sampling items from 10-15 different food trucks in about an hour’s time. We may or may not have learned a few things over the years of doing this – but you can take notes on us while eating a few of your favorites for yourself. See you there!)

**end shameless plug**

Cassi and I also voted the Italian sliders as winners, although truthfully I liked both of the ones I tried. And the sour cream were the clear winner out of the various chips.

But honestly, everything was good. I guess the best way to say it is that there wasn’t anything that we wouldn’t order again, although some items were preferred over others.

Probably our biggest complaint about the meals – and this is something we’ve actually been seeing quite a bit lately, but would like to put out there that we’re not a fan of it becoming the industry standard – was that rather than having the food come out for the table as a whole, it was delivered as it was finished. And because it’s a small kitchen, that means there can be several minutes between service. I mean, we’re not talking the proportions of the New Milford Café or anything, but still. It’s only slightly awkward when four other really hungry people all circle around like vultures to the only one at the table to have food delivered.

Speaking of things being delivered … we finally got a visit from the beer sample fairy! She brought us tiny glasses of … well, if I’m being honest we didn’t all care so much for the beer – but it was just nice to be remembered, so props.

THE WHO (we saw)

Well, from our kid’s table in the back room, no one, really. Perhaps our reputation of loudly discussing topics that shouldn’t be discussed over meals preceded us?

I mean, on one had that means someone is actually reading this blog. But then again, that’s not exactly the picture I hope to paint of us.

So. Torn.

But wait, we did actually talk to the owners of M&M’s a bit during this visit. There was the woman who took our orders and came back to check on us several times over the course of the night, and then also the guy who was running the beer bingo, who checked into the back room in an attempt to coerce us into playing the game and in the process ended up telling us a bit about the history of the place. I guess that would be a backfire for him, but win for sure for us.

THE HOW (much we paid)

About $60 before tip. Not bad. Honestly, the beer prices were cheaper than some of the divier bars we’ve been to lately. And these are craft beers, not Bud Lite. $8 for a flight seems reasonable, likewise for a 16oz craft at $4.50 – $5.00.

THE WHY (they may see us again)

So all in all M&M’s is a good place. The food was good, they had a great selection of interesting beer – plus several ciders on tap that weren’t named Angry Orchard, which will always get my attention. The games were a nice touch (although maybe offer free play for the pinball and arcade games on weeknights when it’s not too busy, because who really carries cash much anymore?)  And it’s always nice when people go out of their way to make you feel welcome.

Our biggest complaint is probably that they really could use a new seating configuration in the non-game room, or at least more space for parties larger than 2 or 4. As the group who always asks to be seated in the bar and not the dining area, being relegated to the back room with no TVs and no way of interacting with anyone definitely made us feel like we were being punished in some way. We probably could’ve moved into the main room after finishing our meals – by the time we left around 9:30 the front room had cleared out a bit with more places to fit our group – but at the peak time the only option for that would’ve probably involved sitting on laps of strangers, and I’m not sure anyone would be comfortable with that. I mean, I think that whole friendly vibe only goes so far.

Picked by: Ted
Next pick: Shane

Ted

Jason

Steph

Cassi

Interrupting Shane’s fictitious dart game

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WTGW 3/20/19: Thirsty Dog Taphouse, Akron

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THE WHERE (we went)

Hey, look kids, it’s someplace that’s not a half hour away in the middle of nowhere!

Which makes it all the more surprising that we haven’t been to Thirsty Dog Taphouse prior to this visit. While the brewery itself has been around for a while (and we’ve definitely sampled their beer offerings at other locations around the area over the years), the taphouse with food offerings is fairly new. Maybe it opened last summer? You’d think a group like ours would know these things, right? And especially when it’s this close to home, we’re usually quicker to jump on them. Instead we’re busy fleshing out spots on backroads in Massilon. Whateves.

Another plus – TDT not only serves their own craft beers, but also has a full bar available. So those nights you’re just not feeling the 12% porter, go ahead and get yourself a few stiff shots of Jameson instead.

THE WHAT (we ordered)

Flights of beer. Duh.

High tech post it note abbreviation system

That was all me, Shane and Ted. On the other side of the table, Cassi stuck with the raspberry ale, while Jason tried a couple of different full sized glasses.

On the food side of things, it seems our table was decisively either Team Sliders

Pulled pork, meatball and sausage. It’s hard to tell which is which, but they’re all there.

or Team Pizza

Cassi’s pepperoni and banana pepper

Ted’s jalapeno and sausage

My sausage, mushroom and extra cheese

Well, except Jason, who had to be different and get the pulled pork.

And Shane, who apparently just couldn’t get enough of sandwiches this evening, so he added a full kielbasa to his order of sliders.

That’s a lot of bread

And Ted got both the sliders and pizza. Way to be impartial.

So there’s that.

We also got a few orders of pretzels for apps, because we obviously had no idea how many carbs were about to arrive at this table.

The pretzels were really good. We all liked them, and the cheese and mustard dipping sauces were all good, too – if not completely inappropriately portioned to the amount of pretzel that came with them.

Oh, and Cassi also got a salad.

Everything was very good. The pizzas were tasty, and giant – so definitely enough for a take home container. I was glad to have splurged on the extra cheese as a topping, it was well worth the $2.00 upcharge.

Ted voted the pulled pork slider the best of his trio, with the meatball coming in second and the sausage last. When he threw this vote out, Shane had only eaten the meatball. Because, you know, he had that whole kielbasa sandwich to get through first. Technicality. So he saved his pulled pork slider for last, based on Ted’s vote.

So trusting.

But it worked out for him, he was I agreement that that was the best of the three. So maybe Jason was on to something with just ordering that full sandwich from the get go, eh?

THE WHO (we saw)

Hey, Wednesday night, thanks for bringing your party to the Taphouse! In March, no less. Not too shabby of a crowd for the middle of the week – or maybe we’re just scarred from last week with the old timers and melancholy jukebox hero from Wil’s. In any case, tonight we were joined by a few other full tables of folks, plus a couple of groups at the bar.

All this, and they’re only open until 9pm.

Wait, what now? That seems a tad Cinderella-ish to close down the party that early in the evening. Let’s just say we were the last table out the door, and they were literally locking it behind us. At 8:55.

Huh. Noted.

Our server was also the only bartender on staff this evening. So considering what I just mentioned, they really could’ve used more than one person, no? It took her a hot minute to come get our drink orders after we arrived, which she told us was because someone had come in wanting to fill a growler. Well OK then.

And when she finally did take our food order she was not at all impressed with how much of the menu we selected. Bonus points for when I inquired about what she recommended in the battle of the pizza vs. sliders … and her reply was the old classic “they’re both good.” Bravo. We all know how much this group finds that answer super helpful and not at all dismissive.

We also found ourselves in another “you ordered last so you get to watch everyone else eat” situation. When she brought Shane’s and Jason’s sandwiches she warned us it would still be a full five minutes on the last pizza. Oh, cool. That might’ve been better information to have when I ordered, but thanks.

THE HOW (much we spent)

In case you can’t read the fine print, that’s $75 before tip. So almost $90 total out the door.

Ouch.

That definitely makes this one of our more expensive nights out in a while. And it’s not like we got steaks and bottle service. Also, the menu itself isn’t even that extensive. I think approximately half of the available items ended up on our table at some point in the evening.

It did seem like the pizzas were kind of pricey, but I’m guessing they probably expected groups of people to split those. Little did they know that this table is more like

THE WHY (they may see us again)

Cool vibe, although literally rolling up the sidewalks at 8:55 was a bit of a downer. The food was pretty good and so was the beer. And it’s close to home, which is always something we’re searching for. But the hefty price tag may make us rethink this as a crowd favorite.

Picked by: Ted
Next pick: Shane

Ted

Jason

Cassi

Steph

Shane

WTGW 3/22/17: R Shea’s Brewery / Diamond Deli, Merriman Valley

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We’ve all been itching to try R Shea’s Brewery ever since it opened a year or so ago and we noticed the bevy of cars parked outside pretty much every evening. Always busy usually means the place probably doesn’t suck, right? Plus we know we like beer, and the few craft breweries we’ve visited in the area have been good to us. In particular we know that we love Akron’s Hoppin Frog brewery, and R Shea’s seemed like a nice alternative that wouldn’t involve a 60-minute round trip drive … 30 minutes of which always occurred after ingesting some high potency beers.

See also: reasons why things like Uber were invented.

The one caveat that held us back from trying R Shea’s this long? They didn’t serve food. Other than the occasional food truck we would see parked outside on random evenings. And that seemed to be stretching the WTGW rules just a tad.

But then we heard that they were teaming up with Diamond Deli, a decade-plus downtown Akron institution known for overstuffed sandwiches with creative names, to start serving sammies and select apps at the brewery.

Now we’re talking. Game on.

Apparently it’s a winning combo, as the place is still always busy. Every. Time. We. Drive. By. And as evidenced by our visit, when at 6:45 on a Wednesday night we managed to grab what I have to believe from my brief scan of the room was the last remaining table in the place. Which we then had to steal a chair from the bar to place on the end of just so it could hold all three of us.

If you know us, you know at that point we were already calculating how we would fit the copious amounts of food and beer we were about to order onto this tiny space. I won’t lie, it was tight. But, hey, all those years playing Tetris finally amounted to something I guess.

R Shea’s offers flights of five 6oz beers for $10 – which is a great way to try a few of the 15 or so beers on the list. In fact, we had trouble picking just five each to try. It’s also a great way to get relatively buzzed without meaning to, if you’re like us and forget that most of these beers are, well, a tad bit over the usual Bud Light alcohol percentage.

Beyond that the 13oz stouts and 16oz regular beers are just $5 for a pint, which is still extremely reasonable. And still continuing the “ways to get totally crocked without meaning to and not really discovering you are until you get up to walk to the restroom” experiment.

Not that any of us did that or anything. Just saying.

I took a picture of the beer menu since I knew I would never remember the names, much less the descriptions, of all the beers we tried. Thank you, technology.

Ignore the iPhone shadow. Photo taken for memory and not art.

Shane got the Uncommon Blonde, Orange-Mango Citra Shandy, Towpath Pale Ale, Chocolate Coffee Stout and The Elvis.

My flight started out looking just like Shane’s, with the Uncommon Blonde and Citra Shandy. But then I moved to the the Merriman Mild, Snicker Dude and Pecan Pie Milk Stout.

I actually was stuck on a decision between the Merriman Mild and the Pale Ale, but decided on the Mild because Ted told me it would have more of a coffee taste and be less bitter. Fortunately for him he was right.

Not surprisingly, Ted ignored the lighter beers completely and started off with the Shea’s Irish Red, and then the Belgian Quadrupel, Snicker Dude, The Elvis and Pecan Pie Milk Stout.

My flight at the bottom, Shane’s at the left and Ted’s at the top

So we had some crossover, but we each also got at least one that no one else tried. This is why we’re friends.

Ted told us the proper way to taste a flight is to start with the lightest first and move to the darker ones next. Something to do with the flavor and boldness, and saving the heavier ones for last so as not to ruin your palate.

Taking his words to heart, Shane and I proceeded to take a sip out of each of our five beers at first just to try them. We then worked oppositely – Shane drank the ones he liked best first, while I saved the ones I liked best for last.

Clearly we’re good students.

You’ll probably find this hard to believe, but we all agreed that ALL of the beers we tried were good. I know that sounds like a joke – I mean, come on, we each tried five new beers and there wasn’t ONE any of us wanted to spit out? Honestly, no. Of course we all had our preferences and favorites out of our tasters, but there wasn’t one anyone tried that earned a wrinkled nose and a group search for a drain to pour the glass out into instead of downing it.

Even the darker beers were winners in our books – and “Mr. Bud Light” and I usually don’t go that route. Shane’s favorite was actually not one that he got on his flight, but one that he and Ted ordered full 13oz sizes of after finishing the sample sizes … the weekly rotating beer called the “Lab Rat,” (or, as Shane kept calling it by the end of the evening, the “Family Rodent” – whatevs) which this week was a stout with flavors of chocolate, coconut and lemongrass. It was very smooth, not heavy or bitter at all.

Who knew lemongrass and coconut made a good beer match?

Needless to say, Ted was quite proud.

Ted: A guy who usually orders a Bud Light just enjoyed a stout. This is a great day.

He was less impressed with me, as my faves were the Blonde and the Shandy. Old habits die hard, sorry. I mean, the darker ones were good – and those are not words that come out of my mouth often with regards to craft beers, so that means something. The flavors were unique. But I’m just not sure I could’ve ordered a full 13 oz glass of any one of them. The sample size glasses were perfect for me.

Ted loved the Snicker Dude the best, followed closely by the Elvis. I sampled The Elvis from his flight (I didn’t order it on mine) and it was pretty tasty. I was kind of wishing I’d picked that over my Snicker Dude. But once again I was suckered in by the promising description (cinnamon! sugar! tastes like a cookie!).

I swear the people who write beer descriptions are right up there with meteorologists on the list of jobs that can be wrong 97.5% of the time and yet remain employed.

Because we had such a large table, of course we decided appetizers were in order. Ted got hummus, which came with veggies and pita. He didn’t say much about it – but he finished it, so that must count for something.

I also forgot to take a picture of it, but really, you’ve all seen hummus and vegetables before, so I think we’re OK there. Chill.

Shane and I ordered the pretzels with beer cheese dip, which I have to believe arrived at our table directly via teleportation from the oven, because I think I gave myself second degree burns just trying to pick one up. But it was worth it, because they were delicious. The cheese dip wasn’t as flavorful as I would’ve thought, especially since it’s made with beer from the brewery, but that’s OK because the pretzels alone were tasty enough.

My heaven is filled with hot soft pretzels. Don’t judge.

And it’s a good thing we ordered that appetizer, because it may have saved us from starvation … or, OK, on a less dramatic note, at least utter alcoholic obliteration … while we waited for our actual meals to arrive.

Ted’s sandwich arrived first. He got the “Chad’s Wait Til You Hear This Story” – which if it’s not obvious from the name is corned beef, pastrami, Swiss and spicy mustard on rye.

I mean, you knew that, right? Come on.

You have no idea how long we all stared at this sandwich

And then we waited for our other two sandwiches. My Italian Sub (pretty self explanatory) …

The “I don’t have a real name” Italian sub

and Shane’s Boxty (basically a reuben on a potato pancake).

You definitely need a fork for this one

Maybe it’s because we ordered boring sandwiches without fun names, but somehow mine and Shane’s orders seemed to get lost somewhere. We didn’t really notice it at first – I mean, we were drinking new flavored beers, first of all, so food wasn’t exactly top of mind. And truthfully we were kind of grateful for the chance to finish our apps and move some glasses around before more plates arrived on our itty bitty table.

But like 15 minutes later, we started to think they really had forgotten us. And that finally Ted was getting redemption for last week, when the server clearly hated him. So we asked one of the servers, and sure enough our two tickets had gotten lost. I give R Shea’s a ton of credit – they were super nice about the whole thing, and as soon as they realized what had happened they got our orders in right away, so our food arrived very shortly after. It was truly great customer service.

If it were our server from last week be probably would’ve just blamed Ted for our missing food and walked away.

Our sandwiches were all very good. Make no mistake – the sandwiches may seem simple on paper, but they’re very well done, and enough food to definitely qualify as a meal. Each sandwich came with a small handful of chips – which I have to admit that I was mildly disappointed to see such a small pile of on my plate … until I ate my sandwich and was grateful I hadn’t eaten anything more than what I had. Truthfully I probably should’ve stopped at only eating half my sandwich, because that was filling enough. But, well, I blame the beer for clouding my judgement.

Like we’ve all never used that line before. Probably for worse things than eating half a sandwich.

R Shea’s will definitely be a place we make a return trip to. Partially because the atmosphere, food, beer and people are all great, and partially because they also tweak and add to their beer menu weekly, so while you’re sure to find a favorite on there you can also try something new each time you come in. It’s a place you could do a full meal at, or just stop in for beers and an app – and because the beers are so filling, you’ll still leave happy. The only downside is that if you come at the busiest time you may be standing around for a while awkwardly looking at people who you hope to steal the tables of once they leave … but, hey, you can still have drinks while you do that, so it’s all good in the long run, right?

Picked by: Ted
Next pick: Shane

Steph

To-Go Ted

That’s Shane’s gang sign for “thumbs up times two”