WTGW 1/3/18: Town Tavern, Fairlawn

Standard

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

Advertisements

WTGW 11/29/17: Akron City / Stray Dog Tavern

Standard

Shane got all excited this week when I announced that I was picking a place in North Hill. Because, well, potentially slightly scary places are intriguing to him. Even when they aren’t bars run out of houses.

There’s also this:

Nothing like testing your willpower by attending the AA meeting across the street from a bar

Because that seems wise.

Anyway.

History lesson time: I guess this place is the old The Office – which moved to Cuyahoga Falls a while back. We visited that location a few years ago, and were underwhelmed. I believe this original location just reopened with a new name and menu about a year ago.

Spoiler alert: we were far more impressed with this new place than the original-in-a-new-building.

Although – and here’s where my magical marketing hat of common sense comes into play … there seems to be some discrepancy with the name of this new place, as it can be found under either Akron City Tavern, or Stray Dog Tavern. Meanwhile, the website title shows up in the bar as The Office City Tavern. I’ll take the identity crisis special with a side of you might want to just choose one brand new name and stick with it, please. It seriously took me about 20 minutes of googling to make sure that all of these names were, in fact, leading me to the exact same place.

I feel like I should get some sort of prize for completing that scavenger hunt.

In reality what they should name the place is the Tiny Little Two-Topped Tavern, because the place is super small inside. And has very few table options for parties larger than two or four. Which bodes well for our party of five, no? We ended up at the only table big enough to accommodate us, right at the front in the window. But at least the bartender came over and turned on the overhead light fixture just for us. Point one for hospitality.

Now is probably also a good time to mention that the place wasn’t busy at all. Like it was just two other people and the bartender inside when we walked in – so our group of five essentially more than doubled the population of the place. I think the other two people were also friends of the bartender’s, not actual paying customers. So there’s that.

It should be no surprise that the first thing Jason and Shane noticed was that they had Hamm’s. Cheap beer connoiseurs, these ones.

Shane: Ah, it tastes like a dive bar in Chicago.

MMMMMMM.

For apps, Ted went with mussels, Shane and I went with the veggie spring rolls, and Cassi and Jason decided on the chips and dip.

The chips and dip ended up being the big winner. The dip was excellent. We think it may have been Lawson’s chip dip, but without the plastic container actually on the table in front of us it’s hard to say for sure.

This looks more impressive than last week’s Pound of Chips debacle

The mussels also ended up being very good. They had just enough garlic without being overwhelming. When we raved about them, the bartender told us that the key is that the cook starts the sauce with garlic and beer ahead of time, then throws the mussels in later. I’m no chef, but I can say for certain that whatever he’s doing is certainly working. Also, I’m not sure the chef appreciates you giving out his secrets, but thanks?

I’ll take the Keep The Vampires Away special, please

Shane wasn’t thrilled with the veggie spring rolls. I thought they were OK – but nothing I needed to order again.

At first you’re disappointed there are only three. Until you try them.

I’d read that no matter what name you call this place, burgers are a big speciality here. So of course that’s what we all ordered. Hey, how else are we supposed to confirm that if we don’t try them? I mean, seriously.

Food twins Jason and Shane both got the Danny Boy’s – which includes a fried egg and corned beef on top of the burger. I guess this particular one also won the top award at the National Hamburger Festival in downtown Akron this past summer. So, you know, no big pressure to be amazing or anything.

Breakfast for dinner

Shane debated over adding a second 7oz patty to his sandwich, but the bartender talked him out of it. Apparently he doesn’t read this blog. And of course Shane said later he could’ve actually used it. Not only because it tasted pretty damn good, but also because 7oz of meat is really not a lot for someone who eats like he does.

**insert 15 year old humor here**

Good thing he got that sidecar of fries

Ted got the Caprese burger.  As in, essentially a Caprese salad on top of a burger. My guess is that this was less an attempt to be healthy and more an effort – as in all of Ted’s endeavors – to avoid cheese.

The only burger on the table without anything fried or melted on top of it

The chef came over to the table as the food was delivered, and apologized for not having enough shaved mozzerella cheese on it. Little did he know that he hit the right person with that sentence. I think Ted about fell off of his chair trying to stop him when the chef said he would go back and get more for him, since he had already actually donated what was there to Shane. Such a good friend.

#friendshipgoals

Cassi got the bacon cheeseburger. I’m going to guess you’re intelligent enough to guess what was on that one. She said it was delicious. And that this was probably the best food she’s had in all the weeks she’s been out with us. #winning

The cheese seems to have overthrown the bacon for seniority here

I got the Akron Burger, which was a burger topped with grilled chip-chopped ham, chips and Lawson’s French onion dip. Because nothing says Akron like chip-chopped ham and Lawson’s chip dip, I take it? I clearly haven’t lived here long enough to learn these connections.

That’s one way to get chips AND fries with your meal

Everyone agreed that the burgers were amazing. They’re all freshly cooked, no frozen patties here. And cooked to order, so you know that won Shane over. All the various toppings added to the burger instead of taking over and overpowering the meat itself. And even the buns were good.

So. Many. Jokes. in those last two sentences. Must restrain.

But in all seriousness, Shane put the burgers in his Top Two. And then later said they may actually be his favorite. That’s high praise, folks.

I mean, we all know those famous Shane numerical order lists are written in stone … for at least like a week.

The fries were the only slight disappointment, at least in my opinion. They weren’t horrible, but after I had the chips and dip I wished I had gotten the chips as my side instead. I will say that the portion was still good – what looked like a small amount when they arrived turned out to be just enough to be filling … without being like hey, I just ate about 15 fried potatoes so please roll me out the door.

But to kind of balance that out, there were homemade pickles with the burgers. Right? Homemade. Like not out of a jar butter chips. Clearly Lawson’s trumps Vlassic in Akron.

The place also has great service. I mean, granted, we were the only ones there – but still the bartender/server was very attentive, and instead of just yelling over the bar at us (because let’s face it, we weren’t that far away) he would actually walk around and come check on us, ask us if we needed refills, etc. He also encouraged us to just yell at him if we needed anything at all. Just like home.

Another plus: when Cassi and I ran out the keg of cider we were both drinking, he gave me the last half glass that was poured (since he had no other ciders on tap or bottle) at no charge. And seemingly felt really bad about not having any other selection. Now, if we go back down the road and there’s more than one cider selection on the menu then I’ll really be impressed. Even more so if they wanted to name it after us. Just a thought.

Although, had I seen this sign, maybe I would’ve gone with this special:

Liningoogles? That’s new

Must be a new competitor to the more well known Leinenkugel’s. We’ll see how that fares.

We also noticed a special for $5 classic burger and a 16oz can of Hamm’s during all Cleveland sports games. Shane said he would be in for like three of those. Somehow I think he just means three of the burgers, and far more of the Hamm’s.

I have to admit, while we weren’t sure what to expect when we walked in – it’s small, it was practically empty, and it’s in a somewhat sketch neighborhood – Akron City/Stray Dog/The Bar Formerly Known As The Office Tavern turned out to be a really good pick. Cassi said it may be the best since she’s started coming out with us – although to be fair, it is up against places that smelled like Grandmas house and only have two items on the menu. But we all agreed this place is a hidden gem. Really good food, great service, and decent prices. I mean, what more can you ask for, right? Don’t let the location scare you, because it’s definitely worth the trip. I for one would love to see this one thrive, and not have a party of five be the biggest thing to show up on a Wednesday night. That being said, if we show up in a few months and there’s a line for our window table I might be a little bit irritated. Just sayin.

Picked by: Steph

Ted

Jason

Cassi

Shane and his new BFF

Steph


Akron City Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

WTGW 7/12/14: Manchester Tavern, Portage Lakes

Standard

This place has been on my radar for a little bit now, thanks to a finely tuned and ultra precise choosing mechanism I use at times called Google Maps. Cutting edge, all day long here, folks.

Or maybe I just have too much time on my hands some days and am at a loss for a new pick. You decide.

Manchester Tavern doesn’t have a website, which is usually a bit of a deterrent … because, you know, you hate to drive 25 minutes to a place only to discover they’ve converted it into a senior citizens’ billiards hall or a throwback 70’s disco club sometime since the last Yelp review. Not that either one of those couldn’t be awesome, but when you’re expecting a good bar burger and some wings it’s a bit of a letdown to have to play a round of pool with Uncle Johnny before you’re allowed to leave and find a real restaurant.

But since Manchester Tavern does have a recently updated Facebook page, and a wealth of good reviews from within the past few months, I figured it was safe.

There were several cars and motorcycles in the lot when we pulled up, although the place is so tiny that really it seems now like a rather disproportionate number and I’m not sure where all of those people could’ve been hiding. Perhaps on the large patio space – I swear it could be bigger than the actual interior – which we avoided since it was about four billion percent humidity outside with a slight threat of rain.

Thank you, Mother Nature, for once again turning NEOhio into a tropical rain forest on the one evening of the week we actually venture out in search of great patios. You’re awesome.

The menu at Manchester Tavern is relatively small (which makes it somewhat baffling as to why it’s not available online anywhere, since it wouldn’t take up much space) and mostly bar food – wings, burgers, fried appetizers and a few other sandwiches. There’s also the random steak dinner, fish dinner … and my favorite, the 21-piece shrimp platter. Because nothing says living on the edge quite like trusting raw seafood served out of a bar kitchen that primarily consists of deep fryers, no?

Yeah, I’ll pass.

Not surprisingly, the drink menu was even smaller than the food menu, so Shane went back to his standard Bud Light draft, and I went with a tequila and soda. Ted ordered an IPA that the server suggested … but was out of luck when she returned a few minutes later saying they unfortunately were all out. Jack and coke it is. And I guess Ted is now the proud owner of the “sorry, we ran out of that drink” curse. Sorry, my friend.

There was a debate at our table about who would order what appetizer, as we all gravitated to the southwestern egg rolls – but of course we can’t all logistically share one appetizer, because, well, we all like food too much. So Ted said if we ordered that one then he apparently had a “back up plan.” Shane and I jumped on that offer and ordered the egg rolls as our app. Ted’s backup plan, meanwhile, was apparently a whole meal – 12 wings. Because, of course it was.

Let’s just say that the server was never really sure when she could safely put her notepad away while we were ordering because we just kept adding on more food. Shocking, I know.

Let’s tally it up … our final total for the table was five meals (two orders of wings, a sandwich, a burger, and the steak dinner) and an app (the egg rolls). Plus the dinner salad that came with the steak dinner. Totally logical for three people, no?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, thank you metabolism for not making any or all of us individually 400+ pounds yet thanks to these adventures.

Anyway.

In case you were taking guesses on who ordered what above, let’s play a little game to see how well you know your WTGW crew, shall we? I own up to the sandwich, which was the Tavern Hoagie. We already know that Ted got 12 wings (Cajun), and he also ordered the burger, which was called the “Brunch Burger.” That leaves Shane with the other order of wings (garlic parm, but only six … he’s trying to cut back), and the 10oz steak dinner.

Any winners? I’ll make you a ribbon.

Shane:  We’re on the high protein diet
Server:  What will you do with all the bread then?
Shane:  No, I’m kidding, we just like food

We joked when the girl came out from the kitchen with all of our meals that she was probably expecting to see about six people sitting at our table. Surprise!

The egg rolls turned out to be an excellent choice. Although I think they were delivered straight from the surface of the non-existent sun outside, as I about lost two fingertips when I hungrily reached for them too quickly after they first arrived. Clearly the fryers are set to the right temperature. But they were worth the wait for them to cool off – and the momentary loss of feeling in my fingers – as the taste was excellent. The chipotle ranch dipping sauce made it even better.

My fingers will never forget you, egg rolls

The Tavern Hoagie was pretty good. It’s basically copied straight from the Mr. Hero Romanburger playbook – a few thinner burger patties, ham, salami, lettuce, tomato, etc on a sub bun. Or, in this case, a glorified hot dog bun, but whatevs. It wasn’t quite the same as it’s fast food counterpart, but still tasty. The patties were pretty thin, but there was enough other stuff on the sub to make that kind of unnoticeable.

I also got my sandwich with jojos instead of regular French fries, which was an excellent choice – even thought they appeared to be cooked in the same seven billion degree setting as the egg rolls. But again it was worth the wait, as they were perfectly cooked – crispy on the outside and mushy on the inside.

Fryer still works

Ted was two bites into his burger when he declared that he “wasn’t sure if it was necessarily Top Five material, but it had to be at least close.” In case you haven’t been following along with us, that’s high praise right there, kids. I’m not sure I even knew Ted had a Top Five list until that moment, but to have this burger show up and walk right into the midst before he was even halfway done eating it is pretty much the equivalent of getting your first driver’s license and then heading over to the track to take the crown at the Indy 500.

Seated across from Ted, Shane was slightly jealous of all of the grease flowing off of the burger at every bite. Kind of like when we went to The Game and Ted got the giant heart attack on a plate that they call a burger while “healthy Shane” essentially ate a salad.

Speaking of salad, Shane’s meal came with one, but he dug into it before I was able to even get a hand on my camera to take a photo of it. He may have been a little hungry. Or maybe he was just tired of rules after our adventures last week. Regardless, it looked pretty standard – you know, lettuce and vegetables in a bowl. Kinda hard to mess that up … but yet manage to create one of Ted’s favorite burgers of all time, ya think?

And maybe it was jealousy over the burger, but Shane said his steak was just OK. I mean, we are in a bar, too, so expect what you will for an $11 steak.

There’s a steak under all those fries, I promise

As for the wings, Ted said his were OK – but they definitely didn’t match up to the burger. He had asked the server for the hottest ones on the menu, and she told him to go at first with the Buffalo – but then switched to Cajun because something about them being breaded and grilled then fried … I think? I didn’t quite hear the full explanation clearly, but whatever it was it persuaded Ted, so there’s that. Unfortunately they weren’t the hottest he’d ever had by a long shot. Maybe she thought he meant hot as in temperature, not flavor … and that whole grilling and frying thing seemed like it would make them hotter that way? Just speculating.

Meanwhile, Shane took offense to the menu declaration of “the best wings in town” and was slightly glad he didn’t live in a town with such low standards. Clearly his wings were not his favorite part of the meal. They, like his steak, were just OK.

Ted definitely thought the burgers were under-marketed, and that they should be pushing that item as the “best in town” instead of the wings. Or else point us in the direct of the place in town that holds that title, because we want to try those burgers. I actually think Shane may lose sleep over the regret he was feeling for not ordering a burger at Manchester Tavern. We’ll see how that plays out.

We’ll see you in our dreams, burger

While our meals may not have been the best bar food we’ve ever tasted, I do have to say that the service was great. Our server greeted us as soon as we walked in, even though she was in the midst of counting out Queen of Hearts tickets that were being sold at the table behind us for a drawing that was under an hour away. She came right over to take our drink orders, was friendly to us even though we were clearly not regulars (and all the regulars were pretty obvious, as they were greeted by name by both our server and the other bartender … and the other patrons … let’s just say we were definitely in the minority for not knowing anyone’s names). She apologized when she hadn’t been over for a bit to check on us, too.

Maybe we’re just scarred from last week, but we were definitely impressed.

Overall Manchester Tavern is a great little neighborhood bar. It’s definitely a Portage Lakes equivalent of Cheers, and because it was Queen of Hearts drawing night it got quite busy for a hot minute around the actual drawing (which was something out of a John Taffer highlight reel as the bartender yelled at everyone to shut the eff up so that the number could be heard) – but then thinned out shortly after. Or maybe everyone was just out on the patio. We did notice quite a crowd standing at the front railing just watching traffic go by when we left, kind of like it was someone’s large front porch. I guess that’s high entertainment in these parts?

The setup is a little cramped – there’s a room in the back with a pool table and more seating tables, but you’re definitely secluded from everyone else and I’m not sure how fantastic the service would be there. Out of sight, out of mind, perhaps – especially since the two bartenders/servers seemed pretty busy taking care of the area near the bar as well as the patio. The guys mentioned that the men’ s room “could use a little work on the infrastructure” – but it also wasn’t the worst they’ve ever seen. I guess that’s saying something.

We were too engrossed with watching the Classic MTV (with real music videos!) that was playing on the TV over the bar, as well as the World Series of Poker that was on the TV by our table, and forgot to take our usual photos before we left … but I would call it a thumbs up visit. It might be a little too far out of our radius to return fairly often … but if we do make it back I have a feeling a burger will be the one thing we all make a point to order.

Picked by: Steph
Next pick: Ted

 

Manchester Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

WTGW 7/5/17: REVISIT – Whitey’s, Richfield

Standard

So, if you’ve been reading WTGW long enough – or, well, really if you just read the part about how we got started – you know that the staples of our food adventures include three things: food, alcohol, and fun. I know, we’re easy to please, right? In the summer we often expand that list to include one more element: patio space. Because we only get about 7.4 nice days out of the year here in Ohio, and if we’re lucky enough to have a few of them fall on Wednesdays (i.e. when Mother Nature decides to play nice and not be a whore) then we’re certainly not prone to want to waste them sitting inside a dark bar with no windows.

I mean, come on, that’s what Mondays are for. And pretty much all of February.

Hence how I think we first stumbled upon Whitey’s four years ago, back in the first summer that WTGW was born. Patio + burgers & beer + nice summer evening = the elusive trifecta. Or, wait, that’s actually four things. The fourfecta? Can that be a thing?

Whatever, the point is, we thought we’d hit the jackpot.

Except that we didn’t. I think we left the place that night kind of feeling like children who had gotten scolded one too many times for running in an open field that had all the makings of a great playground but was on someone else’s property.

Now before you go scouring the archives for that post, let me save you the trouble … it doesn’t exist. Nearly a year of our existence is what we like to refer to as “pre-blog.” Yes, kids, there was life before you came along.

The only proof of that evening are these amazing photos.

2013 was clearly the time before selfies. This camera blows.

This exact pitcher may or may not be in my house at this moment.

Obviously they’ve matured in four years.

I’m kicking myself for not reenacting this photo

Ah, youth. Now the only photos we seem to take in the dark are when the lighting is too low in a restaurant, not because the sun has set while we’re still out.

Anyway, while we may look like we were having fun in those pictures, let me assure you that’s because it was the end of the night and we had been consuming alcohol since long before the sun went down. Because, really, what we remember most from that night four years ago, is that Whitey’s is a place of rules. Lots of them. And they weren’t so up front about them, nor were they the friendliest when we pointed ourselves out as non-regulars by asking.

Here’s the short list of what we remember from that experience:
1) there was a great patio … that you can’t eat on
2) there’s a large bar area … that you also can’t eat IN
3) the dining area is relatively small in comparison – and this is where you eat
4) there’s usually a wait for a table in said eating area
5) they weren’t exactly all Oprah-giving-free-cars-out-to-the-audience when it came to explaining all of the above

Sounds delightful, no? And you wonder why it’s been four years since we’ve been back.

Although even with all of the above we somehow managed to take this photo without being kicked out.

Four years later and I can honestly say this is the only photo we’ve ever taken with a harp

Anyway.

We’re sad to report that things haven’t changed much in our four year absence. I mean, we remembered the rules from last time, and good thing because there really isn’t any signage when you enter through the bar area telling you where to go if you want to eat, drink, or sit and do none of the above outside. Thanks for that helpfulness. Let me just get my mind reading capabilities in order before I enter next time.

So Ted and I grabbed a hightop table in the bar area while Shane went to ask about a table for the purposes of food consumption. He was told you can eat AT the bar, but not IN the bar area. Good lesson in prepositions, kids.

We were told it would be about a 30 minute wait, during which time we got some drinks FROM the bar and proceeded to watch what we can only believe was drone racing on TV (how is this a thing?) and some people setting up in the bar area for a welcome home party. I’m not sure which was more entertaining.

Sidenote, it was another perfect night for the patio, but because we haven’t gotten to the section of the rule book that covers the whole “how to hear your name when it’s called from the outside” debacle, we stayed inside to avoid the disaster that would be missing our table and having to eat our own arms.

So finally we got our table (yay!) and it turned out it was off in it’s own little cubbyhole of an area adjacent to the main dining room. Good thing we aren’t claustrophobic?

Well, whatever, now that we got the seating out of the way, we could finally concentrate on the food. I don’t remember too much about the food last time (see photos above for a bit of explanation on that), but I did my homework enough to know that Whitey’s is known for their chili (which is also served in several other restaurants around NEOhio), and burgers. Yes and yes.

Because they were on special this evening, we started off with an order of the “hottzerella” sticks – which are mozzerella sticks breaded in a jalapeno flavored breading. The Wednesday special was 47 cents each, which may be the first time we’ve ever been offered an option to decide the quantity of fried cheese we want to arrive on the table in front of us. I mean, is 37 too many? Maybe? OK, we’ll just go with 8.

You’ll notice Ted’s hands are tucked safely away from the fried cheese.

They were tasty. They came out quickly and were definitely straight from the fryer. The breading had a noticeable kick to it, but not in a bad way – although it was spicy enough to leave your mouth burning for a hot minute after eating one. (see what I did there?)

See also: why we were so annoyed that they server continuously walked past our table without asking if we wanted refills on the drinks we had brought over with us from the bar. Did we miss the rule that said you can only use the bar glasses IN the bar area, and that they can’t travel to the dining room? Do you have to go back to the bar to order more? That question was answered when the server checked in on a table that was sat well after us and he immediately asked them if they needed any drinks from the bar. OK. So I guess it was just us, then. I mean, we ordered our meals, we saw the server pass by several more times … and yet this poor, lonely glass just sat on the edge of the table waiting to be asked to hold another beer.

It’s clearly suffering

*sigh*

It should also be noted that we weren’t even asked if we wanted water, either. It’s like they were employing the age-old interrogation technique of “let’s give them super spicy and filling food without anything to wash it down with.” Crowd pleaser, for sure. Was this a newcomer initiation of some sort?

But yet we mustered on. We’re professionals, people. We don’t let a little dry mouth and buzz kill spoil our evening. Plus, we’re hungry.

For his meal, Ted opted for the Italian Stallion burger with a side of “bottle caps,” which are sliced jalapenos that are then breaded and deep fried. I see a trend here. Ted also apparently likes to live on the edge considering our lack of beverages.

It looks so small and unassuming

Not surprisingly, he liked all of it. He said his chief complaint was the excessive amount of cheese (he forgot to have them make it without, and then was stuck pulling it off the burger like a magician pulling scarves from his sleeves) – but really that’s something only cheese-haters like Ted would complain about. He thought the flavor was outstanding. It was messy, definitely a “knife and fork” burger (at one point I think he just picked the plate up along with the burger to try and hold everything together while he took a bite) – but the trouble was worth it.

Because we like to kill off tastebuds

Shane got the Dagwood burger. Which arrived looking suspiciously like a pile of mushrooms. Is it Halloween in burgertown?

Excuse me, sir, but I’m not a vegetarian. You don’t have to disguise the meat.

Shane: I wonder how many mushrooms had to die in order to make this burger?

But even so, it was excellent. I mean, the ginormous pile of mushrooms was a tad overkill, and Shane ended up eating most of them with a fork before even getting to the sandwich – but the burger itself was delicious. He said that there seemed to be a little bit of relish mixed in with the mayo, and that gave it some sweetness. He had to cut it into four pieces to attempt to eat it, but again, like Ted, the struggle was worthwhile.

We also know how picky Shane is about the un-done-ness of his burgers, and Whitey’s is one of those places that doesn’t give you a choice in the matter, but warns you when you order that they cook them all “medium well.” Which I think made Shane cringe at a little just hearing. But he took a chance, and wasn’t disappointed. The burger was definitely on the done side, with no pink in the middle, but still moist and flavorful.

I got the garden chili, which is essentially a helping of chili on lettuce instead of in a bowl. Novel.

Any salad is healthy, no?

I had been debating between a burger with a cup of chili, or this salad – and decided to go the slightly more healthy route (ahem, “healthy,” she says … after downing four hottzerella sticks just moments prior. I realize the irony.). But then I have to be honest, when that salad arrived in front of me and I first looked at it I felt a tiny pang of regret, because I thought there was no way that was going to be enough food to make me happy. I think my internal conversation went something like this:

“Nice choice, idiot. Guess you’ll be grabbing up a few more 47 cent cheese sticks after you devour this salad in like five minutes flat.Haven’t you learned not to order healthy food on WTGW?”
“You’re the idiot, that’s totally enough food for your dinner. Stop being a baby.”
“But look at the burgers the guys got. They chose wisely.”
“Shane’s is all mushrooms. If you’re still hungry, eat the leftover cheese that Ted keeps pulling off his sandwich. And thank me later when you’re completely full without hands that smell of burger grease.”

Yeah, that voice of reason was totally correct – the salad was plenty enough for my meal. If you have that same internal debate over potential disappointment from a salad, just keep in mind that that dish is far deeper than it looks. And the chili is hearty. By the time we were finished I thought I might have to be rolled to the door. And I wasn’t even drinking beer.

(Neither was Shane, BTW … this glass sat here until well into our meals)

So. Lonely.

You’e seeing it about half as many times as our server did.

Anyway, I thought the salad was good. The chili didn’t seem to have a ton of flavor, but a little salt and pepper helped fix that problem a touch. I think some red pepper flakes and garlic powder would’ve done wonders. I’m not sure what that says about the death of my taste buds over the years.

You can also choose one of the four flavors of chili to go on the salad – I just chose the original, but I think next time I would try one of the other options, which include white chicken chili, chipotle garden vegetarian chili, and a beanless jalapeno chili.

It seems like mushrooms and jalapenos are something they go through a lot of in this place. Just an observation.

Overall, we had a difficult time ranking Whitey’s on this visit. One one hand, the food was excellent. If we were just talking about the food alone, this would be a two thumbs up experience, no doubt. I mean, the burger was in Shane’s fabled “Top 5 Burger” list … along with … um … well … we aren’t really sure who exactly is on that list anymore, since it seems to change more often than Kylie Jenner’s hair color . If I had a dollar for every time I heard something in Shane’s life was on a Top 5 list … well, let’s just say I’d be making my own “Top 5 Islands I Would Like To Purchase And Live On” list. But for now, just consider it a compliment. He means well.

But other things dragged the score down, including the service. I mean, I realize there were about eight tables in our section, but probably only about half of them were full at any given time during our visit. And our server seemed less than thrilled with any of the tables he was waiting on – so I guess maybe we should be thankful we weren’t the only ones he hated? Yay us! But we were the only ones in our section who seemed to be noticeably suffering through the Great Drought of 2017, so there’s that.

Table 23. Where your thirst lives on.

And there are still just so many rules to be followed here. We were going to go out on the patio after we ate – since we actually did have full drinks at that point, finally, after we had to ask for refills during our meal – but then Shane reminded us that we couldn’t take glasses out there. Well, crap. I mean, given the ordeal we went through to just get these drinks in the first place, we didn’t want to push our luck asking to switch to plastic cups. We might have been exiled to the basement to finish our drinks.

Another “no” to add to the list … credit cards. Luckily we had researched this in advance and had cash with us (a rarity for us, honestly). But really? It’s 2017. You can pretty much pay your car payment with a retinal scan at this point, but, please, make sure you have paper currency to use to purchase your chili and fried cheese.

So will we return? I’m not sure. On one hand, the food is enough to say yes. And the place just has so much potential for fun. They have leagues for sand volleyball, darts and cornhole … and the place is always packed, so clearly it’s a crowd favorite. But it’s also a bit like visiting a playground enforced by the National Guard. In the desert.

Picked by: Shane
Next pick: Steph

Steph

Shane

Ted

Whitey's Booze n' Burgers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

WTGW 4/19/17: REVISIT – Blue Willow Lounge, Macedonia

Standard

It’s another “this adventure could’ve gone a totally different way” week here, as Shane originally tried to take us back to PatDees in Northfield for a revisit, but was thwarted by a road closure. Damn you ODOT!

So in a literal last second change up, here we are at the Blue Willow Lounge.

This little hidden gem is tucked away behind a gas station on a slightly-off-the-beaten-path section of Rt 82 (aka not in the land of huge strip plazas a few miles to the west) in Macedonia. Although we noticed since our last visit that the road to access the Blue Willow is now an access street to the highway ramp that was recently moved – so maybe they’re getting a little more attention these days.

Let’s hope so, because it’s well deserved.

We were genuinely surprised at how good this place was the first time we went. After Shane’s claim that the place is the “oldest bar in Macedonia” – something none of us have ever been able to substantiate, by the way – I remember being more than a little concerned for what we might be getting ourselves into. But the Blue Willow ended up having some of the best burgers we’ve ever tasted in our years of WTGW adventures, a fun atmosphere, and outstanding service (especially considering there was essentially one person manning both the bar and the tables) from a server who called Ted a pussy for downsizing his Christmas Ale in the second round.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record from last week, tell me again why we haven’t been back here more often?

Right.

We were happy to hear that Wednesdays are still $5.95 burger nights at the Blue Willow. Although it seems to have morphed from “build your own burger night” to “just pick a burger and we’ll charge you $5.95 for it night.” Maybe we were still living 2.5 years in the past, because we thought we heard a “build your own” option in there when the server was explaining it … but the list of toppings to build from seemed to be invisible on our menus. After flipping it over about 400 times, Ted finally broke down and asked where the toppings were, and the server just kind of gave him the “well, there’s no list, just, you know, whatever you want on your burger.”

Oh, OK, so just pick something that sounds good on a burger and they’ll let you know they have it, then? Perfect. Sounds great. It’s like 20 questions with condiments.

But it didn’t deter us – because, well, “burgers” seems to be a theme for us now. I mean, set aside the fact that it’s the daily special at Blue Willow, between this week and last week we seem to have turned WTGW into a tour of all the burger places we really like but haven’t been back to in ages.

Note to self: I gotta change it up with my next pick.

Anyway.

Ted got the Cajun burger – minus cheese, of course, but with lettuce and tomato. Shane also got the Cajun burger, minus lettuce and tomato – but WITH cheese.

There were more chips on that plate before I took this picture, Honest.

Ignore the crumbs. You’d think we hadn’t eaten for days or that I had to drive across the state to fetch my camera.

They’re like yin and yang, those two. This is why they’re friends.

Not wanting to copy the bromance brothers, I decided to challenge the “build your own” philosophy, with lettuce, tomato, provolone cheese and mushrooms. I think I asked for each of those items as a question, thinking at any moment she could tell me that wasn’t one of the nonexistent options.

You can’t see the toppings, but they’re there.

We all also got the homemade chips, since they were free and the fries were $1.00 more. Ironically, looking back on our first visit, it was the fries that were free and the chips that were $1.00 more. Since they’re both made from potatoes, I’m a little perplexed at the inflationary costs of one versus the other, but whatever.

Because clearly he didn’t trust the size of these burgers like he did Windsor Pub, Ted also got 12 of the Thai wings. Better to be safe than sorry, I guess.

A full meal as an appetizer. Glad to see we’re back to normal around here.

Shane and I also got breaded mushrooms. Of which Shane actually asked me before he ordered them “hey, would you eat some of these if I get them.”

Please. It’s like he hardly knows me.

They’re vegetables, so they’re still considered healthy, right?

We noticed that the food seemed to take a particularly long time to come out after we ordered. Especially considering the place wasn’t by any means packed. I mean, it should be noted that Shane continuously made the “our food is taking FOREVER” observation whilst very hungry, so take that with a grain of salt. But even those of us not about to eat our own arms did think it was a longer than usual wait time.

And when our meals finally did arrive, it was unceremoniously all at once. So much for that whole “appetizer” concept, I guess.

Now, granted there was only one server/bartender working the whole place – the large bar area (which was always very full, almost every seat taken), as well as the tables nearby (not quite as full, but just by location alone still a hassle to have to walk out from behind the bar to check on). But I don’t think it was her fault the food took a while. She was very good, coming out from behind the bar several times to check on us and even telling us to yell at her or do whatever if we needed her attention. But to be brutally honest – and I even said this the last time we were there, years ago – they could really use two people working there on any given night. I mean, the night we were there the bar was pretty full but there were only a few people seated at the tables – I couldn’t imagine if all the tables were full and there was only one person trying to do everything. Again, our server was amazing … but for her sake I wish they would staff a little better.

*exiting soapbox now*

I’m happy to say that the burgers were still as good as we remembered. They’re cooked to order, and very juicy. Shane was a bit upset that they “didn’t crumble like Windsor Pub’s,” – but regardless they still passed his test.

Now that’s a handful of meat.
Wait, what?

Word of warning, they might look small when you first see them on the plate, but they’re actually really thick. They’re tall and thick, not short and flat.

File that under: words I never thought I would utter until I started composing a food blog. Carry on.

I also really liked the homemade chips. They didn’t indicate on the menu that they were homemade, so I was expecting a handful of Lay’s or something similar on my plate with my burger – which made these a nice surprise. They were crunchy but not greasy. The only thing that would’ve made them more perfect is a french onion dip on the side. But if you add that then they would probably not be the “free side” anymore … and the cycle continues. You’re welcome, French fries.

Shane said he wished he would’ve gotten the Willow Classic burger instead of the Cajun. Once he bit into this burger he remembered that wasn’t the same one he got last time and that he wished he’d gotten that one again. But then again he also said he really didn’t taste his food since he was so hungry, so there’s that.

Ted really liked the Thai wings, although with the burger too he only ate about 10 of the 12. For shame. He said his burger was cooked well, but it didn’t really taste Cajun-y. I think he was looking for more of a blackened and seasoned taste. Although he skipped the pepper jack cheese, and we all know that makes a cajun dish, right?

If we have a complaint with the Blue Willow Lounge, it’s that the beer list is a little lacking. Case in point: Ted asked about dark beers … and ended up with a Fat Tire. So I guess “amber” is considered dark in these parts. Noted. Likewise, I asked about ciders, and the only option was Angry Orchard. Which, OK, sure, I guess I should just be happy they at least had something … but I like options, I guess. I’m a girl. Sue me.

Shane went with a rum and diet, and was slightly disappointed that it wasn’t as light in color as it was last week. Or as cheap.

I do appreciate that the server brought us cold glasses with my cider and Ted’s bottled beer. We gave them back to her, though. I mean, we drink out of bottles. We’re not classy folk.

Shane had three rum and diets, and when she came over to ask if he wanted another he answered “no, I’m driving.”

Me: Usually the answer to that is “well, I’m driving, so yes.” What’s happened to us?

All said and done, mine and Shane’s bill for the night was $38. Not too shabby for an app, two fairly large burgers with sides of chips, two ciders and three mixed drinks. In a stroke of irony, the mixed drinks were actually only .50 more than my bottled cider. Lesson learned there, I guess. For the next revisit, of course.

Picked by: Shane
Next pick: Steph

Ted

Steph

Shane

Blue Willow Lounge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 2/17/16: Joey’s Kendal Tavern, Massillon

Standard

There are times in your life that you drive 40 minutes for a good burger. This, my friends, would be one of them.

So, I should point out that in reading reviews before picking Joey’s Kendal Tavern this week, I noticed two themes: it’s a great little hometown bar, and they have fantastic burgers.

Check and check.

It’s like someone gift wrapped a WTGW pick for our group. Well, except for the whole my-commute-to-work-downtown-is-actually-shorter-than-the-drive-here thing … but whatever. Have hunger, will travel. That’s kind of one of our unspoken mottos.

So tonight we were a few men down, thanks to a freak garbage disposal accident that put Amanda and Jerrid in kitchen cleanup mode for the evening. Boo. But rest assured the remaining three of us still managed to eat like we were a party of five tonight, so there’s that.

When you walk into Kendal’s you have to make a quick decision about which side of the restaurant you want to sit on. There’s one side with a bar and TVs, and another side with a bunch of tables and no TVs – with a giant wall right smack in between the areas. Hmm. Bet you can’t guess which side we picked, right? It’s like letting a kid chose between sitting in the living room and watching cartoons while eating dinner, or climbing up to the formal adult dining table and listening to the folks talk about work and stock prospects.

In fact, I think that – if I were to go all “Bar Rescue” on this place for just a moment – they would actually be better served to just take that giant wall out and open up the entire space into just one big room, so that way the dining area wasn’t so lonely and quiet. But then again that dividing wall probably holds up the entire upstairs … so maybe they’re being smart there after all.

Anyway.

Kendal’s claims to be Massillon’s oldest bar. Which, when you look around the place, you can totally buy that statement. The paint and wallpaper are a bit outdated, there’s definitely nothing fancy about the place, and it very much has the “old bar” stale smell. Not that any of those are necessarily a bad thing – just observations.

Also, there’s no draft beer. Interesting. I’m not sure I’ve ever been to a bar that didn’t have at least two or three staples on tap. I didn’t venture over to the cooler to check out the bottle selection, and instead just went with a basic Miller Lite – which fortunately they did have. Shane went his usual liquor route, rum & diet. Also available.

Meanwhile, Ted asked for the darkest beer they had in bottles. And was served a beer that literally said “dark” on the label.

Well, we have "dark" ... it's, um, dark ...

Well, we have “dark” … it’s, um, dark …

At least the marketing doesn’t lie on this one. After all the descriptions like “made with fresh cinnamon and vanilla with hints of peanut butter and coffee” that we’ve read on beer menus over the years (which, by the way, are complete lies – a beer like that one mentioned above sounds delicious, but really would come out tasting like lima beans and cigarette smoke. You know I’m right. And you’re all thinking of the one beer that duped you in the past. Don’t lie.) – it was a bit refreshing to just have one call it like it is.

Ted’s beer order also got the owners attention, and  – in true Ted fashion – made us a new friend for the evening. The owner – whose name is Joey, I presume – sat at the end of the bar the entire time we were there … but not in a creepy, “I’m-going-to-hover-over-my-employees-and-customers-until-they-think-I-might-be-a-stalker-that-follows-them-home” kind of way. It was more of a take-pride-in-your-establishment-and-truly-care-how-everyone’s-experience-is kind of thing. Every now and then throughout the course of the evening he would overhear part of a conversation and make a comment, or bellow over to ask us how our food was.

And he definitely knew his regulars, of which there were a few who wandered in over the course of the evening. My personal favorite was the guy who walked in, chatted with the owner for a second and barely had his coat off before the bartender opened a can of beer and set in on the bar in front of him.

Shane: Now that’s a regular.
Bartender: Yeah, I just hope as I open that beer he hasn’t changed his mind about his favorite beverage.
Me: Isn’t that the unspoken rule of being a regular, you aren’t allowed to switch without permission?

The bartender got our attention right away with the words “the cheese sticks are handmade.” Yes, we’re easy like that. So naturally Shane and I ordered them as an app – and we were not disappointed. They were delicious. You could definitely could tell they were made fresh, not just string cheese dipped in bread crumbs and frozen until time for deep frying.

Ted:I had no idea until this moment that that’s how cheese sticks are made.

See, that’s what happens when you hate cheese, people. Blasphemy.

There was one more there before I took this photo. Sir Grabby Hands strikes again.

There was one more there before I took this photo. Sir Grabby Hands strikes again.

So, since Joey’s is known for their burgers, of course that’s what we ordered. Yes, we follow the crowd well, thank you. And yes, there’s a reason why people say this about the place.

I got the mushroom Swiss burger with fries. Shane got the Joey burger – which is really the same as my burger but with added onions and two cheeses (Shane chose pepper jack and provolone) instead of one – and also which illicited a “good choice” from the owner at the end of the bar.I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that burger is named after him. Just a thought.

Two cheeses and a burger, please

Two cheeses and a burger, please

There's a burger under all that cheese. Really.

There’s a burger under all that cheese. Really.

Shane completed his order with six of the garlic parm dry rub wings – but only after Ted and I balked that a burger was really ALL the food he was going to order?? I mean, really? Who is this guy?

Very fancy for what basically amounts to tiny fried chicken.

Very fancy for what basically amounts to tiny fried chicken.

Truthfully Ted had every right to give Shane a hard time … after he ordered both a spicy cajun burger (no cheese, of course) AND a full pork chop dinner, which included rice and asparagus as well as a large chop. He could’ve added a second chop for only $4, but decided to hold off on that since … well … you know, he also ordered another entire meal.

Me: so that means one of those meals is technically your appetizer, then, right?

Our bartender just laughed.

All the burgers were delicious. They are definitely freshly made, cooked to order on a nice slightly toasted bun. The “medium” 10 oz patty was still slightly pink inside, which of course made Shane happier than, well, than most people should ever actually get about food. He was even making yummy noises. Usually that’s just Ted’s department.

Ted said that, for being advertised as a “cajun” burger, he did think his could’ve been seasoned a bit better – and that even that giant green hot pepper on the top of it didn’t help the heat much.

Two meals, straight up

Two meals, straight up

BTW, I had to ask WTF that pepper was, because a) you don’t typically see burgers with green coloring on top, and b) from my seat it kind of looked like a large slice of green cheese. Which being that Ted hates cheese – and also that green cheese is, well, disgusting, I was a little intrigued. And was rather relieved to hear it was just a pepper.

But in any case, he said it was still tasty. He actually ended up taking the last few bites home in a box (at the owner’s insistence, who kept referring to it as “tomorrow’s breakfast”) because, well, ordering a pork chop dinner as an appetizer will kind of have that effect, I guess.

Although he did mention on the way home that if he had just had the dinner and not the burger, he would probably still be hungry. So I guess it all worked out then.

The pork chop looks a little less impressive without all the side dishes.

The pork chop looks a little less impressive without all the side dishes.

Meanwhile, the girl in the group barely got through the burger. The only thing that allowed me to eat the last few bites of meat was removing it from the bun. Which kind of killed me, actually, because, well by now you know about my love for carbs.

Burger, bun on

Burger, bun on

And chalk up another week of cheap eats for our group, too – mine and Shane’s tab for this one was only $42. Now granted we didn’t have quite as much food as last week’s meat-and-fried-food-extravaganza at Caddyshack, and I think we each had one less drink than last week, too … but still. Less money spent on food and drinks means more money left over for shoes and purses.

Yes, this is how females think.

All in all, Joey’s Kendal Tavern is a great little neighborhood place. And the best testament to that is that it seems like the actual neighborhood definitely frequents the place.But it wasn’t like everyone turned their attention on the regulars and kicked us new people to the curb when they arrived, either. We never felt out of place, or like we were the outsiders who weren’t invited to the party. In fact, I think once we admitted we had never been in before the owner made it his personal mission to make sure we were having a good time, enjoying our food, and planning to return at some point. Even when we left – it was clearly a group of regulars all sitting at the bar as we were walking out, and they all said “goodbye” and “hope to see you again” as we left – like we’d all been friends for years and not just sharing a space at the bar for a few hours.

Now can you just move the place into our actual neighborhood instead?

Ted

Ted

Steph (and "that guy" apparently)

Steph (and “that guy” apparently)

Shaney happy

Shaney happy

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Steph

Drinks:  It’s a little strange to find a place that doesn’t have draft anything, but I guess when you’re the oldest bar around maybe that just means you’ve been there since before carbonation was invented? In any case, at least they had other beers and hard alcohol, so we definitely weren’t disappointed.
Food: The owner said to us at one point that “you don’t leave my place hungry.” No sir, you definitely do not. Especially if you order a burger.
Service: Excellent. We may have lucked out with the combination of sitting at the bar and being almost the only people in place … but even so, I would venture to guess this is the type of place where no one goes unnoticed or unhelped for long.
Overall: Oh Kendal’s, if only you weren’t over a half hour away. For real. Who can build a homey dive bar with good food right down the street from our house?

Next Pick: Amanda

Joey's Kendal Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 11/11/15: Kevin O’Bryan’s, Akron

Standard

So in contrast to last week, when it was the smaller than normal group of three (just me, Shane and Ted) … this week we had a larger than normal group of seven, with a few special guests and friends who wanted to join us to check out this particular spot. Apparently we’ve latched onto the Goldilocks and the Three Bears scale of dining groups. Maybe next week we’ll hit “just right?”

Kevin O’Bryan’s is a place that’s been on my radar for a little while now, but for some reason I just never pulled the trigger on actually picking it. Maybe because when you zoom out on the google map, the area of town is just a tad bit on the side of shady. I mean, not that that’s necessarily stopped us from visiting places in the past (Papa Don‘s, anyone?) … but let’s just say that as we approached the place – which turned out to be a non-descript block building with few windows across from a Family Dollar which we realized later had one of the world’s last working pay phones out front – I was only slightly nervous about what we were getting ourselves into.

Although everyone else tried to make me feel better by pointing out that there was another pub on the opposite corner of the street that seemed to be almost a carbon copy (from the outside anyway), so we could probably just hop back and forth if my place sucked. Thanks, guys.

But I’m happy to report that we had absolutely nothing to be worried about. This place is definitely a hidden gem. And we already can’t wait to go back.

Our server in particular was outstanding. You have to love someone who basically just lets you walk in and start pushing the tables around to however you want in order to accommodate your big group. I mean, there weren’t a ton of other people in the bar, and I’ll admit we can be kind of pushy as a group in general sometimes … but still. It was nice of him to not approach us with a “WTF do you think you’re doing there, new people I’ve never seen before in my life?” attitude.

He also took note of Shane’s Cleveland hoodie and commented that he could use Shane’s help to basically push out another group of not-Cleveland fans that were planning to watch the game there this coming weekend.  In his words “so, they’re Steelers fans, and I mean, I can’t kick them out all together … because, let’s face it, I still want their money … but I just don’t want them to have this great of a table. I’d rather you guys – Cleveland fans – had it.”

Ah, rivalry.

The beer list on the table was outdated, although the server mentioned that the new one was on his computer at home. Because that helps us not at all – unless we’re road tripping to go pick it up – but whatever. I noticed the tap for McKensie’s Cider at the bar and asked if they had the seasonal reserve – which they did – so I went with that, as did Amanda.

Although in true us fashion, that lasted two rounds and then we ran out the keg. It’s like they see us coming.

The server brought over another cider to try after that – I think maybe it was also from McKenzie’s(?), and I know he specifically said it was something with chamomile in it (he said he had to write the name down before he brought me the sample – “I’m usually good remembering this stuff but even I had to write it down, the name is jacked.”) So of course I liked it, but now have no idea now what the name of it actually was. Except the chamomile part. And that just makes me confused, like is it tea or is it cider? I mean, really. It wasn’t awful – to be honest, it tasted kind of like the seasonal reserve, minus the cinnamon and nutmeg. But note to companies – how about we stop trying to have 50 flavors that are all just OK and instead focus on making five or six that are really, amazingly good? Just a thought.

Speaking of really, amazingly good alcoholic beverages, Jerrid started the night drinking what is probably the exact opposite of that … Bud Light. Well, at least, anyway, until he mentioned wanting to do shots and the server recommended the “PB&J” – which is basically just a shot of Jameson (“J”) served along side a tall boy can of PBR (“PB”). For $6.50.

Shane: So really that’s a $6 shot and a $.50 can of beer then?

Note to anyone going out with our group: sometimes it’s easier to just not admit you’re a fan of certain beers, lest you be ridiculed until your dying day about them.

So since Kevin O’Bryan’s is known for it’s burgers (their website touts “Best Burgers in Akron!”), that’s what most of the table ended up getting. Although honestly, we had to admit the breadth and variety of the menu was a bit surprising to us. For a place that looks like a little dive bar on the outside, they really offer some interesting foods – not just your typical wings, frozen burger patties and random chicken sandwich selections. I mean, how many other bars serve fried green tomatoes as an app? (keeping in mind we’re in Ohio here, not anywhere near the southern U.S.)  Or buffalo calamari? Or a burger with pimento cheese and remoulade? Exactly.

But in any case, back to the burgers. So when I asked about the whole “Best in Akron” label on the website, the server told me that that was, in fact, the case – in his words, the only place that might compare to them is Swenson’s. Which I admittedly have heard of and driven past several times, but have never actually tried.

Server: You’ve never been to Swenson’s? Do you not live around here?
Me: No, we live in Cuyahoga Falls.
Server: Then how is it possible you’ve never been to Swenson’s? They’re, like, famous around here. You found us but you haven’t been there?
Me: But Swenson’s doesn’t serve alcohol.
Server: Point taken. Yeah, we’re definitely better than them then.

I like him.

Shane meanwhile took that opportunity to stir up the great “Burger Wellness Scale Interrogation” that we seem to go through at, well, every place we even think about ordering burgers. I’m beginning to think he should just create and carry some sort of a photographic reference that he can point each server to when describing to the level of pinkness he would like his burger to contain. Because in over two years, we still have yet to reach a universal similarity to the words “rare,” “medium rare,” and “somewhat rare.”

The struggle is real, y’all.

Amanda and I kept up our twinning routine and ordered the exact same entrees – the blue cheese burger with an added topping of sauteed mushrooms, and tater tots on the side. And we were not disappointed.

Can I have some of your tots?

Can I have some of your tots?

Not to be outdone, Shane and Lou also went the twinsies route and got the Livie Burger (the one with the pimento cheese referenced above) and fried green tomatoes as a side. They were also very satisfied with their choices.

Shane also got an order of wings – because, well, Shane. He chose the Irish Dew sauce, which is a house specialty. I only somewhat overheard the conversation about what it was made of (I clearly skipped the class toward my journalism degree called “paying attention when people talk”) but I do know it involved boiling down Tullamore Dew whisky as a base, and then mixing it with spices. In any case, Shane thought it was excellent.

Burgers and wings. The WTGW staples.

Burgers and wings. The WTGW staples.

Ted also got wings – because, again, that’s how the boys of WTGW roll – but he went with the hot garlic. Which he said kind of missed the mark on the whole “hot” part. He also got the Wednesday Special, a strip steak with potatoes and fried green beans.

That looks like a real meal.

That looks like a real meal.

The steak comes with a hot pepper on top of it … and you know of course Ted ate it. He didn’t regret it quite as much as the time he ate the pepper out of Shane’s drink at Tim Owen’s Traveler’s Tavern a few weeks ago … but it was definitely close. You know, like when you eat all the cookies you were supposed to take to your company holiday party, so now you don’t have anything to take with you and your stomach is really upset with you … but the cookies were super delicious, so it was actually kind of worth it. That level of regret.

Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.

He later asked the server what kind of pepper it was, and was told it was just a fried banana pepper. Which apparently had been farmed on the surface of the sun, according to Ted’s reaction. When Ted told the server that the pepper was hotter than his entire batch of hot garlic wings, the server’s reaction was “well, I guess that means we need to step those wings up a notch then, thanks for letting me know.”

That’s what we’re here for, folks. Saving the world from bad and/or wrongly labeled foods, one entree at a time.

Jerrid ordered a burger with tater tots, and the full appetizer order of the fried green tomatoes instead of just the side. He kept trying to get everyone at the table to try the fried green tomatoes – and in particular the sauce they came with. There’s only so many times you can hear “you need to get more of the sauce” before your mind just naturally goes to a dark place.

Again, don’t pretend you don’t get it.

Fried green tomatoes. Fancy.

Fried green tomatoes. Fancy.

Shanda, meanwhile, had a salad as big as my head. Does that still mean it’s healthy? And is that even allowed at our table of fried sin and burger deliciousness? The jury is still out.

Is that healthy food? Who allowed this order?

Is that healthy food? Who allowed this order?

So the overall opinion here was that everything was delicious – I don’t think there was anything we weren’t happy with, except maybe the fact that they ran out of our cider after about 30 minutes … but, hey, we’re used to that, no harm done there. Our server kept up well with what we admittedly realize can be a loud, demanding and over zealous group (especially once Jerrid and Ted decided it was o’shot-thirty … because that always ends well) … and did so with a sense of humor, more patience than I probably would be able to muster and a smile the entire time. We all admitted we were a bit nervous about the location and the exterior of the place, but the staff and the food are well worth getting past all of that. Plus that Family Dollar I mentioned was visible just outside the front window behind us – and who knew a pay phone could be so popular? – so we were afforded constant entertainment all evening. We’ll definitely be back. I mean, Shane even gave it his “dive bar stamp of approval” … which if nothing else just made me super glad I picked it before he had a chance to.

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

Amanda and Shanda

Amanda and Shanda

Ted and Jerrid. And shots. Obviously.

Ted and Jerrid. And shots. Obviously.

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Steph

Drinks:  When the list is updated, it’s pretty impressive. But judging from the outdated list, what they had over the summer looked delicious too. Quite a few crafts on draft, and bottles ranging from craft to PBR. What’s not to love.
Food:
Delicious. They aren’t kidding about it being the best burgers in town. They are definitely cooked to order. Shane didn’t even have to reference his power point presentation.
Service: Awesome. Again, we know we can be a demanding bunch (and there were more of us than usual this time) but we were definitely always well taken care of.
Overall: We’ll be back, whether to kick out rival fans for a Browns game or to maybe check out the Thursday night karaoke scene. Shane Newton needs new audiences …

Next Pick: Amanda
Kevin O'Bryan's Irish Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato