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

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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

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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

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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

WTGW 2/25/15: Windsor Pub, Akron

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So there’s a sign outside of the Windsor Pub that proclaims they have “the best burgers on this Earth.” And since we’ve been on a burger streak lately I guess it’s only fitting that we venture in and find out how close to reality that statement is.

Your sign has a bit of an ego

Your sign has a bit of an ego

Although, side note, “this” Earth? What other Earth might we be talking about here? I mean, in fairness, that sign looks like it’s been up for a hot minute, so maybe at that time we really were into the “life on other planets” debate. And god forbid we insult their burgers, I guess.

Anyway, I have to admit that the Windsor Pub isn’t much to look at – from the inside or outside. It’s on a stretch of road where a lot of the bars are actually semi-seedy strip clubs. And those that aren’t are, well, pretty much like this one:  dive bars with a base clientele that haven’t been updated in 20 years.

Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that. I love me a good dive bar, and I think we all secretly wish for the Cheers-esque greeting whenever we enter one. I grew up frequenting a similar place with my dad, sitting at the bar drinking Pepsi and getting schooled in the finer points of billiards and Atari baseball with stick figures.

(BTW, these days spending the afternoon at the neighborhood bar with your friends and your 4-year old would probably be considered bad parenting. But in the 80’s that was just called “babysitting.”)

However, the irony of the Windsor Pub having a floor mat at the front door advertising the new season of Bar Rescue was not lost on any of us, as I think we all agreed that this place would probably be a prime candidate for that show. Not that I think it’s necessarily hurting for business – there seemed to be a good crowd of regulars there at 7:00 on a Wednesday night – but just the overall decor begs for a bit of an upgrade. Like seats with springs that aren’t trying to reach out and steal fries from the table next to you.

And we’ll get to the bartending skills later.

As with most dive bars, there’s a very small list of beers on tap. Here this included all the usual domestics and then Fat Tire, which Ted and I both went with. Amanda had Miller Lite. And Shane ordered Rum and diet … which in a strange twist actually ended up being lighter in color than any of our beers. So there’s that.

Which is lighter, the beer or the rum and diet?

Which is lighter, the beer or the rum and diet?

We ordered appetizers, because, well, us. But this was clearly a rookie mistake, as I’m sure anyone who has ever eaten at this place will tell you. You either order apps, or a meal. Never both. I don’t care if you haven’t eaten for three days, or if this is your last meal before a starvation diet. Just trust us on this.

Unnecessary onion rings

Unnecessary onion rings

Now, to be fair, our waitress warned us that the actual meals – and in particular the burgers – were giant. But this was after we had already put in our appetizer order and she had come back to take our meal orders, so no take-backsey’s. And thanks for the head’s up. We had ordered pretzel sticks and onion rings, and basically should’ve just taken that money we paid for those and fed it to the hungry springs in the seats underneath us because we barely even touched either of them.

OK, I’ll admit I had a pretzel stick – because, well, I love carbs. But the onion rings in particular were way too greasy and heavy to even think about eating – especially since our meals arrived about two minutes after the apps, and we about passed out from the amount of food we were staring at on our table after that.

See also: gluttony.

Since burgers were the specialty, and we had to test the validity of the outdoor sign, naturally that’s what we all ordered. There are two sizes on the menu for the burgers – a regular and a junior – and  the waitress was nice enough to explain to us that she can only just barely finish the latter of those options. Amanda and I both appreciated her telling us that, because in all honesty “junior” sounds like the kid’s version, and we all know that both of us girls can handle our meat.

Hee hee.

We ended up with three Windsor burgers (which include onions, mushrooms, mayo and cheese) and one Rocket burger (which has salami, pepper rings and ranch dressing. And usually cheese, but this one was without – because, well, it was Ted’s). Boys had regular size and girls went with juniors.

(Interesting side note: when the meals arrived, only the regular size gets a knife to cut them with. #discrimination)

Cheese-less burger

Cheese-less burger

Have some burger with your mayo

Have some burger with your mayo

So as we were placing our orders, the waitress didn’t ask how we wanted the burgers cooked, something all of us overlooked. Except Shane. Of course. So naturally Mr. Particular asked if he could do his medium rare – and she said no, all the burgers are done well. And that there was a reason for that but she couldn’t remember what that reason was.

I could tell Shane was scared, but he wasn’t going to back down.

And he was glad he didn’t. Because the burgers are delicious. They’re large, fresh made – they crumble apart but not because they’re dry. They have really good flavor. And they’re so, so filling. Almost too filling. I really wanted to eat the last of the potato wedges I’d gotten with my burger, but I literally couldn’t fit another thing in me. Even beer was a challenge. And that was on the junior size burger. I can’t even imagine if I had ordered the regular size.

It's still a potato, but somehow the wedges make it fancy

It’s still a potato, but somehow the wedges make it fancy

Burger, from afar

Burger, from afar

Or, better yet, the “Windsor Challenge,” which we saw a sign promoting on our table. What’s this, you ask? Oh let’s see, just THREE of the regular sized Windsor burgers stacked on top of one another. Three. That has to be, like, an entire cow. And if you can eat it in 30 minutes you get it for free. Along with a side of heart disease and high cholesterol.

Hey Ted, doesn't all that cheese look appetizing?

Hey Ted, doesn’t all that cheese look appetizing?

So, remember Shane’s rum and diet that was lighter than our beer? Yeah, by the end of the night we were marveling at the fact that his drinks only seemed to get clearer. By the time we watched the bartender pour his third drink, I think one of us was ready to pull out our phone and get John Taffer from Bar Rescue on speed dial. Three long pours and a splash of coke in a tall, skinny glass. What? You may as well just give him the bottle of rum and a straw at that point.

Although when we got out bill at the end of the night, we realized that the waitress had forgotten to charge us for two of those tall drinks. Which we promptly pointed out to her, because a) we’re honest and b) it was only going to add $4.50 onto our bill. That’s right, the one drink she did charge us for was $2.25. Holy crap.

To quote Shane: “Nine shots for $6.75? That’s a bargain!”

Or an alcoholic’s version of heaven. Whateves.

In any case, I’m fairly positive this won’t be our last trip to the Windsor Pub. While the decor and ambiance leave a little to be desired, the food was excellent and the prices are definitely worth it. I mean, for under $10 you can get a giant burger, fries and a draft beer (or half a bottle of rum, take your pick). How can you complain about that?

That burger is half a ten dollar bill. Size and money-wise.

That burger is half a ten dollar bill. Size and money-wise.

Ted

Ted

Amanda

Amanda

Steph

Steph

Shane (noting that his rating is based on the giant burger)

Shane (noting that his rating is based on the giant burger)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Ted
Drinks: There’s nothing special about the beer list, but it’s cheap so you don’t complain. If you’re an alcoholic, though, definitely go with the mixed drinks. Because you get about a quarter of the bottle of rum in a tall drink. For $2.25.  
Food:
We can only speak for the burgers, but we dare say that sign out front is damn close to the truth.
Service: Good. I mean, forgetting to charge you for drinks is far better than overcharging, so there’s that.
Overall: This is another of those “we really wish this place was closer to our homes” examples. Great low-key, dive bar atmosphere with good food and cheap drinks.

Next Pick: Shane

Windsor Pub on Urbanspoon

WTGW 8/20/14: Blue Willow Lounge, Macedonia

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OK, so I know it looks like we were slackers and took a couple of weeks off. But really we did go out the last two Wednesdays, I just spared you the reviews since technically both places – Bricco in Kent and Sarah’s Vineyard in Cuyahoga Falls – were places we’ve visited previously. Granted, the Bricco location we went to was in downtown Akron, and now that I look back I realize that our Sarah’s visit was before we started the blog … so, OK, I guess I really should’ve done reviews for both places. Oops. I guess I’m the slacker then. Just me. Oh well.

Anyway, as I try to redeem myself here, let’s just move on to this week’s adventure.

It was Shane’s pick this week, and he chose the Blue Willow Lounge in Macedonia. Which he informed us on the drive there was “supposedly the oldest bar in Macedonia.” Now, I’m not exactly sure where he got this information – but let’s just say that based on that little tidbit alone I had a slightly different picture of the place painted in my mind. You know, one of those bars in a building that kind of looks like it could be someone’s house, with the same 5 cars always parked out front, and the walls faintly yellowed with the memories of pre-smoking ban years gone by.

Yeah, no, that’s not what this is. And unless they didn’t allow bars in Macedonia prior to the big strip mall building spree of the 90’s, I really have to say I kinda doubt his source on this one.

But whatever.

The inside of the Blue Willow Lounge is similar to any strip plaza bar/restaurant – large bar at the back of the room, open area with tables that can be moved out of the way to create a dance floor, TVs on the walls, and no windows other than the large ones in front. The bar area was somewhat crowded when we arrived, so we chose to sit at one of the tables – and for the rest of the evening we were pretty much the only ones NOT seated at the bar. Because we like to make it obvious we’re new to the place.

And this is definitely a “regulars” kind of place – from the bikers to the guy in a dress shirt and tie, you can tell they all frequent the place often. But that being said, we never felt unwelcome, or like that classic movie scene where the music screeches to a halt when the obvious out-of-place people enter the room.

The service was excellent, especially considering that the bartender was also the only waitress, and that meant that she had to keep leaving the bar in order to check on our lone table out on the floor. She was very personable, gave good recommendations when we said we’d never been there before and asked what was good on the menu, and even called Ted a pussy when he opted for the short beer instead of the tall in the second round. I like her spirit.

Ted learns a valuable lesson about downsizing

Ted learns a valuable lesson about downsizing

Summer Shandy was still on tap, so you know what Amanda and I ordered. Shane went with the Miller Lite, and Ted chose Christmas Ale. Which you would think might have given him a pass on that whole second round short thing, but no dice. Like I said, I like her spirit.

Wednesdays are “build a burger” nights, which basically means you can put any toppings you want on a burger for $5.95. We all elected to do this, with various toppings that I can’t keep track of now. Let’s just say that all of our burgers were delicious. These were definitely not freezer-to-grill patties – they’re made fresh with each order, and you can tell. Lots of flavor, and they definitely didn’t skimp on the toppings. All burgers come with fries, or you can get chips or waffle fries for $1.00 more. I elected for the waffle fries, because, well, why not.

Bar food at its best

Bar food at its best

Shane promptly scooped up Ted's discarded cheese. We're all friends like that.

Shane promptly scooped up Ted’s discarded cheese. We’re all friends like that.

Shane's burger, pre-extra cheese donation

Shane’s burger, pre-extra cheese donation

Waffle fries with cheese. Takes me back to college.

Waffle fries with cheese. Takes me back to college.

Our waitress had recommended the burgers (with good reason) and also mentioned everyone raves about the wings … so of course after they finished their burgers the boys ordered 12 wings to split, too. Oh yeah and we had calamari for an appetizer. Again, how we all don’t weigh 400 lbs is beyond my own personal comprehension. Thank you good metabolism.

Nothing like a little post-meal appetizer to keep the metabolism running

Nothing like a little post-meal appetizer to keep the metabolism running

She also recommended the Philly steak sandwich, but we didn’t order that. Surprisngly. And while we didn’t partake in any of the bucket/beer specials, there were about 87 different signs on the wall touting various ones, so I guess it was nice to know the option existed.

Boatloads of bucket specials. And still empty wall space for more.

Boatloads of bucket specials. And still empty wall space for more.

Overall, the Blue Willow is a great little hidden gem of a place. They played good music on the jukebox … although the randomness caught us off guard a few times (otherwise known as “how to go from Kenny Chesney to Candlebox in 2.3 seconds”). And while we didn’t go make friends at the bar, no one treated us like new people who were to be avoided. We also noticed the bar bowling machine in the corner –  one of the few left around anymore, I think, and about the only thing I noticed in the place that might’ve helped support Shane’s “oldest bar” claim. We didn’t play it, but by the time we left I think we had convinced ourselves that we should TOTALLY form a team and start a league there if they didn’t have one already. Because, you know, we always come up with our best ideas on Wednesdays after a few beers. Ha.

Our fictitious bar bowling team totally rocks!

Our fictitious bar bowling team totally rocks!

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Shane
Drinks: Once again, I stopped listening at Summer Shandy. But the draft list wasn’t very extensive (5-6 beers I think), and we never made it to the bottle list. There were several posters on the walls advertising bucket specials on domestics though.
Food:
Burgers = awesome. Enough said.
Service: Excellent. And bonus points for calling Ted out when he ordered a short beer in the second round.
Overall: I venture to say we might be back to this one again. While it’s a bit out of our immediate area, the food and service were good enough that I could see us heading back. As long as Ted remembers his drinking shoes anyway.

Next Pick: Steph

WTGW 3/19/14: Louie’s Bar, Akron

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It feels good to be back to our regular Wednesdays. Yay!

Here’s pretty much how all of our thoughts about Louie’s Bar have gone in the past:  drive past, mention we should go there sometime but argue that it looks kind of shady from the outside, look it up online and discover they don’t have a website (seriously?) but find instead four million amazingly awesome reviews (well that means something, right?), let that sway you and vow to actually go sometime … and repeat the cycle.

I know, we always seem to be drawn to these types of places, right? I’m not sure what that says about us.

In any case, thankfully we have Where To Go Wednesdays to force us right through the front door of those places we would be too chicken to walk into unless it was our week to pick and we hadn’t had time to really think about what options were out there.

Ha.

Seriously, though, I’m really glad we made it to Louie’s, because it’s another of those hidden gems we’ve overturned on this adventure. It’s a great neighborhood bar – super tiny on the inside, and all of the reviews warned that getting a table can be difficult, but luckily it wasn’t too busy the night we tried it out. We showed up about 7 and snagged the last table (side note, the “Please wait to be seated” sign actually means “Please wait for the waitress to yell over that you can sit at that empty table” – so be prepared when that happens) – but we must have hit the end of the dinner rush, because the place only got emptier as the night went on.

Louie’s specializes in burgers, which somehow Ted missed the memo on before we arrived, and upon hearing that made him switch his original order of the Walleye Sandwich. Smart man.

We all got burgers except Shane, who was playing the role of “the one who orders something different” this time. He got wings, and was almost really, really disappointed when he saw all of our food come out. I thought he might cry. No, not really. Well, maybe.

But then he tried his wings – and if he was crying, suddenly it was tears of joy, because he was so in love with them.  He had six each of the Honey BBQ, Garlic Parm, and Spicy BBQ (p.s. – watch out for that one on the menu, as the spacing looks like you can just order the flavor “spicy” … which Shane tried to do, and the waitress had to ask “spicy what?” Learn from our laughable mistakes.)

Anyway, the wings have some sort of breading on them, which I likened to boneless wings but Amanda said tasted just like the fried chicken from Gioninos that Shane loves so much. This may explain why he proclaimed them the Best Wings He’s Ever Had In His Life. And I’m not exaggerating. He really said that. I mean, we aren’t even talking #1 in a Top 5 list – these went straight to the all time hall of fame. Impressive.

The new love of Shane's life. I've been replaced.

The new love of Shane’s life. I’ve been replaced.

Meanwhile, while the rest of us may not have been elevating our burgers on that kind of a pedestal, we did agree that they were pretty tasty. Amanda had the mushroom burger on a pretzel bun (which is pretty self-explanatory), I had the Mile High (which is basically a mushroom burger with bacon), and Ted had the modified Texas Red (which is a burger smothered in chili – of course he ordered it without cheese and onions – because, well, he’s Ted – but he also added jalepenos). Let’s just say that Ted needed a knife and fork to eat his. I gave up on the bun after a while – not because it wasn’t good, but mainly because I was getting full and wanted to concentrate on the goodness that was burger and bacon. Amanda was so full after half her burger that she traded Shane the other half for three wings, which I think we’re all kind of surprised he gave up, but honestly I think it’s just because he was trying to figure out what the breading was made of. Plus did I mention he got half a burger in return? I seriously don’t know how that man doesn’t weigh 400 lbs.

How exactly do you bite into that?

How exactly do you bite into that?

Pretzel buns make everything better. That just sounds dirty.

Pretzel buns make everything better. That just sounds dirty.

There's a burger under there somewhere. I think.

There’s a burger under there somewhere. I think.

In any case, it was all delicious. And filling. I’m not sure how we didn’t have to be rolled out of the place, and we even stayed for another beer just to let things settle.

Speaking of beer, this is one of those places that sticks to the basics. The fanciest thing on the draft list was Guinness. So of course Ted had that, and we all had Miller Lite.

Service was good. Our waitress was friendly, and quick to refill drinks and take orders. Although there are only like ten tables in the place, and two waitresses were working plus a bartender – so the ratio was kind of in our favor that we would be taken care of. Or maybe just after our last few experiences with slow service I may be a bit easily swayed.

Louie’s definitely just has that cool neighborhood bar feel that you don’t find in chains or a lot of the bigger places. Right down to the old, non-working, non-flat screen (yes, kids, there was a time when those screens were encased in a big box!)  black and white TV in the corner, and all the mirrors one the one wall (which prompted Shane, upon walking in, to ask the group – “Hey, this place isn’t so small. Can we sit over there? Oh, wait …”).

It would only be more impressive if it actually worked.

It would only be more impressive if it actually worked.

We definitely will go back … just maybe we won’t eat for two days beforehand.

Shane trying to impersonate the infamous "turtle" picture from our very first WTGW.

Shane trying to impersonate the infamous “turtle” picture from our very first WTGW.

Still not quite it. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Still not quite it. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

CAPSULE

Picked by: Steph
Drinks: Typical small bar list – 4 or 5 drafts, small domestic bottle selection. 
Food:
Seriously, we may not eat again until next Wednesday. Large portions, delicious … what more can you ask for, really?
Service: Good. Despite the “neighborhood bar” atmosphere, we didn’t feel like we were ignored because we we’re regulars.
Overall: While it’s a little too far out of our neighborhood for us to become regulars, and they don’t have a patio so I’m not sure it will be on our summer hot list – but we will definitely be back.

Next Pick: Amanda

Louie's Bar & Grille on Urbanspoon