WTGW 8/30/17: Dante’s County Line Saloon, Brecksville

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I remember seeing this place years ago when Shane and I stopped in at the country western shop across the street (which, can we just talk for a moment about the randomness of a country western shop – we’re talking cowboy hats, boots, horse riding gear, all the bells and whistles – being across the street from a place with “saloon” in the title? In the middle of northeastern Ohio? It’s like this intersection stepped into 1950s Texas) Anyway, we weren’t sure back then if this place was actually open – and even after looking at reviews prior to tonight’s visit I have to admit I still wasn’t 100% sure. Because that speaks well for business, no?

Also, a sidenote on said reviews …. if you happen to look up Dante’s it seems that either they are talking about two very different places on the same review site, or this Dante’s has been redecorated fairly recently. And neither of those ideas really seem plausible, since the “new” decor doesn’t really look like a recent renovation (unless there’s a new decorating trend to make things look worse than before?) … and also the chances of two places being a name that uses the word “saloon” in the title are less than likely. But OK.

Shane was mad I picked this place, because as soon as we pulled up he knew it had “him” written all over it. I mean, “saloon.” Of course.

There were plenty of cars parked outside – leading us to  assume correctly that it actually was open – but then we walked inside and there’s this teeny tiny interior. Like so small we wondered where all the people driving those cars were hiding. Did we miss a secret entrance to a side room somewhere? Is everyone in the kitchen with the cook? Do half those cars not even run and are just parked there to help people like us believe it’s a real place? Interesting marketing strategy, if that’s the case.

In addition to the small bar and dining room area, there was a giant covered patio out back (which looked more like a park pavilion than a patio) but it also wasn’t too full there. Hmmm.

But back to the inside … there are 12 tables. I counted. And it’s definitely a regulars kind of place. The guys sitting at the table nearest the door weren’t officially bouncers, but they may as well been given the looks they shot us newcomers as we walked in.

There are no draft beers at Dantes, only bottles. That was a touch surprising. Add it to the list, I guess.

I had read that the burgers were good, so I went with the mushroom swiss. I found it odd that the menu gave a description of that particular burger, when it seems pretty obvious by the title. I mean, the saloon burger? Sure, that needs an explanation. The fiesta burger? Again, could use some help here. But the mushroom swiss burger? I think I got this one, thanks.

Ready for your close up there mushrooms?

Anyway, it comes with a side, so I got fries, and then also ordered a small side salad. Balance.

Don’t be fooled, this healthiness will change soon

Shane got the same burger, only he mistakenly got the fritters as a side because he thought the burger automatically came with fries and he was adding on the fritters.

OK, so maybe those explanations are helpful after all.

He also got a pound of the garlic parm wings. Because clearly our table was going to be bare.

When you can see the garlic that’s usually not a good sign for anyone else at the table

Ted got a pound of the Jamaican jerk wings, and also the “Maui steak.” Which spurred a debate later, as I thought that was under the salad portion of the menu, but ted thought it was just a steak prepared “Maui style.” Which he had never had before (quick poll: has anyone ever even heard of that as a way to prepare steak? No? Weird), but was excited to try.

Yeah, I was right, it was a salad. But the presentation was lovey, and he did say later that it was fine, because it turned out to be delicious. It actually earned the distinction as like one of three places he would admit to being happy about ordering a salad from, since it was that good. It should be noted that the other salads that he listed in his top favorites were horribly unhealthy and included toppings like fries and fatty dressings. So score for this place that a real, bona fide, healthy salad made the list.

This is not usually what we see in front of Ted

But going back to our usual array of unhealthy entrees … the wings were huge. And apparently baked on the surface of the sun, as Ted discovered the hard way. Both Ted and Shane agreed that the wings were too salty. The Jamaican jerk was OK as a seasoning, Ted said he wasn’t used to that being a dry rub but it was alright. Shane said his wings were definitely garlicky and he’d not be able to get that taste out of his mouth for some time.

My those at large wings you have there

As far as the burgers, Shane said his didn’t have much flavor and that it wasn’t as big as he was expecting it to be. But I thought it was OK. It was done as ordered, but it wasn’t overly flavorful. Maybe they should put that in the description? I mean, that seems to be the less obvious point about that particular burger anyway.

We did observe that, for tiny, hole-in-the-wall place, though, it looked like there was a real chef in the little kitchen in the back. Like the kind that wears the fancy jacket and all. And he seemed to take real pride in his work. There was no “I went to culinary school and now all I get to cook are obviously described burgers at a saloon” attitude about him. He actually came out once as he was leaving and asked a table how things were, and genuinely cared about the answer.

Dante’s is definitely a place of regulars, but not completely unwelcome. Well, once you get past that initial bouncer table anyway. Although we did notice a difference in the level of service for us versus the regulars. Like, for instance, the server  wouldn’t bring me a second drink until I finished my first. It was  like she didn’t trust me with the glassware. I mean, OK, if you open up our cupboard of glasses at home you would probably notice a few with special bar emblems or sports team schedules printed on them – so, yes, we’ve been known to sneak out a glass from time to time. But these were nothing special. So basically don’t flatter yourselves, Dantes. Please.

Overall I’d say I’m not sure it’s worth the trip back. I mean, if we were in the area and wanted to try out the pavilion area in the back, or if Ted’s in the mood for some healthy greens, then sure. But beyond that, let’s just say it seems we’re better off riding into the sunset toward greener pastures there partners. Yee haw.

Steph … and creepy Shane

Shane

Ted

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WTGW 3/8/17: Market Street Grill & Pub, Akron

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You guys. I’m not even going to make you wait until halfway through the post to tell you the best thing about this place. Seriously. It’s that good.

Free chips and dip.

What’s that now?

I’ll say it again … Free. Chips. And. Dip.

WHAT?!?!?!

So, yeah, you know how Mexican places are known for placing a basket of free tortilla chips and salsa on your table about 3.2 seconds after you sit down? Well, this place essentially does the same thing, only the basket is full of homemade potato chips and a side of french onion dip.

O.M.G.

Well, OK, so a few things, they don’t bring the basket out mere moments after your butt hits the seat – at least not in our experience – although that might’ve just been our server, who we discovered over the course of the evening was not of the most friendly or knowledgeable nature. Whatevs. Also, it doesn’t appear to be never-endingly-refillable, as the Mexican places are. When our basket was empty – and after much debate at our table about what the fate of said empty basket would be – the server simply cleared it away. Booo.

But still. It exists, and that’s what’s important.

It also explains the note that was paper-clipped to the menu regarding how you can “by popular demand, purchase chip dip to take home!” This was slightly confusing to us since 1) our magical free basket hadn’t yet made its appearance at our table, and 2) there didn’t seem to be an option to order chips and dip anywhere on the menu. But I get it now. Mystery solved.

I’m still not sure what the “white french” is but I’m glad the chip dip mystery has been solved

CSI: WTGW style.

So I guess by now you’re assuming that this alone at least put Market Street Grill & Pub in the “somewhat OK” category for our weekly adventures. And I guess that would be correct. Sadly, however, the free chips and dip was about the only thing we were overly thrilled with.

Let’s back up, shall we?

So there’s been a bit of an ongoing debate on who would pick the Market Street Grill & Pub, ever since we drove past it and Shane spotted the pretty neon signs and exclaimed that “whatever that place is, I’m totally picking it.” And then never did. I mean, you guys, we were on our way to New Era when he first spotted this place. New Era. That was like last summer. I waited patiently for him to pick it, but weeks went by with no action. I even gave him a warning, announcing one night that it would be my choice … to which Shane got all huffy like I just stole his birthday away from him, so I relented. And still, have we been there yet? No. So no more being nice. Enough time has gone by, I hereby declare it no longer his pick.

And so here we are. You’re welcome for that little peek behind the scenes in our decision making processes. It’s cutthroat.

The parking situation at Market Street Grill & Pub was a little bit tricky, as we kind of had to drive the wrong way partially up a one-way hill/street – after making an illegal turn at a light – just to access the parking lot. And there also may or may not have been an older gentleman chain smoking in the van we parked next to who was still there when we came out after dinner a few hours later. Bouncer? Parking attendant? Paying off the cops who come after those of us who have to ensue a few traffic violations just to park?

Another mystery. We only have time for so many here, folks, so I’ll save that one for another time.

The place has an interesting set up inside. It’s definitely bigger than I would’ve guessed by looking at the outside. But the tables are also kind of close together and the the bar area is in a weird configuration when you first walk in. But it works. Sort of.

The beer list is an actual part of the menu, which is a welcome touch. Unfortunately Ted drew the short straw that usually belongs to me when it comes to ordering beers they no longer have – he asked for a Guinness, but was told they were out. Our server – who I already mentioned clearly wasn’t feeling his job this evening – didn’t offer a replacement, so we spent an awkward few minutes while Ted searched desperately for another dark beer to order. And ended up with a Killian’s. Hmmm. And no glass. Which, to Ted’s point, he probably wouldn’t have used anyway, but an offer still would’ve been nice. You know, like when that annoying co-worker keeps asking you to go to lunch with them, and you know you’ll never go but it’s still nice to be thought of anyway.

On the “hey we actually have your beer” side of the table, Shane got his customary Bud Light, and I got the craft beer of the month, which was the Leininkugel’s cranberry ginger. I’m assuming since that’s usually a winter/holiday beer, they must be trying to empty the last out the kegs before the summer shandy comes in, but whatevs. I mean, we’ve had summer shandy that’s been sitting around for far longer, and we’re still here to talk about it.

Ted ordered calamari as an app – because, hey, if Shane doesn’t love it anymore, at least someone in the group does. It came out with the usual marinara dipping sauce, and another one which we described as “Thai sweet & sour.” I’m not sure that’s the “official” name for it, but that was our best guess. Ted tried it first and claimed it had a bit of s a kick to it. I tried it and thought he was crazy – until a few minutes later when my throat was burning. Sneaks up on you, kids.

A pile of fried yumminess

For his meal, Ted got the flame burger. With no cheese, of course. He called it the fire burger, and the server not so gently corrected him with “you mean the flame burger.”

I’m beginning to think this server was not a fan of Ted.

Which is OK, because Ted was not so much a fan of the meal that the server brought him, either. He said the burger was decent, but definitely not a favorite. And the fries weren’t very good, he wished there had been other side options, but the server didn’t offer those up any more than he did that invisible glass.

It should be known that Ted later rearranged those jalepenos so that they covered the burger instead of just sat there in a pile. It’s all about flavor control, people

The wing menu had a sauce called “Erie island smoke” – which is the name of a dry rub we used to get at the Cleats near our old house in Warren years ago. Shane was all over that, ordering six of those wings, as well as the $5 Wednesday burger special (burger and fries for $5). The server told him that the burger only came with pickles, onion and mayo. Shane was like “yeah whatever, it’s $5, I don’t need to be fancy.”

Also, pickles, onions and mayo may be the strangest combination of “basic” burger condiments ever. What happened to lettuce, tomato and ketchup? What parallel universe is this? First free chips and dip, and now odd burger toppings. I’m a little worried.

Same burger, different green condiment

Shane also said that his burger was decent – he gave it slightly higher marks than Ted, but that may have had something to do with it being only $5, so his bar was already set a little low. And seeing as he’s usually picky about the done-ness of his burger and wasn’t offered a voice in the matter with the server, this could’ve gone bad quickly – so I’ll consider “decent” a win here. Shane agreed with Ted that the fries were not good (seriously, how do you screw up fries?). He actually thought the meal would come with chips, but – again – no choice was really offered.

I got six of the Erie island wings and a bowl of chili. The wings seemed a bit saltier than I remembered – although Shane said they were dead on to how he remembered them, so maybe my taste buds are just off this week. Regardless, they were still good … but the chili, not so much. It didn’t really have any flavor. Which is probably to be expected since the mixture seemed to pretty much just consist of kidney beans, bits of tomatoes and a random few chunks of ground beef. Ever heard of spices, people? Or even some onions and green peppers? Or perhaps chili beans?

Parallel universe. I’m telling ya.

Long lost wing favorite

I wish I could say it tasted better than it looked

When the server approached us about dessert, Ted asked – for curiousity’s sake, and also because our menus were long gone – what they had for dessert options. The server named off a few items like cheesecake and tiramisu, and then mentioned something called a “cookie bake.” We all stared blankly at the server until Ted finally stepped up and asked just what exactly that was … and was informed in a rather harsh and condescending tone by the server that it’s a fresh baked cookie topped with ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate sauce.

Because I can’t imagine we were the first ones to ask that question? No need to shame Ted over a cookie bake, buddy.

I told you the server hated him.

Aside from being the subject of the server’s unrelenting hatred toward patrons, Ted’s biggest complaint was that the beer selection was lacking, especially when they’ve managed to run out of Guinness a week before St. Patrick’s Day.

Shane: I’m looking around, and this really doesn’t seem like the Guinness drinking crowd.
Ted: Yeah, but yet they’re out of it so what does that tell you?

Touche.

Overall I think the biggest winners of the night were the Thai sauce for the calamari, the Erie island wings – and of course the free chips and dip. I would go back and just see if they would refill my chips and dip basket a few times, and take that as a meal. But really, I can get chips and dip at the store and eat them on the comfort of my own couch, so I probably wouldn’t go for that option.

I have to say that our server definitely didn’t help our opinion of the place at all, either. As as we were pulling out of the parking lot we saw him leaving for the night, so that might explain something – but still, your hot date is not a reason to be rude. Just be glad we didn’t opt for the cookie bake there, pal.

Picked by: Steph
Next pick: Ted

Shane

Steph

Ted