WTGW 10/24/18: Green Diamond Grille, Barberton

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OK kids, so after a few weeks of the diviest of dive bars, we definitely classed it up a bit more this week. For one thing, no one had to go on a scavenger hunt for menus – it was actually assumed that we would be eating, and menus were handed to us as we were seated. And then the options inside said menus were a bit more complex than dinner than McDonalds.

I’m not sure how we know how to act in these here fancy places anymore.

Although I think we all had our doubts on the drive in, as the main street leading up to the Green Diamond Grille was more than a little sketch. I mean, it was better than the universe of back roads we found ourselves in last week – but, well, that’s not really so difficult to beat, so that may not really even be worth mentioning.

Anyway.

We were greeted immediately after we walked in, and were told that we could sit in the room behind the main bar or in the dining room. Because we’re allergic to dining rooms, naturally we chose the room by the bar.

Started out with beers all around, although Ted tried to steal mine when it was set down because he couldn’t believe I also ordered a Kentucky Bourbon Ale like he did. I know, my penchant for beers I can actually see through usually diverts me to other choices, but it had been a while since I’d had one of these and it just sounded good. Shane picked up my slack with a Miller Lite, and Jason took advantage of the waning days of fall beer season and ordered a Pumpking. Meanwhile Cassi abstained from alcohol, thanks to a new Whole 30 diet.

This also meant Cassi couldn’t order anything with dairy or carbs – which of course Ted was thrilled to hear about, because for once he wouldn’t be the only one at the table ordering his famous “cheeseburger, hold the cheese.”

It doesn’t make it any less weird, though. Let’s just keep that point clear.

Shane of course asked the server his famous two part questionnaire: what’s good here, and how much food do you get with the order (alternate text: what order gets you the most food for your money).

In response, our server pointed out that the Wednesday special is something called “hunky night” – which, because, I mean, I’m sure it’s totally obvious what that means and all but I’ll explain It anyway, translates to getting the choice a couple of things that have hunks of some sort of meat in it – like sausage or chicken.

Um, OK.

The marketing person at me was screaming at her to please, for the love of all things holy, change the name of that special before you start attracting bachelorette parties and lonely single women thinking a special showing of Magic Mike is on tap for the evening, but I wisely kept these thoughts to myself.

She left us to continue contemplating the menu, and it took all of about 15 seconds for Ted to snap his menu shut, cross his arms across his chest, and declare that this evening was going to be quite expensive on his end.

Well, I mean, in all fairness, for the past two weeks he’s been getting essentially two entrees for under $5, so take that declaration with a bit of a grain of salt.

Ted was apparently won over by this oddly named Wednesday special, so that was what he ordered. He chose the hunky chicken and dumplings … with sausage … and butter noodles … and a cabbage roll … and green beans. I’m about 97.5% certain that he didn’t realize at least three of those things would be included in his meal until the plate came out.

Because he also got mussels to start.

Sounds about right.

But it worked out OK, because the mussels were definitely worth it. Ted said they may have been some of the best he’s ever had.

This could be a meal all in itself

While the rest of the meal didn’t encourage those highest of accolades, it at least didn’t disappoint. He said that the cabbage roll was good and – to use his word – “dense.” I’m not sure exactly how to rate that description, but it seems to live up to Shane’s quest to find the most food on a plate, so there’s that.

He did mention that the rest of the meal had a bit of an identity crisis going on, though, as the sausage tasted of garlic, the hunky chicken contained a little too much sour cream, and the butter noodles ended up actually being cabbage and noodles.

Not that any of those things are necessarily bad, per se – and he still finished his entire meal, so it definitely wasn’t that awful. Maybe they should just change the already-awful name of the dish to “chicken surprise” instead? Just a thought.

That’s like six different meals all put together in one

Cassi did go ahead with her order of the usual “Ted Special” (a.k.a. the burger sans cheese). And then also had to remove the bun once it arrived – which was a shame because it was grilled and not at all mushy – but the things we do for diets, I guess.

Burger, uncovered

She also got a plain baked potato, and side salad – which ended up being just basically lettuce and a few tomatoes because cheese was the other major component to this bowl of supposed vegetables. The server tried to be helpful and asked if she wanted to add on croutons – because I’m guessing no one has actually ever asked to remove all of the non-healthy items before so she wasn’t sure what the novelty was in even ordering it – but of course that was a big no. I think she left the table slightly bewildered.

Mmm, vegetables

Jason got potato skins, after casually mentioning his craving for some fried pickles – another of Cassi’s non-edibles – which of course caused Cassi to bring up that time at Dilly D’s a few months back when she wanted them and he vetoed that choice. Although I said he was kind of saving her back then because those ones were disgusting.

Much better than fried pickle spears

Shane and I went with the pretzel sticks for our app. Shocker, I know. But hit a win on these ones, as they were fried but not too crispy, and very doughy on the inside.

When doughy is a good thing

We also rounded out the burger orders at the table. I got the half pound specialty burger – it had a name, but that escapes me now, all I remember was that it was supposed to come with some sort of parm ranch sauce that I asked for on the side. Because that sounds like something even an adult can’t ingest on a sandwich without wearing a bib of some kind.

Burger, covered

Turns out I never got that side of whatever sauce was left off of my burger. But that’s OK, because instead I ended up with a side of applesauce that I’m not sure ever was actually supposed to come with my meal, as well as this delicious side bowl of goodness:

Maybe pick a different color for the bowl you’re going to fill with cheese next time, no?

That’s right, ask for a side of cheese to dip your fries in, and get something that rivals bowls of soup I’ve had at other restaurants. Score.

Jason and Shane each ordered the one pound burger. So essentially two of the burgers pictured above that I ordered – for each of them. You know its a good meal when the server’s response to that is, “yeah, we don’t sell many of those.”

Hmmm.

Challenge accepted, I guess. I’m not sure if she realized what she did by making that statement. Although her later statement when she came to deliver the checks was that she thought we may have run the kitchen out of burgers just with our table. So there’s that.

The onion ring seems slightly unnecessary

Shane: dreams are made of this

But you know what, we definitely shouldn’t be the only ones ordering the burgers at this place, though, because they were delicious. They were definitely fresh made – I ordered mine medium and it was still pretty pink inside, while Shane ordered his medium rare and it was just past the dead and warmed up stage. So just the way he likes it. It’s been a hot minute since we’ve been to a place that actually cooked them to order like that.

Shane, of course, was in love.

Shane: I’m not sure where to start eating, it’s just so beautiful.

OK.

The Green Diamond Grille is another of those places that falls under the “list of places we wish weren’t over 30 minutes away because we would likely visit them more often.” The food was good, and the service and atmosphere were both decent. It would be an interesting place to check out during a game. Or maybe just any night other than “hunky night.” Because I still can’t believe someone thought this was a good idea, but whatevs. Points for originality?

Picked by: Cassi

Cassi

Jason

Shaney likey

Ted

Steph

Green Diamond Grille & Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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WTGW 10/18/18: New Milford Cafe, Rootstown

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You guys. I think we’ve finally done it. I think we’ve may have finally found one of both the cheapest meals and the diviest bars (that we actually stayed to eat in anyway) in all of WTGW history.

Shocker that it’s under the same roof, I know.

And that roof belongs to a house.

Although the real shocker is probably that Shane didn’t pick this one this time. Say what? Since he took one for the team last week with the Missing Mountain fiasco that landed us at the table of $2 burgers at the Bailey Rd Tavern, I was up this week. And accepted the unofficial challenge to find a place that has burgers for even less than last week.

That’s right, $1 burger night.

I mean, sure, you literally have to drive to the middle of nowhere to find them. A few times I’m not even sure we were on an actual road. And then you have to park in a lot that could also double as the beginnings of a junkyard. Next to a house. And a specials sign that none of us could read because it was covered in weeds.

Sounds promising, no? Shane couldn’t stop saying “oh my goodness” as we parked the car and walked in.

For all of this trouble, we were rewarded with awkward side eye glances from all of the regulars (read: the entire bar) as we trounced our way through the maze of rooms that make up this commercial house party on steroids trying to find an open table.

Good times.

Once we finally got settled in, we were able to read the sign behind the bar, which advertised a brief list of things you could get for $1 in this establishment that evening:

  • Burgers
  • Canned domestic beers
  • Well drinks
  • Hot dogs

So, for like $10 each we could plausibly leave this place fed and semi-drunk? Score.

Spoiler alert: that didn’t happen. But my guess would be some regulars of this place leave this place much more than $20 lighter and a whole lot more inebriated most Wednesdays of the month.

After about 10 minutes of sitting around, we started assuming that the neon specials board and these wonderfully artistic Sharpie menus might be the only clue as to what the kitchen was serving that evening.

Classy

I mean, because the table tent marketing worked so well for us the last time we were faced with these, right?

We meet again, old friend

But then after the guys’ second trip to the bar to get drinks – because we all know cheap drinks go down faster, right? – after which time we still hadn’t been offered menus from the bartenders, asked if we were interested in ordering food, or seen a server come anywhere near our table – one of the guys finally got up the nerve to ask if there was anything beyond the $1 menu.

Behold, they do have printed menus in this place! And in slightly better shape than the ones we got last week. I have to say that was just as surprising as … well … forget it, pretty much everything about this place is surprising in some way by this point, so never mind.

But it was because of those menus that we realized not only could you get a regular old burger for $1, but one of the “specialty” burgers for $3.50. What? Mushrooms and cheese and onions and basically all the other condiments you usually get on burgers anyway for only a mere $2.50 more? Bargains.

Or so we thought. How naive we are.

In any case, Cassi and I went that route, with both of us ordering the mushroom Swiss burger. We also got side orders of onion rings. Not the blazin hot onion rings from the table tent, though. We learned the insider tip on that one a few weeks ago, thank you very much to that server guy.

Shane also joined the $3.50 burger bandwagon, and got something called the Hillbilly burger. Because if any place is going to get that particular item correct, it seems it would be this one.

Or one would think anyway. More on that later.

Jason and Ted, meanwhile, went the cheap route and got a couple of the $1 burgers each. And fries. Apparently Shane has been replaced as Jason’s food soulmate? Such a sad day.

Shane and I also ordered the pepper jack cheese bites, and Shane got a side order of wings.

Side note: if you think wings are a strange thing to order as a side item, you obviously don’t read this blog often.

Anywho.

The server/bartender made little effort to hide the fact that she was more than a touch perturbed at having to come over all the way around the bar and over to our table to actually take our order. For shame. Forgive us for inconveniencing you, princess. I mean, I get it, you’d rather do shots behind the bar than write down some words and then later run our collective $20 worth of food to our table – but still. It is your job, after all.

Apparently job security is little more than a passing thought at this place – maybe because you probably have to live practically next door to think about driving to this netherlands more than a few days a week – but in any case let’s just say I think 60 year old waitresses at any one of those little run down truck stop diners you see by the side of the highway in the middle of nowhwere, America, could outperform her 2700 times over.

Unless it was at doing shots with patrons. As mentioned before, she was pretty good at that.

So here’s a novelty, the food arrived at our table in exactly the same lineup in which we ordered it, only with extremely large and quite noticeable time differentials between our checks. What group of five people dining together doesn’t love that? Especially when you’re hungry. Because that’s not an awkward situation for anyone, no matter how well you know one another. Do you go ahead and eat, even though you know your friends are also starving and sometimes too polite to eat from your offered plate? Do you literally watch your food get colder by the second, all the while cursing the kitchen for taking so damn long to bring out the next plate?

It’s a great test of friendship.

So Cassi and Jason’s entire order arrived first

That looks … well … like food. I think.

The fries look slightly better

They had their food for like 10 minutes before the server broke free of the bar long enough to come back over to tell Shane that they’re out of the slaw that’s supposed to go on his Hillbilly burger. Shane didn’t even remember that’s the chosen condiment that was supposed to be on his specialty burger, so he wasn’t all that concerned.

If this were a short film about our evening, this is the time when a deep and forboding narrator’s voice would say something like: BUT HE SHOULD’VE BEEN.

Hey, it’s been another 15 minutes and Ted’s order finally shows up! Horray for small miracles!

(I didn’t take any pictures of his, because it was literally the same as Jason’s. So refer back to the photo above if you want a reminder)

That just leaves me and Shane, who I guess will eat around midnight. Cool. Clearly we picked the wrong side of the table to sit on.

But, to pass the time, here’s a brief list of things we were able to enjoy about the ambiance of the place while we waited:

Continued stares from the regulars as if we’re some band of misfit outsiders. Oh, wait, to this group we probably are. I mean, I was wearing a scarf as an accessory and not just something to keep my face warm in a snowstorm, so I can see how that would be strange. Also Cassi and I both I clearly missed the memo that hoodies were the required uniform, even on women. So yes, we get it, we’re new here. Obviously being welcoming isn’t something they teach in these parts. Noted.

Music louder than the last concert I attended. And it continuously got louder as the evening wore on. We think they may have blown a speaker at some point – which, logically, only made them turn things up louder. Because distortion and partial static sounds amazing at 10,000 decibels, thanks.

Solicitation, in the form of some random woman approaching our table asking if we want to buy candy bars to help support her daughter’s prom. Whoa, what? I mean, props for figuring out that a group of bar-goers on $1 beer night is a solid audience for this type of purchase. But prom? Really? It’s October. I’m slightly curious about where that money will reside for the next seven months or so until that dance typically occurs on a school calendar.

Four of us in the group: we don’t carry cash
Ted: Sure, I’ll buy one

We also did this.

Concentration

See what happens when you leave us with nothing to do with our hands and a growing collection of empty cans on the table? Let this be a lesson to you.

The kicker was when the place ran out of Bud Light Cans after our 4th round. OK, who dropped the ball on this one? That’s like the time I walked into Starbucks and was greeted with a sign saying they ran out of coffee.

If it were me, I would tend to think that restocking would be the #1 priority on Tuesday, knowing this particular item would be essentially on fire sale the next evening. But then again priorities aren’t something that this place necessarily seems to have any sort of handle on, so again, not surprised. And at least they still had canned beer, in the form of Miller Lite, so we could continue to enjoy $1 beer night in our secondary fashion.

I should also mention that Ted – who includes both cheese and canned domestic beers on his list of things he’s not at all a fan of – went for the mixed drinks instead of beer throughout the course of the evening. He started out with Jack and coke, but then realized that “well bourbon and coke” will suffice if it falls under the umbrella of the $1 well drinks special.

This is an important point that we’ll come back to in a little bit.

Just like our meals, which finally arrived, just a hair under an hour after we placed our orders. Yay! Who doesn’t love waiting until 8:35 to eat?

Maybe the best part of the meal. That means a little more when I mention that they also weren’t totally melted inside

Why do these onion rings look different?

Before he lifted the bun to see exactly what was on the burger

Yeah, we still aren’t real sure

So, let’s take a good look at that last picture of Shane’s burger, shall we? Do you notice anything? Like maybe, just maybe, the missing slaw was the ONLY condiment on the burger that would’ve made it anything close to being “specialty”?

Because without it, he essentially just had a burger with ketchup, mustard, cheese and onions.

Mmmmm.

We even looked at the menu again (because why would the server return to pick them up from our table? Clearly no one else is using them but us) and confirmed that, yes, those were the condiments that were supposed to be on that burger. Plus slaw. Which they mysteriously don’t have. So good thing they still charged him $3.50 for it.

Me: I think McDonald’s burgers look better than that mess, with about the same condiments, and they’re only $1.

So, yeah, I’d love to say the food was worth the strange and seemingly completely unnecessary wait … but I can’t. The burgers were all burnt. Hey, here’s a clue, maybe don’t cook them so long next time and we can all eat quicker – or maybe at least at the same time?

Shane’s wings were … strange. They were almost beer battered before they were deep fried, so they looked huge – but it was like the chickens they took the wings from were also on steroids. It was like eating fried chicken, only all the pieces were in wing form.

Wait, did they just have KFC deliver something?

We also about had a battle over French fries, thanks to the fact that Ted’s fries had ALL.THE. SALT, while meanwhile Cassi (the undeniable salt lover of the group) was basically rationed about 12 little pellets over the entire order that she was sharing with Jason. And theirs came out first. How do we get such different batches? Did the server finally bring the salt shaker back after another round of tequila shots? Or did the cooks just switch shifts in the time between our separate checks of meals being finished? I mean, we were there for pretty much an entire evening between the time we placed our orders and actually ate, so I suppose it’s possible.

Speaking of being there for a while, I guess the server must’ve taken a liking to Ted and his $1 bourbon and coke orders, because his drinks seemingly got progressively bigger over the course of the evening. Like he was on some graduated plan – you mastered the rocks glass, now try a collins glass, and  … ok, now a pint … well, screw it, let’s just go straight to a 16oz drink glass.

I think if we had stayed there another hour they might’ve had him drinking bourbon and coke out of one of those giant boot steins they use in German bier halls.

He also said his last drink had no less than three large shots in it. For $1. Please tell me how they make money here.

Oh, nevermind, I know the answer to this, because I’ve seen our bills for the evening. Ready for a fun little math lesson?  Keep in mind it’s dollar burger, beer and mixed drink night, which is what the majority of us were enjoying.

Mine and Shane’s bill was $33. What? How is this more than last week’s $2 burger night? I’ll tell you – the sides. The (not very good) fried cheese balls were $4.50, and the fried chicken masquerading as wings was $10. $10! That’s 10 burgers! Or 10 beers! That’s about $1 a wing, and if he had known what was going to arrive in front of him when he ordered those, I’d wager a guess that Shane would’ve jumped that count down considerably.

Looking at his bill, Ted commented that his first real Jack and coke was 25% of his total bill. Wait, check that, the drink and the side order of fries ($4.99) were 60% of his total bill.

Even so, his entire bill was $18. For two burgers, some fries, approximately 7 tons of salt, and about half a bottle of bourbon. OK, when you look at it that way I guess that’s actually not too shabby. And it’s definitely one of the cheapest WTGW bills any of us have ever seen.

But then again, given the atmosphere of the place, and the lack of service, and the really awful food … well, it seems they really probably should’ve actually paid us to be there. Although, with this kind of intelligence behind the bar, maybe in some ways they did:

Must be that new math

And at least we left them some new table decorations. You’re welcome.

Our gift to you, New Milford Cafe

Picked by: Steph

Ted. The thumbs up is for the $18 bill. The other is for … well … everything else

Cassi

Jason

Tell us how you really feel, Shane

Steph

WTGW 10/10/18: Bailey Rd Tavern, Cuyahoga Falls

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This week on WTGW we bring you … a Tale of Failed Places.

Or Third Time’s the Charm.

You decide after you read this which title is more appropriate.

This was technically supposed to be my pick this week, so our initial stop was Missing Mountain Brewery in Cuyahoga Falls. It seems the Falls have become a hotbed for new brewery action – and while I’ve learned my lesson about going to a place literally days after opening, I hoped that waiting until this one had been open for a hot minute would have a better outcome.

Yeah, well, chalk that up to a huge fail.

Here’s a tip for the MM folks: it gets cold and rainy in Ohio pretty much any time of year, but especially in the fall. While it may have seemed like sinking your cash into the gorgeous patio overlooking the river was an optimal plan in early spring and summer when you were getting up and running … you might want to turn that pocketbook toward the interior these days, and get some more seating action up inside this place. Literally. Because the short order of tables available inside was no help to our party of five that really wanted food, stat.

Also not helpful: the rope across the stairway to the upstairs. I’m not sure what hidden lair awaits at the top of that staircase, but if it had seating options and a food menu you would’ve had five satisfied customers this evening. Well, OK, so I can’t guarantee the satisfied part, since we do tend to be hard to please at times – but we still would’ve paid you even if we weren’t satisfied, so that has to count for something, no?

Anyway.

Fast forward to a quick google search of the nearby area, which did nothing more than really highlight the fact that MM clearly took an opportunity to place food in a barren part of town. Turns out there are very few sit-down restaurants with liquor licenses in the general vicinity, and even fewer that we haven’t seen the inside of for food of some kind already.

Except – oh, wait – Chelsea’s by the River! We know this place! We’ve been here for drinks after eating out at a past WTGW, and the Google reviews mention burgers, so it seems like fair game!

Yeah, no. Clearly those Google reviews were written in days of yore, because Chelsea’s no longer has a working kitchen. You can eat there – but only after ordering from Euro Gyro next door and carrying it over to the bar. Classy. Or maybe they deliver? We didn’t stick around long enough to inquire about that one.

Instead, our visit to Chelsea’s pretty much consisted of an awkward walk in, a slightly loud few moments of settling in at a table, a glance around for menus, a general wonderment amongst ourselves if maybe we missed something on the reviews that spoke of food, a rebuttal of a few side eye glances from the regulars, and then finally a silent line march out of the establishment.

That was fun.

On to stop #3 in our awkward bar hop that has thus far left us without beer or food of any kind. Because that’s an event that everyone rushes to sign up for.

And that stop was Bailey Rd Tavern, another familiar name from our early pre-blog WTGW days, back in the time when we would actually eat at one place and then hit up another for drinks on the way home. Either we started earlier in the evenings back then, or these past five years has really adulted us, because it seems we complain on nights when we’re getting home after 9PM anymore, so I’m not sure how those outings didn’t kill us.

Regardless, ever since that first stop years ago, Shane has been gently suggesting that we stop back at BRT for an actual meal. After a quick group vote – during which time Shane sensed my hesitation and offered to take my pick as his own this week because I wasn’t sure I wanted my name on the docket for this one – it was decided that we would check it out.

And that’s the long story of how Bailey Rd Tavern because Shane’s new favorite dive bar, as well as one of the cheapest WTGW on record.

We were somewhat shocked to find the place pretty packed on a Wednesday night. Well, I mean, packed for a place that really only has a handful of tables that aren’t of the pool variety, as well as seats at the bar. We ended up having to go all the way to the back of the place, behind the bar and near a weird hallway that we weren’t sure led into the bathrooms or the kitchen (or both, as we discovered later), as well as – shocker – another pool table.

The bartender/server comes over and asks if we want the “Wednesday burger special” – at which time we realized this was probably the reason that the place was so packed on this particular night – and we were like OK, yeah, that’s probably what we’ll end up with, but can we also see a menu? I mean, this table decoration is lovely and all, but maybe you have more to offer us?

Looks like someone gets the “hey, I learned how to make my own posters on the computer and laminate them myself” award

She agrees and disappears for another five minutes, during which time Shane almost chewed his own arm off out of hunger.

But the wait was definitely worth it when she returned with this.

Well that’s seen better days.

OK.

We cut her a little bit of slack, because clearly she had to break out the time machine to unearth that little piece of history. If only it could talk about the things its seen in its years hiding behind the bar.

So, yeah, $2 burger specials all around. Because although so many other things on this menu definitely intrigued us, I can honestly say it wasn’t necessarily because we wanted to order them.

Among the topics of conversation were WTF is this breakfast and movie special on Sunday mornings? And how do they make any money with prices this cheap?

Moving on.

So when the server finally came back to take our orders, we went with pitchers of beer (at her recommendation) as well as the touted $2 burger special. The guys all got two burgers each, while Cassi and I opted for just one a piece. And then of course chips and fries for sides.

I’m not going to bore you with redundancy of five pictures of the same thing. Imagine a table full of this. Enough said.

This too.

Hey, anyone remember that time we went out to a place that Shane picked and the menu only consisted of two items, burgers and wings? And we all give him crap continuously about it? Just checking.

Cassi and Jason also got onion rings. Cassi said they were the best part of her meal. I’m not sure exactly what that says about the burgers, but it says something I think.

They don’t look like much, but apparently they’re winners

That statement may mean more when you take into consideration Shane looked at his burger before biting into it and realized that the bun was actually two top buns, no bottom. Huh. Are there just like a giant pile back there on the counter, and they grab what they can?

Hopefully it’s not next to whatever drawer these ketchup packets live out their lives in.

Generically frugal

I think 1997 called, they’d like their condiments back, please. You’re giving pride a bad name by using it on that label. Although it is “fancy,” so I guess that makes up for something?

OK, I’ll stop. But I could go on for days. Trust me.

But wait! The server had an idea … instead of opening all of those packets, she should just bring us some ketchup so we won’t be so wasteful. Rejoice!

Mmmmm

Um, maybe not. That’s like a literal vat of ketchup, and lord only knows what magical condiment faucet it was poured from. We kind of thought maybe she would just bring us a bottle for ourselves, but I guess that’s not acceptable here?

We can’t be trusted with nice things. I should’ve known.

But other than not trusting us with ketchup bottles, the bartender/server was good. She checked in on us a fair amount, especially given our non-prime location and the fact that she literally had the entire place to watch at the same time. She made sure to write our names on our orders as she took them so that she could remember who got what when it arrived (although since we all got burgers, I have to ask: was it truly that difficult?). Or maybe she just wanted to be friends. I’m OK with either.

Can you tell we’ve had some pretty awful service experiences lately or what? It’s like we’re in abusive relationships and have set our excuse parameters super low. “It’s OK that she never brought us our food, she’s just crazy busy.” “Sure we all only ordered burgers, but she asked for our names and that means she must care about us, right?”

Is there therapy for this kind of situation?

So here it is time to cash out, let’s take a final tally on our bills, shall we? We did realize there was some interesting math going on, when the side orders of chips were $3 but each of the burgers were only $2. Hmmm. OK. But even so, the total bill for me and Shane combined was only $21. $21! That’s like less than what we pay for a few six packs and the fixings to grill out at home. Cassi and Jason had $26, although they also got the order of onion rings and had one extra pitcher on their bill. Ted was the big spender at $22 for just one person – but he was drinking fancy bottled Guinness instead of our cheap Bud Light pitchers, so serves him right, I guess.

So overall, it wasn’t the worst place we’ve ever been. It’s certainly not fancy – I mean, I think if you look up “dive bar” in a dictionary it may have a photo of this place instead of a description – which of course means Shane was in love with the place before we even sat down – but the food didn’t kill us and we all paid less as a collective group for the evening than we have individually at some of our adventures, so that certainly counts for something.

Plus the sign outside offers wise words of wisdom.

Aw, stop. You’re making me teary.

So when someone finds out what the movie is this weekend, give us a shout and let us know, ‘k?

Picked by: Shane

Shane

Steph

Jason

Cassi

Ted

WTGW 10/3/18: Little City Grill, Kent

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This week’s visit is proof positive that marketing works, folks. And the inventor of the table tent should be damn proud of himself for that stellar invention.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Little City Grill is one of those places that I feel like a few of us have mentioned over the years since its opening, but somehow we just never made it in the door until now. I know I for one have received several Groupon emails with this place as a feature – which, just to give you a little insight into how my consumer mind works when it comes to these emails, can be somewhat intriguing (oh, hey, a new place opened up, making a note to go try it sometime) until it crosses the line into daunting (oh hey, that not-so-new place is STILL getting themselves the featured spot on the Groupon newsletter, maybe business isn’t so good and I should probably read some reviews to see why).

Fascinating, I know. Restaurants, take note.

Space is definitely at a premium inside Little City Grille, so I guess their name is appropriate. The host started to put us at a table in the back room, which would’ve essentially secluded us from the rest of the restaurant – thus making us believe that perhaps our reputation preceded us following last week’s not-made-for-dinner-conversations at the fancy house restaurant.

But then they remembered there was actually at table near the front that would hold the five of us, so we were stationed there instead. Probably a better choice, because I have to believe if you give us our own room where we think no one can hear us then we’ll probably just end up being even louder. We’re like kindergarteners in that respect.

And in several other respects, too, but that’s a tale for another time.

The place has a pretty decent craft beer list, which to my delight also included several ciders. Although – less to my delight – it seems that my curse of ordering the one thing on the menu that they *just* ran out of still holds true. Awesome. I tried to get a cucumber ginger cider – just because, well, it sounded intriguing and I really just wanted to say I tried it … but of course they didn’t have it. I’d like to think that was because it’s probably hideous and the universe was just saving me to trouble of figuring that out on my own. Also, at least the server warned me when I placed the order that he wasn’t sure he had any left so at least I could give him a backup option.

And it wasn’t this.

Spooky beer

Hey, surprise, Shane asked the server what he should order! Shocking, I know. The server didn’t really point out any specifics, but instead mentioned that all of their food was known for including “quality ingredients.”

I’m not sure any of us knew how that would affect our orders. We pretty much just smiled and nodded our way through that conversation.

And then proceeded to ask the server about the one thing that probably has nothing to do with “quality ingredients” on the menu … OK, technically, it wasn’t on the menu – but instead a lovely photographic table tent ad that made them look downright delicious … or maybe we were just hungry … in any case, the one thing on our minds as soon as the server asked if we knew what we wanted was the Flaming Hot Onion Rings.

AM I RIGHT? I mean, you haven’t even seen a photo of these yet and already I know you’re thinking to yourself, damn, that WTGW group sure knows how to find the best food in town.

Well, don’t hold your breath on that photo. Apparently my curse has now extended into the food side of things, since they also were out of those as well. Or, rather, I think they technically HAD them … but the server didn’t advise us to order them. He said the breading “didn’t hold together as well as they had hoped” – and so the creation was nixed.

Ted pointed out that they may want to remove the ad from the tables then. Seems logical, no?

The server laughed … but left the table tent.

OK then.

Shane and I were too disappointed to order another appetizer. Well, OK, that’s only partially true – we didn’t order an app, but more so because we didn’t see anything else on the menu we had to have, so we just went straight to our main orders.

Cassi and Jason picked their heads up out of the sea of disappointment and ordered the tater tots. They arrived in a pitcher, which threw us all off.

That’s an odd drink choice

We’re not sure if this was just to try and make us laugh again after our onion ring letdown, or if this is truly how they’re always served. In any case, it achieved a goal of being one of the stranger things we’ve ever seen, if that’s at all what they were going for.

For meals it was burgers for 3/5 of the table, with Cassi getting the Gourmet Burger, and Shane and Jason both getting the “Curteous” Burger. I’m guessing it’s named after a “Curt” who either created it, or ordered it once and wouldn’t stop raving about it, or orders it every week, or some backstory that the Little City Grill clearly doesn’t think us important enough to be privy to, so I’m just going to make up something on my own, thank you very much.

Burger with a backstory

Really the biggest different between the guys’ burgers and Cassi’s was that theirs came with more toppings. Guess that Curt guy doesn’t care for the plain.

They all said that the burgers were good, although maybe just a touch well done. Shane of course knew this was going to be an issue when the server walked away without asking anyone how they liked their burgers cooked. I mean, not enough of an issue for him to change his order, or even eat less than the entire burger … but at least he saw it coming.

Cassi also commented that her bun was a bit too big for the burger itself – but that it was grilled so that helped lessen the disappointment a little. And it also wasn’t mushy, so there’s that.

It does look a little top heavy

She got a side salad with her sandwich, as did Ted with his meal. If you had to guess, who would you say this salad belonged to?

I’ll take things we don’t see often at our table for $1000 please

Does it make it easier if I mention that the salad is supposed to come with cheese?

There we go. Gave that one away, I know.

Anyway.

The cheese-less salad wasn’t the only thing that Ted ate at Little City Grill – he also got the lamb chop dinner. Classy, right? And here we were trying to order flaming hot onion rings at this same establishment.

Ted fancies up our Fun Wednesday

Ted liked the lamb chops themselves. His issue was with the potatoes that came with his dinner, which he said were cooked in too much oil. He even made a point to show us all how it pooed on his plate after he was finished with the meal.

To which I pointed out that it wasn’t as bad as the oil spill tht followed the Great Northfield Wing Incident a few months back, if that was any consolation.

I still shudder thinking about that. Or dry heave. Whatevs.

I got the Philly cheesesteak with tater tots.

Bar food done right

It was pretty good. The bun was grilled but still soft without being mushy, and the steak was well seasoned and very tasty. The tots were probably my least favorite part of the meal, and you know that means a lot coming from me.

Also, can we just talk for a moment about how that picture of my sub with Ted’s dinner in the background looks like we’re eating at two different places while at the same table? Thanks, Ted. Even his plate is fancier.

Hey, remember the table tent that tried to sell us an imaginary food? The server must’ve felt bad for that incident, because he brought over another table tent as we were finishing up our meal – this time advertising a Black Raspberry Ombre Cake that he assured us actually was available to order.

For once something actually looks like the advertisement photo

I mean, how can you look at this and NOT order it? It’s almost too pretty to even believe it’s real.

Oh, but it is.

GIVE ME ALL THE SUGAR. NOM NOM NOM

We ended up with two orders of that – one for me and Shane, and one for Cassi and Jason. Not one to be deterred by pretty colorful photos, Ted chose the Chocolate Banana Cake from the picture-less traditional menu that the server read off to us. Clearly he’s the one out of the group who doesn’t need the instruction manuals with photo assistance.

No pretty colors here.

The pretty purple cake was good … and while I hate to point out anything wrong with it because it was just so pretty … we all agreed that we felt it could’ve been a little more moist. And no, I’m not just saying that as an excuse to use a word that about 96.7% of the population (myself included) absolutely hates. I mean, the only thing good to come from that word is the HIMYM episode where they all have to go watch Barney’s crappy play about robots.

Also – I mean, as long as we’re going to go ahead and point out things that we didn’t like about the insanely beautiful piece of basked goodness – the icing was pretty much pure sugar. Which, I mean, seems a strange thing to complain about, so I guess I’m not exactly complaining about it … other than to say it was kind of a lot. Maybe the little sugar balls on the frosting that dissolved in your mouth when you bit into them could’ve gone away. Maybe. If I had to choose something.

Although, all complaining aside here, let’s be sure to point our that of course we all still finished it. We’re not amateurs. Please.

Although it’s probably safe to say we didn’t like ours as much as Ted liked his … given that I looked over after like two bites of ours – that two of us were sharing, mind you – and his was nearly gone.

We all agreed that this was the best service we’ve had for a while now. Like we couldn’t remember the last time we had service even remotely close to as good as this. Let’s see … the time we waited past finishing our appetizers to even order our dinners? Nope. Or maybe the time we got newbie server on literally her first day who had never tried anything on the menu? Points for honesty, but no thanks. Or, oh, maybe the time the server seemed to get kidnapped for the majority of our visit? Fun, but not effective. You get the idea. Our server at Little City was very attentive, especially taking into account that he was also working behind the bar as well as handling the tables. Maybe we’ve broken the curse?

Picked by: Jason

Jason, apparently seated in the Halloween section

Steph

Cassi

Shane

Ted

Little City Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 9/19/18: Wolf Creek Tavern, Norton

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Hey, it’s mid-September and we’re still reveling in patio weather here in NEOhio. Three cheers for a freakishly warm fall! Horray!

Although this week’s patio didn’t provide the same scenery as some of our other adventures this summer – I mean, sitting next to a busy street being “entertained” by children at the ice cream place across said street trying to get cars to honk at them doesn’t exactly compare to the time we sat next to a lake, or the time we technically sat outside but were in the basement of patios – but hey, we had giant lifeguard chairs at this one so that counts for something, right?

Sure.

Especially when the alternative to sitting on the patio was to sit inside in a dining room that kind of reminded us of grandma’s unused formal parlor. Or a long-in-need-of-a-remodel country club.

I think you’re drawing a picture in your head, and I’m sure whatever it is, it’s not unlike what you would actually encounter here.

Anyway.

Let’s start with drinks, because that’s really how every Wednesday evening does (and deservedly so should) begin.

Wolf Creek Tavern has a pretty impressive craft beer list, including several that I for one was unfamiliar with. Cassi and Ted ordered the house brew beer, I got something that had peach in it, and Jason ordered something that started with a W and was basically unpronounceable so I’m not about to try and recreate the name now.

Meanwhile, Shane ordered got a gingertini, because, well, when your name is on the menu then you are pretty much obligated to order whatever it is that’s named after you.

They named the most masculine drink after Shane

Pinkies out!

He said it tasted like Hawaiian Punch. That can’t be a bad thing. Unless, of course, you’re trying to drink slowly, I guess.

Remember when I said it’s been a warm fall? Well, apparently that season is recreating itself inside the coolers at Wolf Creek Tavern, because our beer – both bottled and draft – was somewhat on the lukewarm spectrum. Which is an issue that a chilled glass would probably solve … although those glasses are usually kept in a cooler either the same as or in close proximity to where the bottled beer is kept, so in this case that probably wouldn’t help.

#firstworldproblems

So if there are fried green tomatoes on the menu, it’s pretty much guaranteed that Shane will order them – even if they don’t have his name on them like certain fruit punch tasting drinks.

They should just rename this dish universally to “Shane’s Preferred Appetizer”

He was happy with them.

Meanwhile Cassi and Jason ordered the pierogi stack, and Ted opted for the Korean BBQ wings.

Comfort food for the win

Fancy wings

The pierogis were good. The wings, however, were a bit dry. It’s not really unusual for Ted to offer up his food to the rest of the table for sharing after it arrives, but when he’s on like the third round of “no, really, I don’t mind sharing, please help yourself” we all start to put the puzzle pieces together on why he really wants to get the plate out from in front of him.

Speaking of third rounds, that seemed to be about how many times it took before our server actually registered something we said to her. Case in point, Ted had ordered the house brew, but then when we put in our apps he also asked her about the other beers that were on tap aside from that one. She said she would check and let him know. But then we never saw the server again until the apps were delivered. So Ted tried asking again, and she acted like he had never asked in the first place. And again told him that she would go check and let him know.

Ted, after she left: You all did hear me ask the first time, right? That wasn’t just, like, in my head?

Fortunately she did return this time, only slightly before Ted was ready to just go wander behind the bar himself and start investigating on his own. Maybe we should’ve let him – I mean, he probably could’ve fixed the coolers while he was back there.

There also seemed to be some disconnect with doing more than one thing at a time whenever our server was at the table. I mean, most servers use each touch point as a chance to kind of kill two birds with one stone, so to speak – so visit once, get drink orders … visit again to drop off drinks, take app orders … visit again to check on drinks and take dinner orders … you get the idea. It’s pretty straightforward. I mean, if you’ve eaten in a restaurant, well, ever, then there’s no deep-shrouded mystery in how the dining out process works in most situations. I’m sure no one reading this blog has just been sitting in their house for the past 20+ years thinking to themselves, “I wonder how servers manage to find out what it is that you want to eat and when the appropriate time is to inquire about this.”

If that is the case, then you and our server would get along famously. And take her with you whenever you go out in search of the great meaning of dining out, because she could use a few pointers.

Although she did mention to us that this was her first night back from vacation. If I’m not mistaken, that was the whole reason why she said she had to go check on the draft list that Ted kept asking about – because she had been away somewhere and was just coming back to work that night.

Clearly, wherever she went, she’s still there in spirit.

It pretty much became a game of how many things we could say to her each time she came to the table, because our time with her was limited and then it would be another 20+ minutes before she would return again.

See also, why the photos of our apps and our dinners look like they were taken on two separate days, because we finished said apps and the sun had quite literally set on the day before we even had a chance to put our dinner orders in.

But hey, at least by the time our dinners arrived the ice cream place across the street was closed, so therefore all the small children yelling at cars to get them to honk their horns were home safely in bed by that point, and we could eat the remainder of our meal in relative silence.

Small victories.

Three of the five of us ordered the fish and chips for dinner. I only took one picture, because, well, you can figure that much out. I mean, unless you’re our server, in which case I’m probably giving you way too much credit. But that’s neither here nor there.

This, x3

It was just OK. Shane called it greasy. Which I get, but also kind of figure that comes with the batter-dipped, deep-fried territory, no?

I mean, he still ate the whole thing, too, so it couldn’t be that bad. Or maybe since it was like 9pm by this point and we felt like we had been sitting there through two days and three seasons, he was just hungry enough not to care.

The other two members of our party – one of whom was Jason and for once the other wasn’t his food-twin Shane – ordered burgers.

Look, we’ve been here so long we’re eating breakfast now, too

Excuse me, sir, but is your burger wearing a hat?

Jason’s burger was supposed to come with jalapenos in addition to the fried egg, but he wasn’t having any part of that condiment. Not one to see hot peppers cast off as useless, Ted asked for the jalapenos that Jason didn’t want to be placed on his burger instead. They brought them in a little cup, which he shared with Shane. And all was well with the world.

Because nothing tastes better after a few sweet, fruity drinks that some lukewarm beer, Shane decided to switch things up after a few rounds and order the “Mystery Beer” that they advertised on the menu (or maybe it was just because he was at this point still holding his menu because she still hadn’t come around to take our dinner orders yet, and he just for once had time to read the. entire. thing.) In any case, the gimmick is that they bring you a beer that could be anything on their craft menu, and if you guess it correctly it’s only $2.00. If not, you pay full price.

Which we learned was a lot more than $2, since Shane did not guess correctly. He guessed vanilla porter, and it turned out to be an oatmeal stout. He also wasn’t a fan. Which means he paid far more than he had hoped for a beer that he didn’t care for.

So that experiment played out well.

Hey, I finally got a cold drink! Well, it’s only because they put actual ice cubes in my glass before they poured my cider. Apparently we’ve been at this place long enough for new bartending trends to develop now?

Overall, if you haven’t guessed, the service killed this place for us. I mean, the food was OK – nothing off the charts outstanding, but nothing I wouldn’t necessarily order again either. But the service – or, rather, lack thereof – was just awful. And the worst part is that there was no reason for it to be that way. The patio had at most two other tables filled in the course of our meal, and one of them was looked after by another server. I mean, look, we can be understanding if the place is jam-packed, or if you tell us that there’s a table of 25 on the polar opposite side of the space that you’re also responsible for. Give us some credit – we’re not complete jerks who don’t understand the hinderances and complications of the restaurant world. Tell us that your co-worker is a biotch who called off hungover at the last minute and left you to fend for yourself. Rat out the horrible hostess who quadruple sat you within the past 10 minutes. We get it. But when you disappear for long stretches and then return with no explanation while only giving us the grace of your attention for like two minutes before you Houdini yourself to the nether lands again? Nope.

We determined on the drive home that somewhere somehow we annoyed the restaurant gods, and our penance now is bad service for the forseeable future. Our past few visits out it just seems to get progressively worse. Which of course brought up tales of awful service of WTGW pasts … anyone remember The Annex? The one place we actually walked out of without being served? … but were graced with the lingering smell of grilled hamburger grease on our clothes and hair for the remainder of the night?

Please, for the love of all things edible, let this curse be broken before we hit that point again.

Also, we had to go inside to take our photos, lest we revisit the incident of Tinkers Creek Tavern a few weeks ago. So, no, we didn’t sneak off to the local golf club just to take a few pictures. But this just further explains why we will probably only return on patio-worthy evenings.

Picked by: Cassi

Cassi

Steph

Shane

Jason

Ted

Someone trapped the fooseball players under glass! They can’t breathe in there!

Wolf Creek Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 8/22/18: Lock 15 Brewing Company, Akron

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There are two types of people in this world: those who rush out to see a movie the first weekend it’s open, even though it means fighting crowds and sitting in an extremely full theater … and those who avoid that situation like the plague, even if it means usually forgetting the movie exists until well after its hit the 2nd year of availability on Netflix.

I fall into the latter category. I’m not one to flock to the latest thing just because it’s the latest thing, or to rush through the open doors of a new restaurant/bar/store five minutes after they’re unlocked for the first time.

Which makes perfect sense as to why we’re here at Lock 15 Brewing Company on only the second day of its existence. And that it was my choice.

See also: things I vow to never do again, because clearly the universe was trying to punish me for this decision this time around.

More on that later.

So Lock 15 Brewing Company is a brand new space located in the newly renovated Cascade Lofts building, just on the edge of downtown Akron. I’d been watching the space’s social media accounts, which I thought had hinted to the opening actually being earlier this summer. I’m not sure exactly why, but it seems this was instead pushed back to the end of August. Technically still summer, although closer to “end of” than “early in.”

I hesitated on the pick when I looked online and noticed that their online reservation system showed no openings for private tables between 7 – 7:30PM. But knowing that they had several “common tables” (read: long tables you might end up sharing with other guests) I wasn’t overly concerned that we wouldn’t find a place to seat ourselves. Also, reservations are a bit taboo in this group anyway. We all remember the last time we tried making one of those, only to end up eating tarter toast and not-sweet bean salad in a room that clearly was not going to be standing room only.

So, yeah, I’m not sure if they only take four reservations per half hour time slot, or if literally all of those people who made online reservations ditched out at the last minute, but we had zero problem getting a table when we walked in reservation-less at a little before 7PM. Because the place is one big open room and we could clearly see the door and any line that did or didn’t form at the entrance area, I can also tell you that the time periods of 7:30 and 8:00 would’ve been free of any mad rush for seating as well.

The place itself is pretty nice. You can definitely tell they put some money into the renovations and the decor of the space. Which apparently they are trying to get back via the cost of food. Snacks and starters range from $7 – $13 – with  wings being among the most expensive item on the section. Hmmm, not our typical ballpark, but OK. Sandwiches are in the $15 average range. The dinners actually seemed surprisingly low in comparison, with most running around the same price or just a little more than most of the sandwiches.

The menu is also pretty much what our group would consider to be “fancy,” especially when served in combination with beer. I mean, they have the staples like burgers and salads, but they throw you off with culinary vocabulary like “spent grain bun,” “Vegan brioche bun,” and “pork belly croutons.” In particular the Arugula Goat Cheese Toast Salad sounds like something my fried-food-loving body would run screaming in the opposite direction of, but whatevs. But then they also have highly intriguing – read: sounds less healthy – things like a Pork Belly BLT, Ghost Pepper Mac and Cheese, and Nashville Hot Chicken. Huh.

But let’s start with the beers.

Horray for beer!

I got the Hefe, IPA for Jason, Porter for Shane, Pilsner for Cassi … and nothing for Ted, who had a work event this evening, but didn’t tell us until like 5:00 so we couldn’t make alternative revisit arrangements. Bad Ted.

Apparently they also have flights of beer, so you can try samples of the different offerings before you commit to a giant 16oz glass of something that maybe tastes like burnt coffee and motor oil. But we weren’t aware of this until we saw one getting carried away from the bar to a neighboring table. File that under: things we wish they had advertised in some way.

Of course, on the night I leave my “telepathy for beginners” manual at home. Never fails.

For apps, Cassi and Jason got the nachos, while Shane and I opted to carb load with a giant pretzel.

Chippy nachos

Proof that looks can be deceiving

The nachos ended up being the winner here. Wait, what? How is that possible? I mean, did you not see the photo?

Yeah, well, let’s just call this pretzel the appetizer equivalent of that person across the bar who you think is totally hot until they walk over and open their mouth to reveal an IQ that gerbils would be embarrassed about.

At first sight it looks amazing. But then you take a bite, and realize it’s drier than pool towels left out in the sun all day, with about as much flavor. It’s like eating a loaf of bread made entirely of heel slices.

Let that thought sink in a little bit.

The cheese and mustard dipping sauces might’ve helped … had they given us a larger portion. You can’t baste a turkey with an eyedropper, but thanks for trying.

I mean, come on. WTF are we supposed to do with this?

Meanwhile the nachos were actually made from potato chips instead of tortilla chips, and had tons of toppings. #appetizerenvy

I’d like to say things improved for us from this point, but I don’t want to lie to you. I think I’m safe to say that the nachos were the highlight of the evening. Getting our apps and drinks was definitely the epitome of our service for the night, because after that it seemed to take longer and longer for our server to appear anywhere close to the proximity of our table. And, again, the place is one giant room, so we would’ve seen if she had been busy with tables on the other side of the space or something like that. But no, she just would seemingly get kidnapped into the back for like 19 minutes out of every 20. Because that’s helpful.

In any case, I guess it’s good that we were done with the appetizers before she even took our meal orders, because there was no way all of that food would’ve fit along with the app plates. As it was the meals for four people barely left us with any table space to set our drinks.

If it looks like we’re sitting on each other’s laps … well we almost are

Shane and Jason both ordered burgers. I know you’re shocked about that. Shane got the Black and Blue burger, while Jason opted for the Lock 15.

It looks like a breakfast sandwich

Filed under ultra-messy

I tried to order the chili … but was informed they were all out. On day two?  Either that was the crowd favorite on the official opening the night before, or maybe cheese and mustard aren’t the only things that are portion sized into eyedroppers around here.

So I got the pork belly BLT instead.

FYI, bread with holes in it should not be used to contain items that spew grease

Cassi ordered the hush puppies. And then sat and watched us start to eat our food, since apparently there was also a run on those early in the restaurant’s short lifespan, as she was informed as our food was being delivered that hers would take a bit longer due to just having been started.

I would say something to the effect of letting us know that not long after we ordered would’ve been helpful, but let’s just say that by this point we were just thrilled that someone who worked there came out of hiding long enough to even approach our table and deliver most of the meal. Be very still and don’t scare them away too quickly.

How long does it really take to make this many hush puppies?

All of us were genuinely disappointed in the food. It arrived looking great, but when you tasted it … well … it just didn’t overwhelm any of us. Shane said his burger was just OK, but nothing special that he would feel the need to return for. Cassi said the hush puppies might’ve been better with a different breading, but that in their current state they just don’t have much flavor. Seems to be a theme here with things of the carb-laden variety,

Meanwhile I was channeling Cassi’s pizza experience of a few months ago with a mushy bottomed sandwich. I blame poor bread choice on this one. Seems to me something sturdier than holey sour dough might be in order when you’re dealing with a pork product, no?

The items making up the “T” portion of my sandwich were also weird. I don’t have a better word to describe them than that. Weird. Take that as you will.

The consensus seemed to be that the giant pretzel should really just be the mascot of the entire menu. Looks great when it arrives, but they need to learn to deliver the taste to the table as well.

(Side note, if you pull up Lock 15’s menu online, the photo at the top is that of the pretzel. Which made me giggle, because while I didn’t notice that until after I wrote this review, clearly we’re on to something here.)

In any case, the non-flavorful food is a real shame, because we had high hopes for this place. The space is great – and will be made even better once the outdoor patio opens, since we could see where it’s intended to be and were slightly jealous we couldn’t be seated there already. It’s also nice to see a local brewery with a full bar to offer for those who aren’t in the mood to for gluten heavy drinks. I do think overall it still has potential, but that there are definitely some kinks that need to be worked out.

One of which is this:

I don’t imagine these can be re-used

If you’re going to seat people in close quarters and give them cold glasses of beer, I hope either there’s a large line item on the budget for reams of paper, or part of your staff also moonlights at the local Kinko’s. As Cassi stated when she pointed this debacle out: “that will never work.”

Oh – and you’re going to have to go another week without our smiling faces, since we once again forgot to take photos before we left the restaurant. And we’ve learned that dark parking lots are not the venue for this either. I think we’re all still having nightmares about the last time we tried this

 

 

WTGW 8/8/18: The Upper Deck, Portage Lakes

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I’m not sure how we’ve been doing this for 5 years now – with 3-4 months out of every year pretty much solely devoted to a continuous and seemingly never-ending quest for the perfect patio space – and yet this is the first time we’ve managed to end up at The Upper Deck. I mean, this place appears to have all of our criteria. Alcohol? Check. Bar food? Check. Decent sized patio? Check – and given bonus points for a view overlooking a lake. Great service? Well, OK, you got us there. You can’t win ’em all I guess.

But have I mentioned the view?

Are we on vacation?

I mean, really.

Ted was actually going to pick an Italian place in Ravenna, but once he realized Mother Nature was going to play along and give us a nice evening he called an audible and went with this place instead. Because we can sit inside and eat pasta in December. Or the next time Shane’s pick rolls around, since he claimed “dibs” on that restaurant as soon as Ted mentioned he was giving it up for this week.

It’s cutthroat around these parts.

As we pulled into the parking lot for The Upper Deck it became painfully obvious that we weren’t the only ones smart enough to realize Mother Nature only stops being a whore for so long, and that we really should drop everything to take advantage of the ability to have cocktails outdoors on a nice evening. We found a parking spot, but Ted wanted to run inside to make sure we could secure a table on the patio without having to wait until after dark to actually sit at it.

Because we never get enough of lists within this group, I proudly give to you The Top Five Reasons Not to Leave The Rest of the Group Alone in a Running Car:
1.) Someone will mention re-parking the car before Ted returns
2.) Someone will mention driving the car very close to the edge of the lake or boat ramp and leaving it there
3.) Someone will mention all of us getting out of the car, leaving it running, and hiding nearby to see Ted’s look of confusion when he returns to an empty vehicle
4.) Someone will mention all of us getting out of the car, leaving it running, hiding nearby … and all of us having to run after it as it gets stolen
5.) All of us will come close to forgetting to turn off the car and take the keys with us when Ted finally texts us that he has a table on the patio an we should just go meet him there

Yes, we’re 12. That’s been established repeatedly by this point.

Anyway.

The patio was decently busy, although not as much as one might think for an evening with little humidity and only a slight chance of rain. Ted mentioned that if the patio hadn’t worked we definitely could’ve been seated inside, since there were only about two claimed tables.

We don’t want to be friends with those people.

The server arrived with a drink for Ted before the rest of us even had a chance to look at the drink menu, which prompted us to wonder exactly how long we’d really been waiting in the car after all. Or if Ted was really a regular there and his celebrity status was showing through.

We ended up ordering beers all around, except for Cassi who got a tequila and soda. And then a Truly hard sparkling water after her mixed drink arrived with more than one fruit fly taking an alcohol bath in the glass. John Taffer would not be pleased.

Side note, that Truly almost arrived as a Truth beer, when the server didn’t hear her correctly and asked about Cassi wanting it on draft. Luckily we’re seasoned drinkers and questioned the ability to get hard sparkling water on draft at this point in its young alcoholic shelf life. Life skills, people. Don’t let anyone tell you street smarts aren’t important.

The server started off taking our app orders, and both Cassi and Jason, and Shane and myself ordered the app platters. Which, can I just add, I have a bone to pick with pretty much every other establishment out there for not giving this option more often. It’s like the ultimate slice of heaven for people who like every. single. item. on the app menu. Can’t decide between cheese sticks, onion rings and fried peppers? Now you can have a few of each! I mean, seriously, they all just get thrown into a deep fryer, it’s not like there’s some elaborate cooking skill being exuded here.

Although it does end up sounding like a boatload of food, as Cassi and Jason picked out the mac & cheese bites, soft pretzels and pizza rolls for their platter, while Shane and I chose the same offerings – just switching out the pretzels for a basket of fried peppers. Because clearly we don’t share food.

Ted: Um, I thought we were just ordering apps?
Shane: We are. Duh.

I mean, really, who are we if we aren’t ordering an entire tableful of food for four people? Come on.

Not that it mattered, because even though Ted avoided appetizers in favor of getting wings AND a meal, he was ready to order all the food anyway, so we just went back around the table after his order and put our meals in. I think the server was slightly perplexed.

Newsflash: it wouldn’t be the first time.

Our turn at the perplexed wheel came a few minutes later, when a different server stopped by and dropped off a basket of potato chips at our table. Uh, we didn’t order these? Are they complimentary? Did they have extra and they could tell we were hungry? Did our original server mistakenly tell that other server to take them to our table, and meanwhile someone else is missing out?

I bet you’re not surprised that we ate them without actually uttering any of those questions to the universe. OK maybe someone wondered aloud if they were really free. But we still ate them before asking answers of someone who could actually provide them.

And then the apps arrived, and we thought maybe someone was just watching us to see how gluttonous we could really be when surrounded by plates of food. Uh, have you met us? We eat anything and everything you put in front of us.

One half of the appetizer party at our table

The other half of the fried goodness

The pizza rolls were by far the crowd favorite out of all of the apps in our respective platters. To be honest, I think all of us were expecting a basket of knock off frozen Totino’s to appear in front of us – but these were actually little crispy roll-ups filled with pepperoni and melted cheese. So more taquito than Totino.

They should really put that on the menu. And I should really be in marketing. Oh, wait.

The second runner up was the fried pepper basket, which was seemingly never-ending in addition to being tasty. I made a comment that the ranch dip was kind of spicy, to which Cassi reminded me that I was dipping fried hot banana peppers into it, so that might be more of where the spice was coming from. Noted.

Ted got Cajun wings as his “appetizer”, and then the grilled shrimp dinner with fries and cole slaw for his dinner. Although they all arrived at the same time, so really that was just Ted’s specifications and not ones made public.

It’s like a gradual healthy to non-healthy progression

Ted said the wings were good. He thought they probably would’ve been too hot for most normal people, but to someone who only sweats when eating an actual habenero pepper then they were just fine. He also said the shrimp was grilled perfectly.

I got the Italian sub with onion rings, which was all good. The onion rings were still hot when they hit the table, and they had just the right amount of batter without being all breading. I took home half of the meal, because, well, as I’ve already mentioned, we had a crapload of food at our table already.

Oh look, lunch tomorrow

Shane got the Bleu Cheese Burger. Not to be confused with a blue cheeseburger. Grammar and enunciation is important, kids. One of those things sounds pretty tasty, while the other sounds like something you find in the back of the fridge a few months after you forgot you brought home leftovers.

Meat and fried vegetables. How can you go wrong?

There were no leftovers in this case – Shane liked his burger, as well as the onion rings – so we don’t have to worry about this burger morphing into the other in the depths of our home fridge.

Jason also went the burger route, choosing the Deck Burger with fries. He liked his as well. The photo definitely doesn’t do it justice.

There’s meat under that bun, I swear

Cassi got the portabella salad, which she was impressed with.

Served on the fanciest of disposable plates

What she was not impressed with was our service throughout the evening. This declaration may or may not have come right around the time we tried ordering another round of drinks and completely perplexed the server because we all pretty much said at once that we were ready for another (insert name of our respective drink here). Usually – because let’s be honest, we aren’t always the most polite bunch, so this happens frequently – the server just nods and says something like “so another round” or “so another one for everyone then?” But this time it was like we had just announced that the sky was turning orange and a giant monster was clamoring out of the lake toward us, because she looked equally as if she wanted to ask questions but also run screaming for her life.

Good times.

Despite that, I have to believe we’ll be back to the Upper Deck at some point. Overall our experience was positive: the patio really is pretty great, and while the food was nothing special we haven’t seen elsewhere (well, outside of the pizza rolls anyway – those alone are enough of a reason to come back. Can we just order the sampler platter with three orders of those?), the simple act of enjoying it on a tiered deck next to an outdoor bar and overlooking a lake definitely elevates the standings.

Picked by: Ted

OH – and stay tuned for next week, as Jason may get his very first WTGW pick. He’s not nearly as excited about this as everyone else.

Ted

Steph

Shane

Jason

Cassi’s vote for the food

Cassi’s vote for service