WTGW 5/24/17: Streets Tavern, Streetsboro

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Sorry about that little hiatus, kids. Between vacation and some work travel, the month of May has pretty much been a blur. In fact, I almost forgot it was my pick this week. Thankfully I have this handy little blog to remind me where we were last. I knew we started this thing for a reason.

So after a week in the Caribbean with fancy resort food, and then another week in NYC eating mainly Italian and Mexican food (for no other reason than it was what we happened to find the most of when we were hungry), I was ready for some good old fashioned bar food.

I have to admit, Streets Tavern scared us just a little bit as we pulled into the parking lot. Call me crazy, but giant “FOR RENT” signs in the front window of the building don’t really scream “come on in and enjoy some food and drinks.” But we continued on toward the back of the small parking lot, and noticed the restaurant sign – and presumably the front door to the establishment – facing the building next door.

File that one under: non-intrusive marketing. Maybe they should think about renting that front half of the building, if nothing else than for a giant sign advertising their place? Just a thought.

Shane immediately picked up on the 15 large trucks in the parking lot and the country music that was playing from the time we walked in the door, and questioned how he had never picked this place. Hey, you win some, you lose some. Sorry buddy,

It seems like the place could use a bit of a remodeling overhaul. There’s a large bar at the back of the space, two pool tables at the far end near the door to the patio (which we didn’t get to check out tonight since it downpoured for most of our visit. Obviously Mother Nature and I are going to continue to not be friends again this patio season), surprisingly few tables, and then this giant space off to the side with a stage and disco lights. Which, I mean, when you have a band – as it seems they often do on weekend evenings – I can see that being valuable. But on a random no-band Wednesday, maybe you could turn off the spinny red laser lights and add a few more tables for those of us taking advantage of the .35 wing dine-in special? Again, just thinking out loud here.

We realized quickly that this is another of those places where the bartender is also the server for the tables, but not for any bad reason. In fact, she was great. Greeted us right away and came over to take our drink orders moments after we sat down at a table. Streets seemed to have a decent beer list for a smaller bar, although Ted was the only one to go that route. I chose the only cider they had – Angry Orchard – and Shane went with rum and diets. We’re very well-rounded in the alcohol sampling department these days.

As I mentioned, Wednesdays are 35 cent wing nights. And not ones to miss out on a special, that’s the route we all went. #frugal

I got the Spicy BBQ, Shane got the Garlic Parm and Ted just asked the server to bring him “the hottest ones you have.” Because, well, Ted.

But wait, we aren’t done yet … Ted also ordered the Streets Burger, and Shane got a pizza full of random toppings that he created himself for like $6. And we shared the “three-peat” appetizer, which we chose to include breaded mushrooms, breaded cauliflower and onion rings.

Clearly we’ve only gotten more healthy in our time away.

Fun story, after we placed our orders, some random guy approached our table on his way out of the place with a to-go bag, and asked us why we hadn’t gotten our food yet. Well, um, kind sir, we just ordered it like 5 minutes ago, so maybe the kitchen actually needs time to cook it? I mean, we appreciated his concern, but clearly none of us are starving here, we were happily enjoying our drinks … and we also knew we ordered a lot of food, so we weren’t expecting it lighting fast. We’re good, thanks.

He seemed to be happy with that answer, and ambled out the door with his meal. But then like 10 minutes later, he was back – minus the to-go bag – and it was like de ja vu as he inquired again what was taking them so long to bring our food out.

By this point we’re realizing either he’s the owner/manager of the place, or he’s just a bar regular who is holding some sort of competition in his own head as to whether or not tables will receive their food orders before becoming nothing more than a pile of skeletal remains.

The answer later started to lean toward the former, as he eventually told us that “whatever his girls were making for us back there was worth the wait.” And then proceeded to try and coerce us into joining a game of tabletop Jenga. Because that seems like what people should do while obviously teetering on the brink of starvation.

Ted: “Maybe he recognizes us and is trying to butter us up for a good review.”

Me, after the food arrived a bit later and the guy scampered over to make sure everything looked OK, then proclaimed that we weren’t kidding, we do order a lot of food: “That comment proves that he has no idea who we are.”

And we were OK with the wait, because for the most part, our meals were definitely worth it.

The wings were good sized for the 35 cent price. We all know that “weekly bar special” can sometimes mean they pull out the smallest pieces that seems to be taken from pigeons or half starved chickens … but these were instead quite meaty and well seasoned.

They aren’t really that color. Or at least we think not anyway, It was really dark in there.

BBQ sauce = bring extra napkins

My Spicy BBQ wings had a little kick to them, and Ted said whatever explosively hot wings he ordered were good also – but probably contributed to his idea that the burger was a little thin and bland in comparison.

Ted prefers wings cooked in whatever sauce drips directly off the surface of the sun

There’s a cheese-less, taste-less burger under there somewhere

Shane made it through all of his wings – as he said, they’re dine-in only, so he couldn’t waste any of those – but had to take a few slices of the pizza home because it was a little much for him. A little much? I mean, it’s only TWO FULL meals. WTF, quitter.

It’s not delivery OR Digiorno’s

But he did say that for a bar pizza – which sometimes can mean nothing more than throwing a frozen disc of cardboard coated in sauce and cheese into a toaster oven – this one was really good. All the toppings looked fresh, and the crust was done just to the perfect combination of crisp and dough-y.

Our appetizer was the only thing we were a bit disappointed in. Ironic that probably the easiest thing out of all of our meals to make – just throw stuff in the fryer – was the least liked. A few of the mushrooms and cauliflower were cold in the middle. And the pieces of cauliflower were really itty bitty, not like the kind you get with fried veggies at the fair. And clearly carnival food is the gold standard in terms of all things fried.

Guess which ones are done all the way

Probably the thing we liked the best about the app was the Streets Sauce that came with it for dipping, that was really tasty. Side note on that, that sauce is actually listed under the options for wings, and when I asked about it the server told us it was kind of a spicy, horseradish-y, mayo-y concoction, and she didn’t recommend it for wings. I can see now why. Just use it as a dipping sauce. Trust us on this one.

Our server was amazing. I know I said this already, but it definitely bears repeating for the great service we got from her. Case in point – how many times have you been somewhere where the server walks by you like 10 times and never takes stock of the level of your drink, and then when you flag them down to get a refill they act surprised? Yeah, not here. We were all impressed when, not long after our food arrived, she noticed from behind the bar that Ted’s glass was empty … and instead of coming over to ask if he wanted another one, then going back to pour it … she just arrived with another beer, and was like “I took a chance … I hope you want this …”

I think Ted almost asked her to marry him at that moment.

She also did her best to save us from our new BFF of the evening – the owner/concerned regular/random getting-drunker-each-time-he-approached-us observer who made it his mission to make sure we were having a good night in his establishment – when he came over at the end of the night to trap us … I mean, tell us a story about riding his Harley to work, then dropping the bike thanks to his recent double knee surgery (not alcohol, of course) that his insurance company is making him pay out of pocket for … and then the story started all started over again.

Is this the WTGW version of Groundhog Day?

But other than that small distraction, and the overall kind of weirdness of the setup of the space, the place has a great atmosphere. It’s definitely the Streetsboro version of “Cheers,” as everyone seemed to know or be related to everyone who came into the place … but no one made us feel like we had invaded the family reunion and shouldn’t be there. Word of warning about the music, though … we were happy with the new country selections we were hearing throughout most of our evening, but then around 9PM it was like the subscription to that playlist ran out and there was an abrupt switch to this mix of strange and unfamiliar 70’s love ballads that seemed to be controlled via the phone belonging to one of the owner’s friends. So that was a bit uncool. But other than that it was a fun place with what seemed to be cool people.

And cheap food. Other than wing night, we noticed a board touting specials like country fried steak with potato and vegetable for $6.99, a 5oz steak and potato for $5, and my favorite, the 7-9AM 35 cent wing special on Friday mornings. Because sometimes you just wake up with a hankering for chicken wings, folks. And now you know where to get them for cheap.

Speaking of cheap, our tab for the night – including Shane’s five mixed drinks, my four bottled ciders, an app, a pizza, and 20 wings, was right around $50.

Yeah, we’ll be back.

Picked by: Steph
Next pick: Ted
(note that thanks to another Cavs/Warriors showdown in the NBA Finals, the next few weeks could be hiatus for us while we recover from random late night game watching on other nights of the week. Hey, we’re old. And we have jobs. Adulthood is hard sometimes.)

Shane and the rare double thumbs up

Uh Ted, is the wall on fire behind you?

Steph

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 4/12/17: REVISIT – Windsor Pub, Akron

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Aren’t you glad we started allowing revisits for our WTGW adventures? I know we are, because without that option I have a feeling this week’s pick could’ve taken a much different turn.

When we first got in the car to head out for WTGW, Ted announced that he was to finally going to pick Creo’s – otherwise known as “the new Gus’ Chalet” that we’ve been joking about him subjecting us to ever since it (re)opened like a year or so ago.

Great, get us in the car where we can’t run away and then make that announcement. Sneaky move, Ted.

He did allow for a fallback, though – he said his plan was to pull up to the restaurant, go peek inside to see how it looked (i.e. how many people over 70 were in attendance) and then opt out if need be. Especially if any of these people looked to be eating what we still think could’ve only been tarter sauce on triangles of bread.

Turns out we were overthinking things. As we approached Creo’s and saw literally one lonely car parked in the parking lot (OK, maybe two cars, if you count one that was parked a little ways away and we all agreed could plausibly belong to a worker) … well, Ted just kept driving. He didn’t even get to try his duck-in-and-count-heads-and-creepy-food plan, since we didn’t even pull in the lot.

And honestly none of us – Ted included – were too upset, since the backup plan was to just continue straight on down Tallmadge Ave to revisit an old favorite of ours, the Windsor Pub.

The last time we were here was just over two years ago, and the main things we retained about this place were 1) they had excellent burgers that were very filling, and 2) the heavy pour from the bartenders caused Shane to drink the equivalent of about two bottles of rum – for like $10.

Tell me why we don’t come back here more often?

I mean, the place certainly isn’t fancy, but it’s damn good. And I’m pleased to say that it seems they replaced the seat cushions since our last visit, so we weren’t fighting for booth space with the interior springwork this time around. Not that it would’ve sent us running for the door or anything, but it’s nice to see they’ve upgraded a bit.

Ted was about to start off the evening by ordering six wings to munch on before his burger arrived, until I reminded him of our last visit and how we ordered ALL THE APPS because we were clearly new and unprepared for the sheer size of the burgers. I mean, the server pretty much laughed in our faces when she heard the insane amount of food we were ordering. And we all left feeling like we were going to explode … well, except Shane, who was too sloshed on rum to really care what else was in his stomach that visit.

So, yeah, no apps this time around. See, we do pay attention. Sometimes.

Since we all had envy of Shane’s complete drunkenness for less than the price of a pizza at that last visit, this time around it was mixed drinks for everyone at our table. Jack and coke for Ted, Rum and diet for Shane and Captain and ginger ale for me.

Clearly we like to play Russian roulette on who will get us home from these adventures. If anyone affiliated with the police is reading this, please don’t search our plate numbers. We’ll call an Uber if we need to. Honest.

The pictures on this post are going to be a bit boring this week, since all three of us ordered the same thing: the Windsor burger, which comes with onions, mushrooms, cheese and mayo. I got the junior while the guys got the full 3/4 lb size. Shane got onion rings with his, Ted and I went with the potato wedges.

That’s a lot of meat.
(That’s what she said)

Interestingly, we all had different styles of eating the same burger. I cut mine in half (using Shane’s knife, as apparently junior burger eaters can’t be trusted with sharp objects), Shane went with quarters, and Ted just picked up the damn thing and ate it whole. Guess who needed the most napkins?

I’m happy to report the burgers are still as delicious as we remembered them to be. Even though they don’t ask anyone how they want their burger cooked, it doesn’t matter because whatever way they do these is perfect. Like, when another restaurant asks how I want my burger cooked, I’m tempted to answer “Windsor.” They’re crumbly without being dry, flavorful without being overly seasoned, and done enough without being overcooked.

Perfection. Seriously.

I love how the lighting gives all of our photos a red tint. It’s like we live in an Instagram filter.

Of course, as with anything good, there always has to be some way to ruin it … and at the Windsor Pub that seems to be what they call the Windsor Challenge. This involves eating three of the regular sized burgers we ordered stacked on top of one another. So basically if you took all the food at our table, upsized my burger to full size, and ate it all yourself. In 30 minutes.

Sounds delightful, no?

Yeah, surprisingly no one at our table wanted to try it. Shocking, I know.

The big prize for doing so is that your burger(s) are free if you finish the meal in 30 minutes. OK. I mean, let’s just be honest here, with the prices of things at the Windsor Pub, how much are you actually saving by doing this? Certainly not your arteries or cholesterol levels. Because, really, a junior Windsor burger is $4.99. The regular one is like $6.99. That’s a hell of a lot cheaper than open heart surgery, but I understand some people like to live dangerously. Rock on.

It maybe should be renamed the “Spin the Wheel of High Cholesterol” challenge

Speaking of prices, the burgers and mixed drinks aren’t the only things you get a lot of bang for your buck on. While we didn’t look at much else on the menu thanks to our fond memories of the burgers (that sounds weirder than it is, trust me), Shane pointed out a sign on the wall that the special for the evening was country fried steak with mashed potatoes and green beans … for $5.75.

So there’s that.

When it was all said and done, our entire bill for the evening was $42 for two people. That was for two meals and SEVEN tall mixed drinks. So like 1/8 of a cow and four bottles of liquor.

I mean, come on.

We were laughing later when we looked closer at the receipt and realized it was only $1.00 more for each drink than it was to sub in onion rings or potato wedges instead of chips as the sides with our burgers ($3.25 for drinks vs $2.25 for the “side”).

Best $3.25 you’ve ever spent

Are they making the liquor in the back room themselves? Because this can’t be economical for them.

Our server was amazing. He was working behind the bar along with one other person, but he still always found time to come over to our booth and check on us … or give us extra time and come back a million times before we placed our orders because the girl in the group couldn’t get her crap together and decide what she wanted. Whatevs. Point is, we never had empty glasses for long, and he never seemed unhappy about having to walk over the few extra steps from behind the bar to chat with us.

Maybe Hooley House should send their servers here for training? Just a thought.

I have to believe the Windsor Pub will always be one of our favorites. Despite the somewhat sketch location (Tallmadge Ave = Strip Club Alley of Eastern Akron) it’s worth the trip if you’ve never been. Just maybe bring a designated driver, especially if you’ve got some cash burning a hole in your pocket and intend to spend more than $10 on bar drinks.

You always know it’s been a good night when either we start doing shots, or we’re out later than we planned to be. No shots this time around (mainly because we had enough in our glasses, thanks) – but we did manage to head out the door later than we have in the past few weeks.

Shane: “I can’t believe we stayed out until 9:16.”
Me: “I can’t believe we’re old enough to say that.”

On another note, it’s worth mentioning that the same two cars were still parked at Creo’s when we went by on again on our way home. Like two and a half hours after our first drive-by.

Like I said, could’ve been a whole different evening.

Ted

Steph

Should I be upset that my husband wanted his picture with Ted and not me? But aren’t they adorable?

Picked by: Ted
Original pick by: Ted
Next pick: Shane

Windsor Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 4/5/17: Arnie’s Public House, Akron

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Today’s lesson is in marketing. Specifically, what to name your restaruant that makes it sound inviting and like a place you might want to spend an evening with friends.

Arnie’s Standing Room Only: sounds like a place where we’d be lucky to get in the door, and then stand around awkwardly looking at each other and trying not to spill our beers.

Arnie’s Public House: less like a place you’re going to get jostled around in, but all I can think of is a “bath house” at the lake … and that’s not a very pretty picture either.

OK, so maybe it still falls a bit short of the mark, but progress.

We’ve never been inside this place when it was Arnie’s SRO – although Ted swears to the darkest side of the sun that we at least talked about going here more than once. Hmm. Personally I know I had to look it up in Google maps just to make sure it was where I was thinking it was, so I’m guessing those must be his other friends he’s referring to.

Dammit Ted, we don’t talk about other friends on WTGW. This is our night.

So I read some reviews and everyone agreed that Arnie’s PH was a much improved version of SRO. From what I can gather, they added a new menu/chef, as well as tables and booths for (gasp) seating options. Again, progress.

The place is still small, wedged into the side of a strip plaza. It probably only fits 50-75 people if I had to guess. This proved beneficial when we walked all the way through from what we thought was the front entrance on the patio to the actual front entrance at the back of the place (see also: irony) – only to find a “please seat yourself” sign. Well at least we had already walked past the available tables, and since the place was small we didn’t go too far out of our way.

The bartender helped us to a booth anyway, and explained that there were two bartenders, as well as one server – and she was new, but doing OK, so just give her a chance.

Because that sounds like a setup for eventual disappointment, no? Like “hey, here’s a great car … it looks nice, but it has 400,000 miles, no brakes and is missing a tire, so if you just park it in your driveway and look at it from the side with both tires, it’s really awesome.”

Also, since the bar is considerably smaller – and pouring drinks seems like sometimes it can be less work than waiting tables – it appeared the scales may have been tipped a little bit out of the new girl’s favor there, but whatever.

The beer list seemed decent, although Ted went to order one of his dark beers on tap only to be told it had been replaced with Summer Shandy. I’m liking that the “we’re out of the beer you like” curse has been moved out of my corner for a bit.

In any case, he went with a Thirsty Dog Twisted Kilt, I decided on Angry Orchard, and Shane – in a twist to shock us all – grabbed the Summer Shandy over his usual Bud Light. Color us surprised.

The menu is a mix of things that sound fancy (siracha brussel sprouts, Hungarian stuffed peppers, chicken and waffles) and things that you’d think a bar would have (burgers, chips and dip, sliders, pretzel sticks).

We’ve been on a pretzel stick kick the last few weeks, so we switched it up and went with the hush puppies this time around. Although a bit later – before our hush puppy app arrived – the server approached our table mistakenly with a plate of – what else? – pretzel sticks.

It’s like they knew we’d broken up with them and they were stalking us out to see our new love.

And I guess maybe in some ways they were warning us we were going to be sorry, because the hush puppies ended up not being the best choice. For something that has jalepeno in them – and you could see the actual jalepeno bits – there was zero flavor. Shane commented that normal, non-jalepeno hush puppies have more flavor than these did. This was just like eating a huge ball of cornmeal mush with some green flecks in it – something we all find incredibly delectable, I know.

“Those are some balls” – Shane, as they arrived on the table. Keeping it classy, folks.

The sauce was the only thing that made them even edible, but even that wasn’t anything impressive – I think it just seemed so amazing because it kept the hush puppies from turning your mouth into the Sahara desert and gave the dry bread crumb consistency at least a little bit of flavor. You can tell we didn’t care for them so much when we left one hush puppy on the plate – and even after we were done with our meals still no one touched it. That never happens.

Sorry, pretzels. We never should have doubted you. Please don’t hold it against us.

Shane got the Red Eye burger for his meal, along with a side of the housemade chips and dill dip for his side.

Mmmm … meat

He liked the burger, but because he got it his usual medium rare (and they actually cooked it that way) it was very difficult to eat. It fell apart as soon as he bit into it, so he pretty much had to go the knife and fork route at that point.

Good thing we weren’t still “standing room only” or that could’ve gotten messy.

I got the chicken tacos for my meal, only replaced the tortillas with a lettuce wrap. I guess I’ll be playing the part of “healthy Shane” this evening. Although I did get the homemade chips and dill dip as my side, too, so there’s that.

It looks pretty until you attempt to eat it

The chicken was really good, it was broken up into small pieces and very well seasoned with a little spicy kick. Lettuce wraps are a bit tricky to navigate, so I eventually resorted to fork bites also – which meant I kind of just ate the lettuce separately and could’ve just asked them to heap the chicken, cheese and filling from the tacos right onto my plate – but whatever, it was still good.

I will say both of us were disappointed in the chips, though. They were flimsy, and tasted more like the oil they were cooked in than the actual potato. Maybe slice them a bit thicker in the future. I mean, some of us actually like the taste of potato and not just air and oil, thanks.  And the dip was just OK. We’re more French Onion people than dill folks, I guess.

Ted got the special for the evening, which was a pasta dish with shrimp and sausage. He said he was about halfway down the menu and had a few items in mind that he was considering when the server came over to tell us about the specials, and once he heard that one he decided it cancelled all the other options out.

Because “pasta special” sounds less goofy than “goulash”

He really liked the pasta dish, even though he said that it was essentially goulash. He commented that he hadn’t realized the place had a bit of a Hungarian theme going on, but once he ate that and remembered things like the stuffed peppers on theh menu, it made sense. But overall he was happy, his meal was very good.

I guess all in all, Arnie’s isn’t a bad place … it just wasnt the best, either. It seems like even though the transition to this new restaurant with more seating isn’t a brand new thing, they’re still working out some of the kinks. And I know our server was new, but she was still exceptionally slow. I mean, there were three, maybe four tables total that she was handling – but it just seemed like she wasn’t getting the hang of timing for everyone.

Case in point:  when she came around asking if we wanted a third round of drinks, and we said no … she scampered away before we could ask for the checks, and then took forever to reappear to finally ask if we did, in fact, want them. No, we’d just like to sit here and stare at one another over empty glasses, please. I mean, usually being done with your meal and refusing another round of drinks is a universal sign for “we’re pretty much ready to head out, thanks.” But it was like she read some manual for how to be a server, and had time slots she had to fill for each of those questions. “OK they said no to more drinks, now avoid them and wait the appropriate 10 minutes before returning to ask if they want the check so they don’t feel rushed out.”

And the bartenders who warned us about her newness also weren’t going out of their way to help her, either. We know she put in our order for our second round of drinks, and we watched the one bartender pour said drinks … but rather than walk them over to our table (as we already mentioned, the place is pretty small so I’m fairly sure those 20 steps wouldn’t cause him to break a sweat, plus I know he saw our empty glasses lined up on the edge of our table) – he waited for her to come pick them up. All the while bartender #2 was too busy doing shots with someone who appeared to be either the owner or manager and his little group of friends at the bar to even notice us at all. Nice.

As Shane would say “John Taffer would be disappointed.”

Picked by: Steph
Next pick: Ted

Ted

Shane – trying to hide so no one saw his grade

Steph

Arnie's Standing Room Only Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 3/29/17: Hooley House, Fairlawn – REVISIT

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Oh, Hooley House. I remember when we first met, two years ago (almost to the day, ironically – what does it say about our timing when we continuously pick an Irish place in the weeks following St Patrick’s Day?) – we were so excited to finally get there, so filled with promise for what you could be for us … and then we left disappointed.

In remembering that first visit, or main contention was … well … pretty much everything. The service was extremely slow, our glasses were left empty for 20+ minutes at a time – even when we were seated essentially right next to the auxillary bar, the burgers weren’t cooked to our individual specifications, and my chicken sandwich may or may not have been trying to kill me.

But the apps were good, so score one for them there, I guess.

At the time, we chalked it up to the fact that they hadn’t been open long, so they were probably still working out some kinks. Plus we also chose poorly on our seating for the evening, not realizing that there was another full bar and dining area with far more seating – and that was consistently beating us in the loudness and “sounds like fun is happening over there” departments – opposite from where we were sitting.

But even with all those negatives, we still always talked about going back to give it another chance. Because we’re fair like that.

This time around we knew right off the bat not to make the same mistakes in the seating department, and requested to head for the opposite site – otherwise known as the “East Eden” to our last visit’s quieter side. And while it was definitely an improvement, we also weren’t instantly in heaven.

Maybe it was because we also happened to be there on trivia that night. And I think we’re learning that’s a whole different crowd on those nights … who don’t particularly care for people talking loudly when they’re trying to be all smart and stuff, and who shoot us looks of death when we have our cell phones on the table. Hey, listen, we’re taking pictures of food for important research, not googling your answers. Well, OK, maybe we’re doing that, too … but don’t worry, we heard the rules, and we’re not playing your little game anyway. We just like to pretend to be smart, too.

Also, the girl hosting the trivia on this particular night had an amazingly monotone, still-not-loud-enough-even-with-a-microphone voice that was putting me to sleep. Because that’s good for bar business.

So clearly we’re off to an amazing start already.

But nevertheless, we ordered beer, because, well, that always seems like a good place to change the tides for the better. Ted started off with a Guinness. I asked which Leininkugel’s seasonal was on tap, since their “winter specials” table tents said Cranberry Ginger, but it’s after St. Patrick’s Day so that technically means spring in Ohio, and usually the Summer Shandy is out by now.

The server’s answer pretty much ambiguously implied it could be either. Oh, OK. Well luckily I like either one, so whatever, I guess, just give me what pours out of that tap, please.

Meanwhile, Shane ordered something from the same “winter specials” flyer that involved Guinness mixed with the seasonal Cranberry Leininkugel’s.

Me: You know, if they don’t have that cranberry beer anymore, they won’t be able to make that drink.
Shane: Oh, good point, you’re probably right.

Sure enough, about two minutes later our server appeared with mine and Ted’s beers, and that exact message for Shane.

Just call me Miss Cleo.

So Shane ended up with a Michelob Ultra. Probably tasted exactly the same.

Speedy Ted wasted no time and tried jumping right to appetizers as we were putting in the drink order, so Shane and I scrambled and just came up with our usual of late – pretzel sticks.

Because really, if you mess those up we should probably just leave.

My addiction to bread continues

Fortunately we didn’t have to chug our drinks and bolt for the door, as these pretzels were delicious. They were done just right so they were slightly crispy on the outside but still doughy inside. And straight from the oven just like last week at R Shea’s – only this week it was Shane who lost a few layers of skin just trying to eat them. He tried about four times to pick one up, each time about 30 seconds from the last, and continued to declare them “still hot.”

Catches on quick, that one.

Meanwhile Speedy Gonzalez over there had been so impatient to order because he had his eye on the Maple Glazed Bacon app – which he had spotted on another menu somewhere not WTGW related but never got to order then, so he was all about ordering it now. The app is really just what the name suggests – bacon strips cooked and coated in candied maple syrup. So basically kind of like your entire breakfast served in one cute little bar glass, and without the carbs of pancakes.

The perfect breakfast in a glass

And he wasn’t disappointed. To quote Ted, “It’s like you soaked your bacon in maple syrup. And come on, it’s maple and bacon, what’s not to like.”

We don’t ask for much, people. Really.

As I mentioned already, we were once again coming off the corned beef fest that is an Irish holiday, so we may have been just a tad burnt out to order anything remotely Irish on the menu. Shane and I actually ended up with a bit of a southwestern theme between us – he ordered the beef quesadilla, which I made fun of him for ordering at an Irish place … and then I promptly turned around and ordered a spicy black bean burger.

Don’t judge.

On the other side of the table, Ted ordered the BBQ bacon burger, thus proving that apparently his theme for the night was just “whatever has bacon on it.”

And just like our last visit to HH, the apps were better than the actual meals. We all thought our food was just OK. Ted thought his burger was alright, but that the tater tots were too salty. I also was not a fan of the tots – and that’s not a sentence I say many times. But I also just had really good tots at a restaurant in Chicago a few weeks ago, so that memory may have infringed on my opinion here.

Look at those tots. Just look, though, because eating them isn’t recommended.

My burger was OK, I liked that it had lots of avacado, and my bread loving self was of course a fan of the soft bun (that’s what she said …). But I could’ve done without the overload of onions that seemed to not want to be evicted from the sandwich.

Ignore my half eaten pretzel stick, that didn’t come with the entree

Shane said his quesadilla was also just OK, nothing special.

Mex-Irish

Our server was good, very talkative and sweet, although she did disappear a few times when glasses were empty and not reappear until we were about ready to go up to the bar and order for ourselves. Do they teach that tick to all of the servers here? I seem to remember that disappearing act happening a lot on our last visit. But she also tried to give Ted an extra Guinness at the end of the night, so maybe that was her way of making up for it? I’d like to say we’ll return to find out, but that’s probably pretty doubtful at this point. The way things have been going with this place so far, the third time is either the charm … or one of us ends up with food poisoning. That’s a game of Russian roulette I’m not sure any of us are willing to play.

Re-picked by: Shane
Original pick by: Amanda
Next pick: Steph

Steph

Ted

Shane

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

WTGW 12/21/16: Burgers 2 Beer, Solon

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Holy crap, this place is packed on Wednesdays. Presumably because they have trivia, a phenomenon we had yet to run into on a Wednesday night adventure. And one I can’t quite say I fully understand the popularity of, but whatever.

Although the itty-bitty parking lot does make Burgers 2 Beer look a tad bit busier than what they actually are. They share the lot with Penn Station – the fast food sub place – so of course we joked when we were walking in that everyone was probably there. Uh, no, but nice try. Still, I don’t think anyone in this place other than us understands the meaning of the word “carpool.”

The rather extensive draft beer list was already waiting on the table when we sat down, which is always a good sign. Especially for a place that has that particular entity in its title.

The large variety of beers of course meant that Shane went with a Miller Lite. I got the Breckenridge Agave Wheat. Ted realized Breckenridge made a Christmas Ale and went with that choice. I sampled his and was a little disappointed I didn’t order that one. There’s always round two.

So being that the other half of the name of the place is burgers, you can probably guess that that involved another extensive list. Such marketing wizards with the name of the place. But this was a bit of overkill – like three pages of the menu devoted just to burgers. And some interesting concoctions – one involved truffle butter and brie cheese, one with peanut butter, one with tater tots and sloppy joe  … and one was even served on a glazed donut.

 

No calories here. Nope. None at all. Maybe they should rename this place “Heart Attacks 2 Cholesterol Levels.”

Ted started with the candied pork appetizer. It was like meat, not on a stick. Although it wasn’t quite as good as the meat on a stick he got at that place in Richfield we can never remember the actual name of that Shane would rather set himself on fire than walk into again, it was still tasty. As soon as it arrived at the table, Shane’s nose immediately singled out the garlic in it. Ted said it was spicy. Like OK for him, but probably not for everyone.

Meat, no stick

Meat, no stick

I mean, this is the guy who recently called acid wings “not hot at all,” so just keep that in mind.

For his meal, Ted got the pizza burger. Seems odd for a guy who hates cheese, but I guess this is really the safest version of pizza he could ever find, no? Well, other than the cheese-less pizza he got a few weeks ago, but that’s a bit of an anomaly.

Burger, take one

Burger, take one

He said the burger was good, but a little bland. Especially with everything that was going on there (pepperoni, peppers, marinara, onions and mushrooms – plus cheese, for normal people), it just didn’t seem to have much flavor. He still stands by his all time favorite being The Rail.

Shane: “That place that tried to kill me.”

Every. Time.

Shane got the monthly special burger for December – which I can’t remember exactly what came on that, but I do know it involved peppers and some other spicy stuff, since I was debating on getting the same one. His burger, like Ted’s, was also just OK. Said the patty itself didn’t have much flavor, but everything else on the burger was good.

Burger, take two

Burger, take two

He also got salt and vinegar wings. Is this like week #27 with wings? I’ve seriously lost count.

But he said the wings didn’t taste like salt & vinegar. Ted tried one and said they tasted like BBQ potato chips. Close? Not really. Maybe the cook just got his flavor bags from his snack packs mixed up.

They all start to look alike after a while

They all start to look alike after a while

I got the hot & bothered burger – habenero cheddar cheese, onions, siracha mayo and jalepenos. Sounds super bland, no? Yeah, it was definitely spicy. I also used the house BBQ sauce that they keep on the table as my condiment of choice to dip my tater tots in, and that had some kick to it too.

Burger, take three - plus tots

Burger, take three – plus tots

And I wonder why my taste buds sometimes revolt against me.

Amanda got the club burger (ham, turkey, bacon and gouda), which she  almost had to eat bunless, as the top of the sandwich flew off when the server brought her meal to the table. She did bring Amanda another top bun – but at least the bunless burger made for a nice photo op.

Burger, waiting for the top bun

Burger, waiting for the top bun

Amanda also agreed that the burger patty itself needed more flavor. The toppings were good, but if you just ate a piece of the burger patty it was unimpressive.

So basically the moral is that if you go, be sure get the burger with the most toppings – or at least the most flavorful ones anyway – so they can mask the taste of the actual burger patty itself. Because that seems right, considering the name of the place and all.

New name idea: “Toppings 2 Mask The Blandness.”

Service was pretty good, considering how busy it was there. The trivia was alternately interesting and annoying at the same time. It was loud, so at times we were having to shout over the host to hear one another. We also had to restrain ourselves from shouting out answers that we knew, which took a lot on our parts at times. Because, you know, restraint is definitely nowhere in our vocabularies. Have you seen the tables of food we order sometimes? Seriously.

Picked by: Amanda
Next pick: Ted

Steph

Steph

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

Amanda

Amanda

B2b Burgers 2 Beer Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato