WTGW 1/15/19: Craft Cantina, Merriman Valley

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THE WHERE (we went)

That’s a question best answered by first telling you where we didn’t go: Springfield, Ohio. As is 180 miles away from us. Not Springfield Township, where we’ve been frequently. Jason learned an important lesson in checking the directions before thinking the place was too good to be true.

But, you know, if we ever are 180 miles away, the Hickory Inn sounds like an amazing pick. Just sayin’.

So we ended up with a collective vote to check out Craft Cantina in the Valley, after throwing out around 27 other options and driving aimlessly around Cuyahoga Falls for about 15 minutes. But at least that drive was educational, in that we learned the old Barmacy space in the Valley is currently uninhabited, and a sketch place in Akron that Shane has been eyeing doesn’t have food, so that was out as a pick.

Using our time wisely, folks.

Craft Cantina is also the younger and smaller sister to Crave Cantina, which we visited a while back when the then-new downtown Cuyahoga Falls location opened. So this isn’t exactly a revisit, more like just choosing another location of a chain, something some of us in the group are prone to doing every now and again. Not naming any names or anything.

THE WHAT (we ordered)

Drinks of course and foremost … because, well, you should know that about us by now. Plus we had just been driving around for what felt like an eternity so we had to make up for lost time.

Cassi and I went with mixed drinks. I highly recommend the Tiki Mojito. It was delicious.

Meanwhile, Shane ordered a beer, which Ted at least had the courtesy to wait until the server walked away before announcing that Shane would definitely not enjoy drinking.

Newsflash: Ted was right. His prize was Shane’s beer.

For apps Cassi and Jason got the Disco Fries. Which did not arrive with a tiny mirror ball attached to the plate, so I feel a little cheated and like that was a marketing opportunity completely lost.

So. Many. Possibilities.

Regardless, they said they were delicious. I guess that’s more important.

Shane and I got the queso dip with jalepenos. Or Rotel. Or something that gave it some chunkiness without a lot of spice. Which I realize sounds disgusting but trust me it was tasty. The chips were also really good – they had some sort of dusting on them, kind of like Dorito’s in training.

All of us did some fashion of the make your own tacos or bowls – the ordering system of which pretty much confused the hell out of most of us, but somehow we powered through. I mean, I get that this is the new trend for Mexican and Latin American restaurants, but some direction might be helpful. From the server. Or the menu itself. Or, well, anywhere really.

I did the make your own bowl with steak.

It was just OK. The steak wasn’t very good, and the bowl overall just didn’t seem to have a ton of flavor. Maybe that goes back to the whole guidance on ordering thing, as I could’ve probably used some in the area of “sauces-that-add-flavor-without-sacrificing-every-one-of-your-taste-buds-or-your-will-to-live.”

Jason made his own giant burrito with brisket and pineapple. Let’s just say that they aren’t kidding about that giant thing.

This photo seems aggressive

This was something Shane probably would’ve preferred to know before he placed his order – which was not only a create-your-own flank steak burrito, but also one of the fried chicken tacos.

One of these things is unnecessary

Shane ate his taco first, something that probably contributed to his later taking half of his burrito home with him. Because we all know how it pains anyone at this table to ask for a to-go box.

Jason ate his entire burrito, but was a bit regretful of that afterwards.

Ted got three tacos – one of the Buttermilk Fried Chicken tacos from the House Specialties section of the menu, and then two tacos that he created himself – a blackened chicken with pineapple, and a fried chicken with Verde sauce.

He liked the fried chicken the best. He said they were all good, bit that was the favorite.

Just to be clear, I’m still not exactly certain how the fried chicken and the buttermilk fried chicken are different from one another. I mean, aside from the absence of buttermilk in one of them and all. Come on now. But like who knew there were two ways to make fried chicken that goes on tacos?

He also got a side of dirty rice. Because there clearly wasn’t enough food already on the table.


Cassi made her own tacos – one with chorizo and one with fish.

She liked one better than the other. I could let you guess, but let’s just say that the one that rhymed with “dish” was the clear winner.

We also got orders of house made fresh guacamole – pico for me and Shane, cotija cheese for Cassi and Jason. And yes I had to consult the menu in order to get the spelling of that cheese correct. Listening to Shane try to pronounce it resulted in several variations that aren’t suitable for print.

It pains me to even have to say this, but the guacamole was a little disappointing. Shane said it had too much lemon. The rest of us thought it didn’t have too much of anything, except maybe avacados.

We also had to order the entire large side order just so that Shane could have guac as a side for his burrito – since this whole fresh-made system means you can’t just get a small portion slapped into a tiny side container like in regular Mexican restaurants. That seems excessive, no?

I mean, I’m only sort of complaining, because you really do’t have to twist my arm to eat guac. Even when it’s not to tasty. And of course there were more of those Dorito-ish chips, because we definitely could’ve eaten our weight in those throughout the course of the evening. And don’t think we didn’t try.

THE WHO (we saw)

No one. Literally no one.

Well, OK, the server like two or three times. And one other group at the bar. But in the dining room, yeah, well, we were kind of it.

We also think Elton John might’ve been there in spirit, as the jukebox literally never stopped playing his songs. So either someone before us played the joke of programming the next five hours of songs on their way out the door, or one of the staff members really, really likes his work. Or maybe they got a deal on the machine since it can only play his music. We may never know.

THE HOW (much we spent)

Well I forgot to note the receipt, so it’s hard to answer that one in this post. It’s a new concept for the blog, it takes some getting used to. Stop badgering me.

THE WHY (they will/won’t see us again)

Well I’m sure they would like for us to come back, since it seemed like they could use the business. And I think we all would go back, just maybe order something slightly different than what we got this time around. Shane and Jason said they would just get the tacos again, but not the burritos. They said they “were too much.” And those are definitely not words that get thrown around lightly in this group. I would get a bowl again, but not the steak and definitely with more spicy sauce of some kind.

Of course, given the ordering system, we might try to order something different and then end up with the exact same thing we got this time without even trying. Hard to say.

Picked by: Jason

Jason

Jason, mid-decision

Cassi

Ted

Shane

Steph

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WTGW 10/12/16: Tacos Mexicanos, Macedonia

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Alternate title to this post: always judge a Mexican place on their ability to make margaritas.

More on that in a minute.

So, since Ted was enjoying a week in Florida and didn’t even consider the option of flying back just to participate in WTGW (boo, hiss), I took advantage of his absence to choose one of the lesser chosen WTGW ethnic foods – Mexican. You know, because they usually slather everything in cheese, and we all know by now that’s like Ted’s version of hell.

I was told about Tacos Mexicanos by a coworker, who said she drives past it every night on her way home and that it was always packed – particularly on $1.00 “Taco Tuesdays.”

Needless to say, since tonight was not a Tuesday, nor were the tacos $1.00, it was a little less packed this evening. Just keep that in mind as you read on.

I noticed on the specials board as we entered that they were featuring a pumpkin margarita. My initial reaction was that that sounded kind of interestingly gross … but then I thought what the hell, it is fall after all, and if they can pumpkin out everything from cream cheese to potato chips, I may as well give it a shot.

Let’s just day I should’ve trusted my first instinct.

The best way I can possibly describe this drink is that is looks like butternut squash soup, but tastes like tequila with a bit of a spice aftertaste.

Sounds delightful, no?

Margaritas should not be this color. Ever.

Margaritas should not be this color. Ever.

Shane and Jerrid both opted for the mango strawberry margaritas. And I was extremely jealous … until Shane eventually took pity on me sitting there sullenly stirring my margarita and traded his mango strawberry for my pumpkin. Not because he thought mine was good, mind you, but more because he was worried I would waste alcohol. Priorities.

Yeah, well, the mango strawberry isn’t much better. It was basically a crapload of tequila, with a little bit of some fruit flavor that tasted neither like strawberries or mangoes.

Better color, not better flavor.

Better color, not better flavor.

So that begs the question, how can you trust a Mexican place that can’t make a good margarita? It’s like sacriligious.

It was about this time that Amanda realized she and Jerrid had actually been to Tacos Mexicanos once before, back when the place first opened … and they didn’t have their liquor license yet so they couldn’t serve alcohol.

I might suggest they go back to that idea until they hire a bartender that knows more about mixing drinks. Until then it seems they’re just wasting cheap tequila.

Anyway.

So onto food. Since all the pictures kind of look alike (as you’ll have at a Mexican place), I’ll try to keep these straight.

Amanda got the burrito Mexicano.

Mexican stuff in a shell with sauce and cheese, take one

Mexican stuff in a shell with sauce and cheese, take one

Jerrid got the beef chimichangas.

Mexican stuff in shells with sauce and cheese, take two

Mexican stuff in shells with sauce and cheese, take two

I got the fire burrito.

Mexican stuff in a shell with sauce and cheese, take three. No wonder they only have like three things photographed on the menus

Mexican stuff in a shell with sauce and cheese, take three. No wonder they only have like three things photographed on the menus

Shane got the quesadilla skillet – after much debate since they didn’t have his usual fajita quesadilla.

Shane's looks like a pizza

Shane’s looks like a pizza

 

All of the above was just OK. None of us really had anything much specific to say about it – I mean, it was typical Mexican food. Put lots of meat, sauce and cheese into or on top of a tortilla shell, then serve with rice, beans, more sauce and more cheese. Repeat.

Shane did mention that his quesadilla could’ve used more filling. And I will say that I agree with that. Mine in particular was pretty much just shredded chicken inside the shell, no veggies or sauce or anything. Because that screams flavorful.

Although somehow that did make it super hot. Must’ve been the sauce on the top – and maybe I should be glad there was none inside, because wherever this heat was coming from, it was most certainly enough. And before all you smartasses point it out, yes, I know that I ordered the “fire burrito.” Clearly they got one thing right in this place with that title. Just one.

Also, the irony of the lack of a good margarita to wash this down was not lost on me.

So already we have two strikes … let’s just add one more with the service. For starters, part of the reason we – and I assume about half of America – go to Mexican restaurants is for the promise of never-ending free basket of chips and salsa that just seems to regenerate at your table nonstop all night long.

Am I wrong?

Well, let’s just say don’t arrive here hungry.

As usual, Amanda and Jerrid had been there for a little bit before Shane and I arrived, and were almost through the first basket of chips and bowl of salsa when we sat down. So you’d think when the server noticed two new people joined the table they would bring more, right? Yeah, no. We waited. And waited. And ordered our drinks. And waited. And ordered our meals. And got our crappy drinks. And then FINALLY someone asked if we wanted more chips and salsa. Um, yes. Was it that fact that we were pretty much fighting over the tiny scraps and crumbs at that point that tipped you off?

And then one our food arrived, Shane was waiting on his side of guac for almost as long as the refreshment of chips – and keep in mind he won’t start eating his food until he has it, so you’d think the fact that one plate was untouched at our table would be cause for a server to stop and ask how we were doing. But once again, you’d be wrong.

I guess the moral here is to stop thinking.

So by about 7:30PM, the place was pretty empty, only us and about two other tables. And yet the service didn’t get any better, considering they had fewer tables to check on. Did they send the servers home with the guests? Were there bartending lessons going on somewhere? (that I might be able to forgive, just sayin) Do they keep the actual good margaritas in the back and the servers go back and get sloshed on them after 7:00?

It’s a mystery, folks. And one I’m not interested in going back to find out the answer to.

Amanda

Amanda

Jerrid

Jerrid

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

Picked by: Steph
Next pick: Amanda
Tacos Mexicanos Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato