WTGW 8/23/17: Theo’s Bar & Grill, Ellet

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So as we pulled up to this week’s pick, I made a comment that I think it may well be the smallest building we’ve ever been to. It was like Red Riding Hood walking up to her Grandmother’s cabin in the woods.

It may also potentially be the only place we’ve visited for dinner that you can buy a bag of ice from one of those weird cooler machines located just outside the front door. You know, in case those leftovers need some refrigeration on the drive home, I guess.

Another great first impression:

Aunt Mildred? Are you home?

This was what greeted us as we walked through the front door. Which almost caused Shane to turn and run in the opposite direction, lest his pick be the dive bar version of our infamous Gus’s Chalet. And of course he can’t have that on his record.

Continuing the “we’re just trying to get inside the front door” obstacle course: an older man steering a very drunk, teetering on the edge of passing out older woman through the front door past us.

So far we’re painting a lovely picture, I know. But at least things got better.

The place is definitely tiny inside. But homey, as Shane called it. Maybe in part thanks to these lovely purple-ish table lamps on half of the tables in the place. Classy.

It’s like drinking at your Uncle Joe’s house

I mean, I’m sure they were like $5 each at Big Lots or something like that, but it’s the thought that counts?

Anyway.

We were greeted by quite possibly the softest spoken bartender we’ve ever encountered. It was like she was whispering most of the time. Or maybe we’re going deaf. Either of those are a good possibility. She was super nice, though, and always checked on us when our drinks were low throughout the course of the evening – but every time she left I think we felt like we were on the Seinfeld episode with the low talker.Ted asked about dark beer, and was told there was Shiner Bock, or Yingling, which is “kind of darker.” So, no then. He started with a Shiner and then switched to a jack and coke after the first round.

Shane got a Bud Light and I went with a tequila and soda. Two things to note: they have no draft beer, only botttles … and they pour heavy. I mean, we’re not talking Windsor Pub heavy, but still more than I was expecting.

The menu was bigger than the entire interior of the restaurant, I  think. Very unexpected for a little dive bar. Although when we saw the cook come out of the kitchen and retrieve items from a freezer strategically placed on the other side of the dining room it kind of put things back into perspective a bit.

We tried to order the breaded mushrooms as an app, but were told they were all out. Actually we knew they were all out prior to the low talking server coming to tell us, because we saw the cook consult the freezer, then call the server over to have a little chat. So at least we had time to prepare ourselves for the disappointing news and decide on an alternative. We chose the poppers instead. And calamari. Because, well, all the apps were like $4 each, and we clearly like food, so why not.

The calamari was OK. It was definitely straight from that freezer in the corner, as all the pieces looked like onion rings. And after eating a few of them I identified the breading as being the same as what they use on cheese sticks. So in a way they were really just some onion-ring-cheese-stick-with-no-onion-or-cheese hybrid. Interesting. Kudos to the server for asking us if we wanted some sauce to dip them in, as they usually don’t come with anything. She suggested marinara. I’m thinking after enough requests for that she must have this down pat.

Onion rings or calamari? Your guess.

We were hopeful that maybe the poppers might be homemade instead of frozen, since they arrived looking a bit ununiform – but alas we were wrong. They honestly didn’t have much flavor, which was disappointing. But at least the breading wasn’t the same as the calamari. So there’s that.

Another product of the dining room freezer of wonders

Ted was tempted to order the tilapia entree, since he thought something other than burgers sounded good. But then he noticed the line “if it smells like fish, eat it” on the menu above the seafood section, and that kind of changed his mind a bit. Interesting marketing. If our table was any indication, they may want to rework that.

He went with the Blazin Burger instead. Which the name apparantely doesn’t lie on. He said it was super spicy, that whatever the white sauce was on it (which I think we all thought originally would be some sort of cheese sauce) was really super hot. And that it may even make him sweat. That’s a tall order from someone who once ate a habereno pepper and tried to play it off like it was no big deal

Watch out for that white hot sauce from hell

We asked the server about two burgers on the menu – the Theo’s Best and the Bad Kitty – since both of the descriptions included “lettuce, tomato, swiss cheese and mushrooms.” Like, OK, what’s the difference? Other than a 75 cent price differential anyway. She said one is bigger. And that people always ask her about that. Well, of course, why change the menus, let’s just keep answering questions. Duh.

So I got one and Shane got the other. Mine (supposedly the smaller one) arrived on a regular bun, while Shane’s (supposedly the larger one) was on a hoagie. And when you looked at his from the side you could tell there was more meat in his … but not by much. Like maybe mine was 1/4 lb patty and his was 1/3 lb or something like that.

I mean, it’s 75 cents that separates one from the other, so we get that it wouldn’t be a whole other patty included … but still. It seemed like such a small difference to even warrant two separate line items on the menu. Not to mention stocking two separate sizes of buns. But OK.

That classy lamp messed with my photo skills

Same burger, super sized

We all pretty much agreed that overall the burgers weren’t big enough. I mean, they’re also like $5 each – so I guess we shouldn’t be too picky – but it seemed like they could up the size of the patties overall just a bit. As Ted said, the actual burger was almost secondary to all of the other stuff going on in there. Like you need more meat to compete with all of the toppings. (that’s what she said) He said that he would be willing to pay an extra $2.50 or so to get a whole other patty on the same sandwich, or at least have some sort of option like that for all of the different burgers on the menu. Because, you know, we’re kind of experts on this stuff by now and all.

We also all agreed that the crinkle cut fries (added on for another like $1.25 or $1.50 to each sandwich) were perfect, though. I’m partial to crinkle cuts to begin with, but these ones were done exactly right, crispy on the outside without being mushy on the inside. And they were hot. Perks of a small place, I guess – not much time from kitchen to table.

Theo’s is another of the many places that now has one of those Queen of Hearts drawings on Wednesdays nights (ah, the joys of marketing), so we each ponied up some cash to join in. None of us won, but a guy at the bar has his ticket pulled and the card he turned over earned him $100, so he did want any good alcoholic does … spent his winnings on more booze.

Who knew a little piece of plastic could make people so happy

That worked out well for us, as he announced he was buying the whole bar a round of drinks. Which sounds impressive, until you consider that there were eight people total he was buying for, including himself and his wife. Well, 10 if you count the cook and the server, who also helped themselves to a drink of choice. But hey, we weren’t complaining, and Ted turned around and bought a drink for the winner and his wife in return also to say thank you from our group.

Of course that extra drink left us all a little bit cheerier as we left Theo’s – and it was in some ways a cool little place, but again, as with so many places we visit, not sure if it’s worth the drive to return all that often. However, mine and Shane’s tab, for two mixed drinks, two bottles of beer, two apps and two burgers with fries: $38.75. This is why we love dive bars, folks. We’re cheap dates.

Shane

Ted

Steph

Picked by: Shane
Next pick: Steph

 

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

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

Free chips and dip.

What’s that now?

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

WHAT?!?!?!

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

O.M.G.

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

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

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

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

CSI: WTGW style.

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

Let’s back up, shall we?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A pile of fried yumminess

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

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

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

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

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

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

Same burger, different green condiment

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

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

Parallel universe. I’m telling ya.

Long lost wing favorite

I wish I could say it tasted better than it looked

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

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

I told you the server hated him.

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

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

Touche.

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

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

Picked by: Steph
Next pick: Ted

Shane

Steph

Ted

WTGW 6/22/16: The Twisted Olive, Green

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Wait, what’s this? A new post? Don’t lie, I know you missed us. And trust me, we’ve missed you. But unfortunately work commitments, travel, and some unexpected health complications kept us from our usual Wednesday night shenanigans these past – wait, WTF, has it really been three straight months now? Holy crap. OK, we’re officially slackers. 

Honestly, we have gotten together on a few Wednesdays these past months – because, you know, we like to eat and drink, and that’s a long time to not leave our houses. But for whatever reason we ended up forsaking new places for the comfort and ease of old favorites like Panini’s or Moe’s. Because sometimes you just need to go someplace close to home where you know you can get cold drinks and good food, and not drive an hour out of your way to take chances.

So basically we just spent three months completely negating the entire premise of this blog. Our bad.

That also means that the wheel has been stuck on Ted’s pick this entire time. And he’s had it in his head that he wanted to choose The Twisted Olive in Green as his next pick. Which is like 30 minutes from our house. And some of those Wednesdays that was just too far to drive after part of the group got out of work late, or weren’t feeling the greatest. As it was we had to go just as a threesome tonight – no Amanda or Jared – because, well, basically in the forseeable future unless the place is close to Amanda’s workplace of Hudson, she probably won’t make it out to meet us with the way her new work schedule is. Boo.

Being an adult is crap, kids. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

So anyway, back to tonight, as the three of us were contemplating driving over to Kent to visit a former pick with a nice patio, I commented that if we were going to go all the way over there, why not drive the same distance and get back to our original plan of trying new places – especially when one of the reasons Ted wanted to visit this one was for the patio?

Point taken.

So that’s the long-winded story of how Shane, Ted and I ended up here tonight. And I have to be honest, the patio was definitely worth the wait.

Although waiting was exactly what we had to do for a patio seat once we got there – but judging from the number of cars we saw in the parking lot on our way in, we actually weren’t overly surprised. I think we were more surprised that the wait was only like 15 minutes. So we sat in the lobby for a few minutes, which gave us time to look around and notice that the place is really huge. And everything decorating it is huge. Huge fireplace. Huge lighting fixtures in the main dining room. Huge patio outside the doors. It’s like the place was decorated by the design firm Giants ‘R Us.

And when we got bored sitting in the lobby (which, let’s be honest, took all of about 2.5 seconds), we followed the huge “BAR” sign with an arrow down the huge curved staircase to get a few drinks to pass the time. Side note, the bar area really could’ve been included on that whole “huge” memo, as it’s a little crowded and difficult to order from when there’s people sitting at most of the seats. Also, the bartender didn’t seem especially helpful or friendly, which is always super fun. But whatevs.

Impressed with the various Bloody Marys on the menu, Shane decided to try the Citrus version. I went with a Mojito – which Ted ordered for me because he just thought the word was fun – and Ted got a beer called Siberian Night, which – surprise, surprise – was the color of, well, complete darkness.

Ted: Yep, I can’t see through it, that’s a good thing.

At least we haven’t changed much these past three months.

We were still working on those drinks when we got a text a few minutes later that our table was ready. And also to close out our bar tabs before returning to the hostess stand. Nice touch.

(And on a side note, thank you to this place for doing away with the annoying buzz-and-light-contraptions that most restaurants use. They always reminded me of that stupid Simon Says light-up memory game from the 80s.)

Anyway, we headed to our table on the patio – which, as I already mentioned, was spectacular. It’s a great atmosphere, and the view is amazing. According to the little story on the menu, the restaurant is situated on a 10-acre nature preserve, and is actually affiliated with Gervasi Vineyards in Canton.

See, I pay attention sometimes.

So, being that we’re predictable folks and haven’t changed our ways in the last three months, care to take a guess at what Shane ordered off the appetizer menu?

If you guessed calamari, you’re correct! Ding, ding, ding!

Perhaps because there were no mussels on the app menu, Ted went way off the predictable path and ordered the Italian flatbread. He requested no olives on it, and the server mentioned that everyone seemed to be requesting it that way this evening.

Ted: Seems odd at a place called The Twisted Olive, no?

Touche.

The calamari was OK. The sauce that came with it – which I’m going to guess from the color involved some portioning of wasabi – had a nice little kick to it. But other than that there was really nothing special or different about the dish to distinguish it from any other place we’ve had it before. And it certainly didn’t appear to be a very generous helping when the plate arrived at the table. I think this was Shane’s first reminder that we were at one of the “fancier” WTGW picks on our list, and presentation would trump portion sizes.

That's like an appetizer for Shane's usual appetizer

That’s like an appetizer for Shane’s usual appetizer

The flatbread was really crispy and really good. I said it was like eating one layer of a mexican pizza. Ted made a comment about the sausage on it that I won’t repeat, nor will I repeat Shane’s comment back – but I’m sure if you’ve read any of our reviews before you can figure out where that’s all headed. Yes, we’re still 15.

This isn't Taco Bell

This isn’t Taco Bell

Perhaps that’s why for the next round of drinks Shane and Ted decided to switch things up and both ordered the “Manly Mary” Bloody Mary – which involved horseradish, tobasco and a bunch of other ingredients that only hinted at how hot it probably was. They were surprised to see it also included a slice of bacon as a garnish as well. Not upset, just surprised. And since Shane was still hungry following the tiny portion of calamari, I can assume he was probably also grateful.

Ted and I both flipped on our original dinner orders and got the Ahi tuna steak that was on special that night. We were both wavering on our decision – we were both intrigued when the server mentioned she had tried it and it was delicious – but Ted’s turning point came when he gave the server his original order of the crab cake sliders, and the server mentioned that you only get two sliders and they were kind of small. You could see Ted’s face fall at that statement. And he quickly changed his mind and went with the Ahi tuna.

Now I had the opposite problem, as I was going to get a pizza, but saw one delivered to the table next to us and that then basically three people ended up sharing it … and realized that would be way too much food for me.

We’re like the Goldilocks of food ordering.

I will say, though, that neither one of us was disappointed in the Ahi tuna. It was tasty, as were the potatoes and bok choi/carrots that came with it. The server had mentioned that it’s always prepared rare, which was delicious. And while it didn’t look like a lot of food on the plate, I was definitely full. Ted said he wasn’t completely full, but he definitely wasn’t hungry either. I’ll leave that for you to figure out.

WTGW gets fancy

WTGW gets fancy

Shane, on the other hand … well, let’s just say that out of any of us at the table, he should’ve ordered the pizza. He actually had thought about it, but then talked himself out of it, as he’d already eaten pizza for dinner two of the last three nights. But if you’ve kept up on this blog you’ll know that really shouldn’t have stopped him, as pizza is one of his favorite foods. I mean, anyone recall the half sheet pizza incident? Right.

But he also loves scallops, and since we don’t often go out on WTGW to places that serve those, he opted for that as his meal. And then was instantly disappointed as soon as his plate was set in front of him. His comment after the server left was that he was waiting for someone else to walk up and bring him his main course instead of the appetizer portion.

We obviously don’t go to fancy places much, folks. Grease and heart attacks on plates are more our style.

Now, he did say that the scallops were good. But just not at all filling. Because you only get like five. He also said they went a little crazy with all the “stuff” on top of the scallops – I don’t know what that “stuff” was, that’s just what he called it. “Stuff.” So basically overall everything was very good, there just wasn’t enough of it. I have to believe he would’ve traded all the “fancy” in exchange for just more basic scallops.

Why is there so much white space on this plate?

Why is there so much white space on this plate?

So I guess the tip is, someone order the pizza. Chances are someone at the table will still be hungry enough to finish it if you can’t. If I would’ve then I probably could’ve given my leftovers to Shane. And he would’ve been happier.

Although the server did mention that if you come for lunch the pizza is cheaper and more sized for one person, so that’s also something to keep in mind. Same pizza, just more manageable for one person (whose name isn’t Shane anyway). Not sure what exactly cheaper means, but the dinner portions are $14-$17, just to give you an idea.

Another tip, eat the bread and butter they bring to the table. Delicious.

Little pockets of heaven

Little pockets of heaven

This was definitely one of our pricier WTGW adventures – but then again this was far from a dive bar with food that comes from a fryer. They do have reasonably priced sandwiches on the menu ($11-$14) and also bottled domestic beers for $3-$5 each – but of course we went all out with mixed drinks, apps, and actual meal choices. I mean, it has been three months, y’all. Come on.

But by comparison, for the price of one of our meals at The Twisted Olive we could’ve gone to The Windsor Pub and gotten three giant burgers, fries and pretty much an entire bottle of rum contained within three mixed drinks. But we also would’ve been sitting in a booth with ripped plastic seats and no windows to look out of. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that. Just giving it some perspective.

Anyway, I could definitely see us coming back here for a bottle of wine and apps on the patio, as it’s a great atmosphere for that and we definitely had a wonderful summer night to be out there. Service was great, the food was delicious (if only there was more of it) and the patio is most certainly a huge selling point. We’re definitely glad to be back to WTGW adventures, though, and this was a great way to start … even if we did miss our two other partners in crime …

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Ted

Drinks: Mixed drinks were good, and the guys were of course wowed by the various Bloody Mary options. Saw several folks with martinis but I opted not to go down that road.
Food: This is a “fancy” food place – so be prepared for smaller portions that are more about presentation than volume.
Service: Personable, funny and quick – three of our favorite things.
Overall: This is one of those places I could see us going back to for a special occasion dinner, or just to have a glass of wine on the patio on a summer night. As long as we feed Shane elsewhere beforehand.

Next Pick: Shane

The Twisted Olive Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato