WTGW 8/17/16: Cruiser’s, Boston Heights

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So, if you’ve wondered where we’ve been he last two weeks, let me give you the Cliff’s Notes version:

Week One:

img_0166

Week Two:

OK, so maybe we weren't exactly doing this, but it looks fun, right?

OK, so maybe we weren’t doing exactly this, but it looks fun, right?

So, yeah, two weeks ago was Ted’s birthday – which we celebrated at, guess where … our old favorite, Kepner’s. As you can see from the photo, a good time was had by all, and clearly we weren’t taking notes of any kind to report about later. Because, well, alcohol.

And then last week we had a freak hour-long torrential downpour/monsoon/attempt-to-turn-the-yard-into-a-pool event that caused our basement to begin to grow water through the floor cracks like a garden, so we decided to stay in and deal with that. Because the alternative of coming home at 11PM and dealing with it after a few drinks was definitely not appealing.

Anyway.

So that brings us to this week. And Shane’s pick of Cruiser’s, which is located inside the Clarion Hotel in Boston Heights. If you’ve ever driven on Rt. 8 south of 271, or gotten off the Turnpike at Rt 8, you’ve seen the Clarion Hotel. And probably wondered just how in the bloody hell you even get to it, as the only exit from the highway that seems to exist there is the one that takes you on and off of the Turnpike.

Well, we found it.

Although, honestly, I think the larger challenge became locating the actual restaurant inside of the hotel once we arrived. Little tip, don’t come in via the entrance that faces the road. Because that would be too easy, right? Instead you should drive all the way around the place until you get to the entrance that faces the highway you can’t exit to get to the hotel … and that’s where you’ll find the front entrance of the hotel, as well as the entrance to the restaurant.

Confused yet?

Wait, it gets better.

I will say that Ted, Shane and I got a lovely tour of the first floor of the Clarion Hotel in our attempt to locate the restaurant. I can now show you to the fitness center, pool or courtyard.

After dinner swim anyone?

After dinner swim anyone?

We also witnessed a group of construction workers grilling out and perhaps hosting a tailgate party for some phantom sporting event out in the roadside parking lot. So we joked that at least if the restaurant sucked we had another nearby option.

I digress.

When we finally found the restaurant we were a little confused as to if it was even open, as I think there were only about two other people inside. The bartender/server told us to pick a table … so we picked one, then moved, then almost moved again … we like musical chairs. But hey, it’s not as if we were disturbing anyone. We were just doing our research.

After she brough us the menus, we realized that the name on them wasn’t Cruisers. Huh?

Wait, where are we again?

Wait, where are we again?

Oh well, they still had Summer Shandy on draft, so we were happy. Or at least Shane and I were happy. Shandy-hater Ted got the Great Lakes Commodore Perry.

Our special guests Jerrid and Amanda showed up one-by-one a bit later – and likely after next week will be back to full time with us, yay! – and got a Yuengling and Summer Shandy.

Wednesdays happen to be 50 cent wing nights at whatever-the-name-of-this-place-is, so score for us. And chesse sticks for $5. So another score. Well, not for Ted – but the rest of us were happy about it. I think Shane and I polished those off in like five minutes flat.

There were a few more in that basket, but hungry hands are grabby hands

There were a few more in that basket, but hungry hands are grabby hands

And then the rest of the night was pretty much just a giant wing fest at our table. Here’s a close up.

Oh hey, look - wings. That's something new for us.

Oh hey, look – wings. That’s something new for us.

But this might put it in better perspective.

Because we're much better to look at than just pictures of wings that all look the same

Because we’re much better to look at than just pictures of wings that all look the same

And that photo was taken before Amanda showed up. So, yeah, all this for four people. It’s like The Big Dog all over again.

To make matters even better – for us anyway – you can change sauces with every five wings. So you know we couldn’t all just stick to simple orders, and had to try at least a few different ones. I’ll do my best to remember most of the sauces, but I can’t promise to know who ordered what beyond my own order.

Hey, it’s a lot of wings. You try being the secretary for this group.

I was intrigued by the Six Pepper Dry Rub that was on the new “specials” menu, and I thought those were actually the best ones. To be fair, I only tried my other flavor – the Sweet & Spicy Dry Rub (which we all got at least one batch of) – but definitely liked the pepper ones better. It was hotter, but not enough to be overwhelming. Very good flavor on both kinds.

Shane had the Garlic Parm (surprise) as did Amanda when she arrived a bit later. As usual, it was good. Ted got the Spicy Garlic and was thrilled with them. The boys each also got another flavor as well, but I can’t for the life of me remember what they were. I know, I suck. Blame the beer.

For the record – and because we asked – the Scooter sauce on the menu is actually the same as the Sweet & Spicy but as a sauce and not a dry rub. The server also told us it was more sweet than it was spicy. Jerrid took a stab at that one.

Jerrid also actually ordered a BBQ, but when everything came out it ended up that instead he got a Sweet & Spicy Dry Rub like the rest of us. He just ran with it – because, well, at that point why argue? Plus then he got to sample firsthand the difference between the two, which seemed to be pretty accurate.

They also had baskets of fries for $2 each. So, you know, of course we got like three of those for the table. Because we needed more food. And to once again cheat our heart attack potential. I might need to change the name of this blog to “What Hasn’t Killed Us Yet Wednesday.”

Overall Cruisers/Valley Junction/Pick-A-Name-For-This-Place-Yourself is a fun little neighborhood bar, with cheap food and drinks and a very laid back atmosphere. It’s definitely nothing fancy – although they do have more than wings on the menu (sandwiches, dinners, salads, etc). I had read some reviews that mentioned service wasn’t exactly the big reason for returning – but we had an OK time of it, and I think that was more just the server’s brisk, not exactly warm & fuzzy personality than an attempt to be rude. Hey, we’re used to that at this point. And she did joke with us at times – like when Jerrid was slowly sipping his drinks and didn’t order another round with the table, her parting words were “Catch up, mustard.” Nice.

And when we’re still calling Jerrid “Musty” weeks from now, I’m sure we’ll think of her fondly.

The cook also made a few appearances to our table – first to deliver our food, at which time he told us more about the different sauces and dry rubs, how he created some of them himself, etc. You can tell he takes pride in that. And then later he came by to ask how everything was, which was nice. I mean, in all reality he was probably just bored – since I think only two other tables came into the place in the time we were there – and glad to escape the kitchen and talk to people … but whatevs. We’ll take it.

 

So, yeah, while we didn’t try anything else on the menu except things that can be put in a fryer, we would definitely give a thumbs up what we did try. And I could definitely see us coming back again on a Wednesday to try more sauces. Maybe I’ll actually remember them all that time. No promises, though.

Plus, I mean, where else can you have this much fun taking pictures on your way back to the car?

We forgot to do our usual thumbs up/down pictures inside the restaurant. So Ted got comfortable.

We forgot to do our usual thumbs up/down pictures inside the restaurant. So Ted got comfortable.

Why pose at a table when you can have this picturesque scene?

Why pose at a table when you can have this picturesque scene?

Goofball, take 1

And then … Shane. Goofball, take 1

Goofball, take 2

Goofball, take 2

I don't even know what's going on here anymore

I don’t even know what’s going on here anymore

It's like some deranged workout video

It’s like some deranged workout video

This is why we can't go anywhere nice

This is why we can’t go anywhere nice

Enough said

Enough said

Time to go home, kids. Goodnight.

Time to go home, kids. Goodnight.

Picked by: Shane
Next pick: Steph

WTGW 3/2/16: Brick Oven Brew Pub, Ellet

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I think Ted and I were unknowingly in a silent competition for who would pick this place first. I vaguely remember him mentioning a brick oven pizza place this past summer, but if I’m not mistaken that turned out to be one of the first nice evenings of the season – and thus we ended up at a patio in the Valley instead. Then I came across it in my searches for new places, and considered it … but the combination of knowing they only serve beer and having a husband who’s prone to rum-and-diet binges didn’t fare well for me to make that pick.

And so the ball fell back into Ted’s court. Which, to his credit, he mentioned that the person who suggested Brick Oven Brew Pub to him as one of our picks did warn him that they don’t have air conditioning … and since the food is made via a giant wood fired brick oven, you can guess how comfortable that might be on a 90+ degree day. Thus why he had to pick it while it was still 30 degrees outside, lest we wait for next winter to roll around.

Upon arriving at BOBP I can completely see how it would be about nine billion degrees in there on a hot summer’s day. The place is literally a small storefront space in a plaza just off the street, and at least half of the space is completely taken up with the giant brick oven and the beer brewing machines. So that leaves one tiny area for tables. Actually, I’m not sure tiny even is the best word to describe the space. Minuscule? Minute? Microscopic? I think you get the idea. I mean, I didn’t count, but if I had to guess I would say there were like 12 or 14 two-top tables configured within the room to accommodate anywhere from dates of two to parties of six.

I’ll let you do the math on just how many people you can feed at one time based on those numbers. Because, well, I’m the writer. We don’t do math in my circles.

Luckily Amanda and Jerrid got there first and let them know we’d be a party of five. So we didn’t have to wait too long for a table – but they did kind of have to rearrange things to make room for us with the other parties that were already dining.

So the takeaway here is if you have a large party, this may not be the place for you to spend an evening. Even if you are good at math.

There’s also a small area partitioned off at the back of the space with a few high tops and some stools at … well .. it’s really not a bar, it’s more like a counter. You could call it a bar only because it faces the beer taps. But, yeah, it’s a counter. I think I’ve seen more dedicated bar space in people’s basements.

So there’s that.

As mentioned, the place brews their own beer. And there’s not a huge selection – I think it changes from time to time, and they may have a few seasonals that appear at different times also. But the night we were there they had four on tap: Cream Ale, Black IPA, German Witte, and Oatmeal Stout.

We started off all with a round of the lightest one, the cream ale. Well, except I-always-have-to-be-different-Ted, who went the complete opposite end to the dark side and got the oatmeal stout. I was intrigued by the description of it … you know, the usual “hints of coffee and chocolate” – which make it sound absolutely delightful – until you get handed something that actually tastes like motor oil and vinegar.

But I asked to try Ted’s when it arrived, and was pleasantly surprised. For once those descriptions actually didn’t lie. There really were hints of coffee and chocolate. And it was very smooth. I approved. And was actually torn between which one I liked better – the lighter cream ale, or the oatmeal stout.

Ted, of course, was incredibly proud.

Since there was success with two of the four beers, for the next round both Ted and I opted for the $5 flight – which is a smaller sampler glass of all four beers. And again, pleasantly surprised. We kind of passed them all around a little to let everyone try, and the opinion was pretty much the same: we liked all of them except the Black IPA. It wasn’t awful – a bit bitter starting out, but no aftertaste like a lot of other IPAs have. Ted said the same – it wasn’t his favorite, but it was better than some of the other IPAs he’s had at other craft breweries. The Witte was also really good, it was a bit citrusy and also very light like the Cream Ale.

Light, dark, repeat

Light, dark, repeat

So the consensus on the alcohol side of things: three out of four beers we would order without hesitation. I’d consider that a win.

I think the guys all had their hearts set on the deep dish pizza, until I pointed out on the menu where it said it was an hour wait. Um, yeah, never mind. Another time maybe.

So instead we ended up with two Sicilian regular crust pizzas, one Sicilian thin crust pizza, and a Supreme regular crust pizza. They really do have more options than that – but, well, I guess the rule about ordering something different for the sake of trying a bit of everything kind of went out the window somewhere in these past 2.5 years.

Four pizzas for five people? Seems totally reasonable.

Four pizzas for five people? Seems totally reasonable.

Shane ordered first and got the large Sicilian on a thin crust – for himself.

Me: well I guess we aren’t sharing then, thanks honey.

So I got the small Supreme. Just for me. Take that.

One of these things is not like the other

One of these things is not like the other

Jerrid and Amanda shared the large Sicilian regular crust (see, they can share), and Ted also got the same thing just for himself.

The popular pizza choice of the evening.

The popular pizza choice of the evening.

For appetizers – because I guess we thought entire pizzas wouldn’t be enough food … oh, wait, it’s us, that makes total sense – Jerrid and Amanda also got cheese sticks, and Shane and I got the dough sticks, which are essentially just pieces of their dough rolled into sticks and fired in the oven. We were really happy with them – while they weren’t as soft and “pillowy” as some places we’ve tried, they weren’t hard as a rock either. Balance is good.

Oh look, a plate of carbs. Yippee!

Oh look, a plate of carbs. Yippee!

Ted's favorite meal! Ha.

Ted’s favorite meal! Ha.

None of us ordered the stromboli, but we noticed that another couple at a table near us (which, really, means they were practically sitting with us, given the size of the place) each got one, and they looked delicious. And huge. Not that one place in Kent where the waitress looked at Amanda and I like we were crazy for each ordering a large one for ourselves kind of huge – but still really big nonetheless.

Everyone really liked the pizza here at BOBP. It had good flavor, good sauce, and just enough on the toppings without going overboard.

Ted actually said he liked the pizza so much, he said he would put it in his Top Five. Wow. I mean, if you follow us enough then by now you realize just how much of a compliment that is.

The only Debbie Downer of the bunch was Shane. Mr. Garlic King himself actually said it was TOO garlicky for him. Wait, what? I didn’t realize such a thing existed. I mean, this is the guy who orders French fries and wings that are soaked in garlic, which actual cloves on the top. I’m half surprised he hasn’t asked a place yet to just deep fry a bulb of garlic and serve it to him. But yet this pizza was “too much.”

I mean, don’t get me wrong – he still ate it. He just thought it was a bit much. Hmm.

Pizza, artistic style

Pizza, artistic style

Maybe it was the alcohol, or just because everyone other than me had the garlic pizza and had to cleanse their palates, but when Jerrid noticed the note on the specials chalk board for “S’mores dessert pizza” we all jumped on it like it was the next rendition of sliced bread. Shane and I got one to take home, as did Amanda and Jerrid.

Did someone say dessert to go?

Did someone say dessert to go?

We actually tried a slice each when we got home … and I have to say that we were not very impressed. I feel like this pizza was their rendition of the tricky beer descriptions – the S’mores pizza sounded and looked so much better than how it actually tasted. We agreed that it was actually the crust that ruined it for us. The toppings were good … but they put them on the same crust as what they use for all of the pizzas at BOBP. Which is good for actual pizza … but for dessert pizza, you almost need like a graham cracker crust, or cookie crust, or cinnamon … something other than just plain dough with some chocolate sauce and melted marshmallows on it. Boo.

But other than that, all in all, Brick Oven Brew Pub was a win for our group. The beers were good – for being home brewed, they were all very smooth and definitely easily drinkable. And the pizzas – while it’s a bit of a wait to get them to the table – are definitely worth it. It would be great to see them expand their dining facilities so that you don’t have to wait forever for a table for a group of more than two people – I mean, we were there on a Wednesday, and it was packed (well, “packed” for a place that only serves … well, whatever number you math geniuses came up with earlier in this post) – so I can’t imagine how it is on a Friday or Saturday. I mean, if it’s a really cold night, could you just get the special “inside the oven” seating maybe? Asking for a friend.

Amanda

Amanda

Jerrid

Jerrid

Ted

Ted

Steph

Steph

Shane, the only downer of the group

Shane, the only downer of the group

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Ted

Drinks:  So, if you don’t like beer you’re out of luck. Although with a name that ends in “brew pub” you should probably have known this already.
Food: Likewise, if you don’t like Italian food – primarily pizza or stromboli – your review of this place will be vastly different than ours.
Service: I think perhaps our table was probably one of the neediest – at least in terms of alcohol – that they’ve seen for a bit … but they kept up well. And by “they” I mean the one person working all the tables.
Overall: Great little place. But if you’re anything more than a party of two it the size of the place lends itself more to just getting a few pizzas and a growler to go.

Next Pick: Jerrid

Brickoven Brewpub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

 

WTGW 2/17/16: Joey’s Kendal Tavern, Massillon

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There are times in your life that you drive 40 minutes for a good burger. This, my friends, would be one of them.

So, I should point out that in reading reviews before picking Joey’s Kendal Tavern this week, I noticed two themes: it’s a great little hometown bar, and they have fantastic burgers.

Check and check.

It’s like someone gift wrapped a WTGW pick for our group. Well, except for the whole my-commute-to-work-downtown-is-actually-shorter-than-the-drive-here thing … but whatever. Have hunger, will travel. That’s kind of one of our unspoken mottos.

So tonight we were a few men down, thanks to a freak garbage disposal accident that put Amanda and Jerrid in kitchen cleanup mode for the evening. Boo. But rest assured the remaining three of us still managed to eat like we were a party of five tonight, so there’s that.

When you walk into Kendal’s you have to make a quick decision about which side of the restaurant you want to sit on. There’s one side with a bar and TVs, and another side with a bunch of tables and no TVs – with a giant wall right smack in between the areas. Hmm. Bet you can’t guess which side we picked, right? It’s like letting a kid chose between sitting in the living room and watching cartoons while eating dinner, or climbing up to the formal adult dining table and listening to the folks talk about work and stock prospects.

In fact, I think that – if I were to go all “Bar Rescue” on this place for just a moment – they would actually be better served to just take that giant wall out and open up the entire space into just one big room, so that way the dining area wasn’t so lonely and quiet. But then again that dividing wall probably holds up the entire upstairs … so maybe they’re being smart there after all.

Anyway.

Kendal’s claims to be Massillon’s oldest bar. Which, when you look around the place, you can totally buy that statement. The paint and wallpaper are a bit outdated, there’s definitely nothing fancy about the place, and it very much has the “old bar” stale smell. Not that any of those are necessarily a bad thing – just observations.

Also, there’s no draft beer. Interesting. I’m not sure I’ve ever been to a bar that didn’t have at least two or three staples on tap. I didn’t venture over to the cooler to check out the bottle selection, and instead just went with a basic Miller Lite – which fortunately they did have. Shane went his usual liquor route, rum & diet. Also available.

Meanwhile, Ted asked for the darkest beer they had in bottles. And was served a beer that literally said “dark” on the label.

Well, we have "dark" ... it's, um, dark ...

Well, we have “dark” … it’s, um, dark …

At least the marketing doesn’t lie on this one. After all the descriptions like “made with fresh cinnamon and vanilla with hints of peanut butter and coffee” that we’ve read on beer menus over the years (which, by the way, are complete lies – a beer like that one mentioned above sounds delicious, but really would come out tasting like lima beans and cigarette smoke. You know I’m right. And you’re all thinking of the one beer that duped you in the past. Don’t lie.) – it was a bit refreshing to just have one call it like it is.

Ted’s beer order also got the owners attention, and  – in true Ted fashion – made us a new friend for the evening. The owner – whose name is Joey, I presume – sat at the end of the bar the entire time we were there … but not in a creepy, “I’m-going-to-hover-over-my-employees-and-customers-until-they-think-I-might-be-a-stalker-that-follows-them-home” kind of way. It was more of a take-pride-in-your-establishment-and-truly-care-how-everyone’s-experience-is kind of thing. Every now and then throughout the course of the evening he would overhear part of a conversation and make a comment, or bellow over to ask us how our food was.

And he definitely knew his regulars, of which there were a few who wandered in over the course of the evening. My personal favorite was the guy who walked in, chatted with the owner for a second and barely had his coat off before the bartender opened a can of beer and set in on the bar in front of him.

Shane: Now that’s a regular.
Bartender: Yeah, I just hope as I open that beer he hasn’t changed his mind about his favorite beverage.
Me: Isn’t that the unspoken rule of being a regular, you aren’t allowed to switch without permission?

The bartender got our attention right away with the words “the cheese sticks are handmade.” Yes, we’re easy like that. So naturally Shane and I ordered them as an app – and we were not disappointed. They were delicious. You could definitely could tell they were made fresh, not just string cheese dipped in bread crumbs and frozen until time for deep frying.

Ted:I had no idea until this moment that that’s how cheese sticks are made.

See, that’s what happens when you hate cheese, people. Blasphemy.

There was one more there before I took this photo. Sir Grabby Hands strikes again.

There was one more there before I took this photo. Sir Grabby Hands strikes again.

So, since Joey’s is known for their burgers, of course that’s what we ordered. Yes, we follow the crowd well, thank you. And yes, there’s a reason why people say this about the place.

I got the mushroom Swiss burger with fries. Shane got the Joey burger – which is really the same as my burger but with added onions and two cheeses (Shane chose pepper jack and provolone) instead of one – and also which illicited a “good choice” from the owner at the end of the bar.I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that burger is named after him. Just a thought.

Two cheeses and a burger, please

Two cheeses and a burger, please

There's a burger under all that cheese. Really.

There’s a burger under all that cheese. Really.

Shane completed his order with six of the garlic parm dry rub wings – but only after Ted and I balked that a burger was really ALL the food he was going to order?? I mean, really? Who is this guy?

Very fancy for what basically amounts to tiny fried chicken.

Very fancy for what basically amounts to tiny fried chicken.

Truthfully Ted had every right to give Shane a hard time … after he ordered both a spicy cajun burger (no cheese, of course) AND a full pork chop dinner, which included rice and asparagus as well as a large chop. He could’ve added a second chop for only $4, but decided to hold off on that since … well … you know, he also ordered another entire meal.

Me: so that means one of those meals is technically your appetizer, then, right?

Our bartender just laughed.

All the burgers were delicious. They are definitely freshly made, cooked to order on a nice slightly toasted bun. The “medium” 10 oz patty was still slightly pink inside, which of course made Shane happier than, well, than most people should ever actually get about food. He was even making yummy noises. Usually that’s just Ted’s department.

Ted said that, for being advertised as a “cajun” burger, he did think his could’ve been seasoned a bit better – and that even that giant green hot pepper on the top of it didn’t help the heat much.

Two meals, straight up

Two meals, straight up

BTW, I had to ask WTF that pepper was, because a) you don’t typically see burgers with green coloring on top, and b) from my seat it kind of looked like a large slice of green cheese. Which being that Ted hates cheese – and also that green cheese is, well, disgusting, I was a little intrigued. And was rather relieved to hear it was just a pepper.

But in any case, he said it was still tasty. He actually ended up taking the last few bites home in a box (at the owner’s insistence, who kept referring to it as “tomorrow’s breakfast”) because, well, ordering a pork chop dinner as an appetizer will kind of have that effect, I guess.

Although he did mention on the way home that if he had just had the dinner and not the burger, he would probably still be hungry. So I guess it all worked out then.

The pork chop looks a little less impressive without all the side dishes.

The pork chop looks a little less impressive without all the side dishes.

Meanwhile, the girl in the group barely got through the burger. The only thing that allowed me to eat the last few bites of meat was removing it from the bun. Which kind of killed me, actually, because, well by now you know about my love for carbs.

Burger, bun on

Burger, bun on

And chalk up another week of cheap eats for our group, too – mine and Shane’s tab for this one was only $42. Now granted we didn’t have quite as much food as last week’s meat-and-fried-food-extravaganza at Caddyshack, and I think we each had one less drink than last week, too … but still. Less money spent on food and drinks means more money left over for shoes and purses.

Yes, this is how females think.

All in all, Joey’s Kendal Tavern is a great little neighborhood place. And the best testament to that is that it seems like the actual neighborhood definitely frequents the place.But it wasn’t like everyone turned their attention on the regulars and kicked us new people to the curb when they arrived, either. We never felt out of place, or like we were the outsiders who weren’t invited to the party. In fact, I think once we admitted we had never been in before the owner made it his personal mission to make sure we were having a good time, enjoying our food, and planning to return at some point. Even when we left – it was clearly a group of regulars all sitting at the bar as we were walking out, and they all said “goodbye” and “hope to see you again” as we left – like we’d all been friends for years and not just sharing a space at the bar for a few hours.

Now can you just move the place into our actual neighborhood instead?

Ted

Ted

Steph (and "that guy" apparently)

Steph (and “that guy” apparently)

Shaney happy

Shaney happy

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Steph

Drinks:  It’s a little strange to find a place that doesn’t have draft anything, but I guess when you’re the oldest bar around maybe that just means you’ve been there since before carbonation was invented? In any case, at least they had other beers and hard alcohol, so we definitely weren’t disappointed.
Food: The owner said to us at one point that “you don’t leave my place hungry.” No sir, you definitely do not. Especially if you order a burger.
Service: Excellent. We may have lucked out with the combination of sitting at the bar and being almost the only people in place … but even so, I would venture to guess this is the type of place where no one goes unnoticed or unhelped for long.
Overall: Oh Kendal’s, if only you weren’t over a half hour away. For real. Who can build a homey dive bar with good food right down the street from our house?

Next Pick: Amanda

Joey's Kendal Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato