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 3/8/17: 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 7/27/16: Caston & Main Brew Yard, Portage Lakes

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Sorry to desert you last week, but since it was a super nice night out we decided to call a patio audible and opt for a former pick that we knew had good food and a nice outdoor area to enjoy it. Because, well, summer only lasts so long around these parts, people. We have to do what we can to cherish it. Which last week meant a return visit to Delanie’s in Tallmadge, a place we’ve visited several times since our original pick … but oddly enough never tried out the patio. And let’s just say we were not disappointed.

I would’ve done a revisit post, but, well, I think we were all about halfway through our meals before I realized we hadn’t taken any photos. And I know that’s really what you all look at here anyway. Oops.

Anyway, that pushed Ted’s pick for a new spot off to this week, and he actually managed to find a place that neither me nor Shane had even heard of before. Impressive. Apparently it’s a somewhat newer place (opened last fall, I believe) in the Lakes area. In full disclosure, Ted had actually already visited Caston & Main once with another friend of his (yes, we are allowed to have other friends, shush) – but adamantly refused to try any of the food because he wanted to be able to legit pick it as a WTGW choice. Smart man.

I mean, this may seem like all fun and games here, but we do have to keep some rules. Come on.

This place is another of those that either has a deceptively small parking area, or only serves customers that don’t know the meaning of carpooling. Because looking at the packed lot you would think we would’ve had a long wait for a table … but yet when we walked inside there were about 6 or 7 large open tables. Hmm. My smart ass observation was that everyone there must’ve somehow managed to drive two cars to dinner that evening. Which is rather impressive.

So there’s a bar area when you first walk in, but neither Shane nor I really had a chance to actually see it, as Ted made a quick right and beelined it to a table in the dining area. Uh, that’s slightly out of character. Have you met us, Ted? We like bars. Dining rooms are boring. Remember Memories, anyone?

Yeah, we’re trying to forget, too.

But regardless, we knew Ted had been there before, and thought maybe he that made him privy to some special inside info about best seating practices. Yeah, no. I mean, the table was fine, the service was good, once the place started to fill in it never seemed overly packed … but, well, let’s just say that the entertainment provided in the main dining area left something to be desired. A lot of something. Like the ability to hold a regular conversation, think quietly, or ever hear some songs the same way again. I guess Wednesdays are “acoustic night” at Caston & Main … and this little one-man-band electric guitarist that was playing on this particular Wednesday was, well, perhaps deaf. And I’m not saying that so much to be mean as I am to imply that we think he really had no idea how loud his guitar playing actually was. So, like, you know when you go out to eat and there’s music, you kind of want it to be background to your conversation, right? Not this guy. It seemed like the louder everyone talked, the more he upped the volume on the amp, or made some weird screechy sounds with his guitar that I have to believe forced more than a few of my brain cells to spontaneously combust. It was like one of those “anything you can do I can do better” competitions. And the end result was something akin to attempting to maintain a dinner conversation while your neighbor hosts a tractor pull in the backyard. Because that’s way fun.

Needless to say, we relished the few breaks that were taken. And silently cursed Ted for not just picking a seat in the way opposite back corner of the bar.

So there’s that.

Another tip – be sure to bring your reading glasses. Because the beer list for this place is about four pages long. Which amounts to lots of words.

Conversely, the food list is only about two pages. We see your priorities, and we like them.

Always one for choosing a beer with a good name, Ted went with the Left Hand Wake Up Dead Nitro to start. Bravo. I pretty much just stuck my finger somewhere on the beer list and ended up with the Jackie O’s Razz Wheat. Which came in a really neat glass, so that was a plus.

If it has raspberry puree in it, does it make it healthy?

If it has raspberry puree in it, does it make it healthy?

Where's Amanda and her big purse when you need her?

Where’s Amanda and her big purse when you need her?

But Shane won the drink lottery with the Crabbie’s Raspberry Mule. We were a little worried about his order after our – or rather Ted’s – experience with a “mule” at Burntwood Tavern a few years ago. But looking back maybe Ted was just unfortunate enough to have had an awful bartender that evening who just threw some alcohol in a copper mug and called it a mule. Because by the end of this particular evening at C&M all three of us had switched to the drink Shane picked. Delicious.

Shane and I got the chips and dip as an app. Which did not come in a plastic Lawson’s container – boooo – but was equally as delicious. – yay! I have to think it’s one of the best we’ve tried. Shane said his only complaint was that it was a little too runny, but other than that the taste was great.

No, it didn't come served with a chip imprint in the middle of the dip. Thanks, Shane.

No, it didn’t come served with a chip imprint in the middle of the dip. Thanks, Shane.

Ted got the homemade guac with pita chips for an app. And immediately commented that no one was going to kiss him that night, as it definitely had a lot of onion in it. If it’s not garlic, it’s onion with this group. How we are all still allowed to eat in public is beyond me sometimes. Regardless, he said the guac was still good.

Props for presentation

Props for presentation

For dinner, I got the Hot Italian Sub, with a side salad. I know, I know, first fruit in my beer and now vegetables with my meal? I’m slipping here. But it was all very good. The sandwich was large, but not overwhelming (that’s what she said … oh come on, you know I couldn’t resist) and was toasted just enough to be warm but not at all burnt. Thumbs up.

I'm not sure this is allowed on Wednesdays

I’m not sure this is allowed on Wednesdays

You had me at "soft bread"

You had me at “soft bread”

The guys went with the Wednesday special, which is three sliders for $6. They have a list of options you can choose from, including reuben, BLT, chorizo sausage, meatball, veggie, and chicken salad – and you pick any three of those to make up your $6 meal. Between the two of them they sampled all of the options except one, and I’ll give you one guess as to which one that was that neither of them picked …

Hint: it starts with a “v” and ends with “that sounds too healthy.”

Instead they went all out on the meat train, with Shane ordering the rueben, meatball and chorizo, while Ted decided on the reuben, meatball and BLT. Sometimes they’re so similar it’s almost scary.

Reuben, meatball and BLT

Reuben, meatball and BLT

Reuben, meatball, and chorizo.

Reuben, meatball, and chorizo.

Ted said he liked the BLT slider the best. They both thought the rueben was good, but said it was almost too toasted – Shane claimed to have lost a layer of skin on the roof of his mouth from biting into the crispy bread. Keeping on our theme from last week, Shane also said the chorizo needs more flavor (have they made some changes to this type of meat that we should know about?), and the meatball kinda did too.

But of course they didn’t let that didn’t stop them from ordering more. I mean, come on. We all know by now that one dinner is not enough to fill up our boys.

So for the second round Shane switched out his chorizo for a BLT, and Ted switched out his reuben for a chicken salad.

Hold the phone here … um, what? Chicken salad? Seems an odd choice, right? I mean, aside from the whole bordering on healthy thing, that’s also just not a slider option you see often. Which may be why Ted ordered it. Regardless, he said it was sweeter than anticipated – thanks to raisins in the mix that surprised him – but probably should’ve had a different bread, as it was the same bread from the rueben one he was trying to avoid. Oops.

After round two, Ted was sticking with the BLT as the favorite. And after trying it for himself in that same round, Shane agreed that it was the definite winner. And that, folks, will conclude this week’s unofficial best slider competition.

All in all C&M is a cool little place, with a crapload of alcohol selections and small but definitely delicious menu. The drink list kind of reminded us of what we said about the food menu at Mike’s Place in Kent – you could come back every day for a month and still not try everything on the menu. But hey, we like options, so we’re cool with that. I will say that as far as service, once it got busy we did wait a bit longer for our server to get around to us – but that’s to be expected anywhere they only have one or two people covering the space. Overall I could see us going back.

Well, as long as that guitar guy isn’t there anyway. Can someone new please volunteer to be the entertainment? Maybe Shane could just do this strange little interpretive dance he was doing in the parking lot as we were leaving. We’ll call this “the Mexican Jumping Bean.” I’m just going to leave these right here …

Take one

Take one

Take two

Take two

Take three

Take three

Take four

Take four

Are you laughing yet?

Are you laughing yet?

Is it over?

Take seven billion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final verdict:
Two double thumbs up, and one one up/one down

Shane

Shane

Ted. The thumbs up is for the place and food. The thumbs down is for the music.

Ted. The thumbs up is for the place and food. The thumbs down is for the music.

Steph ... and creepy background Shane. At least he stopped jumping.

Steph … and creepy background Shane. At least he stopped jumping.

Picked by: Ted
Next pick: Shane