WTGW 5/30/18: REVISIT – Caston & Main, Portage Lakes

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Thank you to whichever one of us decided we could exercise our option on revisits during our week to pick, as I didn’t have time to research a new place this week. In my defense, we’re coming off of a holiday weekend which included a Jimmy Buffett concert, and I tacked on an additional vacation day after that … so when your week starts on a Wednesday that feels like a Monday then you kind of forget what day of the week it really is. Oops.

You’ve all been there at some point, so let’s stop the judgement.

My laziness was apparently forgiven, as we ended up heading back to a place that we haven’t been in nearly two years, Caston & Main down in Portage Lakes. The two things we remembered most from that previous visit were the incredibly delicious raspberry mules that Shane ordered and that Ted and I eventually gave in and switched to after sampling Shane’s … and the “entertainment” we endured from a guy with a guitar and a sound system with levels meant to drown out anything from dinner conversations to televisions to the possibility of a helicopter landing in the middle of the dining room.

Imagine our surprise to learn that neither of those things exist any longer at Caston & Main. I’ll let you use your imagination to discern our feelings on this discovery.

It actually seems they’ve made several changes in our two year absence. Not really to the place itself – although we speculated that they were putting in a patio (and as of this posting that has been confirmed, so yay us for our intuition) – but inside it’s still the same set up of bar-to-the-left-of-you, dining-room-to-the-right-of-you as you walk in the door, and large tables perfect for groups like us that enjoy ordering an entire menu of food.

Our first discovery as we sat down was the realization that we could actually hear ourselves think, so apparently Wednesdays are no longer entertainment nights. God bless them for that decision. I have to believe we weren’t the only ones to file some sort of opinion on our attempts to hold a conversation amidst the decibel levels of a monster truck night rally.

Coming in a close second on the discovery list was when we found the novel-sized drink menu had been parred down to a more manageable short-story-ish selection. Which usually we wouldn’t applaud, but when taking the time to peruse it impedes on our ability to get alcohol served in a timely manner we tend to get a little bit bitter.

Maybe not as bitter as when we realized the beloved and much applauded raspberry mule didn’t make the cut, but whatever. They seem to now focus on more local craft beers, and just a few specialty cocktails. Cassi and I decided to try out the margarita mule that was on special, which ended up just being OK. By the end of the evening we both switched to a bottled pear cider that was far more delicious, not to mention less expensive.

Speaking of, Shane learned the hard way the age old lesson of “if there are no prices listed, it’s probably because you don’t want to know,” as the bill at the end of the evening revealed that the craft beers he had been enjoying turned out to be $9 each. That’s an unpleasant surprise. Especially when both of our meals were less than his $27 worth of cocktails.

Ouch.

While the drink menu has gotten smaller, the food menu seems to have expanded since our last visit. This made us happy, because, well, we like food – and more of it is never a bad thing with this group. In fact, we actually tried to convince our server that she should work on commission when it comes to serving our group, since we’re not only going to already order a stupid amount of food but we’re also pretty easy to sell when it comes to adding on more.

On thing that hasn’t changed in our absence is that Wednesdays are still 3 for $6 slider nights. Ted and Shane had tried them on our last visit and found them tasty, so they decided on getting them again this time around.

Shane also got the steak tacos, which inspired this exchange:

Shane: How many tacos come in the order?
Server: Three
Shane: Ok, good. I’ll take that. Three.
Me: Um, do you want one order of three, or three full orders?

I think the server thought I was crazy for clarifying this, but as anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, that one really could’ve gone either way.

Thankfully, it was only the one order of three tacos. And one order of the slider special.

The use of multiplication tables was involved in this order

Tiny sandwiches

I got the roast beef philly, with the chips and French onion dip as a side.

Points for presentation

And we got nachos for an app.

There seems to be way more nachos than toppings here, no?

So that covers one side of the table. I think by this point the server might’ve realized we were on to something with that whole commission thing.

Ted waited for me to tell him which sliders he had ordered last time, then went with the chicken salad, Rueben and BLT sliders. Times two, because you know one meal isn’t enough in this group. He also got chips and dip for an app.

You’re not seeing double

Anyone else think that’s a lot of dip for that amount of chips?

Cassi and Jason got pretzel bites as app.

Carb overload

After getting the server’s opinion on which was better, the crab BLT or the chorizo tacos, Cassi took her suggestion and ordered the crab BLT.

Hopefully its a good idea to trust the server

Jason ordered the invisible patty melt. Well, OK, that’s not really what it’s called, but that’s the name we gave to it when all of our food orders came out of the kitchen and his never appeared.

At least the server came over and admitted it was her fault, she “never does this” but somehow she had forgotten to put it in as part of the order, but that she let the kitchen know what had happened and it would only take a minute to come out.

Jason thought it was karma for making fun of the pimento cheese app as we were first reading the menu … and then ordering a burger featuring the same cheese on it. Touche. Meanwhile we all proceeded to make yummy noises while he was forced to just sit and watch us eat. Because we’re twelve.

Shane’s steak tacos were admittedly the best looking item on the table. I had been eyeing them up on the menu and almost ordered them, but made a last minute switch to the roast beef. I definitely was #foodjealous. Not to say that I didn’t like my sandwich –  it actually was really good, the peppers and cheese were a nice addition – but I wish it had been a tad hotter by the time it arrived at the table. Although considering Jason’s situation I guess I should just be glad it arrived at all. So there’s that.

Speaking of, it seems the long awaited patty melt didn’t turn out to particularly worth the extra anticipation, but Jason ate it anyway. I mean, by that point he was just extra hungry and probably would’ve eaten a grilled shoe if it was set in front of him.

We waited all that time for this?

He did end up getting a discount on the meal because of its tardiness to the table – not a full “I’m sorry this was my fault so it’s on the house” discount, but at least it was something.

I think Shane was hoping for a “we never printed the prices and therefore there was no way to tell that each of your drinks would be the same cost as a full meal” discount on our bill, but that never materialized either.

Overall, outside of sandwiches that don’t arrive on time and therefore might have been assembled with a little less love, the food is decent. Ted still gave a thumbs up to the sliders (rating them in order: BLT, chicken salad and Reuben), Cassi and I enjoyed our sandwiches, and Shane’s steak tacos were worthy of every bit of the food envy we all had. The apps were good – although they seemed to have a Goldilocks and the Three Bears thing going on with the accompanying dips (the pretzels had too many bites and not enough dip, the chips had too few chips and an overload of dip, the nachos had an abundance of tortilla chips with too few toppings). Our server was on our good side until she forgot about Jason. I mean, points for owning up to the mistake, albeit begrudgingly (does “I’m not sure how this happened, but I guess it was my fault” really count as an apology?) – but after that point she also seemed to avoid our table a bit more, as if the very sight of us brought up memories of a failed relationship. If only she’d avoided us long enough for Shane to save another $9 on that last drink …

Picked by: Steph
Originally picked by: Ted

Steph

Cassi

Jason

Ted, who could care less what anyone else thought of the place, he liked it

Shane, before the bill arrived

Shane, after seeing that empty glass cost him $9

 

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WTGW 4/4/18: Iron Grill, Akron

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This week I took a chance and picked a place in Shane’s self-professed neighborhood of Ellet. So of course we all crossed our fingers that there would be more than two items on the menu.

Are you sick of that joke yet? Shane sure is.

Despite the giant sign on the side of the main road advertising Iron Grill, the place is a bit challenging to find. We pulled into what we thought was the strip plaza that the sign was advertising, only to discover three other restaurants (that Shane of course instantly declared were “his” and he was picking if they had alcohol – so expect to see those here sometime soon if any of us can actually remember the names of them) … but no Iron Grill. OK. So we pulled back out onto the busy street across four lanes of traffic, only to look over and realize it was around the corner on the other side of the plaza, and that the parking lot could’ve led us there. Oh.

The Iron Grill is … interesting … on the inside. Let’s just say that you don’t usually expect to find chandeliers in an establishment situated at the end of a strip plaza. Or really in this part of town in general. I mean, just a few miles down the road there’s a bar with purple dollar store lamps on every table.

Choose wisely.

The four of us sat in the bar area at a high top meant for six – because, well, you know by now that we order a lot of food. And last week Shane had no place to put his arms, so we took the liberty of spreading out a little this time around.

The first thing that caught our attention (other than the fancy chandeliers) was the impressive list of interesting craft cocktails for only $7.50 each. Keep talking to us, Iron Grill. We’re listening.

And I say listening because reading was rather difficult in some instances, thanks to what appeared to be a low ink cartridge issue at the time of menu printing. Way to mess with people BEFORE they start consuming alcohol. Maybe trade in one of those big lighting fixtures for some new cartridges, no?

Speaking of the menu, can we all just agree that using paper on a clipboard is a trend that should be voted off the island please? It’s like the time we went to The Merchant years ago and the only sound at the table for like 10 minutes was the rustling of pages as we all flipped around furiously trying to figure out our orders. Where did you see that entrée? Flip over the third page … no, wait, that was my third page, yours weren’t in that same order … refer to the yellow paper … oh, you don’t have that one? well, you can borrow mine …

I mean, seriously. It’s like a game of paper Go Fish just to figure out your meal.

Anyway, back to cocktails. So Cassi and Shane ordered the Orange Fire cocktail, which included “house infused jalapeno tequila.” Hmm. Interesting. I got an Iron Grill Sangria, just out of sheer curiousity as to why you would put Jameson in sangria.

Ever the adventurer, Ted got an arrogant bastard beer.

The drinks took long enough to prepare that our server and her trainee shadow (otherwise known as “the person who follows our server around and never utters a word”) could come back over and get our orders before the first round even arrived. That’s highly inconvenient. Did we somehow make our way back to that Mason Jar place in Aurora? Do places not realize that the quicker you provide us with drinks, the more we’re likely to consume, and thus pay for? Unless you’re against making money – in which case perhaps you should take a hard look at your priorities – this seems to be a pretty common sense business model.

You’d also think that after taking half a light year to prepare the drinks, they would at least be correct. *sigh* I guess the universe had an inkling that I wouldn’t enjoy the taste of Jameson in my sangria after all, because my drink arrived as the same order that Cassi and Shane had placed. And because I had been slightly intrigued by that one as well – and also I didn’t want to wait another decade for the bartender to handcraft the correct drink – I just stuck with that one instead of pointing out the mistake.

And it wasn’t awful. I mean, I don’t have the original drink to compare it to, but I wasn’t displeased with this one at all either. We all agreed that our drinks were spicy, but good. Jalapeno infused tequila definitely has a kick to it. I mean, as one would expect.

They had calamari as an app, so of course Shane had to order it, especially after we were denied at the Stowaway a few weeks ago. And, well, we kind of felt like we were denied it here as well, since the dish that appeared in front of us only had about half the amount that one of us would consider an appropriate appetizer portion.

Um, excuse me, why can we still see the plate with a full order?

It looked and smelled great, but overall it was pretty disappointing. The sauce was the same red stuff that you get with an order of egg rolls from the local Chinese take out place.  The sausage mixed in with the calamari was a nice touch and added to the flavor (that’s what she said) but without it we agreed that the dish would’ve been just mediocre, and really nothing different than what we’ve seen other places. In retrospect, maybe it’s a good thing that we didn’t have that much of it after all.

Shane: I expected more of this place.

See what putting chandeliers in your establishment does? Raises the bar, people.

Cassi got the loaded chips, which took forever to come out of the kitchen (do they have the potatoes special delivered fresh from Idaho for every order?) but were well worth it once they finally hit the table.

If you order anything on the menu here, pick these

The chips were crunchy and the toppings added to the overall flavor without just taking over the dish. And unlike the calamari dish, that bowl was seemingly bottomless.

Ted got the hummus, after I declared that I finally managed to change my taste buds somehow and like hummus again after all these years.

Ted – maybe now I own’t get made fun of for ordering it.

Not likely.

So healthy. Is this allowed?

Another nice presentation with the hummus platter. The pita was super soft, like biting into a cloud. And again, far more food than the calamari. Just FYI. I mean, if you’re keeping score.

Hey, remember that time Ted and Shane ordered a steak special on a Wednesday night? No? I’m shocked, because I have to believe it happens at least once a month. Although I’m not sure why they even try anymore, since nothing will seemingly ever beat The Doug Out.

Yes, that is a challenge to all you restaurants out there. Just sayin.

Anyway, Iron Grill has an 8oz steak for $12 with two sides. Not as economical as many of their Wednesday specials … and seemingly not very filling, seeing as Ted was done with his in like two minutes flat. It’s like we all looked down at our own plates for a moment and then looked up and there was Ted setting down his knife and fork on a clean plate.

I think Ted ordered the St. Patrick’s Day special

They also didn’t have a very good selection for the sides to go with the steak. Ted picked brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes. Shane got fries, then shocked us all by ordering a side salad as his second option. What are these vegetables that you speak of arriving at our table in front of the guy who loves fried foods? This was new. But he pointed out that all of the other side options were either vegetables, other types or fries or something else potato based. Good point.

I’ll take “things you usually don’t see in front of Shane” for $1000 please

There’s some meat behind those fries. Honest.

Over on the not-dead-cow side of the table, Cassi and I opted for sandwiches. I got the Hot Italian (because that’s just fun to say), and Cassi got the Philly. Both came with fries.

The guys were immediately jealous when our meals arrived because it seemed like a lot more food on the plates than what their steaks and sides were.

We chose correctly

See, this fills a plate. And a belly.

My sandwich was good. Cassi didn’t seem quite as excited about her food, she only ate about half of half of her sandwich and took the rest home. I probably should’ve stopped eating at half of my sandwich, because I was crazy full after eating the entire thing – but it was so good that I didn’t want to put it down.

Word of wisdom, save yourself the extra $2 and just get the regular fries instead of the special “parmesan truffle fries.” I mean, call me crazy, but $2.00 seems a lot to pay for just a shake of parm cheese and some extra seasoning. I mean, for that price you can run to the local Aldi and get a whole container of cheese that you can just throw in your purse and add on your own. Because, let’s face it, it’s not like the wait staff was anywhere nearby to notice those kinds of shenanigans.

Which leads me to what was probably our biggest gripe about the Iron Grill … the service. Everyone on staff seemed to be moving in slow motion. It was like living in one of those stop action films where things get slowed down to a fraction of the pace for effect. We when the server wasn’t near the table they seemed to magically disappear into some mystic portal where they were oblivious to having tables to check on. Seriously, they were nowhere to be found. I mean, I get that our server was also training someone, but that seems to be the exact opposite of how you would want them to learn, no? Like hey, so you have these tables over here but make sure you hide out in the back when you aren’t specifically bringing something to one of them, so that they can’t find you if they need anything. Just don’t be in sight. Be stealthy like that.

Note taken, Iron Grill. With that philosophy, I’m guessing we won’t be in your sight again for a hot minute, either.

Picked by: Steph

Ted

Cassi

Shane

Steph