WTGW 3/26/19: Hillside Tavern, Mogodore

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THE WHERE (we went)

Hey we’re back on the east side again! At another place that’s literally a house in the middle of some farmlands. Cool.

Word of warning: beware of typing the address into Google Maps, as it will first drop you off on Waterloo Road and tell you to make a u-turn straight into the parking lot of a shopping center equipped with not much more than a Giant Eagle and a Johnny J’s … neither of which seemed to be places we wished to dine at this evening.

It only took the work of five educated adults on iPhones to realize that you instead have to keep driving east out to nearly Rt 44. We’re still not really sure how we outsmarted Siri, GoogleMaps and Waze to come to this conclusion, but I feel as though it should be deserving of some kind of a medal.

Our reward instead was The Hillside Tavern, which is quite literally a house, only instead of a front yard it’s a parking lot you just kind of turn into and find a spot.

We’ve been to worse places, trust me.

THE WHAT (we ordered)

I think Jason and Shane would actually say that the real reward lay inside the Hillside Tavern, in the form of the largest beer we think we’ve ever been allowed to order on a WTGW outing.

That’s 34oz of Bud Lite for the drinking. When the server asked what size he wanted, Jason jokingly asked if there was anything larger than 16 oz. And I think we all thought she was joking right back when she replied that there was.

Much like Shane’s answer to the great “that must be sweet” question of 2014 … nope.

Ted’s IPA that only came in 16oz looks like a baby in comparison.

And to think the one on the left is a “tall” in some establishments

In the world of “everything here is supersized,” Cassi and I each got actual soda glasses of tequila and soda. Barware be damned!

It took Ted about 3.7 seconds to glance at the menu and announce that he’s getting the mini corn dogs. OK then.

Less decisively, Shane and I got nachos, while Cassi and Jason got loaded fries. They also followed Ted’s lead on the mini corn dogs. I mean, he was quickly sold so that must mean something, right?

Apparently that half a keg of Bud Lite went to Jason’s head rather quickly, because when Ted’s order arrives at the table, Jason grabs one, saying they look really good and he just has to try one. Like totally forgot his order would be about about two minutes later.

We’ve never claimed to be patient, folks.

We also never officially claimed to prefer warm cheese on our nachos, but I’d like to make that statement right now. Because we learned firsthand that cold nacho cheese is not preferrable in any sense. Our app was pretty much like a big basket of tortilla chips with some cold cheese and a little bit of sour cream. Oh, and “bacon” that seemed more like chip chopped ham than the crispy bacon pieces I believe we were both envisioning. Like, you do know you need to cook that first before serving it, right?

It seemed like something drunk Steph might’ve concocted in her college apartment at about 3AM after stupidly passing on a trip to Taco Bell on the way home from the bar.

We chose poorly.

Oh, and the loaded fries? Yeah, samsies, just replace the chips with fries.

Oh the variety. I can hardly stand it.

So they’re big on originality here. Noted.

Next time, mini corn dogs for everyone. They were the clear winner of the appetizer party this evening.

Who would’ve guessed little breaded hot dogs would make us so happy?

Moving on.

Cassi was the odd man out this evening, ordering a steak Philly.

There’s meat under all that cheese. I hope.

The rest of us went with wings.

I got 12 of the garlic parm. They were, um, interesting.

Let’ just say that I’ve never seen a garlic parm sauce to be quite so creamy. Or white.

*insert obvious off-color joke here*

But really, WTF? Part of me wants to ask how this was created, while part of me, well, just tried not to think about it and actually eat my meal.

I also got chips. They were like someone poured them out of a bag but them added seasoning to them so it was like they “made” them in house. Eh, OK.

But if you put seasoning on them, it makes them “fancy”

I mean, at least they could’ve given me a tub of store bought French Onion dip to go along with them.

Shane got 12 of the “dry rub” which, when asked, was explained that it’s kind of a spicy Cajun. Which begs the question, why not just put that on the menu then?

Details.

Ted got hot garlic.

Jason got honey mustard, but only six.

The guys also decided that they needed coney dogs to go along with their wings. Because if it’s not wings and burgers with this group, it may as well be wings and hot dogs covered in chili, right?

I mean clearly it’s been established already that it’s a night for variety.

Shane and Jason each got two, and Ted – full on mini corn dogs, apparently – just decided on one.

So when the wings arrive and they’re quite literally on the jumbo side, Ted announces that he’s really glad he didn’t opt for two coney dogs. And Jason was glad he only got six wings, instead of 12.

Shane: Me too. Oh … wait.

Let’s just say that the size of the wings may have been their best quality. The taste was just OK. Shane and I – who had already decided to split our wing orders because we were both indecisive on the same flavors – kind of ended up with a Goldilocks situation, as my wings didn’t seem to have enough flavor, while Shane’s had too much seasoning.

We finally determined that if we just took them home and mixed them together we’d probably get the best result. I think I ate five wings total between the two flavors, and Shane maybe had about the same amount, as did Ted. If not less – because, well, coney dogs.

And did we mention the size of the wings?

THE WHO (we saw)

Our server wasn’t exactly winning our hearts and friendships this evening with her briskness and – well – non-masked annoyance to our questions. She seemed irritated that we didn’t know our order five minutes after we sat down in a place we’ve never been to before. Sorry, our bad. Forgive us for being new and not harnessing our telepathic abilities to pre-read the menu that you don’t have available on a website anywhere. I mean, it’s only 2019. No need to put yourself out there on a platform that most people use to advertise their businesses these days. Cool.

It didn’t help that the food was delivered in batches as it was cooked – so she was probably none too thrilled to have to continue returning to our table when the little “food’s up” bell rang every two minutes for a good stretch of time. Again, sorry. We like food.

But her demeanor was contradicted by a group of guys standing outside who greeted us with a hello and welcome, as well as a guy behind the bar (an owner, perhaps? he seemed to know everyone there) who gave us the same greeting as we were choosing our table, and also yelled a goodbye and thanks for coming in when we left. So that’s a bit of a confusing vibe for a newbie.

I mean, lets all understand – Hillside Tavern is definitely a locals kind of place. The crowd dress code was almost exclusively hoodies and work boots, and I can imagine it being the type of place that boasts a parking lot full of snowmobiles rather than shutting the doors when we get hit with a foot of northeast Ohio snow. But part of that is due to location. I mean, it’s almost like your neighbor throwing a big party. And charging you for food and drinks.

Which brings me to …

THE HOW (much we paid)

Seems a little pricey for essentially wings and beer, no? Well, and the coney dogs, and the college frat party nacho app. But still.

I think we can all agree that the best deal of the night was the giant 34oz beers for only … wait, what’s that? $5 each?!? OK, that’s a steal.

I mean, knowing now the size of the wings and the deliciousness of the mini corn dogs, I bet we could come back and just get those two things, plus about six giant beers, and walk out spending less than we did this evening.

THE WHY (they may not see us again)

So the food was OK, the atmosphere the same (minus the crabby waitress) – but to go that far again for food that we had to take home to doctor up may not be in our cards. Plus GoogleMaps may be on to us now and never let us find the place again.

But, I mean, those $5 giant beers.

The best solution may be to make this a stop for a last call drink whenever we end up out this way for another pick. It’s like a reward for our travels.

Picked by: Shane
Next pick: Cassi

When your table is near the men’s room and we start doing photos while you’re inside. Sorry.

Steph

Ted

Jason

Cassi

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WTGW 12/19/18: Bison Street Burgers and Brews, Massillon

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Our trek to Bison Street Burgers and Brews began by driving for about a year and a half to get to the place, between Ted’s directionally challenged map advisor and the fact that this is pretty much the other side of the world from our house. The final leg of the drive also involved meandering through some residential neighborhoods – thanks for the holiday light displays, people of Massillon – so of course we were totally convinced that this week’s pick would actually end up being at someone’s house.

I joke because it’s happened before. Ok, well not really, but this certainly isn’t the first time we’ve had these thoughts.

Finally we’re here! And it’s not a house!  Yeah, no, instead it’s some giant building that looks like it should be a commercial trucking company or pool chemical distributor.

Welcoming. Where have you brought us, Ted?

There’s also some sort of strange maze of concrete pilons all over the parking lot. Seems an odd choice for a place that advertises “brews” in the name, no? Is this their version of sobriety testing before you can head home?

If not for the giant banner on the side of the building announcing “Now open to the public!” we may have second guessed this choice, cut our losses, and tried to find our way back to civilization before searching out some food and drinks.

Thankfully we all had our adventurous pants on this evening, and ventured ahead into the mysterious giant building.

And – spoiler alert – we were not at all sorry. This place is definitely a hidden gem. Emphasis on hidden.

The inside of Bison St made us all think perhaps the place used to be a private club of some sort – you know, Eagles, Moose, Lions, whatever animal seemed to be a good name for a club that popped up in pretty much every small town in Ohio at one time or another. It’s a giant room, with a decent sized bar at one side and tables throughout. Also, lighting. Which sounds strange to say, but given the darkness we’ve eaten in over the past few weeks it was actually kind of nice to be able to see our food for a change.

Given the name of the place, of course we all ordered beers with our meals. I had just gotten home from a quick overnight work trip to NYC – which of course involved personal challenges to close down bars that stay open until 4AM – so alcohol was about the furthest thing from my mind. And then naturally I ordered a Christmas Ale. Logical, I know.

Our server came over and let us know that all of the apps were half off. I can’t remember if this was because it was Wednesday or because we were there during happy hour, though, so don’t quote me on being able to get this special ever again. Did I mention I didn’t get much sleep the night before?

There were two apps that weren’t part of the special – the loaded fries, and something called The Titan, which turned out to be a giant one pound pretzel. We saw one of these delivered to a nearby table before we placed our orders, and we can vouch that it is aptly named. But we didn’t order it – because, hello, there were a wealth of other items to choose from that sounded just as delicious but were part of whatever special we were told about.

Frugality is a strong point of this group. You should know this by now.

Speaking of things you should know by now, Cassi and Jason ordered the fried pickles as their appetizer. Ted also decided to get his own order as well.

Where did they find such skinny spears?

Shane and I opted for the cream cheese poppers, because they sounded delicious. And also the onion rings, because after the special they were $2. I mean, seriously.

Why don’t we order these more often?

Definitely not from the same “small veggie” garden that the pickles are grown in

Perhaps because we’ve been slacking on our normal menu inquisition of our dear servers, we decided to try our luck on that line of questioning again this time. To which we were greeted with the time-honored and oh-so-helpful answer of “everything.”

Uh oh. We’ve been down this road before.

But then she mentioned that the place is known for its burgers – which, come on, you’re not really going out on a limb with that one considering it’s in. the. name. of. the. establishment. – and also the gourmet grilled cheeses. OK, now we’re getting somewhere.

Then she went on to say that the flatbreads are also good. And that the Cowboy burger is the best seller.

OK, we get it. Just stop before you creatively manage to reinforce your initial statement about everything on the menu being worth ordering.

Have we mentioned The Titan yet? Yeah, well, so did she. We’re beginning to be sorry we asked.

Hey, Ted managed to pick one of the few items on the menu that the server didn’t point out! He chose the strip steak with mashed potatoes, claiming he had been having recent cravings for a good steak.

Obviously he was also having cravings for just food in general, since Ted literally didn’t speak to the group the entire time he was eating. It was like we weren’t even there. At one point I think the other four of us actually stopped eating so that we could just watch him clean up every morsel of food on any plate that was in front of him.

It wasn’t until the server arrived to take the plates from the table that he seemed to look up and realize he was among a group and could rejoin us again.

So clearly he hated it.

I’m surprised I was able to get a photo of this before it disappeared

I kid. He said that it was delicious, and actually it was one of the better steaks he’s had in some time. The meat wasn’t overly seasoned, but because it was cooked to perfection it had a ton of flavor.

It wasn’t until he paid it the highest compliment of saying he liked it “as much, if not a lot more” than that infamous steak special at the Dougout that Shane’s ears perked up.

I already see a revisit, just so Shane can order this entree and try it for himself.

Jason got the aforementioned Cowboy Burger, and also an order of Coney dogs. The server explained – probably as she realized Jason was essentially ordering two full meals just for himself – that the Coney dogs weren’t anything to sneeze at, the order was actually two large-ish dogs and a full order of fries. So, yeah, a crapload of food.

But hey, he still went for it. Because when have statements like these really ever stopped us? It’s more like a challenge.

And clearly she doesn’t read this blog.

Plus Cassi stepped up to say that she would eat some of the fries. This is how marriages succeed, people.

The one stipulation was that she needed to be able to get a side of beer cheese to dip the fries in. And while what showed up wasn’t quite the swimming pool’s worth of melted goodness that arrived on the table at that place in Barberton, it was definitely close.

Maybe it’s a good thing Ted never looked up long enough to see this giant bowl of cheese?

The Coney dogs turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. They definitely looked better than they tasted – which seems to be an oxymoron of a statement all on its own, being that Coney dogs are made to look like a bit of a hot mess on a bun – so I guess what you can read into that is that we were all far more excited to see them arrive on the table than Jason was to eat all of them. Jason said they weren’t horrible, per se, but mainly that the chili was too sweet.

Proof that looks can be deceiving

I mean, he still he still ate everything, though, so take that as you will. He just thought maybe the value was more at a $3 level instead of the $5 they charged.

Yes, this is the level we’ve hit, folks. You know you’re pro when you can play The Price is Right with menu items.

Lest you think fries with cheese sauce were Cassi’s only source of nourishment for the evening, she also got the half pesto flatbread and six spicy garlic boneless wings. And it only took about a bite and a half of each one before she said she wished she had nixed the flatbread and just gotten a double order of wings. The wings were small, but the flavor was outstanding … while the flatbread was the exact opposite of both of those things

But at least it’s pretty?

I think Cassi wished this was one of those never ending baskets

Because I apparently wasn’t paying attention during the part of the evening when we realized that the server was going to be not helpful in the least when it came to decision making, I pushed my luck and inquired which was better: the Philly grilled cheese or the Ranch burger made with Bison meat.

I bet you already can’t guess how influential this was to my decision.

So I chose the burger … at which point Shane says “hey, you know what? we always get burgers when we go out. maybe you should try something new.” … so I crossed back over into the grilled cheese camp.  And vowed to Shane that if my meal sucked I was holding him personally responsible.

This is also how marriages succeed. We should totally teach a course.

What was that we said about looks being deceiving?

I’m glad to say Shane was allowed to live, because my meal didn’t suck … but it also wasn’t so great that I didn’t kind of still half wish I’d ordered the burger instead. It’s like the Sliding Doors of food orders. The sandwich was just OK. It was made from braised short rib – which the server did tell me going into the order, so I wasn’t expecting processed Philly steak like other sandwiches. Maybe that’s why I had higher expectations. And, I mean, it tasted good … but it just wasn’t at the top of the list of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

Maybe it was the sourdough bread, which usually I love but in this case just didn’t seem to go with the sandwich.

Thumbs way up on the fries, though. I got the steak fries (compared to the rest of the table’s fresh cut) and was not disappointed there.

Shane got the Flaming Hot Burger, which he wasted no time in exclaiming how amazing it was. Per the previous few paragraphs, I wasted no time in not pretending that didn’t annoy me at least a little bit.

I like that they hide the hot peppers under a sheet of cheese. Tricky.

Mine and Shane’s bill was $35, which got us two appetizers, two Bud lights for Shane, one Christmas ale for me (which was the Beer of the Month, so cheaper than usual), and two full meals – of which I ended up taking half of my sandwich home, probably thanks to the two apps worth of fried stuff we started out the meal enjoying. Not too shabby at all.

Plus the place had a cool atmosphere on the inside – and despite the fact that the server wasn’t the best at giving solid recommendations, the service was great. I mean, it’s better when the server can’t decide what to recommend because she honestly loves everything they make, and not because she doesn’t care or hasn’t been there long enough to have really even opened a menu.

I could definitely see us making a return visit to Bison St. Especially after we noticed on our way out that there seems to be a fairly large covered patio area outside, so it will be interesting to see if they have bands there, or just make it into a cool outdoor area for the summer. It only it weren’t over the river and through the woods away from our house … but at least in the summer it stays light out longer, so maybe it won’t feel like midnight before we even make it into the concrete-hazard-laden parking lot. Can y’all leave the Christmas lights up for us?

Picked by: Ted

Ted

Shane, decked out in his holiday finest

Steph

Jason

Cassi – up for wings, down for flatbreads