WTGW 3/1/17: REVISIT – Kevin O’Bryan’s, Akron

Standard

Where did February go? For reals, the shortest month of the year was apparently the one we tried to cram everything into – except WTGW outings, obviously. Between travel, work commitments and unexpected illness (thanks, flu germs, for not skipping our house this year), we ended up with zero Wednesdays that we were able to venture out for food and drinks.

WTF. That’s just unacceptable.

But we’re back now. Rejoice.

And we decided to change up the rules a little bit now that we’re back on a (hopefully) more consistent schedule. Since we’re pretty much back to a Party of Three these days (sidebar:  congrats to Amanda and Jerrid on the birth of their son – who missed being born on a Wednesday by about two hours) – and it’s been getting a little more difficult to find new places that don’t take us an hour to get to, we decided our options now can include a return to any of the diverse catalog of places we’ve already visited once before. Maybe we liked it then, maybe we didn’t. But after three+ years of doing this, it’s only fair we do a few revisits and see how things have changed, no?

(Well, it’s our blog and our Wednesday fun, so honestly you all don’t get a say in the matter, but hopefully that made you feel more included.)

We’ll still have new places in the mix, too, so all two or three of you who look to us for your latest dining out inspirations won’t be disappointed. Chill.

Anyway, all of that was just a long-winded introduction as to why we went back to neighborhood bar Kevin O’Bryan’s for this week’s WTGW pick.

The last time we visited KOB was November 2015. We had a much larger group that time – seven in total, which is apparently the magic number for Ted to forget he was even along for the ride that time around. He said the place looked vaguely familiar when we walked in, but it also kind of resembled about five other places we’ve been to over the years also.

Story of our lives, people.

KOB had been my pick the first time around, and while we were slightly discouraged by the exterior and the somewhat sketchy vibe of the area, we were thrilled with what we found inside. The food was fantastic. They had a good beer list, and specials for certain members of our group who enjoy the finer things in life like PBR in a can. They let us start moving tables around to accommodate our somewhat loud and uncontrollable group. The server was attentive and fun, and never made us feel like the new people who tried to wreck the regular’s fun.

In a nutshell, we always said we’d return, but – like so many places we’ve been to over the years – somehow just never quite got around to it.

Until now. Yay!

First of all, I’m going to answer the question I’m sure everyone is asking themselves after re-reading the post on the initial visit to KOB …

Yes, the last working pay phone in the world – or at least this part of Ohio – is still across the street, in front of the ever-popular Family Dollar.

It’s a thing of beauty. Well, not really. More like puzzlement and a teeny bit sketch.

You can all breathe easier now.

Ted even joked that he was going to run over and call us from it. But seeing as neither Shane or I answer unfamiliar numbers on our phones, that little experiment would just result in Ted watching us not answer his call from across the street as we sat next to the front windows of the bar. And that’s just mean.

But someday, who knows, we just may have enough drinks at KOB to decide it’s time to make prank calls from a pay phone with a number no one in a million years would recognize.

Tonight was, sadly, not that night. Give it time. I mean, it only took us just over a year to return. Let’s not rush things.

KOB was semi-busy when we arrived, a few of the other tables had groups at them (including one with two small children – who knew a dive bar could be family-friendly at 7PM on a random Wednesday?) and the bar seats were also fairly full. The bartender is also the server for all of the tables, which can sometimes be horrible but in this case she was good and attentive. Not quite as personable as our server from our last visit, but we couldn’t complain.

Ted got the Founders Ale. It was as dark in the glass as the atmosphere inside KOB. (side note, if you can’t see very well, reading the menu may be a challenge in this place. Unless you own a miner’s hat.) So there’s that. Shane got Bud Light. Thus proving that even though we haven’t been out for WTGW for a few weeks he hasn’t changed his preferences at all. I had to be different and go with a vanilla vodka and coke. Wasn’t feeling the beer route tonight.

Shane ordered fried green tomatoes as an app. So I guess this is going to be a thing now? Sorry calamari, guess you’ve been replaced.

Do fried vegetables still count as being healthier?

Also noted, this was the only app on our table this evening. WTF has happened to us? From a tablefull of pre-dinner food to one lonely appetizer? This is strange and unpredictable behavior. We really are out of practice.

Wednesday nights are still steak special nights at KOB, which means you can get a 10oz steak with fries and a vegetable for $8.99. We all know that sometimes those specials can go either way – I mean, it’s not like you expect a giant, perfectly cooked ribeye to show up on your plate for under $10, but there have been times they tell you it’s an 8 or 10oz steak and then it arrives looking about the size of a jelly bean and about five times more well done than the typical confines of “medium” or “medium rare.”

This time, though, both Shane and Ted were happy with their choices. The steaks came out looking decent – Shane got his medium and Ted got medium well, which he said was “still moist even with the more well-done-ness” (is that a word?). The fries were good, and as a bonus Shane got to use the wooden temperature marker from his steak as a vehicle to get said fries into his mouth.

The man refuses to use chopsticks, but give him what essentially equates to one half of a pair and he turns it into a spear. Nice.

Who needs forks?

Meat and fries, take two

Ted added a salad with his meal – missing the customary mound of cheese that most people would find welcoming, of course – while Shane passed on that option. Because the fried vegetable app trumps fresh chopped veggies in a bowl apparently.

That would probably taste better if it still had the cheese that was supposed to be on it.

Ironically Ted had also gotten the steak special on our last visit, although looking back it seems they have changed the mashed potatoes to fries, the green beans to broccoli, and eliminated the hot pepper on top of the steak. Maybe Ted’s complaint that the pepper was hotter than his hot garlic wings had something to do with that?

Keeping with the meat theme of the night, I got the steak wrap. The server mentioned it was new on the menu (so new, in fact, that you won’t find it on the wraps section of their online menu – but really, it does exist) and she eats it like every other day. Which usually when a server admits they like something enough to eat it that often I expect the meal to be pretty spectacular … but this one was just OK. I blame that rating purely on the overly crunchy bacon pieces that I didn’t realize I would find dumped into the middle of the wrap. It was like someone spilled half a bottle of Bac-O’s into my sandwich, which – for me anyway – was a very unwelcome surprise. And which also proves I really should start reading menu descriptions more carefully, I guess. But the steak itself and the tortilla were good. I tried picking out most of the bacon … but, well, see the comment above about needing a miner’s hat to see very well inside the place, and you can figure out just how well that worked for me.

Meat, in a different form and with chips. We’re so original

Also the “kettle chips” that were supposed to come with the wrap really turned out to be just regular chips poured from a bag of Lay’s — but whatever. I’m not picky when it comes to snack foods. I mean, if only there was a tub of plastic chip dip to go along with them, I might’ve been a bit happier – but we can’t all be a classy as The Lockview, right?

Now there’s a place we need to revisit. If only just to see if this famed store-bought-tub-of-chip-dip-delivered-to-your-table-straight-from-the-convenience-store-down-the-street still exists.

Anyway, overall we couldn’t complain about our revisit to Kevin O’Bryan’s. And we would definitely return again. I know, we said that already, like, over a year ago – but truly, this is one of those neighborhood bar & grills that you’re glad you know about and can easily get to when you’re in that part of town. The menu was a little different from what we remembered at our last visit, and the atmosphere seemed a little more subdued this time around, but still definitely a good pick to keep on the “hey, isn’t that place on this side of town – we should go back” list. And yes, we really do have one of those lists. Sort of.

Picked by: Shane
Originally picked by: Steph
Next pick: Steph

Ted

Shane

Steph

Kevin O'Bryan's Irish Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 3/9/16: The Pit Stop Bar & Grille, Sagamore Hills

Standard

Don’t you just love when you walk into a place and it smells so fantastic, and that makes you really hungry? And then you get all excited about ordering that particular thing that smells so good you can almost taste it, because it smells so delicious? And then you look over the menu, and realize the thing you’re hungry for – the thing you smell … actually isn’t even available there, because it’s really just the scent wafting in from the carry out place next door.

Well rats.

Such is the case with The Pit Stop Bar & Grille, which is unfortunately situated right next to a Gionino’s Pizzeria, a local carry-out chain that just happens to be one of our favorites.

Perhaps they should maybe think about offering a delivery service next door. Just a thought.

Although, side note, we would not recommend that same service from the place located on the opposite side of The Pit Stop, a little convenience store with what looks to be handmade lettering on the roadside sign out front. We noted that the sign touts “free air.” Right after lottery, fresh bait and tackle, and beer. So, if you ever need a place to, well, breathe … keep that one in mind?

Anyway.

The inside of The Pit Stop is much larger than it appears to be from the outside. I’m not sure how far back the building actually goes, but the “Patio” sign above the long hallway heading toward the kitchen infers perhaps pretty far.

The vastness of the space also inferred that perhaps they should have more than one person working the tables on the floor. However, the evening of our WTGW visit the bartender was apparently pulling double duty as the one-and-only server – which immediately garnered our sympathy, especially since Wednesdays are trivia nights at Pit Stop and the place seemed particularly busy. That being said, I will say that she handled our table well – although there was most certainly a briskness about her, as well as an underlying and unspoken sense of “I’m asking you now what you want because you may not see me again for a while” every time she approached our table. Clearly she was not in the mood for sarcasm or dawdling. Noted.

So for that reason, and since there was no beer list on the menu or table, I tried desperately to scan the taps behind the bar from our table as everyone else was ordering drinks … and then ended up giving up and just ordering a Miller Lite. Sometimes ease of ordering trumps taste.

Also known as, every bar experience in my college days.

Ted asked if they had any dark beers, and was told that they had Guinness and something called Big Butt. Which of course Ted, lover of all drinks with weird names, agreed to sample. BTW, regardless of the server’s attitude, there’s something about their arrival at the table with the words “here’s your sample of Big Butt” that can’t help but make you giggle.

Yes, we’re 15. This has already been established.

Although after that sample we never had the pleasure of hearing those words again, as Ted opted for the Guinness as his actual drink. So I guess Ted and Sir Mix A Lot will never be besties. Because clearly Ted does NOT like Big Butt … and he cannot lie.

Sorry, I had to.

Amanda rounded out the beer orders with a Blue Moon. Shane, who must’ve gotten his fill of beer with the Brick Oven Brew Pub last week, went back to his usual Rum & Diet. Jerrid went the Jack & Coke route – although at one point he made Ted taste his drink because he was convinced the coke was non-existent. According to Ted, it was there, just very subtle.

And we found out at the end of the evening when the bills came that apparently that was because the bartender was pouring Jerrid doubles. Which are apparently $4.50/shot. So for $9 a drink, it definitely should be primarily alcohol. Again, noted.

The server’s return to take food orders pretty much mirrored the level of urgency of her arrival for our drink orders, so we didn’t mess around there. Also since Ted started off the ordering chain – and must’ve been particularly intimidated by the bartender/server, because he kind of just ordered all of his food at once, instead of separating it into appetizers and then meals. So there’s that. Thanks, overachiever.

But I guess if we had ordered apps, Ted’s would’ve been six of the Caribbean Jerk Wings, mine and Shane’s would’ve been the Reuben Quesadilla, and Jerrid and Amanda’s would’ve been the popcorn shrimp. But really since everything came out at once they all just ended up being large side dishes to our main meals. Yay for tables full of food!

Jerrid got the philly cheese steak sandwich with lug nuts – which is “Pit Stop speak” for tater tots. I see what you did there. Clever. Regardless, they were good.

Steak and potatoes, in a different form

Steak and potatoes, in a different form

Amanda tried to order the rueben sandwich as a wrap, and was told the quesadilla was pretty much the same thing (um, well, no, but whatever) so she just went with that. Again, the “don’t stall or argue” persona of our bartender was in full effect.

Can we consider this prep for St Patrick's Day?

Can we consider this prep for St Patrick’s Day?

Since Shane and I also had Amanda’s meal as our “app side,” we all agreed that the Rueben quesadilla was just OK. It’s an interesting twist on a sandwich or the egg rolls we’ve tried other places … but nothing so overwhelmingly wonderful that we have to have it again sometime soon.

Ted got the beer battered cod sandwich, and also opted for the lug nuts on the side. Which he later said were by far the best part of his meal. Hmmm. He also said that it’s pretty difficult to screw up fried fish … but somehow they managed to. Ouch.

When someone asks why we all have clogged arteries, I'm pointing to this picture of fried-ness

When someone asks why we all have clogged arteries, I’m pointing to this picture of fried-ness

Wings from the Carribbean

Wings from the Carribbean

I got six of the Cajun dry rub wings and a basket of fries. I’ll second Ted’s opinion that the side – in my case the fries – was by far the best part of the meal. I mean, the wings were OK – they had decent flavor, but they were just “eh.”

Wings, southern style

Wings, southern style

Shane got 18 wings – 12 garlic and six Caribbean Jerk dry rub. Now, if you’ve been following our adventures, then you know by now that when “I’m hungry and will eat this table if food doesn’t arrive soon” Shane starts offering up the remnants of his meal, that means he wasn’t happy with it. And such was the case with his garlic wings -of all things! – because, well, he claimed they didn’t have enough garlic taste to them. I guess after so many times being served wings with actual chunks of garlic residing on top of them, just getting wings cooked in a garlic sauce was more than a slight disappointment.

Although, just for reference, if you’ll go back to last week’s dinner, Shane was the one complaining that the pizza had too much garlic on it. He’s like the Goldilocks of garlic tastings.

How can they be garlic wings if there are no visible traces of garlic?

How can they be garlic wings if there are no visible traces of garlic?

In any case, this week he left four dead soldiers that no one would claim and he didn’t even take a box for. I actually tried one of the non-garlic garlic wings, and truthfully they didn’t have much flavor. He aslo wasn’t crazy about the carribbean jerk wings, but they were better than the garlic.

All in all, The Pit Stop earned a “thumbs medium” from the group – between the somewhat harsh/rushed service (not really her fault if they were just short staffed, but if that’s how it is all the time I’d be a little worried about the management skills of the owners), Jerrid’s extravagant prices for mixed drinks and the mediocre food, it’s just not a place I think we’ll head back to anytime soon. Also, having Trivia there that evening – something that should’ve at least deferred our attention from all of the factors above – actually didn’t make much of an impression on us either. Particularly since the guy hosting it kind of faded into the background noise of the bar in general instead of rallying the crowd. Maybe don’t quit your day job there mister.

(Sidebar: the lighting in this place was so especially awful – neon! bright spotlights! bar signs! – that I couldn’t do much to doctor up the pictures of us. So you get black & white instead. Let’s call it “artsy.”)

Jerrid

Jerrid

Shane

Shane

Ted

Ted

Amanda

Amanda

Steph

Steph

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Jerrid

Drinks: Is it so hard to put a beer list on a table? Related – is it so hard to tell someone when they’re about to be charged $9 for a Jack & Coke? Like maybe before they order their fourth one?
Food: Eh. Maybe we were set up for disappointment from the start with that delicious pizza smell. I’m telling you, that whole Gionino’s carry out idea has legs.
Service: Every order felt like part of the lightning round on a game show. So if you’re indecisive and can’t make a quick decision, this is not the place for you.
Overall: When the fries and tater tots are the highlights of a meal, it’s a pretty clear indication that we won’t be rushing to return.

Next Pick: Shane

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

Standard

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