WTGW Special Edition – Second Annual Scrumptious Showdown 6/3/17

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OK, so you know how we often go into places and declare we’re ordering ALL THE FOOD because we’re so hungry? Or how many times the guys end up getting two full meals and an appetizer each, which prompts comments from me about the copious amounts of food we have at one table?

Well, I think we finally met our match.

A month or so ago I was contacted by one of the lovely marketing peeps at Aurora Farms Premium Outlets about our team from WTGW being food judges for their Second Annual Scrumptious Showdown – an event at the outdoor shopping center that invites various local food trucks to not only sell food to patrons but also be judged by a panel for the opportunity to win bragging rights and gift cards to Aurora Farms.

So of course we said yes – because, I mean, hello, have you met us? You want us to come out and eat stuff then tell you what we thought of it? Clearly we have no clue how that concept works.

Although I think we can all admit now that, while we know food, the concept we were a little clueless on was food judging. To say we were slightly unprepared for what we were getting ourselves into is like the astronauts of Apollo 13 telling Houston they have a problem. I mean, we obviously like food. But I don’t think in my whole life I have ever eaten so much in one 90 minute time span.

Must. Train. Better. Next. Time.

Anyway.

When we arrived on a beautiful, sunny Saturday we met not only our hosts from Aurora Farms, but also the rest of the judges. They had invited six judges total – all area food and event bloggers – and split us up into two sets of three for the judging so that all of us didn’t have to judge every category. Which at first we were like, wait, why, we got this. Uh, no. See above comment about ill-preparedness. Because about 45 minutes into the competition I realized the organizers were actually really smart people.

So our group had four categories to judge: best wrap, best vegetarian dish, best cold dessert, and best sweet treat. The other group had both the cold and sweet desserts along with us, and then “best between two buns,” which was sandwiches that weren’t wraps.

Everyone knows when you have a clipboard you’re official

At first I kinda thought we got the worse end of that deal – why do they get burgers and sandwiches while we get boring wraps? But in the end I think we lucked out, because not only were the wraps we tried far from boring, but also all of our trucks gave us so much food that we ended up filling several take home containers.

Seriously, So. Much. Food.

That’s right, back off, you ordinary people. Our gluttony will take over this table.

There were six entries in the wraps category alone. Six. Now, granted, it’s not like we had to eat a full wrap from each truck – but you’d be surprised how quickly a few bites of each flour tortilla filled sandwich can fill you up. Especially when what’s on the inside of those tortillas includes things like meats, cheeses (sorry, Ted) and even pasta. Um, OK.

So the six wraps we tried included a BBQ chicken mac & cheese wrap from Wrap It Up, a slow roasted beef and cheese wrap from Hatfield’s Goode Grub, a chicken wrap from Wholly Frijoles Mexican Street Food, an Open Faced Cuban wrap from Off the GRIDdle, Ahi Tuna Tacos from The Beachcomber Truck, and a gyro from Gyro George.

This is only my corner of the table

The three of us individually scored each item based not only on the taste, but also on things like the uniqueness and presentation. Hatfield’s scored the best on all of our sheets for the wraps – the flavor was out of this world, plus they were the only truck to actually send someone over to talk to us about the dish and how it was prepared, so that definitely scored them points for presentation. They ended up winning the category.

As far as other standouts, the mac and cheese burrito definitely got points for originality. And it should be noted that Ted The Cheese Hater’s first words were “well that cheese isn’t so awful,” which anyone who reads this blog regularly knows to be a compliment. This was also the first item we were presented with after we’d pretty much starved ourselves all morning to be ready for this event, so we had to remember to pace ourselves and not eat the entire thing at once. In the words of a wise person being interviewed by a TV station at a Browns tailgate (i.e.: me), “it’s a marathon not a sprint.”

Hmm, I want mac and cheese … no, I want a buffalo chicken wrap. Let’s put them together!

The Cuban got points for originality, but the meat was slightly dry. The chicken burrito was good, but lacked the uniqueness of some of the other wraps – if you’ve been to Chipotle, you’ve had this item. Ted liked the ahi tuna wrap … but Shane and I thought it lacked flavor. Although I do think mine was missing a lot of the pineapple-y sauce that Ted raved about, so there’s that. And the gyro was very tasty – but, again, it’s not that original (I mean, really, how can you change up a gyro?). But we did appreciate that he gave each of the three of us an entire gyro meal – a sandwich, cheesy fries and baklava – so you now that was going down as dinner later. Thanks, Gyro George. You may not have won the vote, but you won a special place in my stomach for that move.

In the vegetarian category we only had three entries – a stuffed mushroom served in a cute little mini martini glass from Robesto’s Catering, black bean tater tots with a dipping sauce from Off the GRIDdle, and a vegetarian taco from Wrap It Up. The guys were wowed by the mushroom – or maybe just the tiny doll sized martini glasses, it’s hard to say exactly, but they couldn’t stop raving about it. Meanwhile, I was more of a fan of the veggie taco. The sauce on it was so flavorful and a touch spicy without blowing your mouth up. We all thought the tots were super original – and also really good. Personally I would order those in any restaurant. So we were all across the board individually in our scoring, but after the votes were tabulated later it seemed the mushroom in the tiny glass took the prize.

Damn you boys. No more getting wowed by plastic ware. I mean, come on, I didn’t even take a picture of it so it couldn’t be THAT impressive. Sheesh.

So by now you’re probably hungry after reading all that – but we definitely weren’t after eating it. Which means we were absolutely thrilled to find out we still had two categories left to judge. Yay!

And of course it’s my favorite – desserts. Can we please do these FIRST next time? I mean, seriously. I need to leave more room for these things.

This pretty much describes my feeling about desserts

They split the desserts up into two categories: cold, and, well, basically not cold. Personally I think that was just a ploy to get us to walk around a bit more and try to work out a corner of our stomachs for all of the remaining food – but hey, they’ve been smart so far, so I didn’t question them on this either.

For cold desserts there was a turtle sundae from East Coast Custard, iced coffee from Floured Apron, and a cherry chunk custard from Stoddards‘.

I was a fan of the cherry custard – I thought it had good flavor, with just the right amount of chunks in it (that sounds way more disgusting that it meant to, really). A lot of the other judges seemed to like the sundae, but for me there were too many nuts involved. And yes, before you say it, the guys didn’t miss out on the opportunity to joke about that sentence once I made the mistake of letting it fall from my mouth.

But overall in that category it was the iced coffee that won. It was very good, and we did get a nice explanation from the owner about the type of coffee she uses and how it’s brewed. And I have to believe the pink flamingo straw played a big part into presentation.

It’s like having a drink with a friend

I mean, come on. How cute is that?

After we cleansed our palettes with cool treats, it was time for the final category of the day – sweet desserts. At which point the organizers said to us “OK, it’s time for the sweets category, let’s all head over to Jackpot Chicken for our first entry …” Wait, what now? Did you just say “desserts” and “chicken” in the same sentence? That’s like saying let’s go pick out some shoes from Pet Supplies Plus. Hmm.

Turns out they were serving warm apple empanadas. Which were somewhat tasty, although really sticky and difficult to eat until someone chased us down some plastic silverware. Negative points for presentation, thank you very much.

We all also had a laugh when one of the other judges from the other team approached the chicken truck to ask what the shells of the empanadas were mad of, since they were orange and that’s slightly unusual. The answer was this stellar and clearly well rehearsed marketing line: “I don’t know, we buy them frozen.” Genius. Maybe those people should be here showcasing their product instead of you. Just a thought.

After that it was two kinds of cupcakes, a buckeye cupcake from the Sweet Mobile Cupcakery, and a S’mores cupcake from Floured Apron.

Keep ’em coming

While they were both tasty and very well presented (including talks from the owners of both trucks about how the cupcakes are made and why they chose those particular flavors to have us judge), Floured Apron took the majority of the vote to win that category.

Get out the brooms, folks, because that’s a SWEEP for Floured Apron in desserts. Nice job, ladies.

In addition to our judging, people purchasing food from the trucks had the opportunity to place votes for the day’s “Fan Favorite” – which ended up going to Gyro George.

Overall it was a great event. Whoever put the order in for the weather must be better friends with Mother Nature than I am, because we had a picture perfect day to be walking around outside. And regardless of what our stomachs might have to say to us on the subject, we all thought it was fun to be judges. Even as we were unceremoniously stuffing those last bites of cupcake into our mouths, we still realized we were lucky to have been asked to be a part of this fun and interesting event.  Thank you to Aurora Farms for inviting us, and for trusting our sometimes super picky food tastes to judge these trucks and their amazing dishes. We’ll definitely do it again!

That being said, does that give us an excuse to keep ordering ALL THE FOOD so that we can stay “in shape” until next year? I mean, if we tell our doctors we’re “training” for something, that makes the weight we’re sure to gain acceptable, right? 

Do we look full? Because we are.

WTGW 9/9/15: Lager Head’s BBQ Smokehouse & Brewery, Medina

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So, let’s just start this by saying that I’m not sure if it’s a blessing or a punishment that the places we really, really like are no where near our house.

Honestly, though, Lager Head’s is pretty much nowhere near anything. Except horses, large open spaces, and country roads that for once aren’t named “Granger.” This place is seriously like a farmland oasis of BBQ and beer, rising up out of the pastures and cornfields. But very well worth the find.

As the full name suggests, Lager Head’s has their own brewery – so you can expect a seasonally rotating list of craft beers. But they also have bottles of the domestics like Miller Lite and Budweiser, as well as some ciders. And also a full bar and a decent list of seasonal specialty mixed drinks.

I’m sure you’re already seeing why we wish this place was, like, next door to us.

We sat in the bar (duh) and after taking a few minutes to digest the drink menus opted for pretty much going all over the board in our selections. Amanda played it safe and stuck to bottles of Woodchuck Cider. Ted tried a tall High Five IPA, later switching to a short glass of the Bed Head Red. Shane and I chose off of the specialty drink menu, with Shane taking the Southern Tea (described as their version of a Long Island Iced Tea), while I went with the Ginger Hive Five Shandy. My drink was interesting, you could definitely taste the ginger but then the bitters come in on the end and smack you.

Shane’s comment on his drink was just “it’s fucking delicious.”

When it comes in a mason jar, you know it means business

When it comes in a mason jar, you know it means business

Just be forewarned, though, that the prices are not on the drink menus. Ted ended up putting out $14 for that first tall beer, and each of our drinks were like $7. Not saying it wasn’t worth it, but just be warned.

Our server was outstanding. His name was Zach (although Shane swore he heard “Brandon” somehow?? Because we can all see how they’re similar). In any case, he was extremely knowledgeable. When we outed ourselves as virgins to the place, he made a point to tell us how much he loved it there, that it’s one of the best places he’s ever worked (and he said that he’s “worked in a lot of steakhouses”) and that the training program was wonderful. And it obviously worked, because anything we asked him about he had a great response for. You honestly have to love a server who can give honest recommendations and truly tell you about the food instead of just giving the blanket “yeah that’s really good” or “well if you like lettuce then you should probably order a salad” kind of responses.

Now, granted, I will say that Zach’s answer to a lot of “how is the …” questions did come in some form of “really good, one of the best I’ve ever had” – but we didn’t think he was just telling us that to get us to order it, he actually meant it. We actually asked him at one point what he didn’t like there because then we’d know honestly what not to order.

(And just FYI, that would be the fish, the cajun chicken pasta, and basically any salad – because, well, he prefers meat to vegetables if given the choice. So there’s that.)

For an appetizer we chose pretzel sticks. Somewhat hastily, I might add, because we were definitely disappointed later on when Zach was talking about different things on the menu and mentioned something called Boars Tails, which just sounded unique and, quite honestly, amazing. Damn us for gravitating to our safety net pretzel sticks. But at least they were tasty, so while we were disappointed at not trying something new, at least we did like what we got. The sauces were especially delicious. I liked the bier cheese the best, while Shane preferred the spicy mustard.

And this is why we’re married folks. Balance.

His & hers sauces

His & hers sauces

For meals, Ted continued his trend of trying out the “Wednesday special,” and opted for the half chicken dinner. He also got a sampler of the ribs. Because, well, when you’re in a BBQ place it’s almost expected I guess. He said everything was outstanding. And that the only part he couldn’t beleive was that he still watned to eat more after he was done, given what he had just ate.

BBQ heaven

BBQ heaven

Shane got the sampler platter, after hearing Zach describe it and asking him if it would be enough for him to just eat himself as a meal (it’s technically on the appetizer menu). It wasn’t, FYI, but that could be because – well – you’ve seen the caliber of food that man puts away on most WTGW outings. A little bit of ribs, brisket, pulled pork and chicken wings (so meat, with three sides of meat) actually is an appetizer in comparison to his usual order of a burger and wings. Or an entire cafeteria tray sized pizza. I mean, come on.

But just because it didn’t fill him up didn’t mean he left unhappy. He said it was all delicious. The wings in particular were very good, made so by the hot sauce they were bathed in. He actually saved those for last after sampling the sauce. Also, note that when we talk about wings, these are the actual wings of the chicken. Like the kind you usually see in fried chicken baskets. Buffalo got nothing on these babies.

Plate o' meat

Plate o’ meat

 

Amanda got the brisket sandwich, which was delicious but huge. She also loved the house BBQ sauce, found in bottles on the tables, and doused her sandwich in it. I got the lager melt, which was essentially Amanda’s sandwich but with mushrooms, onions and cheese sauce. It was good but messy – especially after I also added the house BBQ sauce. I had to eat it with a fork, since there was no way I could even begin to think about picking it up.

Are those gang signs in the background?

Are those gang signs in the background?

Look, no deep fried food!

Look, no deep fried food!

I tried to go a tad bit healthier and got the veggies as a side … which was immediately negated by also ordering a side of cornbread. Hey, corn = vegetable, right? Yeah, not in that form. I swear that small cake of cornbread weighed more than a full large mug of beer. Or a small dog.

So that backfired.

 

But, hey, speaking of cake – and since the guys were still hungry after their meals of meat – they actually took Zach up on his offer when he came over asking if anyone wanted dessert. Maybe regrettably so. Before I tell you what they ordered, I’m just going to put this here.

Seriously. It's like David and Goliath.

Seriously. It’s like David and Goliath.

What in the actual hell.

So, yeah, that would be a slice of the malted chocolate caramel pie on the right (ordered by Shane), dwarfed in the shadow of the GIGANTIC SLICE OF CARROT CAKE on the left (ordered by Ted). Now, we all know how much Ted loves carrot cake, evidenced by our visits to both Blue Rock and Gasoline Alley. And to be fair, Zach warned him that the slice was “massive.” But we were in no way prepared for the monstrosity that arrived on the table.

How many carrots were harmed in the making of this cake?

How many carrots were harmed in the making of this cake?

For real.

For real.

Even with Amanda and Shane helping – I only picked at he frosting since I don’t actually like carrot cake – Ted still had enough left over when he threw in the towel to warrant a take home box.

This is what Ted took home. You know, otherwise known as a normal sized slice of cake.

This is what Ted took home. You know, otherwise known as a normal sized slice of cake.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, it was all very good. Obviously. But wow. I mean, how big is the cake that that thing was born from? The size of our table? How do you even make something that gigantic? Is Andre the Giant back in the kitchen crafting baked goods for people his size? Seriously.

All in all, Lager Head’s is a must visit. And revisit. Ted hit a home run with this one, although it didn’t stop us from reminding him about the Gus’s Chalet Incident for the 8 billionth time. But you’ll have that with this group. I definitely see us going back, especially since we took special note of the Saturday prime rib special, which Zach noted is so popular that it usually sells out withing 30-45 minutes of offering (dinner specials on Saturdays begin at 5:00). I see an afternoon of college football capped off with prime rib dinners in our near future. If any of you all beat us to a table – and don’t let us join you as a thank you for the recommendation – we’re going to have words.

Ted

Ted

Amanda

Amanda

Steph

Steph

Shane, with the super rare Tebow Stamp of Approval

Shane, with the super rare Tebow Stamp of Approval

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Ted

Drinks:  Would like to try the beers, although they didn’t have anything on the fall seasonal list that I was crazy about. I had seen a few online that I thought I would like to try, but they didn’t have them on tap anymore. Stupid fall. 
Food:
Delicious. Although vegetarians probably should just keep driving. I mean, I saw salads on the menu – but who goes to a BBQ restaurant for salad? Really.
Service: Outstanding. It’s refreshing to meet a server who has actually sampled most of the menu, instead of just sight judging what they deliver on plates to other customers. And he had a personality to boot. I feel like we discovered a rarity here.
Overall: Yes. I don’t see myself as a “living in the extreme farmland country” kind of girl, but I kind of think if the house next door to this place came on the market, we might have to seriously consider buying it, just to be near this place every day.

Next Pick:  Shane

Lagerheads Smokehouse & Brewery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 4/1/15: Blue Rock Cafe, Hudson

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Full disclosure here, we were all a little bit worried about this week’s pick, being that 1) it fell on April Fool’s Day, 2) it was the one year anniversary of our ill-fated trip to the place that serves tarter sauce on toast and 3) it was once again Ted’s pick.

So you see how this had the possibility to end badly.

Luckily, our trip to the Blue Rock Cafe was about 1,386 times better than our last beginning of April adventure. Whew.

I had actually had this place my ever-evolving list of possibilities a while back, but then when I went to check them out again online prior to my week at bat I realized they had closed down for a few months for renovations. Thank you, internet. And then honestly I just kind of forgot about finding out when they would open again.

But then Ted was out with a friend picking something up at a shop in the same plaza, and lo-and-behold his nose led him straight to Blue Rock. Literally. Like he walked in and asked what it was that smelled so good.

And so here we are.

I’ll admit, my first impression upon walking in what that the place was just a touch on the edge of scary. Especially being that it was almost 7PM, and there was only one table of people eating, a few stragglers at the bar, and a guy singing cover tunes with a guitar and a mike on the bare stage. You know, all things that scream “this place is awesome.”

About this point in time I vaguely remembered that my previous search of this place online had revealed a website that catered (you see what I did there?) more toward the bands and other featured entertainment of the space than the actual menu. Hmm.

But not to fear, Ted’s nose was correct – the Blue Rock Cafe serves up some good food. We definitely left happy. And full. There’s little to complain about there for sure.

Our waiter for the evening was also the owner of the establishment, and was definitely very personable. Imagine that chatty coworker you know you all have who loves to tell you the story behind every poster on her wall, or sweater she wears, or lunch that she brings in … that’s this guy. Only not annoying. Maybe that’s because he’s also allowing you to consume alcohol while he talks, but whatevs.

Guess who had the mixed drink?

Guess who had the mixed drink?

So needless to say, the owner/waiter essentially picked out our meals for us that evening. Actually, in all honesty the four of us were pretty much set on ordering the exact same meal – one of this month’s specialty burgers – after this guy talked it up so much … but then Shane insisted that we should really try something else on the menu so we could get an overall feel for the place. OK, valid point. So Amanda and I obliged … and then Shane and Ted proceeded to order the same burger we were all salivating over. So basically he meant that just the girls needed to order something else. Thanks, honey.

In any case, that burger was the BB King burger. Which is infused with bacon. Yeah, you read that right. And I bet your reaction is about the same as ours was when we first heard it, which is that it sounds freaking delicious. It also doesn’t come with cheese (because why ruin the carnivorous theme you’ve already got going on there), so it’s really no wonder that Ted gravitated to it. And technically that alone should’ve made him the rightful owner of it under the “individuality clause” Shane tried to invoke, but whatever.

No cheese. On purpose

No cheese. On purpose

Anyway, needless to say, the boys were not disappointed. The burger was cooked perfectly for Shane, without him even having to order it that way. In fact, the owner explained to us that all of the burgers are actually seared on the griddle, so the outside is crispy while the inside is a bit more rare. Shane and Ted both agreed that this gave it lots of different flavors.

This = happy Shane

This = happy Shane

After being banished from the bacon burger ordering crew, Amanda instead turned to the other specialty burger this month, the Reuben burger. And while it was about 6,000 times messier than the burger the boys ordered, it was still just as good. It was basically a burger and a Reuben smashed onto one bun – so you can see how the messiness figures in. But she raved about the coleslaw, which the owner told us was homemade daily.

It's like two sandwiches in one

It’s like two sandwiches in one

I went with the Philly steak. I must have looked a bit indecisive – and like I was trying to be somewhat healthy – when I was ordering, because the owner tried to sell me on two different chicken options (a new tomato basil wrap he’s putting on the new menus that debut next week and then a grilled chicken sandwich with chipotle mayo). But after last week’s slab of potentially undercooked and definitely flavorless chicken I was still a little wary of that particular meat. Fortunately the Philly steak was a good choice. It’s made with chopped up ribeye steak, not glorified steak-ums, so it’s very flavorful and tender.

Seriously, those fries

Seriously, those fries

We all ended up with fries as our sides, following a story about some 90-year old who never takes food home from restaurants with her, but specifically asked for a to-go box just for the fries. I mean, really, how can you not try them after that sales pitch? Shane didn’t even need ketchup, they were so good. His comment was that they were “like an anorexic chip” – while Ted said it was “like a chip and a fry had a baby.”

You can probably see now why neither of them are in product marketing.

Because we clearly hadn’t had enough food yet, and because Ted had been voyeuristically salivating over it as it was being made in the kitchen behind us, the boys also decided to try the carrot cake that had been brought out on a platter and placed under a glass case on the bar a la the rose in Beauty and the Beast. And as you probably already guessed, there was a story behind this item as well: the owner said that the cook (his wife) makes it fresh daily, and people call ahead on the weekends to reserve slices of the cake because it goes so fast. Apparently there’s a secret limit on carrot cake production per venue in Hudson? Why not just make more cake? Right. In any case, they were glad they tried it and agreed that it was delicious. Maybe not call ahead reservation delicious, but still.

If it has carrots in it, it has to be healthy, right?

If it has carrots in it, it has to be healthy, right?

Dessert and alcohol, how can you go wrong?

Dessert and alcohol, how can you go wrong?

All in all, the Blue Rock is a winner in our books. While the decor and layout of the space is definitely geared toward concerts or open mic nights (which we had the joy of experiencing on our visit … we likened it to karaoke with instruments. And learned quickly that some are definitely better to endure than others) – and that seems to be what they’re getting known for in the area, as it definitely got busier as the night went on and we officially entered open mic hours – don’t let that deter you from trying out something on the menu. Because they definitely take pride in their creations. And you can tell the owner is extremely proud (and rightly so) of the space and the business he’s built there. I should actually say he and his family, as not only is the owner the bartender/waiter, but his wife cooks, and they both come up with recipes. And what we assumed to be their teen-aged daughters were camped out on couches at the back of the room watching TV and playing on their phones. Because I’m sure that’s a fun way to spend most evenings.

To that end, note that the Blue Rock is closed on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays – which I’m pretty sure is just a tactful way of saying that they need to actually enjoy their own home at least a few nights a week. Smart move.

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

Amanda

Amanda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Ted
Drinks:   Decent variety on draft and bottles. 
Food:
Menu is small but mighty. We’ll be interested to see how much it changes with the new items that the owner referenced. You can tell he definitely takes pride in his work and the items he comes up with.
Service: Good, although it definitely got a bit slower as we finished our meals and the place got busier. I’m hoping they have reinforcements for the busier times on weekends.
Overall: Definitely worth a return visit. If nothing else for the fries alone.

Next Pick: Shane

Blue Rock Cafe on Urbanspoon

WTGW 7/30/14: The Rail, Fairlawn

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So tonight’s WTGW Wednesday location was, once again, supposed to be a patio. With 10 cent wings. Sounds too good to be true, right?

Yeah, well, apparently Mother Nature thought so, too, because for about the millionth time this summer she gave us crap weather on a Wednesday night. Six other evenings of the week it’s sunny and 75 outside – but I would almost put money on the fact that every Wednesday from now until the snow starts flying it will be rainy and/or 60 degrees. Yay us!

I was meeting the group at the restaurant (our quick change rain location, not the place with the patio – we’ve learned by now to always have a place on standby), and I swear I drove through a freaking monsoon just to get there. By the time I got to Fairlawn I was a poster child for one of those “turn around, don’t drown” PSAs. And of course my umbrella was in the car I didn’t drive, although luckily my quick MacGuyver search of the car turned up Shane’s well-worn Carhart that’s been in the car since winter, and I was able to use that as a traveling shelter. Thanks honey. Ted apparently also played in the ginormous puddle outside the restaurant, because he proudly showed off where his jeans were soaked up to his knees. If I hadn’t been afraid of waterlogging my phone I would’ve grabbed a picture.

Did I mention Mother Nature hates us?

Anyway.

The Rail is located at the Summit Mall – but don’t let that deter you, since it’s not truly inside the mall, but instead part of a row of restaurants on the the mall’s south edge. Which is good because last I checked you can’t serve alcohol as part of the food court, can you? If that’s changed then I may need to make more visits to the mall.

Um, your cow is upside down. Just sayin'.

Um, your cow is upside down. Just sayin’.

The place is pretty tiny inside, so it did take a minute to get a table. Which worked out well for me, since I was busy floating my car down the highway for most of the wait time. And, no, Ted, just because we had to wait for a table here does not mean that FlipSide is back on the option list.

The specialty at The Rail is burgers – using Ohio grown meat and ingredients. They also serve local craft beers, as well as alcoholic milkshakes. Which we oddly enough didn’t order right away. Weird. Shane and I went for the Griffin hard cider, Amanda had the margarita (because it was on special for $3 on Wednesdays), and Ted had the Mt. Caramel Nut Brown Ale.

Shane was very excited about ordering fried green tomatoes as an appetizer, only to be told that they were out of them. Which is odd since the burger of the month features them on it, but whatevs. So instead we settled on the fried pretzel bites. Because we’ll pretty much eat anything with the word “fried” in it. I thought they were good, but I think Shane’s heart was set on the fried tomaotes and they just couldn’t live up to that.

Shane goes in for the first pretzel

Shane goes in for the first pretzel

Because we can’t just have one appetizer for a table of four, Ted ordered the chips and bacon salsa. Which was delicious. I’m really not sure how the bacon salsa differes from regular salsa, as I didn’t see any bacon actually in it – but who cares, it was yummy regardless.

Colorful. And tasty.

Colorful. And tasty.

For our meals, I went with the Naked Burger, since I usually just toss half the bun anyway – and it was great. I chose pepperjack cheese and mushrooms as my “embellishments” – and then added bacon, too, because, well who wouldn’t add bacon if asked?

A burger without a bun. And as you can see we put quite a dent in the chips and salsa.

A burger without a bun. And as you can see we put quite a dent in the chips and salsa.

Ted decided to be adventurous and build his own burger, with mushrooms, truffle butter and jalepeno peppers. He called it a completely experimental combination – especially since we had to ask what truffle butter was – but he said it worked out and he was happy with it.

Ted's creation

Ted’s creation

Amanda had the Greenwich Pig, which she proclaimed to be one of the best burgers she’d ever eaten. Shane had the 7th Heaven, and while he said it was good, he didn’t share Amanda’s love of it – although she claimed that was must because he’s loyal to his #1 pick, Muskateers. As you can see we take this ranking business very seriously.

Bleu cheese and bacon. I can see nothing wrong with this at all.

Bleu cheese and bacon. I can see nothing wrong with this at all.

After the disappointment of no fried green tomatoes, The Rail served up yet another black mark for Shane, in that the fries don’t come with the burger. We tried to explain that many places do it this way now so that you can just choose your side item, if you want one at all, instead of wasting the fries that would normally just automatically accompany the burger. He was the only one at the table truly bothered by this. But still ordered chips with his burger. So really that little experiment worked perfectly, honestly.

Shane's burger and chips combo

Shane’s burger and chips combo

After the meal we had dessert … in the form of alcoholic milkshakes.

Yes please

Yes please

Amanda and I both had the White Russian, and Ted had the Ohio Apple one. When the waitress came up tot he table she held Ted’s out with an approving look and asked who the “smartest person at the table” was who had ordered that one. One sip of his shake and we instantly wished we were as smart as he was. Not that our White Russians were bad – but the Apple one was 1,000 times better. Yum. And while at first we were off put by the small glass – it was actually the perfect amount.

Clearly we should've been cut off long before this last drink order

Clearly we should’ve been cut off long before this last drink order

Beershakes = awesome

Clearly we aren’t as excited about our alcohol.

I know we said his milkshake was the best, but this might be overkill

I know we said his milkshake was the best, but this might be overkill

He's like a cat

He’s like a cat

The service at The Rail was good. Our water wasn’t overly talkative or attentive – and maybe we were just so scarred from last week’s horrible waitress at JoJo’s, but he was still a good waiter. Although for the second week in a row I did get passed up when it came to drink reorders. I really have to to stop wearing my invisible mask out to dinner I guess.

Overall a good place for a burger if you’re in the area. Not sure I’d go out of my way to go back – especially if you also plan to do some drinking, since this is more of an eat and go place than a sit and watch a game with a beer kind of joint – but I could defiitely see us going back.

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Amanda
Drinks: Good selection of Ohio based craft beers and house-made specialty cocktails. And try the alcoholic apple milkshake. Trust us on this one.
Food: 
Good. The menu isn’t huge, and if you aren’t a fan of burgers then this probably won’t be at the top of your list. But since we are, we were definitely happy.
Service: Decent. It’s a small place and I think they have as many people working there as they do eating, so things definitely arrived in a timely fashion.
Overall: Since the places that make our “must revisit” list usually are more likely neighborhood bars where we can hang out and have a few drinks while watching a game, I don’t see us putting this at the top of the pile. But I definitely wouldn’t rule out stopping here again if we’re in the neighborhood and in search of a decent meal.

Next Pick: Ted

The Rail on Urbanspoon

Flashback Friday 11/8/13: Hoppin Frog Brewery, Akron

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So as promised from our last post, this week we rolled out a new adventure for the WTGW crew: Flashback Fridays. Basically, after 4.5 months of this crazy little experiment and no end to the list of new places we have yet to try, we realized that we kind of wanted to revisit some of the places that we discovered to be really good. Because really, finding these great places and never going back is like buying a Porsche and only walking into the garage to occasionally stare at it. So once a month we’ll take a poll, draw a name or spin a wheel (hey, we have to have a little fun with it, right?) and pick a place to make our triumphant return … and only hope that it wasn’t alcohol clouding our impression the first time around.

I have to say our second visit to the Hoppin Frog brewery in Akron once again did not disappoint. Although, note to self, I really need to start composing these posts the day after we visit places that serve beers in excess of 8% alcohol, because a lot of the details of our evening there are getting a little fuzzy in my mind. And we did this on a Wednesday the first time around? I’m not sure how we all made it to work the next day.

This place is still one of those little gems that you kind of feel like you need a secret password to enter. The first time Shane and I tried to find the place (over the summer), we must’ve driven past the access road about five times while swearing at Google Maps that it where it wanted us to turn didn’t actually exist. And the building itself was probably a self-storage unit or one of those weird suburban office complexes housing companies that need easy access to dock doors. Not exactly where you’d imagine stumbling upon a place that serves high caliber beer and a small but intriguing menu.

It’s definitely not a huge space – in fact, truth be told, we weren’t sure we would even get a table on a Friday night, since we remembered it being relatively busy on the Wednesday trip we’d made back in August. But as it happened we were able to score four seats at the bar, and were only there long enough to order and take a few sips out of our first 8oz glasses of beer (which, side note – are deceptively small looking) before we moved over to our actual table. And I never noticed a huge backup at the door, despite the place staying busy the entire time we were there. Which was, of course, until closing … because that’s how we roll on Friday nights! And, well, closing was only 11PM.

The menu had changed since the last time we were there, but still included a variety of sandwiches and small plates, as well as the side dish “quinoa salad” – which I’m still not exactly sure what that is, despite someone in our group ordering it both times we’ve been there. I think we made the waiter pronounce “quinoa” about 17 times, and yet I don’t think I could do it correctly now. And we made Ted be the guinea pig and actually order it. He ate all of it and is still alive, so I guess that says something.

But enough about that – let’s move on to the best thing ever that we discovered on this trip to Hoppin Frog …

BEERSHAKES.

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What in the holy hell.

I’m not sure who came up with this idea, but they’re a friggin genius. And I want them to guest bartend at our tailgates. Seriously – 8 oz of beer and 2 scoops of ice cream, all blended together into a glass of deliciousness. Yes, please.

Apparently these change by season, so of course we tried both the chocolate version (made with D.O.R.I.S. beer and chocolate ice cream) and the Christmas Ale version (made with Christmas Ale and pecan ice cream). The latter was the clear winner, as evidenced by this picture.

Double fisting

Amanda needs to learn to share

And probably also the reason this post has been a little difficult to compose, because I kind of forget what happened after we started drinking these. But I do remember we had a great time, and all agreed that we would go back.  On a weekend. With a driver/car service.

CAPSULE
Drink Menu: Excellent. Just be forewarned they only serve their own craft beers, so if you’re totally devoted to Miller Lite this may not be the place for you.
Food options: The menu is small but mighty. Stick to the sandwiches and you won’t be disappointed. And make someone order the quinoa salad … just because.
Service: Nice, knowledgeable and plenty of servers on hand for the crowd.
Overall: Two thumbs up. Definitely a keeper.

WTGW 10/16/13: Gasoline Alley, Bath

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OK, so admittedly I kinda suck at this whole posting thing. Two weeks in and I’m already almost a week late in talking about our last adventure. I mean, I know you were all at the edge of your seat in breathless anticipation and all.

Anyway.

Our latest WTGW takes us to Gasoline Alley in Bath. This is one of those places that if you didn’t know it existed, you would probably drive right past. I think we discovered it in an online search for “fall clambakes” – which I guess they have, although not on a night when we were there. All of the reviews warned that this place gets jam packed on any given night, and they definitely weren’t lying – although it probably has something to do with the place being about as big as a Winnebago inside. Seriously. These photos were taken from our table (which was right next to the front door):

Look to the right

Look to the right

And to the left

And to the left

And there you have it, you’ve pretty much seen the entire restaurant. I wish I was kidding. I think there are corner delis in NYC that are more spacious than this place. And less busy on the decorating spectrum. I have to believe the owners of GA went to the Applebee’s design school of “throw whatever you can find at the wall and see if it sticks … literally.” Wow.

On that same note, it’s worth mentioning that in order to get to the restroom you have to walk through the restaurant’s storage room. Which felt evasive. And just plain weird. Like “hey, can you pick me up another fork and some napkins on your way back from the restroom? Don’t forget to wash your hands …” Interesting.

But regardless, we still managed to have fun. Here Ted tries out the fried zucchini planks:

Ted missed his calling as a member of KISS

Ted missed his calling as a member of KISS

I’m not sure why Shane is backing away from what looks to be a delicious piece of bacon.

Seriously, who doesn't take bacon when it's offered to them?

Seriously, who doesn’t take bacon when it’s offered to them?

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And then we discovered the one thing at tiny little Gasoline Alley that is actually larger than life … the desserts. Holy hell.

No, that's not an entire cake on each plate.

No, that’s not an entire cake on each plate.

And of course while one slice of that chocolate monstrousity could’ve fed our entire table – or, hell, half the tiny restaurant – the boys had to order their own pieces. I went with the key lime, which was a disappointment only when compared to the chocolate slice of heaven on their plates.

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These two pictures say so much about each of our personalities

Note the beer with the cake. We’re classy like that.

Those two pictures honestly say so much about each of our personalities.

So probably fueled by 69 ounces of beer and about 10 pounds of sugar in that cake, the boys decided that the best way to finish off the entire experience would be to eat the last two saurkraut balls left over from our appetizer. Because nothing goes with cake and beer better than cold, deep fried kraut. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves when it comes to that experience.

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Uh huh.

So I think the lesson we learned here is that the food is decent, but the place is a little claustrophobic. And apparently makes you do crazy things. Next time we’ll call in a take out order. For cake.

CAPSULE
Picked by: Amanda
Drink selection:
 Eh. Nothing too impressive.
Food: Good. And I’m not just easily swayed by the desserts.
Service: OK.
Overall: Not sure we’ll go back, just because of the atmosphere. But I would definitely consider a takeout order.

Next pick – Ted

Gasoline Alley on Urbanspoon