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

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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 The paint and wallpaper are a bit outdated, there’s definitely nothing fancy about the place, and it very much has the “old bar” stale smell.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

WTGW 2/3/16: Caddyshack Inn, Hinckley

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This week’s WTGW takes us into the previously unchartered territory of Hinckley. Which Shane then proclaimed on the drive over as “his” town, and said we better not pick any other place we see around. Which, just judging from the outside of this place as we drove up – and also the bar/grille/neon-signs-must’ve-been-on-sale building on the corner nearby (which ironically, will probably be Shane’s next pick, as he saw the name of it and claimed it was in close competition with his pick for this week) – we didn’t think we’d have to worry.

Now, after actually tasting the food at Caddyshack Inn, as well as talking to a few of the people there … well, I think we all agreed that he may actually be on to something here.

I’ll be honest, though, as we pulled up to Caddyshack I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to think that things felt just a tad bit on the side of sketch. First of all, the place looks like a house. Because apparently it’s Shane’s life goal to eat at every house-turned-bar establishment in NE Ohio. Lest we forget the place in Aurora that we walked into for ten minutes, couldn’t get served at, and left clouded in the smell of burger grease that to this day is probably still ingrained in our clothing. And the place in Portage Lakes that, while actually pretty awesome, was so far embedded in an actual neighborhood that we thought we were just going to a new friend’s house for dinner.

Seriously, one of these times we are going to end up walking into someone’s real house and sitting down at their kitchen table for dinner – because Shane “heard somewhere” that it was a great hometown dive bar.

Fortunately for us, this time around we still ended up at an actual establishment, and not sharing plates with someone’s Aunt Millie before reading bedtime stories to their children.

Anyway.

So for drinks, it was Miller Lites and Kentucky Bourbun Ales all around. Amanda actually started out drinking Miller Lite and then traded it in for a Bourbon Ale after the first round.

Wait, that beer isn't light enough to be a Miller Lite?!?

Wait, that beer isn’t light enough to be a Miller Lite?!?

Ted was quite proud, as he is anytime anyone chooses anything other than a light domestic beer.

Shane and I got the sampler platter for an appetizer. Because we like fried things. And we weren’t disappointed, because it turns out the sampler is really basically just a bunch of random fried things like cheese sticks, onion rings, chicken tenders, fried mushrooms and jalepeno poppers on one plate together. Come to think of it, maybe they should actually change the name on the menu to “plate of random fried things.” It has a nice ring to it.

Plate of random fried stuff

Plate of random fried stuff

Whatever, it was $7, and kind of a meal all in itself.

Speaking of $7, that was also the price of a dozen wings. Yay frugality!

Shane was the first to order his meal, but by the time we worked around the table and he heard everything else that was being ordered he changed his mind. Because servers love that, right? His original order was just 18 wings … but then after he heard the other guys ordering burgers he realized he would have major food envy if he didn’t get a chance to try one himself. So he scaled back his wing order to 12, and then also got the Dawg Burger … which is a double patty, full pound burger with bacon on it. Because heart health is apparently extremely overrated.

And so that’s how this arrived at the table.

Did you order a heart attack? Because it's here on this plate

Did you order a heart attack? Because it’s here on this plate

I’ll just go ahead and say it, because I know you all are thinking it: W. T. F.

Jerrid ordered the other double burger on the menu, the name of which eludes me now … but just know it was the other full pound burger, with different toppings. But still just as huge.

It looks so unassuming from this angle

It looks so unassuming from this angle

That’s what she said.

We should also point out that there was a huge discussion at our table about just how in the living holy hell they were going to attack those burgers … because, well, this clearly isn’t a job for the faint-hearted. Or anyone who thinks they are going to not be messy about it. Jerrid just went right in, didn’t cut his in half or anything, just picked up the burger whole and started eating his way through it. Shane meanwhile daintily cut his into quarters. But remember this is also the guy who eats his pizza with a knife and fork, so take that as you will I guess.

In any case, that’s the massive burger side of the table.

Oh, and PS: those giant burgers were only like $8.95 each. Just let that sink in for a bit – as I put this picture here yet again.

I think that burger will eat you if you're not careful with it

I think that burger will eat you if you’re not careful with it

OK, moving on.

Jerrid and Amanda also shared 12 wings – six garlic parm and six Kentucky bourbon – as an app. Amanda ordered the black & blue steak wrap for her meal. Which I don’t think had quite a full pound of steak inside of it, but was probably close. 

It's like a whole steak in a little blanket

It’s like a whole steak in a little blanket

Oh good, chunks of garlic. Vampires be gone

Oh good, chunks of garlic. Vampires be gone

Ted got a pound of mussels as an app, then 12 wings (Kentucky bourbon and “just plain hot,” as he called them). And also one of the single patty, half pound burgers.

This is the most healthy thing on our table

This is the most healthy thing on our table

The single actually looks smaller than the bun. Weird

The single actually looks smaller than the bun. Weird

I think this might’ve been the point in the ordering process where our server openly laughed at the insane amount of food five people thought they might possibly be able to eat. And suggested pulling over another table to help hold it.

I got the cheeseburger wrap, mainly because it came with chips and a french onion dip. I think we were all waiting to see if it arrived in a plastic container from the gas station down the road, ala the Lockview.

This is like the healthy version of that other burger. Which isn't saying a whole lot.

This is like the healthy version of that other burger. Which isn’t saying a whole lot.

But alas, no, it was actually homemade. And actually really good. Amanda also got the chips and dip with her meal, and commented that it was the closest to our “gold standard” in house-made chip dips, the stuff we used to get at our old hangout Slim & Jumbo’s in Garrettsville. Yes, we have a rating system on chip dips. Just like our group has a top five on pretty much everything else in this world. These things really shouldn’t surprise you at this point.

So, yeah, if you put all of those photos above together … you can see that our server had more than enough reason to laugh at us when we ordered all of it. Because clearly she knew what was in store for us. It must be like initiation for her when new people come in and think that they are “hungry enough” to finish all of that. Lesson learned.

Well, maybe. Shane eventually surrendered his draft beer and switched to rum and diet because he was getting so full on his burger that he figured that would help to “save stomach space.” Of course I benefited from that by taking the rest of his beer when the first mixed drink came. Thanks honey.

Although I think he regretted his choice as soon as he took the first sip of said drink … and realized it was pretty much just all rum. I joked that they knew he was saving space so they were trying to help by taking out the carbonation.

Ted meanwhile was still giggling about the ridiculousness of specifying diet pop in a drink when we had about four million calories of food sitting in front of us.

Touche.

Ted finished his burger, although his single burger was tiny in comparison to Jerrid’s and Shane’s doubles. Jerrid also got the clean plate award. Shane meanwhile left just under a very-neatly-cut quarter of his on his plate. Who is this guy? Please tell me moderately healthy Shane is not making a return.

Everyone said the wings were really good. And they were big, too – for the insanely low price of $7/dozen, you’d expect them to be smaller, but they were actually decent sized. Amanda and Jerrid were big fans of the Kentucky bourbon ones, but Ted rated the hot sauce better in his book. Although he really only somewhat sampled the hot wings, and then ended up taking most of them home. Since, well, let’s be honest, he already had about three full meals before he got to that item on his personal menu.

One third of Ted's meal

One third of Ted’s meal

Shane also took his wings home. Because, well, giant burger. It was strange to see the guys leaving with doggy bags and not the girls this time around.

So, after all was said and done in this evening, I feel it’s necessary to mention that mine and Shane’s final tab, for the two of us, was $47. Total. To recap, that’s for a huge appetizer, a giant double burger with chips, a wrap with chips, a dozen wings, five miller lite drafts and three tall rum and diets – which were potent enough that Shane had to use the elementary school method of “carrying the one” on the paper when doing math on the final tab before we left.

I’m not sure what kind of alternate cheap dive bar universe we stumbled into here, but we may just never leave. For real.

Especially when we discovered that the Caddyshack Inn also hosts karaoke on Friday and Saturday nights – and that there was a small possibility that the bartenders working those evenings might let “Shane Newton” stand actually ON the bar while drunkenly belting out Toby Keith’s “I Love This Bar.” In fact, our server/bartender – who we absolutely loved, and who was fantastic at both her job and keeping up with our high level of sarcastic requests and comments – actually recommended that we come back in two weeks for karaoke.

Us (since she had already told us she doesn’t work weekends): Why, will you be here that night?
Her: Well, if THAT’S happening then I definitely will be

Yes.

How many more visits until we can become regulars? Because I think we may have just found our new life’s goal. Just sayin.

Shane (aka Popeye)

Shane (aka Popeye)

Bromance

Bromance

Jerrid

Jerrid

Amanda

Amanda

Ted

Ted

Steph

Steph

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Shane

Drinks:  I think the Windsor Pub may have a rival for amount of rum that can fit in one tall glass while still calling it a mixed drink. 
Food:
We definitely learned our lesson about ordering appetizers and meals here. Pick one or the other. But regardless you won’t be disappointed.
Service: You know how much we enjoy servers with a sense of humor, and this was no exception. And for manning both the bar and the floor tables, she was exceptional.
Overall: It may be a good thing this place isn’t closer to us, because WTGW may just turn into Caddyshack Everynight. And we would then either be 400 lbs, or die of heart attacks within a month. But it may be worth it.

Next Pick: Steph

WTGW 11/11/15: Kevin O’Bryan’s, Akron

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So in contrast to last week, when it was the smaller than normal group of three (just me, Shane and Ted) … this week we had a larger than normal group of seven, with a few special guests and friends who wanted to join us to check out this particular spot. Apparently we’ve latched onto the Goldilocks and the Three Bears scale of dining groups. Maybe next week we’ll hit “just right?”

Kevin O’Bryan’s is a place that’s been on my radar for a little while now, but for some reason I just never pulled the trigger on actually picking it. Maybe because when you zoom out on the google map, the area of town is just a tad bit on the side of shady. I mean, not that that’s necessarily stopped us from visiting places in the past (Papa Don‘s, anyone?) … but let’s just say that as we approached the place – which turned out to be a non-descript block building with few windows across from a Family Dollar which we realized later had one of the world’s last working pay phones out front – I was only slightly nervous about what we were getting ourselves into.

Although everyone else tried to make me feel better by pointing out that there was another pub on the opposite corner of the street that seemed to be almost a carbon copy (from the outside anyway), so we could probably just hop back and forth if my place sucked. Thanks, guys.

But I’m happy to report that we had absolutely nothing to be worried about. This place is definitely a hidden gem. And we already can’t wait to go back.

Our server in particular was outstanding. You have to love someone who basically just lets you walk in and start pushing the tables around to however you want in order to accommodate your big group. I mean, there weren’t a ton of other people in the bar, and I’ll admit we can be kind of pushy as a group in general sometimes … but still. It was nice of him to not approach us with a “WTF do you think you’re doing there, new people I’ve never seen before in my life?” attitude.

He also took note of Shane’s Cleveland hoodie and commented that he could use Shane’s help to basically push out another group of not-Cleveland fans that were planning to watch the game there this coming weekend.  In his words “so, they’re Steelers fans, and I mean, I can’t kick them out all together … because, let’s face it, I still want their money … but I just don’t want them to have this great of a table. I’d rather you guys – Cleveland fans – had it.”

Ah, rivalry.

The beer list on the table was outdated, although the server mentioned that the new one was on his computer at home. Because that helps us not at all – unless we’re road tripping to go pick it up – but whatever. I noticed the tap for McKensie’s Cider at the bar and asked if they had the seasonal reserve – which they did – so I went with that, as did Amanda.

Although in true us fashion, that lasted two rounds and then we ran out the keg. It’s like they see us coming.

The server brought over another cider to try after that – I think maybe it was also from McKenzie’s(?), and I know he specifically said it was something with chamomile in it (he said he had to write the name down before he brought me the sample – “I’m usually good remembering this stuff but even I had to write it down, the name is jacked.”) So of course I liked it, but now have no idea now what the name of it actually was. Except the chamomile part. And that just makes me confused, like is it tea or is it cider? I mean, really. It wasn’t awful – to be honest, it tasted kind of like the seasonal reserve, minus the cinnamon and nutmeg. But note to companies – how about we stop trying to have 50 flavors that are all just OK and instead focus on making five or six that are really, amazingly good? Just a thought.

Speaking of really, amazingly good alcoholic beverages, Jerrid started the night drinking what is probably the exact opposite of that … Bud Light. Well, at least, anyway, until he mentioned wanting to do shots and the server recommended the “PB&J” – which is basically just a shot of Jameson (“J”) served along side a tall boy can of PBR (“PB”). For $6.50.

Shane: So really that’s a $6 shot and a $.50 can of beer then?

Note to anyone going out with our group: sometimes it’s easier to just not admit you’re a fan of certain beers, lest you be ridiculed until your dying day about them.

So since Kevin O’Bryan’s is known for it’s burgers (their website touts “Best Burgers in Akron!”), that’s what most of the table ended up getting. Although honestly, we had to admit the breadth and variety of the menu was a bit surprising to us. For a place that looks like a little dive bar on the outside, they really offer some interesting foods – not just your typical wings, frozen burger patties and random chicken sandwich selections. I mean, how many other bars serve fried green tomatoes as an app? (keeping in mind we’re in Ohio here, not anywhere near the southern U.S.)  Or buffalo calamari? Or a burger with pimento cheese and remoulade? Exactly.

But in any case, back to the burgers. So when I asked about the whole “Best in Akron” label on the website, the server told me that that was, in fact, the case – in his words, the only place that might compare to them is Swenson’s. Which I admittedly have heard of and driven past several times, but have never actually tried.

Server: You’ve never been to Swenson’s? Do you not live around here?
Me: No, we live in Cuyahoga Falls.
Server: Then how is it possible you’ve never been to Swenson’s? They’re, like, famous around here. You found us but you haven’t been there?
Me: But Swenson’s doesn’t serve alcohol.
Server: Point taken. Yeah, we’re definitely better than them then.

I like him.

Shane meanwhile took that opportunity to stir up the great “Burger Wellness Scale Interrogation” that we seem to go through at, well, every place we even think about ordering burgers. I’m beginning to think he should just create and carry some sort of a photographic reference that he can point each server to when describing to the level of pinkness he would like his burger to contain. Because in over two years, we still have yet to reach a universal similarity to the words “rare,” “medium rare,” and “somewhat rare.”

The struggle is real, y’all.

Amanda and I kept up our twinning routine and ordered the exact same entrees – the blue cheese burger with an added topping of sauteed mushrooms, and tater tots on the side. And we were not disappointed.

Can I have some of your tots?

Can I have some of your tots?

Not to be outdone, Shane and Lou also went the twinsies route and got the Livie Burger (the one with the pimento cheese referenced above) and fried green tomatoes as a side. They were also very satisfied with their choices.

Shane also got an order of wings – because, well, Shane. He chose the Irish Dew sauce, which is a house specialty. I only somewhat overheard the conversation about what it was made of (I clearly skipped the class toward my journalism degree called “paying attention when people talk”) but I do know it involved boiling down Tullamore Dew whisky as a base, and then mixing it with spices. In any case, Shane thought it was excellent.

Burgers and wings. The WTGW staples.

Burgers and wings. The WTGW staples.

Ted also got wings – because, again, that’s how the boys of WTGW roll – but he went with the hot garlic. Which he said kind of missed the mark on the whole “hot” part. He also got the Wednesday Special, a strip steak with potatoes and fried green beans.

That looks like a real meal.

That looks like a real meal.

The steak comes with a hot pepper on top of it … and you know of course Ted ate it. He didn’t regret it quite as much as the time he ate the pepper out of Shane’s drink at Tim Owen’s Traveler’s Tavern a few weeks ago … but it was definitely close. You know, like when you eat all the cookies you were supposed to take to your company holiday party, so now you don’t have anything to take with you and your stomach is really upset with you … but the cookies were super delicious, so it was actually kind of worth it. That level of regret.

Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.

He later asked the server what kind of pepper it was, and was told it was just a fried banana pepper. Which apparently had been farmed on the surface of the sun, according to Ted’s reaction. When Ted told the server that the pepper was hotter than his entire batch of hot garlic wings, the server’s reaction was “well, I guess that means we need to step those wings up a notch then, thanks for letting me know.”

That’s what we’re here for, folks. Saving the world from bad and/or wrongly labeled foods, one entree at a time.

Jerrid ordered a burger with tater tots, and the full appetizer order of the fried green tomatoes instead of just the side. He kept trying to get everyone at the table to try the fried green tomatoes – and in particular the sauce they came with. There’s only so many times you can hear “you need to get more of the sauce” before your mind just naturally goes to a dark place.

Again, don’t pretend you don’t get it.

Fried green tomatoes. Fancy.

Fried green tomatoes. Fancy.

Shanda, meanwhile, had a salad as big as my head. Does that still mean it’s healthy? And is that even allowed at our table of fried sin and burger deliciousness? The jury is still out.

Is that healthy food? Who allowed this order?

Is that healthy food? Who allowed this order?

So the overall opinion here was that everything was delicious – I don’t think there was anything we weren’t happy with, except maybe the fact that they ran out of our cider after about 30 minutes … but, hey, we’re used to that, no harm done there. Our server kept up well with what we admittedly realize can be a loud, demanding and over zealous group (especially once Jerrid and Ted decided it was o’shot-thirty … because that always ends well) … and did so with a sense of humor, more patience than I probably would be able to muster and a smile the entire time. We all admitted we were a bit nervous about the location and the exterior of the place, but the staff and the food are well worth getting past all of that. Plus that Family Dollar I mentioned was visible just outside the front window behind us – and who knew a pay phone could be so popular? – so we were afforded constant entertainment all evening. We’ll definitely be back. I mean, Shane even gave it his “dive bar stamp of approval” … which if nothing else just made me super glad I picked it before he had a chance to.

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

Amanda and Shanda

Amanda and Shanda

Ted and Jerrid. And shots. Obviously.

Ted and Jerrid. And shots. Obviously.

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Steph

Drinks:  When the list is updated, it’s pretty impressive. But judging from the outdated list, what they had over the summer looked delicious too. Quite a few crafts on draft, and bottles ranging from craft to PBR. What’s not to love.
Food:
Delicious. They aren’t kidding about it being the best burgers in town. They are definitely cooked to order. Shane didn’t even have to reference his power point presentation.
Service: Awesome. Again, we know we can be a demanding bunch (and there were more of us than usual this time) but we were definitely always well taken care of.
Overall: We’ll be back, whether to kick out rival fans for a Browns game or to maybe check out the Thursday night karaoke scene. Shane Newton needs new audiences …

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

WTGW 10/28/15: Dante’s Game Day Grille, Akron

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Another week, another perfect example of the rule “don’t judge a book by its cover.” I’m almost thinking we should change the name of this blog to something along that lines. Because we visit some shady looking places, y’all. And have yet to be shot at, kicked out of or completely disappointed in – well – most of them. Not too shabby.

So, yeah, Dante’s is definitely a bit shady on the outside. Like we drove right past it at first because we weren’t sure a) that was the place, and b) it was open. We finally realized there must be parking behind the building, since there were zero cars on the street. However, that lot was really no less daunting than the front of the building. As we parked, Shane noticed a light on above the creepy looking basement door.

Shane: what’s up with that basement?
Me: that’s where people go to die. You watch enough horror movies, that should be obvious to you.

We then had a lengthy discussion about how I would most definitely be the first one of us to die, since I was the only girl in the group for the night (Amanda was home sick, boo) and I was wearing 4-inch heels. So there’s that.

Anyway.

Dante’s is way tiny inside. Like small enough that the whole “put a mirror up on one wall to make it look bigger” trick almost works. But it’s small in a good way, in that it just makes it feel homey. Like a neighborhood bar, which really is exactly what the place truly is. I mean, it even has the stale smell of old neighborhood bars. You know what I’m talking about … the smell of about 57 years worth of nicotine and spilled beer in a place that can never open a window. And it hits you like a wall as soon as you walk in. But in a good way.

All that being said, you might expect the records to screech to a halt and the regulars to stare us down as soon as us “newbies” walk through the door. But that’s one of the best things about Dante’s, we realized … everyone there is treated like they’ve been coming to the place for ages, regardless if that’s truly the case, or if they just walked in for the first time. Our server/bartender was the first to greet us, and she did so with a smile and wave as if we were old friends. Maybe we are? I mean, we’ve been to a lot of places these past few years. Hmm.

And in fact we trusted her as if she were an old friend – it seemed that everything she old us to order we jumped on like a kid in a bouncy house. She was great at giving suggestions once we told her it was our first time there, and didn’t judge us one bit for saying we were slightly afraid to come in to the place before this night. Although she did judge Shane, who was switching things up and ordering a vodka & Red Bull for his drink (since the Long Islands effectively kicked his ass last week) and, when asked what kind of vodka he wanted, just replied “I don’t care, well is fine.” You’d have thought she was just told to go shoot puppies out back and use their blood in his drink by the way she feigned shock. She replied that “I’m Ukrainian, we don’t believe in well vodka. I can’t serve you that, I have to give you something with at least a name.” Well played.

Meanwhile Ted went the complete opposite route and ordered an IPA (Pine something, maybe?) solely on her recommendation. So he’s clearly still on her good side.

I went with the Woodchuck, since there was nothing on the beer list that necessarily sounded good to me.

Ted: You don’t know how proud it makes me that the beer list included Miller, Coors and Bud, and you said that “nothing sounded good.”

I seriously thought he might cry.

So for food, we all went with burgers, since the server told us that’s one of their specialties. I think at this point we might’ve ordered a pile of old boots deep fried in motor oil, that’s how much we trusted her recommendations. Ted ordered the Chuckie (which has salami on it), Shane got the Hot Pepper Burger (guess what that has on it?) and I had the standard Game Day Burger, with added mushrooms. The guys also got wings (Jamaican Jerk and Garlic Butter), because, well them.

Burger, fries and a drink. Our version of a happy meal.

Burger, fries and a drink. Our version of a happy meal.

Shane also ordered the Game Day Fries – another of the specialties and high recommendations of our server. These are basically regular fries covered in melted cheese, bacon, and ranch dressing. A combination which is music to the ears of my ranch-loving husband … but somehow that Midwestern gene skipped me. I also – thanks to an incident with a sink full of dirty dishes and a wet cracker from when I was about 8 years old – can’t stand soggy things, which is exactly how those fries end up after the cheese gets cold and the ranch seeps into them. But that’s just me. Which meant more for him, and he was perfectly OK with that.

There are fries under there somewhere. Honest.

There are fries under there somewhere. Honest.

The burgers were good. I was stuffed full after only half of mine, and about 1.5 onion rings. Shane said his hot peppers on his burger weren’t especially hot, but there was some sort of sauce on the sandwich that was made from one level of the surface of the sun, so that helped balance it out. Ted commented that he thought Dante’s must get their burger meat from the same place that supplies the Windsor Pub, because they tasted very similar.

Do they put ranch dressing on everything here?

Do they put ranch dressing on everything here?

About three onions had to die to make this side dish

About three onions had to die to make this side dish

The wings were OK – Ted said he thought that the Jamaican ones would’ve had more of a kick to them, but they were actually more like a sweet BBQ. And they were very salty. He said they weren’t bad … just “different.” He likened them to eating a bag of BBQ potato chips. Only the chips were made of chicken. So there’s that.

BBQ chip wings. I think we may be on to something here

BBQ chip wings. I think we may be on to something here

One thing we did be sure to note – we noticed it on a card on our tables and had to ask our server to be sure we weren’t seeing it wrong – Thursdays are $1.00 burger nights. $1.00. Right?? We didn’t believe it either. I mean, that’s like a holy offering to food lovers like us. Now granted they are 1/4 pound burgers (every other night – including the ones we had – they’re 1/2 pound), but still … I mean, it’s $1.00. You can buy four of them, mask them together and make a one pounder … and you’d still have change from a $5 bill. It’s kind of a no brainer.

Half of this for $1.00 on Thursdays. Not a bad deal

Half of this for $1.00 on Thursdays. Not a bad deal

So all in all, Dante’s is a nice little neighborhood bar. It’s definitely no frills, just a great little dive bar with lots of TVs tuned to the latest games and a few regulars keeping the bartender company after the dinner rush. It’s one of those places you almost want to become a regular in, just because you can tell there’s a good atmosphere and people are fun to be around. Like most dives, there’s not an overly impressive beer list, but they have the basics and it’s cheap and just a cool place to hang out. Just steer clear of the basement. I mean, even now that we’ve been inside the place I still don’t want to know why that light is on.

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Shane

Drinks:  Not a very impressive list, unless you have trouble deciding between Miller Lite, Coors Lite and Bud Light. Then you’re in the right place for sure. 
Food:
Typical dive bar fare – burgers, wings, anything you can make in a deep fryer. But a few surprises and specialties, like the game day fries. We took note of the $1 burgers on Thursdays. Because we like burgers, and that’s cheaper than McDonald’s. For real.
Service: Excellent. You know I love a server who can give any of us a run for our sarcastic and/or idiot sense of humor selves, while still doing a good job getting orders correct and giving suggestions. This was no exception.
Overall: Now that we know it’s not nearly as scary on the inside as it looks from a quick drive-by outside, I’m sure we’ll go back.

Next Pick: Steph

Dantes Gameday Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

WTGW 9/23/15: Prestier Pub, Canton

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Apparently we’re on a Canton kick lately. Hey Cuyahoga Falls peeps, build some new places!

So, fair warning, Prestier Pub is way shady looking from the outside. Like beyond most of the places we’ve visited in the past, and that’s really saying a lot. It’s located at the tail end of a strip plaza (hey, another one! surprise!) that I think has more available spaces than rented ones. And those that are occupied are filled with things like a church (because God preaches best in a former empty storefront), a dollar store (duh, that’s a strip plaza staple) and a place advertising “real human hair extensions” (enough said).

Keepin it classy, Canton.

Plus if you come in the back way – like we did, thanks Google Maps – you’ll be looking at the very side end of the building and not the front of it … which isn’t the best view. Give that a minute to seep in, considering what I just told you about this plaza. We actually drove all the way around the back of the building just to park in the lot out front. I think we’re all feeling fortunate it was still daylight when this part of the adventure occurred.

Why am I telling you this? Well, because as an avid reader of restaurant reviews myself, I felt like I was at least somewhat prepared for these sights upon arrival, just based on what, well, essentially everyone in the known universe (or the Akron/Canton area, whateves) had said about Prestier already. I believe the most common phrase was something to the effect of Prestier being the epitome of dive bar … but that the food was really good, so it was worth the adventure.

I’m not sure we’d all use the words “really good” to describe the meals we had here … but I think we’d all agree that the menu was definitely a surprise compared to what you would think a place like this would serve you. Dive bar usually means bar food: greasy burgers, frozen chicken wings, deep fried anything. Instead we had actual meals. Like pasta with seafood. And garlic bread. And dinner salads.

Hmm.

We sat out on the front patio on our visit – partially because 1.) it seemed pretty packed and non air-conditioned inside the bar, 2.) we weren’t really certain how the whole seat yourself vs wait for a hostess to seat you situation was played out there, and 3.) it was actually nice enough to sit outside. Did you hear that Mother Nature?? It’s mid-September, and we still sat out on a patio. It may have gotten dark about 3.2 seconds after we sat down, and of course there wasn’t much to help illuminate the table other than the giant “OPEN” sign on the door (ambiance, be damned) – but we were still on a patio. So there. Guess we haven’t done that for so long that you forgot that you’re supposed to crap all over us weather-wise on Wednesdays, eh? Ha ha. Tricked ya.

Although, side note, my mention above about the darkness of the patio should be taken into consideration when viewing the photos from this visit. Then again, it kind of just looks like we lived inside of an Instagram filter for the evening. Take that, hipsters.

In any case, whether it was because we essentially sat ourselves out there or because the patio is apparently not commonly used for meals on September evenings after dark, it took a hot minute for our server to come find us. In fact I think Ted actually had to go inside at one point and just alert someone – anyone – that we were, in fact, sitting out there. But once she finally was able to come greet us it was all good from there.

The Harvest Pumpkin Shandy from last week has become the new group favorite, as me, Ted and Amanda all jumped on that as soon as we saw it on the seasonal list. One of us clearly needs to buy stock in Leininkugel Brewing Company. And hard alcohol of some kind, too, as Shane is apparently still in his “sissy drink” phase. Which equated to  two Long Islands (which he swore later were actually whiskey sours) and then a switch to rum and diet. Or just rum. It was hard to say.

We had a special guest with our group this week, Amanda’s boyfriend Jerrid. Who ironically enough actually has a history with our group and the whole WTGW experience, as that’s how the two of them met. I know, right? It’s a story for another time, folks, but let’s just say that if they ever get married I have a strong feeling I know where the reception might be. Ha.

Since we were now a group of five, clearly that was just begging us to order more food. I mean, really. We hardly ever order enough for just us, and now there’s another mouth at the table? For real. I think we miscounted, though, because the sheer number of appetizers alone was probably enough to feed us and half the people gathered around the cool-ass bar inside Prestier. We joked that we probably should just pull another table over near ours and make an appetizer buffet that we could all graze through over the course of the evening.

It’s really too bad that most of the apps and wing orders came out at a different time than the other actual meals or else the picture of the entire table covered in just plates of food would’ve been spectacular. Or sad. Whatever.

Jerrid ordered the Southwest egg rolls, which sounded weird but were actually really good. They were like tiny bean burritos rolled up in a shell and deep fried. So, really, how can you go wrong there?

Tiny fried burritos

Tiny fried burritos

Ted jumped on ordering the calamari, after he nearly fell out of his chair in shock that Shane didn’t do so himself. We all tried some of it, and agreed it was excellent. It definitely had a spicy kick to it, but that just made it better. And the garlic sauce that came with it was equally fantastic – so much so that we made a point to ask what kind of sauce it was.

It's definitely fresh

It’s definitely fresh

Side note – had we waited until the end of our meals, we wouldn’t have had to ask. I’m going to break some glass for everyone reading this: the not-so-secret ingredient in everything at Prestier is garlic. And salt. Or maybe garlic salt. In any case, I’m not sure we had one item this evening that didn’t have garlic of some kind in it.

I kind of feel like there should really be a giant vampire in a red circle with a slash across it on the front door of this place. It seems like a lost marketing opportunity somehow.

The guys all also ordered wings as apps – because, clearly, wings aren’t just enough to be meals on their own anymore. My bad. Plus a dozen wings were only $5.99. Wait, what? Exactly. It’s like they had to order them just on principle after seeing that.

To the same point, Ted ordered two pork chops – because, well, to order just one chop was only $4.00 less than ordering two, so why the hell not? Clearly we need a lot of fancy marketing to encourage this group. His meal came with mashed potatoes and asparagus, all of which he said was really good, but just very salty. See comments above on that one.

Not the presentation you'd expect from a dive bar

Not the presentation you’d expect from a dive bar

Jerrid got a cheeseburger with “all the cheeses.” That’s not actually the name of it, or how it’s prepared … but when the waitress gave him three cheese options to choose from, Jerrid’s response was just “yes.” So if you like cheese, remember that’s apparently an option.

All the cheeses, please

All the cheeses, please

Also, Jerrid is essentially the exact opposite of Ted. It’s like finding your reverse doppleganger.

Amanda and I were both a bit ready to take a break from burgers and wings and all things deep fried, and went the pasta route this week. I had the Seafood Pasta in the olive oil (not creamy) sauce. Which was good, but almost had too much going on in one dish. Two big pieces of shrimp, 4 or 5 mussels, scallops, large mushrooms, spinach … and of course pasta. Because nothing in that list sounds filling at all, thanks. Amanda also was pushing the last remnants of her meal – the Fettuccine Alfredo with chicken – around her plate for a while, trying to find room to fit it all into her stomach.

Seafood extravaganza

Seafood extravaganza

You know what we did leave on our plates, though? The full cloves of garlic. It only takes biting into one of those once to realize you want to do your best to avoid that experience again. Which, as mentioned previously, is easier said than done in this particular establishment.

Cooked with love. And garlic

Cooked with love. And garlic

Shane took advantage of some of the group’s previously mentioned mad review-reading skills, and ordered the full rack of ribs off the “specials” menu. Because, in addition to warning us on the shadiness of the place, everything we read in advance also said that if the ribs were available on special, you should definitely order them. And, knowing Shane, you know that ordering ribs doesn’t require much arm twisting. So there’s that. They came with two sides, so he got the garlic mashed potatoes and the garlic toast. Which really could’ve just been called “mashed potatoes” and “toast,” because I think at this point the garlic is just implied in everything.

No, that's not a smoker's lung

No, that’s not a smoker’s lung

Also, his wing flavor from his appetizer? Honey garlic. Which was completely gross. I mean, he still powered through – this is WTGW after all, we don’t waste food. But still. Enough already. There’s a nearby garlic farm somewhere that stays well in business just from this place alone. 

Honey + garlic = no thank you

Honey + garlic = no thank you

So all in all, Prestier isn’t horrible. I mean, on our rating scale, it’s definitely no Gus’ Chalet. But it’s also not up to what the 4.5 – 5-star ratings we saw on the other reviews would imply.  While it’s definitely a nice change to be able to get more “dinner-ish” type meals than sandwiches and fries – especially at a dive bar – it wasn’t something any of us were running back to rave to our friends about, either. And the novelty of ordering meals like that in a place like this will really only get you so far if the actual food quality isn’t there. Wings aside, some of the meals – particularly my pasta dish, and basically anything involving seafood – were really a bit pricey, especially considering the atmosphere. Also, our bottles of beer were warm – and while she did realize this and bring us cold glasses with the first round, those glasses weren’t replenished along with the new (still warm) bottles. I’d have to say that even if I found myself in this area again – which, I mean, let’s be honest, unless I have a sudden desire to invest in some “real hair extensions,” is probably a resounding not-a-chance-in-hell – I’m not sure this would be the first name to come to mind on my list of must re-visits.

Steph

Steph

Shane

Shane. And the infamous “OPEN” sign lighting the patio

Ted

Ted, whose thumb blends into his shirt

Amanda

Amanda

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Steph

Drinks:  If warm seasonal beer and mixed drinks that may or may not be what you actually ordered are your thing, then you’re in the right place. 
Food:
Vampires beware. And whatever is repulsed by salt. Those may be the only two spices this place owns.
Service: OK. I mean, yes, we did kind of seat ourselves. And I realize the patio isn’t all that appealing after dark. But to say we felt ignored at first would be an understatement.
Overall: I’m puzzled at how this place gets decent reviews. While I’ll admit it was different getting real meals in a dive bar atmosphere, that novelty doesn’t appeal enough to any of us to warrant a return trip.

Next Pick:  Amanda