WTGW 8/15/18: Tinkers Creek Rd Tavern, Northfield

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It’s a rite of passage this week, as this marks Jason’s first official pick as part of our WTGW crew. Because after a certain number of weeks dining out with the group you’re forced to stop freeloading and take responsibility for some of the sketchy choices we’ve made over the years, as well as the judgmental, sarcastic commentary that follows.

Needless to say he was a little nervous.

His nerves certainly weren’t calmed on the drive to Tinkers Creek Road Tavern, as we all at one point or another commented that, while we weren’t far from our homes in terms of mileage, we sure were in terms of civilization. This place is quite literally in the middle of absolute nowhere. Or, technically, the middle of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Which led to speculation that Jason’s search for this place must’ve essentially consisted of Googling “places to go for a beer when lost in the forest.”

Boy Scouts would be proud.

Once we finally found the place the concern switched to whether or not we would actually get a table prior to the 9PM closing time, as the parking lot looked packed and the building looked way too tiny to hold all of the people that would’ve arrived in said vehicles.

It turns out that the building is deceptively small looking, and they probably want to think about expanding that parking lot.

Upon entering we realized that the easiest way to a hostess’ heart is to tell them you have no preference between indoor or outdoor seating, as she proclaimed she loved us after that statement. We figured that given the number of cars in the parking lot and the vacancy of the indoor areas, we would most likely not see the likes of a patio this evening.

We were wrong. The hostess led us outside to the patio, where we discovered not only the owners of most of those cars in the parking lot, but also an amazingly beautiful patio situated next to what I’m assuming must be the namesake Tinker’s Creek.

Well this certainly doesn’t suck for background atmosphere

It was like being in a whole other world. Or on vacation somewhere not in northeast Ohio. Which, with Ted in the driver’s seat, isn’t all that difficult a proposition. How long were we in the car, exactly?

We showed our appreciation for our new environment from the very beginning, as we became what I can only assume were the most agreeable table ever to set foot on this particular patio. Drink menus? Yep, hand them over. Waters for everyone? Sure! With lemon? Why not!?!

Cassi put the brakes on our enthusiasm train when she realized that the extensive drink menu didn’t include pricing, and had to ask the server how much the various cocktails and craft beers were going for. All heed the lesson of Shane and the unknowingly overpriced craft beers of a few months ago.

While we weren’t fans of the price guessing game, we will give kudos to the server for not only unbegrudgingly going to check on them for us, but also actually knowing the differences in the various beers on the menu. When Jason asked about the flavors of the different IPAs, she gave real references, not just the generic “they all taste like beer, what more do you want?” conversation we’ve had in some establishments.

Of course we ordered appetizers, because we were happily agreeing to everything … and also, well, because we’re us.

Following the food envy of the potato cups at Wil’s Grill a few weeks ago, I lobbied Shane to order those.

I’m not sure who made potato cups a thing, but I’d like to hug that person

They were good. Not overwhelmingly so, and they didn’t have the “holy crap that’s a lot of melted cheese” wow factor that the ones at Wil’s had … but I would order them again.

Cassi and Jason ordered the fried mozzarella. It was tasty. Cassi said she would rate it higher than her old favorite – although she kindly didn’t mention the restaurant where that dish resided. I’m not sure when we suddenly got so courteous.

Not on Ted’s list of any kind

Ted, in spite of voicing his disappointment that no one decided to order the eggplant stack, opted for calamari.

That’s like the exact opposite of eggplant

He then proceeded to rave about it for the rest of the time it was on the table. Apparently his sorrow over not getting to try the eggplant stack was quickly forgotten. He said he’s not really one for top five lists – a statement that seems like it could factor into a severe punishment from certain members of this group – but if he was then this calamari would be on it. It was breaded well, and the sauce was an excellent compliment to the flavor.

With an endorsement like that, of course we all tried a bit of it when offered. Shane thought it might’ve been a bit of a trick, since it seemed like if Ted was truly a fan then he shouldn’t have been willingly sharing it so much with everyone.

Regardless, we agreed, it was really good.

We also agreed not to use any unnecessary dishes, as the stack of side plates that the server brought prior to the apps sat unused off to the side of the table throughout the course of our preliminary food binge. While this was nothing new to us, the server noticed and asked “so, I take it you don’t need these then?”

Shane: No, we’re savages.

OK then.

Also not new to us, but likely an intro course for our server: Shane’s obligatory firing range of questions related to the best items on the menu. I’m happy to report she survived the assault, listing several dishes that she personally enjoys, from the mac and cheese, to the salmon, the pulled pork sandwich, the salmon salad and the brisket sandwich.

Now if she truly wanted to be a member of our group she would say that she once ordered all of those items in one sitting just so she could compare them all and come up with a final true winner. But, alas, that food challenge never happened.

Something to think about, though.

Shane followed up that interrogation by ordering nothing that she recommended, and instead asking how large the portion size was on the eggplant parmesan. Because we all know how much size matters in these instances.

Get your mind out of the gutter, kids. Especially for when I tell you that her response was that it’s giant, and Shane’s response was that he would take it.

So there’s that.

But at least she wasn’t lying. When the food arrived, I think we all had our own “holy crap, I’m supposed to eat all of that in one sitting” moment as the plates were set in front of us.

This photo doesn’t do justice to the size of the bowl. Although the sheer amount of cheese displayed here should give some indication.

Let’s just say that Shane immediately regretted letting his hunger take the reigns and ordering the extra side of onion rings to accompany his eggplant parm – ironically not because those two things usually are never ordered together as one meal, but because he could barely make it through the actual dinner portion of his meal without being overly full.

His eagerness at the question “would you like a box for those?” was very much diminished from the reaction to the questions at the beginning of our meal.

I’ll take things we didn’t need to order for $1,000, please

Speaking of side orders of things that didn’t get eaten in their entirety, I spent a few minutes dispelling the advances of Ted and his overly aggressive forcing of his wee basket of tater tots into my face. Little did I realize he was just trying to make sure they got their proper photographic documentation, and not trying to force feed them to me.

When tots attack

Me: Put your tots away, Ted, I don’t want any
Ted: If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that

The joys of being the official photographer. More on that later.

In the category of foods Ted didn’t try to shove in my face, Ted also got the smoked chicken sandwich. He said it was good. His rating system on his meal this evening pretty much went as follows: Chips just OK, sandwich and tots good, calamari excellent.

At least he kept that plate on his side of the table

Use that information as you will. In true girl fashion, I give bonus points to the tots for being contained in one of those cute miniature fry baskets – which of course we all tried to convince Ted he should just walk out of the restaurant with instead of asking for a box for his remaining tots.

He did neither. Which makes me think they weren’t as good as he said they were, and he also clearly doesn’t appreciate interesting servingware.

Jason got the baked cod sandwich. He liked it, saying that the fish was very moist. Although part of that verdict may have just been so that he could use that particular word and annoy the hell out of his fiance, who has on more than one occasion announced her dislike of it.

Ah, true love.

It looks less moist from this angle

Cassi and I both ordered the tacos – I got the grilled steak tacos with chips and salsa, while Cassi got the tilapia tacos with sweet potato fries.

Tacos take one

And two

We both said they were really good. And we agreed with the table sentiment that the server was not incorrect in her statement that no one will leave hungry, since each meal came with three large tacos, plus a generous portion of the side. We each took one of our tacos home.

In retrospect, we probably could’ve done without all of the apps at the top of the meal. I’m making that note for our eventual return visit, although I already know we won’t heed it.

Remember when I mentioned that the place closes at 9:00? Yeah, that’s not a typo. The place definitely starts emptying out after the early dinner rush, and by 8:30 we were one of only a couple tables left. I know this for certain because any table not inhabited was bring cleaned and upturned and pretty much sending a solid message that diners arriving at 8:55PM might have technically still arrived prior to closing time, but also were more likely to be served in a less than appreciative manner. Just speculation, of course, but I for one am not willing to test that theory.

Another thing we decided against testing: our ability to read a very large sign on a gate stating “NOT AN EXIT,” and the server’s patience when said sign is blatantly ignored. We watched in amusement as one couple tempted fate in this manner and was scolded openly – and righteously, in my opinion, as I mean … come on … there’s a sign. It’s pretty clear that just because the gate opens doesn’t mean they want any random person using it. The reasoning may not be clear, but the sign is … and that’s what matters.

(Keep in mind these words are coming to you from someone who a mere few paragraphs ago was vying for the pilfering of a miniature fry basket from our table. Priorities.)

But aside from the early closing time and the questionable use of lighting on both the patio and the parking areas, I would give this place a high thumbs up. You wouldn’t know it, though, because these are the only photos we attempted before giving in to the questionable lighting gods and admitting defeat.

Now whose turn is it to find the worst lighting possible?

Clearly adding the flash doesn’t help things. Now we can just better see Ted’s inability to keep his eyes open

Well this obviously isn’t working

No thanks. I’ll just stick to words to tell the story. The service was good, the portions were huge and tasty – and the patio really is a great space to spend a nice summer evening. They even brought us citronella candles for the table after we mentioned our dining experience was quickly creating a feast for various bugs as well (sitting near water + humidity = mosquitoes. It’s just science).

And if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll even spot this strange creature in the parking lot on your way out.

Look kids, it’s the elusive parking lot gnome

Picked by: Jason
Next pick: Steph

Tinkers Creek Road Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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WTGW 11/30/16: Retz’s Laconis, Cuyahoga Falls

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Watch out, after two weeks of Irish food we’re breaking our streak and moving on to a different ethnicity … Italian.

And we all laugh as we watch Ted’s face as he attempts to avoid cheese pitfalls. Oh the fun!

So I have to ask, for real, where has this place been these past three years? I mean, I thought we’d exhausted pretty much every bar/restaurant in our own little town – hence why we sometimes travel up to 40 minutes away for a new pick. Meanwhile little did we know Retz’s Laconis was lurking on some side street we’ve apparently never ventured down before. It’s like the Bermuda Triangle of WTGW.

Hmm.

Adding to that theory, Shane and I parked outside in the back lot, next to a particularly shady Suburban that both of us were fairly certain someone was living in. But it was gone when we came out later in the evening, so I guess not. Unless it was swallowed by the Triangle?

You never know.

Also seemingly lost: the front door. When a building is on a corner, it’s helpful to label the appropriate front side so you know which door to enter. We chose the first door we saw, a not very well labeled one which fortunately for us led directly into the bar where Jerrid, Amanda and Ted were waiting. We chose wisely. Had we picked door #2 around the corner we would’ve ended up in the dining room. I only know this because several people entered through the bar door looking to do the opposite of what we did. They were not as wise.

Amanda and Jerrid were there way early (surprise!) and had ordered the bacon ranch pizza as an app. They left us a few pieces to try, and we all agreed it was OK. The crust seemed like a frozen crust, not fresh made. And it was also a little too ranch-y – and, yes, smartasses, we know the name of the dish – but let’s just say the ranch overpowered the bacon. And bacon should never be second fiddle, am I right?

This appetizer didn't look like this by the time Shane and I arrived

This appetizer didn’t look like this by the time Shane and I arrived

But when you’re hungry, it did the trick, so there’s that.

Salads came with mine, Shane and Amanda’s meals, so naturally those arrived at our table first. Although let’s be clear, by “salad” we really just mean a pile of cheese with some lettuce underneath.

This has to be the most nutritious salad ever

This has to be the most nutritious salad ever

See also: Ted’s nightmare.

I got the rigatoni with meat sauce and meatballs.

Pasta, take one

Pasta, take one

Amanda got the baked cheese ravioli.

Pasta, take two

Pasta, take two

Shane got the eggplant parm, after his interrogation of the server revealed that it’s actually rolled in ricotta cheese and deep fried. Bingo! That’s like saying the secret password to Shane. Because deep frying anything can only make it better, right?

Exactly.

This is probably even healthier than that salad, no?

This is probably even healthier than that salad, no?

He also got an order of the garlic parm wings, because we can’t seem to go a week without someone ordering wings at our table.

Wings. What a surprise.

Wings. What a surprise.

He then also tried to order another app until I made fun of him.

Me: “And I’ll also take the whole left hand side of the menu please.”
Shane: “Never mind, I’m good.”

Ted got the acid wings. Because that sounds appetizing, no? And also a burger with no cheese. Because who cares that we’re at an Italian place. You know when you see items like that on the menu and think “who comes to an Italian place and orders a burger and wings?”

Ted. Ted does.

That's the most Italian looking hamburger I've ever seen.

That’s the most Italian looking hamburger I’ve ever seen.

Non-acidic wings

Non-acidic wings

Along those same lines, Jerrid got the dark chicken meal. Pasta is clearly overrated. See also: why all of our meals took forever to arrive. It’s like New Era all over again.

Where are we again?

Where are we again?

About this time when we were ordering we also noticed our server’s t-shirt, that boasted the place has the “best balls in the Falls.” Clever.

Unfortunately, though, I have to disagree. I thought my meatballs had absolutely zero taste. Same for my rigatoni. Maybe my taste buds took the night off, although the cheese on the salad and the bread tasted OK to me. As did the crap-ton of crushed red pepper and parm cheese that I added to the pasta. But the pasta and meat, no flavor whatsoever. Boo.

Ted said his acid wings were not overly hot. He may be the only person to ever say that. Maybe his taste buds were on strike along with mine.

He only ate his wings and fries, didn’t even touch his burger because he was too full. Which seemed odd until Jerrid pointed out Ted did have two Christmas Ales, so that was kind of like having another meal all in itself.

Point taken.

Jerrid liked the chicken, said it was better than New Era. And Amanda liked her raviloi.

Shane didn’t eat his wings because he was too full. Maybe he and Ted should stop ordering basically two entrees? Just an idea. But he did try one, though – I think mainly to see if he should even bother with the to-go box – and said it was good. He said the eggplant parm was “different, but OK.”

Overall Retz’s is an OK place for a little neighborhood restaurant and bar. The bar area is pretty small, so it’s gets a little crowded – but never so much that you feel like strangers are about to seat themselves at your table and start helping themselves to your food. Our server was good and attentive for the most part, the exception being when Amanda tried about 10 times unsuccessfully to get herself a water. But then Jerrid asked and it was delivered in a second. So I guess the moral is that if you’re female and ordering something non-alcoholic you might want to be prepared to wait a bit. Interesting.

Picked by: Jerrid
Next pick: Shane

Steph

Steph

Amanda

Amanda

Jerrid

Jerrid

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

Retz's Laconi's II Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 3/23/16: Memories Fine Food & Spirits, Richfield

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“Mem-ries … light the corners of my mind … Misty water-colored mem-ries … of the way we were …”

Yeah, just try to get that out of your head for the next day or so. And join the club.

And I think the memories of this restaurant will fade far sooner than that song takes to leave any of our minds. “Not Memorable” woud’ve been a better name for the place.

Oh wait, did I give away the ending of this review too soon? Rats.

So none of us are really sure how we missed picking Memories until now, because it didn’t seem like we recently missed a grand opening, and the building itself clearly isn’t new. In fact, as we drove through the parking lot I believe Shane’s words were “oh look, it’s an old Arby’s.” Because we know how comfortable he is in converted fast food joints. We could only hope they would have booster seats … but alas, we were disappointed.

It wouldn’t be the last time of the evening, just FYI.

Because this is, in fact, an old fast food establishment, it translates into a strange set up for a bar & grille. You walk in on the side of the place – like you do for most fast food places – which means you immediately face the giant horseshoe bar with seats all around and a few small tables to the sides. So basically if you’re like us and have anything over a group of four, you’re out of luck for seating in the bar area and get stuck over in the “dining room.”

I mean, unless you want to be really mean and make one person from your group sit my themselves at another table. Or are lucky enough to score five or six seats together at the bar. We clearly are not that cruel or resourceful. *sigh*

And let’s face it, the dining room is just not so fun. Just calling it the dining room, instead of the bar, is like telling us we’re sitting at the kid’s table with plastic silverware while all the cool adults get to have fun with sharp knives in the other room. In this case, the fine amenities in Memories dining room include small TVs with no sound, and servers who apparently aren’t happy to be there.

Yay us!

The next thing we noticed about Memories is that the menu is all over the place. Like there are no specialties here, or one particular type of food that they feature prominently. They’ve got a few burgers and sandwiches. Ok. And then there was probably the largest selection of salads I think I’ve ever seen in any of our WTGW picks … not to mention an actual salad bar. There’s a first. Then you’ve got your pizza and pasta (so the Italian section), seafood, Mexican (including an insert to the menu touting new Chipotle-esque rice bowls and burritos), and what’s a good bar and grille without a fine selection of German food?

Right.

So since we were all a bit confused, of course Shane does his customary “what’s good here?” ask of the server, to get a feel for what people usually order, or what she recommends.

Her response: “Yeah, the food’s good.”

Um, OK. Points for being super helpful, thanks.

When pressed she finally admitted that the German stuff was good. And all of the new Mexican dishes. Oh, and the burgers.

So, wait … what did we leave out exactly?

Also, as she noticed me looking at the beer list on the back of the menu trying to figure out what to order she announced “Oh, yeah, that’s outdated. They’re printing new ones soon.” Which you would think would be followed up with a helpful “But let me just tell you what we do have instead.”

But you would be wrong.

So naturally Shane and I went the easy route and just blurted out Miller Lites as our drink. Ted asked for dark beer and ordered one she said they had … but then she came back and said they didn’t have it anymore. And of course didn’t offer an alternative … because, well, her. So Ted basically just told her to bring him the darkest beer she could find.

Are you picking up on the fact that really our server wasn’t exactly the highlight of our evening? Not the most personable, that one. It’s like someone forgot to tell her that being a server does in fact involve actually talking to the customers.

Jerrid and Amanda were late to the party since Amanda started a new job and works later hours now. So Shane, Ted and I went ahead and started with apps. Which included a veggie basket for Shane and I – which sounds way healthier than it is since they leave the “fried” out of the title (but it was in the description so don’t think we were horribly surprised – please, do you really you think Shane would actually order a huge plate of plain vegetables?) and also six of the cajun wings for each of the boys.

Ted’s first comment upon trying the wing was that they tasted like breadcrumbs mixed with cayenne pepper. Because that sounds appealing. They didn’t have a lot of flavor at all. I mean, the guys still ate them anyway (please) – but they definitely weren’t the best ever.

Mmm, breadcrumbs. Delicious.

Mmm, breadcrumbs. Delicious.

Meanwhile I picked up a fried veggie and lost about 10 layers of skin on the roof of my mouth when I bit in. Were these cooked on the surface of the sun? For real. Also interesting – the fried veggies come served on a bed of french fries. Because why leave out potatoes? Or more things fried? Seriously. But the fries were actually really, really good. Like so good that I would’ve traded some of the breadcrumb-laden-and-deep-fried veggies for more fries.

Just dump a bunch of stuff in the fryer and cook it at 1,000 degrees

Just dump a bunch of stuff in the fryer and cook it at 1,000 degrees

We ordered before the other two arrived, and our food got there just as they showed up. Which proved slightly helpful for them when the annoyed-because-two-more-people-just-showed-up-that-she-now-had-to-converse-with server came by about two seconds after they sat down to ask what they wanted.

Shane ordered the eggplant parm, one of his usual favorites at Italian places so he thought why not try it at this non-descript bar & grille. Good plan. And it looked promising when it arrived, as a giant plate of food appeared in front of him. So of course he was super excited … until he tasted it. And then he was extremely sad that he had this much food sitting in front of him that, while he was hungry, he wasn’t excited at all to eat. He said the noodles were very greasy, and overall just not good. Now, I’m not sure how you make noodles greasy, but apparently somehow they managed.

Lots of food. Not a lot of taste.

Lots of food. Not a lot of taste.

He actually even had to switch to diet coke (without rum, gasp!) because the beer was not mixing well with the giant plate of grease noodles.

Ted got the German sampler platter, which is goulash, spitzel, wiener schnitzel, cabbage, and probably a few other really German sounding things – because it also was a huge plate of food. Ted said the best thing on his plate was the red cabbage, which should tell you something.

The view from the German side of the table. Prost!

The view from the German side of the table. Prost!

Ted: As goulash these noodles are terrible. But as beef stroganoff it’s actually pretty good.

Take that as you will.

Rounding out the ethnicity of our table, I got the taco salad. Which my had far too little cheese. Did they think I was Ted and take it all out? I also think I discovered a carrot in there. Because nothing says Mexican food like carrots. So basically to sum up my meal, they just put some bagged salad in the fried shell, topped it with some grade E meat, some super spicy salsa and just a tiny pinch of cheese. Ole!

Maybe they just made this at the salad bar before bringing it over

Maybe they just made this at the salad bar before bringing it over

As mentioned, Jerrid and Amanda arrived just as we were being served our food – as Jerrid laid eyes on Shane’s huge plate of food he was like, yes, that’s what I want, looks great. But fortunately Shane warned him of the greasy noodles … so Jerrid ordered the chicken parm instead. OK. Um, didn’t really avoid the noodles, but way to be different.

Taken with the "extra greasy" photo filter

Taken with the “extra greasy” photo filter

You’ll be glad to know it wasn’t any better. Jerrid rated it mediocre at best.

Amanda got the buffalo chicken sandwich with fries. She agreed that the fries were good. And she said that the sandwich wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t particularly memorable either. Which, when the name of your place is Memories, maybe you need to rethink your menu just a tad. Or hire a new cook. Whatever.

Just eat the fries. Trust us here.

Just eat the fries. Trust us here.

So, yeah, as you can probably already tell, this was definitely not high on our list of best places ever. From the weird atmosphere (who has TVs with no sound when there’s not even a jukebox or other music playing overtop to help drown out the silence?), to the brisk and unhelpful service (just order something, who cares if it’s good?). to the not so great food … well, let’s just say this is one memory we won’t be reliving any time soon.

Steph

Steph

Shane

Shane

Ted

Ted

Unabomber ... I mean Jerrid

Unabomber … I mean Jerrid

Amanda

Amanda

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Steph

Drinks: They have some, but good luck figuring out what they are if you’re stuck sitting in the dining room. Back to the old college “go basic” rule, I guess.
Food: They have that, too, but I really wouldn’t recommend ordering any of it.
Service: Strike three.
Overall: I think what we’ve learned here is that the whole “fine food and spirits” line on the sign is severely misleading. Perhaps “Unmemorable in all ways” might be a better tagline?

Next Pick: Amanda

Memories Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato