WTGW 12/21/16: Burgers 2 Beer, Solon

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Holy crap, this place is packed on Wednesdays. Presumably because they have trivia, a phenomenon we had yet to run into on a Wednesday night adventure. And one I can’t quite say I fully understand the popularity of, but whatever.

Although the itty-bitty parking lot does make Burgers 2 Beer look a tad bit busier than what they actually are. They share the lot with Penn Station – the fast food sub place – so of course we joked when we were walking in that everyone was probably there. Uh, no, but nice try. Still, I don’t think anyone in this place other than us understands the meaning of the word “carpool.”

The rather extensive draft beer list was already waiting on the table when we sat down, which is always a good sign. Especially for a place that has that particular entity in its title.

The large variety of beers of course meant that Shane went with a Miller Lite. I got the Breckenridge Agave Wheat. Ted realized Breckenridge made a Christmas Ale and went with that choice. I sampled his and was a little disappointed I didn’t order that one. There’s always round two.

So being that the other half of the name of the place is burgers, you can probably guess that that involved another extensive list. Such marketing wizards with the name of the place. But this was a bit of overkill – like three pages of the menu devoted just to burgers. And some interesting concoctions – one involved truffle butter and brie cheese, one with peanut butter, one with tater tots and sloppy joe  … and one was even served on a glazed donut.

 

No calories here. Nope. None at all. Maybe they should rename this place “Heart Attacks 2 Cholesterol Levels.”

Ted started with the candied pork appetizer. It was like meat, not on a stick. Although it wasn’t quite as good as the meat on a stick he got at that place in Richfield we can never remember the actual name of that Shane would rather set himself on fire than walk into again, it was still tasty. As soon as it arrived at the table, Shane’s nose immediately singled out the garlic in it. Ted said it was spicy. Like OK for him, but probably not for everyone.

Meat, no stick

Meat, no stick

I mean, this is the guy who recently called acid wings “not hot at all,” so just keep that in mind.

For his meal, Ted got the pizza burger. Seems odd for a guy who hates cheese, but I guess this is really the safest version of pizza he could ever find, no? Well, other than the cheese-less pizza he got a few weeks ago, but that’s a bit of an anomaly.

Burger, take one

Burger, take one

He said the burger was good, but a little bland. Especially with everything that was going on there (pepperoni, peppers, marinara, onions and mushrooms – plus cheese, for normal people), it just didn’t seem to have much flavor. He still stands by his all time favorite being The Rail.

Shane: “That place that tried to kill me.”

Every. Time.

Shane got the monthly special burger for December – which I can’t remember exactly what came on that, but I do know it involved peppers and some other spicy stuff, since I was debating on getting the same one. His burger, like Ted’s, was also just OK. Said the patty itself didn’t have much flavor, but everything else on the burger was good.

Burger, take two

Burger, take two

He also got salt and vinegar wings. Is this like week #27 with wings? I’ve seriously lost count.

But he said the wings didn’t taste like salt & vinegar. Ted tried one and said they tasted like BBQ potato chips. Close? Not really. Maybe the cook just got his flavor bags from his snack packs mixed up.

They all start to look alike after a while

They all start to look alike after a while

I got the hot & bothered burger – habenero cheddar cheese, onions, siracha mayo and jalepenos. Sounds super bland, no? Yeah, it was definitely spicy. I also used the house BBQ sauce that they keep on the table as my condiment of choice to dip my tater tots in, and that had some kick to it too.

Burger, take three - plus tots

Burger, take three – plus tots

And I wonder why my taste buds sometimes revolt against me.

Amanda got the club burger (ham, turkey, bacon and gouda), which she  almost had to eat bunless, as the top of the sandwich flew off when the server brought her meal to the table. She did bring Amanda another top bun – but at least the bunless burger made for a nice photo op.

Burger, waiting for the top bun

Burger, waiting for the top bun

Amanda also agreed that the burger patty itself needed more flavor. The toppings were good, but if you just ate a piece of the burger patty it was unimpressive.

So basically the moral is that if you go, be sure get the burger with the most toppings – or at least the most flavorful ones anyway – so they can mask the taste of the actual burger patty itself. Because that seems right, considering the name of the place and all.

New name idea: “Toppings 2 Mask The Blandness.”

Service was pretty good, considering how busy it was there. The trivia was alternately interesting and annoying at the same time. It was loud, so at times we were having to shout over the host to hear one another. We also had to restrain ourselves from shouting out answers that we knew, which took a lot on our parts at times. Because, you know, restraint is definitely nowhere in our vocabularies. Have you seen the tables of food we order sometimes? Seriously.

Picked by: Amanda
Next pick: Ted

Steph

Steph

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

Amanda

Amanda

B2b Burgers 2 Beer Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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WTGW 12/14/16: Loby’s Grille & Pub, Canton

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Hey look, we’re back to bar & grilles for this week’s WTGW. We can only keep up a streak of non burger-and-wing places (where we still sometimes order burgers and wings) for so long, I guess.

We’ve also run out of places in the immediate area – I’m still not sure what kind of portal opened up that enabled us to find those last two after all these years – hence why our adventures have us driving to Canton this week.

I think I found Loby’s on a Google Maps search of the area, just trying to seek out places we haven’t hit yet. Oops, giving away our trade secrets for picks here. Sorry.

The place sits in an interesting strip plaza on a corner lot. What is it with Canton and bars/restaurants in strip plazas? This one looked a bit shady (the Discount Drugmart is probably legit, but I’m not sure I want to know what goes on inside the storefront labeled “Triple 7 Fever”) but I guess compared to some of the places we’ve been in the area it’s really not that bad.

The first thing we noticed was the “seat yourself” sign when you walk in. There’s a landmine waiting to happen. Let’s just say Ted, Shane and I spent the next few minutes playing a bit of musical tables trying to find the right place to sit. It was a little like watching Sheldon on Big Bang Theory trying to find a seat in a new room.

And not entirely our fault, as the place has a bit of an odd setup. There’s a bar area when you first walk in, an open dining area to the side of that (with no wall in between), and several booths along the far walls.

If you want TVs, the bar area is your best bet, as there are almost an overload of them there. Most were tuned to sports, but some even had random Hallmark Christmas movies, so I guess we’re catering to everyone at Loby’s. But then if you go away from that area into the dining room, there’s zero atmosphere at all. And the booths along the walls have these high backs on them so you you’re pretty much secluded from everything. Kind of an odd thing to do at a place where you tell people to seat themselves, no? Like how do the servers see you sitting there and know to come over? Is there a silent buzzer on the seat that alerts someone in the kitchen? Is there a guy in the backroom just watching cameras all day to see who sits there and when? HOW??

We never really got to find out.

Of course our first attempt was to scan the bar area – as you all know that’s our preferred area to sit (and someone other than me was quite interested in the Hallmark movies) – but all the tables were full, and I think we’ve established anymore that we order way too much food to try and squeeze into spaces at the bar itself. So our next option was one of those high backed booths … until we had pretty much the same conversation outlined above, and decided we didn’t want to wait it out. So we ended up in a table in the open dining area. Which is also odd – if you sit on one side you can see some of he TVs in the bar, but if not, you get to look at a wall.

Poor Ted, he got that option.

So they still had pumpkin beer on tap – and on special, even – so Ted and I went that route. Since I kinda feel like I missed out on most of the pumpkin beers this season, this was welcome. I mean, who cares if that keg has been hooked up since October? We drink Summer Shandy in January if we still find it somewhere, and we haven’t died yet. Call us daredevils.

Shane and I ordered the fried mac & cheese bites as an app. Surprisingly Ted didn’t want to share with us. Weird.

I'll take some cheese with a side of cheese, please

I’ll take some cheese with a side of cheese, please

They came out of the kitchen super quick and were super warm – and were also super good. Not too crispy, very cheesy and gooey. They also came with a queso dip – because why not serve fried cheese with more cheese? This place is after my own heart.

I got the 1/3 lb siracha blue burger. It comes with fries, and I also got a side salad, because you know why not try to be a little healthy.

After our last few weeks of bowls of cheese disguised as salad, I was more than a bit disappointed to see this one come out looking like a real salad. Like actual lettuce and vegetables. What the hell?

What is this green stuff in my salad?

What is this green stuff in my salad?

My burger was really, really good. Lots of flavor, but very messy. I commented though that I almost didn’t taste the burger itself because of everything else that was going on there.

It's deceptively messy under that bun

It’s deceptively messy under that bun

Shane got the hot patty melt burger. He was going to get the half pound patty, but the server mentioned she could likely make that one the $5 special if he got the smaller one (I guess on Wednesdays they have a $5 build your own burger special), so he switched to that option.Economics trumps hunger sometimes.

There's a burger under that bread

There’s a burger under that bread

Plus he also got five of the hot garlic parm wings. Because, well, you know the drill on that anymore. I might need to rename this blog “Where to Go For Wings on Wednesdays.”

His wings actually came out as just hot garlic – and we knew this because Ted also ordered the hot garlic, and they looked surprisingly similar – so when we said something they took Shane’s wings back and just added parm cheese to them. At least we know that secret now.

Wings, plus parm

Wings, plus parm

Wings, minus the parm

Wings, minus the parm

Shane liked his burger, said it was really tasty. And spicy. But he didn’t really care for the wings.

Ted got the 10 oz strip steak special, plus – as mentioned – five of the hot garlic wings. The steak came with either a soup or a salad, so he opted for the soup – after the server told him that the special was the Hungarian hot pepper. Even I was intrigued by that. If I’d known my salad wouldn’t include half a bowl of cheese, I might’ve gone the soup route instead.

Don't mind the half eaten bread, it really was a full piece when it was served

Don’t mind the half eaten bread, it really was a full piece when it was served

Ted said the steak was good. He’s not usually a fan of pan seared, but said this one was good. He also liked the seasoning, said it was a touch salty but still good.

That looks so fancy

That looks so fancy

Apparently the cole slaw doesn't play well with the steak so it needs it's own bowl

Apparently the cole slaw doesn’t play well with the steak so it needs it’s own bowl

Both Shane and Ted didn’t have much to say about the wings. Especially after the ones they had last week, these were quite disappointing. Maybe we should try not ordering them every week? Like absence makes the taste buds grow fonder?

Aside from the wings, our only other complaint was the service. Our server was very brisk, and we felt like from the moment we sat down we should just be preparing ourselves to get back up again and leave. Nothing says welcome like rushing you out the door, right? She tried to take our app away when there was still one left in the basket – but at least she was polite enough to ask us if we were going to eat that last one before the basket flew off the table? She also grabbed my burger basket when there were still half of the fires left – which, I mean, let’s be honest, I didn’t want them anymore anyway, but I think I had probably come to that realization about 30 seconds before she got to the table, and it’s not like I had thrown my napkin in the basket or given any other universal signs of “I’m finished with this, thanks.” It’s like she just doesn’t like to see baskets of half eaten food on tables, regardless of if you’re actually done with them or not. And then she offered to get our bills together right as she took the last baskets away. Not “can I get you any more drinks” or “dessert, anyone?” or even “can I get you anything else” – it was “so I’ll just get your bills ready then?” At least she had the courtesy to make it a question?

Overall, the food was good for the most part, but the distance from our house and the feeling of being rushed out (maybe she knew we had a long drive home and was just trying to get us there earlier?) probably means we won’t be returning anytime soon. Unless maybe we finally decide to figure out what goes on inside the “Triple 7s” and then get hungry. Hmm.

Picked by: Steph
Next pick: Amanda

Steph

Steph

Shane

Shane

Ted

Ted

Loby's Bar & Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 11/23/16: J. Dublin’s Pour House, Akron

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Apparently we’re on an Irish kick these days. Because nothing says November like Irish pubs.

To be honest, Ted’s initial pick this week was Creo’s – otherwise known as “the old Gus’s Chalet.” He’s been dying to go there ever since it opened, I think just to try and wash the taste out of our mouths from the old place.

Unfortunately, however, the specialty at Creo’s is Cajun food. Hearing that caused Shane to slam the brakes on that choice, for fear of a relapse of the great “night-before-Thanksgiving-food-poisoning/allergic-reaction-incident-of-2015,” which rendered him incapacitated for the entire Thanksgiving meal. (See also: why we can’t go to Lagerhead’s ever again, and why the smell of BBQ/Cajun food sends Shane running for the door of any restaurant)

In Shane’s words, “I’ll risk puking my guts out any other night of the year, Ted, but I’m not missing Thanksgiving again.”

Point taken.

So Ted called a “medical audible” and went with his next choice, J. Dublin’s.

And since we’re still being honest, I should point out that Shane, Amanda and I have actually been inside this place before. We actually even reviewed it, a few years ago, back when it was Johnny Malloy’s. Also known as the place where Amanda and I ordered draft beer, while Shane was the recipient of a lovely colorful, fruity mixed drink.

Good times.

The place still looks the same inside. They may have changed the name, but they certainly haven’t changed the decor at all.

J. Dublin’s has a decent beer list, so we all got drafts. Which turned out to be a good choice, since after one round I tried to switch to one of their specialty cocktails on the menu, only to be told that since it involved a pumpkin beer and they were apparently all out of every pumpkin beer available they couldn’t make it. OK. Because it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, makes sense that all the fall beers are out of stock. May as well just keep up with retail and bring out the summer shandy already, eh?

For appetizers, Ted got mussels, Shane and I got the southwestern egg rolls, and Amanda and Jerrid got the tater barrels.

Meal of mussels

Meal of mussels

Something fried and phallic looking. Must be our appetizer.

Something fried and phallic looking. Must be our appetizer.

Are you gonna eat those tots?

Are you gonna eat those tots?

The mussels were really good, and you seemed to get a decent amount for something on the appetizer menu. The egg rolls were very tasty. And the tater barrels – which are essentially just tater tots with bacon on them – were also good.

Shane got the Wednesday steak special, which is a steak and potato/fries for $7.99. What a bargain! Yeah, no. Not if you’re super hungry anyway. I’m not sure how many ounces the steak was supposed to be, but when it came out it looked like a piece that someone cut off to sample and left the real meal in the back room. It was like an appetizer steak. Or something from the children’s menu. Especially for someone like Shane, who probably could’ve finished it off in about three bites if he wanted to.

Oh how cute. I think the knife is bigger than the meat it's supposed to cut.

Oh how cute. I think the knife is bigger than the meat it’s supposed to cut.

At least he was smart to get five of the garlic parm wings to go along with it. Good move.

Saving Shane from starvation

Saving Shane from starvation

Amanda and I both had the Philly cheese steak with fries. Well, to be clear, the sandwich actually doesn’t come with fries – you have to order them separate. Seems strange, no? I mean, we’ve been places where you just get sandwiches, and all of the sides are extra. And here it clearly states on the menu that all of the burgers and wraps come with fries. But I guess extending that side option to Philly cheese steaks and other assorted non-burger sandwiches was just running them dry in the budget? Sounds plausible.

Imagine how empty that plate would look without the fries

Imagine how empty that plate would look without the fries

In any case, both the sandwich and the fries were solid choices, very tasty.

Jerrid got the Mac attack burger (as well as the free fries that came with it, lucky bastard) and five of the cool ranch wings. Wait, what – cool ranch? That’s a flavor we haven’t heard before. And there was quite a bit of debate at our table about whether or not the sauce would come out tasting like Cool Ranch Doritos.

Sadly, it did not. Sorry to ruin the surprise.

Non Dorito flavored

Non Dorito flavored

Cheesy

Cheesy

Ted got the Dublin burger, which is like a reuben and a burger all rolled into one. Because we didn’t get enough corned beef last week? Right. Also, I’ll repeat myself from last week – we are in an Irish place. And since the rest of us didn’t step up like we did last Wednesday I guess he had to be the one to take one for the team and actually order something Irish on the menu. Thanks, Ted.

Wait, why does he have two condiment cups?

Wait, why does he have two condiment cups?

Although that kinda bit him in the ass, since he said the corned beef was not very good. Especially after what we had last week. Also, seems strange for an Irish place. But I guess strange is a little bit of a theme for this week, so whatever.

All in all, J. Dublin’s was a solid pick. The food was decent, the service was good, and the place is definitely large enough to host about 100 of your closest friends without disrupting any other tables, should you care to try something like that. I mean, options, people. We’re here to help with things like that. You’re welcome.

I’d also like to point out that the guys are like a who’s who of Top 10 college football in their apparel choices this week. Kinda makes you wonder how they all get along so well, no?

Representing Alabama - Shane

Representing Alabama – Shane

Representing Ohio State - Ted

Representing Ohio State – Ted

And representing Michigan - Jerrid

And representing Michigan – Jerrid

Amanda

Amanda

Steph

Steph

Picked by: Ted
Next pick: Jerrid

WTGW 9/14/16: Varsity, Hudson

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Yes folks, this week we have yet another in the list of places that epitomize “reasons why WTGW was created.” These are places we drive past about 64.8 times and somehow never get around to going into, despite saying “hey, we should go there sometime” every. single. time. we drive past.

In the case of Varsity, part of the issue was that it really doesn’t look like a sports bar from the outside. Nothing about the boring, blue, block letter sign on the nondescript concrete building screams “come inside and enjoy a nice cold drink while watching sports on 500 TVs.” In fact, for the longest time when we passed by I kind of figured it was some new sporting goods store, until I got a flyer in the mail one day announcing weekly specials. Huh. So direct mail isn’t dead.

But still, change the sign. Or the building. Or something.

Also, just because direct mail is apparently front and center on your marketing plan, let’s not completely go back to 1998 and forget one of the biggest assets to any company today … a website. Seriously people. It’s 2016. I’m shocked by the number of restaurants that won’t pony up the money for a decent webpage. You know, with a menu that people can look at in advance, and maybe your daily specials, along with your location. See also: ways to convince people to come into your establishment.

Because, assuming you know that Varsity is, in fact, a bar and grill, naturally you do a quick Google search to find out more about what they serve. And if you type “Varsity Hudson” into Google, and click on the 4th option down – because the URL looks promising – you might be pleased.

But then at some point you realize it’s actually a website for a bar & grill in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Not Hudson, Ohio. I spend damn near 15 minutes picking out a meal and dreaming about Wednesday being $3 Captain mixer day before I realized this was a tad out of our WTGW travel zone.

Rats.

And I say this only to help our friend Varsity, because the place really does have potential on the inside. First off, the space is huge. There are giant big screen TVs over the bar – as you would expect for a place called Varsity (once you actually realize it’s a bar anyway). And there’s a giant bar in the middle of the place with seating for several – again, as you would expect from a place that wants to be a hangout for sporting event viewing. And they have a patio. With a fire pit.

These are all things that scream of success in sports-driven, game-watching, we-want-to-be-outdoors-when-its-nice-out Northeastern Ohio. **sigh**

Speaking of the bar, that’s where we sat. Again. Apparently we’re back to this being our thing.

Angry Orchard was on special – we weren’t clear if it was just for that day, or all Wednesdays, or the month of September in general (*ahem* I bet a website would tell us that *ahem*) – but whatever, sign Shane and me up. Ted got the BumbleBerry from FatHead’s, and immediately made Jerrid jealous with his choice. He ditched his Stella after the next round and switched to the BumbleBerry.

See also: bromance.

So the menu  – like everything else in the space – is huge. And it has a lot of variety. It’s not your typical sports bar that only serves burgers and wings – they have pizza, ribs, sandwiches, salads, soups – you name it. And maybe I was just hungry, but everything looked really, really good.

Which could explain why Shane and I gravitated toward the “limitless chips & salsa” as our app. Because diving into anything limitless just before you eat a real meal is really just proper planning on our part, right?

If you know us, you know the correct answer to that is yes.

Limitless = we had two

Limitless = we had two

Jerrid and Amanda got the loaded tater tots. Because, again, how can you go wrong there? Tots and cheese and yummy toppings. They were definitely pleased with their decision.

Cheesy tots

Cheesy tots

While we weren’t clear if Angry Orchard was a Wednesday special, we did discover that wings definitely were, at 59 cents/wing on Wednesdays. Not bad. Although the only one in our group to take advantage of that was Ted, who got six of the dry rub Jamaican Jerk wings to go along with his Breakfast Burger – which, as the name implies, comes with bacon and a fried egg of top.

Breakfast on a bun. Brilliant

Breakfast on a bun. Brilliant

He said the burger was juicy but kind of bland. Which is surprising for something called a “breakfast burger.” Maybe they need to add some maple syrup or flavored bacon to the mix. Or go the McDonald’s route and put it in between pancakes. Because clearly that would help.

Ted didn’t say anything about the wings, which probably means there wasn’t much to say. Ouch.

They really should get smaller bowls for a 6-wing order

They really should get smaller bowls for a 6-wing order

Keeping up our twinsie routine from last week, Amanda and I both got the Buckeye Burger – which is a fancy way of saying “Mushroom and Swiss Burger” at Varsity. Big surprise we both gravitated to that one, I know.

Unfortunately our burgers didn’t fall under the “juicy” category like Ted’s burger did. I guess maybe his burger got all the juice, because both of ours were dryer than the Nevada desert in the middle of August. And barely pink inside, which we all know is not typically how, well, really any of us in this group like our burgers.

Although honestly I don’t remember the server asking how I wanted my burger done, so I guess “almost well” is just the standard here? Awesome.

I got tater tots with my burger – because, hello, they’re delicious, and not always a staple on menus like fries are, so grab them when you can. But these particular ones were a bit too salty. And I like salt. But these were overkill.

You gonna eat those tots?

You gonna eat those tots?

Jerrid got the capreze pizza and a side of fries. He said the pizza was very good. And he even took some of it home. Wait, what now? Is this allowed?

Shane also belonged to the doggie bag club this evening, as he only ate about half of his full rack of ribs. Must’ve been that limitless chips and salsa that set him back. He said the ribs were OK, but he wasn’t a huge fan of the sauce. Which, I mean, is kind of an important component to ribs, no? Without sauce it’s really just the same cooked meat with no taste that you could make at home by yourself. Fantastic.

Can you wipe the sauce off, please?

Can you wipe the sauce off, please?

The service was great. I mean, we did sit at the bar, so that helped … but even so our bartender/server was very attentive and made sure our drinks were never empty and plates were taken away quickly. Although we did notice she was a bit soft spoken for a loud, cavernous place like this, so they may want to consider holding future interviews inside the restaurant with the music on just to test the voice decibel levels of servers down the road. But aside from having to concentrate to hear her, she was great. She even let us move outside to the patio fire pit (see, told you we enjoy these things) later in the evening without worrying we would take off without paying, or holding us up to cash out bills, etc. I mean, there were also only about 10 other people in the whole place, so I’m assuming she figured she could chase us down if need be, but still.

It's officially fall

It’s officially fall

So I guess overall Varsity has a ton of potential … but they need work on perfecting their brand, as well as several of the food options. Like I mentioned, there’s a giant menu – and when we first looked through it we were all pointing out about 150 things that looked good … but afterwards none of us were so overly thrilled with what we’d tried that we felt compelled to schedule another visit in the immediate future to try anything we didn’t have a chance to. Perhaps they should take the menu down a few pages and work on just perfecting those items, rather than having a selection the size of a Cheesecake Factory menu. Just a thought.

Jerrid

Jerrid

Amanda and sad Jerrid

Amanda and sad Jerrid

Ted

Ted

Moments after this his head exploded in flames. OK, not really, but he did say he could smell burning arm hairs.

Moments after this his head exploded in flames. OK, not really, but he did say he could smell burning arm hairs.

Ted apparently doesn't have time for auto focus. He may be fired as my official photographer.

Ted apparently doesn’t have time for auto focus. He may be fired as my official photographer.

Picked by: Jerrid
Next pick: Amanda

WTGW 8/17/16: Cruiser’s, Boston Heights

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So, if you’ve wondered where we’ve been he last two weeks, let me give you the Cliff’s Notes version:

Week One:

img_0166

Week Two:

OK, so maybe we weren't exactly doing this, but it looks fun, right?

OK, so maybe we weren’t doing exactly this, but it looks fun, right?

So, yeah, two weeks ago was Ted’s birthday – which we celebrated at, guess where … our old favorite, Kepner’s. As you can see from the photo, a good time was had by all, and clearly we weren’t taking notes of any kind to report about later. Because, well, alcohol.

And then last week we had a freak hour-long torrential downpour/monsoon/attempt-to-turn-the-yard-into-a-pool event that caused our basement to begin to grow water through the floor cracks like a garden, so we decided to stay in and deal with that. Because the alternative of coming home at 11PM and dealing with it after a few drinks was definitely not appealing.

Anyway.

So that brings us to this week. And Shane’s pick of Cruiser’s, which is located inside the Clarion Hotel in Boston Heights. If you’ve ever driven on Rt. 8 south of 271, or gotten off the Turnpike at Rt 8, you’ve seen the Clarion Hotel. And probably wondered just how in the bloody hell you even get to it, as the only exit from the highway that seems to exist there is the one that takes you on and off of the Turnpike.

Well, we found it.

Although, honestly, I think the larger challenge became locating the actual restaurant inside of the hotel once we arrived. Little tip, don’t come in via the entrance that faces the road. Because that would be too easy, right? Instead you should drive all the way around the place until you get to the entrance that faces the highway you can’t exit to get to the hotel … and that’s where you’ll find the front entrance of the hotel, as well as the entrance to the restaurant.

Confused yet?

Wait, it gets better.

I will say that Ted, Shane and I got a lovely tour of the first floor of the Clarion Hotel in our attempt to locate the restaurant. I can now show you to the fitness center, pool or courtyard.

After dinner swim anyone?

After dinner swim anyone?

We also witnessed a group of construction workers grilling out and perhaps hosting a tailgate party for some phantom sporting event out in the roadside parking lot. So we joked that at least if the restaurant sucked we had another nearby option.

I digress.

When we finally found the restaurant we were a little confused as to if it was even open, as I think there were only about two other people inside. The bartender/server told us to pick a table … so we picked one, then moved, then almost moved again … we like musical chairs. But hey, it’s not as if we were disturbing anyone. We were just doing our research.

After she brough us the menus, we realized that the name on them wasn’t Cruisers. Huh?

Wait, where are we again?

Wait, where are we again?

Oh well, they still had Summer Shandy on draft, so we were happy. Or at least Shane and I were happy. Shandy-hater Ted got the Great Lakes Commodore Perry.

Our special guests Jerrid and Amanda showed up one-by-one a bit later – and likely after next week will be back to full time with us, yay! – and got a Yuengling and Summer Shandy.

Wednesdays happen to be 50 cent wing nights at whatever-the-name-of-this-place-is, so score for us. And chesse sticks for $5. So another score. Well, not for Ted – but the rest of us were happy about it. I think Shane and I polished those off in like five minutes flat.

There were a few more in that basket, but hungry hands are grabby hands

There were a few more in that basket, but hungry hands are grabby hands

And then the rest of the night was pretty much just a giant wing fest at our table. Here’s a close up.

Oh hey, look - wings. That's something new for us.

Oh hey, look – wings. That’s something new for us.

But this might put it in better perspective.

Because we're much better to look at than just pictures of wings that all look the same

Because we’re much better to look at than just pictures of wings that all look the same

And that photo was taken before Amanda showed up. So, yeah, all this for four people. It’s like The Big Dog all over again.

To make matters even better – for us anyway – you can change sauces with every five wings. So you know we couldn’t all just stick to simple orders, and had to try at least a few different ones. I’ll do my best to remember most of the sauces, but I can’t promise to know who ordered what beyond my own order.

Hey, it’s a lot of wings. You try being the secretary for this group.

I was intrigued by the Six Pepper Dry Rub that was on the new “specials” menu, and I thought those were actually the best ones. To be fair, I only tried my other flavor – the Sweet & Spicy Dry Rub (which we all got at least one batch of) – but definitely liked the pepper ones better. It was hotter, but not enough to be overwhelming. Very good flavor on both kinds.

Shane had the Garlic Parm (surprise) as did Amanda when she arrived a bit later. As usual, it was good. Ted got the Spicy Garlic and was thrilled with them. The boys each also got another flavor as well, but I can’t for the life of me remember what they were. I know, I suck. Blame the beer.

For the record – and because we asked – the Scooter sauce on the menu is actually the same as the Sweet & Spicy but as a sauce and not a dry rub. The server also told us it was more sweet than it was spicy. Jerrid took a stab at that one.

Jerrid also actually ordered a BBQ, but when everything came out it ended up that instead he got a Sweet & Spicy Dry Rub like the rest of us. He just ran with it – because, well, at that point why argue? Plus then he got to sample firsthand the difference between the two, which seemed to be pretty accurate.

They also had baskets of fries for $2 each. So, you know, of course we got like three of those for the table. Because we needed more food. And to once again cheat our heart attack potential. I might need to change the name of this blog to “What Hasn’t Killed Us Yet Wednesday.”

Overall Cruisers/Valley Junction/Pick-A-Name-For-This-Place-Yourself is a fun little neighborhood bar, with cheap food and drinks and a very laid back atmosphere. It’s definitely nothing fancy – although they do have more than wings on the menu (sandwiches, dinners, salads, etc). I had read some reviews that mentioned service wasn’t exactly the big reason for returning – but we had an OK time of it, and I think that was more just the server’s brisk, not exactly warm & fuzzy personality than an attempt to be rude. Hey, we’re used to that at this point. And she did joke with us at times – like when Jerrid was slowly sipping his drinks and didn’t order another round with the table, her parting words were “Catch up, mustard.” Nice.

And when we’re still calling Jerrid “Musty” weeks from now, I’m sure we’ll think of her fondly.

The cook also made a few appearances to our table – first to deliver our food, at which time he told us more about the different sauces and dry rubs, how he created some of them himself, etc. You can tell he takes pride in that. And then later he came by to ask how everything was, which was nice. I mean, in all reality he was probably just bored – since I think only two other tables came into the place in the time we were there – and glad to escape the kitchen and talk to people … but whatevs. We’ll take it.

 

So, yeah, while we didn’t try anything else on the menu except things that can be put in a fryer, we would definitely give a thumbs up what we did try. And I could definitely see us coming back again on a Wednesday to try more sauces. Maybe I’ll actually remember them all that time. No promises, though.

Plus, I mean, where else can you have this much fun taking pictures on your way back to the car?

We forgot to do our usual thumbs up/down pictures inside the restaurant. So Ted got comfortable.

We forgot to do our usual thumbs up/down pictures inside the restaurant. So Ted got comfortable.

Why pose at a table when you can have this picturesque scene?

Why pose at a table when you can have this picturesque scene?

Goofball, take 1

And then … Shane. Goofball, take 1

Goofball, take 2

Goofball, take 2

I don't even know what's going on here anymore

I don’t even know what’s going on here anymore

It's like some deranged workout video

It’s like some deranged workout video

This is why we can't go anywhere nice

This is why we can’t go anywhere nice

Enough said

Enough said

Time to go home, kids. Goodnight.

Time to go home, kids. Goodnight.

Picked by: Shane
Next pick: Steph

WTGW 3/16/16: Foster’s Tavern, Hinckley

Standard

Twas the night before St. Patrick’s Day, and we ended up at … well, not a Irish place. Because it’s not St. Patricks’s Day yet. Try to follow along here kids.

Although when I texted Ted the name of Shane’s pick for this week, his comment was “Fosters? Is that Australian for bar?” Good memory of 90’s alcohol commercials, Ted.

My comment back was that I just hoped it was American for “we have alcohol and good food.”

We really don’t ask for much. I mean, come on.

Anyway, as I mentioned it was Shane’s pick this week, so of course that explains why we’re back in his new favorite town of Hinckley. Because if any of us pick a place there I think he might challenge us to a duel over it, medieval times style. I will say that at least arriving in town during the daylight hours didn’t make it seem quite as scary as the last time we ventured there.Thanks, daylight savings time.

And as long as we’re checking items off the Shane “Must Have” checklist … we also think this place was a house at one time. Seriously, how does he find these places? Its like he plugs variables into a Google search: Is it a house? Is it in Hinckley? Does it get it somewhat questionable reviews? Awesome, I’ll pick it.

Amanda and Jerrid got there first, settled in at a table in the bar and ordered the fried mushrooms as an app. Before we even got there Jerrid was texting Shane pictures of the appetizer. Because it was like $7 for the app, which turned out to be like six mushrooms. Ok, maybe seven – at most. Let’s just say it filled a small appetizer plate, if that tells you anything. And for that price, it makes the mushrooms like a dollar a piece. Now I mean, I’m no vegetable expert or anything, but I’ve seen what a container of mushrooms sells for in the grocery store, and that’s a hell of a markup. Unless the breading made from shredded up $100 bills and gold shavings, which is highly doubtful.

Anyway.

So the first thing I noticed when we arrived at our table was that there was a beer cooler conveniently located directly behind our table – and, more appropriately, my seat at the table. Like an actual refrigerator sized, sliding glass cooler. That actually opened, was unlocked, and functioned as one of two working beer coolers for the bar. Two things about this: 1) seems an odd placement being that far away from the bartender, and 2) so, serve yourself, then? Score!

It's like having a drive thru inside the restaurant

It’s like having a drive thru inside the restaurant

OK, so the server actually did come over and take our beer orders. But at least she didn’t have far to go to bring them over to us. And FYI, Summer Shandy is out already, folks. ‘Tis the season.

Ted got the mussels as an app. Jerrid and Amanda immediately high-fived when he ordered, as they had talked amongst themselves when they saw mussels on the menu that that’s what Ted would choose.

I like that we’ve reached the point in our adventures that we’re running sideboards on the predictability of our menu choices.

Although if those are the rules we’re playing by then I’m slightly disappointed that no one cheered when Shane and I got the cheese sticks. I mean, come on. Something fried with cheese? It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Side note on the cheese sticks: they must use the same breading on those as the mushrooms, because that order was also $7 for like six sticks. I’m seeing a pattern here. Hmm.

Cheese sticks breaded in shaved gold?

Cheese sticks breaded in shaved gold?

The mussels were super garlicky. Like more so than the pizza at Brick Oven – which may now be the standard by which we rate all things garlic. You could smell the garlic on the mussels as the dish was being set on the table, and actually see the minced pieces of garlic in the sauce and over the shells. It was honestly a bit much for me – I tried two of them and couldn’t stomach any more.

Can we get some mussels with this garlic please?

Can we get some mussels with this garlic please?

Ted, on the other hand, loved them. He ate them up like he hadn’t touched food in about a week and a half. And then stacked the shells very neatly.

Mussels with a side of OCD please

Mussels with a side of OCD please

Shane – OK Rain Man, nice job.

But even though Ted was really the only one to consume more than two or four mussels, our vampire-safe status was solidified when the server came back to grab the (what she thought was empty) dish … and proceeded to tip it way too far to one side and cover the table in garlic juice. Because that creates an attractive smell. She apologized profusely while she cleaned it up … although my take on it was that really she just saved all of us from DUIs since if we were to get pulled over we’d certainly smell more of garlic than beer.

Once again, score.

Oh, hey, speaking of which … remember that whole how-great-would-it-be-to-just-help-yourself-to-the-beer-cooler thing? Well we joked about it to the server, and she was like “yeah, that’s fine, just let me know what you take.” Um, OK. Of course we took her up on that. Jerrid and I both took turns getting rounds out of the cooler throughout the course of the night.

There’s something about getting up from your seat and announcing “I’m getting another beer, anyone need anything?” as you place your hand on on the cooler door that just makes you feel right at home. In a bar. That used to be a house.

Right.

Shane and I both got burgers for our meals. The burgers at Foster’s can be either half pound or full pound patties, and they’re fresh made. The only difference in our orders was the toppings (lettuce, tomato, mushroom and swiss for me, and mushroom, onion and swiss for Shane) and the way we had them cooked (pink for him, not so pink for me). We were both impressed that our server managed to remember everything – correctly – without writing it down. Nice.

Because if you can't have garlic, onions are the next best thing

Because if you can’t have garlic, onions are the next best thing

Sorry, Ted, but all that cheese just looks delicious

Sorry, Ted, but all that cheese just looks delicious

We were definitely not disappointed, either. The burgers at Foster’s are great. They are definitely fresh made and cooked to order, as evidenced here:

Rare burger. Otherwise known as, could possibly still be alive.

Rare burger. Otherwise known as, could possibly still be alive.

Medium burger. Also known as, just a little more dead

Medium burger. Also known as, just a little more dead

We each got the half pound burgers, and each of them were huge. Which means I can’t even imagine what trying to eat the full pound burger that they offer must be like. I mean, beyond the obvious “well, imagine eating twice the burger you had in your hand.” … seriously, it’s like here’s your side of cow on a bun, enjoy? I have to imagine it’s probably something close to what we experienced at the Caddyshack Inn down the road a few weeks ago, that’s about the best I can come up with.

Hinckley – home of the massive hamburgers. Who says a town doesn’t need a tagline?

Amanda got the steak sandwich on the warm pretzel bun. She said the bun was what sold her on it, since she had actually just had steak for dinner the night before and wasn’t overly crazy about eating it again. Just goes to show you that pretzel buns are charming little m-fers.

You had me at "pretzel bun"

You had me at “pretzel bun”

In any case, at least it was good, so she didn’t regret her decision. The only bad part was that the charming little bun – in true pretzel fashion – actually had a touch too much salt on it. I looked over once and did a double take at her scraping giant pieces of salt off the top of her sandwich – which, if you can believe, is something that doesn’t happen so often at our table (shocker, right?), so it caught my attention. But other than that her meal was very tasty.

Jerrid and Ted both ordered the triple chicken sandwich. And of course we were all intrigued by the name, and had to discuss what exactly it was that could possibly make it “triple” chicken? Is it three chicken patties on one sandwich? Is it breaded in three times the amount of batter? (after experiencing the appetizer mathematics lesson from earlier in the evening, we already knew the answer to that one) Do they flip it three times before they know it’s done? WHAT??? TELL US?

The great Triple Chicken Mystery of 2016

The great Triple Chicken Mystery of 2016

Sadly, we still have no idea. The sandwiches came out looking like, well, pretty much any other chicken sandwich we’ve ever seen, anywhere. The guys said they were good, though. The chicken was thin, but moist. Which even further confuses the whole “triple” concept (triple moisture maybe? I give up) but whatever.

And BTW, I’d like to point out that there was no cheer for Ted on his sandwich order, because that was completely out of left field for him. I mean, when did he last order anything chicken … that wasn’t in wing form? Fish – check. Steak – check. Burgers – check. Pizza – check. But chicken? This is new.

Although it was still specified to be without cheese, so at least that was consistent. Whew.

Triple the chicken, no cheese

Triple the chicken, minus the cheese

After dinner – and our third round of “let’s open the cooler for more beer” – we got our arms twisted into ordering the Oreo cheesecake for dessert. Because, well, beer and sugar attract one another, I think. In any case, we didn’t regret our choice. First of all – while they weren’t LagerHead’s carrot cake sized pieces, they were still pretty ginormous. And second of all, well, they were just pretty damn delicious. The cook actually delivered the slices to the table herself, and mentioned when she dropped it off that she had made it earlier in the day. Well that’s good to hear. Because who wants two week old cheesecake? Am I right?

Why don't we order dessert more? Especially when it tastes like this?

Why don’t we order dessert more? Especially when it tastes like this?

It’s not every day we get a visit by the cook. Wait, hey – dammit, why didn’t we ask her about the chicken? Stupid delicious cheesecake and beers clouding our judgement. Argh!

Overall Foster’s is a pretty cool little place. It’s definitely “homey” on the inside (see what I did there?) – there are tables kind of tucked into corners, and under stairs, and wedged in next to coolers, and close to the bar … so I can only imagine when it gets crowded in there that it’s a bit snug. There is a whole other room – looks like they may have built on an addition on the one side, as an attempt to fix the whole space issue –  but that space is also, well, a bit boring. No TVs, no bar, no one else sitting over there – so they may want to work on jazzing that area up a bit more if they want to entice people to venture over there.

We all agreed that it was a tad on the pricey side, just given the environment – I mean, you can’t charge steakhouse prices in a dive bar atmosphere – at least the food is good and the people are nice.  did read some reviews that mentioned that the place is not fond of new people or “outsiders” – but fortunately we never experienced any bad service or side eye glances. Unless the real reason the cook came out was to check on how we were feeling after she spit in all of our food … but I’m thinking that was highly unlikely.

Shane

Shane

Ted

Ted

Jerrid

Jerrid

Steph

Steph

Amanda

Amanda

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Shane

Drinks: Serve yourself beer is a fun concept. Definitely beats straining to see the taps behind the bar, or reading outdated menu listings.
Food: Avoid the appetizers and just order the main course. And if you figure out WTF makes the chicken “triple” please let us know.
Service: Some may say getting beer out of the cooler yourself means the servers are being lazy, but I give them kudos because we never waited for a drink. And bonus points to the server for allowing us to try the new “garlic heaven” perfume they must be debuting here.
Overall: I could definitely see us going back. Although being just down the street from the Caddyshack does create a conundrum. Shane might be on to something with this whole cornering the Hinckley market idea.

Next Pick: Steph
Foster's Tavern of Hinckley Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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

Standard

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

Well rats.

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

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

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

Anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sorry, I had to.

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

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

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

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

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

Steak and potatoes, in a different form

Steak and potatoes, in a different form

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wings from the Carribbean

Wings from the Carribbean

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

Wings, southern style

Wings, southern style

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jerrid

Jerrid

Shane

Shane

Ted

Ted

Amanda

Amanda

Steph

Steph

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Jerrid

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

Next Pick: Shane