WTGW 1/15/19: Craft Cantina, Merriman Valley

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THE WHERE (we went)

That’s a question best answered by first telling you where we didn’t go: Springfield, Ohio. As is 180 miles away from us. Not Springfield Township, where we’ve been frequently. Jason learned an important lesson in checking the directions before thinking the place was too good to be true.

But, you know, if we ever are 180 miles away, the Hickory Inn sounds like an amazing pick. Just sayin’.

So we ended up with a collective vote to check out Craft Cantina in the Valley, after throwing out around 27 other options and driving aimlessly around Cuyahoga Falls for about 15 minutes. But at least that drive was educational, in that we learned the old Barmacy space in the Valley is currently uninhabited, and a sketch place in Akron that Shane has been eyeing doesn’t have food, so that was out as a pick.

Using our time wisely, folks.

Craft Cantina is also the younger and smaller sister to Crave Cantina, which we visited a while back when the then-new downtown Cuyahoga Falls location opened. So this isn’t exactly a revisit, more like just choosing another location of a chain, something some of us in the group are prone to doing every now and again. Not naming any names or anything.

THE WHAT (we ordered)

Drinks of course and foremost … because, well, you should know that about us by now. Plus we had just been driving around for what felt like an eternity so we had to make up for lost time.

Cassi and I went with mixed drinks. I highly recommend the Tiki Mojito. It was delicious.

Meanwhile, Shane ordered a beer, which Ted at least had the courtesy to wait until the server walked away before announcing that Shane would definitely not enjoy drinking.

Newsflash: Ted was right. His prize was Shane’s beer.

For apps Cassi and Jason got the Disco Fries. Which did not arrive with a tiny mirror ball attached to the plate, so I feel a little cheated and like that was a marketing opportunity completely lost.

So. Many. Possibilities.

Regardless, they said they were delicious. I guess that’s more important.

Shane and I got the queso dip with jalepenos. Or Rotel. Or something that gave it some chunkiness without a lot of spice. Which I realize sounds disgusting but trust me it was tasty. The chips were also really good – they had some sort of dusting on them, kind of like Dorito’s in training.

All of us did some fashion of the make your own tacos or bowls – the ordering system of which pretty much confused the hell out of most of us, but somehow we powered through. I mean, I get that this is the new trend for Mexican and Latin American restaurants, but some direction might be helpful. From the server. Or the menu itself. Or, well, anywhere really.

I did the make your own bowl with steak.

It was just OK. The steak wasn’t very good, and the bowl overall just didn’t seem to have a ton of flavor. Maybe that goes back to the whole guidance on ordering thing, as I could’ve probably used some in the area of “sauces-that-add-flavor-without-sacrificing-every-one-of-your-taste-buds-or-your-will-to-live.”

Jason made his own giant burrito with brisket and pineapple. Let’s just say that they aren’t kidding about that giant thing.

This photo seems aggressive

This was something Shane probably would’ve preferred to know before he placed his order – which was not only a create-your-own flank steak burrito, but also one of the fried chicken tacos.

One of these things is unnecessary

Shane ate his taco first, something that probably contributed to his later taking half of his burrito home with him. Because we all know how it pains anyone at this table to ask for a to-go box.

Jason ate his entire burrito, but was a bit regretful of that afterwards.

Ted got three tacos – one of the Buttermilk Fried Chicken tacos from the House Specialties section of the menu, and then two tacos that he created himself – a blackened chicken with pineapple, and a fried chicken with Verde sauce.

He liked the fried chicken the best. He said they were all good, bit that was the favorite.

Just to be clear, I’m still not exactly certain how the fried chicken and the buttermilk fried chicken are different from one another. I mean, aside from the absence of buttermilk in one of them and all. Come on now. But like who knew there were two ways to make fried chicken that goes on tacos?

He also got a side of dirty rice. Because there clearly wasn’t enough food already on the table.


Cassi made her own tacos – one with chorizo and one with fish.

She liked one better than the other. I could let you guess, but let’s just say that the one that rhymed with “dish” was the clear winner.

We also got orders of house made fresh guacamole – pico for me and Shane, cotija cheese for Cassi and Jason. And yes I had to consult the menu in order to get the spelling of that cheese correct. Listening to Shane try to pronounce it resulted in several variations that aren’t suitable for print.

It pains me to even have to say this, but the guacamole was a little disappointing. Shane said it had too much lemon. The rest of us thought it didn’t have too much of anything, except maybe avacados.

We also had to order the entire large side order just so that Shane could have guac as a side for his burrito – since this whole fresh-made system means you can’t just get a small portion slapped into a tiny side container like in regular Mexican restaurants. That seems excessive, no?

I mean, I’m only sort of complaining, because you really do’t have to twist my arm to eat guac. Even when it’s not to tasty. And of course there were more of those Dorito-ish chips, because we definitely could’ve eaten our weight in those throughout the course of the evening. And don’t think we didn’t try.

THE WHO (we saw)

No one. Literally no one.

Well, OK, the server like two or three times. And one other group at the bar. But in the dining room, yeah, well, we were kind of it.

We also think Elton John might’ve been there in spirit, as the jukebox literally never stopped playing his songs. So either someone before us played the joke of programming the next five hours of songs on their way out the door, or one of the staff members really, really likes his work. Or maybe they got a deal on the machine since it can only play his music. We may never know.

THE HOW (much we spent)

Well I forgot to note the receipt, so it’s hard to answer that one in this post. It’s a new concept for the blog, it takes some getting used to. Stop badgering me.

THE WHY (they will/won’t see us again)

Well I’m sure they would like for us to come back, since it seemed like they could use the business. And I think we all would go back, just maybe order something slightly different than what we got this time around. Shane and Jason said they would just get the tacos again, but not the burritos. They said they “were too much.” And those are definitely not words that get thrown around lightly in this group. I would get a bowl again, but not the steak and definitely with more spicy sauce of some kind.

Of course, given the ordering system, we might try to order something different and then end up with the exact same thing we got this time without even trying. Hard to say.

Picked by: Jason

Jason

Jason, mid-decision

Cassi

Ted

Shane

Steph

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WTGW 12/19/18: Bison Street Burgers and Brews, Massillon

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Our trek to Bison Street Burgers and Brews began by driving for about a year and a half to get to the place, between Ted’s directionally challenged map advisor and the fact that this is pretty much the other side of the world from our house. The final leg of the drive also involved meandering through some residential neighborhoods – thanks for the holiday light displays, people of Massillon – so of course we were totally convinced that this week’s pick would actually end up being at someone’s house.

I joke because it’s happened before. Ok, well not really, but this certainly isn’t the first time we’ve had these thoughts.

Finally we’re here! And it’s not a house!  Yeah, no, instead it’s some giant building that looks like it should be a commercial trucking company or pool chemical distributor.

Welcoming. Where have you brought us, Ted?

There’s also some sort of strange maze of concrete pilons all over the parking lot. Seems an odd choice for a place that advertises “brews” in the name, no? Is this their version of sobriety testing before you can head home?

If not for the giant banner on the side of the building announcing “Now open to the public!” we may have second guessed this choice, cut our losses, and tried to find our way back to civilization before searching out some food and drinks.

Thankfully we all had our adventurous pants on this evening, and ventured ahead into the mysterious giant building.

And – spoiler alert – we were not at all sorry. This place is definitely a hidden gem. Emphasis on hidden.

The inside of Bison St made us all think perhaps the place used to be a private club of some sort – you know, Eagles, Moose, Lions, whatever animal seemed to be a good name for a club that popped up in pretty much every small town in Ohio at one time or another. It’s a giant room, with a decent sized bar at one side and tables throughout. Also, lighting. Which sounds strange to say, but given the darkness we’ve eaten in over the past few weeks it was actually kind of nice to be able to see our food for a change.

Given the name of the place, of course we all ordered beers with our meals. I had just gotten home from a quick overnight work trip to NYC – which of course involved personal challenges to close down bars that stay open until 4AM – so alcohol was about the furthest thing from my mind. And then naturally I ordered a Christmas Ale. Logical, I know.

Our server came over and let us know that all of the apps were half off. I can’t remember if this was because it was Wednesday or because we were there during happy hour, though, so don’t quote me on being able to get this special ever again. Did I mention I didn’t get much sleep the night before?

There were two apps that weren’t part of the special – the loaded fries, and something called The Titan, which turned out to be a giant one pound pretzel. We saw one of these delivered to a nearby table before we placed our orders, and we can vouch that it is aptly named. But we didn’t order it – because, hello, there were a wealth of other items to choose from that sounded just as delicious but were part of whatever special we were told about.

Frugality is a strong point of this group. You should know this by now.

Speaking of things you should know by now, Cassi and Jason ordered the fried pickles as their appetizer. Ted also decided to get his own order as well.

Where did they find such skinny spears?

Shane and I opted for the cream cheese poppers, because they sounded delicious. And also the onion rings, because after the special they were $2. I mean, seriously.

Why don’t we order these more often?

Definitely not from the same “small veggie” garden that the pickles are grown in

Perhaps because we’ve been slacking on our normal menu inquisition of our dear servers, we decided to try our luck on that line of questioning again this time. To which we were greeted with the time-honored and oh-so-helpful answer of “everything.”

Uh oh. We’ve been down this road before.

But then she mentioned that the place is known for its burgers – which, come on, you’re not really going out on a limb with that one considering it’s in. the. name. of. the. establishment. – and also the gourmet grilled cheeses. OK, now we’re getting somewhere.

Then she went on to say that the flatbreads are also good. And that the Cowboy burger is the best seller.

OK, we get it. Just stop before you creatively manage to reinforce your initial statement about everything on the menu being worth ordering.

Have we mentioned The Titan yet? Yeah, well, so did she. We’re beginning to be sorry we asked.

Hey, Ted managed to pick one of the few items on the menu that the server didn’t point out! He chose the strip steak with mashed potatoes, claiming he had been having recent cravings for a good steak.

Obviously he was also having cravings for just food in general, since Ted literally didn’t speak to the group the entire time he was eating. It was like we weren’t even there. At one point I think the other four of us actually stopped eating so that we could just watch him clean up every morsel of food on any plate that was in front of him.

It wasn’t until the server arrived to take the plates from the table that he seemed to look up and realize he was among a group and could rejoin us again.

So clearly he hated it.

I’m surprised I was able to get a photo of this before it disappeared

I kid. He said that it was delicious, and actually it was one of the better steaks he’s had in some time. The meat wasn’t overly seasoned, but because it was cooked to perfection it had a ton of flavor.

It wasn’t until he paid it the highest compliment of saying he liked it “as much, if not a lot more” than that infamous steak special at the Dougout that Shane’s ears perked up.

I already see a revisit, just so Shane can order this entree and try it for himself.

Jason got the aforementioned Cowboy Burger, and also an order of Coney dogs. The server explained – probably as she realized Jason was essentially ordering two full meals just for himself – that the Coney dogs weren’t anything to sneeze at, the order was actually two large-ish dogs and a full order of fries. So, yeah, a crapload of food.

But hey, he still went for it. Because when have statements like these really ever stopped us? It’s more like a challenge.

And clearly she doesn’t read this blog.

Plus Cassi stepped up to say that she would eat some of the fries. This is how marriages succeed, people.

The one stipulation was that she needed to be able to get a side of beer cheese to dip the fries in. And while what showed up wasn’t quite the swimming pool’s worth of melted goodness that arrived on the table at that place in Barberton, it was definitely close.

Maybe it’s a good thing Ted never looked up long enough to see this giant bowl of cheese?

The Coney dogs turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. They definitely looked better than they tasted – which seems to be an oxymoron of a statement all on its own, being that Coney dogs are made to look like a bit of a hot mess on a bun – so I guess what you can read into that is that we were all far more excited to see them arrive on the table than Jason was to eat all of them. Jason said they weren’t horrible, per se, but mainly that the chili was too sweet.

Proof that looks can be deceiving

I mean, he still he still ate everything, though, so take that as you will. He just thought maybe the value was more at a $3 level instead of the $5 they charged.

Yes, this is the level we’ve hit, folks. You know you’re pro when you can play The Price is Right with menu items.

Lest you think fries with cheese sauce were Cassi’s only source of nourishment for the evening, she also got the half pesto flatbread and six spicy garlic boneless wings. And it only took about a bite and a half of each one before she said she wished she had nixed the flatbread and just gotten a double order of wings. The wings were small, but the flavor was outstanding … while the flatbread was the exact opposite of both of those things

But at least it’s pretty?

I think Cassi wished this was one of those never ending baskets

Because I apparently wasn’t paying attention during the part of the evening when we realized that the server was going to be not helpful in the least when it came to decision making, I pushed my luck and inquired which was better: the Philly grilled cheese or the Ranch burger made with Bison meat.

I bet you already can’t guess how influential this was to my decision.

So I chose the burger … at which point Shane says “hey, you know what? we always get burgers when we go out. maybe you should try something new.” … so I crossed back over into the grilled cheese camp.  And vowed to Shane that if my meal sucked I was holding him personally responsible.

This is also how marriages succeed. We should totally teach a course.

What was that we said about looks being deceiving?

I’m glad to say Shane was allowed to live, because my meal didn’t suck … but it also wasn’t so great that I didn’t kind of still half wish I’d ordered the burger instead. It’s like the Sliding Doors of food orders. The sandwich was just OK. It was made from braised short rib – which the server did tell me going into the order, so I wasn’t expecting processed Philly steak like other sandwiches. Maybe that’s why I had higher expectations. And, I mean, it tasted good … but it just wasn’t at the top of the list of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

Maybe it was the sourdough bread, which usually I love but in this case just didn’t seem to go with the sandwich.

Thumbs way up on the fries, though. I got the steak fries (compared to the rest of the table’s fresh cut) and was not disappointed there.

Shane got the Flaming Hot Burger, which he wasted no time in exclaiming how amazing it was. Per the previous few paragraphs, I wasted no time in not pretending that didn’t annoy me at least a little bit.

I like that they hide the hot peppers under a sheet of cheese. Tricky.

Mine and Shane’s bill was $35, which got us two appetizers, two Bud lights for Shane, one Christmas ale for me (which was the Beer of the Month, so cheaper than usual), and two full meals – of which I ended up taking half of my sandwich home, probably thanks to the two apps worth of fried stuff we started out the meal enjoying. Not too shabby at all.

Plus the place had a cool atmosphere on the inside – and despite the fact that the server wasn’t the best at giving solid recommendations, the service was great. I mean, it’s better when the server can’t decide what to recommend because she honestly loves everything they make, and not because she doesn’t care or hasn’t been there long enough to have really even opened a menu.

I could definitely see us making a return visit to Bison St. Especially after we noticed on our way out that there seems to be a fairly large covered patio area outside, so it will be interesting to see if they have bands there, or just make it into a cool outdoor area for the summer. It only it weren’t over the river and through the woods away from our house … but at least in the summer it stays light out longer, so maybe it won’t feel like midnight before we even make it into the concrete-hazard-laden parking lot. Can y’all leave the Christmas lights up for us?

Picked by: Ted

Ted

Shane, decked out in his holiday finest

Steph

Jason

Cassi – up for wings, down for flatbreads

WTGW 11/21/18: Mac’s Cabana #9, Akron

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Twas the night before Thanksgiving, and … well, we were out eating and drinking, because it’s always a Wednesday night.

It’s only been five years now, folks. Pay attention.

Shane had a special request to take on this year’s annual pick, so we shuffled things around a bit to give him the honor. And let me tell you, what an honor it was.

Mac’s Cabana #9 is … well … about the furthest thing you can get from a cabana, ever. I think from the name we were picturing something resembling a tiki bar, perhaps, or maybe something beach themed. Yeah, no. It’s clearly just another dive bar, which happen to be in an old Lawson’s or Dairy Mart or whatever convenience store you most align with. Because that screams “welcome to our beach bar,” no?

No.

Although you have to wonder right off about a place that has a number sign in the title. Yes, kids, I said NUMBER SIGN – because long before # was called a hashtag, it was used to denote numbers. But, like, why is it #9? Is this the ninth attempt and they finally feel they got it right? Are there eight more somewhere else? Does Mac just like nines the best? WHAT DOES IT MEAN???

In our case I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it means “9 times out of 10 we won’t choose to return here.”

Not that I think any of the regulars would be upset about that, since we pretty much heard the record screech and the deafening silence after our group of newbies entered. That was after we passed a guy on the way in who stopped dead in his tracks to stare at our group, and said aloud “Oh, well, OK then.”

Good to see you as well.

Moving on … we find a table for the group, and realize we’re actually out early enough for happy hour. Yay! Hey, nice bartender lady, what specials might we be able to take advantage of?

Yeah, she had no idea. Super.

Instead, she asked if we were eating, and then – in what has become a somewhat weekly and definitely unwelcome game – she had to go search out some menus. All three of them. And when we asked about any food specials she pointed and said “whatever is on the board over there.”

Oh, wait, you mean the board that we couldn’t see from our table because there was a giant crowd of bar patrons standing in front of it? That’s helpful. Why can’t you just walk over and read them to us? Or maybe glance at it enough times to perhaps have committed a few of them to memory? I mean, you do pass it every time you have to come to our table and all.

But then again we also asked her what beers she had on draft, and were basically told to read the handles ourselves. So even though she’s behind the bar all the time, she didn’t know. Or couldn’t remember. Or just didn’t want to tell us. DO YOU EVEN WORK HERE?

I’m not sure if all of this is painting a better picture of her personality or the place in general.

Wisely, Shane didn’t even bother asking her what meals were good there. By this point I think we were all starting to realize that no one really eats at Mac’s. Or talks to strangers. Or knows how to do their jobs.

So this seems promising.

But hey, since the whole point of this is to try new places, of course we stuck it out and put in our food orders. And then just crossed our fingers that they arrived at the table correctly.

So far so good on the appetizers. Although when you order an array of fried things, you kind of hope that falls on the difficult to screw up list. Shane and I ordered mozzarella sticks, and Ted got the fried green beans.

Looks normal

The only acceptable way to eat vegetables in our group

Ted liked his app. He said the breading was Italian seasoned, and they were crunchy without being overdone.

Ours were, well, cheese sticks. I mean, there’s really nothing new I can say about them except that they tasted like breaded cheese, so at least we know we got the right thing.

Cassi and Jason were a little more adventurous, choosing the bacon cheddar fries. They didn’t say much about them, but did eat them, so I’m going to assume they were acceptable.

Just proving you can add cheese to anything to make it better

For meals, it was burgers for four out of five of us. Because, you know, even when given the choice to pick anything off of a menu that has more than two things, that’s typically still our go to option.

Ah, that joke never gets old. Right, Shane?

Anyway.

I got the Bacon, Mushroom and Swiss burger with onion rings.

The real toppings are hiding apparently, because this looks a lot like just a lettuce and onion burger

Ted got the Cabana Burger, which was like my burger, but it had the seasoning baked into it and was topped with a wasabi mayo. According to Ted, it was “just different enough that he had to order it.”

It sure doesn’t look different. Maybe we should’ve turned the flash on?

Shane got the Bacon Cheeseburger Special with fries. So did Jason. Try to hide your surprise on that one. Instead focus on the fact that something from the specials menu actually did exist.

OK, never mind on that flash. Some things are more appetizing in the dark. It is a dive bar, after all.

Meanwhile, the only non-burger order of the group goes to Cassi, who chose the BLT with egg and cheese, along with a side of onion rings.

One of these things is not like the other

Shane also got six of the Sriacha Bourbon jumbo wings. Or at least that’s what the menu called them. They arrived looking strangely like just normal sized wings.

Cassi: Those are jumbo?
Shane: I guess to some people.

Must’ve gotten the runt of the “jumbo” chicken group

The food was … well … about as impressive as the service at this place, which should tell you about everything you need to know at this point. But I’ll elaborate anyway.

The burgers were dry. Which I guess we should’ve known was coming – because, as Jason pointed out, when they don’t ask anyone how they want the burgers cooked, we should pretty much assume that means they’ll arrive more well done than those hot dogs you see that have clearly been on the gas station roaster for the past 24 hours.

Ted’s was slightly better because all of the seasoning was baked into it – which is saying something considering his also had no cheese holding it together – so I guess his attempt at ordering something different paid off in this case. But by slightly better that also doesn’t necessarily mean it was by any means good, so take that as you will.

According to Shane, the only reason to order that burger again would be if there was a battery acid spill somewhere nearby that needed cleaned up. Because that’s a raving endorsement, no?

We did agree that the bun – which was buttered and toasted – was by far the best part of the sandwich. So I guess if you’re in the mood to pay $9 for some bread then this is your place. Although to that I’d say that a full bag of hamburger buns – even the fancy kind – and a stick of butter are far less expensive at the grocery store, and you’ll probably also get better service, so maybe just go that route.

Hey, speaking of, let’s check back in with that server who didn’t know the specials, or the beers, or really anything about the place other than how to serve drinks to the regulars crowded around the bar, shall we? Yeah, well, we’d love to, but we haven’t seen her since our food arrived at the table, so guess we’re on our own here. Jason was waiting for ketchup for pretty much the entirety of our meal – which makes the time we asked for ketchup and got a boatful of it sound pretty appealing in retrospect. The next time we saw our delightful server was when she happened to glance over and take a cue that we were ready to make our way out the door, so she thought best to bring our checks before we disappeared.

And – shocker – she also managed to screw those up. Our check had Jason’s name on it, while Cassi and Jason’s had Shane’s on it. I get that they ordered the same thing, but really they are different people. And Ted even took the time to walk the server through who was on what checks before she went to draw them up.

Hi, my name is ______

*sigh*

It wasn’t until she tried to run Jason’s card that she realized the mistake she had made with the names on the checks. Oh, hi there reality, welcome to the party. She came back over and admitted her mistake, because apparently the computers were down – after our card and Ted’s were both run with no problems, so that’s kind of weird, but whatever. Since we were more than ready to get out of this non-Cabana by this point, Jason just gave her cash … and then we waited for her to return with change. And waited. And discussed where to go next to get more drinks, since it was still early and this place was not worthy of any more of our money.

But wait … apparently our server thought she was just that, as it soon became obvious that “do you need change” was a question of the rhetorical variety in her book. Because as we watched, she went back about serving patrons at the bar, clearly thinking we were about to just be out of her life forever without another thought. Um, no. See, funny story, you only get to keep that amount of money if you actually pay attention to your patrons. You know, like those regulars at the bar that you definitely prefer talking to – they probably tip you well. And it’s probably well deserved, considering the number of shots you’re convincing them to buy, and the quickness with which you refill their beers. But us new people at the table who don’t know the beer handles by heart … well, let’s just say we don’t tip ghosts over here.

After an awkward confrontation in which Jason had to approach her and explain that no, really, you aren’t worth all of the extra money left over from the bill, we naturally got the hell out of there faster than a gang of bank robbers. Which means we forgot to take our photos first, because, well let’s just say we all enjoy NOT getting into bar fights, especially early in the evening before a holiday.

While Mac’s was a bust, that’s not to say the entire evening was a wash, as we ended up getting a few rounds of drinks down at the new South Point Tavern in Green (which only serves drinks, no food, so it was worth a stop as a #2 on an already-number-themed WTGW) and then ended the evening with an epic karaoke session at The Clubhouse – where we almost did see a bar fight – over napkins, apparently, of all things – but it had nothing to do with our group so it made it far more acceptable. And since we didn’t eat there, it’s still a solid choice for someone down the road, so I’m guessing we haven’t seen the last of this place for the WTGW crew. Just putting that out there.

We’ll bring our own napkins, though, just in case.

Picked by: Shane

WTGW 7/25/18: Wil’s Grille & Pub, Barberton

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That feeling when someone else picks a place that has been on your list for a while but you just never got around to picking … and then it turns out to be really good.

Cassi’s choice this week was Wil’s Grill & Pub in Barberton. Not to be confused with Ted’s sushi & pub pick of a few months ago. As if. Wil’s Grill & Pub (I keep saying it because rhyming is fun, step off) a little unassuming building in that middle of the nowhere region that is partway between Barberton and Portage Lakes.

Shane, as we pull up: This has me written all over it.

Apparently tiny buildings with no windows and an uncertainly marked entryway are right up his alley. Noted.

Inside they definitely make the most of the tiny space. There were several tables, but only a few that would hold a group our size that weren’t already occupied. There appeared to be a family dinner taking place in the middle of the space, which required several tables to be pushed together. This is for sure the kind of place that I could see regulars holding their weekly family get togethers.

As we settle in at the table, Shane makes a beeline for the restroom … and returns shortly afterwards. As in, not in enough time for him to actually have used the facilities. To which we all assume means they were uninhabitable.

Nope, just that when he opened the main door he heard a tiny child’s voice announcing to the unknown visitor “I’m pooping.” That was enough for Shane to decide he could hold it for a bit longer, and to just exit quietly.

That frank openness kind of set the tone for the rest of our stay at Wil’s.

To say that the place is friendly is an understatement. From the time we sat down until …. well, the rest of the evening … we were welcomed or given a friendly “hey guys!” by pretty much every single one of the staff members. And some people who cross the line between actual staff and regulars who occasionally wander behind the bar. I’m kind of surprised the other patrons didn’t raise their hands in friendly salutes as well. It was like dining in Mayberry.

Once the server found out we were newbies, she pretty much ran through the entire menu to tell us what the best things were to order. Of course that impressed our resident interrogator, Shane, who usually takes pleasure in prodding those details out of the staff.

Of highest recommendation where the burgers, the chicken sandwich that was on special for the evening, and the weekly steak special. Which were pretty much all the items our group  had been looking at ordering already. Thanks for nothing, kind server who loves her job and her restaurant.

One choice that wasn’t too difficult was our drink order, due largely to the fact that they only have two beers on draft: Miller Lite, and Amber Bock. So basically light and dark. Bet you can’t guess who ordered which one?

Bonus points if you sensed the trick question and guessed that the girls skipped beer altogether to go with tequila and sodas.

Cassi and Jason ordered the potato skins for their app, after the server described them as “little potato cups of cheesey goodness.”

Ted, of course, was repulsed.

The server did not lie, the potato skins ended up arriving at the table looking exactly as the server described them. Read: amazing. The potatoes are cut in half instead of longways like most potato skins, and therefore do create these little cup-like devices that are perfect to fill with a copious amount of cheese. Cassi and Jason definitely enjoyed them. And will continue to enjoy them in the days following our visit, as there were far too many for even our whole table to share (well, minus the cheese-hater). They were truly enough to be a meal all on their own.

This must be what they serve in heaven

Shane and I ordered the breaded mushrooms.I guess this is our thing now, despite the fact that Shane usually has to let them cool to less than room temperature so as not to be the victim of the hot oil disaster that is biting in too soon.

Hot oil time bombs

They were just OK. Really nothing special from any other place we’ve ever ordered them from in our lifetime. To be fair, I’m not really sure what exactly would make a breaded mushroom stand out in that fashion, but it seems we’ll continue to try them until we figure that out.

Ted got the “Firey Fingers.” Which didn’t arrive on fire (boooo) but instead were basically just chicken fingers with a spicy breading and/or sauce. Thanks for the letdown. Plus when I asked Ted which substance was responsible for the nomenclature, he admitted he wasn’t really clear on that based on the description in the menu, and had to do a bit of A/B testing once the dish arrived in order to determine it.

This is probably the only dish where you could confuse chicken for jojo potatoes

It turns out it was the sauce. Which was basically a cocktail sauce with a slightly spicy hint to it. So “firey” might be a tad misleading in the adjective department, but points for trying.

I really think they should go with the whole lighting it on fire idea. I mean, that would make it stand out for sure.

For meals I was on the fence between my usual affinity for a mushroom swiss burger and the special chicken sandwich of the day consisting of chicken, Swiss, bacon and guacamole on ciabatta bread. So, again, I’d like to thank the server and her seal of “yep, both of those are outstanding, can’t go wrong either way” for assisting in my decision. Ted was actually my tipping point, when I mentioned being in a conundrum and he said to me that when he heard what was involved with the chicken sandwich it sounded to him like it was made just for me.

I’m not sure how I got such complimentary friends in my life.I mean, I hope all of you have people surrounding you who think of you when certain foods are mentioned. *tear*

Needless to say, I wasn’t unhappy with my decision. I mean, first of all … ciabatta bread. Need I say more? But I also don’t order chicken much anymore, thanks to the issue at the Hooley House years ago where the cook was apparently trying to make medium rare poultry a thing (spin the salmonella wheel and see if you’re a winner! yum!). But my risk was rewarded this time around.

Even if I only ate the bread, this would be a win

That’s a very geometrically correct salad

Ted got the strip steak special with jojo potatoes – and also the cole slaw, which the server recommended as “really good.” Upon eating it, Ted rephrased that to  “adequate.” Not exactly high praise, but I guess it’s better than “effing disgusting,” so there’s that. Maybe if he’d eaten the jojos first, since they were apparently hot enough to remove layers of skin/taste buds and he may not have been able to taste the cole slaw by that point?

Chivalrous potato wedges trying to save the meat from the oncoming knife

How can you screw up shredded vegetables?

Ted said his whole meal was “solidly good.” He wouldn’t necessarily put anything he ate in his Top 10, but he would rate it all as very good.

Hey, speaking of Top 10’s, anyone remember that time Shane ordered a steak special for under $10, and it was a way better value than the one offered *insert place we’re currently eating at here*? No? That’s weird, because he uses literally every other steak special in the universe to reminisce about that fateful day last summer when all his food dreams came true.

This is my plea to all the places we go on Wednesdays to stop advertising steak specials on that particular night of the week, unless you can beat the one offered at the Dougout.

Moving on.

Since OBVIOUSLY this steak special didn’t meet his expectations, Shane followed the server’s recommendation that the burgers were outstanding and ordered the Bourbon Burger. As did Jason. To prove they weren’t twinsies, Shane got onion rings, and Jason got fries. Cassi also went with a burger – the bacon Swiss – with sweet potato fries.

I have bread envy

Take two, change of side

Our table sure did their part to ensure the dairy industry stays in business

And just like everything else the server told us about, they were not disappointed. Shane said his burger was very good. He typically doesn’t like all the embellishments (read: healthy things like lettuce and tomato) but on this one he didn’t pick it off, and said it actually gave the burger more flavor. Both of the guys agreed that the sauce on the Bourbon burger was really good, too.

Since we ordered pretty much everything that the server had recommended to us, are you surprised when we ended up with dessert as well? Right. I also blame Ted, who was talking up how he would give up patio weather in favor of the season in which all things pumpkin return to NEOhio … which of course brought us to the deliciousness that is pumpkin love at 3 Brothers … which made us all hungry for sweets right about the time the server came over to ask if we’d saved room for dessert.

Cohoots, I tell you.

Cassi and Jason opted for the chocolate bundt cake, Ted got the brownie with ice cream, and Shane and I shared the caramel apple pie and ice cream. I have to believe that was literally one of everything on the dessert menu.

Tell me again why we don’t order dessert more often?

I mean, how can you go wrong?

A lovely little sundae, all for Ted

Ted, five minutes after finishing his dessert: I’m probably going to regret that, but damn was it good.

Spoiler alert: that entire statement was in fact truth.

But being over-full was pretty much the only regret we could muster from Wil’s. This place is definitely a favorite, with a menu almost as big as the place itself, and amazing service. Plus it’s super cheap – mine and Shane’s bill was under $60, which covered three drinks each, an app, two complete dinners and a dessert. Well, truth be told, we could’ve gotten out with a tab under $10 … thanks to a mistake by the server when she manually keyed in the amount to the credit card machine, thus resulting in our card only getting charged $5.69 instead of the correct price of $55.69. But of course we couldn’t take advantage of the situation, and told her about the mistake – for which she was super appreciative. Because, well, despite what you might think of our ratings toward some of our picks and my fluent use of the sarcastic tongue, we aren’t complete jerks. Please.

And we definitely want to come back here. Wil’s really one of those little gems you kind of wish you lived next door to, except for the rampant alcoholism and high cholesterol levels that visiting far too often would likely predispose us to. It’s great to go into a place that clearly has regulars, and be welcomed as a new group. And maybe it’s because Shane threw out the “we’re food bloggers” statement like a shield at the top of the visit, but throughout our visit we were never at a loss for people stopping by our table to say hello or check to see if we needed anything. The server even gave us a copy of the specials for the month, which was reminiscent of the lunch menus we used to bring home from grade school so we knew what days to pack our lunches, and what days we would be begging our moms to pay for a slice of cardboard covered in cheese that they tried to tell us was pizza.

If that last sentence means nothing to you then just put down the blog and walk away slowly, never mentioning how old you think we must be because of it. Seriously.

I bet Shane is glad we didn’t come on Shrimp Kabob day

Next pick: Ted

Ted

Jason

Shane

Steph

Cassi


Wil's Grille & Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 5/2/18: REVISIT – The Twisted Olive, Green

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When Northeast Ohio graces you with a summerlike evening in early May – bonus points for it being on a Wednesday – you go in search of the best patio you can think of first and ask questions later.

Well, I mean, OK, yes – we did ask one question, which was, of course, “which one should we go to.” As cool as it would be, we all didn’t just look at each other and telepathically infer one particular patio we should visit. Although I think that approach might’ve been easier than us attempting to remember the best area patios in the ten minutes before we walked out the door. Crazy how we can visit so many restaurants, but ask us for a recommendation for a specific type of place – because, I mean, you would think a group of people who go out every week to different places would be good folks to know these types of things – but instead suddenly our memories empty and we become deer in headlights.

Try it the next time you see us.

In any case, Ted finally stepped up to the plate and decided on a revisit to The Twisted Olive – which we all agree does have one of the best patios in the area, albeit a little fancier fare than our usual WTGW options. And it’s been a hot minute – or I guess really about two years worth of hot minutes – since our last visit so it was definitely worth another try.

We requested patio seating when we arrived (duh), and ended up on the downstairs patio this time round, as the hostesses mentioned that the upstairs one “wasn’t full,” but that the server was “a bit overwhelmed.” Um, OK. I’m not sure what that means exactly, but if it means we’ll get better service on a different patio then I’m all for it.

By the end of the night I think we all agreed that hadn’t exactly been the case, but I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Also, side note – does a place really need three hostesses for a Wednesday night? I mean, I get a weekend. And sure, it was probably a bit busier than usual with the summery weather. But three? Seems maybe the extra person might’ve been better served assisting the overwhelmed server on the upstairs patio, but what do we know.

Anyway.

Turns out that the downstairs patio doesn’t have quite the view of its upstairs sibling. I mean, for one, it’s not elevated at all – so instead of being able to overlook the water and nature area that are behind the restaurant, you kind of just get a lateral view of it. And, spoiler alert, it’s not all that enticing. It’s kind of like having dinner at that friend’s house who has a really nice backyard.

And then also because, well, its literally beneath the upper patio. So instead of truly dining outside, it was more like we just kind of ended up hanging out in an Italian garage. Awesome.

Although mental note to keep this option in mind for those evenings when the temperature is decent and you’d really love to sit outside, but are deterred thanks to the threat of a random passing rain shower.

So there’s that.

We remembered The Twisted Olive being on the fancier end of things from the last time we visited – which we all know equates to lesser amounts of food arriving on your plate in a fancifully arranged way. So as we were looking over the menu I pulled up the post from our 2016 visit to take a look at what we’d ordered last time around.

Shane, moments before I read to him what he ordered at that visit: Oh, scallops, those look delicious.
Me, reading from the 2016 post: “… and then was instantly disappointed as soon as his plate was set in front of him. His comment after the server left was that he was waiting for someone else to walk up and bring him his main course instead of the appetizer portion.”
Shane: So maybe pizza then.

This blog clearly exists if for nothing else than to remind us of our previous dining mistakes.

While we waited on the jury to reconvene in the matter of our main meals, we of course opted for appetizers. Because, well, us. I mean, really. Like any explanation is needed.

Ted got the hummus. He said it was just OK. Probably because it came with salsa mixed in – which some might consider a bonus, but Ted clearly did not. I didn’t try it, but I agreed that it did seem to be a strange pairing. Also, a little warning next time maybe? But the veggies and chips were tasty.

Why is the hummus hiding behind salsa?

Cassi went with the calamari, which Shane had of course ordered on our last visit (surprise!) and seemed to be OK with. However, after careful consideration this time around we all agreed that the dish now seemed to have a special ingredient not mentioned on the menu … pine needles. Sounds weird, I know, but go ahead and order it, take one bite, and tell us we’re wrong about this. I dare you.

Maybe someone just rubbed an air freshener over it

Maybe we shouldn’t have said last time that it “there was really nothing special or different about the dish to distinguish it from any other place we’ve had it before.” I feel like the chef took that as a personal challenge to come up with something we definitely would remember. Too far, chef guy. Too far.

Shane and I won the app lottery with the loaded chips, though. No hidden pine needles or salsa in this dish. Just the right amount of delicious toppings.

There are chips under there, we swear

We also remembered from our last visit that the basket of complimentary rolls set on the table with the appetizers were one of our favorite things about The Twisted Olive. Too bad this time they rolled them in chicken wing grease and coasted them in finely diced onions before serving them.

I kid. They were exactly the same as the last visit. Thank god they didn’t go the “calamari challenge” route on those, or else I think Ted, Shane and I would’ve legit cried when we tried them. I think we all had like four each.

We may or may not have had two more baskets of these. Don’t judge.

For his meal, Ted got the Apple and Fig side salad to go with his crab cake sliders. He had the salad come out ahead of the sandwich. Or at least we think that’s what happened. We saw the server set it down, but then before I could pick up my camera to get a photo of it, it seemed to mysteriously disappear.

Perhaps they should’ve called it the “so good you’ll devour it in two minutes flat” salad

Clearly he hated it.

About two seconds after this photo he also used a piece of bread to clean all of the dressing remnants off the plate, which left it looking like it went through the dishwasher. I think the server was slightly surprised when he came around to collect plates and found a shiny clean one sitting in front of Ted.

Ted commented that he could order the full sized salad and have it be a filling meal. He also said he wasn’t exactly sure what all was in the dish, but it was good. So good, in fact, that he didn’t even take a sip of beer until the salad was gone. Which we all know is not how things operate in our group.

Shane: Something wrong with your beer there, buddy?

And then by the time his crab cake sliders arrived – which Ted had passed up on our last visit because they sounded like they would be too small and not filling enough – he said he was almost too full from his hummus salsa and salad to eat them. Seriously, what is happening here? What parallel universe are we living in where Ted leaves most of the fries on his plate and barely manages to eat two mini-sandwiches?

That wouldn’t be enough food without the other two courses already consumed

It’s like we hardly know this new person.

Cassi meanwhile also got the crab cake sliders, but because her app tasted like a Christmas tree and she skipped the invisible salad course, she was able to enjoy her entire meal. She got the mac and cheese as a side, and declared it delicious after just one bite. That’s high praise.

Shane said the sliders looked like baby sandwiches. I think that’s the idea, but good call.

Over on mine and Shane’s side of the table we had a little pizza party going, as we both went with that for our meals. Truth be told the two of us most definitely could’ve just shared one pie, but we all know by now how Shane feels about the notion of sharing food, so I didn’t even broach that topic.

Instead we each got one of the two pizzas on the menu with the word “Spicy!” next to them: the Twisted for me (pepperoni and banana peppers), and the Sicilian for Shane (sausage).

And when they arrived I suddenly had flashbacks of the great sheet pizza debacle of Belleria a few years back.

It actually looks bigger in person

They picked those banana peppers off the spicy tree for sure

Needless to say we each ended up taking several slices home. Well, I took several home. Shane took a few.

Something else Shane would’ve taken a few of were beverages, while we were still sitting at the table eating of course. But our server – you know, the one who was NOT supposed to be “a bit overwhelmed” – kind of seemed to forget about the world underneath the main patio, and was pretty much non-existent outside of dropping off plates at our table. Or miraculously whenever Ted’s drink was empty – which, as we’ve already established after the salad incident, wasn’t all that often.

I will say, though, that we were highly entertained by one of the other two tables seated in the underworld with us … three teacher-slash-moms who openly discussed their dating lives at a volume that might have been less obtrusive had there not been more than a few empty cocktail glasses on their table. The 35+ minute conversation about the merit of baths and showers was especially stimulating. We were all a bit sad to see them leave, although giggling quietly to ourselves was becoming increasingly difficult.

Cassi

Steph

Shane, whose rating is indicative of his lack of beer throughout the evening

Ted, who probably should’ve given a higher rating since his beer was full more often than anyone’s

 

WTGW 2/7/13: Table 6, North Canton

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So it turns out that tonight’s pick, Table 6, is a sister restaurant to 3 Brothers. As in the same 3 Brothers that we contemplated returning to as a revisit one week after we first visited, since the fried pickles and desserts were things of our dreams. When Ted mentioned in a group text that he was considering Table 6 as his pick for tonight, both Cassi and I immediately went to their website to check out the menu … and as soon as the words “Brothers fried pickles” floated past my eyes on the appetizer menu I fired back a text warning everyone to eat a light lunch.

Meanwhile Cassi – who officially joined our weekly group the week after said visit – exclaimed that it made her week to finally get to try something we’re all been talking about forever. Group goals.

So then imagine our disappointment when we get to the restaurant and find out that they aren’t the same dish.

OK, I’m kidding, that didn’t happen. But imagine how awful that would’ve been.

Spoiler alert – we got three orders of said pickles. For four people.

But we’ll get to that in a minute.

Table 6 is very nice on the inside. It’s like the sophisticated older sister to 3 Brothers’ Sporty Spice tomboy. There’s a giant bar in the center of the building, with seating and tables all around. We chose a 4-top near what I believe were the patio doors – which obviously stayed closed on this February evening.

Our server was great. As soon as he heard it was our first time here he went through pretty much the whole menu with us. Literally. The. Entire. Menu. He was so thorough that even Shane couldn’t come up with any questions. And we all know that like never happens.

He also explained that the concept of the place is more small plates that are meant to be split amongst the table than giant entrees for one. So of course it makes sense that we then started off by ordering six appetizers … including three of the same thing.

We apparently missed the lesson on sharing in kindergarten.

As mentioned, we each got an order of the pickles. Well, Cassi and Ted each got their own, while I made Shane share with me. Much to his disappointment. Because we all know Shane hates sharing food.

You definitely don’t get the generous portion of pickles here that you get at 3 Brothers. Which seems somewhat contrary to the whole “sharing plates” thing, no? OK. But they’re still the same thin cut, lightly breaded and very tasty treats we remembered from our other visit.

We’ve been dreaming about you, pickles

Ted also got an app of the buffalo cauliflower bites, pretty much out of sheer curiousity. His first few bites definitely didn’t win him over, but he kept going back for more, and later said that the more he ate them the better the seasoning was.

When healthy meets sports bar

Cassi got the pretzels. I bet you’re shocked to hear that. But it was a good decision, as they were very good. Crispy on the outside, but extremely doughy on the inside.

Conveniently cut for sharing

Shane and I also added on a late order of fried cheese curds, I think after the pickles came out and Shane realized he was going to have to share a miserably small amount of food with me. Shane had never had fried cheese curds before – which seems odd given his love of both cheese and all things fried – but then again now that I think about it the only time I’ve ever had them was on a work trip to Minnesota, where they seem to be bountiful.

I want to kiss whoever invented these

And now we may have to move there … because Shane’s words after trying them were something to the effect that “these are effing delicious.” I can’t disagree.

Although I will disagree on his love of the sauce that came with them. He thought it was just as delicious as the fried cheese, while Cassi and I said it deterred from the taste of cheese.

Ted didn’t have an opinion. Shocker.

We were warned that our meals may not come out at the same time, since they don’t have heat lamps in the kitchen and they just bring each of the dishes out as they’re finished. Fair enough. I mean, why make us all starve and then eat things that taste like heated rubber just because someone ordered a complicated dish like fried chicken that takes extra time to prepare?

Ted got the pastrami sandwich. A sound choice that I think all of us mulled over after reading the description on the menu.

Now that’s a sandwich

And we about had to roll him out of the restaurant at the end of the night. I mean, that’s a lot of meat.

Meat-wich

That’s what she said.

Cassi got the shrimp and grits, which was one of the specials on the menu during our visit. She got a “good choice” from the server when she ordered it … but unfortunately she didn’t share his sentiment after trying it. She said it was ok, but the sauce on the shrimp was overpowering ad made it so you really couldn’t taste anything else but that. So it was kind of just like a bowl of sauce with some lumps in it. Sounds scrumptious.

A bowl of bad flavoring

I ordered the fish and chips. They were good, but just like Ted’s sandwich, it was a pretty large order. I, however, wasn’t up for a trip on the “fill your stomach to the point of explosion” train, and ended up leaving most of the fries behind after I devoured the fish and cole slaw. Cassi also thought I was leaving the fish breading behind, as when I first cut into a piece it all flaked apart.

Cassi: I know you sometimes eat the insides out of a sandwich when you start getting full, but eating the fish out of the breading seems like a new low.

I’ll take everything you can put in a deep fryer please

Also, they aren’t kidding about that whole “we don’t use heat lamps” thing, since my fish was basically a little volcano of steam when I first cut into it. Noted under: things that should make me wait a moment before I start eating them. But as we’ve seen many times prior, I’m clearly not that smart. *sigh*

Shane had debated over ordering the pastrami, the street tacos and the sliders. After a lengthy chat with the server, he ended up with the short rib sliders and the lobster tacos. And was slightly food jealous when Ted’s pastrami sandwich arrived, as that was the one thing he declined.

These look too healthy to be in front of Shane

Head shadow

But he definitely wasn’t disappointed in the two meals he did choose. He said the sliders could’ve used a little bit of BBQ sauce, but they were still good. He was also definitely glad he ordered both meals, as one alone wouldn’t have been enough for his bottomless hunger.

So this was like the fancy version of ordering a burger AND wings.

Remember how I’ve mentioned numerous times now that we were all, like, super full as we finished eating? Makes perfect sense then that we all nodded when the server asked if we might like to consider dessert, no?

Let’s just say that if we ha never been to 3 Brothers, we most certainly would’ve passed on dessert. But thanks to our visit there and our near-miss at passing on what turned out to be the Best. Dessert. Ever. we’ve learned our lesson. I mean, Cassi wasn’t even on that WTGW trip and she knew better than to walk away dessert-less here.

Although Shane, in his quest to be “healthy,” declined and said he was going to get on the treadmill when we got home. Um, OK. Maybe next time just don’t order two meals and all the fried apps, but whatever. He definitely missed out.

Ted Cassi and I ended up with mini dessert jars. And I think the “pumpkin love” from 3 Brothers should be nervous about competition in the dessert category, because wow.

I got chocolate chip cookie. Cassi got the same minus the ice cream. Ted got the mocha mudslide and the warm molten brownie.

Cookie dough with ice cream

And without

I don’t know which of Ted’s is which but who cares, it was all amazing

Um, yeah. Cassi said it might be the best dessert she’s every had. Those little jars were the perfect amount of heaven. I mean, if I hadn’t just eaten a huge dinner and appetizers I might be able to eat more than one. Oh, who am I kidding, if this place weren’t a half hour away I would probably stop on my way home from work every night just to get like 8 of these to go.

For once maybe I’m glad a good pick is a little further away. My closet thanks you.

But we will definitely be back. I mean, it’s worth it even if just for the pickles and dessert.

Hey wait, I think I’ve said this before.

Picked by: Ted

If there’s bad lighting in a place, I’ll find it

Ted

Bromance

Cassi


Table Six Kitchen + Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 1/3/18: Town Tavern, Fairlawn

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When a place changes names and redecorates, is it a new pick or a revisit?

These are the tough arguments we hash out in this group, folks.

So the Town Tavern is the old David B’s, a place we visited about four years ago – and that I almost didn’t make it to thanks to Mother Nature and her lovely need to throw snow storms at me at totally inopportune times. Always a pleasure. And even when I did finally arrive, I nearly missed happy hour because of that little stunt.

This is just one of the many reasons why we are (still) not friends.

Anyway.

So back then the menu was a bit small and unimpressive – you know, the usual bar food like burgers and sandwiches, fried appetizers, that sort of thing. We liked it not because it tasted especially good, but mainly because it was cheap. I mean, give us $5 burgers and some $2 bottled beers, and we’re pretty much best friends for life.

See also: Windsor Pub, Caddyshack Inn, and a host of other dive bars we’ve been known to frequent over the years.

But I digress.

It seemed back then that what David B’s lacked in fine dining, it certainly more than made up for in the categories of people watching and conversation eavesdropping. And before you ask – yes, those are very much important factors in a dining experience, thank you very much. I mean, come on, how many times has awful service and mediocre tasting food been totally forgotten thanks to the overheard life story of a gaggle of wine-laden women at a nearby table, or the snippets of conversation garnered from a couple who may or may not be struggling through an awkward first date?

Be honest here.

Yeah, thought so.

In any case, when I saw that David B’s had changed names, and likely ownership, to become the Town Tavern, I figured it was time for a (re?)visit.

We definitely noticed a difference in the decor as soon as we arrived. Well, I mean, except for the the sign above the front door that still says “David B’s.” Must’ve missed that one in the transition. But I guess they make up for it a bit with this.

In case you get lost

They definitely put some thought and money into the new tables and lighting. The old bar tables and chairs that screamed “welcome to any 90’s bar” have been replaced with giant wood tables, and chairs that don’t look like they’ve been sat on by the same regulars for 30 years. And while the giant chandeliers don’t give off a ton of light, at least it’s not of the neon variety that I seem to remember from before.

The place seemed pretty crowded for a Wednesday night, too. Or maybe they just took away some space with all the bigger tables. Whatever works.

But the award for biggest change definitely goes to the menu. Although be warned: it’s still pretty small and non-diverse. I mean, hey, we all don’t have to be Cheesecake Factory with a menu that resembles a short story book … but when the majority of your foods are specialty hot dogs then I have to admit you aren’t really getting my attention. It’s like they’re trying to be the Melt of hot dog restaurants.

They did have some burgers, a few sandwiches and some apps like pretzels, loaded fries/tots and mozzarella sticks. So some of the bar foods prevailed. I mean, you can’t just throw out the deep fryers, kids. There are standards here.

This week the part of Ted will be played by Jason, as Ted got invited to some swanky event at the Football Hall of Fame and ditched us for that. I’m not sure who told him it was OK to have play dates with other friends on Wednesdays, but whatevs. We’ll forgive him this time.

For appetizers, Cassi and Jason got the loaded tots,while Shane and I opted for the mozzarella sticks. Here’s what arrived:

It barely fits in the basket

Oh look, we apparently ordered the “basket of disappointment.”

Shane: I think we got shorted.

Seriously, are we even in the same restaurant?

That’s like a pound of tater tots loaded with beer cheese and bacon. Meanwhile, we get five mozzerella sticks that seemed to be poured directly out of a freezer bag into the deep fryer. Seems fair.

Obviously, we chose poorly. Learn from our mistake.

Apparently when you eat out as two couples, you’re unspokenly obligated to order the exact same meals, as somehow Shane and I ordered the exact same burger, while Cassi and Jason also played twinsies with their burgers. It’s so cute, it’s sickening. I know. I threw up in my mouth a little just typing this.

Or maybe it was the memory of the burger I ordered that somewhat prompted that response. Mine and Shane’s burger of choice was called the Ring of Fire … and let me assure you, it’s aptly named. Jalepenos + spicy ketchup = holy crap I think my tongue has shriveled up and died an angry death in my mouth because I sure as hell can’t feel it any more after eating that.

Alternate title: the “you didn’t need those taste buds anyway” burger

Most of this ended up in the basket instead of in my mouth

Good thing we had a great server who paid attention to our drink levels and always made sure we had liquids in front of us … is what I would’ve said if it had been true for that evening. Nope. He was nowhere to be found. Thanks for nothing, server guy.

Good thing I had a nice full drink to help with that heat. Oh, wait. Never mind

I should mention that while I was suffering through the anguish of seven suns burning in my mouth, Shane was eating the exact same burger as if nothing was wrong. He ate his entire burger, then jabbed a fork into the pile of toppings I had scraped off of my burger and sarcastically offered up to him.

I guess this is why we work.

He also later said that he put the burger in his Top 7. I mean, I’m not sure who’s keeping track of his Top (pick a random number) list at this point, but if that means something to you then there you go.

Meanwhile, once again Cassi and Jason won the “smart order of the night” award, as they both got the Tavern Burger. It’s one of those burgers that combines breakfast and dinner, with bacon and a fried egg as toppings. I swear, whoever was the first to attempt this must be pretty damn proud of themselves, because that burger is always a winner no matter where you order it.

This picture is making me hungry all over again

Take two. You know, in case you didn’t see it well enough in the first picture.

Cassi also got mac and cheese as a side, which I was instantly jealous of as soon as it arrived.

They both thought their burgers were very good. In particular they said that the toasted buns were a nice touch.

That’s what she said.

Sorry, I couldn’t help it.

As if I need to further demonstrate our server’s horrible lack of interest in our table, picture this little scenerio: we’ve finished or boxed up our meals, our drinks are all quite obviously almost empty, the server stops over to pick up some plates and asks if we’re OK. And we don’t order more drinks. Usually that’s like the universal clue to bring over the checks, right? I mean, I’ve never worked as more than a hostess in the restaurant world, but natural assumption would be that if the drinks are obviously low, the meals are over, and no one needs anything, then maybe our time together is almost over, and I should help things along by letting these people know how much this evening is going to cost before they can leave?

Yeah, not here. It was another 25 minutes before the server came back and even inquired if we were interested in getting the checks. Um, no, we’d like to sleep here. Thanks.

Although in all that time that we were sitting around waiting on the checks, we still forgot to take our thumbs up/down pics at the end of the night. So I guess you’ll have to live without seeing our smiling face for this week. It’ll be rough, I know.

Picked by: Steph