WTGW 4/19/17: REVISIT – Blue Willow Lounge, Macedonia

Standard

It’s another “this adventure could’ve gone a totally different way” week here, as Shane originally tried to take us back to PatDees in Northfield for a revisit, but was thwarted by a road closure. Damn you ODOT!

So in a literal last second change up, here we are at the Blue Willow Lounge.

This little hidden gem is tucked away behind a gas station on a slightly-off-the-beaten-path section of Rt 82 (aka not in the land of huge strip plazas a few miles to the west) in Macedonia. Although we noticed since our last visit that the road to access the Blue Willow is now an access street to the highway ramp that was recently moved – so maybe they’re getting a little more attention these days.

Let’s hope so, because it’s well deserved.

We were genuinely surprised at how good this place was the first time we went. After Shane’s claim that the place is the “oldest bar in Macedonia” – something none of us have ever been able to substantiate, by the way – I remember being more than a little concerned for what we might be getting ourselves into. But the Blue Willow ended up having some of the best burgers we’ve ever tasted in our years of WTGW adventures, a fun atmosphere, and outstanding service (especially considering there was essentially one person manning both the bar and the tables) from a server who called Ted a pussy for downsizing his Christmas Ale in the second round.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record from last week, tell me again why we haven’t been back here more often?

Right.

We were happy to hear that Wednesdays are still $5.95 burger nights at the Blue Willow. Although it seems to have morphed from “build your own burger night” to “just pick a burger and we’ll charge you $5.95 for it night.” Maybe we were still living 2.5 years in the past, because we thought we heard a “build your own” option in there when the server was explaining it … but the list of toppings to build from seemed to be invisible on our menus. After flipping it over about 400 times, Ted finally broke down and asked where the toppings were, and the server just kind of gave him the “well, there’s no list, just, you know, whatever you want on your burger.”

Oh, OK, so just pick something that sounds good on a burger and they’ll let you know they have it, then? Perfect. Sounds great. It’s like 20 questions with condiments.

But it didn’t deter us – because, well, “burgers” seems to be a theme for us now. I mean, set aside the fact that it’s the daily special at Blue Willow, between this week and last week we seem to have turned WTGW into a tour of all the burger places we really like but haven’t been back to in ages.

Note to self: I gotta change it up with my next pick.

Anyway.

Ted got the Cajun burger – minus cheese, of course, but with lettuce and tomato. Shane also got the Cajun burger, minus lettuce and tomato – but WITH cheese.

There were more chips on that plate before I took this picture, Honest.

Ignore the crumbs. You’d think we hadn’t eaten for days or that I had to drive across the state to fetch my camera.

They’re like yin and yang, those two. This is why they’re friends.

Not wanting to copy the bromance brothers, I decided to challenge the “build your own” philosophy, with lettuce, tomato, provolone cheese and mushrooms. I think I asked for each of those items as a question, thinking at any moment she could tell me that wasn’t one of the nonexistent options.

You can’t see the toppings, but they’re there.

We all also got the homemade chips, since they were free and the fries were $1.00 more. Ironically, looking back on our first visit, it was the fries that were free and the chips that were $1.00 more. Since they’re both made from potatoes, I’m a little perplexed at the inflationary costs of one versus the other, but whatever.

Because clearly he didn’t trust the size of these burgers like he did Windsor Pub, Ted also got 12 of the Thai wings. Better to be safe than sorry, I guess.

A full meal as an appetizer. Glad to see we’re back to normal around here.

Shane and I also got breaded mushrooms. Of which Shane actually asked me before he ordered them “hey, would you eat some of these if I get them.”

Please. It’s like he hardly knows me.

They’re vegetables, so they’re still considered healthy, right?

We noticed that the food seemed to take a particularly long time to come out after we ordered. Especially considering the place wasn’t by any means packed. I mean, it should be noted that Shane continuously made the “our food is taking FOREVER” observation whilst very hungry, so take that with a grain of salt. But even those of us not about to eat our own arms did think it was a longer than usual wait time.

And when our meals finally did arrive, it was unceremoniously all at once. So much for that whole “appetizer” concept, I guess.

Now, granted there was only one server/bartender working the whole place – the large bar area (which was always very full, almost every seat taken), as well as the tables nearby (not quite as full, but just by location alone still a hassle to have to walk out from behind the bar to check on). But I don’t think it was her fault the food took a while. She was very good, coming out from behind the bar several times to check on us and even telling us to yell at her or do whatever if we needed her attention. But to be brutally honest – and I even said this the last time we were there, years ago – they could really use two people working there on any given night. I mean, the night we were there the bar was pretty full but there were only a few people seated at the tables – I couldn’t imagine if all the tables were full and there was only one person trying to do everything. Again, our server was amazing … but for her sake I wish they would staff a little better.

*exiting soapbox now*

I’m happy to say that the burgers were still as good as we remembered. They’re cooked to order, and very juicy. Shane was a bit upset that they “didn’t crumble like Windsor Pub’s,” – but regardless they still passed his test.

Now that’s a handful of meat.
Wait, what?

Word of warning, they might look small when you first see them on the plate, but they’re actually really thick. They’re tall and thick, not short and flat.

File that under: words I never thought I would utter until I started composing a food blog. Carry on.

I also really liked the homemade chips. They didn’t indicate on the menu that they were homemade, so I was expecting a handful of Lay’s or something similar on my plate with my burger – which made these a nice surprise. They were crunchy but not greasy. The only thing that would’ve made them more perfect is a french onion dip on the side. But if you add that then they would probably not be the “free side” anymore … and the cycle continues. You’re welcome, French fries.

Shane said he wished he would’ve gotten the Willow Classic burger instead of the Cajun. Once he bit into this burger he remembered that wasn’t the same one he got last time and that he wished he’d gotten that one again. But then again he also said he really didn’t taste his food since he was so hungry, so there’s that.

Ted really liked the Thai wings, although with the burger too he only ate about 10 of the 12. For shame. He said his burger was cooked well, but it didn’t really taste Cajun-y. I think he was looking for more of a blackened and seasoned taste. Although he skipped the pepper jack cheese, and we all know that makes a cajun dish, right?

If we have a complaint with the Blue Willow Lounge, it’s that the beer list is a little lacking. Case in point: Ted asked about dark beers … and ended up with a Fat Tire. So I guess “amber” is considered dark in these parts. Noted. Likewise, I asked about ciders, and the only option was Angry Orchard. Which, OK, sure, I guess I should just be happy they at least had something … but I like options, I guess. I’m a girl. Sue me.

Shane went with a rum and diet, and was slightly disappointed that it wasn’t as light in color as it was last week. Or as cheap.

I do appreciate that the server brought us cold glasses with my cider and Ted’s bottled beer. We gave them back to her, though. I mean, we drink out of bottles. We’re not classy folk.

Shane had three rum and diets, and when she came over to ask if he wanted another he answered “no, I’m driving.”

Me: Usually the answer to that is “well, I’m driving, so yes.” What’s happened to us?

All said and done, mine and Shane’s bill for the night was $38. Not too shabby for an app, two fairly large burgers with sides of chips, two ciders and three mixed drinks. In a stroke of irony, the mixed drinks were actually only .50 more than my bottled cider. Lesson learned there, I guess. For the next revisit, of course.

Picked by: Shane
Next pick: Steph

Ted

Steph

Shane

Blue Willow Lounge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Advertisements

WTGW 11/11/15: Kevin O’Bryan’s, Akron

Standard

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah, rivalry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I like him.

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

The struggle is real, y’all.

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

Can I have some of your tots?

Can I have some of your tots?

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

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

Burgers and wings. The WTGW staples.

Burgers and wings. The WTGW staples.

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

That looks like a real meal.

That looks like a real meal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fried green tomatoes. Fancy.

Fried green tomatoes. Fancy.

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

Is that healthy food? Who allowed this order?

Is that healthy food? Who allowed this order?

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

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

Amanda and Shanda

Amanda and Shanda

Ted and Jerrid. And shots. Obviously.

Ted and Jerrid. And shots. Obviously.

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Steph

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

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