WTGW 1/13/16: BJ’s Brewhouse, Fairlawn

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You know we’ve hit a lot of restaurants in the area when we see one being built and in the back of our minds we’re all kind of thinking about whose pick is going to line up with the week of the opening. BJ’s Brewhouse is a fairly recent addition to the Fairlawn food landscape, located in the southeastern corner of the Summit Mall parking lot. Construction began around the middle of the summer, I think, and then all of a sudden, bam, it was open. I know Shane and I were invited to meet another couple there a few months back, which must’ve been right after the opening because the wait was like, two hours, on a Saturday night. Um, no thanks. I mean, you’d think there were absolutely no other places to eat within a 10 mile radius or something. Please.

So anyway, fast forward to this week, when we think the hype may have died down a little, and Amanda announces this is her WTGW pick. When I texted Ted to tell him the news, his response was “well, dammit. that was going to be my next pick.” So I’m thinking we can all assume that at least some of Ted’s Google searches for the next week will involve area restaurants. Just some. *wink, wink*

And either the good word of mouth is spreading about BJ’s (can we all just talk for a minute about how places need to stop choosing this horrible name for their establishments?) or there are still a number of people in the Summit County area who haven’t tried it yet and were, like us, waiting for the first wave of patrons to cycle through (overachievers) … because even with going on a Wednesday late evening there was still a wait for a table. Only about 20 minutes, but still. Impressive. Amanda and Jerrid were the first to arrive, so they got to be the lucky ones to wait – but, hey, with a place that has the word “brewhouse” in the title it’s not hard to find a way to occupy that amount of time, right?

Anyway.

So we’re seated, and the first thing we notice is that the menus weigh about six pounds each. And, just like last week, flipping through them is similar to reading a short story. While I appreciate the variety, sometimes maybe you can find the few things you want to specialize in and just stick to that, no? Or at least a certain nationality of food? I mean, it’s like you kind of have to just narrow it down to the basic type of food you think you might want and then just stare at those 2-3 pages until you decide on the actual item to order. Because one more flip, and before you know it you’re back on the winding road of delicious sounding food options.

At least the drinks were a tad bit easier for us. BJ’s (seriously, I giggle every time I type that) brews their own beers, but they do also offer a pretty impressive selection of other domestic and craft beers as well.

So, you know, it makes perfect sense that Shane and Amanda both chose Miller Lite.

Ted, Jerrid and I were a bit more adventurous. I got the Hefeweizen (which I’ve found to be my “go to” pretty much any place that offers it), Ted got the house made IPA, and while Jerrid didn’t go with one the house made beers he still went with a craft, the Magic Hat #9.

And I think this is the first time in months we’ve all ordered beer. WTF?

Ted ordered the wings for an appetizer, while Shane pretended to not know what he wanted until I mentioned they had calamari. Surprise!

Because we never order this

Because we never order this

Or this

Or this

Both apps were good. We all agreed that we really liked the aioli sauce that came with the calamari. And Ted called the calamari “tender.” Which he later clarified as “not over cooked.” Just in case we were confused that it may have been emotionally fragile or something like that instead. The wings were a siracha dry rub. They were kind of sweet and kind of spicy, with enough flavor to give them a kick without being so hot that you need a bucket of water to wash down every bite.

And good thing, too, because asking for water with our server was somewhat like asking a cat to, well, do whatever it is you want a cat to do. Shane asked three times for a glass of water – and despite taking our alcohol orders, bringing those drinks, bringing the apps … and asking each time what else we needed (to which Shane responded “a glass of water would be great”) – she still didn’t bring it.

Then Jerrid casually mentions “hey, can we get a couple of waters here?” … and suddenly like seven glasses appear at our table.

Is anyone thirsty? I'm parched.

Is anyone thirsty? I’m parched.

Clearly this time Jerrid was the magic name in our group, not Shane. Payback for the Rush Hour Grille incident maybe?

For meals, Amanda and I ordered off the “light menu” – she got the seared ahi salad and I had the blackened barbacoa chicken. Amanda said the salad was so tasty, she would almost order another one to take home. She particularly mentioned the dressing as being really good, and although the tuna could’ve used a bit more seasoning on it, it it was overall a really delicious meal. And it was enough to be filling – something that doesn’t always happen with those tricky “light” menu items  (I mean, really, just because we’re trying to eat healthier and lose weight doesn’t mean we want to starve, am I right?) – but she didn’t feel stuffed.

Healthy eating can be pretty

Healthy eating can be pretty

Mine was also really good, and filling as well. It was a bit on the spicy side … but thankfully we had a crap ton of water if I’d needed it, so crisis averted there.

It's strange to not see fries on this plate

It’s strange to not see fries on this plate

Ted got the ribeye steak with asparagus and rice pilaf. He said, and I quote ” the asparagus was good, rice was good, steak was … good.” Hmm, seems like there’s some hesitation there perhaps? But he said if he had to rate it, all in all he would give it a solid 7 out of 10. He said he had actually been deciding between like three different things on the menu (and, I mean, with that menu that’s totally understandable) – so he would definitely come back to try something else. Particularly the crispy jaelepeno burger, that’s the next thing on his list.

That's a nutritious looking meal. And a sharp looking knife.

That’s a nutritious looking meal. And a sharp looking knife.

In case we weren’t all sick of their continuing antics yet, Shane and Jerrid kept the bromance alive and actually split a dinner. Really guys? People are going to talk. In any case, they shared probably one of the most typically non-shared foods, a full rack of ribs, paired with a very easily shared food, the medium BJ’s special pizza (and again, see what I mean about the name? That just isn’t good marketing). Jerrid said his food was good, although Shane likened the pizza to that which you get at Pizza Hut. They also weren’t a huge fan of the ribs, which they said were just average.

Hi, Pizza Hut? We found one of your pizzas here.

Hi, Pizza Hut? We found one of your pizzas here.

There's a rack of ribs under those fries somwhere

There’s a rack of ribs under those fries somewhere

Although maybe Shane just was too watered down at that point to taste anything, what with the 18 glasses of water and all?

I have to say, our server was definitely not the most personable. Or loud. And that’s a bit of a problem, since the place is actually pretty loud inside, thanks to the openness and the high ceilings and all. So half the time I wasn’t sure if she was actually talking to us or just mumbling under her breath about something. Maybe about the high cost of tap water and how wasteful patrons like us insist on asking for it? Who knows.

Ted

Ted

Jerrid

Jerrid

Amanda

Amanda

Steph

Steph

Shane (he must be water-drunk?)

Shane (he must be water-drunk?)

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Amanda

Drinks:  The house brewed beers are good, with an impressive variety. I’d be willing to try a few more on the list just to see what else they have to offer. But I guess being a “brewhouse” means the water tap is selectively broken. This is one WTGW where it didn’t pay to be named Shane for once. 
Food:
Not a bad selection – they offer anything from pizza to sandwiches to salads and lighter fare. And you’ll be extra hungry after you get done reading the short novel that is the menu.
Service: As long as you aren’t craving water – or a personality of some kind – it’s not bad.
Overall: This place was pretty much middle of the road for the entire group. It wasn’t horrible by any means, and I think we would go again if we happened to be in the area. But if we get the same server again I think Shane may sneak in his own flask of water.

Next Pick: Ted

Flashback Friday 11/8/13: Hoppin Frog Brewery, Akron

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So as promised from our last post, this week we rolled out a new adventure for the WTGW crew: Flashback Fridays. Basically, after 4.5 months of this crazy little experiment and no end to the list of new places we have yet to try, we realized that we kind of wanted to revisit some of the places that we discovered to be really good. Because really, finding these great places and never going back is like buying a Porsche and only walking into the garage to occasionally stare at it. So once a month we’ll take a poll, draw a name or spin a wheel (hey, we have to have a little fun with it, right?) and pick a place to make our triumphant return … and only hope that it wasn’t alcohol clouding our impression the first time around.

I have to say our second visit to the Hoppin Frog brewery in Akron once again did not disappoint. Although, note to self, I really need to start composing these posts the day after we visit places that serve beers in excess of 8% alcohol, because a lot of the details of our evening there are getting a little fuzzy in my mind. And we did this on a Wednesday the first time around? I’m not sure how we all made it to work the next day.

This place is still one of those little gems that you kind of feel like you need a secret password to enter. The first time Shane and I tried to find the place (over the summer), we must’ve driven past the access road about five times while swearing at Google Maps that it where it wanted us to turn didn’t actually exist. And the building itself was probably a self-storage unit or one of those weird suburban office complexes housing companies that need easy access to dock doors. Not exactly where you’d imagine stumbling upon a place that serves high caliber beer and a small but intriguing menu.

It’s definitely not a huge space – in fact, truth be told, we weren’t sure we would even get a table on a Friday night, since we remembered it being relatively busy on the Wednesday trip we’d made back in August. But as it happened we were able to score four seats at the bar, and were only there long enough to order and take a few sips out of our first 8oz glasses of beer (which, side note – are deceptively small looking) before we moved over to our actual table. And I never noticed a huge backup at the door, despite the place staying busy the entire time we were there. Which was, of course, until closing … because that’s how we roll on Friday nights! And, well, closing was only 11PM.

The menu had changed since the last time we were there, but still included a variety of sandwiches and small plates, as well as the side dish “quinoa salad” – which I’m still not exactly sure what that is, despite someone in our group ordering it both times we’ve been there. I think we made the waiter pronounce “quinoa” about 17 times, and yet I don’t think I could do it correctly now. And we made Ted be the guinea pig and actually order it. He ate all of it and is still alive, so I guess that says something.

But enough about that – let’s move on to the best thing ever that we discovered on this trip to Hoppin Frog …

BEERSHAKES.

Fridays11-8-13 2

What in the holy hell.

I’m not sure who came up with this idea, but they’re a friggin genius. And I want them to guest bartend at our tailgates. Seriously – 8 oz of beer and 2 scoops of ice cream, all blended together into a glass of deliciousness. Yes, please.

Apparently these change by season, so of course we tried both the chocolate version (made with D.O.R.I.S. beer and chocolate ice cream) and the Christmas Ale version (made with Christmas Ale and pecan ice cream). The latter was the clear winner, as evidenced by this picture.

Double fisting

Amanda needs to learn to share

And probably also the reason this post has been a little difficult to compose, because I kind of forget what happened after we started drinking these. But I do remember we had a great time, and all agreed that we would go back.  On a weekend. With a driver/car service.

CAPSULE
Drink Menu: Excellent. Just be forewarned they only serve their own craft beers, so if you’re totally devoted to Miller Lite this may not be the place for you.
Food options: The menu is small but mighty. Stick to the sandwiches and you won’t be disappointed. And make someone order the quinoa salad … just because.
Service: Nice, knowledgeable and plenty of servers on hand for the crowd.
Overall: Two thumbs up. Definitely a keeper.