WTGW 3/29/17: Hooley House, Fairlawn – REVISIT

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Oh, Hooley House. I remember when we first met, two years ago (almost to the day, ironically – what does it say about our timing when we continuously pick an Irish place in the weeks following St Patrick’s Day?) – we were so excited to finally get there, so filled with promise for what you could be for us … and then we left disappointed.

In remembering that first visit, or main contention was … well … pretty much everything. The service was extremely slow, our glasses were left empty for 20+ minutes at a time – even when we were seated essentially right next to the auxillary bar, the burgers weren’t cooked to our individual specifications, and my chicken sandwich may or may not have been trying to kill me.

But the apps were good, so score one for them there, I guess.

At the time, we chalked it up to the fact that they hadn’t been open long, so they were probably still working out some kinks. Plus we also chose poorly on our seating for the evening, not realizing that there was another full bar and dining area with far more seating – and that was consistently beating us in the loudness and “sounds like fun is happening over there” departments – opposite from where we were sitting.

But even with all those negatives, we still always talked about going back to give it another chance. Because we’re fair like that.

This time around we knew right off the bat not to make the same mistakes in the seating department, and requested to head for the opposite site – otherwise known as the “East Eden” to our last visit’s quieter side. And while it was definitely an improvement, we also weren’t instantly in heaven.

Maybe it was because we also happened to be there on trivia that night. And I think we’re learning that’s a whole different crowd on those nights … who don’t particularly care for people talking loudly when they’re trying to be all smart and stuff, and who shoot us looks of death when we have our cell phones on the table. Hey, listen, we’re taking pictures of food for important research, not googling your answers. Well, OK, maybe we’re doing that, too … but don’t worry, we heard the rules, and we’re not playing your little game anyway. We just like to pretend to be smart, too.

Also, the girl hosting the trivia on this particular night had an amazingly monotone, still-not-loud-enough-even-with-a-microphone voice that was putting me to sleep. Because that’s good for bar business.

So clearly we’re off to an amazing start already.

But nevertheless, we ordered beer, because, well, that always seems like a good place to change the tides for the better. Ted started off with a Guinness. I asked which Leininkugel’s seasonal was on tap, since their “winter specials” table tents said Cranberry Ginger, but it’s after St. Patrick’s Day so that technically means spring in Ohio, and usually the Summer Shandy is out by now.

The server’s answer pretty much ambiguously implied it could be either. Oh, OK. Well luckily I like either one, so whatever, I guess, just give me what pours out of that tap, please.

Meanwhile, Shane ordered something from the same “winter specials” flyer that involved Guinness mixed with the seasonal Cranberry Leininkugel’s.

Me: You know, if they don’t have that cranberry beer anymore, they won’t be able to make that drink.
Shane: Oh, good point, you’re probably right.

Sure enough, about two minutes later our server appeared with mine and Ted’s beers, and that exact message for Shane.

Just call me Miss Cleo.

So Shane ended up with a Michelob Ultra. Probably tasted exactly the same.

Speedy Ted wasted no time and tried jumping right to appetizers as we were putting in the drink order, so Shane and I scrambled and just came up with our usual of late – pretzel sticks.

Because really, if you mess those up we should probably just leave.

My addiction to bread continues

Fortunately we didn’t have to chug our drinks and bolt for the door, as these pretzels were delicious. They were done just right so they were slightly crispy on the outside but still doughy inside. And straight from the oven just like last week at R Shea’s – only this week it was Shane who lost a few layers of skin just trying to eat them. He tried about four times to pick one up, each time about 30 seconds from the last, and continued to declare them “still hot.”

Catches on quick, that one.

Meanwhile Speedy Gonzalez over there had been so impatient to order because he had his eye on the Maple Glazed Bacon app – which he had spotted on another menu somewhere not WTGW related but never got to order then, so he was all about ordering it now. The app is really just what the name suggests – bacon strips cooked and coated in candied maple syrup. So basically kind of like your entire breakfast served in one cute little bar glass, and without the carbs of pancakes.

The perfect breakfast in a glass

And he wasn’t disappointed. To quote Ted, “It’s like you soaked your bacon in maple syrup. And come on, it’s maple and bacon, what’s not to like.”

We don’t ask for much, people. Really.

As I mentioned already, we were once again coming off the corned beef fest that is an Irish holiday, so we may have been just a tad burnt out to order anything remotely Irish on the menu. Shane and I actually ended up with a bit of a southwestern theme between us – he ordered the beef quesadilla, which I made fun of him for ordering at an Irish place … and then I promptly turned around and ordered a spicy black bean burger.

Don’t judge.

On the other side of the table, Ted ordered the BBQ bacon burger, thus proving that apparently his theme for the night was just “whatever has bacon on it.”

And just like our last visit to HH, the apps were better than the actual meals. We all thought our food was just OK. Ted thought his burger was alright, but that the tater tots were too salty. I also was not a fan of the tots – and that’s not a sentence I say many times. But I also just had really good tots at a restaurant in Chicago a few weeks ago, so that memory may have infringed on my opinion here.

Look at those tots. Just look, though, because eating them isn’t recommended.

My burger was OK, I liked that it had lots of avacado, and my bread loving self was of course a fan of the soft bun (that’s what she said …). But I could’ve done without the overload of onions that seemed to not want to be evicted from the sandwich.

Ignore my half eaten pretzel stick, that didn’t come with the entree

Shane said his quesadilla was also just OK, nothing special.

Mex-Irish

Our server was good, very talkative and sweet, although she did disappear a few times when glasses were empty and not reappear until we were about ready to go up to the bar and order for ourselves. Do they teach that tick to all of the servers here? I seem to remember that disappearing act happening a lot on our last visit. But she also tried to give Ted an extra Guinness at the end of the night, so maybe that was her way of making up for it? I’d like to say we’ll return to find out, but that’s probably pretty doubtful at this point. The way things have been going with this place so far, the third time is either the charm … or one of us ends up with food poisoning. That’s a game of Russian roulette I’m not sure any of us are willing to play.

Re-picked by: Shane
Original pick by: Amanda
Next pick: Steph

Steph

Ted

Shane

WTGW 11/9/16: Mavis Winkles Irish Pub, Twinsburg

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Sorry we’ve been away.  World Series, yo. I mean, we do live in Cleveland after all.

Which translates to Amanda’s pick being on the back burner for about a month now, since our streak of baseball watching began with the playoffs and we didn’t want to chance trying out a new place that may or may not have ample televisions tuned to the game, as well as seating options with good sight lines of said televisions.

Not that we’re needy or anything.

Also it’s ironic to note that when choosing a sports bar to head out to in order to catch the games, suddenly we seemed to forget all 157 we’ve been to in the area, and ended up texting one another things like “When did we go there again?” and “I don’t know, what kind of TV setup do they have there?” 

See also: why our blog stats shot up considerably in those few weeks, as we all frantically researched sports bars.

Anyway.

So Mavis Winkles is located in the same plaza as the Panini’s with the great outdoor bar that we discovered we loved about three years ago. And haven’t been back to since, because somewhere we read that Panini’s location closed. Yeah, it didn’t. Damn you internet and your lies.

We were seated at a high top near the bar but not really in the bar area. If that makes sense. The layout of the place is a little strange, just keep that in mind.

For drinks it was a Boddington for me (hey, it is an Irish place), Guinness for Ted (after he asked what dark beers they had, apparently forgetting we were in an Irish place), Angry Orchard for Shane and Miller Lite for Jerrid.

Our poor server came back to check on us like six times before we actually places our dinner orders. We’re chatty all of a sudden when we haven’t done this for a few weeks. But I give her points for at least trying.

For apps, Ted tried to get the calamari, but was told they were out. Which prompted Shane to start reinacting the scene in Tommy Boy where he gets the waitress to turn the fryers back on. “Are you sure? Wings would taste really good right now.”

Let’s just say it turned out better for Tommy.

So poor Ted went with zucchini planks instead. I had my money on the hummus platter being his number two choice. Dammit Ted. You let me down.

I wish I could say they tasted better than they look

I wish I could say they tasted better than they look

Shane and I got the reuben rolls. They also have reuben bites on the menu (see also: Irish place), but we went with the rolls – because, as Shane explained, rolls just sound like more real food than “bites.” Bites are dainty. And we all know by now dainty is not in the list of adjectives for us.

And the rolls were definitely real food. In fact, they were kind of like small, deep fried, wrap sandwiches. That apparently looked obscene. Shane called them “reuben dongs.”

Shane's obscene appetizer. Because he's 12.

Shane’s obscene appetizer. Because he’s 12.

That’s my husband, y’all, keepin’ it classy.

At least they were a nice juxtaposition to the side salad I got with my cabbage and corned beef dish and that arrived at the same time. Giving the appearance of healthy, as I ate what was essentially iceberg lettuce with balsamic dressing with one hand while also eating the deep fried corned beef with the other. Point, me.

Something healthy. Wait, what?

Something healthy. Wait, what?

In any case, the reuben rolls were delicious. And could’ve been a meal all in themselves, if you ordered the app just for you. The dipping sauce was also really good – and I’m usually one to skip condiments, so that’s a real compliment.

Ted said the zucchini planks were OK. He said the breading was good, but there just wasn’t enough of it. So obviously he wasn’t ordering these for the health benefits of vegetables. And he said the zucchini was cut too thick. Which prompted this conversation:

Shane: They look like they’re cut like pickle spears. Because they should be cut like bacon strips.
Ted: Yes, that’s exactly what I mean.

Glad we have our own language here.

Three of the five of us got something that featured corned beef. Have I mentioned we’re at an Irish place? I wasn’t sure.

I got corned beef and cabbage.

The never-ending bowl of Irish food

The never-ending bowl of Irish food

Amanda got the corned beef boxty (corned beef with potato pancakes).

Similar but different

Similar but different

Ted got the hot reuben sandwich (basically the reuben rolls without the deep frying).

Looks less obscene

Looks less obscene

We all agreed that the corned beef here was really good. As well it should be, because, well … OK, I’ll stop saying it.The corned beef was thicker shaved and very meaty, not the thinner, stringier stuff you get at some places. It had just a touch of seasoning, but not overly salty. And they give you a giant portion, no matter what form it was being served in. We all agreed we would definitely get each of our meals again.

On the non-corned beef side of the table we had Jerrid with chicken paprikash, and Shane with six of the honey mustard wings and a large order of fish and chips.

At least they didn’t order burgers?

Jerrid said the chicken paprikash was good, but was lukewarm when it arrived instead of piping hot, which he would’ve preferred. As would most normal people, I assume.

Is that a dollop of sour cream?

Is that a dollop of sour cream?

Shane’s eyes were a bit bigger than his stomach on his order. Also note, when they say large on that fish and chips order, they mean it. He had been debating on ordering the meatloaf but was worried it might not be enough food for him … meanwhile the fish and chips was too much. It’s like Goldilocks and the Various Menu Options. He took the wings home since he was so full.

Why does everything Shane eats look obscene?

Why does everything Shane eats look obscene?

Always a staple at our table

Always a staple at our table

As mentioned already, our server was very good. She put up with our “we’ve never been here before, what’s good” line of questioning when we first sat down, came back to check often on drinks and how things were going, was patient when we didn’t seem to be able to get our crap together to order, etc. We also may or may not have been her only table – but because of how strangely this place was laid out we couldn’t really be sure. Whatever. We’ll still give her credit, she was good.

Our big downer about this place, though, was the atmosphere. It was a little blah. I mean, maybe you missed my mentioning it, but it’s an Irish Pub. And I get that it’s a Wednesday night, so the good folks of Twinsburg probably weren’t exactly in the frame of mind for dancing on tables or taking 15 shots of Jameson or anything like that – but still. It could be that I think they close at like 9pm (which seems odd for a pub, no?), so of course by 8:45 we were likely about the only table left and it just seemed rather quiet. Overall the food was decent and we had good service, so I guess we might go back if we were in the area and wanted a bite and a beer … but then again with Panini’s right at the opposite end of the plaza I have to believe that might get more of the vote.

Ted

Ted

Gangsta Shane

Gangsta Shane

Jerrid

Jerrid

Amanda

Amanda

Steph

Steph

Picked by: Amanda
Next pick: Ted

Mavis Winkle's Irish Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 11/11/15: Kevin O’Bryan’s, Akron

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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