WTGW 3/25/15: Hooley House, Fairlawn

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**sigh** Oh, Hooley House, we had such high hopes for you. I mean, really – you specialize in Irish food, bar food and beer. How hard is that to screw up?

Read on, my friends, and you shall see.

So the Hooley House is relatively new to the Fairlawn area, and located in the area just west of Rt 77 that we all seem to forget exists. That highway is like a moat.

Regardless, we were all pretty excited for an excuse to continue celebrating St. Patrick’s Day when Amanda announced this place as her pick for the week. We arrived at HH and noticed an open table in what we thought was the bar area – I mean, it had a large bar, and we all know that’s our usual gravitation point in any restaurant – to the left as soon as we walked in, so we asked to be sat there. It wasn’t until we were seated that we realized there was actually a giant dining room on the right side of the hostess station that had at least one more bar, and far more activity. Translation: we chose poorly, and were actually on the “quiet” side of the place. Also known as the “invisible” side, but we’ll get to that later.

I will say that things got off to a decent start. HH has great drink specials – Wednesdays are $4 Guinness and martinis, so that’s pretty much custom made for three out of four members of our group. Although Ted did save his Guinness for round two of the evening, starting out the night with a (very dark) vanilla porter. Maybe they should re-think that name. After much scouring of the martini list – because, let’s face it, they all sounded absolutely delicious – Amanda started with a birthday cake martini, while I went with the apple pie.

Not one to jump on a bandwagon, Shane went with a rum and diet. Drink specials be damned.

Small to tall, dark to light

Small to tall, dark to light

So we got our first round of drinks, and took a few minutes to check out the rather large menu. Seriously, this thing was like a small novel. And while I appreciate a good selection, sometimes by the time you get to page 8 it just seems rather overwhelming. Where was the sandwich page? How many different pastas do they offer? What sides come with those? It’s like studying for the freaking SAT’s just to be prepared when they come back to take your order.

We finally passed the test and put in our orders, and sat back to enjoy our drinks while we waited for our appetizers to arrive. And that’s when things started go downhill. And also when we learned the number one cardinal rule of dining at Hooley House: order a drink anytime you see your waitress. Any. Time. If she walks past the table. Or you catch a quick glimpse of her seven tables away. Or you run into her in the restroom. I don’t care where you see her, if your paths cross you need to take advantage of it. Because you never know when you might see her again.

Had we known this, we would’ve put in our order for our second round of drinks when we ordered our food – which was about two sips into our first round, just FYI. Instead, our first round of drink glasses sat empty for at least 15 minutes, with no sign of our servers whatsoever and despite Shane making loud slurpy noises with his straw in the empty glass like a 5-year old. Our apps were delivered by someone who was clearly not our server and who also scurried away immediately after dropping off the plates as if she knew we would ask for more drinks and she wasn’t able to get them for us.

So, OK, strike one.

But let’s just talk for a minute about the appetizers, which were so good they almost made us forget that we didn’t have any liquids remaining at our table to wash them down with. We had ordered the onion rings, which were hand battered but not so much so that they weighed 10 tons and dropped like a ball of grease into your stomach. Delicious.

Onions count as a vegetable, right?

Onions count as a vegetable, right?

We also got an order of the Irish Egg Rolls, which quite frankly may be the best item on the menu. The corned beef was sliced just right, and even though they were deep fried it wasn’t like they just dipped them in grease and threw them on a plate. They were less like egg rolls and more like little mini deep-fried corned beef sandwiches. Or pockets of heaven, whatever. Tomato, tomahto.

Pita pockets of tastiness

Pita pockets of tastiness

Plus if you order anything there and it says it comes with “hooley sauce,” consider yourself lucky because it’s to die for. Seriously. I think I could eat a bowl of that stuff by itself with a spoon.

Speaking of spoons, it’s a good thing we didn’t need an extra one for anything. Or any condiments. Or anything, really, to go with our appetizers (I mean, aside from the obvious drinks – we’re well past that at this point), because we were finished with our apps by the time we saw our servers again. And yes, I did mean to use the plural there, as our table was the lucky recipient of a “shadowing trainee” for the evening.  Who was apparently learning the fine art of avoidance, but whatevs. In any case, the next time we saw our waitress(es) was when our meals were delivered. I’m pretty sure we all burst out laughing when she asked us if there was anything else she could get us at that point. Oh, yes, please, a little more air for my empty glass would be perfection. Thank you.

So, OK, on to our meals. As usual we did our pre-meal interrogation of our servers prior to ordering, and were told that the burgers and the “bakes” (essentially specialty mac’n’cheese) were the best things on the menu. I guess maybe I should’ve listened to them and gone that route, as both the Irish bake and the Buffalo Chicken bake had caught my eye. But I was afraid that either of those options would be way too heavy, so I tried to make it a bit healthier and went with the Cajun Chicken Melt sandwich instead. It was billed as a “grilled cheese sandwich with extras.” Um, yeah, no. Typically grilled cheese involves, well, cheese, right? Yeah, that ingredient was basically non-existent. Like so much so that I think even Ted could’ve eaten this sandwich without complaining (gasp!). Conversely, the chicken breast was cut way too thick – to the point that the texture was a bit iffy and even though it looked to be cooked all the way through there just wasn’t enough flavor to it to make you feel comfortable finishing it.

At least the tater tots weren't going to kill me

At least the tater tots weren’t going to kill me

As usual, my love of carbs enabled me to finish off the bread, but that’s about all. Because it’s always best to order “healthy” and then eat only the part of the meal with the worst nutritional value. I should’ve just had a vat of the hooley sauce.

Amanda, Ted and Shane all ordered burgers. So, considering Shane’s pickiness and how this visit is going so far, I’m guessing you probably already realize that’s going to be an issue. Sure enough, despite asking the waitress and being told that they cook to order, Shane’s Jalepeno burger was still well done. And you know how much he loves that.

There's a well done burger under all those chips somewhere

There’s a well done burger under all those chips somewhere

Meanwhile Amanda’s Mushroom Swiss burger, while ordered medium, was pink inside. Because that seems normal.

Shane said if it had been cooked properly then it probably would’ve been a good burger. But this time around, unfortunately, the pepper jack cheese on his burger was the best part of the sandwich. Which ultimately doesn’t bode well for Ted, who got the same burger, sans cheese. He did say it was decent – he liked the mix of sweet and sour with the honey bun and pickles. But it wasn’t anything to write home about.

The bun blends in with the plate

The bun blends in with the plate

We did like the sides we had with our orders, which included chips, fries and tater tots. Amanda and I got the garlic parm seasoning on ours (I had tots and she had fries) and it was delicious. We would both highly recommend it.

Can we seriously just get sides and apps next time?

Can we seriously just get sides and apps next time?

But overall I have to say that the service really killed this place for us. We might’ve been more forgiving of the food if we also would’ve seen more of the wait staff. Or at least had full drinks to wash down the over-done burger and questionable chicken. We realized that part of the problem seemed to be that instead of assigning one server to just our section – which seemed to be further removed from the kitchen and the main bar area – they had at least four or five different servers working the eight or so tables in our area, in addition to holding down tables in the main section. No wonder they forgot to check on us. Our section was the Alaska to the rest of the bar’s Lower 48.

Several times we almost walked up to the bar near us and ordered rounds there, just to see if it would take less time to do it that way than wait for our waitress(es) – but watching the bartender behind the bar take her time with orders she received basically answered that question for us and made us just decide to stay comfortably in our seats instead of jostling for position at the bar. We were told – when we finally did see our waitress(es) and they took our order for a second round – that the main bar was “really backed up” … keep in mind, we were not apologized to, just told that. So hence why we ordered our third round when the second round arrived. Which I think at first the waitress wasn’t sure we were serious about. Clearly she has no idea who we are, or how much we typically drink in one sitting. So thanks for saving us money, I guess?

Lining up the beverages in case our waitress pulls a David Copperfield again

Lining up the beverages in case our waitress pulls a David Copperfield again

 

Ted

Ted

Amanda

Amanda

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Amanda
Drinks:   Good specials and variety. We’d be able to give more of an opinion on them if we were served more of them, though.  
Food:
The menu is huge, lots of Irish fare but also the typical bar food, too. We really, really wanted to like it. And if we would’ve just stuck to appetizers I have a feeling we would’ve.
Service: Houston, we have a problem. Namely that our entire section of the bar seemed to go invisible for a while.
Overall: In an area where bar and grille esque places – even those with an Irish theme – seem to be a dime a dozen, this place did nothing to make itself stand out.

Next Pick: Ted

WTGW 2/26/14: Johnny Malloy’s, Akron

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Remember how last week we went to Delanie’s, and it seemed like everyone else there was a regular except us? Yeah, I think we started something there. Only not in a good way.

Johnny Malloy’s, located by the Chapel Hill Mall in Akron, is one of those places that you can tell is pretty much “regulars only.” So much so that every time someone walked through the door, it seemed almost like a cheer went up at the bar (“Norm!”). Well, except when we walked in, and everyone stopped doing whatever they were doing for the next what-felt-like-10-minutes to eye us up and figure out why we were there. *awkward*

Regardless, the night started out good, as the waitress came over quickly to give us menus and take our drink orders, and was personable while doing so. She brought our first round over pretty quickly … and then proceeded to ignore us for the next 20 minutes. Literally. Here’s a thought – you asked us if we wanted menus and we said yes, so that probably means there’s a good chance we’ll order, right? I mean, I was never good at word problems in school, but I’d give that one a pretty high percentage on the odds.

But, sadly, she never caught on to that. Maybe it was because there were only two girls working behind the bar – and not that they were exceptionally busy overall in the place, but it’s a pretty large space, and I could see how it’s easy to let the people sitting at the bar grab your attention more so than those seated at tables away from the bar and out of near walking distance. Truthfully, they needed a waitress specifically working the tables away from the bar, but that’s neither here nor there – because, well, I don’t do the hiring for this place. But what we did notice was that it also didn’t help that both bartenders seemed a bit more concerned with chatting up the regulars than taking care of anyone else. I guess membership has its privileges.

But despite all of that, once we did put our orders in the food actually came out pretty quickly. A quick note about the menu: Johnny Malloy’s shares a kitchen with the take out restaurant Geppetto’s next door – so wings and ribs ordered in Johnny Malloy’s are their recipe. That may mean something to some of you, so just thought I would point that out. To us it basically meant if we enjoyed the food we could have it delivered and save ourselves the awkwardness of having to walk back in the door again, but whateves.

For appetizers (remember when we said we weren’t ordering those anymore. Ha.) we ordered mac and cheese bites and “parm puffs” – which are basically just fried dough rolled in butter and Parmesan cheese. They weren’t horrible, but not exactly what I thought they might be. I guess I envisioned something a little more like bread sticks and less like a cheese flavored elephant ear. But you got a lot for $3.99, so if that sounds like something you like then you’re in luck.

I ordered the Italian hoagie, which is served hot or cold, so I chose hot. I ordered chips as a side, no dips come with it but the waitress suggested ranch or nacho cheese. I took the cheese, and ended up with I think more of that than the chips. But it was delicious, so score. Amanda had a burger and fries, which she seemed happy with.

A vat of nacho cheese sauce = delicious.

A vat of nacho cheese sauce = delicious.

Shane ordered the Wednesday special, which was 10 wings and a medium pizza. For himself. (I know, right?) But he actually ended up taking four slices of pizza (about half the pie) home, which I think is a first not only in WTGW history but also I think in the entire time he and I have been together. #shocked.

Order up for one. Seriously.

Order up for one. Seriously.

Side note: Ted was not with us for this WTGW adventure, as he was under the weather for the evening. But that was probably in some ways a good thing, as there were already way too many guys in the place.  Counting the two bartenders, Amanda and I easily made up 1/3 of the female population in the place at any given point in the night. Single ladies, take note.

Another thing to note is that on Wednesdays all of the Long Islands are $3.50. I say “all,” because they apparently have varieties. Although we didn’t actually hear what they are, because Shane cut the bartender off after the first one and just told her to “surprise him.” And if we didn’t get properly stared at when we walked in, we certainly did once his fruity looking red and green Long Island showed up … along with mine and Amanda’s pitcher of Miller Lite for $5.00. Nice. I will also mention that said beer came with some of the coldest glasses ever, although it would’ve been nice to have them refreshed throughout the meal. It would’ve also been nice to have been given silverware and napkins with our meal as well, but I don’t want to seem too needy. I mean, really.

Which of these drinks belongs to the only boy at the table ... Hmmm ...

Which of these drinks belongs to the only boy at the table … Hmmm …

CAPSULE

Picked by: Amanda
Drinks: Great specials – Wednesday was $5.00 domestic pitchers or $3.50 Long Islands, and they didn’t skimp on the alcohol for the price. I forgot how much I love an ice cold glass, too, even in the dead of winter.
Food:
Good. It’s typical bar food, but considering that everything was good.
Service: Thumbs down. Twenty minutes between delivery of the first round of drinks and returning to take the food order is just unacceptable. Especially when we can see the entire crowd there, and it wasn’t overly busy.
Overall: Unless we befriend a regular, I somehow doubt we’ll be back.

Next Pick: Ted (if he’s still alive by then)