WTGW 11/13/19: Two Bucks Food & Spirits, Parma

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This week’s pick brought to you by a distant relative of the genius behind the naming of retail chains like Five Below and Dollar General.

Well not really. But I think you see where I’m going here.

So Two Bucks takes it’s name, presumably, because several of the items on the menu are only $2. Like sliders, fries, domestic beers and more shots than you would think it’s advisable to offer for only a few dollars each. On top of that, several liquors, like Tito’s, are only $3, including mixers.

Alternate name: Let’s Get Sloppy Drunk for $20. But I suppose that doesn’t fit well on a storefront sign.

But speaking of signage, the interior of the place is decorated with posters advertising all kinds of specialty drinks and liquors, the most intriguing of which was probably a peanut butter whisky called Screwball. Jason was so curious that he got a shot of it (hey, it was only $4!), which we all ended up sampling after it was proclaimed to be surprisingly delicious.

They also feature a large specialty cocktail list. Because nothing goes better with alcohol than lots and lots of written words.

So, all that being said, it would make total sense that the specialty food for Two Bucks is … Mac and cheese?

Wait, what?

Yeah, not exactly what you’d expect in a place adorned in alcohol advertisements and table tents touting under $5 drink specials. But according to the menus and website, it’s been cited a “Cleveland Best” in that category.

Mac and cheese, that is. Not bad decor or drink pricing. In case that wasn’t obvious. But I’m sure we could offer some suggestions for either category, no?

Anyway.

WHAT WE ORDERED

It’s probably not surprising, then, that when we asked the server what she recommended on the menu, the top item was the Mac and Cheese. I mean, it has won major awards and all.

But that menu item was closely followed in the server’s book by … well … pretty much almost everything else on the menu. So that’s helpful.

Cassi and Jason decided to start with pretzels and beer cheese.

Ted got the cauliflower wings with the teriyaki sauce. Thus proving there always have to be wings in some form or another on our table.

Shane and I got the “two buck” fries, and – even though it was clearly stated that the pickles were served in the form of spears and not chips – the fried pickles.

We take our chances in this group. Nothing like living on the edge.

Shane also initially wanted to order the fries along with the onion tanglers, I think because they were the only two apps on the menu under the “two buck” category. OK, like I totally get the desire to be economical, but – as Cassi said – there’s a million other good sounding things on the menu and that’s what you go for?

Exactly.

Moving on to meals, Cassi got the Chicken Philly with a side of the Mac and Cheese.

Jason got the Bucket Burger – the distinctive factor of which is that it has a fried egg on it – as well as onion straws and cheese.

Ted got the same thing. Minus the cheese. Of course.

I got the Steak Philly, and also chose the Mac and Cheese as a side.

But then because I wanted a side salad also, I asked if I could just get a small salad to go along with the meal … which then turned into a whole discussion about how the Mac and Cheese only comes in one size, so really getting it as an add-on side wasn’t any different than getting the side salad as an add-on side.

So wait, what now? The side and the meal are the same size? This seems odd, no?

There was already a lot of confusion at the table after that discussion, so we decided to just trust that the server knew what she was talking about and I wouldn’t end up paying $15 for a side salad.

Apparently not sensing the confusion already at the table, Shane gets the complicated order award with his choice of the “meal” of Mac and Cheese – not the plain kind that Cassi and I would be getting as the “side” order, but the special Three Way style (which, yes, we all giggled at when he ordered, because we’re 12) – along with two of the smoked kielbasa sliders and one BBQ bacon slider.

Yes, we were all pleasantly surprised when everything arrived at our table as ordered. Because we all know that could be its own separate award category.

THE VERDICT

After all the talk about the Mac and Cheese, you’ll be happy to know that it was good. I mean, I’m not sure we agree with all of the awards – Cassi stated that it certainly wasn’t her favorite ever – but it was definitely tasty.  I thought even the “plain” version had really good flavor. And in retrospect I really could’ve just ordered that and a salad and avoided the steak philly altogether, since the sandwiches were the least favorite part of both mine and Cassi’s meals. Cassi said her chicken was super dry. And while my steak was OK, it was nothing I ever need to eat again.

I ended up taking half of my sandwich and half of the mac and cheese home. And already I think we all know that only one of those halves will actually get eaten.

Cassi liked the pretzels, but said that they could’ve used salt. Color us all as shocked about that as we are when Ted orders something without cheese.

But speaking of cheese, make sure you don’t pull a Ted and skip the cheese with the pretzels. It was delicious.

Ted said the cauliflower was good, but that it really wasn’t spicy at all. Cassi tried one and said that’s what she should’ve ordered as her meal, so presumably she enjoyed that one piece more than Ted did the entire order.

Shane actually liked the fried pickles in the spear form (can we all just agree that it’s normal to start singing a Brittany Spears song everytime that word is read or typed?). But then said he added that he was really hungry, so that could’ve affected his decision. So that’s helpful.

I thought they didn’t have much flavor. The breading wasn’t overwhelming – which was a plus – but overall they could’ve used some seasoning. On a scale of Three Brothers to Dilly D’s, it was somewhere in the middle.

Apparently another specialty of the place is a new kind of French Fry that should probably be called “scraps” or “bottom of the barrell,” as they seemed to be fashioned after the tiny bits of potato chips you find at the very bottom of the chip bag. We thought when our app came out with those little pieces that maybe we were just unlucky enough to get the end of the bag of frozen bits dumped into the fryer … but then the fries that came with Jason’s and Ted’s burgers arrived looking exactly the same, so I guess that’s just how they make them? Either that or someone in the kitchen got mad at the frozen potatoes and ran them all over with their truck out back before bringing them into the kitchen? I mean, I’d take option one out of those two, but who knows at this point. Especially with all of these $2 drink specials.

Our bill was really good considering all the food we ordered. Both apps together came to just $5.50, which is less than we pay for one at most places. And my mixed drinks off of the specialty drink menu were only $4 each, which seemed super cheap. The actual meals were the most expensive things – which may be the most logical sentence I’ve typed in this entire review. Oh, wait, Ted’s beers actually beat the cost of most of our individual meals, as it was a full third of his final bill.

Even as we left, we were all still scratching our heads at the whole vibe of this place. Like the name and the drink specials pretty blatantly scream dive bar. But the touting of the award winning, “gourmet” Mac and Cheese along with the atmosphere in the place definitely screams a need to want to be more upscale than that. It’s like the bar version of the movie Pretty Woman.

The playlist also fluctuated somewhere between 70’s rock and tech dance club, which is a grey area I’m sure no one has thought necessary to give a genre name to yet, but I have to imagine this is what would happen if Bad Company and David Guetta suddenly decided to tour together. So there’s that.

We all agreed that while Two Bucks didn’t serve up the best food we‘ve ever had – Ted summed it up perfectly when he said that everything tasted good, but nothing had a ton of flavor to it – it was still tasty and we would eat here again.

And also, cheap drinks. I’ll take Things We Will Never Complain About for $1000 please, Alex. Because we never said we couldn’t be bought.

Picked by: Shane
Next pick: Cassi

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

WTGW Special Edition – Second Annual Scrumptious Showdown 6/3/17

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OK, so you know how we often go into places and declare we’re ordering ALL THE FOOD because we’re so hungry? Or how many times the guys end up getting two full meals and an appetizer each, which prompts comments from me about the copious amounts of food we have at one table?

Well, I think we finally met our match.

A month or so ago I was contacted by one of the lovely marketing peeps at Aurora Farms Premium Outlets about our team from WTGW being food judges for their Second Annual Scrumptious Showdown – an event at the outdoor shopping center that invites various local food trucks to not only sell food to patrons but also be judged by a panel for the opportunity to win bragging rights and gift cards to Aurora Farms.

So of course we said yes – because, I mean, hello, have you met us? You want us to come out and eat stuff then tell you what we thought of it? Clearly we have no clue how that concept works.

Although I think we can all admit now that, while we know food, the concept we were a little clueless on was food judging. To say we were slightly unprepared for what we were getting ourselves into is like the astronauts of Apollo 13 telling Houston they have a problem. I mean, we obviously like food. But I don’t think in my whole life I have ever eaten so much in one 90 minute time span.

Must. Train. Better. Next. Time.

Anyway.

When we arrived on a beautiful, sunny Saturday we met not only our hosts from Aurora Farms, but also the rest of the judges. They had invited six judges total – all area food and event bloggers – and split us up into two sets of three for the judging so that all of us didn’t have to judge every category. Which at first we were like, wait, why, we got this. Uh, no. See above comment about ill-preparedness. Because about 45 minutes into the competition I realized the organizers were actually really smart people.

So our group had four categories to judge: best wrap, best vegetarian dish, best cold dessert, and best sweet treat. The other group had both the cold and sweet desserts along with us, and then “best between two buns,” which was sandwiches that weren’t wraps.

Everyone knows when you have a clipboard you’re official

At first I kinda thought we got the worse end of that deal – why do they get burgers and sandwiches while we get boring wraps? But in the end I think we lucked out, because not only were the wraps we tried far from boring, but also all of our trucks gave us so much food that we ended up filling several take home containers.

Seriously, So. Much. Food.

That’s right, back off, you ordinary people. Our gluttony will take over this table.

There were six entries in the wraps category alone. Six. Now, granted, it’s not like we had to eat a full wrap from each truck – but you’d be surprised how quickly a few bites of each flour tortilla filled sandwich can fill you up. Especially when what’s on the inside of those tortillas includes things like meats, cheeses (sorry, Ted) and even pasta. Um, OK.

So the six wraps we tried included a BBQ chicken mac & cheese wrap from Wrap It Up, a slow roasted beef and cheese wrap from Hatfield’s Goode Grub, a chicken wrap from Wholly Frijoles Mexican Street Food, an Open Faced Cuban wrap from Off the GRIDdle, Ahi Tuna Tacos from The Beachcomber Truck, and a gyro from Gyro George.

This is only my corner of the table

The three of us individually scored each item based not only on the taste, but also on things like the uniqueness and presentation. Hatfield’s scored the best on all of our sheets for the wraps – the flavor was out of this world, plus they were the only truck to actually send someone over to talk to us about the dish and how it was prepared, so that definitely scored them points for presentation. They ended up winning the category.

As far as other standouts, the mac and cheese burrito definitely got points for originality. And it should be noted that Ted The Cheese Hater’s first words were “well that cheese isn’t so awful,” which anyone who reads this blog regularly knows to be a compliment. This was also the first item we were presented with after we’d pretty much starved ourselves all morning to be ready for this event, so we had to remember to pace ourselves and not eat the entire thing at once. In the words of a wise person being interviewed by a TV station at a Browns tailgate (i.e.: me), “it’s a marathon not a sprint.”

Hmm, I want mac and cheese … no, I want a buffalo chicken wrap. Let’s put them together!

The Cuban got points for originality, but the meat was slightly dry. The chicken burrito was good, but lacked the uniqueness of some of the other wraps – if you’ve been to Chipotle, you’ve had this item. Ted liked the ahi tuna wrap … but Shane and I thought it lacked flavor. Although I do think mine was missing a lot of the pineapple-y sauce that Ted raved about, so there’s that. And the gyro was very tasty – but, again, it’s not that original (I mean, really, how can you change up a gyro?). But we did appreciate that he gave each of the three of us an entire gyro meal – a sandwich, cheesy fries and baklava – so you now that was going down as dinner later. Thanks, Gyro George. You may not have won the vote, but you won a special place in my stomach for that move.

In the vegetarian category we only had three entries – a stuffed mushroom served in a cute little mini martini glass from Robesto’s Catering, black bean tater tots with a dipping sauce from Off the GRIDdle, and a vegetarian taco from Wrap It Up. The guys were wowed by the mushroom – or maybe just the tiny doll sized martini glasses, it’s hard to say exactly, but they couldn’t stop raving about it. Meanwhile, I was more of a fan of the veggie taco. The sauce on it was so flavorful and a touch spicy without blowing your mouth up. We all thought the tots were super original – and also really good. Personally I would order those in any restaurant. So we were all across the board individually in our scoring, but after the votes were tabulated later it seemed the mushroom in the tiny glass took the prize.

Damn you boys. No more getting wowed by plastic ware. I mean, come on, I didn’t even take a picture of it so it couldn’t be THAT impressive. Sheesh.

So by now you’re probably hungry after reading all that – but we definitely weren’t after eating it. Which means we were absolutely thrilled to find out we still had two categories left to judge. Yay!

And of course it’s my favorite – desserts. Can we please do these FIRST next time? I mean, seriously. I need to leave more room for these things.

This pretty much describes my feeling about desserts

They split the desserts up into two categories: cold, and, well, basically not cold. Personally I think that was just a ploy to get us to walk around a bit more and try to work out a corner of our stomachs for all of the remaining food – but hey, they’ve been smart so far, so I didn’t question them on this either.

For cold desserts there was a turtle sundae from East Coast Custard, iced coffee from Floured Apron, and a cherry chunk custard from Stoddards‘.

I was a fan of the cherry custard – I thought it had good flavor, with just the right amount of chunks in it (that sounds way more disgusting that it meant to, really). A lot of the other judges seemed to like the sundae, but for me there were too many nuts involved. And yes, before you say it, the guys didn’t miss out on the opportunity to joke about that sentence once I made the mistake of letting it fall from my mouth.

But overall in that category it was the iced coffee that won. It was very good, and we did get a nice explanation from the owner about the type of coffee she uses and how it’s brewed. And I have to believe the pink flamingo straw played a big part into presentation.

It’s like having a drink with a friend

I mean, come on. How cute is that?

After we cleansed our palettes with cool treats, it was time for the final category of the day – sweet desserts. At which point the organizers said to us “OK, it’s time for the sweets category, let’s all head over to Jackpot Chicken for our first entry …” Wait, what now? Did you just say “desserts” and “chicken” in the same sentence? That’s like saying let’s go pick out some shoes from Pet Supplies Plus. Hmm.

Turns out they were serving warm apple empanadas. Which were somewhat tasty, although really sticky and difficult to eat until someone chased us down some plastic silverware. Negative points for presentation, thank you very much.

We all also had a laugh when one of the other judges from the other team approached the chicken truck to ask what the shells of the empanadas were mad of, since they were orange and that’s slightly unusual. The answer was this stellar and clearly well rehearsed marketing line: “I don’t know, we buy them frozen.” Genius. Maybe those people should be here showcasing their product instead of you. Just a thought.

After that it was two kinds of cupcakes, a buckeye cupcake from the Sweet Mobile Cupcakery, and a S’mores cupcake from Floured Apron.

Keep ’em coming

While they were both tasty and very well presented (including talks from the owners of both trucks about how the cupcakes are made and why they chose those particular flavors to have us judge), Floured Apron took the majority of the vote to win that category.

Get out the brooms, folks, because that’s a SWEEP for Floured Apron in desserts. Nice job, ladies.

In addition to our judging, people purchasing food from the trucks had the opportunity to place votes for the day’s “Fan Favorite” – which ended up going to Gyro George.

Overall it was a great event. Whoever put the order in for the weather must be better friends with Mother Nature than I am, because we had a picture perfect day to be walking around outside. And regardless of what our stomachs might have to say to us on the subject, we all thought it was fun to be judges. Even as we were unceremoniously stuffing those last bites of cupcake into our mouths, we still realized we were lucky to have been asked to be a part of this fun and interesting event.  Thank you to Aurora Farms for inviting us, and for trusting our sometimes super picky food tastes to judge these trucks and their amazing dishes. We’ll definitely do it again!

That being said, does that give us an excuse to keep ordering ALL THE FOOD so that we can stay “in shape” until next year? I mean, if we tell our doctors we’re “training” for something, that makes the weight we’re sure to gain acceptable, right? 

Do we look full? Because we are.