WTGW 12/2/15: Rush Hour Grille, Twinsburg

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Thank you, Google Maps, for alerting us that this week’s pick sits pretty much directly across a plaza entrance from another recent WTGW Twinsburg pick, Sassy’s. Although thankfully this place is not just a different shade of neon on the inside. So at least that’s not an ongoing theme in this area.

Although I will admit that – while I don’t advocate neon – Rush Hour Grille could use a bit of some kind of an update on the interior. The inside kind of looks like someone just took an empty warehouse space or garage, stuck a bar in the center and then scattered some tables around the perimeter. Because, why not? Especially considering the neighboring spaces include a public safety firearms space, daycare center and Jehovah’s witness church. All of which scream to have a bar within walking distance, no?

Anyway.

As usual – and since, I mean, there’s a bar in the middle of the space, just begging for our attention – we started with drinks. Ted was happy to hear that the “Beer of the Month” was large Christmas Ales for $5.00 … which is either a lucky find or glutton for punishment, depending on how you look at it. Speaking of lucky finds, Amanda and I discovered that they still had Pumpkin Shandy on draft, so score for us. Or not, depending on how long those kegs have actually been sitting around, but whatever. The important part is that for once we found they still had a beer we liked and it didn’t run out after one round. That honor instead belonged to Jerrid this time, who was happily enjoying Oktoberfest until he was told that, alas, there was no more.

Welcome to our group, buddy. It’s like Russian Roulette of beer taps with us.

So after his drink of choice ran out he switched to Jack & cokes – partially because Shane was enjoying rum & diets out of a mason jar, and Jerrid decided he liked that glass. He even asked the server if the drink would, in fact, come served in that same type of glass.

Server: I can put in in whatever cup you want. Coffee cup. Martini glass. Large draft glass. Doesn’t matter to me.
Shane: I like her.

Sidenote: I think that likability was mutual, because after a little issue with food orders later in the evening, the server brought Shave over his next drink and told him it was on the house – even though it was actually my entire order that got messed up, and only part of his. But thanks for that. I mean, even though we said we were together in the check doesn’t technically mean he should get a free drink by proxy. But whatevs.

Anyway, speaking of food, we of course ordered enough to feed a small country and still have leftovers. I seriously think if you look up gluttony in the dictionary there’s a picture of us at one of our WTGW outings.

Ted ordered the mussels – which he knew I would share some of with him – and then six wings, AND the Italian sandwich. The last additon was just because the server said it was one of her favorite things there. And you know we’re about as easily swayed as a flower basket in the wind.

This sandwich was server approved and recommended

This sandwich was server approved and recommended

Not to be outdone, Shane ordered six of the dry dusted ranch boneless wings and a burger with chips. Because, again, boys order two meals at our table I guess. I got 12 of the garlic parm boneless wings, Amanda got the nacho burger and fries, and Jerrid got the catfish po’boy sandwich with onion rings. Upon hearing the discussion about onion rings, Shane and I then had to order them ourselves, because for one they sounded delicious, and also because I felt inadequate that I was the only one at the table to not technically order more than one food item.

Sandwiches and wings. Our staples of life.

Sandwiches and wings. Our staples of life.

As usual, Shane performed his “burger doneness and pinkness level interrogation” on the server before everyone ordered – to which she replied that all burgers are cooked to order. Ok, cool. So then like 30 seconds later Shane places his order, and the server asks him what temperature he wants his burger … Shane’s answer is “what do you mean?” Hmmm. Way to pay attention there, honey.

And then after all that, Amanda’s burger came out pinker than Shane’s, even though he ordered medium rare, and she ordered medium. So I guess there it was the server’s turn to pay attention.

Even more so when she ended up mixing up mine and Shane’s wing orders, so he got 12 of the ranch wings (he only ordered six) and I only got six of the garlic parm (I ordered 12). When we finally flagged down the server and pointed that out, she took away both of our wing orders and said she would bring out fresh. Interesting. Wouldn’t you just leave what was there, and just bring out six more of mine? What happened to that extra six of Shane’s? And why did you have to make new, when really there were just some missing – the actual flavors were right? I’ve never seen that happen before.

Shane's original 12

Shane’s original 12

Thank god for the onion rings, or else I’d had nothing to at least pick at while everyone else nearly finished their dinners.

And then – because apparently it just wasn’t my night all around – I ended up really regretting those first six wings disappeared, because at least I would’ve had something decent to call my meal. The replacement wings she brought out for me were all garlic, no parm. And by all garlic, I think they were dipped in garlic juice, breaded in garlic bread crumbs, fried in garlic oil and then showered with whole cloves of garlic. Not only could I smell the garlic as soon as the wings hit the table, what I thought might be parmesan on the wings turned out to actually be cloves of garlic. Overkill much? If there were any vampires within 100 miles of this place I think they all perished as soon as those wings came out of the fryer.

I even tried picking the breading off half of them just to make them edible – since I think my taste buds were completely dead by that point and I was still really hungry – but even that couldn’t mask the taste. *sigh*

It's never a good sign when you can see the garlic as much as you can smell it

It’s never a good sign when you can see the garlic as much as you can smell it

Meanwhile, Shane’s new wings were perfect. As was his free drink. And his burger. But that’s cool.

And you know, honestly, I really liked our server at first – she has charisma, sarcasm, character – you know, all the qualities I usually praise in someone who can put up with our somewhat crazy group. But right about the point that she basically threw me to the curb in favor of Shane, I kind of changed my tune.

But other than that, though, everything else about the place and our meals was good. The mussels were really tasty. And while I thought the onion rings were a bit too crispy and not doughy enough for my liking, everyone else really liked them. Even though Shane’s burger wasn’t cooked exactly to his liking, he rated it very high on his list of good burgers. Amanda could barely finish her burger because she was so stuffed – but she tried since it was so good. The fries didn’t get the same love, just because there was no room left at the inn.

Hope those fries reheat well

Hope those fries reheat well

Rush Hour Grille, Twinsburg

Once again on our scale of how much we like a place, if we end up sticking around for drinks after the actual meals are boxed up and taken away, it has to be at least somewhat OK in our book. So, Shane returns from the restrooms and notices the sign in the lobby that Salted Caramel Mocha Martinis are on special … so of course we had to finish out the evening with those. Because, well, us. Shane said the bartender looked scared when he went up and ordered them, like she had no idea how to make them. And it did take her a hot minute to get five of them done … but upon tasting them she apparently figured out that at least one ingredient in them is, well, any and all liquors available behind the bar, because they were strong as could be.

Well at least it looks pretty

Well at least it looks pretty

Shane: Wow, I guess I should’ve tipped her more.

Maybe it was the final round of martinis, or the lingering smell of garlic from my wings making everyone a bit delirious, but somehow we ended up in a spirited debate about something called the Rice & Beans Gang that Shane swore was real. Like a real, actual gang that you should be scared of. Like one that could rival the Bloods or Crips. Um? Seriously? Even Google and Siri thought we were insane when we tried to validate that one. But this is what we call entertainment when we start drinking, folks.

Cheers!

Cheers!

Although we realized after we got home that this was the first time in about the last 8,000 outings that we didn’t manage to tease Ted about his infamous pick, Gus’ Chalet. And just like that, the streak is broken. It definitely must’ve been the martinis. Or maybe the Rice & Beans Gang secretly infiltrated the bar and drugged us. Whatever.

Shane

Shane

Ted

Ted

Jerrid

Jerrid

Amanda

Amanda

Steph

Steph

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Amanda

Drinks:  For once us girls found a beer we liked and it didn’t run out after one round, so score for us. Jerrid was not so lucky. Welcome to our group, buddy. 
Food:
I think I was the only one to not really care for my food – and that’s only because I don’t moonlight as a vampire killer, so really the over-abundance of garlic was a bit unnecessary.
Service: If your name was Shane, it was awesome. For the rest of us at the table, it was just OK.
Overall: Eh. I would pick this place over the counterpart on the other side of the plaza (Sassy’s), but that’s not saying it’s really worth our trek back to Twinsburg. Unless of course we’re being chased by vampires, in which case this is exactly where I’m headed.

Next Pick: Ted

WTGW 10/21/15: Tim Owen’s Travelers Tavern, Akron

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Well that’s a mouthful.

If this place looks familiar, it’s because we were actually here once before. Almost two years to the date, actually. Back when the place was known as Ripper’s Rock House. But then this little TV show called Bar Rescue came along and did a makeover, so we figured it qualified for a revisit. Especially since that specific Bar Rescue episode airs in just a few weeks, we agreed this would be the perfect time.

Ted actually called an audible on his original pick for tonight, which was some Italian place in Canton. But then we got stuck in traffic trying to get there, which gave us plenty of time to exemplify our worries that this place could be another Gus’s Chalet (a concern I had voiced to Ted in text earlier in the day, after being rather unimpressed with their website) and before we knew it we were hopping across four lanes of standstill traffic (in true “pardon-me-excuse-me-I-have-my-blinker-on-can-I-just-squeeze-my-small-vehicle-through-here” style) to get off at a random exit and Google Map our way through the non-highway and somewhat ghetto streets to Traveler’s.

But seriously, can we just for a minute about this new name? WTF. I mean, John Taffer may be a genius at firing key staff members, increasing productivity and making a place look and feel desirable again … but let’s go back to Marketing 101 here – if they can’t remember the name, they won’t come back. I mean, really. Tim Owen’s Traveler’s Tavern. It’s a tongue twister. May as well call the place “Simon Sells Seashells By the Seashore.” It sounds about the same rolling off the tongue.

I mean, I’ve been talking about this place for all of about four paragraphs now, and I already managed to shorten the name to just “Traveler’s.” I get why Tim’s name is there (former front man of Judas Priest, Akron boy, part owner of the place, etc) – but it’s just not catchy. How about “Traveler’s Tavern … by Tim Owens”? Or “Tim’s Travels?” Or “Owen’s World Tour”? I mean, really.

Hey Taffer, want to join forces? I’m only half joking.

Anyway.

All that being said, we were a bit disappointed to discover that the place really hasn’t changed much since the last time we were there. It’s a tad bit brighter (maybe?) and the DJ booth was moved closer to the bar (we think?), but there’s still a stage, they still do karaoke on Wednesdays (which means Shane still had to represent and once again sing his signature Adam Sandler song), and they still specialize in wings with exotic flavors from around the world.

It's a tad bit overwhelming

The wing list. It’s still a tad bit overwhelming

So really, we just changed the name. Because that was the worst of our worries? Hmmm.

One thing we did notice was that they got rid of the chalkboard walls that held the names of the draft beers. The only beer list is “right up here, ” said our server, while pointing to her head. Mental note, that’s not really helpful when you aren’t a mind reader. Just sayin’.

In any case, we conjured up our secret mind powers, and ended up with Harvest Patch Shandy for me and Amanda (well, until they ran out in the 4th round, and we had to switch to the hard root beer. #notsurprised). Ted went with a Pumking, and then later a Guiness. Shane, meanwhile, was still on his “girly drink” kick … although I have to give him credit that at least he managed to pick the most manly sounding one on the list. Something containing habanero-infused pineapple juice, some type of vodka or gin, a cayenne pepper garnish on the rim, and an actual habanero pepper in the glass. So, yeah.

Although it was still served in a martini glass, so you know he caught some flack for that.

Fancy

Fancy

The drink definitely had some kick to it.  I mean, I took one sip and – while it was tasty – ten minutes later my tongue still burned. Although I’m not as crazy as Ted, who took Shane’s dare to eat one of the actual habanero peppers submersed in the drink. His first reaction was “not bad.”

"It's not hot ... yet."

“It’s not hot … yet.”

Then about ten minutes later we realized his eyes were watering and half his beer was gone.

Ted: I think that pepper is making my mouth hotter, and it’s not even there anymore.

So needless to say, after one round Shane traded in his martini glass his old favorite, Long Islands. Which he made the mistake of telling the server he wanted “something with more shots” when he ordered, so what he got was pretty much all alcohol.

Sidebar: three rounds later he certainly didn’t seem to complain about that as much. So I guess they served their purpose.

Shane, three Long Islands later

Shane, three Long Islands after “fancy.”

So the guys each went with their own 30-wing-and-fries platter … although Ted tried to rationalize the amount of food and say that us girls could really just eat part of their orders and we could split two 30-wing platters for the table. But that seemed like a lot of math, so we just did our own thing. Thanks anyway, smarty pants.

Each platter could do up to five sauces, so Shane went with the Wild Wasabi, Golden Garlic Bridge, Kentucky Bourbon, Mango Habanero and Little Italy (which is basically a garlic parm).

Ted had the Mango Habanero, Bloody Mary, Kentucky Bourbon, Garlic Express and El Diablo.

Amanda and I each got plates of 12; she had six of the Bloody Mary and six Little Italy, and I had six of the Kentucky Bourbon and six Wild Wasabi.

So … basically we all got various amounts of the same flavors, and the guys did take some of their huge portions home … which means that, yes, technically Ted was correct in thinking we could’ve just split the larger orders. But at the time he presented the idea, it just seemed too much like one of those  “if a train leaves the station going 75 mph and another train leaves a totally different station 1800 miles away when the sun it at a 65 degree angle, how long is the shadow on person sitting in the second car of another train we haven’t even told you about yet” math word problems, and let’s face it, no one enjoys those. We enjoy beer. And the two definitely don’t go together.

Plus we like to freak people out with the insane and quite frankly gluttonous portions of food we continuously manage to cram at one table for our small group. You’re welcome.

One plate of 30 ...

One plate of 30 …

Two plates of 30 ...

Two plates of 30 …

That makes 104 wings on our table. 104.

That makes 104 wings on our table. 104.

Did I mention 104?

DID I MENTION 104?!?!?

Enough said.

The wings were various degrees of OK. The Little Italy were voted least liked out of all of them, as both Amanda and Shane said they had no flavor. Never in my life have I seen my husband put down a partially eaten wing and not go back to it … until he tried those. Yeah. That should tell you something. He took that batch home to “doctor up” when he reheats the left overs. Amanda got through hers only with the help of a side of blue cheese.

Shane raved about the Wasabi right off, but the first one I tried I wasn’t too thrilled with – I later realized that was because it barely had any of the sauce on it. Once I actually got one that the sauce touched, they were pretty tasty.

The Kentucky bourbon was also a favorite. The pieces of bacon on the top totally made the whole thing worth it.

Amanda said the Bloody Mary was spicy, but Ted tried his and didn’t think so. Of course he had just eaten a habanero pepper that had been immersed in habanero-infused alcohol, so he may not have had any taste buds left in his mouth at that point. Take that as you will.

The presentation is nice

At least the presentation is nice

All in all, Traveler’s was a fun atmosphere – and definitely and not as scary as our last visit, when some random girl tried to get Amanda to split fries with her and the started talking about her bra. I wish I was kidding. The place this time around was an interesting mix of people, everything from the hard core heavy metals group to post-work-office crowd, to the obvious barflys, to the family who looked more dressed for church than a dive-ish bar that serves wings.

And we’re happy to report that the karaoke proved to be as interesting as last time, with a whole new range of singers to scratch our heads over. I mean, really, where else will you see an 80-year-old doing Sinatra, followed by a lady completely overdoing Alanis Morissette in a nasily voice, followed by a leather jacket clad guy singing Billy Idol (see also: cliche), and topped off by a guy who looked like John Malkovich but whose voice sounded like Kermit the Frog and who kept singing Weird Al songs. All in a bar owned by a former lead singer of a heavy metal band.

Exactly.

Ted

Ted

Amanda

Amanda

Steph

Steph

Shane, take one

Shane, take one

Shane, take two

Shane, take two

I have a feeling I use this look a lot

I have a feeling I use this look a lot when “three martini Shane” makes an appearance. 

If you ever wondered what it's like to sit across from us on WTGW, this is probably a pretty good representation

If you ever wondered what it’s like to sit across from us on WTGW, this is probably a pretty good representation

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Ted

Drinks:   If you’re telepathic, they have a huge beer selection. If you’re not, well, just throw a few names out there and see if something sticks. Beware of the strong pour on mixed drinks, though. Apparently John Taffer didn’t teach them well enough.
Food:
If you like wings, you’re in the right place, as there’s bound to be something on the menu that pleases you. While we didn’t try anything else, the burgers and sandwiches we saw coming out to other tables looked to be on the delicious side.
Service: Gotta give props to a server who can roll with the drunk guy at the table who just finished singing an explicit Adam Sandler song to the bar. I mean, really.
Overall: Well, drunk Shane proclaimed we have to go back EVERY WEDNESDAY so he can sing. So there’s that. But even so, while the wings weren’t the best we’ve ever had (and I think that was the consensus the last time we were there as well), the change in atmosphere and clientele may just be enough to keep this place in the running for a return (or would it be return-return?) visit.

Next Pick: Shane

Rippers Rock House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 10/8/14: Newdle Bar, Kent

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Ah, Kent. Thank you for reminding me that my college days, way back in the 90’s, were so much different from what the kids are enjoying these days. A sushi place close to campus? Please. In my day the closest thing we got to “ethnic” was Taco Bell on the way home from the bar. Run for the border, yo.

But yet we continue to venture out here, because it’s a close enough drive and, well, they keep opening new restaurants so really we’d be doing a disservice if we didn’t check them out. You’re welcome, world.

We thought Newdle Bar was a fairly new place, since none of us had – in all our recent travels to Kent – ever realized it existed. And, as I just mentioned, we are clearly very much on the cutting edge of dining in our area . Plus, you know, since Shane “discovered” sushi a few months ago, we’ve always kind of got one eye and ear open for new places to try.

But then I saw a flyer on the back of the restroom door advertising “New July hours!” … and right then I realized that a) they’re clearly not that new, and b) they’re clearly not all that concerned about updated marketing. Oh well.

The restaurant isn’t a huge place, but the layout is very open with a few different seating styles, so it felt bigger than what it really was. Although when we walked in and asked for a “party of 5” the host kind of just looked at us funny and then disappeared for a minute, like he had to ask for help with seating a table that large. Clearly we stumped him.

For a place called Newdle Bar, I was surprised to find there wasn’t a huge noodle selection on the menu. Seems odd, no? Maybe I’ve been spoiled by places like Noodlecat in downtown Cleveland – which has a clever play on the title, as well as a fairly large and interesting assortment of ramens, sobas and other noodle-based dishes on the menu. The majority of Newdle Bar’s menu is actually sushi, with just a small selection of Japanese noodles or rice bowls available. Because I guess there’s no clever way to spin “sushi” into a restaurant name.

But no matter, because sushi was really what we were there for anyway. Well, most of us anyway. This week’s WTGW featured a special guest – our friend Jenny, who just moved back with her family to the area after two years in North Carolina. And while I forgot to get an introductory picture of her to share with all of you, remember her name, as she may be appearing for future WTGW adventures. In any case, Jenny, like me a few months back, had tried sushi in the past and had a bad experience. And had written it off as yucky, not to be ordered again. She was the only one of us not to actually order sushi as their meal … although Amanda did convince Jenny to try some of hers. And she didn’t spit it out, even considering it was heavily flavored with wasabi. Sushi – 1, Dietary Aversions – 0. Score.

I barely remember a time I didn't like these

I barely remember a time I didn’t like these

Another score – our server told us that Wednesday’s are $5 martini night. Although he also shared with us a story about how all of the martinis actually used to be just $5, but the price changed “because probably they really weren’t making any money on them and so they raised the prices and just made Wednesdays the special $5 night.” Um, OK. Pretty sure you weren’t supposed to be sharing that info, but thank you for that delightful little insight into your manager’s crafty business skills. And we’ll just call you TMI from now on.

So being that they were clearly a bargain – well, and that we love martinis – us girls dove right into that list. Amanda and I started with the Marilyn Monroe, which was a delicious blend of strawberry vodka, cream and chocolate sauce … and pretty much tasted just like Strawberry Nestle’s Quik. Jenny had the Tsunami, which was Bailey’s, brandy, cream and caramel. And equally as delicious. For our second round later we switched it up, with Amanda ordering the Tsunami and Jenny ordering the Marilyn. I went kamakazi and got the Key Lime Pie, which was a bit too limey for my tastes but otherwise OK.

That's $15 well spent

That’s $15 well spent

Ted had a Dogfish Head beer on tap, and Shane continued his quest to make sure that all ethnic restaurants are properly chilling their bottles of Miller Lite.

Ted ordered endame as appetizer, which be pretty much kept to himself since none of us really wanted to touch it. Amanda and I tried it and weren’t impressed. Honestly I found it confusing. I mean, do you eat the outside, or no? All the seasoning seemed to be there, but when I tried it that way it had the consistency of leather. Not a fan.

As the only one to stray from the sushi menu, Jenny ordered the rice bowl. Which ironically came out quicker than any of our fresh made sushi. Hmmm. Even TMI was slightly thrown off by that. In any case, it didn’t look to be overly seasoned and was pretty much just chicken and veggies over rice. A lot of rice. It was quite a bit of food, and Jenny ended up taking half of it home.

Jenny fills in as the "one of these things is not like the other" order

Jenny fills in as the “one of these things is not like the other” order

Shane, Amanda and I all had various selections from the 6-roll menu. Mostly Philadelphia, Alaskan and one with shrimp and avocado. They were all very good; however, as with most sushi, it just never seems to be filling enough. Seriously, can we fix that somehow? More rice, larger pieces? I mean, Amanda and I each had two orders and Shane had three – but I think we still might have come to blows over Jenny’s extra food if we hadn’t discovered a frozen yogurt place next door after our meal.

Looks like a lot but just isn't filling

Looks like a lot but just isn’t filling

To that end, Ted was maybe the smartest of the sushi eaters, ordering two of the extra large double rolls (which come in 8’s). He had the Dragon and the Black Widow, both of which he enjoyed – and politely offered to the rest of us in an attempt to keep the peace as he was still eating and we were hungrily staring down his non-empty plate. Amanda did try one and agreed that it was just as good as what we had already devoured.

Such presentation

Such presentation

Overall Newdle Bar is a good place. It definitely caters to the college crowd as far as atmosphere and kind of bare-bones decor, but the food was good and reasonably priced for a sit-down place. The wait staff is pretty much all college students, but other than the bit of oversharing that earned him his nickname at the beginning of the visit, TMI was efficient and pleasant and got everything correct. He noticed when drinks needed refilled and was quick to ask if plates could be moved out of the way.

Did I mention we were still hungry after we left? Thankfully there was a self-serve frozen yogurt place right next door, so we headed in for some dessert. The flavors were to die for – including pumpkin pie and graham cracker swirl, strawberries and cream, cake batter, waffles and about 15 others I’m blanking on right now. And the topping bar was just as long as the flavor area, with everything from healthy fruits to gummy bears to candy pieces and actual pumpkin roll. Naturally we all totally bypassed the healthy section, and went straight to the bad stuff. Because, well, we could. I mean, come on. Who puts strawberries on a sundae when you can have Reece’s Pieces and Kit Kats? For real.

None of the toppings matched the yogurt flavors, but whatevs.

None of the toppings matched the yogurt flavors, but whatevs.

Which could explain how Shane and Ted each ended up making themselves 1.5 pound sundaes. I’m not even exaggerating. 1.5 pounds. Each.

That's nearly 3 pounds of sundae between them.

That’s nearly 3 pounds of sundae between them.

Ted literally licked his bowl clean, but Shane started to deteriorate with probably about a quarter pound of yogurt left in his dish. Eyes, meet stomach. Guess who’s bigger?

He's not looking happy

He’s not looking happy

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Amanda
Drinks: Decent alcohol list for a Japanese place – although being in a college town I would guess that’s a must. And you always win points with us for $5 margaritas. Just sayin’.
Food:
 Not a huge selection if you’re not a fan of sushi. Honestly, for a place with a play on the word “noodle” in the title, I would’ve expected that to take up the majority of the menu, but whateves.
Service: Good.  We didn’t see our waiter a ton, but with the open setup of the place I’m assuming it’s because he could see us and assumed we didn’t need anything from him. Drinks were refilled when needed and checks brought promptly, so thumbs up.
Overall: There are less expensive sushi places closer to us, but for a fun night out this place was definitely a good pick.

Next Pick: Ted

 

Newdle Bar on Urbanspoon

WTGT 3/13/14: Max McQ’s, Merriman Valley

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In yet another “this is why WTGW was created” pick, this week’s spot is another of those that we’ve driven by 1,500 times, usually on our way to another restaurant/bar that we’ve gone to way more than once, and someone would throw out the “hey, we should go there sometime” line. And then we kept driving.

But not this week.

I’ll be honest that I was more than a little bit suspicious about this place, just given its location in a tucked-away little strip plaza and the somewhat shady looking large sign out front touting specials like $5 pizzas and $3.99 hamburgers. And karaoke. Hmm.

Honestly, Max McQ’s is way bigger on the inside than I expected it to be. It’s a little choppy in it’s layout, but there’s definitely space to move around. While it’s not really billed as a sports bar, there were more than enough TVs in the place for all the different college basketball games that were going on that evening. Side note on that, props to the random guy who later wandered over to us with a remote in his hand and actually asked us before changing the channel on the giant TV above our table. He seemed friendly, but maybe that’s just because we let him turn on whatever game he wanted. But at least he asked nicely first.

Speaking of seeming friendly, I can say the same about our waitress, once we actually saw her long enough to get to know her a little bit. Quite honestly, we almost walked out of Max McQ’s before we even had a chance to try anything on the menu, since it took well over 20 minutes just to get our drinks. And I’m not exaggerating. We started timing her. We also made many jokes about them having Ted’s Guinness special ordered from across the pond and making the vodka for our martinis from scratch in the back room, but that’s neither here nor there at this point in time. Let’s just say that we were quickly losing patience, especially since Amanda and I were trying to get in as many martinis as possible during the 5-8PM happy hour special. Priorities, folks.

Cheap martinis are my favorite kind

Cheap martinis are my favorite kind

But lo and behold, she did finally return, apologizing and explaining to us that apparently not only did no one realize there was a huge Akron/Ohio U basketball game on that night that people might want to watch (hello, how did I – the one who doesn’t even like basketball – know that?), but also a huge 20-person party in the back room. And only two people – her and the bartender – working the floor. Ouch.

So, knowing this, we tried to keep an open mind for the rest of the visit. And by that I mean we basically just grabbed the waitress every time she was in our near vicinity and ordered something, anything, even if we weren’t quite ready for a refill. I will give huge props to the waitress, who rolled with the punches the best she could and kept a sense of humor while running her butt off for the evening – even though I’m sure she probably went in the back room every 15 minutes and punched a wall or downed a beer or did whatever she had to in order to keep her sanity.

Anyway, so as I mentioned we kept ordering things just to stay on the radar, which means I think we basically tried almost all of the martinis on the $5 Thursday special happy hour list. We also kept drinking them long after the 8PM cutoff time for the $5 special price, since we found out that they were normally only $6.50. Or $5.75 if you’re Ted. The winners were the Chocolate and the Dirty Girl Scout (which Ted may or may not have followed up his initial Guinness with, I can’t say for sure). Shane went with mixed drinks, and discovered that they certainly don’t skimp on the alcohol. Although, word to the wise, stay away from the “cheap” rum. Just trust us. 

You're not fooling anyone, Ted

You’re not fooling anyone, Ted

According to Ted, that's the way a real man holds a martini.

According to Ted, that’s the way a real man holds a martini.

Due to the circumstances, we kind of knew we wouldn’t see our dinners for a while – although I will say that our appetizer (nachos) arrived quicker than expected. Maybe they saw the amount of alcohol we were consuming and decided we needed something to tide us over so we weren’t sleeping on the table by the time our real food arrived? Smart people.

They know how to keep us happy

They know how to keep us happy

The food was decent. At first glance the portions didn’t look very big on the plate, but that must’ve just been presentation, because we all were very full by the time we left. Shane and Ted went with burgers. Ted had The Afterburner, which on the menu includes the statement (HOT!!!) after the title – that’s three exclamation points, so you know they mean business. It boasts cajun, extreme buffalo sauce, jalepenos, and – for people other than non-cheese-eating-Ted – pepper jack cheese. He said it was definitely spicy, so I guess it was made properly. Shane had the Goodfella, which means that for the second week in a row he had something with spicy salami on it. There’s still a joke in there somewhere.

It really did come with more than two onion rings. Gotta learn to be quicker with Shane's plate.

It really did come with more than two onion rings. Gotta learn to be quicker with Shane’s plate.

I had the cheese steak, which I was happy with. Just like the one Amanda had at Delanies  few weeks ago, it was made with real steak, not steak-ums or some sort of steak product. Amanda had a sub sandwich, which she kept saying really shouldn’t have taken that long to make – but I’m guessing she was brought down by all of us and our grilled meat. Sorry. 

I like how the martini totally classes this picture up

I like how the martini totally classes this picture up

All in all it was a fun night. The place definitely has a good atmosphere with friendly people, and I’ll admit that even though you can tell it has that “neighborhood-bar-with-locals” feel to it, it was nice to not get stared at like we had the plague as soon as we walked in the front door. I’m glad we got past our initial annoyance with the service enough to at least find out the reason behind the slow orders – because I think we would probably go here again, if nothing else just to give it a fair second chance.

A little something to look forward to from the WTGW group … during our Max McQ’s visit we started working on something we like to call the “Summer Bucket List” – so basically just fun stuff we want to make sure we do in those precious three months or so that we don’t call ourselves complete idiots for choosing to reside in the state of Ohio. Add to that the fact that we’ll be hitting the one year anniversary of WTGW in July – I know, right?!? – and it’s sure to be a fun summer on the horizon. Now if Mother Nature would only stop being a whore and let it finally get here …

The beginning of the Summer Bucket List. To Be Continued ...

The beginning of the Summer Bucket List. To Be Continued …

CAPSULE

Picked by: Shane
Drinks: Good selection of bar drinks and beer. Not the best martinis we’ve ever had, but for $5 you can’t really complain. Although they really need to rethink some of the names. Just sayin. 
Food:
Typical bar fare. Portions don’t look like a lot on the plate, but we all commented that we were full when we left.
Service: We were there on a night when they were definitely understaffed, so we can’t hold that against them. At least the waitress had a sense of humor – and I think if she hadn’t been responsible for a huge party and, well, the rest of the bar area then she actually would’ve been really fun.
Overall: Not bad. The service at first really turned us off, so we may have to try it again just to give it a fair chance without all the other factors.

Next Pick: Steph

MaxMcQ's Sports Bar & Grille on Urbanspoon

WTGW 2/12/14: Bricco, downtown Akron

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OK, so full disclosure, we’re kind of visiting Bricco on a technicality, since I think all of us have had food from there at one point in time or another. But we’d never actually visited this location – the original of the now four that exist – and Amanda had also not experienced the wonder that is the martini list … so we let it slide. Come on, we’ve been at this for 7 months now, cut us some slack.

Although apparently we need to go back to our previous affinity for dive bars, since Ted informed us in the car that his cousin wouldn’t be joining us again this week because we picked another place that was “too fancy” for his taste. Which makes me think that maybe Kyle would be the one person Shane could actually convince to join him for a meal at the Melody Inn.

Upon arriving at Bricco we worried for a split second that we didn’t have a reservation, because the place looked pretty packed. Turns out it was just “bring 25 of your closest friends to dinner at once” night – seriously, did we miss the memo? Our party of four was dwarfed by the two large tables of 15-20+ seated within the restaurant. We needed you Kyle. Geez. I also have to wonder how we keep showing up at places on power point presentation night as well. I mean, is this a rival WTGW meeting group of some kind? Because we can bring a projector and laptop too. For real.

As always, our evening started with drinks – including the aforementioned martinis for me and Amanda. And they were delicious, just like I remembered them. Backstory, for those that aren’t aware: Bricco for a few years had a location in downtown Cleveland, just across the street from my office. I’ve spent many a happy hour or post-show evening at the bar enjoying just about every martini on the list. While I’m very sorry they’re no longer there, I’m sure both my liver and my bank account are breathing a sigh of relief.

Oh, hello there

Oh, hello there

But now that Amanda has been introduced to the martini list, I’m sure things could change. Especially considering that the location in the Valley, while lacking many menu items we love (*ahem* the pizzas *ahem*) carries the same alcohol list. I see dangerous waters ahead for patio season. Or some at-home bartending lessons.

Don't we look all classy

Don’t we look all classy

Always the one to try the strangest drink on the menu, Ted started off with something called Clown Shoes. Um, OK. It must not have been that impressive, though, because he did not order a second one – so take that as you will. Shane stuck to the Strongbow ciders that we apparently drank the bar out of last week. Their supply held strong this week, thus solidifying our assumption that Amanda and I are the jinx when it comes to bottled beer selection. Yay us!

Since pizza was the whole reason we went to this location instead of the one closer to us in the Valley (well, that and the fact that we’ve all been to the Valley location already – well, except maybe Ted … hmm, there’s a role reversal) we all ordered something from the extensive pizza menu. To be fair, Bricco does have a large array of other foods – pastas, salads, fish and chicken entrees, sandwiches on the lunch menu … but by far I’d say the best thing on the menu is the pizza. I think we’ve only tried one before that we didn’t like, and even then it was a “well, the others were better” kind of dislike and not a “I’d rather vomit up a lung that eat that again” dislike.

I suggested that maybe we should just get a bunch of different kinds of pizzas for the table and share them among us so that we could try a few different ones, but no sooner were the words out of my mouth than my lovely husband shot me a look like I had just suggested he go swimming in a lake full of a thousand sharks, and barked something at me about getting his own food. OK, so someone was super hungry and not really in a Share Bear kind of mood. Point taken. 

This is his "really, with the camera?" face

This is his “really, with the camera?” face

Fancy pizza

This one is all mine. Seriously. Hands off Shane!

Which probably all worked out for the best, because Amanda ordered Ted’s worst nightmare, the pizza made entirely of a million kinds of cheese. Seriously, while delicious, I think this pizza could turn a person lactose intolerant just by looking at it. Shane and I both had the one with chorizo sausage, and Ted went with the blackened chicken/tortilla one. And in case I haven’t said it already, everything was delicious. And filling. I mean, Ted actually only ate half his pizza and had to get a to-go box, which I think was a first in WTGW history. And, following the great Market Tavern Pizza Challenge of a few weeks ago, Amanda threw heroics to the wind and took more than half her meal home as well. Smart move. 

(Sidenote: Can anyone tell us wtf chihuahua cheese is? Seriously. Because it’s on about 30% of the dishes on the menu at this place. Not that that’s a bad thing, we just don’t have any clue what it actually is. Kind of like the quinoa debacle at Hoppin Frog. Hmm, I wonder what would happen if you mixed the two together? OK, now I’m just making myself hungry again … )

So, anyway, all in all a successful visit, although we kind of already knew that would be the case. The only thing I’m sad about is that we didn’t get to sit in one of the cool private booth looking seats, since they looked hella fun. But, I’m sure we’ll be back, so maybe that’s an earn your way in kind of thing. Aspirations. It’s good to have goals.

CAPSULE

Picked by: Shane
Drinks: Martinis. That’s really all you need to know. 
Food: 
On this visit we all only had pizza, but it was outstanding as usual. I’ve had other items from a different Bricco location in the past, and have never been disappointed.
Service: Good. Props to our waiter for also handling the huge table of 20+ near us at the same time, and for being patient with us while we chose martinis. Even though he did think we were going to steal the menu.
Overall: Definitely on the repeat visit list.

Next Pick: Steph

Bricco on Urbanspoon

WTGW 2/5/14: The Office Bistro, Cuyahoga Falls

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We almost had to call an audible for this week’s pick, as Ted found out on Monday that he may have to be in another portion of the state on Wednesday afternoon for a meeting and wasn’t sure what time he would be returning. Add to that the fact that another Snowpocalypse was headed our way (Because, no, Mother Nature, we won’t formally invite you to WTGW so just step off and stop trying to invite yourself. Seriously.), and we had to put Shane on standby with a go-to pick in the event that the perfect storm ensued and we would be one man down for this week’s adventure. Fortunately all crises were averted – well, except for the whole snow thing, because, well, as I’ve said before, Mother Nature is a damn whore who just doesn’t get the hint.

Anyway.

With Ted safely back in the home area on Wednesday, we decided to go forward with his pick for this week, which was The Office Bistro in Cuyahoga Falls. This is one of those places that I think all of us have kind of kept in the back of our minds as a choice for some point in our adventures, as it’s close to home, we see the sign on many occasions in our travels down Rt 8, and I think we’ve all known people who have mentioned going there at one point or another. Props to Ted for stepping up and finally being the one to get us through the doors.

This week’s visit also featured a special guest appearance by Ted’s cousin Kyle, who – if he hadn’t told us they were related, would’ve given it away just by his “I don’t want anything with cheese” ordering process. What is it with this family?

We sat in the dining room area of The Office, which was nice and actually probably would’ve been a lot fuller if not for the aforementioned eight-billionth winter storm of the season. Although I guess we should be glad that there weren’t many other tables sharing the space with us, since we all know the initiation of new people to the group means a few rounds of “Who’s in your Top 5.” Complete with pictures, and louder-than-we-intended comments that families probably don’t appreciate their children overhearing while they try to enjoy their chicken tenders. But whatevs. At least we opted out of the strip club visit this time around.

No, I’m not explaining that.

Moving on.

Another reason to be glad the place wasn’t busier – parking was a bit of a challenge, even on this “stay off the roads, there’s frozen water falling from the sky!” kind of evening. And especially since the city of Cuyahoga Falls apparently needs re-introduced to the likes of a snowplow. I’m not sure where you’re supposed to park normally for this place, as there was no lot in the forseeable landscape and not really all that much street parking to speak of. I mean, I guess on a nice evening people don’t mind walking a few blocks to get to the front door, but on a night like tonight I was just glad I didn’t opt for my usual 4-inch heels. And while they do offer valet, that really didn’t help things much in the “not having to wade through snow” department, for reasons already mentioned.  Props – and apologies – to the poor woman who nearly bit it trying to get into her valeted car and probably wasn’t aware she was being judged by our entire table. Our bad. 

Our waitress was very kind and patient with us, even as Kyle told a story while she was still repeatedly trying to figure out if he wanted fries with his meal. Maybe that’s why she forgot his second beer and failed to offer him a box? Either that or he pulled a Joey from “Friends” and picked up her roommate but never called the next day. Hmmm.

As par for the course with us, the bar promptly ran out of whatever it was we were drinking when we were only two rounds into the evening. Seriously, how do we always pick the one beverage they have like two left of in the whole place? In this case, it was Strongbow, and with no other ciders on list we resorted to the craft beers which made up the draft list. A few words of caution here: “hints of citrus” actually means “here’s a glass of grapefruit juice we somehow managed to make alcoholic and call a beer,” and a beer shake at The Office is NOT AT ALL the same as a beer shake at The Hoppin’ Frog. Learn from our mistakes.

Our sandwiches were quite large, so much so that Amanda and I each only ate half of ours (the Cuban and the turkey mozzarella). Shane had a burger, and announced about halfway through that he thought it had no flavor. Kyle chimed in shortly afterward that his chicken on a pretzel bun was also lacking in the flavor department. Ted had salmon, which he seemed happy with. Again with the fancy.

Fancy glasses. Pinkies up, boys.

Fancy glasses. Pinkies up, boys.

Shane did, however, enjoy the pretzel rods as an appetizer. He claimed they were the “best ever.” Personally, this appetizer has started to become as standard as the “build your own burger” feature on a lot of menus, and they all seem to taste the same to me. But if you’re one that takes Shane’s word for gospel in the food department, I wanted to do my due diligence and pass that along.

After our meal we decided to venture across the side street and into a place called Hunt’s Tavern for a few last drinks of the evening (hey, the snow had stopped by that point, may as well celebrate!), and promptly felt like we had entered a different universe. Or that we discovered a time machine that enables us to change decades simply by walking across the street. I think this place is pretty much the exact polar opposite of the place we had just left. I mean, why have paper or laminated menus that you give to people, when instead you can just yell out “are y’all eating dinner tonight?” when patrons walk in the door? And, further keeping it classy, the “beer list” is in the form of bottles lined up on the ledge above the tiny bar, and includes only things like Miller Lite and Bud Select (but then Smithwick’s and Guiness on tap? Huh?). But our group did double the size of the crowd in the place simply by walking in the door, so maybe they were as overwhelmed as we were.

CAPSULE

Picked by: Ted
Drinks: Not a very extensive beer list, especially on draft. Even the craft beers weren’t ones we really ever heard of or were impressed by. To be fair, they do bill themselves as more of a martini bar, so I guess we need to go back on a Monday when they’re on special for $5 so we can try those. 
Food:
Portions were large, even for sandwiches, although a few at our table complained their selections lacked flavor.
Service: Good. Waitress was attentive, but not overly so. At least to four of the five of us anyway.
Overall: It would be interesting to check out the bar area, or the patio when the weather isn’t freeze-our-eyelashes-off cold out anymore. I think we would go back, but maybe more for drinks and light apps than an actual meal.

Next Pick: Shane

WTGW 1/29/14: The Merchant Tavern, Merriman Valley

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Otherwise known to us now as “The Place of 1,000 Menu Specials.” None of which really seemed all that appropriately named.

The Merchant Tavern, located in the Merriman Valley area of Akron, recently changed hands and underwent a pretty extensive makeover from it’s previous life as The Bier Haus. We had actually been somewhat regular customers at The Bier Haus for a while around this time last year, and were fans of the burgers served on pretzel buns and the extensive beer list. But we noticed the place did kind of suffer from an identity crisis, and on any given night it was almost like you could see each of the different cliques take over their respective territories within the bar and try to figure out how they would best co-exist.

So, yeah, we kind of weren’t surprised when the place closed and resurfaced as something different.

Photobomb by the guy in the red shirt falling off the barstool

Photobomb by the guy in the red shirt falling off the barstool

Now, rather than a sports bar – meets dance club – meets funky artsy hipster bar … they’ve gone the more upscale route. So does that mean the latter of that list won the turf war?

The once extensive beer list has been parred down to a nice variety of domestic and imported bottles, most of which are recognizable to the non-beer-snob. The draft list is primarily local craft brews, which is nice to see – even if most of them are heavier than my tastes. I know, they didn’t consult me before making that decision, for shame.

Now the wine list takes up the majority of the menu … which, lets just talk about the menu for a minute, shall we? Not what’s printed on the menu … but rather what the menu is printed ON. Pages of copy paper on a clipboard may be interesting for someplace that’s going with a sports theme, but here it’s just a bit, well, unfitting to the rest of the decor.

And going back to that whole “place of 1,000 menu specials” I mentioned earlier – do ya think maybe, just maybe, since your menu is hot off the copy presses anyway, you can just photocopy a few extras of the daily specials and include those with the rest of the menu? Because I think the waitress just read us a short story when she was reciting them off. Seriously, I felt like I should’ve applauded when she was finished. Or given her an award of some sort.

The actual menu is somewhat interesting, with a good mix of entrees, burgers/sandwiches, wings and salads. On the “most intriguing” list: a “hell fire” burger loaded with jalepenos and ghost pepper aioli (OK, that one kind of straddles the line between intriguing and”I really want to treat myself to ulcer pains at 3AM so let’s go with that”), and some sort of a PB&J sauce that can be used either on your burger or wings (exactly, I’m not sure how to feel about that one either). Hence you see why neither of those were on our must order list.

The Merchant also offers a “build your own burger” page on the menu – so, I have to ask, is this the new thing now? Like the grunge stage in the 90s or the “lets everyone name our girl babies Kaitlin” phase of a few years ago? Because while I appreciate the ability to come up with my own creation if i don’t find anything to my liking on the menu, I really kind of take away points from you for making me do part of your job. Just sayin’.

Ted was adventurous and got the lambchop lollipops that were on special as the appetizer (see, we did pay attention to the story she read us). He said they were good, and actually better than his meal – which was the swordfish. I know, way to fancy things up.

I mean, it is a "lollipop" after all ...

I mean, it is a “lollipop” after all …

Along that same lines, I had the goat cheese and mac with chicken. It was good – just very heavy. Like I think I walked out of there weighing 5 more pounds heavy, and I only ate about 1/3 of the meal.

Shane and Amanda both got pizza. Shane willingly ate all of his; Amanda only did because she won a 6-pack out of it, having taken a bet from Shane that she wouldn’t be able to finish the entire thing. To her credit, it’s cut in 4 pieces, so you don’t think its a lot … but back to that whole food is heavy thing I guess. Regardless she instantly regretted that bet, and I’m sure will savor the alcohol she won once she finally has room in her stomach to fit it in there. Shane also got a 6-pack of the Italian Dry Rub wings, which Ted claimed tasted like they were coated in Shane ‘n’ Bake. Kind of makes me really wonder about the PB&J ones if that’s really the case.

Deceptively large pizza

Deceptively large pizza

Another thing to note about this place – the parking lot was extremely full when we arrived. Like more cars than we ever saw there when it was the Bier Haus, and we almost thought we wouldn’t get a table full. But upon entering, there were maybe 5 full tables in the bar and one large party on the other side of the space. Now unless we’re the only ones thoughtful enough to carpool, I’m not sure who all those cars belonged to out in the lot … but I guess my point is that the place probably isn’t full to the gills on any given night, so don’t let the fullness of the parking lot deter you from stopping in.Leave that to the hell fire burger and the 1586 daily specials you’ll immediately forget as soon as the waitress leaves the table.

CAPSULE

Picked by: Amanda
Drinks: We missed the extensive beer list, as we had some fun before trying some new things. 
Food:
OK. We all went with some sort of entree, so it would be interesting to try a simpler dish like a burger or sandwich. Quite frankly we felt things were overpriced.
Service: Good. The bartenders also handle the tables in the bar, so I’m not sure how that works out when it’s super busy – but on this visit we were well taken care of. I still have to give her kudos just for reading off the specials list.
Overall: Eh. If it weren’t so pricey I’d be more inclined to say we’d be back, but I feel like it wasn’t worth it for the money. But the atmosphere is decent, so maybe this will become more of a “let’s just go grab a drink” kind of place.

Next Pick: Ted