WTGW 6/14/17: Crave Cantina, Cuyahoga Falls

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Wait, what, there’s a new taco joint in our backyard? Please, twist our arms to try this one.

Crave Cantina opened just a few weeks ago, a spinoff from the same owners of the Akron-based restaurant of close-to-the-same-name, Crave. We see what you did there, owners. The new Cantina is located in the old Firehouse restaurant on Front Street in downtown Cuyahoga Falls, which looks like a war zone now (note to ladies, heels may not be the best choice for navigating the walkway from any parking area to the front door, trust me on this one) but once the street renovation project is completed should be fabulous.

Speaking of parking, it took us a hot minute to find a lot and a spot – which of course caused us all to think there would be a wait for a table once we finally got into the restaurant. And the hostess didn’t help things much, as we’ve learned the hard way that being greeted with the question “do you have a reservation?” typically leads into the “well, unfortunately we currently have a wait until about 2025 if you don’t have a reservation” let down. Especially when a place is less than a month old.

But luck was on our side this evening, as our “no” to the reservation interrogation was followed with “OK, well follow me this way.” Yes, please. Gladly.

Also, it should be noted that we don’t do reservations for WTGW. Well, except if you’re Ted and you want to check out Gus’s Chalet. Just saying.

Our first observation after we were seated was that they definitely put some energy into changing the place up from its last incarnation as Firehouse. Let’s just say that our few experiences at that particular establishment were not good ones, so noticing that it was freshened up – and cleaned up – was a good sign. Although we did notice that the wall on the one side of the back area where we sat – which you’ll see in the pic of Ted later – looked a little like the street outside (maybe they’re waiting to match it to said street?), but other than that the place looks great.

Crave is also part of this new trend of “fancy” Mexican places, where instead of the generic menu-that-could-be-placed-at-any-Mexican-place-in-the-city-involving-dishes-made-from-a-combination-of-rice-and-beans-and-some-sort-of-corn-or-flour-shell-filled-item, everything is pretty much a la carte. Tacos with interesting fillings are individually purchased at $3 or $4 each, and then you can add sides if you like. There are a few entrees, and some intriguing appetizers, but the focus is more on creating combinations of your own than a standard menu.

Which also means … no free chips and salsa as soon as you sit down. This is one part of “fancy Mexican” I certainly can’t get behind.

Because of this, and the fact that (as usual) we were “hungry enough to eat the entire menu” as soon as we got there, Shane and I ordered the chips and quacamole as an app. We did the trio of three different guacs: traditional, mango, and charred corn.

Mix and match

Unfortunately it seems that we probably could’ve stuck with just one guac option, as they all tasted the same to us. And trust me, we tried really hard to make comparisons. But we honestly felt they were all extremely similar. Three bowls of green dip, with nothing much to distinguish one from the other. Well, OK, one had some chunks of mango on top. But if you closed your eyes and just did a taste test, it was very difficult to tell one from another. Also, chunks of corn are surprisingly similar to chunks of mango when placed in a green substance. Just an observation.

At least they brought us extra chips to help finish off the guac

Meanwhile, on the fancypants side of the table, Ted went with the Yellowtail Cerviche as an app. And yes, I had to consult the menu online before I typed that.

It apparently tastes better than it looks

He was far more pleased with his app than we were with ours. He gave it a thumbs up, saying that the sweet potatoes on top were tasty, and the nuts (at least that’s what he thought they were?) were a good contrast. And the dish as a whole was sweet.

You know, unlike other dishes we’ve had in the past.

Yes, I just made another Gus’s Chalet reference. It was that kind of night.

We also, of course, got margaritas. Or, at least Shane and I did – Ted made up for his highbrow appetizer by ordering a boring old beer. Boo. We shared a pitcher of passion fruit margaritas … which, strike two for us, I guess, as we weren’t thrilled with the flavor. The taste – what there was of it – was a bit tart. I probably wouldn’t go that route again.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, we still finished it. Please. But for next time we made a mental note that we should probably try something else from the drink menu. Maybe Ted was smart after all.

We also got this lovely bottle of water for the table.

Fancy water to go with the fancy food

This is awfully classy for a Wednesday night out, people. I mean, it has a cork in it. And it’s water.

Although Shane pointed out that if the bottle were plastic and not glass he would probably have thought they just recycled one of those old cheap vodka bottles with the built in handles on the sides. Point, Shane.

For meals, Ted again got something I can’t pronounce or spell, so let me consult the online menu … Pollo la Braza. Which I think must translate into “entire chicken on a bed of fried plantains.” And also without flavor, according to Ted. He said he expected it to be spicier, but if was almost like just a rotisserie chicken with rosemary flavor. And the fried plantains (wait, that’s what we were calling them all night … but it turns out after I look at the online menu those were actually yucca fries. Are they the same thing? I took German in high school, folks. Spanish is lost on me) Anyway, those were good as long as you used the sauce on the plate to dip them in. He definitely preferred his appetizer over the main dish.

Here’s your half a chicken, sir

Shane and I went the taco route. I got three total – although in retrospect I should’ve only gotten two. When we asked how big the tacos were – because at these places they can be anything from two bites to the size of a frisbee – the server told us they were about as big in diameter as one of the small plates on the table.

So either she was off on her comparison, or – more likely – I was using hangry eyes when I ordered, because the tacos we got seemed far bigger than the size of those dishes. Bigger is better? No?

In any case, I chose the chicken, the chorizo and the ground beef.

I was too hungry to note which was which. Sorry.

Shane was in the same bottomless pit of hunger boat as me, and got five total – two brisket, one chorizo, one buttermilk fried chicken and one flank steak.

Come hungry, leave happy. Wait, wrong restaurant.

I also got a completely unnecessary side of rice. Because, again, eyes bigger than stomach. I should also point out that this side was the one and only thing that I could probably walk into any Mexican place and obtain. So I wasn’t really missing out on much by not finishing that.

Extra food. Because we never have that at our table.

I liked all of my tacos. The chicken one had good flavor all around, but the other two got most of their flavor from the sauces and not the meat. That being said, I would still order them all again, but I would also really like to try some others on the menu.

Shane adamantly disagreed with me about the chorizo. He thought it was lacking in flavor overall. He thought the buttermilk fried chicken and the flank steak were the best of his – he said would’ve been happy with just those two and maybe one more as far as being full, but definitely those two in terms of flavor. The others were a disappointment in comparison.

Thus followed a conversation about the merits of eating the best food first versus last – as Shane had eaten his two best tacos first, since those were the ones he was the least sure about and thought he would like least, and then was stuck with the actual least liked ones to finish things out. See also: why I’m prone to taking a bite of each and then deciding what order to eat them in. Don’t judge.

Overall Crave Cantina is a decent place. The service was good, although we think our server may have been new to the business since she was a bit timid (I mean, come on, even though we were hungry we’re not that intimidating … usually …) but she was still OK. And while we were a bit hit and miss on our meals and drinks … the concept and the space (and the fact that they’re kind of still getting their feet wet at this location) are enough to make us want to come back and try out some different things on the menu that we passed up this time around. It reminded us of places like Bomba in Fairlawn or Barrio in downtown Cleveland, where the tacos are all interesting and different and you want to try them all since they’re all only a few dollars each. Frugal + options = a thumbs up in our group.

Shane

Steph

Ted. And I wonder if they’re taking suggestions on what to do with that wall?

Picked by: Ted
Next pick: Shane

Crave Cantina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

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WTGW 10/12/16: Tacos Mexicanos, Macedonia

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Alternate title to this post: always judge a Mexican place on their ability to make margaritas.

More on that in a minute.

So, since Ted was enjoying a week in Florida and didn’t even consider the option of flying back just to participate in WTGW (boo, hiss), I took advantage of his absence to choose one of the lesser chosen WTGW ethnic foods – Mexican. You know, because they usually slather everything in cheese, and we all know by now that’s like Ted’s version of hell.

I was told about Tacos Mexicanos by a coworker, who said she drives past it every night on her way home and that it was always packed – particularly on $1.00 “Taco Tuesdays.”

Needless to say, since tonight was not a Tuesday, nor were the tacos $1.00, it was a little less packed this evening. Just keep that in mind as you read on.

I noticed on the specials board as we entered that they were featuring a pumpkin margarita. My initial reaction was that that sounded kind of interestingly gross … but then I thought what the hell, it is fall after all, and if they can pumpkin out everything from cream cheese to potato chips, I may as well give it a shot.

Let’s just day I should’ve trusted my first instinct.

The best way I can possibly describe this drink is that is looks like butternut squash soup, but tastes like tequila with a bit of a spice aftertaste.

Sounds delightful, no?

Margaritas should not be this color. Ever.

Margaritas should not be this color. Ever.

Shane and Jerrid both opted for the mango strawberry margaritas. And I was extremely jealous … until Shane eventually took pity on me sitting there sullenly stirring my margarita and traded his mango strawberry for my pumpkin. Not because he thought mine was good, mind you, but more because he was worried I would waste alcohol. Priorities.

Yeah, well, the mango strawberry isn’t much better. It was basically a crapload of tequila, with a little bit of some fruit flavor that tasted neither like strawberries or mangoes.

Better color, not better flavor.

Better color, not better flavor.

So that begs the question, how can you trust a Mexican place that can’t make a good margarita? It’s like sacriligious.

It was about this time that Amanda realized she and Jerrid had actually been to Tacos Mexicanos once before, back when the place first opened … and they didn’t have their liquor license yet so they couldn’t serve alcohol.

I might suggest they go back to that idea until they hire a bartender that knows more about mixing drinks. Until then it seems they’re just wasting cheap tequila.

Anyway.

So onto food. Since all the pictures kind of look alike (as you’ll have at a Mexican place), I’ll try to keep these straight.

Amanda got the burrito Mexicano.

Mexican stuff in a shell with sauce and cheese, take one

Mexican stuff in a shell with sauce and cheese, take one

Jerrid got the beef chimichangas.

Mexican stuff in shells with sauce and cheese, take two

Mexican stuff in shells with sauce and cheese, take two

I got the fire burrito.

Mexican stuff in a shell with sauce and cheese, take three. No wonder they only have like three things photographed on the menus

Mexican stuff in a shell with sauce and cheese, take three. No wonder they only have like three things photographed on the menus

Shane got the quesadilla skillet – after much debate since they didn’t have his usual fajita quesadilla.

Shane's looks like a pizza

Shane’s looks like a pizza

 

All of the above was just OK. None of us really had anything much specific to say about it – I mean, it was typical Mexican food. Put lots of meat, sauce and cheese into or on top of a tortilla shell, then serve with rice, beans, more sauce and more cheese. Repeat.

Shane did mention that his quesadilla could’ve used more filling. And I will say that I agree with that. Mine in particular was pretty much just shredded chicken inside the shell, no veggies or sauce or anything. Because that screams flavorful.

Although somehow that did make it super hot. Must’ve been the sauce on the top – and maybe I should be glad there was none inside, because wherever this heat was coming from, it was most certainly enough. And before all you smartasses point it out, yes, I know that I ordered the “fire burrito.” Clearly they got one thing right in this place with that title. Just one.

Also, the irony of the lack of a good margarita to wash this down was not lost on me.

So already we have two strikes … let’s just add one more with the service. For starters, part of the reason we – and I assume about half of America – go to Mexican restaurants is for the promise of never-ending free basket of chips and salsa that just seems to regenerate at your table nonstop all night long.

Am I wrong?

Well, let’s just say don’t arrive here hungry.

As usual, Amanda and Jerrid had been there for a little bit before Shane and I arrived, and were almost through the first basket of chips and bowl of salsa when we sat down. So you’d think when the server noticed two new people joined the table they would bring more, right? Yeah, no. We waited. And waited. And ordered our drinks. And waited. And ordered our meals. And got our crappy drinks. And then FINALLY someone asked if we wanted more chips and salsa. Um, yes. Was it that fact that we were pretty much fighting over the tiny scraps and crumbs at that point that tipped you off?

And then one our food arrived, Shane was waiting on his side of guac for almost as long as the refreshment of chips – and keep in mind he won’t start eating his food until he has it, so you’d think the fact that one plate was untouched at our table would be cause for a server to stop and ask how we were doing. But once again, you’d be wrong.

I guess the moral here is to stop thinking.

So by about 7:30PM, the place was pretty empty, only us and about two other tables. And yet the service didn’t get any better, considering they had fewer tables to check on. Did they send the servers home with the guests? Were there bartending lessons going on somewhere? (that I might be able to forgive, just sayin) Do they keep the actual good margaritas in the back and the servers go back and get sloshed on them after 7:00?

It’s a mystery, folks. And one I’m not interested in going back to find out the answer to.

Amanda

Amanda

Jerrid

Jerrid

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

Picked by: Steph
Next pick: Amanda
Tacos Mexicanos Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 3/23/16: Memories Fine Food & Spirits, Richfield

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“Mem-ries … light the corners of my mind … Misty water-colored mem-ries … of the way we were …”

Yeah, just try to get that out of your head for the next day or so. And join the club.

And I think the memories of this restaurant will fade far sooner than that song takes to leave any of our minds. “Not Memorable” woud’ve been a better name for the place.

Oh wait, did I give away the ending of this review too soon? Rats.

So none of us are really sure how we missed picking Memories until now, because it didn’t seem like we recently missed a grand opening, and the building itself clearly isn’t new. In fact, as we drove through the parking lot I believe Shane’s words were “oh look, it’s an old Arby’s.” Because we know how comfortable he is in converted fast food joints. We could only hope they would have booster seats … but alas, we were disappointed.

It wouldn’t be the last time of the evening, just FYI.

Because this is, in fact, an old fast food establishment, it translates into a strange set up for a bar & grille. You walk in on the side of the place – like you do for most fast food places – which means you immediately face the giant horseshoe bar with seats all around and a few small tables to the sides. So basically if you’re like us and have anything over a group of four, you’re out of luck for seating in the bar area and get stuck over in the “dining room.”

I mean, unless you want to be really mean and make one person from your group sit my themselves at another table. Or are lucky enough to score five or six seats together at the bar. We clearly are not that cruel or resourceful. *sigh*

And let’s face it, the dining room is just not so fun. Just calling it the dining room, instead of the bar, is like telling us we’re sitting at the kid’s table with plastic silverware while all the cool adults get to have fun with sharp knives in the other room. In this case, the fine amenities in Memories dining room include small TVs with no sound, and servers who apparently aren’t happy to be there.

Yay us!

The next thing we noticed about Memories is that the menu is all over the place. Like there are no specialties here, or one particular type of food that they feature prominently. They’ve got a few burgers and sandwiches. Ok. And then there was probably the largest selection of salads I think I’ve ever seen in any of our WTGW picks … not to mention an actual salad bar. There’s a first. Then you’ve got your pizza and pasta (so the Italian section), seafood, Mexican (including an insert to the menu touting new Chipotle-esque rice bowls and burritos), and what’s a good bar and grille without a fine selection of German food?

Right.

So since we were all a bit confused, of course Shane does his customary “what’s good here?” ask of the server, to get a feel for what people usually order, or what she recommends.

Her response: “Yeah, the food’s good.”

Um, OK. Points for being super helpful, thanks.

When pressed she finally admitted that the German stuff was good. And all of the new Mexican dishes. Oh, and the burgers.

So, wait … what did we leave out exactly?

Also, as she noticed me looking at the beer list on the back of the menu trying to figure out what to order she announced “Oh, yeah, that’s outdated. They’re printing new ones soon.” Which you would think would be followed up with a helpful “But let me just tell you what we do have instead.”

But you would be wrong.

So naturally Shane and I went the easy route and just blurted out Miller Lites as our drink. Ted asked for dark beer and ordered one she said they had … but then she came back and said they didn’t have it anymore. And of course didn’t offer an alternative … because, well, her. So Ted basically just told her to bring him the darkest beer she could find.

Are you picking up on the fact that really our server wasn’t exactly the highlight of our evening? Not the most personable, that one. It’s like someone forgot to tell her that being a server does in fact involve actually talking to the customers.

Jerrid and Amanda were late to the party since Amanda started a new job and works later hours now. So Shane, Ted and I went ahead and started with apps. Which included a veggie basket for Shane and I – which sounds way healthier than it is since they leave the “fried” out of the title (but it was in the description so don’t think we were horribly surprised – please, do you really you think Shane would actually order a huge plate of plain vegetables?) and also six of the cajun wings for each of the boys.

Ted’s first comment upon trying the wing was that they tasted like breadcrumbs mixed with cayenne pepper. Because that sounds appealing. They didn’t have a lot of flavor at all. I mean, the guys still ate them anyway (please) – but they definitely weren’t the best ever.

Mmm, breadcrumbs. Delicious.

Mmm, breadcrumbs. Delicious.

Meanwhile I picked up a fried veggie and lost about 10 layers of skin on the roof of my mouth when I bit in. Were these cooked on the surface of the sun? For real. Also interesting – the fried veggies come served on a bed of french fries. Because why leave out potatoes? Or more things fried? Seriously. But the fries were actually really, really good. Like so good that I would’ve traded some of the breadcrumb-laden-and-deep-fried veggies for more fries.

Just dump a bunch of stuff in the fryer and cook it at 1,000 degrees

Just dump a bunch of stuff in the fryer and cook it at 1,000 degrees

We ordered before the other two arrived, and our food got there just as they showed up. Which proved slightly helpful for them when the annoyed-because-two-more-people-just-showed-up-that-she-now-had-to-converse-with server came by about two seconds after they sat down to ask what they wanted.

Shane ordered the eggplant parm, one of his usual favorites at Italian places so he thought why not try it at this non-descript bar & grille. Good plan. And it looked promising when it arrived, as a giant plate of food appeared in front of him. So of course he was super excited … until he tasted it. And then he was extremely sad that he had this much food sitting in front of him that, while he was hungry, he wasn’t excited at all to eat. He said the noodles were very greasy, and overall just not good. Now, I’m not sure how you make noodles greasy, but apparently somehow they managed.

Lots of food. Not a lot of taste.

Lots of food. Not a lot of taste.

He actually even had to switch to diet coke (without rum, gasp!) because the beer was not mixing well with the giant plate of grease noodles.

Ted got the German sampler platter, which is goulash, spitzel, wiener schnitzel, cabbage, and probably a few other really German sounding things – because it also was a huge plate of food. Ted said the best thing on his plate was the red cabbage, which should tell you something.

The view from the German side of the table. Prost!

The view from the German side of the table. Prost!

Ted: As goulash these noodles are terrible. But as beef stroganoff it’s actually pretty good.

Take that as you will.

Rounding out the ethnicity of our table, I got the taco salad. Which my had far too little cheese. Did they think I was Ted and take it all out? I also think I discovered a carrot in there. Because nothing says Mexican food like carrots. So basically to sum up my meal, they just put some bagged salad in the fried shell, topped it with some grade E meat, some super spicy salsa and just a tiny pinch of cheese. Ole!

Maybe they just made this at the salad bar before bringing it over

Maybe they just made this at the salad bar before bringing it over

As mentioned, Jerrid and Amanda arrived just as we were being served our food – as Jerrid laid eyes on Shane’s huge plate of food he was like, yes, that’s what I want, looks great. But fortunately Shane warned him of the greasy noodles … so Jerrid ordered the chicken parm instead. OK. Um, didn’t really avoid the noodles, but way to be different.

Taken with the "extra greasy" photo filter

Taken with the “extra greasy” photo filter

You’ll be glad to know it wasn’t any better. Jerrid rated it mediocre at best.

Amanda got the buffalo chicken sandwich with fries. She agreed that the fries were good. And she said that the sandwich wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t particularly memorable either. Which, when the name of your place is Memories, maybe you need to rethink your menu just a tad. Or hire a new cook. Whatever.

Just eat the fries. Trust us here.

Just eat the fries. Trust us here.

So, yeah, as you can probably already tell, this was definitely not high on our list of best places ever. From the weird atmosphere (who has TVs with no sound when there’s not even a jukebox or other music playing overtop to help drown out the silence?), to the brisk and unhelpful service (just order something, who cares if it’s good?). to the not so great food … well, let’s just say this is one memory we won’t be reliving any time soon.

Steph

Steph

Shane

Shane

Ted

Ted

Unabomber ... I mean Jerrid

Unabomber … I mean Jerrid

Amanda

Amanda

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Steph

Drinks: They have some, but good luck figuring out what they are if you’re stuck sitting in the dining room. Back to the old college “go basic” rule, I guess.
Food: They have that, too, but I really wouldn’t recommend ordering any of it.
Service: Strike three.
Overall: I think what we’ve learned here is that the whole “fine food and spirits” line on the sign is severely misleading. Perhaps “Unmemorable in all ways” might be a better tagline?

Next Pick: Amanda

Memories Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 6/3/15: Tres Potrillos, Fairlawn

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And once again we managed to outsmart Mother Nature for a WTGW adventure. I know, it seems a little silly to be this proud of a chance to sit on a patio, but if you haven’t figured out our ongoing war with Mother Nature by this point in time then clearly you need to start reading this blog more often. She tried tricking us by bringing out the cloud cover while we were waiting for Shane to get home from work so the group could head out, but yet we weren’t deterred. It was like a staring contest. And Mother Nature blinked first, allowing the skies to clear as we were seated and happily eating on the patio. Yes.

And as if that weren’t enough excitement for one week, I’m proud to say this was also the week I also finally got to say that I’ve dined at the place associated with the generic “Mexican Restaurant” sign high above Rt 77 at the Rt 18 exit.

Because who really remembers the name anyway?

Because who really remembers the name anyway?

Clearly it’s been quite a week.

Anyway.

I think I have to be that excited over the little things surrounding this week’s adventure, as Tres Portillas itself didn’t seem to give me much else to talk about. And thank the lord we were able to sit on the patio, as I think that was the most redeeming factor of the entire visit – for me at least. Ouch.

Let’s start with drinks (as if you’d suspect otherwise with this group, right?). Of course we ordered margaritas, because, well, what else do you order at a Mexican place? They didn’t seem to have quite as many flavors to choose from as some of the other Mexican places we’ve been to, but enough for each of us to try something different. I had the mango, Amanda had peach, Shane had raspberry, and Ted ordered the guava. Which I’m still really not sure what flavor that is, but whatever. Ted’s was also the only one served on the rocks, thus proving once again that he just has to continue to be different from the rest of the group.

This photo makes me happy

This photo makes me happy

As does this one

As does this one

I will admit to being intrigued by something called the “Octopus Margarita”on the menu, which apparently is sangria and a lime margarita combined. I know, right? I like sangria. I like margaritas. But the two together? That can either be disastrously gross … or delicious enough to be dangerous.

Regardless, my liver was not up to the challenge this time around. Maybe next time.

We all agreed from the start that it seemed as though our server wasn’t exactly thrilled to see us. Which is always an endearing realization as you sit down for your meal. She also wasn’t exactly fluent in English. Which, hey, I’m all about authenticity at an ethnic restaurant … but after I’m well into a margarita it becomes a little harder to understand normal English, much less broken.

But at least we never felt like she was rushing us out. In fact, I have to believe that the word “rush” didn’t exist in her vocabulary, no matter what language. I would describe her pace as somewhere between a geriatric turtle and a sailboat on a day without wind. Which is extremely helpful when she also insisted on making a separate trip for every. single. thing. we. could. possibly. need.

Trip one: Take drink orders. Walk away.
Trip two: Deliver chips and salsa. Walk away.
Trip three: Bring water. Walk away.
Trip four: Drop off margaritas. Walk away.
Trip five: Oh, hey, did you want to order dinner now? It’s only like a half hour later by this point, no biggie. I’m half surprised she didn’t ask us if we were ready, then walk away for 15 minutes to get a pen and paper.

I mean, I’m no expert in the food service industry, but it seemed to me maybe a few of those trips could’ve been combined, no?

Bonus points for missing the silverware in all of that, too, so we had to ask for it after we got our food. Luckily we were able to flag down another server for that, or else we might still be sitting there staring hungrily at our plates to this day.

So there’s that.

I got the spicy grilled burrito with steak. Which seemed to be neither spicy nor grilled, so clearly that name is super appropriate. But it did have steak in it, so score there, I guess? The chorizo on top of the burrito was I think what was supposed to lend most of the “heat” to the meal, except it actually wasn’t spicy at all. And there seemed to be no sauce covering it either. The rice also had zero flavor – and without even a salt shaker on the table to help me there, I ended up leaving most of that on my plate. So unless my taste buds were just taking the night off, I was not finding this meal to be anything spectacular.

Burrito, side of flavor please

Burrito, side of flavor please

Ted had the carne asada – minus cheese of course, although it didn’t go unnoticed that this was really the first time in the past few weeks that he’s actually had to speak those words of request. He said the meal was just average.

Ted's two week streak of cheese avoidance continues

Ted’s two week streak of cheese avoidance continues

Shane and Amanda both got their usual Mexican restaurant staple, the fajita quesadilla. Can you tell they’re related or what? They both liked their meals, but it was definitely a lot of food, as Amanda was stuffed long before the end of hers. Shane also ordered extra guac for his meal – which in most places would be like a whole cup or small bowl full. But when the meals came out, we quickly realized that “extra” at Tres Portillas kind of just meant that he got two spoonfuls of guac on his plate, compared to the one that Amanda had on hers. Gee, thanks. He finally flagged someone down (again, not our actual server) and asked for a real side of it … which we then noticed on the bill later was an extra charge of $5.00. Ouch. Did they ship the avocados in special just to prepare his side?

"The usual" for the Keefer siblings

“The usual” for the Keefer siblings

BTW, this is "extra" guac.

BTW, this is “extra” guac.

So all in all, I think we decided that the patio was by far the best part of our visit. Well, that, and the completely inappropriate dinner discussion about weights of organs and tumors which led to us discovering that our dear friend Ted has never seen the movie Jerry Maguire. I know, right? It seems impossible.

Anyway, like I said, the patio was well worth the price of admission, and even if you just wanted to enjoy some chips, salsa and $5 guac with some drinks it would be well worth it. It’s quiet (although they do have what looks like a stage for bands) and nice lighting fixtures around. Definitely better than the food in my opinion, but I think I’m the minority on that one, as evidenced by the photos below. Or maybe they all just should’ve stopped at one margarita.

Amanda

Amanda

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Amanda

Drinks:   I’m sure they have drinks other than margaritas – and I believe we passed a full bar on our way to the patio – but we stuck with the tequila. And were not disappointed.
Food:
 Typical Mexican restaurant menu. Although you may want to bring your own salt. Or hot sauce. Or really seasoning of any kind.
Service:  I think we got the server who didn’t expect to get another table this evening. She didn’t seem especially happy to see us, nor did she move very quickly. So that’s always helpful.
Overall: I seemed to be the only one completely unimpressed, although the patio did sway me a little. Maybe.

Next Pick:  Ted

Click to add a blog post for Tres Potrillos on Zomato

WTGW 1/14/15: Tito’s Mexican Grill, Fairlawn

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Happy 2015! So, yeah, we’re back. I’m sure you missed us.

Unfortunately, 2015 is not off to a great start for the WTGW crew, as this week’s pick earned a thumbs down – and, quite frankly, a huge “WTF” – from the majority of the group. At least the year can only get better from here?

Amanda’s recent cravings for Mexican food and margaritas led us to Tito’s Mexican Grill in Fairlawn for this week’s pick – a place which, by the way, is in desperate need of a website manager. For real. I mean, when you direct people to “call for more information” on the food items instead of just putting your menu online that’s a sure sign that the technology fairy has yet to pay you a visit. “Hi, I was searching online and found your restaurant. Can you tell me more about your chicken enchiladas and full service bar so I can decide if I want to eat there?” Because I’m sure that’s a phone call that every hostess is dying to intercept.

This is probably the coolest part of the whole visit

This is probably the coolest part of the whole visit

I guess we should have assumed the direction the evening was going in when we first arrived and were seated at one of the illustrious “middle of the aisle” tables. Like, seriously, they just plopped some tables and chairs in the middle of the aisle between two rows of booths. So we were constantly having servers and customers walk behind us on either side of the table, and plates being carried overtop of our heads. Because that’s comfortable. It’s what I imagine enjoying a meal in the middle of a two-lane highway next to an airport would be like. I mean, if you’re into that sort of thing.

So anyway, drink order time comes along. And we faced the second strike of the evening, when Ted goes for the signature mojito … and is promptly told they are out of mint. Well, that’s disappointing. And maybe should have led off the “what can I get you to drink” conversation, no?

Thankfully, they weren’t out of tequila and mixers, as the rest of us were craving margaritas. And are always willing to try the various flavors. I had mango, Amanda went with peach, Shane tried banana and Jenny got the strawberry. They were tasty, although Jenny thought hers was too sweet. Shane and I both liked the banana the best. I’m not afraid to admit I was a little bit jealous I didn’t order that one for myself.

The only thing worthy of a thumbs up

The only thing worthy of a thumbs up

Still reeling from the great mint shortage of 2015, Ted ended up with a beer. Cue violins.

Unfortunately, our meals were not a much better experience. The food at Tito’s is just OK. I mean, I get it, Mexican places are kind of a-dime-a-dozen, and it seems like all of them have menus that are pretty much carbon copies of the same dishes. Everyone in your party can order different things, yet everyone’s plate will most likely feature something wrapped in some sort of a tortilla, a side of rice and/or beans, and a pile of lettuce/tomato/sour cream/guac that I’m never really sure is meant to be eaten alone like a salad or used as condiments for the tortilla thing.

And while we’re on the subject, can we just talk for a minute about how there always seem to be about 1500 variations of burritos on a Mexican menu, and all of them are just a teeny tiny bit different from one another? They all have these impressive names – Grande, Superior, Jumbo, Burrito Special – yet none of them seem to be any bigger or smaller than the other. It seems the only real differences are whether the rice/bean combo exists inside or out of the tortilla shell and what kind of cheese or sauce mixture is poured over top of it. And those differences are then different at every restaurant. So a Burrito Superior at one place is really a Grande Burrito on another menu. It’s infuriating.

*End rant*

In any case, this is all true of Tito’s, except they seemed to leave one thing out that other Mexican places have mastered: flavor. Again, it’s not rocket science here. Mexican food isn’t meant to be overly spicy – that’s what those little green and red sauce bottles on the table are for – but it meant to at least taste like something. Our one consensus of the evening is that all of our dishes seemed to be lacking any sort of defining flavor. Unless you count bland. Is bland a flavor? Then that’s what they went with here. Good choice.

I had the grande burrito. Which – for the sake of the burrito flowchart discussion above – was really just shredded chicken inside a small tortilla, with rice and lettuce/tomato on the side. Noted.

Burrito something

Burrito something

Ted had the Tito’s Burritos. He really didn’t say anything about them, which leads me to believe he didn’t like them. The thumbs down also tells me that.

Is it just me, or does it look like he's doing some strange magic trick here?

Is it just me, or does it look like he’s doing some strange magic trick here? Maybe he’s trying to make the food disappear without actually eating it

Jenny got the chicken quesadilla from the appetizer menu. Having attended a co-workers retirement party just before meeting up with us, she wasn’t up for a huge meal, but wanted to at least try something other than the chips, salsa and margaritas. She said it was OK, but there really wasn’t even enough of a portion there to give an opinion on.

It's like "Honey I Shrunk Amanda's Meal"

It’s like “Honey I Shrunk The Meal”

Shane and Amanda both ordered their Mexican dining staple, the fajita quesadillas. Being that they both order this at pretty much every Mexican place we go to, I believe them when they say this one wasn’t outstanding. And Shane commented that his onions were soggy. For shame.

At least this one was filling

At least this one was filling

We also had to flag down the waiter to get Shane’s side of guac, which didn’t come out with the meal like it was supposed to. And the waiter kind of implied “well do you still want it?” when we finally did get his attention. No, we thought we’d pull you over to the table just to remind you we ordered it and make sure you still charge us for it. Really? I swear we’ve played this game before.

Speaking of flagging down the waiter, I feel like that’s what we spent the majority of our time doing throughout our visit. He was like a mirage. He took our drink order and then disappeared for far longer than what it takes to make four margaritas. So long, actually, that when he finally returned he forgot which of us ordered each flavor. It was like we were a whole new table to him. Maybe he’s like 10-second Ted from the movie 50 First Dates, who knows. Then, a bit later,  we ask for more chips and salsa – and he brings the chips, but no salsa. Helpful. Then he was gone for, well, ever – and finally came back to take meal orders. And then the bills were a whole other fiasco to obtain. It’s like every time we asked him for something another 15-20 minutes of our lives vanished while we waited for him. I half expected us to emerge from the restaurant 5 years older after all was said and done.

Also, and I’m all for authenticity at Mexican places – but not only was his accent very intense, but he spoke in just barely a whisper. So a)we can’t hear you, and b)what we thought we heard we can’t understand. Maybe keep this guy in the back. Just sayin.

Overall I think Tito’s earned itself a big no thank you from the WTGW crew. Let’s hope this isn’t a sign of what 2015 has in store for us.

Ted

Ted

Amanda

Amanda

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

Jenny (who didn't feel she ate enough to warrant an opinion on the place)

Jenny (who didn’t feel she ate enough to warrant an opinion on the place)

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Amanda
Drinks:  Margaritas were tasty, but finding out they had run out of mint for the “signature” mojitos put a sour note on the evening. Ans maybe could’ve led off the server’s welcome speech, but whateves.
Food:
Typical Mexican fare, with less flavor. So if you’ve been thinking to yourself “man, I could really stand to find a really bland Mexican place” then I think your search is over. You’re welcome.
Service: Um. Well. Is non-existent a choice?
Overall: Thumbs down. Since Mexican places are pretty much a dime a dozen, I’m sure we can find someplace closer to home with better service and tastier meals.

Next Pick: Ted

Tito's Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon

WTGW 9/17/14: Nuevo Acapulco, Tallmadge

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No, your calendars aren’t fooling you – we did skip a week of WTGW. With Ted out of town for work the week of his pick and a crazy tornado outbreak in our area, we decided it might be best to hunker down at home instead of venturing out. Call us rational, I guess.

(PS – for the record, tornadoes are pretty much the exact opposite of patio weather, Mother Nature. Stop effing with us on Wednesdays. Seriously.)

So, fast forward to this week, when I get a text from Ted debating between two destinations for this week’s pick. When I clicked on the link he sent me for Nuevo Acapulco via my phone, it took me to a landing page touting that “the tower of beer or margaritas is back!” I immediately told him that’s not a nice thing to send to someone at 5:30 pm on a Tuesday. And that I didn’t care what the other option was because this place wins, hands down.

So here we are.

Only it turns out he didn’t send me a link to the right website. The waiter’s blank stare when we asked about it gave that away pretty quickly. And honestly, I’d like to link to the page here … but we still aren’t really sure what the correct website is for this location. Google it, you’ll see what I mean.

On another note, Amanda also thought from the name of the place that we were going to some new Mexican restaurant downtown with a rooftop patio. So clearly we were all confused.

In any case, this place is just off the circle in Tallmadge, in the former Erie Station Grille – and still has the old sign on the side of the building and the train cars on the former tracks outside. Because nothing says “Mexican restaurant” like a portion of a railroad train positioned just off the patio.

Hey, if it's already on the property, why move it right?

Hey, if it’s already on the property, why move it right?

Oddest Mexican restaurant patio ever.

Oddest Mexican restaurant patio ever.

The place is pretty large inside, and it wasn’t by any means full or overly busy. But we still had to wait a hot minute for a table to be bused for us. Hmm. We’ll call that strike #1.

Our waiter was clearly new. Shane thought he recognized him from another Mexican place in town – which if that was the case then we’ll probably be seeing him at another one in the near future because based on our experience I’m not guessing he left the last place by choice. Because we’ll call him strikes #2 – approximately 57. And really our biggest complaint about the place.

Let’s start with drinks. We all ordered margaritas – well, except Shane, who was trying to be “healthier” and went with a Miller Lite. For real? I mean, who a) does that at a Mexican place, and b) really touts Miller Lite for exceptional health benefits? Seriously. At least margaritas are fruit flavored. Anyway, our lovely waiter didn’t ask us what size margaritas we wanted, so we ended up with what I think must’ve been the largest ones on the menu. I mean, I know we asked about the Tower of Margaritas and all, but just because you didn’t have it didn’t mean we all wanted our own individual one.

Peach and mango flavored margaritas

Peach and mango flavored margaritas … well kind of anyway

Tequila flavored margarita

Tequila flavored margarita

One of these things is not like the other. And for once Ted isn't the one holding it.

One of these things is not like the other. And for once Ted isn’t the one holding it.

And another fun trick: when we got the bill at the end of the night, the price for said huge drinks didn’t match anything on the menu. Huh? We finally kind of put the pieces together and deduced that  the Tower of Margaritas conversation had kind of led to talk about the different kinds of margaritas they DO offer, then Ted had asked the server about top shelf tequila in drinks … then the server just pretty much assumed top shelf was the kind we wanted. Um, no. First of all, we shouldn’t have to be CSI detectives to figure out our bills. And second of all, the joke was kind of on him, since the margaritas were so strong that we only ended up ordering one each. And barely finishing them. I had mango (which probably would’ve been good if made with less tequile), Amanda had peach (which she said just tasted like tequila) and Ted had original (which I guess is supposed to taste like tequila, so score for him?).

But don't pay attention to the prices, because they won't match anything you see on your final bill.

But don’t pay attention to the prices, because they won’t match anything you see on your final bill.

So there’s that. Let’s move on to appetizers.

We asked for the tableside-prepared guac as our appetizer, since we had seen others rave about it on reviews for the place. And then we never got it. And never even saw our server to ask about it. It wasn’t until we were getting our meals that we finally were able to remind him about the guac – which clearly he just forgot about – and to which he replied “Well, do you still want it?” Um. no, I thought I’d ask about it just for fun. Actually, it’s a little game we play where we order an appetizer and then take bets about whether or not we think it will really get delivered to us, or if we’ll starve waiting for it! Super fun, right? Tell your friends!

Ugh.

Sidenote – the guac actually is really good. Although we all agreed we were glad it was mixed tableside, because if he had to make it fresh in the backroom I’m sure we all would’ve probably been a little nervous about what extra “flavor” he might’ve added to it in the process.

I know, it looks disgusting. But it tastes delicious, trust us.

I know, it looks disgusting. But it tastes delicious, trust us.

Ted and his new friend

Ted and his new friend

At least the bowl was entertainment for us. It was like our new pet.

I think what it kind of boiled down to was that we clearly weren’t as interesting as the table of two single ladies near us, who our server kept stopping to chat with. And then had the staff come sing happy birthday to – after we overheard the conversation where one of them admitted to an upcoming birthday, and he asked “Well don’t you want today to be your birthday, since you’re here?”

(Just for the record, when you’re in a Mexican restaurant, the answer to that question is always NO. Always.)

Just after this he also told the couple at the table behind us that he “wasn’t that busy tonight, was kind of bored” – but throughout the evening he barely stopped to check on us, forgot our guac, forgot the water Shane asked for at the beginning of the meal (and when he finally was reminded and brought it later, he brought two glasses and tried to give it to another table).

And so it goes …

Other than the service things were good. We all got some sort of burrito – I had chicken chipotle (spicier than I thought it would be but still very good), Amanda and Shane both had the steak burrito, and Ted had the macha burrito. Everything was delicious, and of course we ate way more than we should’ve. Chips and salsa were replenished several times (not by our waiter, of course, but another server – thankfully, or else we’d probably still be scraping up crumbs to fight over while waiting on a second basket) and were very good.

Spicy burrito and not so spicy burrito

Spicy burrito and not so spicy burrito

And of course, there’s this:

Creepy shadowy engineer Ted

Creepy shadowy engineer Ted

I may have nightmares about this photo

I may have nightmares about this photo

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Ted
Drinks: They lose a few points for reeling us in with the Tower of Margaritas, then not actually having it. But they clearly have tequila – or at least they did, before they made our drinks. I think most of what they had ended up in there. 
Food:
 Typical Mexican, and as usual good portions for a good price.
Service: Hopefully the guy we had will be on to the next local Mexican place by the time you visit, because he was the big thumbs down of the evening.
Overall: Good food, not good service.

Next Pick: Shane

WTGW 5/28/14: Pancho & Lefty’s, Stow

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Now that it’s summer, one of our big requirements for WTGW spots becomes patio space. Because after all this is Ohio, and you know we only get about 4.25 days of real summer weather … so we have to make the most of them.

However, it seems that Mother Nature is going to make damn sure that none of those days fall on a Wednesday. Because she’s a whore.

So this means that a couple of places I was thinking about for this week’s WTGW got pushed back to later weeks this summer, since it was threatening rain this week and I didn’t want to chance us getting soaked. Pancho & Lefty’s actually has a decent – albeit small – patio space that we could’ve sat on had the weather cleared up. But since the skies were still iffy when we arrived, we decided to play it safe and sit inside. Let it be noted that it didn’t rain during our meal – but I’m certain that if we’d sat outside there would’ve been a downpour as soon as our meals arrived. Because – you guessed it – Mother Nature is a whore.

Anyway.

Pancho & Lefty's, Stow

The place is tiny inside, but it never felt cramped or overly loud. It was more homey than anything else. Maybe that’s because it wasn’t ever super crazy busy, but still. The server was very pleasant and always quick with drinks and chip refills.

Pancho & Lefty’s menu features traditional Mexican fare but also more “American” things like burgers, steaks, salads, wraps, etc. It’s nice to have options. Part of why I picked this place was because I thought that would help Ted – you know, with his dislike of cheese and all. But he ordered a burrito covered in cheese anyway, then proceeded to try and scrape it all off. You’re welcome, Ted.

We asked about drink specials – since Mexican places always seem to have them – and were told they ended at 6. What working person can enjoy a happy hour that ends at 6:00? Hmmm.

Regardless, we were intrigued by the long list of flavored margaritas – many of which we’d never heard of (pineapple? grape? cherry?) – so of course we made it our mission to try as many as possible. We even convinced Ted to break his “I have to be different” rule after his first beer and come to the dark side with us.

3:1. Guess which is Ted's?

3:1. Guess which is Ted’s?

 

Overall among the group we tried the orange dreamsicle, cherry, strawberry banana, watermelon, peach, mango, pineapple and – after a lengthy debate of what it could actually be – blue moon (FYI, it’s blue raspberry, not blue moon beer flavored. I lost that bet.). The orange one had the majority vote until Ted got the pineapple on the last round, and we were all sorry then that we didn’t get that one. Chalk one up for the guy who usually only drinks beer.

Post Memorial Day patriotism ... at a Mexican restaurant

Post Memorial Day patriotism … at a Mexican restaurant

The food at Panchos was good and portions were large. I had the taco salad with shredded chicken, which was mixed with refried beans and spread onto the outer edge of the bowl instead of just dropped by dallop in the middle. I liked that better. But it was frigging huge, so I couldn’t finish it.

Filed under: "trying to be healthy at a Mexican restaurant"

Filed under: “trying to be healthy at a Mexican restaurant”

Amanda had the shredded beef chimichanga, which was good but also way too much food for her to finish. Ted had the aforementioned cheese covered chicken grande burrito. Shane was disappointed that his usual fajita quesidilla wasn’t on the menu, so he asked the server what he would get the most food by ordering … and ended up with a steak grande burrito. I think there was an actual whole steak on the inside. He obviously wasn’t disappointed.

Action shot of Shane digging in

Action shot of Shane digging in

And this was after he scraped the cheese off.

And this was after he scraped the cheese off.

Chips and salsa were plentiful and quickly refilled. Although word of warning, the chips here are covered in some seasoning, which inspired a lengthy discussion among our group as to what exactly it was. The best we could come up with was that it was “like Doritos but different.” Because I’m sure those are professional culinary terms. In any case, the concensus at the table was that the guys liked them, but the girls didn’t. That’s OK, we saved our calories for margaritas.

If tortilla chips and Doritos had a baby, it would be these chips

If tortilla chips and Doritos had a baby, it would be these chips

While it’s a little further of a drive than some of the other Mexican places we’ve been to, I’m sure we’ll visit Pancho & Lefty’s again (which, side note,  Shane kept trying to call the place Lefty Ponchos. I’m not really sure what to do with that.). If nothing else than for the impressive flavored margarita list, and the excellent service. Case in point, you know you’re in a good place when the server 1) agrees to serve as your group photographer, and 2) even has the good sense to take additional photos when she realized Shane was being stupid. I think she got an extra tip just for that.

"I pledge allegiance to the flag ..."

“I pledge allegiance to the flag …”

Really, Shane?

Really, Shane?

Ted kind of looks like he fits into the mural

Ted kind of looks like he fits into the mural

Oh, those weren't non-alcoholic margaritas? Weird.

Oh, those weren’t non-alcoholic margaritas? Weird.

Since it was 8:30 when we left the Mexican place, we decided to stop in at Chelsea’s down the road for one drink on the way back home … where it became evident very quickly that we were clearly not part of the “regular” crowd. Amanda and I also made fools of ourselves waiting for the restroom when there’s more than one stall. That might’ve pointed us out on the non-regular list. We also tried the charging stations at the tables, which would’ve been a nice gesture if they worked. Oh well.

Hello, is this thing working?

Hello, is this thing working?

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Steph
Drinks: The list of margarita flavors is impressive. And you know that because we even got Ted to give up his beer and try one. Go with the pineapple. Trust us. 
Food: 
Good.Large portions are par for the course at a Mexican restaurant, and Pancho’s didn’t disappoint. My only disappointment was the chips, although the guys raved about them, so I guess you have to try for yourself and give us the verdict in your house.
Service: As I mentioned, any server willing to take extra photos of the group because she realized one of us was being stupid is OK in my book.
Overall: I’m sure we’ll be back – if nothing else to sit on the patio and drink margaritas. Can I bring my own chips?

Next Pick: Amanda

Pancho & Lefty's on Urbanspoon