WTGW 8/22/18: Lock 15 Brewing Company, Akron

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There are two types of people in this world: those who rush out to see a movie the first weekend it’s open, even though it means fighting crowds and sitting in an extremely full theater … and those who avoid that situation like the plague, even if it means usually forgetting the movie exists until well after its hit the 2nd year of availability on Netflix.

I fall into the latter category. I’m not one to flock to the latest thing just because it’s the latest thing, or to rush through the open doors of a new restaurant/bar/store five minutes after they’re unlocked for the first time.

Which makes perfect sense as to why we’re here at Lock 15 Brewing Company on only the second day of its existence. And that it was my choice.

See also: things I vow to never do again, because clearly the universe was trying to punish me for this decision this time around.

More on that later.

So Lock 15 Brewing Company is a brand new space located in the newly renovated Cascade Lofts building, just on the edge of downtown Akron. I’d been watching the space’s social media accounts, which I thought had hinted to the opening actually being earlier this summer. I’m not sure exactly why, but it seems this was instead pushed back to the end of August. Technically still summer, although closer to “end of” than “early in.”

I hesitated on the pick when I looked online and noticed that their online reservation system showed no openings for private tables between 7 – 7:30PM. But knowing that they had several “common tables” (read: long tables you might end up sharing with other guests) I wasn’t overly concerned that we wouldn’t find a place to seat ourselves. Also, reservations are a bit taboo in this group anyway. We all remember the last time we tried making one of those, only to end up eating tarter toast and not-sweet bean salad in a room that clearly was not going to be standing room only.

So, yeah, I’m not sure if they only take four reservations per half hour time slot, or if literally all of those people who made online reservations ditched out at the last minute, but we had zero problem getting a table when we walked in reservation-less at a little before 7PM. Because the place is one big open room and we could clearly see the door and any line that did or didn’t form at the entrance area, I can also tell you that the time periods of 7:30 and 8:00 would’ve been free of any mad rush for seating as well.

The place itself is pretty nice. You can definitely tell they put some money into the renovations and the decor of the space. Which apparently they are trying to get back via the cost of food. Snacks and starters range from $7 – $13 – with  wings being among the most expensive item on the section. Hmmm, not our typical ballpark, but OK. Sandwiches are in the $15 average range. The dinners actually seemed surprisingly low in comparison, with most running around the same price or just a little more than most of the sandwiches.

The menu is also pretty much what our group would consider to be “fancy,” especially when served in combination with beer. I mean, they have the staples like burgers and salads, but they throw you off with culinary vocabulary like “spent grain bun,” “Vegan brioche bun,” and “pork belly croutons.” In particular the Arugula Goat Cheese Toast Salad sounds like something my fried-food-loving body would run screaming in the opposite direction of, but whatevs. But then they also have highly intriguing – read: sounds less healthy – things like a Pork Belly BLT, Ghost Pepper Mac and Cheese, and Nashville Hot Chicken. Huh.

But let’s start with the beers.

Horray for beer!

I got the Hefe, IPA for Jason, Porter for Shane, Pilsner for Cassi … and nothing for Ted, who had a work event this evening, but didn’t tell us until like 5:00 so we couldn’t make alternative revisit arrangements. Bad Ted.

Apparently they also have flights of beer, so you can try samples of the different offerings before you commit to a giant 16oz glass of something that maybe tastes like burnt coffee and motor oil. But we weren’t aware of this until we saw one getting carried away from the bar to a neighboring table. File that under: things we wish they had advertised in some way.

Of course, on the night I leave my “telepathy for beginners” manual at home. Never fails.

For apps, Cassi and Jason got the nachos, while Shane and I opted to carb load with a giant pretzel.

Chippy nachos

Proof that looks can be deceiving

The nachos ended up being the winner here. Wait, what? How is that possible? I mean, did you not see the photo?

Yeah, well, let’s just call this pretzel the appetizer equivalent of that person across the bar who you think is totally hot until they walk over and open their mouth to reveal an IQ that gerbils would be embarrassed about.

At first sight it looks amazing. But then you take a bite, and realize it’s drier than pool towels left out in the sun all day, with about as much flavor. It’s like eating a loaf of bread made entirely of heel slices.

Let that thought sink in a little bit.

The cheese and mustard dipping sauces might’ve helped … had they given us a larger portion. You can’t baste a turkey with an eyedropper, but thanks for trying.

I mean, come on. WTF are we supposed to do with this?

Meanwhile the nachos were actually made from potato chips instead of tortilla chips, and had tons of toppings. #appetizerenvy

I’d like to say things improved for us from this point, but I don’t want to lie to you. I think I’m safe to say that the nachos were the highlight of the evening. Getting our apps and drinks was definitely the epitome of our service for the night, because after that it seemed to take longer and longer for our server to appear anywhere close to the proximity of our table. And, again, the place is one giant room, so we would’ve seen if she had been busy with tables on the other side of the space or something like that. But no, she just would seemingly get kidnapped into the back for like 19 minutes out of every 20. Because that’s helpful.

In any case, I guess it’s good that we were done with the appetizers before she even took our meal orders, because there was no way all of that food would’ve fit along with the app plates. As it was the meals for four people barely left us with any table space to set our drinks.

If it looks like we’re sitting on each other’s laps … well we almost are

Shane and Jason both ordered burgers. I know you’re shocked about that. Shane got the Black and Blue burger, while Jason opted for the Lock 15.

It looks like a breakfast sandwich

Filed under ultra-messy

I tried to order the chili … but was informed they were all out. On day two?  Either that was the crowd favorite on the official opening the night before, or maybe cheese and mustard aren’t the only things that are portion sized into eyedroppers around here.

So I got the pork belly BLT instead.

FYI, bread with holes in it should not be used to contain items that spew grease

Cassi ordered the hush puppies. And then sat and watched us start to eat our food, since apparently there was also a run on those early in the restaurant’s short lifespan, as she was informed as our food was being delivered that hers would take a bit longer due to just having been started.

I would say something to the effect of letting us know that not long after we ordered would’ve been helpful, but let’s just say that by this point we were just thrilled that someone who worked there came out of hiding long enough to even approach our table and deliver most of the meal. Be very still and don’t scare them away too quickly.

How long does it really take to make this many hush puppies?

All of us were genuinely disappointed in the food. It arrived looking great, but when you tasted it … well … it just didn’t overwhelm any of us. Shane said his burger was just OK, but nothing special that he would feel the need to return for. Cassi said the hush puppies might’ve been better with a different breading, but that in their current state they just don’t have much flavor. Seems to be a theme here with things of the carb-laden variety,

Meanwhile I was channeling Cassi’s pizza experience of a few months ago with a mushy bottomed sandwich. I blame poor bread choice on this one. Seems to me something sturdier than holey sour dough might be in order when you’re dealing with a pork product, no?

The items making up the “T” portion of my sandwich were also weird. I don’t have a better word to describe them than that. Weird. Take that as you will.

The consensus seemed to be that the giant pretzel should really just be the mascot of the entire menu. Looks great when it arrives, but they need to learn to deliver the taste to the table as well.

(Side note, if you pull up Lock 15’s menu online, the photo at the top is that of the pretzel. Which made me giggle, because while I didn’t notice that until after I wrote this review, clearly we’re on to something here.)

In any case, the non-flavorful food is a real shame, because we had high hopes for this place. The space is great – and will be made even better once the outdoor patio opens, since we could see where it’s intended to be and were slightly jealous we couldn’t be seated there already. It’s also nice to see a local brewery with a full bar to offer for those who aren’t in the mood to for gluten heavy drinks. I do think overall it still has potential, but that there are definitely some kinks that need to be worked out.

One of which is this:

I don’t imagine these can be re-used

If you’re going to seat people in close quarters and give them cold glasses of beer, I hope either there’s a large line item on the budget for reams of paper, or part of your staff also moonlights at the local Kinko’s. As Cassi stated when she pointed this debacle out: “that will never work.”

Oh – and you’re going to have to go another week without our smiling faces, since we once again forgot to take photos before we left the restaurant. And we’ve learned that dark parking lots are not the venue for this either. I think we’re all still having nightmares about the last time we tried this

 

 

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WTGW 5/30/18: REVISIT – Caston & Main, Portage Lakes

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Thank you to whichever one of us decided we could exercise our option on revisits during our week to pick, as I didn’t have time to research a new place this week. In my defense, we’re coming off of a holiday weekend which included a Jimmy Buffett concert, and I tacked on an additional vacation day after that … so when your week starts on a Wednesday that feels like a Monday then you kind of forget what day of the week it really is. Oops.

You’ve all been there at some point, so let’s stop the judgement.

My laziness was apparently forgiven, as we ended up heading back to a place that we haven’t been in nearly two years, Caston & Main down in Portage Lakes. The two things we remembered most from that previous visit were the incredibly delicious raspberry mules that Shane ordered and that Ted and I eventually gave in and switched to after sampling Shane’s … and the “entertainment” we endured from a guy with a guitar and a sound system with levels meant to drown out anything from dinner conversations to televisions to the possibility of a helicopter landing in the middle of the dining room.

Imagine our surprise to learn that neither of those things exist any longer at Caston & Main. I’ll let you use your imagination to discern our feelings on this discovery.

It actually seems they’ve made several changes in our two year absence. Not really to the place itself – although we speculated that they were putting in a patio (and as of this posting that has been confirmed, so yay us for our intuition) – but inside it’s still the same set up of bar-to-the-left-of-you, dining-room-to-the-right-of-you as you walk in the door, and large tables perfect for groups like us that enjoy ordering an entire menu of food.

Our first discovery as we sat down was the realization that we could actually hear ourselves think, so apparently Wednesdays are no longer entertainment nights. God bless them for that decision. I have to believe we weren’t the only ones to file some sort of opinion on our attempts to hold a conversation amidst the decibel levels of a monster truck night rally.

Coming in a close second on the discovery list was when we found the novel-sized drink menu had been parred down to a more manageable short-story-ish selection. Which usually we wouldn’t applaud, but when taking the time to peruse it impedes on our ability to get alcohol served in a timely manner we tend to get a little bit bitter.

Maybe not as bitter as when we realized the beloved and much applauded raspberry mule didn’t make the cut, but whatever. They seem to now focus on more local craft beers, and just a few specialty cocktails. Cassi and I decided to try out the margarita mule that was on special, which ended up just being OK. By the end of the evening we both switched to a bottled pear cider that was far more delicious, not to mention less expensive.

Speaking of, Shane learned the hard way the age old lesson of “if there are no prices listed, it’s probably because you don’t want to know,” as the bill at the end of the evening revealed that the craft beers he had been enjoying turned out to be $9 each. That’s an unpleasant surprise. Especially when both of our meals were less than his $27 worth of cocktails.

Ouch.

While the drink menu has gotten smaller, the food menu seems to have expanded since our last visit. This made us happy, because, well, we like food – and more of it is never a bad thing with this group. In fact, we actually tried to convince our server that she should work on commission when it comes to serving our group, since we’re not only going to already order a stupid amount of food but we’re also pretty easy to sell when it comes to adding on more.

On thing that hasn’t changed in our absence is that Wednesdays are still 3 for $6 slider nights. Ted and Shane had tried them on our last visit and found them tasty, so they decided on getting them again this time around.

Shane also got the steak tacos, which inspired this exchange:

Shane: How many tacos come in the order?
Server: Three
Shane: Ok, good. I’ll take that. Three.
Me: Um, do you want one order of three, or three full orders?

I think the server thought I was crazy for clarifying this, but as anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, that one really could’ve gone either way.

Thankfully, it was only the one order of three tacos. And one order of the slider special.

The use of multiplication tables was involved in this order

Tiny sandwiches

I got the roast beef philly, with the chips and French onion dip as a side.

Points for presentation

And we got nachos for an app.

There seems to be way more nachos than toppings here, no?

So that covers one side of the table. I think by this point the server might’ve realized we were on to something with that whole commission thing.

Ted waited for me to tell him which sliders he had ordered last time, then went with the chicken salad, Rueben and BLT sliders. Times two, because you know one meal isn’t enough in this group. He also got chips and dip for an app.

You’re not seeing double

Anyone else think that’s a lot of dip for that amount of chips?

Cassi and Jason got pretzel bites as app.

Carb overload

After getting the server’s opinion on which was better, the crab BLT or the chorizo tacos, Cassi took her suggestion and ordered the crab BLT.

Hopefully its a good idea to trust the server

Jason ordered the invisible patty melt. Well, OK, that’s not really what it’s called, but that’s the name we gave to it when all of our food orders came out of the kitchen and his never appeared.

At least the server came over and admitted it was her fault, she “never does this” but somehow she had forgotten to put it in as part of the order, but that she let the kitchen know what had happened and it would only take a minute to come out.

Jason thought it was karma for making fun of the pimento cheese app as we were first reading the menu … and then ordering a burger featuring the same cheese on it. Touche. Meanwhile we all proceeded to make yummy noises while he was forced to just sit and watch us eat. Because we’re twelve.

Shane’s steak tacos were admittedly the best looking item on the table. I had been eyeing them up on the menu and almost ordered them, but made a last minute switch to the roast beef. I definitely was #foodjealous. Not to say that I didn’t like my sandwich –  it actually was really good, the peppers and cheese were a nice addition – but I wish it had been a tad hotter by the time it arrived at the table. Although considering Jason’s situation I guess I should just be glad it arrived at all. So there’s that.

Speaking of, it seems the long awaited patty melt didn’t turn out to particularly worth the extra anticipation, but Jason ate it anyway. I mean, by that point he was just extra hungry and probably would’ve eaten a grilled shoe if it was set in front of him.

We waited all that time for this?

He did end up getting a discount on the meal because of its tardiness to the table – not a full “I’m sorry this was my fault so it’s on the house” discount, but at least it was something.

I think Shane was hoping for a “we never printed the prices and therefore there was no way to tell that each of your drinks would be the same cost as a full meal” discount on our bill, but that never materialized either.

Overall, outside of sandwiches that don’t arrive on time and therefore might have been assembled with a little less love, the food is decent. Ted still gave a thumbs up to the sliders (rating them in order: BLT, chicken salad and Reuben), Cassi and I enjoyed our sandwiches, and Shane’s steak tacos were worthy of every bit of the food envy we all had. The apps were good – although they seemed to have a Goldilocks and the Three Bears thing going on with the accompanying dips (the pretzels had too many bites and not enough dip, the chips had too few chips and an overload of dip, the nachos had an abundance of tortilla chips with too few toppings). Our server was on our good side until she forgot about Jason. I mean, points for owning up to the mistake, albeit begrudgingly (does “I’m not sure how this happened, but I guess it was my fault” really count as an apology?) – but after that point she also seemed to avoid our table a bit more, as if the very sight of us brought up memories of a failed relationship. If only she’d avoided us long enough for Shane to save another $9 on that last drink …

Picked by: Steph
Originally picked by: Ted

Steph

Cassi

Jason

Ted, who could care less what anyone else thought of the place, he liked it

Shane, before the bill arrived

Shane, after seeing that empty glass cost him $9

 

WTGW 3/21/18: South End Tavern, Northfield

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Remember that time we passed by a super sketch place called Johnny T’s and I vowed never to let Shane pick it for Fun Wednesday?

Well Shane certainly does.

That same place is now called South End Tavern, and I’m guessing have new owners? Or maybe they just thought a name change was in order? They certainly didn’t think cleaning up the junkyard of old cars out in back of the place was a task worth undertaking. The same old ghetto limo was still parked under a pile of snow at the far back of the parking lot, and they still have the same strange fenced in area in the middle of the lot that we think might be a sand volleyball court? Or just a really high caged in patio – which seems odd, but whatever.

We have nothing to compare the inside to, since – as Shane reminded us on the way in – I’d vowed we would never set foot in the place. But if they did get new owners, I can’t imagine they opened their pocketbooks to do much to the inside. Or I was justified in never wanting to walk into the place if how it is now could be considered “spruced up.”

Anyway.

Wednesdays are apparently trivia nights – we speculated that this may be a newfound marketing scheme along with the name change to bring in more of a crowd. And it worked, because the place was busy … until about 8:30pm. Which, considering the crowd, could potentially be when some of them went to bed. Or maybe the place started to clear out because the first round of trivia took upwards of 90 minutes. Granted we don’t usually partake in trivia, so we don’t know what normal time usually is, but that seemed excessively long, no? We joked that we had no idea how many rounds there were, but there was a good possibility we could pull an all-nighter staying for all of them.

Sidenote: we also overheard someone announce “there’s our competition” when our group walked in clearly looking like we’d never seen the inside of the place before and scouting out a table. Being that we had no clue at that point that it was trivia night, that was definitely taken out of context.

But then Cassi read the words “Trivia Night” on the super fancy mirror of specials along the back wall, and we were set straight. I feel sorry for whoever they borrowed lipstick from to write all of that. Also, 1984 called and would like it’s communication devices back.

We ended up sitting at the bar – because even though the place is fairly spacious inside it only has like three actual tables. Because that’s helpful. I think we all came up with some interior design rendition in our heads that could’ve both eleviated that problem and helped with business, but what do we know.

It’s also worth noting that sitting at the bar – in close proximity to the one bartender who is responsible for the entire place – doesn’t necessarily ensure faster service. So there’s that.

Beers for the guys (they actually have a decent draft list, lots of local crafts) and tequila and soda for me and Cassi. And when I say that, I mean that I think Cassi and I shared an entire bottle of well tequila between our two short glasses. A whole forest of lime trees couldn’t save that disaster.

So needless to say we only had one round of those, and switched to beer.

Obviously we had to get in the jokes about how – given the size and look of the place – we were a bit apprehensive about the menu options. Shane actually hoped they would only be serving wings and burgers, since he’s still trying to redeem himself from that place in Ellet. Cassi admitted she was crossing her fingers that we didn’t manage to sink below that pick to a place that only serves bar snacks and jerky sticks.

But then the bartender hands us these:

Wait, where are we?

I mean, come on

Two sided! Look at all the options!

We also took those pictures of the menus because you’ll be hard pressed to find any mention of the menu online anywhere. So, you’re welcome.

Cassi and Jason got loaded tots for an app, while Shane and I got loaded nachos. For once no one lost in this app war. Cassi really liked the loaded tots – exclaiming after one bite that they were very good. She called them “crispy and delicious.”

How can you go wrong with tiny fried potatoes and cheese?

So no soggy bottoms tonight. Check.

The nachos may not have gotten that rave of a review, but they were still good. The salsa had good flavor, and the toppings were abundant – although I’ll admit it didn’t really look like it when we first got the dish, but then once we dug in it seemed to be bottomless.

Sour cream, anyone?

Ted ordered his usual two whole meals, so who really needs apps? I’ll give the bartender credit, though, as she tried to make sure Ted’s wings came out with our apps, so that we all had food in front of us at the same time. The only problem is that she got Ted’s and Shane’s wing flavors mixed up, so when the Smokehouse wings showed up and Shane claimed those, it meant that Shane had an app and his entire meal, while Ted still had nothing.

Of course we were all more concerned about the fact that Shane ONLY ordered wings – no burger, so pizza, nothing else. What’s wrong with him? Is he trying to starve himself?

He said the wings were just OK. We all commented that they looked like tiny pieces of fried chicken. Which seems like it would be good – but Shane said that they didn’t have much flavor.

It’s like KFC Jr.

Ted got the Carribean jerk wings – which, after the bartender realized her mistake, she worked really hard to get out quickly. Kudos for that. Ted also agreed that the flavor was lacking a bit.

Times two

He also got the BBQ bacon burger. As did Jason. Hmmm, maybe Shane has some competition in the bromance department?

Ted thought the sauce on the burger was sweet – like unexpectedly sweet – and that the bacon was very tough. I mean, not wings from a pizza pub tough, but still. Meanwhile Jason thought the sweet sauce was exactly what made the burger good.

So maybe they’re not food soulmates after all. We tried to make them fight it out but they didn’t go for that idea.

The burger that breaks up friendships

I got the southwest burger with tots. Cassi was right – the tots were delicious. And the burger was very good. Good flavor, toppings not overwhelming but enough to give it something more than just the taste of meat and bread.

Crispy tots for the win

Cassi got the steak philly with sweet ptato fries. She said it was excellent. She would come back just to get that sandwich again, it was that good.

I’ll take things we didn’t expect to come out of the kitchen here for $1,000 please

Overall the crowd was odd, the mixed drinks weren’t good, and the bartender was nice but more than a little flaky … but the food was surprisingly very good and they had a decent draft list so I guess if that’s what you’re in the mood for, you’re golden. They also have a large projection TV facing into the odd little room across from the bar so at least while sitting where we were at the bar we were entertained – but note that two of the space’s three existing tables are also right there in the path of the projection (and they’re high tops to boot), so if you decide to sit there you may end up either being part of the show or wondering why everyone keeps staring at you as you try to eat your sandwich. And there may be a patio out back – I mean, aside from the large high-fenced in area – so we might have to return when Mother Nature finally decides to grace spring upon northeast Ohio and check that out.

We forgot to take our photos before we left, so you’ll have to survive without seeing our smiling faces this week. Instead I’ll just leave this here, and you can use your imagination.Picked by: Cassi