WTGW 4/5/17: Arnie’s Public House, Akron

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Today’s lesson is in marketing. Specifically, what to name your restaruant that makes it sound inviting and like a place you might want to spend an evening with friends.

Arnie’s Standing Room Only: sounds like a place where we’d be lucky to get in the door, and then stand around awkwardly looking at each other and trying not to spill our beers.

Arnie’s Public House: less like a place you’re going to get jostled around in, but all I can think of is a “bath house” at the lake … and that’s not a very pretty picture either.

OK, so maybe it still falls a bit short of the mark, but progress.

We’ve never been inside this place when it was Arnie’s SRO – although Ted swears to the darkest side of the sun that we at least talked about going here more than once. Hmm. Personally I know I had to look it up in Google maps just to make sure it was where I was thinking it was, so I’m guessing those must be his other friends he’s referring to.

Dammit Ted, we don’t talk about other friends on WTGW. This is our night.

So I read some reviews and everyone agreed that Arnie’s PH was a much improved version of SRO. From what I can gather, they added a new menu/chef, as well as tables and booths for (gasp) seating options. Again, progress.

The place is still small, wedged into the side of a strip plaza. It probably only fits 50-75 people if I had to guess. This proved beneficial when we walked all the way through from what we thought was the front entrance on the patio to the actual front entrance at the back of the place (see also: irony) – only to find a “please seat yourself” sign. Well at least we had already walked past the available tables, and since the place was small we didn’t go too far out of our way.

The bartender helped us to a booth anyway, and explained that there were two bartenders, as well as one server – and she was new, but doing OK, so just give her a chance.

Because that sounds like a setup for eventual disappointment, no? Like “hey, here’s a great car … it looks nice, but it has 400,000 miles, no brakes and is missing a tire, so if you just park it in your driveway and look at it from the side with both tires, it’s really awesome.”

Also, since the bar is considerably smaller – and pouring drinks seems like sometimes it can be less work than waiting tables – it appeared the scales may have been tipped a little bit out of the new girl’s favor there, but whatever.

The beer list seemed decent, although Ted went to order one of his dark beers on tap only to be told it had been replaced with Summer Shandy. I’m liking that the “we’re out of the beer you like” curse has been moved out of my corner for a bit.

In any case, he went with a Thirsty Dog Twisted Kilt, I decided on Angry Orchard, and Shane – in a twist to shock us all – grabbed the Summer Shandy over his usual Bud Light. Color us surprised.

The menu is a mix of things that sound fancy (siracha brussel sprouts, Hungarian stuffed peppers, chicken and waffles) and things that you’d think a bar would have (burgers, chips and dip, sliders, pretzel sticks).

We’ve been on a pretzel stick kick the last few weeks, so we switched it up and went with the hush puppies this time around. Although a bit later – before our hush puppy app arrived – the server approached our table mistakenly with a plate of – what else? – pretzel sticks.

It’s like they knew we’d broken up with them and they were stalking us out to see our new love.

And I guess maybe in some ways they were warning us we were going to be sorry, because the hush puppies ended up not being the best choice. For something that has jalepeno in them – and you could see the actual jalepeno bits – there was zero flavor. Shane commented that normal, non-jalepeno hush puppies have more flavor than these did. This was just like eating a huge ball of cornmeal mush with some green flecks in it – something we all find incredibly delectable, I know.

“Those are some balls” – Shane, as they arrived on the table. Keeping it classy, folks.

The sauce was the only thing that made them even edible, but even that wasn’t anything impressive – I think it just seemed so amazing because it kept the hush puppies from turning your mouth into the Sahara desert and gave the dry bread crumb consistency at least a little bit of flavor. You can tell we didn’t care for them so much when we left one hush puppy on the plate – and even after we were done with our meals still no one touched it. That never happens.

Sorry, pretzels. We never should have doubted you. Please don’t hold it against us.

Shane got the Red Eye burger for his meal, along with a side of the housemade chips and dill dip for his side.

Mmmm … meat

He liked the burger, but because he got it his usual medium rare (and they actually cooked it that way) it was very difficult to eat. It fell apart as soon as he bit into it, so he pretty much had to go the knife and fork route at that point.

Good thing we weren’t still “standing room only” or that could’ve gotten messy.

I got the chicken tacos for my meal, only replaced the tortillas with a lettuce wrap. I guess I’ll be playing the part of “healthy Shane” this evening. Although I did get the homemade chips and dill dip as my side, too, so there’s that.

It looks pretty until you attempt to eat it

The chicken was really good, it was broken up into small pieces and very well seasoned with a little spicy kick. Lettuce wraps are a bit tricky to navigate, so I eventually resorted to fork bites also – which meant I kind of just ate the lettuce separately and could’ve just asked them to heap the chicken, cheese and filling from the tacos right onto my plate – but whatever, it was still good.

I will say both of us were disappointed in the chips, though. They were flimsy, and tasted more like the oil they were cooked in than the actual potato. Maybe slice them a bit thicker in the future. I mean, some of us actually like the taste of potato and not just air and oil, thanks.  And the dip was just OK. We’re more French Onion people than dill folks, I guess.

Ted got the special for the evening, which was a pasta dish with shrimp and sausage. He said he was about halfway down the menu and had a few items in mind that he was considering when the server came over to tell us about the specials, and once he heard that one he decided it cancelled all the other options out.

Because “pasta special” sounds less goofy than “goulash”

He really liked the pasta dish, even though he said that it was essentially goulash. He commented that he hadn’t realized the place had a bit of a Hungarian theme going on, but once he ate that and remembered things like the stuffed peppers on theh menu, it made sense. But overall he was happy, his meal was very good.

I guess all in all, Arnie’s isn’t a bad place … it just wasnt the best, either. It seems like even though the transition to this new restaurant with more seating isn’t a brand new thing, they’re still working out some of the kinks. And I know our server was new, but she was still exceptionally slow. I mean, there were three, maybe four tables total that she was handling – but it just seemed like she wasn’t getting the hang of timing for everyone.

Case in point:  when she came around asking if we wanted a third round of drinks, and we said no … she scampered away before we could ask for the checks, and then took forever to reappear to finally ask if we did, in fact, want them. No, we’d just like to sit here and stare at one another over empty glasses, please. I mean, usually being done with your meal and refusing another round of drinks is a universal sign for “we’re pretty much ready to head out, thanks.” But it was like she read some manual for how to be a server, and had time slots she had to fill for each of those questions. “OK they said no to more drinks, now avoid them and wait the appropriate 10 minutes before returning to ask if they want the check so they don’t feel rushed out.”

And the bartenders who warned us about her newness also weren’t going out of their way to help her, either. We know she put in our order for our second round of drinks, and we watched the one bartender pour said drinks … but rather than walk them over to our table (as we already mentioned, the place is pretty small so I’m fairly sure those 20 steps wouldn’t cause him to break a sweat, plus I know he saw our empty glasses lined up on the edge of our table) – he waited for her to come pick them up. All the while bartender #2 was too busy doing shots with someone who appeared to be either the owner or manager and his little group of friends at the bar to even notice us at all. Nice.

As Shane would say “John Taffer would be disappointed.”

Picked by: Steph
Next pick: Ted

Ted

Shane – trying to hide so no one saw his grade

Steph

Arnie's Standing Room Only Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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WTGW 12/7/16: Tim’s Pizzeria & Pub, Cuyahoga Falls

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Wait, what’s this, two places in a row in our own backyard we haven’t been to yet? It’s like Christmas.

Also, we seem to be on an Italian kick now. First two weeks of Irish, now our second week of Italian. We seem to like themes all of a sudden.

Truth be told, unlike last week’s pick, we’ve probably driven past Tim’s Pizzeria about 4 billion times, and Shane has usually been the one to exclaim that eventually he was going to pick it. But it also looks just a tad on the sketchy side from the outside, so he was a little wary. I mean, it kind of looks like a house.

Although if you’ve been reading this blog then you know that’s actually right up Shane’s alley. And you also know that that’s burned us in the past (*ahem* that place in Solon *ahem*) so he has to be careful not to become labeled as the guy who picks crappy house diners.

Good thing this pick was nothing like that.

Our group was back to a threesome this week, as Amanda wasn’t feeling well and Jerrid decided to sit this week out. Welcome to winter and cold season in NEOhio.

We started out with dark beers for Shane and Ted – Guinness and Breckenridge Vanilla Porter – and Angry Orchard for me. There’s not a huge beer selection at Tim’s. But Shane loved the glasses, which seemed to spin on the table, so I guess that makes up for it?

Yes, he’s 12.

The place is known for its pizza. Bet you couldn’t guess that from the name, right? So of course pizza connoisseur Shane had to try that. But only after quizzing the server on the eggplant parm and if it was better than the specialty pizza he had in mind to order – the stuffed banana pepper pizza. She said both choices were good, but the pizza was one of their unique specialties.

Sold.

He also got calamari as an app. Because, Shane.

if it's on the menu, it will likely be on our table.

if it’s on the menu, it will likely be on our table.

I stuck to the same pattern as last week, rigatoni. But this time it was baked, which is really just code for “loaded with cheese.”

You’re speaking my language, Tim’s.

Plus I just like to gross Ted.

It also came with a bowl-of-cheese-they-call-a-salad (I’m pretty sure I could get used to these Italian places and their definition of healthy foods) and bread.

Another delicious salad made the way they should be made

Another delicious salad made the way they should be made

And I ordered an app of fried mushrooms. Because, me. And also because they were $2.95. I mean, how can you not?

Meanwhile, on the other side of the table, Ted got a little smorgasbord all for himself. He said he wanted to try a bunch of different things and couldn’t decide between them.

A small 3-course meal just for Ted

A small 3-course meal just for Ted

So he got a 4-cut pizza with pepperoni, sausage and mushrooms. And the ravioli. And to his credit, he originally only wanted to order six of the garlic hot wings (because we’ve already established that someone has to order wings – I mean, why stop the streak now?) but the server told him that they only come in orders of 10. So he was like what the hell, go with it.

Such a team player.

Oh look, wings. What a surprise.

Oh look, wings. What a surprise.

Our server also got huge props, as we were doing our usual joking with Ted about his dislike of cheese, and the server piped in and offered to make his pizza without it. Wait, what? You can do that? Is it still technically a pizza without cheese?

So that's what a cheese-less pizza looks like. It's so ... naked.

So that’s what a cheese-less pizza looks like. It’s so … naked.

I’m so confused.

But Ted was super happy, so that’s all that matters.

The calamari was good, just not very flavorful. The mushrooms ended up being the big hit of the appetizer portion of the meal, though. I mean, Shane even really liked them – and he normally likes mushrooms the least of any fried veggie.

Deep fried deliciousness

Deep fried deliciousness

Ted said his pizza was good. And so were the wings. But the ravioli as just OK, he said it kinda tasted store bought. Probably could’ve done without that part of his meal, if he had to pick one thing on his whole side of the table to get rid of.

These seem naked, too. Poor pasta.

These seem naked, too. Poor pasta.

Shane was in love with his stuffed banana pepper pizza. Like so in love that I almost got jealous. He said it was a great concept, definitely unique and super tasty. The crust was good, light but crispy. And the peppers were spicy … so, you know it’s a good thing he added more crushed red pepper before he even tasted it.

Watch it pizza, I can totally take you.

Watch it pizza, I can totally take you.

The extra red peppers were actually Ted’s suggestion. Clearly he cares a lot about Shane.

The baked rigatoni was delicious. Worlds above last week’s pasta dish. It had good sauce and flavor, wasn’t over cooked – and the crap-ton of cheese certainly didn’t suck either. In fact, word of warning, I burned my tongue on the very first bite, as I couldn’t wait to dig in and forgot about all the heat that lives under that layer of cheese. But honestly I didn’t care. It was too delicious to wait.

This is like heaven

This is like heaven

Overall, Tim’s is a great spot. It had a really good atmosphere, they were playing fun older music – and it seemed like the crowd were a mix of a lot of regulars and a few newbies like us, but yet no one made us feel like we didn’t belong there. We also saw lots of carry out orders being picked up, so that’s something I think we all filed away for later use. We also noticed a sign on the wall that they’ll be having a Christmas party in a few weeks – on a Wednesday, no less, so that seems like it was made for us. We might have to hijack that WTGW pick and come back in for that one. But even if not then, we’ll definitely be back.

I mean, you can only keep Shane away from his new love for so long, right?

Steph

Steph

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

Picked by: Shane
Next pick: Steph

Tim's Pizzeria & Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 11/30/16: Retz’s Laconis, Cuyahoga Falls

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Watch out, after two weeks of Irish food we’re breaking our streak and moving on to a different ethnicity … Italian.

And we all laugh as we watch Ted’s face as he attempts to avoid cheese pitfalls. Oh the fun!

So I have to ask, for real, where has this place been these past three years? I mean, I thought we’d exhausted pretty much every bar/restaurant in our own little town – hence why we sometimes travel up to 40 minutes away for a new pick. Meanwhile little did we know Retz’s Laconis was lurking on some side street we’ve apparently never ventured down before. It’s like the Bermuda Triangle of WTGW.

Hmm.

Adding to that theory, Shane and I parked outside in the back lot, next to a particularly shady Suburban that both of us were fairly certain someone was living in. But it was gone when we came out later in the evening, so I guess not. Unless it was swallowed by the Triangle?

You never know.

Also seemingly lost: the front door. When a building is on a corner, it’s helpful to label the appropriate front side so you know which door to enter. We chose the first door we saw, a not very well labeled one which fortunately for us led directly into the bar where Jerrid, Amanda and Ted were waiting. We chose wisely. Had we picked door #2 around the corner we would’ve ended up in the dining room. I only know this because several people entered through the bar door looking to do the opposite of what we did. They were not as wise.

Amanda and Jerrid were there way early (surprise!) and had ordered the bacon ranch pizza as an app. They left us a few pieces to try, and we all agreed it was OK. The crust seemed like a frozen crust, not fresh made. And it was also a little too ranch-y – and, yes, smartasses, we know the name of the dish – but let’s just say the ranch overpowered the bacon. And bacon should never be second fiddle, am I right?

This appetizer didn't look like this by the time Shane and I arrived

This appetizer didn’t look like this by the time Shane and I arrived

But when you’re hungry, it did the trick, so there’s that.

Salads came with mine, Shane and Amanda’s meals, so naturally those arrived at our table first. Although let’s be clear, by “salad” we really just mean a pile of cheese with some lettuce underneath.

This has to be the most nutritious salad ever

This has to be the most nutritious salad ever

See also: Ted’s nightmare.

I got the rigatoni with meat sauce and meatballs.

Pasta, take one

Pasta, take one

Amanda got the baked cheese ravioli.

Pasta, take two

Pasta, take two

Shane got the eggplant parm, after his interrogation of the server revealed that it’s actually rolled in ricotta cheese and deep fried. Bingo! That’s like saying the secret password to Shane. Because deep frying anything can only make it better, right?

Exactly.

This is probably even healthier than that salad, no?

This is probably even healthier than that salad, no?

He also got an order of the garlic parm wings, because we can’t seem to go a week without someone ordering wings at our table.

Wings. What a surprise.

Wings. What a surprise.

He then also tried to order another app until I made fun of him.

Me: “And I’ll also take the whole left hand side of the menu please.”
Shane: “Never mind, I’m good.”

Ted got the acid wings. Because that sounds appetizing, no? And also a burger with no cheese. Because who cares that we’re at an Italian place. You know when you see items like that on the menu and think “who comes to an Italian place and orders a burger and wings?”

Ted. Ted does.

That's the most Italian looking hamburger I've ever seen.

That’s the most Italian looking hamburger I’ve ever seen.

Non-acidic wings

Non-acidic wings

Along those same lines, Jerrid got the dark chicken meal. Pasta is clearly overrated. See also: why all of our meals took forever to arrive. It’s like New Era all over again.

Where are we again?

Where are we again?

About this time when we were ordering we also noticed our server’s t-shirt, that boasted the place has the “best balls in the Falls.” Clever.

Unfortunately, though, I have to disagree. I thought my meatballs had absolutely zero taste. Same for my rigatoni. Maybe my taste buds took the night off, although the cheese on the salad and the bread tasted OK to me. As did the crap-ton of crushed red pepper and parm cheese that I added to the pasta. But the pasta and meat, no flavor whatsoever. Boo.

Ted said his acid wings were not overly hot. He may be the only person to ever say that. Maybe his taste buds were on strike along with mine.

He only ate his wings and fries, didn’t even touch his burger because he was too full. Which seemed odd until Jerrid pointed out Ted did have two Christmas Ales, so that was kind of like having another meal all in itself.

Point taken.

Jerrid liked the chicken, said it was better than New Era. And Amanda liked her raviloi.

Shane didn’t eat his wings because he was too full. Maybe he and Ted should stop ordering basically two entrees? Just an idea. But he did try one, though – I think mainly to see if he should even bother with the to-go box – and said it was good. He said the eggplant parm was “different, but OK.”

Overall Retz’s is an OK place for a little neighborhood restaurant and bar. The bar area is pretty small, so it’s gets a little crowded – but never so much that you feel like strangers are about to seat themselves at your table and start helping themselves to your food. Our server was good and attentive for the most part, the exception being when Amanda tried about 10 times unsuccessfully to get herself a water. But then Jerrid asked and it was delivered in a second. So I guess the moral is that if you’re female and ordering something non-alcoholic you might want to be prepared to wait a bit. Interesting.

Picked by: Jerrid
Next pick: Shane

Steph

Steph

Amanda

Amanda

Jerrid

Jerrid

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

Retz's Laconi's II Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 9/7/16: New Era, Akron

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Ah, New Era. Otherwise known as a place that maybe should have the word “Chalet” in the title. We may have figured out where at least some of those former patrons defected to after good ole Gus’s closed a while back.

Which may also explain why the place was nearly empty when we arrived just before 7PM. And why by 8:15PM we were getting the “I really hope they leave soon so we can all go home” glances from the staff.

Because that’s fun.

OK, full disclosure – Shane and I have actually eaten here before, not all that long ago, when his parents invited us out to eat with them. And I think both of us were in silent agreement that while the place wasn’t awful, it just wasn’t our scene. Maybe because we aren’t over the age of 50. Whatevs.

So considering Ted’s track record with picking places for that age bracket, it didn’t really surprise us when he announced this as his pick. And since it is, in fact, Ted’s pick and he hasn’t been here before then it’s still within the WTGW group visit rules.

Yes, we have rules. We take this very seriously. Please.

Just in case it would provide us with a different experience this time around, we opted for seating in the bar area instead of the dining room. Plus we like beer, and it’s best to be closer to it in these instances. I mean, priorities.

We could’ve brought about 87 of our closest friends into the bar area with us, too, BTW. When the bartender told us to take a seat anywhere, I think all of our eyes immediately drifted to the banquet room style area just past the actual bar. It was like showing up to a wedding reception on the wrong night.

So that explains why we sat at the bar. Well, that and the “we like beer” line from a few paragraphs ago. Try to keep up. We were also the only ones in the room, save for the bartender and one other bar stool warmer, who I only heard utter two sentences the entire time we shared the same air: “Another beer please,” and “Can I get a bag of chips?”

Clearly his entertaining budget is minimal. But at least he’s polite.

Now, when I say bar, know that that word is used in kind of a satirical form here. Meaning that I think we have more variety of beer in our fridge right now than they do here. There’s three beers on draft – Miller lite, Bud light and Molson. Wait, Molson? That’s something you don’t see everyday. I’m not guessing there’s a huge influx of Canadians in this part of Akron. Must be their version of a “fancy” beer.

Ted inquired about any dark beers in bottles .. and ended up with a Killians. So no then. The rest of us just went the simple lite draft route. Because, simplicity.

But honestly, this place is really more of an ethnic, family restaurant than a true bar and grille. Which is a nice change for our group in some ways … but it also translates to “instead of grease, you’ll eat a lot of heavy comfort food.” Pick your poison, I guess.

In an effort to stick as close to our usual bar & grille roots as possible, though, we all ordered something fried for appetizers. See also: we love to test the fate of our arteries. Shane and I got the mozzarella sticks, Ted got breaded mushrooms, and Jerrid and Amanda gt the jalepeno poppers. All of which were good – because, well let’s face it, if they screwed those up then there was really no hope for our actual meals.

I'm not sure why we even take pictures of these, they look the same everywhere

I’m not sure why we even take pictures of these, they look the same everywhere

More fried stuff

More fried stuff

We should just bring our own deep fryer with us

We should just bring our own deep fryer with us

They also brought out a basket of bread, and a plate of something they referred to as sweet raisin bread. You could’ve called it “heaven on a plate,” because I think we all proclaimed that bread to be the real winner of the evening. It was warm, and you didn’t even need butter, it was that sweet.

There’s a joke there. I’ll let you all use your imaginations.

The lone survivor. Which I think disappeared about five minutes after this photo.

The lone survivor. Which I think disappeared about five minutes after this photo.

OK, so the special on Wednesdays is stuffed peppers. Which Ted was all over. Although once the pepper – yes, single pepper – arrived in front of him he was almost visibly disappointed that there was only one on the plate. But after he started eating it he said he knew that two would’ve been way too much food. And if you’ve been following along you know those are not words we throw around lightly in this group. He said it was super filling and really good.

Don't let the size fool you.

Don’t let the size fool you.

Shane got the spaghetti and meatballs. Well, OK, the actual dish is spaghetti and meatball – singular, what is it with lonely food at this place? – but this is Shane so you know he wouldn’t be happy with just one. He ordered a second one for $1.50, which ended up being just enough.

"I'd like an extra ball, please"

“I’d like an extra ball, please”

Jerrid got the all dark meat fried chicken. Because he apparently wanted to hold up all of our orders coming out of the kitchen at the same time, since we were told that the chicken takes the longest to make. Dammit Jerrid.

Fried, fried and kinda, sorta vegetable

Fried, fried and kinda, sorta vegetable

He said it was good, no complaints. Well, other than trying to get the parmesan cheese to pour out of the container onto his side dishes, but that’s besides the point.

Chicken, are you ready for your closeup?

Chicken, are you ready for your closeup?

On a related note, that was what Shane and I had gotten the last time we were there – I got the all white meat, and Shane got mixed – and we thought it was just OK. Not a lot of flavor to it, although that may have been because our taste buds were burned off after it was delivered to us at a scalding, hotter-than-the-sun remperature. I swear I couldn’t feel my fingertips for the next day and a half after picking those pieces up.

But I digress.

Amanda and I were almost twinsies with our orders this week, as I got the chili and a grilled ham and cheese – and Amanda also got chili but had to one-up me in the healthy department with a chef salad. Thanks. Although joke was on her because they sneakily put onions on the salad, which didn’t make her happy.

Wait, this isn't fried ... is that allowed?

Wait, this isn’t fried … is that allowed?

But aside from OnionGate she said things were good.

I was disappointed that my chili was cold (did they turn down the temp on everything since our last visit? WTH.) but the sandwich was good.

Chilled chili = not as impressive

Chilled chili = not as impressive

Will we go back? Eh. I mean, the food was OK, but nothing I absolutely have to have again … as evidenced when Ted announced his pick on our drive over and Shane and I just kind of looked at each other like he had told us he was taking us for an evening of bowling with a pack of housecats. I mean, it’s certainly not horrible – on the one-to-Gus’s meter (with Gus’s being the worst, obviously) I would give it about a seven. But honestly that’s more for the atmosphere than for the food itself. We’re lively people, and being able to hear a pin drop in the bar, or feel like you might scare the old grandmother-turned-chef in the back of the kitchen if you cheer during the ballgame isn’t exactly our idea of a fun night. Granted it was a cheap night – less than $50 for drinks, an app and meals for both Shane and I … but that also was partially because the “we’re locking the door behind you as soon as you walk out of it” stares from the employees also meant we left before the sun even went down.

Steph

Steph

Amanda

Amanda

Imitating Amanda

Imitating Amanda

Ted

Ted

Imitating Shane

Imitating Shane

Shane's new nickname should just be "the blur"

Shane’s new nickname should just be “the blur”

???

???

Practicing his cheerleading moves

Practicing his cheerleading moves?

Whatever.

Whatever.

Picked by: Ted
Next pick: Jerrid

New Era Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 1/6/16: Danny Boy’s, North Canton

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Happy New Year!

And what better way to just basically continue the food-and-drink-fest-that-is-the-holiday-season than by hitting up an Italian restaurant with huge portions and potent drinks? We know how to live, folks. I mean, until we all die of heart attacks, liver damage and high cholesterol, that is. Yay cheese and carbs!

So, yes, the first WTGW of 2016 takes us to the North Canton location of Danny Boy’s. There are actually four other locations in the Cleveland/Akron area – Rocky River, Chesterland, Sandusky and Broadview Heights. Their website says the chain started at the Rocky River location in 1991 – which shocked the hell out of me, because the interior of the North Canton location seemed to be dated well before that time. I mean, it’s not quite Gus’s Chalet … but it’s also not the sports bar they appear to be on some of the photos on their website by any means.

(Gotta be sure to start out the new year with our weekly digs at good ole Gus’s Chalet. It just doesn’t seem right otherwise)

But seriously, the place is way smaller on the inside than I thought it would be – both from the photos online and also just from the outside of the building. It’s like you walk in expecting a large dining room and separate bar area … and what you get instead is a room divided down the middle by a short wall and a glass partition, with the dark bar area on one side, and an even darker dining room on the other. Cozy. So, I wonder, what are they using all the space in the back of the building for? I mean, unless the kitchen is the size of a small yacht, I have to think there’s some giant dance floor/gym area back there that the staff is using between orders.

Also, if you don’t like the ambiance of Sinatra music with your meal, you might want to dine elsewhere. Or bring headphones.

Anyway, Danny Boy’s is known for their pizza and Italian food – but keep in mind that they menu is far more than that. Like 18 pages more than that. In the mood for calzones or stromboli? Got it. A big salad? Yep. Sandwiches, subs and appetizers? Sure thing. Burgers or ribs? No worries. Something called a “Woogie Melt”? Yeah, I have absolutely no idea what that is, but it’s on the menu.

Eventually I think we all got to the point where we were just kind of flipping the pages aimlessly and figured we would just point to an entree on whatever page we were resting on when the server next came to our table.

Amanda and Jerrid had gotten there early and had a drink and appetizer at the bar before the rest of us arrived, then just migrated to a nearby larger table in the same area once we got there. They had started with Captain and cokes for drinks … which Jerrid promptly switched away from after Shane ordered a Long Island and Jerrid saw it was served in a “cool” mason jar. It was like a repeat of Rush Hour Grille.

Jerrid finally gets his drink in a mason glass

Jerrid finally gets his drink in the cool kids glass

Ah, bromance.

Ted also started with Captain and coke, until it occurred to him that they were super tasty and he would drink them too fast … and since he was our driver and we were a good half hour from home then maybe wasn’t the best plan. Smart guy, that one. He switched to beer, even though the primarily domestic non-craft beer list was somewhat difficult for him to navigate. Because we all know Ted doesn’t enjoy Miller Lite.

We started out with an order of breadsticks for the table … which, let’s be honest here, these things they call bread sticks are more like bread pillows. And they were heavenly. Shane’s comment was that they’re “just the right kind of soft dough.” Whatever that means. All it translates to me is that I could eat just a full plate of these if left alone with them. Delicious.

Heavenly little bread pillows

Heavenly little carb-and-butter-laden pillows

For our meals, it was the tale of two orders at our table: the pizzas vs the pastas. It’s like the Jets vs the Sharks, but without the music. Or stellar choreography.

Representing the pizzas we had Shane with a NY style pizza with pepperoni and sweet red peppers, and Ted with a Chicago style deep dish.

On the pasta side, Amanda got the “Spotlight Peppers and Pasta,” I had the “Guys and Dolls Baked Penne,”and Jerrid got the “Old Blue Eyes Mac & Cheese.”

I think you’re probably sensing by now that the whole Sinatra theme goes far beyond the choice of music.

Sausage, peppers and pasta, oh my

Sausage, peppers and pasta, oh my

Carb and cheese overload

Carb and cheese overload

More pasta, different color

More pasta, different color

Everyone ended up being relatively happy with their orders. Ted for once got a pizza that he didn’t have to pick the cheese off the top of before consuming. Although the cheese does come baked on the inside of the pizza – a fact that at least he was aware of beforehand or else that first bite could’ve been ugly. He ended up taking about 1/3 of his pizza home with him, because a medium was way too much. And judging by the take home box that I lifted as we were walking out, I can’t say I blame him.

Ted finally gets his wish of a cheese-less pizza (on top anyway)

Ted – no cheese, this looks perfect!

Shane wasn’t as crazy about the sauce on his pizza – he likes a sweeter sauce, and this wasn’t that. But he still ate his entire medium pizza by himself. I’m not sure exactly what that says other than he was hungry and it’s still pizza, so he wasn’t going to waste it.

Now that's a pizza

Now that’s a pizza

And he was the only one without a to-go box when we left, as Amanda, Jerrid and I all took at least half of our meals home with us. It was all good – but it was like we each had some weird strain of regenerating pasta in our bowls that grew back as soon as we took a few bites. Seriously, after at least 20 minutes of eating it looked like we had just really been using our forks to mix things around in each of our bowls and not transporting any of the contents to our mouths.

I, mean, really – compare these to the pasta photos above.

I swear I was eating it. Honest.

Hmmm, seems very similar

Twenty minutes and umpteen forkfuls later ... and it looks like it was never touched.

It just won’t go away!

**update** Just a note, those left overs ended up being one large and two small meals for me after this trip. What? That means there are easily three to four portions served there. In one bowl. If anyone can finish that in one sitting I imagine a wheelbarrow is necessary to get them to the car afterwards. I’m not sure if I would be proud or horrified of that person. 

All in all Danny Boy’s was a good place for huge portions of Italian food … but just not the dining atmosphere we typically gravitate to. The service was OK – although, let’s face it, after last week’s inability to get beverages – or really attention of any kind – our server here really just had to show up more than twice all night and we would be impressed. They should thank Mason Jar for totally lowering our expectations.

But I do actually kind of wish there was a location closer to our house just so we could do carry out – with the huge menu and the amount of food you get for your money, I think this could easily become a go-to staple for quick no-hassle dinners. Or do you think we could convince them to just deliver us orders of bread pillows like once a week?

Shane

Shane

Ted

Ted

Jerrid

Jerrid

Amanda

Amanda

Steph

Steph

Photobomb by Shane

Photobomb by Shane

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Steph

Drinks:  While the beer list wasn’t overly impressive, the specialty cocktails were a hit at our table. Although, let’s be honest, after last week’s issues we were just happy to have beverages of any kind this time around. 
Food:
Come hungry. And bring 15 of your friends to help you eat one meal. I think Shane was the only one at the table who didn’t leave with a to-go box … because, well, Shane.
Service: Something else we were just happy to have at all after last week’s pick. Danny Boy’s should give a huge thank you nod to Mason Jar for making regular things like checking in a table seem awesome.
Overall: Another example of how one part of the place can kill it for a few people in the group. While the food was good and the service decent – the atmosphere at this location just wasn’t what a group like ours would return for.

Next Pick: Amanda

Danny Boys Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 9/23/15: Prestier Pub, Canton

Standard

Apparently we’re on a Canton kick lately. Hey Cuyahoga Falls peeps, build some new places!

So, fair warning, Prestier Pub is way shady looking from the outside. Like beyond most of the places we’ve visited in the past, and that’s really saying a lot. It’s located at the tail end of a strip plaza (hey, another one! surprise!) that I think has more available spaces than rented ones. And those that are occupied are filled with things like a church (because God preaches best in a former empty storefront), a dollar store (duh, that’s a strip plaza staple) and a place advertising “real human hair extensions” (enough said).

Keepin it classy, Canton.

Plus if you come in the back way – like we did, thanks Google Maps – you’ll be looking at the very side end of the building and not the front of it … which isn’t the best view. Give that a minute to seep in, considering what I just told you about this plaza. We actually drove all the way around the back of the building just to park in the lot out front. I think we’re all feeling fortunate it was still daylight when this part of the adventure occurred.

Why am I telling you this? Well, because as an avid reader of restaurant reviews myself, I felt like I was at least somewhat prepared for these sights upon arrival, just based on what, well, essentially everyone in the known universe (or the Akron/Canton area, whateves) had said about Prestier already. I believe the most common phrase was something to the effect of Prestier being the epitome of dive bar … but that the food was really good, so it was worth the adventure.

I’m not sure we’d all use the words “really good” to describe the meals we had here … but I think we’d all agree that the menu was definitely a surprise compared to what you would think a place like this would serve you. Dive bar usually means bar food: greasy burgers, frozen chicken wings, deep fried anything. Instead we had actual meals. Like pasta with seafood. And garlic bread. And dinner salads.

Hmm.

We sat out on the front patio on our visit – partially because 1.) it seemed pretty packed and non air-conditioned inside the bar, 2.) we weren’t really certain how the whole seat yourself vs wait for a hostess to seat you situation was played out there, and 3.) it was actually nice enough to sit outside. Did you hear that Mother Nature?? It’s mid-September, and we still sat out on a patio. It may have gotten dark about 3.2 seconds after we sat down, and of course there wasn’t much to help illuminate the table other than the giant “OPEN” sign on the door (ambiance, be damned) – but we were still on a patio. So there. Guess we haven’t done that for so long that you forgot that you’re supposed to crap all over us weather-wise on Wednesdays, eh? Ha ha. Tricked ya.

Although, side note, my mention above about the darkness of the patio should be taken into consideration when viewing the photos from this visit. Then again, it kind of just looks like we lived inside of an Instagram filter for the evening. Take that, hipsters.

In any case, whether it was because we essentially sat ourselves out there or because the patio is apparently not commonly used for meals on September evenings after dark, it took a hot minute for our server to come find us. In fact I think Ted actually had to go inside at one point and just alert someone – anyone – that we were, in fact, sitting out there. But once she finally was able to come greet us it was all good from there.

The Harvest Pumpkin Shandy from last week has become the new group favorite, as me, Ted and Amanda all jumped on that as soon as we saw it on the seasonal list. One of us clearly needs to buy stock in Leininkugel Brewing Company. And hard alcohol of some kind, too, as Shane is apparently still in his “sissy drink” phase. Which equated to  two Long Islands (which he swore later were actually whiskey sours) and then a switch to rum and diet. Or just rum. It was hard to say.

We had a special guest with our group this week, Amanda’s boyfriend Jerrid. Who ironically enough actually has a history with our group and the whole WTGW experience, as that’s how the two of them met. I know, right? It’s a story for another time, folks, but let’s just say that if they ever get married I have a strong feeling I know where the reception might be. Ha.

Since we were now a group of five, clearly that was just begging us to order more food. I mean, really. We hardly ever order enough for just us, and now there’s another mouth at the table? For real. I think we miscounted, though, because the sheer number of appetizers alone was probably enough to feed us and half the people gathered around the cool-ass bar inside Prestier. We joked that we probably should just pull another table over near ours and make an appetizer buffet that we could all graze through over the course of the evening.

It’s really too bad that most of the apps and wing orders came out at a different time than the other actual meals or else the picture of the entire table covered in just plates of food would’ve been spectacular. Or sad. Whatever.

Jerrid ordered the Southwest egg rolls, which sounded weird but were actually really good. They were like tiny bean burritos rolled up in a shell and deep fried. So, really, how can you go wrong there?

Tiny fried burritos

Tiny fried burritos

Ted jumped on ordering the calamari, after he nearly fell out of his chair in shock that Shane didn’t do so himself. We all tried some of it, and agreed it was excellent. It definitely had a spicy kick to it, but that just made it better. And the garlic sauce that came with it was equally fantastic – so much so that we made a point to ask what kind of sauce it was.

It's definitely fresh

It’s definitely fresh

Side note – had we waited until the end of our meals, we wouldn’t have had to ask. I’m going to break some glass for everyone reading this: the not-so-secret ingredient in everything at Prestier is garlic. And salt. Or maybe garlic salt. In any case, I’m not sure we had one item this evening that didn’t have garlic of some kind in it.

I kind of feel like there should really be a giant vampire in a red circle with a slash across it on the front door of this place. It seems like a lost marketing opportunity somehow.

The guys all also ordered wings as apps – because, clearly, wings aren’t just enough to be meals on their own anymore. My bad. Plus a dozen wings were only $5.99. Wait, what? Exactly. It’s like they had to order them just on principle after seeing that.

To the same point, Ted ordered two pork chops – because, well, to order just one chop was only $4.00 less than ordering two, so why the hell not? Clearly we need a lot of fancy marketing to encourage this group. His meal came with mashed potatoes and asparagus, all of which he said was really good, but just very salty. See comments above on that one.

Not the presentation you'd expect from a dive bar

Not the presentation you’d expect from a dive bar

Jerrid got a cheeseburger with “all the cheeses.” That’s not actually the name of it, or how it’s prepared … but when the waitress gave him three cheese options to choose from, Jerrid’s response was just “yes.” So if you like cheese, remember that’s apparently an option.

All the cheeses, please

All the cheeses, please

Also, Jerrid is essentially the exact opposite of Ted. It’s like finding your reverse doppleganger.

Amanda and I were both a bit ready to take a break from burgers and wings and all things deep fried, and went the pasta route this week. I had the Seafood Pasta in the olive oil (not creamy) sauce. Which was good, but almost had too much going on in one dish. Two big pieces of shrimp, 4 or 5 mussels, scallops, large mushrooms, spinach … and of course pasta. Because nothing in that list sounds filling at all, thanks. Amanda also was pushing the last remnants of her meal – the Fettuccine Alfredo with chicken – around her plate for a while, trying to find room to fit it all into her stomach.

Seafood extravaganza

Seafood extravaganza

You know what we did leave on our plates, though? The full cloves of garlic. It only takes biting into one of those once to realize you want to do your best to avoid that experience again. Which, as mentioned previously, is easier said than done in this particular establishment.

Cooked with love. And garlic

Cooked with love. And garlic

Shane took advantage of some of the group’s previously mentioned mad review-reading skills, and ordered the full rack of ribs off the “specials” menu. Because, in addition to warning us on the shadiness of the place, everything we read in advance also said that if the ribs were available on special, you should definitely order them. And, knowing Shane, you know that ordering ribs doesn’t require much arm twisting. So there’s that. They came with two sides, so he got the garlic mashed potatoes and the garlic toast. Which really could’ve just been called “mashed potatoes” and “toast,” because I think at this point the garlic is just implied in everything.

No, that's not a smoker's lung

No, that’s not a smoker’s lung

Also, his wing flavor from his appetizer? Honey garlic. Which was completely gross. I mean, he still powered through – this is WTGW after all, we don’t waste food. But still. Enough already. There’s a nearby garlic farm somewhere that stays well in business just from this place alone. 

Honey + garlic = no thank you

Honey + garlic = no thank you

So all in all, Prestier isn’t horrible. I mean, on our rating scale, it’s definitely no Gus’ Chalet. But it’s also not up to what the 4.5 – 5-star ratings we saw on the other reviews would imply.  While it’s definitely a nice change to be able to get more “dinner-ish” type meals than sandwiches and fries – especially at a dive bar – it wasn’t something any of us were running back to rave to our friends about, either. And the novelty of ordering meals like that in a place like this will really only get you so far if the actual food quality isn’t there. Wings aside, some of the meals – particularly my pasta dish, and basically anything involving seafood – were really a bit pricey, especially considering the atmosphere. Also, our bottles of beer were warm – and while she did realize this and bring us cold glasses with the first round, those glasses weren’t replenished along with the new (still warm) bottles. I’d have to say that even if I found myself in this area again – which, I mean, let’s be honest, unless I have a sudden desire to invest in some “real hair extensions,” is probably a resounding not-a-chance-in-hell – I’m not sure this would be the first name to come to mind on my list of must re-visits.

Steph

Steph

Shane

Shane. And the infamous “OPEN” sign lighting the patio

Ted

Ted, whose thumb blends into his shirt

Amanda

Amanda

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Steph

Drinks:  If warm seasonal beer and mixed drinks that may or may not be what you actually ordered are your thing, then you’re in the right place. 
Food:
Vampires beware. And whatever is repulsed by salt. Those may be the only two spices this place owns.
Service: OK. I mean, yes, we did kind of seat ourselves. And I realize the patio isn’t all that appealing after dark. But to say we felt ignored at first would be an understatement.
Overall: I’m puzzled at how this place gets decent reviews. While I’ll admit it was different getting real meals in a dive bar atmosphere, that novelty doesn’t appeal enough to any of us to warrant a return trip.

Next Pick:  Amanda

WTGW 10/22/14: Belleria, Kent

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Well hello there Kent, long time no see …

I have to admit, it felt a bit like like de ja vu for this week’s WTGW, between the drive into town and parking in the same garage as we did last week. With Ted spending some time working in the area right now, he’s apparently discovered a plethora of restaurants we haven’t visited yet. And because he can’t go to them for lunch until we’ve visited them as a group (at least if he still wants to keep it as a pick), I think it’s safe to say Ted has the Kent market covered for a little while.

Belleria is a bit hard to find – it’s tucked away on the upper level of buildings, with the entrance facing a fire escape type stairway and a teeny tiny parking lot. So I guess it’s a good thing Ted scoped it out ahead of time and could lead us right to the front door.

The restaurant is very bright on the inside, and the atmosphere is more of a family place than a college town pizza shop. In fact, I was kind of surprised they even serve alcohol.Although they don’t serve much of it – only a few on draft (Bud Lite, Yuengling, and a couple of Great Lakes specialites), domestics in bottles, and some wines.

We all went for the Miller Lite bottles – except, of course, for original Ted, who went with the Great Lakes Nosfuratu. Which is something none of us can even pronounce, much less drink. And to which we all joked “What did you order Ted? … Nostradamous? … God Bless You? … No Soup For You?” Because we’re 12.

Belleria bills itself as an Italian eatery, which it most definitely is. But they also have a very extensive menu, with everything from pizza to sandwiches to salads to pastas – so don’t rule the place out even if you aren’t actually in the mood for Italian food.

Case in point, the appetizer menu has selections seemingly from the county fair circuit. Ted got the fried zucchini sticks. Because, “that’s a vegetable, right?” Um, sure. Meanwhile, Shane ordered the fried veggie basket. We’ll get to why he regretted that later in a minute.

It's still a vegetable even if it's deep fried, right?

It’s still a vegetable even if it’s deep fried, right?

Food we clearly didn't need to order.

Food we clearly didn’t need to order.

For entrees, I went with the baked rigatoni with sausage. It was basically a bowl of rigatoni, with spicy hot sausage, covered with melted mozzerella cheese. Being that I’m not cheese-hater Ted, there really is nothing bad I can say about that. I only ate about half of it – because, well, pasta is filling – but I will admit I’m already dreaming about the leftovers for lunch or dinner.

There's pasta under there somewhere

There’s pasta under there somewhere

Amanda had the meatball sub. Which she was disappointed didn’t come with melted cheese on it, even though the waitress told her it did. Because, really, shouldn’t pretty much everything in an Italian place just be assumed to be covered in melted cheese? She also took half home.

I should've donated some cheese to Amanda's sandwich

I should’ve donated some cheese to Amanda’s sandwich

Jenny had the pulled pork sandwich. To which Shane exclaimed “who orders pulled pork at an Italian place” when she ordered it … but then was a tad bit jealous once it arrived. She said it was delicious.

Jenny takes the "original" prize for ordering off the non-Italian menu

Jenny takes the “original” prize for ordering off the non-Italian menu

The boys both got pizza. And here’s where we see why Shane really didn’t need that appetizer. Let’s just say that “healthy, moderately fun Shane” has clearly left the building. Most likely still reeling over his jealously from Ted’s double stack burger at The Game a few weeks ago, Shane wasn’t taking any chances this time around. He ordered a half sheet of the Sausage Diablo pizza – despite Ted’s “Um, do you really think that’s a good idea?” protest. And I think Ted just voiced what we all were thinking. I mean, a half sheet of pizza? For himself. For real?

But if Shane was confident, then Ted wasn’t one to be upstaged – so he also ordered a half sheet, but of the Meat Lovers. Well played.

Although Ted did once again voice his concern when they placed their orders and the waitress told them that a half sheet really was, actually, a full sheet. As in twelve square pieces. As in more than enough for two people, let alone one. As in, are you sure you don’t want to just share one?

Nonsense.

So, yeah, each pizza came served on an actual cafeteria tray, and covered the whole thing. I think all five of us could’ve shared those two pizzas and still gone home with leftovers. (Side note, Jenny was thoroughly embarrassed. To which we replied, consider this initiation. And you ain’t seen nothing yet.)

Oh look, a whole pizza just for me

Oh look, a whole pizza just for me

Seriously

Seriously

In any case, they both liked the pizza. And of course they swapped a few pieces of each, because, well, that’s what they do. They’re such a cute couple. I think they both liked the kind they ordered for themselves best though. Shane said the meat lovers had almost too much meat (insert “that’s what she said” joke here), and that the spicy sausage was, in fact, spicy – but still good (insert yet another “that’s what she said” joke here). Ted was a little too busy making yummy food noises to be reached for comment (insert another … oh, never mind).

Overall Belleria is a good place if you want a wide variety of menu selections, or are really in the mood for Italian food. Much like JoJo’s in Medina, if we lived closer I could see this being a staple for take out or a place to go on those nights when no one can agree on one specific type of food that they want to eat, since they have a little of everything on the menu. But honestly there was nothing overly special about the place that makes it worth the drive from our area. Being that Ted is working in close proximity, though, no doubt he’ll be back on his lunch in the near future. Maybe he should’ve just asked to leave his leftover pizza in the back for him to claim on his next visit?

I'm sorry, where are we again?

I’m sorry, where are we again?

Ted, honey, squirrels don't like that.

Ted, honey, squirrels don’t like that.

I'm not sure I want to ask what was really in that pizza

I’m not sure I want to ask what was really in that pizza

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Ted
Drinks: Eh. Three or four beers on draft, regular domestics in bottles. And wine, which we didn’t try, but I guess you have to have if you’re an Italian place. 
Food:
 Impressive array on the menu, from pizza to pasta to sandwiches. If you can’t find something that at least sounds good enough to order there may be something wrong with you.
Service: Good. It wasn’t busy, so we did get plenty of attention. And in contrast to other times when we’ve had to ask repeatedly for glasses of water, this time we were given a full pitcher without even asking. Karma.
Overall: While it was good – and Ted will likely be a frequent visitor of this place for lunch while he’s working in the neighborhood – I’m not sure that it’s special enough for us to make the trip back to Kent on a regular basis.

Next Pick: Shane