WTGW 2/6/19: Fire and Ice, Akron

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THE WHERE (we went)

Fire and Ice, which is located … well, to hell if I really know. With the dense fog and darkness it could’ve honestly been the set of every horror movie, ever.

I do know we encountered an unusual number of roundabouts, and Ted also made a wrong turn onto a divided highway – so for a brief time we were literally that famous scene from the movie  Planes Trains and Automobiles.

And then trying to get to the parking lot was one giant never ending u-turn. You know it’s going to be a good night when you almost get killed getting there, right?

THE WHAT (we ordered)

A whole lot of pretzels to start with, as everyone but Ted enjoyed those as an appetizer.

Double take

They were tasty. And good enough to somewhat distract Cassi from her annoyance that the soda she had mixed with her tequila was flat.

I got the mushroom Swiss burger with onion rings.

Why is my burger wearing a pickle hat?

It was good. The bottom bun was toasted but the top wasn’t so that made it a little interesting. But overall it was a decent burger.

Shane got 12 wings, on recommendation of the bartender. More on that in a minute. She listed the mango habanero and sweet Thai chili as the best flavors for sauces, so he trusted her judgement and selected those, so six and six.

I’m not sure why Shane seems armed to punch someone in this photo. Maybe they stepped too close to his wings.

It should be noted that we all just stared at Shane after this portion of the order, as we expected it to be followed with the order of a burger, or a pizza, or hell at this point even a salad … just something else to accompany his meager 12 wing dinner. When he announced that was all for him and the server could move on to the next person, we all immediately expressed our concern that he might quite literally suffer from starvation with such a light dinner.

You all need friends like this in your lives. Take note.

But he liked all of the wings, so at least his gamble on only getting one meal worked in his favor. He said there wasn’t too much difference between the two flavors, but at least they both tasted good so it didn’t much matter.

Ted got The Godfather, which is this place’s fancy name for an Italian sub.

Colorful

This earned him a coveted “good choice” from the server – which, can we just sidebar here for a minute so we can all agree that hearing these words makes you feel like you just picked the lucky menu item whenever that happens? Like balloons should drop from the ceiling and you should get to pose for a picture holding one of those giant checks that just reads “GOOD CHOICE” on the front of it. No matter what mood you’re in, hearing a server tell you that you picked a winner on the menu is like scratching off the lucky symbol on a lottery ticket that already exposed two identical sums of money.

Anyway.

Because he’s not on the Shane diet this evening, Ted also got six of the Cajun dry rub and six mango habanero wings. The Cajun were the clear winners in his book. He said the others were just OK, and that they didn’t have a lot of flavor to them – especially compared to the Cajun.

He liked the sandwich, too, but maybe not as much as the server did.

Jason got the Fire and Ice burger with fries, which he seemed to like well enough. I think his word was “decent,” so take that as you will.

Another pickle hat. Maybe someone should tell them the condiments belong on the other side of the bun.

Last at the table to order, Cassi got the Chicken Philly, with onion rings.If Ted won the award for best choice at the table, Cassi took home the test of your patience prize, as she watched all of our food get delivered and then suffered through a good awkward pause before the server reappeared and asked us if we needed anything else. Uh, the fifth meal for the table? Just a thought.

They swore it was just taking longer to cook the chicken, but we think they legit just straight up forgot about her order. Although once it arrived she said it was well worth the wait – that the bun was toasted and there was a ton of chicken included on it, so she was more than happy. Definitely a better outcome than waiting all that time for crap.

THE WHO (we saw)

First of all, watch out for this guy.

The bouncer looks a bit … stiff

I can’t speak for the group but I know personally that mannequin was the cause of a few startled moments in my evening.

Our server was also the bartender, and she did a pretty good job considering she was the only person handling the entire floor and bar area. Now granted it’s not as if the place was totally packed … but I’m guessing the crowd was somewhat significant for where and what this place is on a random Wednesday evening.

In any case, she was super nice, although perhaps not exactly overly excited about answering our varied and substantial menu questions. Case in point: when Shane asks her which she prefers, the burgers or wings (because, you know, that’s all we ever order), she says without hesitation that the wings are better. OK. Seems reasonable. But then later as the rest of the group is giving their orders she lets it slip that she’s actually not a burger person. Like that she usually doesn’t even ever eat them. So that kind of negates her instant and definite pick for the wings, now doesn’t it? I mean, because obviously she’s not choosing the burger in that scenerio. It’s like saying “hey, there’s a gun to your head, you can choose the thing you’re horribly allergic to, or the other thing I haven’t said yet but obviously I’ve left you no choice but to select.”

In a perfect world, she could’ve prefaced her recommendation with “well I don’t really like burgers, so obviously I would take the wings … but given the choice between [insert menu item she really likes here] and wings, I would choose …”

So there’s that.

Also, special shout out to the kitchen girl who announced in the exact opposite of a library voice that The Godfather and the wings would be coming out at some point after the burgers. So, you know, at least Shane was prepared when his curse of getting his food after most people at the table continued. But still, probably could’ve done without human megaphone announcing that to the entire bar.

Wednesdays are also pool league nights, or we just happened to pick the night to share the bar with all of the intensely serious pool players who bring their own pool sticks in carrying cases. In any case, we definitely weren’t venturing away from our group with a table full of what could be considered legit weapons sitting nearby.

THE HOW (much we spent)

The $4 mixed drinks were a hit, as were the far cheaper Bud Lights. I think the app was a bit pricey at $6, even if it was delicious I’m not sure it should’ve been basically the same price as six of the wings. But overall still not a bad evening out. Maybe Shane needs to only order one meal for dinner more often.

THE WHY (they may/may not see us again)

Overall the service was good – I mean, other than the whole forgetting one of our meals thing, but at least the sandwich she was eventually served was literally hot off the grill, and wasn’t just lost to the heat lamp in the back corner because they didn’t realize it belonged at our table. But over the course of the evening we found the bartender was quick to make eye contact with one of us at the table to get a feel for who needed drink refills before she walked over, so that she could arrive with the next round when she came to check on us. Keeping us full on alcohol is always a good pitstop on the path to our hearts.

I think we would return. If we could find it again on a map anyway.

Picked by: Shane

Shane

Cassi

Steph

Jason

Ted

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WTGW 11/28/18: The Getaway Pub, Merriman Valley

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This week we have another tale of failed places to start our journey, thanks to an accident on the highway that made me extremely late getting home from work (why is it that people seem to always forget how to drive on Wednesday evenings?) – and since Jason’s pick was going to be in the far-off-land of Barberton we decided to put that one off a week because it was so late and we were all, of course, starving. Shocker, I know.

On to Plan B: Cassi had a pick on deck in the Valley – The Noisy Oyster – so we thought we’d just try there since it was close … but apparently that’s the new hot spot on Wednesday nights, thanks to trivia. Who knew. So since we couldn’t get a table – or even really more than two seats at the bar there – we took a strike on that one and adjourned to the car to try and figure out our next move.

Just as we were about to settle with a revisit to Pub Bricco or The Merchant, we remembered there was actually another little place in the Valley that we’d driven past 1,000 times but never actually set foot in … The Getaway.

Commence “are we sure we really want to try this place” vs “how much longer can we wait for food before we chew our own limbs” debate.

After a brief online search to confirm that yes, they do actually serve food, The Getaway wins. Let’s hear it for Plan C!

Given our past history with menu scavenger hunts, Ted made a beeline for the bar as soon as we walked in, managing to request menus and memorize the draft list before any of us even got ourselves situated at a table. Which means he already worked harder for Jason’s tip than the server we had last week, so score there.

This turned out to be a good move, because Ted also learned on his round-the-bar travels that The Getaway doesn’t have servers – everything is done directly at the bar with the one employee that was on duty for the evening. Good to know. Although on the flip side of things, I have to believe Ted began to regret showing so much initiative once we named him honorary employee and started fielding all of our random menu questions his way.

For drinks, Jason and Ted opted for the Rhinegeist Truth in cans. Which makes them the smart ones, as the rest of us took one sip of our mixed drinks and instantly wished we’d ordered something we might somehow recognize the taste of. Shane was pretty much drinking straight Jameson, while an entire bottle of tequila might’ve died for the combination of mine and Cassi’s drinks. Apparently the bartender here graduated from the Windsor Pub school of mixology?

I also got a lemon with my drink, which I realize starts with the same letter as the lime that was asked for, so points for being somewhat close there.

Jason switched to the (cheaper) Hamm’s tall boy can after the first round. The can arrived pretty dented and scratched, leading us to believe it had lived a life before it got to Jason’s hands. Oh the stories I’m sure it could tell … you know, if only beer cans could talk.

That’s a somewhat terrifying thought.

Anyway.

For a place that we didn’t really realize actually served food, the menu looked pretty promising. I was in favor of the appetizer list actually telling us how many pieces came with each order. Especially since Ted wasn’t really answering Shane’s questions about which order he would get the most food out of.

It’s like a Sesame Street episode

Server-wannabe Ted won him back, though, when he made a point to make Shane aware of the note on the menu that indicated all of the burgers would be cooked to the taste of cardboard.

OK, so really it said “due to food borne illness all burgers are cooked well done – unless otherwise requested by the customer.” But since well done is not how any of us prefer our burgers, we definitely appreciated the warning.

Here’s a fun fact: even though I think we were the only ones in the whole place doing more than drinking, it still took forever to get our food. Jason joked that maybe they just had a small George Foreman Grill in the back and had to cook one burger at a time.

We also started having flashbacks to our recent adventure to the dive bar in the middle of nowhere, in that the food arrived at our table order by order based on how they were placed. Hence, I give you a timeline of our dinner:

7:50pm (20 minutes after ordering)

Ted’s Spicy Garlic Wings arrive, along with the “Sean’s Stinger” Burger – which is the unfortunate name for a burger topped with Jalapeños and marinara – and usually also pepper jack cheese, but of course Ted requested that be omitted.

No vampires will be coming near this table

Ted decided this was a 1/3 pound patty. And since he apparently works here, we believe him.

8:05pm

Cassi and Jason’s potato skins arrive. OK, at least they got their app before the meal, this seems promising.

Loaded and baked, just as promised

8:17pm

Cassi and Jason’s meals show up. Denny Burger (grilled onions, mushrooms, and cheese) with bacon for Cassi, and the Andy Boy Burger (cheese, lettuce, pickle and tarter sauce) for Jason. Yes, I said tarter sauce. We all thought it was strange, too – and I think that was part of the reason he ordered it.

There are toppings under that bun, honest

All I see is lettuce

8:18pm

Oh, hey look, here’s Cassi and Jason’s pretzel sticks that they also had ordered as an app. Oops. I take back that promising comment from a few minutes ago. It’s almost like someone forgot the pretzel sticks were part of their order, and brought them out thinking that maybe they were ahead of the game on the next group of orders. Yeah, no, still them.

When they said “2” on the menu they probably should’ve mentioned they were gigantic

Table update: about 50 minutes after ordering, Ted is halfway through his wings, and has finished all of his fries … Cassi and Jason have an app, their meals, and another late-game app … and Shane and I still don’t even have any food, including that onion ring app we ordered.

Just as Shane and I were discussing the extreme similarities to the New Milford Café – no menus, having to go to the bar ourselves, watching the rest of the table devour their meals before even our app arrived – we looked over to the bar and noticed the (male) bartender doing shots with the patrons sitting at the bar. It’s like we stumbled upon the city cousin to that farmtown bar. What weird portal do we need to close in order to get back to normal service?

Meanwhile, a band started up. Let’s just say we wished they hadn’t.

Shane and I eventually followed Jason’s lead and switched to cans of Hamm’s – primarily because we didn’t think consuming entire bottles of liquor was wise on our empty stomachs.

8:27pm

Hey, our onion rings finally showed up! Along with Shane’s Frisco Melt (2 burger patties with cheese on Texas toast with tangy fresco sauce). Cool. I mean, you know, appetizer first would’ve been great, but at this point we’ll take anything that comes to the table with our names on it.

Apparently the deep fryer only works when the George Foreman gets unplugged?

It’s like a burger sandwich

So at this point we’re just missing my food. To catch you up on the rest of the table, Ted has finished his wings and fries, but still had a whole burger to tackle. Cassie was halfway through both her burger and her fries, and Jason has about 1/4 burger and three fries left.

8:33pm

Finally, my ill-cut Steak Sandwich with fries arrives. Good thing I wasn’t sharing with anyone.

Someone failed fractions in school

Please remind me to make Shane tackle everyone else out of the way the next time we have to order at the bar, so we don’t go last. Ever. Again.

To recap, it was pretty much just over a full hour from the moment we sat down until all of the plates finally arrived at the table. And while I’m sure we’ve waited longer for our meals at other places, at least we all had small plates of food to hold us over. I mean, isn’t that really the concept of appetizers? This whole system of an entire order arriving at once before the other parties at the table even get an appetizer maybe could use some refining.

But we had to admit that at least these burgers were worth waiting for, and – unlike our adventure a few weeks ago – we didn’t sit for an hour just to eventually be served burgers smaller than those you can get at McDonald’s, topped with some chicklet onions. Everyone who ordered one said it was delicious. Cassi only took one bite before declaring it one of the better burgers she’s had. She said it was obvious that it was a handmade patty, not frozen, and that it was seasoned well.

Shane rated it in his Top 7. I’m not sure what position it takes, or who exactly that knocks out, since that list rotates about every time he eats a good burger, but I guess putting on the list means something?

Sure.

Ted didn’t give it a place on any list, but did say it was tasty.

My sandwich was also very good. I realize when you order a steak sandwich you could get anything from steak-um’s to an actual slab of meat on a bun, so I was happy to see this arrive as very thinly sliced steak with lots of toppings and flavor.

We also had to give props to the bartender, who – despite his shot rounds at the bar – did manage to bring us over all of our meals and deliver them to the correct people, as well as walking back over after we were finished to collect our plates. And he was really nice – as he was picking up our plates he apologized for how long it took to get our food, saying that he wasn’t sure what the issue was and that it’s usually not like that. Shane made sure to tell him that “if that’s what it takes for something that good then we’re OK.”

Shane mentioned to our group after the bartender walked away that we’re probably the first people to order food there in like two years, so really we should be glad that it all at least came out edible. Also, it’s not like we’re just one or two people ordering a sandwich. There’s five of us, and we all know we order enough food for whoever is cooking back there to probably think that the place just got his with a surprise birthday party.

Also, mine and Shane’s bill totaled up to just $38 before tip. So only $5 more than the much referenced but ill-fated dive bar $1 burger night excursion – and although we do have a few questions (how are the onion rings almost as much as our sandwiches? why is Jose Cuervo so much cheaper than Jameson?) this time we each had strongly poured mixed drinks along with much better food, so I’d say that $5 was well spent.

Two Hamm’s for the price of one Jameson. What were we thinking?

All in all, The Getaway is a nice local neighborhood bar, with good food and a decent atmosphere. We weren’t treated like total outsiders because we were new, which is always a plus on the side of coming back again in the future. Honestly the food delivery timing was about our only complaint with the place. Oh, and the strong pour. Which we realize not everyone will see as a checkmark in the “con” column, so take that as you will.

Picked by: Cassi (we gave her the option and she actually did claim this as her pick, which is an endorsement all in itself)

Cassi – the thumbs up is for the food, the thumbs down is for the drinks

Steph

Shane

Ted, with a Vegas-style background. We’ll have to come back after Christmas to see if those lights are up year round?

Jason

 

WTGW 11/7/18: 91 Wood Fired Oven, Canton

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Hey, remember a few weeks ago when we were visiting dive bars and our entire group’s collective bill was like $50?

Yeah, we’ve clearly moved up in the world.

That doesn’t look like a canned beer

It’s like when you get your first real adult apartment and try to compare it to your college place that classified as an apartment pretty much only by the verdict that it had four walls, a door, and functioning plumbing.

91 Wood Fired Oven is owned by the same people who have a few of our other Canton-area picks: 3 Brothers, and Table 6. I know, we all see what they did there with the numbers. Ted has been holding onto this pick for a bit now waiting to finish out the trifecta.

Wednesday brings us a short list of $6 martini specials until 9pm (again, numbers. What is it with these people and multiples of three?), so at least that gave things a promising start. I got the melon.

Spoiler alert: it looked and sounded more promising than it tasted. The fact that I only had one should speak for itself.

Moving on.

Since they didn’t have Shane’s signature namesake martini at this place, he went with a Blue Moon (future me says wise choice on that one, bud), while Ted and Jason got whatever porter was on draft.

For the second week in a row Ted looked at the menu for about five seconds and then declared this was going to be a expensive meal – and not just because he got used to our weeks of entrees for $1 each. Instead it was due to his decision that he would forgo an appetizer in order to actually get two dinners – a meat lovers pizza, and the grilled tenderloin skewer.

Because we all know Ted loves meat on a stick.

Ah, that never gets old.

Well those are definitely bite sized

Meanwhile on the other side of the table, Jason got the pretzel bite app all for himself, along with a BBQ chicken pizza – since Cassi was still abstaining from all things alcoholic, carb-loaded and topped with cheese.

Which makes a pizza place a real treat, I know.

She ended up with the Brussels Sprout Salad.

Which just by name alone seems that it should fit more in a photo frame with my martini glass than the appetizer that Shane and I got: the double chip platter, half covered in blue cheese and half covered in bacon and cheddar.

You can put it on a classy plate all you want – it’s still chips covered in cheese

You can hand a girl a martini glass, but you can’t make her drink it with something other than true bar food. True story.

OK, I admit, I did go back up a notch with my dinner order of Smoked Gouda Risotto. So there’s that.

Shane, meanwhile, copied half of Ted’s dual dinner and ordered the meat lovers pizza.

OK, so now that you know what was supposed to come to the table this evening … let’s talk about what we really ended up with.

Cassi’s salad arrives looking like literally just lettuce. Seems a bit of a red flag that something called Brussels Sprout salad wouldn’t have even one of said item on it, no? Exactly.

Oh good, a plate of something I could’ve bought in a bag at the grocery store for $3

So we called the server over and he confirmed that it was definitely not the right salad. He took it to the back and returned a few minutes later with what appeared to be the same plate, just with some Brussels Sprouts as garish.

Oh look, they added … more green stuff

Interesting.

My risotto arrived looking more like a meat entrée. Which was weird considering that chicken, while mentioned in the description of the dish, wasn’t anywhere in the title. So, yeah, it should certainly look like two giant pieces of chicken in a bowl instead of … well … a bowl of risotto with maybe some chicken pieces in it. OK.

That brown risotto is ruining the rest of the dish

And it didn’t take more than a few bites for me to realize that not only would I prefer the visual of said dish prepared in that fashion, but the taste also. I mean, the risotto was good – it was rich, so I probably couldn’t have eaten more than what I had anyway – but the chicken really killed it for me. Not only were the pieces too thick, giving me flashbacks to the time Hooley House tried to serve up a salmonella sandwich for one … but the taste was just not great.

On the pizza front, Shane spent a few moments trying to figure out why they forgot to put cheese on his. Did Ted call ahead and tell them we were all allergic, as a joke? Had they heard us talking about Cassi’s diet and figured the rest of the group would want to be sympathetic?

Nope, that’s just how they come here.

Did the cheese evaporate when you sprinkled the special shrinking dust on it?

It’s also missing about half the size we’re used to for pizzas in this group. It’s like when you put a sweater in the dryer by accident and it comes out looking like something that now fits your dog or 4-year old niece.

It looks so small and sad

And it wasn’t just the pizzas that seemed small. Ted thought he would have leftovers, being that he did order two full entrees … but because the pizza was microwave sized and the meat on a stick was taken from special cows bred to be about the same size as chickens, well, lets just say he reached the point of “it’s not worth it to waste a to-go box on what won’t end up being a full meal anyway,” and just let that last slice of pizza stay with the plate.

The knife is bigger than the meat lollipop

That’s not to say he wasn’t full, though. I think out of all of us, he was the one most likely to say no to a support stop at Taco Bell on the way home.

Or to a dessert menu. Of course we had to tease Ted when the desserts were mentioned, because when we were at both of this establishment’s sister restaurants we thought we were full and then we went ahead with dessert anyway because they sounded so delicious. And we weren’t disappointed.

I mean need to talk about pumpkin love again? Especially when it is that season right now and it’s likely we won’t get back there before they take it off the seasonal menu again. Someone needs to make a note right now to schedule a revisit every fall just so we can go there and fill up on fried pickles and pumpkin love.

There’s a sentence that shouldn’t be read out of context.

Overall, this was a bit of a disappointing pick. It was definitely our least favorite restaurant from their umbrella, and I have to believe the one we would be least likely to head back to anytime soon. Not to say this place is awful by any means – but if you have the choice of 3, 6 or 9 … let’s just say that less is more where these places are concerned.

Picked by: Ted

Ted

Shane – with a non-Ted backdrop

Steph

Jason

Cassi

91 Wood Fired Oven Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 10/24/18: Green Diamond Grille, Barberton

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OK kids, so after a few weeks of the diviest of dive bars, we definitely classed it up a bit more this week. For one thing, no one had to go on a scavenger hunt for menus – it was actually assumed that we would be eating, and menus were handed to us as we were seated. And then the options inside said menus were a bit more complex than dinner than McDonalds.

I’m not sure how we know how to act in these here fancy places anymore.

Although I think we all had our doubts on the drive in, as the main street leading up to the Green Diamond Grille was more than a little sketch. I mean, it was better than the universe of back roads we found ourselves in last week – but, well, that’s not really so difficult to beat, so that may not really even be worth mentioning.

Anyway.

We were greeted immediately after we walked in, and were told that we could sit in the room behind the main bar or in the dining room. Because we’re allergic to dining rooms, naturally we chose the room by the bar.

Started out with beers all around, although Ted tried to steal mine when it was set down because he couldn’t believe I also ordered a Kentucky Bourbon Ale like he did. I know, my penchant for beers I can actually see through usually diverts me to other choices, but it had been a while since I’d had one of these and it just sounded good. Shane picked up my slack with a Miller Lite, and Jason took advantage of the waning days of fall beer season and ordered a Pumpking. Meanwhile Cassi abstained from alcohol, thanks to a new Whole 30 diet.

This also meant Cassi couldn’t order anything with dairy or carbs – which of course Ted was thrilled to hear about, because for once he wouldn’t be the only one at the table ordering his famous “cheeseburger, hold the cheese.”

It doesn’t make it any less weird, though. Let’s just keep that point clear.

Shane of course asked the server his famous two part questionnaire: what’s good here, and how much food do you get with the order (alternate text: what order gets you the most food for your money).

In response, our server pointed out that the Wednesday special is something called “hunky night” – which, because, I mean, I’m sure it’s totally obvious what that means and all but I’ll explain It anyway, translates to getting the choice a couple of things that have hunks of some sort of meat in it – like sausage or chicken.

Um, OK.

The marketing person at me was screaming at her to please, for the love of all things holy, change the name of that special before you start attracting bachelorette parties and lonely single women thinking a special showing of Magic Mike is on tap for the evening, but I wisely kept these thoughts to myself.

She left us to continue contemplating the menu, and it took all of about 15 seconds for Ted to snap his menu shut, cross his arms across his chest, and declare that this evening was going to be quite expensive on his end.

Well, I mean, in all fairness, for the past two weeks he’s been getting essentially two entrees for under $5, so take that declaration with a bit of a grain of salt.

Ted was apparently won over by this oddly named Wednesday special, so that was what he ordered. He chose the hunky chicken and dumplings … with sausage … and butter noodles … and a cabbage roll … and green beans. I’m about 97.5% certain that he didn’t realize at least three of those things would be included in his meal until the plate came out.

Because he also got mussels to start.

Sounds about right.

But it worked out OK, because the mussels were definitely worth it. Ted said they may have been some of the best he’s ever had.

This could be a meal all in itself

While the rest of the meal didn’t encourage those highest of accolades, it at least didn’t disappoint. He said that the cabbage roll was good and – to use his word – “dense.” I’m not sure exactly how to rate that description, but it seems to live up to Shane’s quest to find the most food on a plate, so there’s that.

He did mention that the rest of the meal had a bit of an identity crisis going on, though, as the sausage tasted of garlic, the hunky chicken contained a little too much sour cream, and the butter noodles ended up actually being cabbage and noodles.

Not that any of those things are necessarily bad, per se – and he still finished his entire meal, so it definitely wasn’t that awful. Maybe they should just change the already-awful name of the dish to “chicken surprise” instead? Just a thought.

That’s like six different meals all put together in one

Cassi did go ahead with her order of the usual “Ted Special” (a.k.a. the burger sans cheese). And then also had to remove the bun once it arrived – which was a shame because it was grilled and not at all mushy – but the things we do for diets, I guess.

Burger, uncovered

She also got a plain baked potato, and side salad – which ended up being just basically lettuce and a few tomatoes because cheese was the other major component to this bowl of supposed vegetables. The server tried to be helpful and asked if she wanted to add on croutons – because I’m guessing no one has actually ever asked to remove all of the non-healthy items before so she wasn’t sure what the novelty was in even ordering it – but of course that was a big no. I think she left the table slightly bewildered.

Mmm, vegetables

Jason got potato skins, after casually mentioning his craving for some fried pickles – another of Cassi’s non-edibles – which of course caused Cassi to bring up that time at Dilly D’s a few months back when she wanted them and he vetoed that choice. Although I said he was kind of saving her back then because those ones were disgusting.

Much better than fried pickle spears

Shane and I went with the pretzel sticks for our app. Shocker, I know. But hit a win on these ones, as they were fried but not too crispy, and very doughy on the inside.

When doughy is a good thing

We also rounded out the burger orders at the table. I got the half pound specialty burger – it had a name, but that escapes me now, all I remember was that it was supposed to come with some sort of parm ranch sauce that I asked for on the side. Because that sounds like something even an adult can’t ingest on a sandwich without wearing a bib of some kind.

Burger, covered

Turns out I never got that side of whatever sauce was left off of my burger. But that’s OK, because instead I ended up with a side of applesauce that I’m not sure ever was actually supposed to come with my meal, as well as this delicious side bowl of goodness:

Maybe pick a different color for the bowl you’re going to fill with cheese next time, no?

That’s right, ask for a side of cheese to dip your fries in, and get something that rivals bowls of soup I’ve had at other restaurants. Score.

Jason and Shane each ordered the one pound burger. So essentially two of the burgers pictured above that I ordered – for each of them. You know its a good meal when the server’s response to that is, “yeah, we don’t sell many of those.”

Hmmm.

Challenge accepted, I guess. I’m not sure if she realized what she did by making that statement. Although her later statement when she came to deliver the checks was that she thought we may have run the kitchen out of burgers just with our table. So there’s that.

The onion ring seems slightly unnecessary

Shane: dreams are made of this

But you know what, we definitely shouldn’t be the only ones ordering the burgers at this place, though, because they were delicious. They were definitely fresh made – I ordered mine medium and it was still pretty pink inside, while Shane ordered his medium rare and it was just past the dead and warmed up stage. So just the way he likes it. It’s been a hot minute since we’ve been to a place that actually cooked them to order like that.

Shane, of course, was in love.

Shane: I’m not sure where to start eating, it’s just so beautiful.

OK.

The Green Diamond Grille is another of those places that falls under the “list of places we wish weren’t over 30 minutes away because we would likely visit them more often.” The food was good, and the service and atmosphere were both decent. It would be an interesting place to check out during a game. Or maybe just any night other than “hunky night.” Because I still can’t believe someone thought this was a good idea, but whatevs. Points for originality?

Picked by: Cassi

Cassi

Jason

Shaney likey

Ted

Steph

Green Diamond Grille & Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 8/8/18: The Upper Deck, Portage Lakes

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I’m not sure how we’ve been doing this for 5 years now – with 3-4 months out of every year pretty much solely devoted to a continuous and seemingly never-ending quest for the perfect patio space – and yet this is the first time we’ve managed to end up at The Upper Deck. I mean, this place appears to have all of our criteria. Alcohol? Check. Bar food? Check. Decent sized patio? Check – and given bonus points for a view overlooking a lake. Great service? Well, OK, you got us there. You can’t win ’em all I guess.

But have I mentioned the view?

Are we on vacation?

I mean, really.

Ted was actually going to pick an Italian place in Ravenna, but once he realized Mother Nature was going to play along and give us a nice evening he called an audible and went with this place instead. Because we can sit inside and eat pasta in December. Or the next time Shane’s pick rolls around, since he claimed “dibs” on that restaurant as soon as Ted mentioned he was giving it up for this week.

It’s cutthroat around these parts.

As we pulled into the parking lot for The Upper Deck it became painfully obvious that we weren’t the only ones smart enough to realize Mother Nature only stops being a whore for so long, and that we really should drop everything to take advantage of the ability to have cocktails outdoors on a nice evening. We found a parking spot, but Ted wanted to run inside to make sure we could secure a table on the patio without having to wait until after dark to actually sit at it.

Because we never get enough of lists within this group, I proudly give to you The Top Five Reasons Not to Leave The Rest of the Group Alone in a Running Car:
1.) Someone will mention re-parking the car before Ted returns
2.) Someone will mention driving the car very close to the edge of the lake or boat ramp and leaving it there
3.) Someone will mention all of us getting out of the car, leaving it running, and hiding nearby to see Ted’s look of confusion when he returns to an empty vehicle
4.) Someone will mention all of us getting out of the car, leaving it running, hiding nearby … and all of us having to run after it as it gets stolen
5.) All of us will come close to forgetting to turn off the car and take the keys with us when Ted finally texts us that he has a table on the patio an we should just go meet him there

Yes, we’re 12. That’s been established repeatedly by this point.

Anyway.

The patio was decently busy, although not as much as one might think for an evening with little humidity and only a slight chance of rain. Ted mentioned that if the patio hadn’t worked we definitely could’ve been seated inside, since there were only about two claimed tables.

We don’t want to be friends with those people.

The server arrived with a drink for Ted before the rest of us even had a chance to look at the drink menu, which prompted us to wonder exactly how long we’d really been waiting in the car after all. Or if Ted was really a regular there and his celebrity status was showing through.

We ended up ordering beers all around, except for Cassi who got a tequila and soda. And then a Truly hard sparkling water after her mixed drink arrived with more than one fruit fly taking an alcohol bath in the glass. John Taffer would not be pleased.

Side note, that Truly almost arrived as a Truth beer, when the server didn’t hear her correctly and asked about Cassi wanting it on draft. Luckily we’re seasoned drinkers and questioned the ability to get hard sparkling water on draft at this point in its young alcoholic shelf life. Life skills, people. Don’t let anyone tell you street smarts aren’t important.

The server started off taking our app orders, and both Cassi and Jason, and Shane and myself ordered the app platters. Which, can I just add, I have a bone to pick with pretty much every other establishment out there for not giving this option more often. It’s like the ultimate slice of heaven for people who like every. single. item. on the app menu. Can’t decide between cheese sticks, onion rings and fried peppers? Now you can have a few of each! I mean, seriously, they all just get thrown into a deep fryer, it’s not like there’s some elaborate cooking skill being exuded here.

Although it does end up sounding like a boatload of food, as Cassi and Jason picked out the mac & cheese bites, soft pretzels and pizza rolls for their platter, while Shane and I chose the same offerings – just switching out the pretzels for a basket of fried peppers. Because clearly we don’t share food.

Ted: Um, I thought we were just ordering apps?
Shane: We are. Duh.

I mean, really, who are we if we aren’t ordering an entire tableful of food for four people? Come on.

Not that it mattered, because even though Ted avoided appetizers in favor of getting wings AND a meal, he was ready to order all the food anyway, so we just went back around the table after his order and put our meals in. I think the server was slightly perplexed.

Newsflash: it wouldn’t be the first time.

Our turn at the perplexed wheel came a few minutes later, when a different server stopped by and dropped off a basket of potato chips at our table. Uh, we didn’t order these? Are they complimentary? Did they have extra and they could tell we were hungry? Did our original server mistakenly tell that other server to take them to our table, and meanwhile someone else is missing out?

I bet you’re not surprised that we ate them without actually uttering any of those questions to the universe. OK maybe someone wondered aloud if they were really free. But we still ate them before asking answers of someone who could actually provide them.

And then the apps arrived, and we thought maybe someone was just watching us to see how gluttonous we could really be when surrounded by plates of food. Uh, have you met us? We eat anything and everything you put in front of us.

One half of the appetizer party at our table

The other half of the fried goodness

The pizza rolls were by far the crowd favorite out of all of the apps in our respective platters. To be honest, I think all of us were expecting a basket of knock off frozen Totino’s to appear in front of us – but these were actually little crispy roll-ups filled with pepperoni and melted cheese. So more taquito than Totino.

They should really put that on the menu. And I should really be in marketing. Oh, wait.

The second runner up was the fried pepper basket, which was seemingly never-ending in addition to being tasty. I made a comment that the ranch dip was kind of spicy, to which Cassi reminded me that I was dipping fried hot banana peppers into it, so that might be more of where the spice was coming from. Noted.

Ted got Cajun wings as his “appetizer”, and then the grilled shrimp dinner with fries and cole slaw for his dinner. Although they all arrived at the same time, so really that was just Ted’s specifications and not ones made public.

It’s like a gradual healthy to non-healthy progression

Ted said the wings were good. He thought they probably would’ve been too hot for most normal people, but to someone who only sweats when eating an actual habenero pepper then they were just fine. He also said the shrimp was grilled perfectly.

I got the Italian sub with onion rings, which was all good. The onion rings were still hot when they hit the table, and they had just the right amount of batter without being all breading. I took home half of the meal, because, well, as I’ve already mentioned, we had a crapload of food at our table already.

Oh look, lunch tomorrow

Shane got the Bleu Cheese Burger. Not to be confused with a blue cheeseburger. Grammar and enunciation is important, kids. One of those things sounds pretty tasty, while the other sounds like something you find in the back of the fridge a few months after you forgot you brought home leftovers.

Meat and fried vegetables. How can you go wrong?

There were no leftovers in this case – Shane liked his burger, as well as the onion rings – so we don’t have to worry about this burger morphing into the other in the depths of our home fridge.

Jason also went the burger route, choosing the Deck Burger with fries. He liked his as well. The photo definitely doesn’t do it justice.

There’s meat under that bun, I swear

Cassi got the portabella salad, which she was impressed with.

Served on the fanciest of disposable plates

What she was not impressed with was our service throughout the evening. This declaration may or may not have come right around the time we tried ordering another round of drinks and completely perplexed the server because we all pretty much said at once that we were ready for another (insert name of our respective drink here). Usually – because let’s be honest, we aren’t always the most polite bunch, so this happens frequently – the server just nods and says something like “so another round” or “so another one for everyone then?” But this time it was like we had just announced that the sky was turning orange and a giant monster was clamoring out of the lake toward us, because she looked equally as if she wanted to ask questions but also run screaming for her life.

Good times.

Despite that, I have to believe we’ll be back to the Upper Deck at some point. Overall our experience was positive: the patio really is pretty great, and while the food was nothing special we haven’t seen elsewhere (well, outside of the pizza rolls anyway – those alone are enough of a reason to come back. Can we just order the sampler platter with three orders of those?), the simple act of enjoying it on a tiered deck next to an outdoor bar and overlooking a lake definitely elevates the standings.

Picked by: Ted

OH – and stay tuned for next week, as Jason may get his very first WTGW pick. He’s not nearly as excited about this as everyone else.

Ted

Steph

Shane

Jason

Cassi’s vote for the food

Cassi’s vote for service

 

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 1/31/18: Menches Brothers, Green

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When I first heard about Menches Brothers and their claim of being the ones to have invented the hamburger, I was like

I mean, OK, suuuurrrre you did. If that’s the case then I’m going to start calling my witty remarks the first insurgence of sarcasm.

But then I googled “who invented the hamburger” … and sure enough, there are their names. Color me surprised. Well, I mean, it’s not cut and dried, there’s some dispute … but at least their story is listed. And we all know that if something is on the internet it must be true, right?

As if all this fame business wasn’t enough to make us curious about the place, let’s add another marketing ploy to the list: Wednesday is burger day, which means $3 off all burgers. Perfection. Also $4 Long Islands. Which normally Shane would be all over, but he’s being all healthy these days and five different alcohols in one glass just screams calories.

I know, I’m not sure how to take that either.

Anyway,

So back to the burgers. They have 50 different kinds on their menu. Fifty. Who knew there were so many possibilities for two pieces of bread and some grilled meat? But I guess when you invent the dish, you can also take some liberties at the creativity.

Shane: I wonder how the pizza is here?

I have to be honest, though, fifty burgers with descriptions makes the menu a tad overwhelming. Not Cheesecake Factory short novel overwhelming … more like “I’ve been asked to read through my 10-year-old niece’s book report on a book I don’t know or care a thing about” kind of overwhelming. Exactly. It was enough that I was so engrossed with the burger descriptions that I completely forgot to look at the drink menu and draft beer list before the first time the server came over to take our drink orders. Fail.

Healthy Shane passed on the Long Island special, and instead ordered a tequila and soda. This is new.

He then proceeded to order breaded mushrooms as an app. Seriously, who is this guy?

Meanwhile, Cassi got pretzels. In the rock/paper/scissors game of app choices, she’s the perpetual winner of our group, as this is what appeared in front of us:

Appetizer win

And failure

Once again we chose poorly. Our mushrooms – normally little bombs of oil that take off the roof of your mouth with the first bite – were lukewarm with very little flavor. They also came out with cocktail sauce, leading the server to believe that maybe the cook got confused and thought they were actually sourkraut balls. Because that’s a logical mistake.

Meanwhile the pretzels were cooked perfectly with a slightly spicy cheese sauce for dipping.

I give up.

Ted ordered six Cajun hot wings, and told the server that he didn’t care if they came out with his meal or with the other apps. She brought them halfway in between. That works.

Wings: the perfect in-between meal

After actually asking about the pizza and getting a nonchalant response from the server, Shane opted for the Babbalouie burger. It was the biggest one on the menu, with double patties, bacon, two kinds of cheese, onions and mushrooms.

There’s a lot going on there

Good thing he’s drinking that low cal mixed drink.

He thought it was good. And as it should be – they tout it as the winner of awards at the National Hamburger Festival. The only fault he could really find was that it could’ve used more of the signature Menches sauce on it.

Ted, who at one point stated that it seemed like perhaps getting two burgers with wings might be too much, opted for the Pepper Spice burger.

Things just look lonelier without cheese

He said it was very spicy. Like he knew the name implied that and all, but so often that doesn’t really account for much so he was pretty shocked that it was actually true. Plus Ted’s taste buds are somewhat more inclined to taste fires than normal people’s, so when Ted says things are “very spicy” the rest of us might want to read that as “order only if you want to have an inferno in your mouth for about the next three days.”

Although that doesn’t really explain why he seemed to need a nipple on his beer. Props to our server for stopping over repeatedly to harass him about that after Shane made a comment when Ted passed on the second round. We always enjoy a server who doesn’t mind jumping onto our sarcasm bandwagons.

Speaking of the server, I deferred to her opinion for my meal, as I was torn between the Bacon Mushroom burger, the Chili Cheese burger and the Chipotle Ranch burger. I suck at decision making, I know. But our server offered no hesitation before choosing the Chipotle Ranch. Perfect. Sounds trustworthy.

Chip seasoning for the win

I’m happy to report that she wasn’t wrong. The chipotle ranch sauce was tasty and the toppings weren’t overpowering. Also I was glad I went with the chips as a side, because the seasoning on them – a sort of mix between a bbq and Lowry’s seasoned salt – was delicious.

Cassi also asked for the server’s option, between the Bacon Egg and Cheese burger and the Pizza burger. That one stumped the server, though, so Cassi was somewhat on her own there. She must’ve used up all of her decision-making skills with mine and Shane’s indecisiveness. Sorry about that one. In any case, Cassi went with the Bacon Egg and Cheese.

The bun with the olive looks like a little hat

And she wasn’t disappointed. She said that even though it was more well done than what she usually prefers for a burger, it wasn’t dry. And the toppings, again, were just enough to add to the burger without taking over.

Menches definitely earned thumbs up all around from us. While it’s a little bit bright inside – it definitely can’t be mistaken for a dive bar with drinking regulars who hate the light of day – the drinks were well made, the food was very tasty, and the service was top notch. I feel like it’s the type of place you could go back to several times just to try different burgers – I mean, there are 50 total, even with four of us at least 12 visits just to try all of the different options on the menu (hey, I can do math). Not to mention they also have other items, as well as specials on other nights of the week – $3 off pizzas on Tuesdays, and an Italian night on Saturdays with a choice of pasta entrees for $9.99, and 50 cent wing night on Thursdays … which is also the same night as the “kids eat for $1” special, which seems like it could make for quite the adverse crowd. I think we’ll skip that one, thanks. We knew we picked Wednesdays for a reason.

Picked by: Cassi

Cassi

Ted

Shane

Steph

 
Menches Brothers Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato