WTGW 1/2/19: The Noisy Oyster, Merriman Valley

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Happy New Year!

To kick off the new year, we’re trying a bit of a simpler format for this little blog here. I’m calling it a little more just the facts, and a little less let’s write a novel about a place where we had a meal.

Because, you know, we’ve all thought we found the perfect recipe online and when we click through instead we’re treated to 17 paragraphs about how their Aunt Rose’s love of pancakes, pineapples and visiting flea markets on Saturdays is in some way connected to this amazing FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, GINA, I HAVE GUESTS SHOWING UP AT MY HOUSE IN 45 MINUTES AND I JUST NEED TO KNOW WHAT TEMPERATURE TO PREHEAT THE OVEN. Damn.

But don’t worry, one thing that won’t change is the sass. Obviously. Because I still speak fluent sarcasm, people, no matter the length of the speech. I don’t think I know how to exist without that element.

Anyway.

THE WHERE (we went)

The Noisy Oyster, a place in the Valley we have all driven past about 2,874 times but honestly were a little afraid to walk inside of.

See also:  about 87% of the places we’ve been to over the past 5+ years. So, you know, just another Wednesday night with this group.

We actually did walk into the Noisy Oyster a few weeks ago, but realized that Wednesday nights are apparently “you-can’t-get-a-seat-if-you-arrive-after-7” nights, a.k.a. trivia nights. But since it’s still the holidays and the late arriver home (me) was still on vacation, we were actually able to get out to dinner at 5pm, where we found a completely different atmosphere.

Cue jokes about the Golden Buckeye Card Holders and 4PM Early Bird Dinner Specials.

It’s worth mentioning, though, that the parking lot was deceptively full for the three occupied tables inside. Apparently it was laundry night for all of the other cars parked in the shared lot.

Insider tip – the view by the windows will seem enticing, but unless you enjoy chilly drafts and giant spiders I would recommend going elsewhere. Trust us on this one. Jason tried a few times to fix the draftiness, but we were concerned his efforts might actually just push the window into the stream below. Which would also bring us closer to the giant scary spiders hibernating on the other side of the glass.

We finally just gave up and moved to an open high top toward the back of the bar. Sometimes we’re smart.

THE WHAT (we ordered)

The guys started out the evening attempting to order their old friend, the $2.00 16oz Hamms special. I’m sure you can already tell by the tone of that sentence how far that got them. The server blamed New Year’s Eve for the empty Hamm’s cooler, a statement which may tell you more about this place than this entire review.

We ended up with DownEast ciders for three of us, and a draft IPA for Jason. Fashionably late, Ted also opted for the IPA when he arrived.

The menu features a lot of seafood, which I know is shocking given the name of the restaurant. Given Shane’s allergy to shrimp (which he for some reason hates for us to talk about so, shhhh, keep it a secret between us, ‘k?) we of course hoped that Shane didn’t order anything that might be cooked in the same oils, fryers or grills as the element that might kill him.

Living on the edge to start 2019, kids.

And we can definitely trust a place which still has placards on the table advertising a seasonal cocktail that appears to be left over from summer.

Did we travel to the Southern Hemisphere?

Cassi and Jason got an app of calamari.

Fresh from the freezer, not the ocean.

Cassi started off with a side salad, which I’m not sure what it’s usually served on the side of, but it was about as big as the regular salad I ordered.

This is a very generous side salad, no?

Then she had the breaded shrimp platter with waffle sweet potato fries for her meal.

This looks like the unhealthy version of what Ted ordered

Jason got the honey mustard wing dings

Along with the mushroom Swiss burger with fries

Ted got smoked oysters to start

Anyone else not picture oysters looking this way in their minds? No, just me?

And the Cajun shrimp

This looks too healthy to be at our table

I got the garden salad, with six of the Thai chili regular wings

I think the primary difference between the side salad and the real salad is the two dressings

Shane got a regular cheeseburger with cheddar cheese and the Saratoga chips

And six garlic parm wing dings

Garlic parm with extra breading please

I’m sure the million dollar question on your mind right now is “what the eff is a wing ding, and how is it different from a regular wing,” right? Well, it should be, because if it’s that obvious and we didn’t know then I feel pretty stupid right about now.

According to the server, the wing dings have more breading than the regular wings. Um, OK. Which seems a little unusual then that they are actually done faster than regular wings. Like 15 minutes faster.

Must be some new quick bake breading they invented.

In any case, I’m not sure we determined which kind were better. But the good news is that we liked both kinds, so I guess that counts for something? I really liked the regular wings, the sauce was tasty. Jason gave the wing dings a thumbs up. Shane really liked his, too, claiming that he could eat 25 of them. He was done with his before mine even hit the table – which I guess really isn’t that much of a shock, but still.

THE WHO (we saw)

The crowd was … well … interesting. We’ve already established that is was definitely much older, and that the majority cleared out after the early bird dinner hour was over but before the beginning of Jeopardy. Trivia brought in a few younger folks to fill those empty seats, but not enough to make us not feel like we were still the youngest ones there.

On another note, the group tried their hands at trivia again. Unlike the last time we tried this endeavor, we were in 5th place going into the final question – which meant we maybe had a real shot at winning.

Yeah, not even close.

So the streak of the Moist Towelettes is over. Well, I mean, if you can call one win a streak. Which I believe the guys did.

THE HOW (much we paid) 

Who doesn’t love paying $4.75 for a can of cider? This group.

Plus when the $2 beers were gone, there was really nothing on the menu close to being able to replace that. Shane got a $3 Modelo draft … but said that wasn’t exactly the same. Or the preference.

Sorry Modelo. You just got rated lower than a $2 can of Hamm’s. Ouch.

THE WHY (they will/won’t see us again)

I think a return visit may come down to us deciding we need to go someplace close by on a night when we are able to eat dinner at the hour of the 80 year olds. The food was good – both kinds of wings got a thumbs up, as did both kinds of shrimp. Ted wasn’t really impressed with the oysters, but said he wouldn’t let that deter him from returning. Jason mentioned that although he always gets nervous when he orders a burger and they don’t ask how he wants it cooked, this time the gamble paid off in his favor.

I think overall the consensus was that the food would be worth a repeat trip, but the interesting crowd (including the spiders) and a losing trivia experience kind of put a sour note on things – making this a sold “maybe.”

Like I said, living on the edge.

Picked by: Cassi

Cassi

Steph

Shane

Jason

Ted

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WTGW 12/26/18: The Crazy Chicken, Green

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So Shane and I literally drive past this place at least once a month, but somehow we missed the moment when it magically changed names from Tommy Li’s to The Crazy Chicken.

I mean, they sound so similar I can see how we missed this.

Anyway.

Seems the new name hasn’t exactly brought in the crowds, though, because despite a combination of being there in time for Happy Hour and also on wing night, we were only one of about a handful of tables in the entire place. I mean, I get that it’s a Wednesday night and it’s also the day after Christmas, so maybe people are still home gorging themselves on leftover ham and not particularly craving chicken?

We’ll go with that.

Given that there weren’t many of us there, it seems logical that they would sit the group of five of us in a booth. Because that’s always super comfortable given the amount of food we order. Guess in this case our reputation definitely did not precede us.

We didn’t complain, though, because as I mentioned we actually made it there in time for Happy Hour – so therefore getting settled in time to order a few rounds of drinks and cheap apps took precedence over everything else. I mean, when you can get a draft domestic beer, a order of egg rolls and an order of crab Rangoon for a grand total of $7.50, you jump on that.

Clearly we have our priorities in proper order.

Also, you may be asking yourself – wait, what’s this with egg rolls and crab Rangoon, at a place called The Crazy Chicken? Yeah, we kind of were, too. The menu reads similar to our amazing sushi and pub pick from almost a year ago with an interesting mix of Asian and American cuisine.

We’re all a bit shocked Ted didn’t discover this place before Shane.

In any case, we ended up with two orders of crab Rangoon – one for me and Shane, and one for Cassi and Jason.

Winner winner chicken dinner. Or something like that.

Wait, make that three orders – Cassi took one bite of theirs and decided they needed another order before the special pricing ran out. Because nothing says “I’m not sharing” like immediately ordering another plate.

Shane and I also got an order of chips and salsa. Because why not throw some Mexican food into the mix, too, right?

Of course we order the most non-Asian thing on the menu

Ted got the edamame. I’m not sure I realized that until it arrived and I asked what the hell was so garlicky that I was smelling. Shane – who was seated right next to it – immediately outed Ted’s food as the reason we would be vampire-free for the evening.

Several cloves of garlic were harmed in the making of these

As mentioned, Wednesdays are wing night, which meant regular wings were 77 cents each. On any other night you can get 5 for $4.99, which works out to about 99 cents each. Or 5 boneless for $3.99. Wait, what? How does that work out? Usually those are more expensive.

Maybe that’s why this place is so “crazy.”

The guys sort of ordered wings as appetizers, since they also got full sandwich meals along with their wing orders. Or at least that was the explanation we gave ourselves when the wings were the first things to show up at the table after the real apps.

Cajun dry rub for Ted

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen garlic parm as a cream sauce before, but OK.

Honey mustard for Jason

Never mind that Cassi and I had ordered side salads. I mean, those must be really complex to put together compared to running a deep fryer? Seems that way, as a full 10 minutes after the wings arrived we finally were served our plates of lettuce and assorted other plain vegetables.

Well this looks like something I could make at home

Cassi declared them the “saddest looking salads ever,” due mostly to the fact that they were missing the cheese. She definitely remembered reading on the menu that there would be cheese.

Jason: I think Ted ordered no cheese for the entire table, sorry.

Dammit, Ted.

At least the wings made up for it. I got 5 of the Cajun dry rub and 5 of the whisky glaze. Cassi had 10 of the boneless Asian. The consensus of the entire table was that the wings were very good. They were decent sized, and the various flavors were all what we were hoping for. Personally I thought that the Cajun dry rub had a bit more spice than I was expecting – not in a bad way, but typically those aren’t overly spicy. Meanwhile Ted, who ordered the same kind, thought otherwise. Clearly our taste buds are not soulmates.

Dry rub and not dry rub

And the chicken minus bones

It wasn’t long after mine and Cassi’s wings came out that they brought the burgers and sandwiches that rounded out our meals.

This included a Black and Blue burger for Shane, which is a burger topped with bleu cheese and bacon.

There seems to be a lot going on there

Jason got the Crazy burger. What makes it crazy, you ask? Well I’m not really sure, because the description just says it includes a fried egg and bacon. See also: the same burger that one or another of us has ordered at other restaurants under the name breakfast burger, sunrise burger, burger with fried egg. But, sure, crazy works, too.

Watch out, it’s getting crazy up in here

And Ted got the Western chicken sandwich, which was chicken topped with onion straws, bbq sauce, yum yum sauce – oh, and bacon, because apparently everything under a bun here includes that as a staple condiment. OK.

This looks easy to eat, no?

When he placed his order, Shane made sure to ask how the burgers were cooked. The server said they always cook the burgers medium well, but could specifically do something different if asked. Seems reasonable. And of course Shane said he’d like his medium rare.

Yeah, it still came out with zero pink in it, so clearly we need a refresher course in the various stages or meat cooking. But good thing he said something or else it probably would’ve been charbroiled.

Even so, it was still deemed good. The only regret Shane had in ordering it was that it was the only item on our bill over $10. If it had tasted bad he really would’ve been sorry about that, but being that it was good he didn’t think about it too much.

For as much as we complained that our server didn’t seem to be moving too fast when we sat down – which of course we thought would be hampering our ability to order as much as we wanted at the happy hour pricing – it all turned out OK. She even put my last martini in at the $5 price, even though I’m sure it was ordered well after the time frame.

All in all, a delicious meal in a very non-presumptuous space. The service was good, there are plenty of TVs around the space if you’re looking to watch a game, and drinks were well poured – and cheap, if you make it for happy hour, anyway. While the menu is an interesting mix of bar food and Asian influence, somehow it works – maybe because everything we tried tasted really good.

Shane was shocked when Cassi admitted she really liked this place, as usually she’s not a fan of his picks. Maybe it was because this one had more than two things on the menu? Just a thought.

Picked by: Shane

Shane

Steph

Cassi

Jason

Ted

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 10/3/18: Little City Grill, Kent

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This week’s visit is proof positive that marketing works, folks. And the inventor of the table tent should be damn proud of himself for that stellar invention.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Little City Grill is one of those places that I feel like a few of us have mentioned over the years since its opening, but somehow we just never made it in the door until now. I know I for one have received several Groupon emails with this place as a feature – which, just to give you a little insight into how my consumer mind works when it comes to these emails, can be somewhat intriguing (oh, hey, a new place opened up, making a note to go try it sometime) until it crosses the line into daunting (oh hey, that not-so-new place is STILL getting themselves the featured spot on the Groupon newsletter, maybe business isn’t so good and I should probably read some reviews to see why).

Fascinating, I know. Restaurants, take note.

Space is definitely at a premium inside Little City Grille, so I guess their name is appropriate. The host started to put us at a table in the back room, which would’ve essentially secluded us from the rest of the restaurant – thus making us believe that perhaps our reputation preceded us following last week’s not-made-for-dinner-conversations at the fancy house restaurant.

But then they remembered there was actually at table near the front that would hold the five of us, so we were stationed there instead. Probably a better choice, because I have to believe if you give us our own room where we think no one can hear us then we’ll probably just end up being even louder. We’re like kindergarteners in that respect.

And in several other respects, too, but that’s a tale for another time.

The place has a pretty decent craft beer list, which to my delight also included several ciders. Although – less to my delight – it seems that my curse of ordering the one thing on the menu that they *just* ran out of still holds true. Awesome. I tried to get a cucumber ginger cider – just because, well, it sounded intriguing and I really just wanted to say I tried it … but of course they didn’t have it. I’d like to think that was because it’s probably hideous and the universe was just saving me to trouble of figuring that out on my own. Also, at least the server warned me when I placed the order that he wasn’t sure he had any left so at least I could give him a backup option.

And it wasn’t this.

Spooky beer

Hey, surprise, Shane asked the server what he should order! Shocking, I know. The server didn’t really point out any specifics, but instead mentioned that all of their food was known for including “quality ingredients.”

I’m not sure any of us knew how that would affect our orders. We pretty much just smiled and nodded our way through that conversation.

And then proceeded to ask the server about the one thing that probably has nothing to do with “quality ingredients” on the menu … OK, technically, it wasn’t on the menu – but instead a lovely photographic table tent ad that made them look downright delicious … or maybe we were just hungry … in any case, the one thing on our minds as soon as the server asked if we knew what we wanted was the Flaming Hot Onion Rings.

AM I RIGHT? I mean, you haven’t even seen a photo of these yet and already I know you’re thinking to yourself, damn, that WTGW group sure knows how to find the best food in town.

Well, don’t hold your breath on that photo. Apparently my curse has now extended into the food side of things, since they also were out of those as well. Or, rather, I think they technically HAD them … but the server didn’t advise us to order them. He said the breading “didn’t hold together as well as they had hoped” – and so the creation was nixed.

Ted pointed out that they may want to remove the ad from the tables then. Seems logical, no?

The server laughed … but left the table tent.

OK then.

Shane and I were too disappointed to order another appetizer. Well, OK, that’s only partially true – we didn’t order an app, but more so because we didn’t see anything else on the menu we had to have, so we just went straight to our main orders.

Cassi and Jason picked their heads up out of the sea of disappointment and ordered the tater tots. They arrived in a pitcher, which threw us all off.

That’s an odd drink choice

We’re not sure if this was just to try and make us laugh again after our onion ring letdown, or if this is truly how they’re always served. In any case, it achieved a goal of being one of the stranger things we’ve ever seen, if that’s at all what they were going for.

For meals it was burgers for 3/5 of the table, with Cassi getting the Gourmet Burger, and Shane and Jason both getting the “Curteous” Burger. I’m guessing it’s named after a “Curt” who either created it, or ordered it once and wouldn’t stop raving about it, or orders it every week, or some backstory that the Little City Grill clearly doesn’t think us important enough to be privy to, so I’m just going to make up something on my own, thank you very much.

Burger with a backstory

Really the biggest different between the guys’ burgers and Cassi’s was that theirs came with more toppings. Guess that Curt guy doesn’t care for the plain.

They all said that the burgers were good, although maybe just a touch well done. Shane of course knew this was going to be an issue when the server walked away without asking anyone how they liked their burgers cooked. I mean, not enough of an issue for him to change his order, or even eat less than the entire burger … but at least he saw it coming.

Cassi also commented that her bun was a bit too big for the burger itself – but that it was grilled so that helped lessen the disappointment a little. And it also wasn’t mushy, so there’s that.

It does look a little top heavy

She got a side salad with her sandwich, as did Ted with his meal. If you had to guess, who would you say this salad belonged to?

I’ll take things we don’t see often at our table for $1000 please

Does it make it easier if I mention that the salad is supposed to come with cheese?

There we go. Gave that one away, I know.

Anyway.

The cheese-less salad wasn’t the only thing that Ted ate at Little City Grill – he also got the lamb chop dinner. Classy, right? And here we were trying to order flaming hot onion rings at this same establishment.

Ted fancies up our Fun Wednesday

Ted liked the lamb chops themselves. His issue was with the potatoes that came with his dinner, which he said were cooked in too much oil. He even made a point to show us all how it pooed on his plate after he was finished with the meal.

To which I pointed out that it wasn’t as bad as the oil spill tht followed the Great Northfield Wing Incident a few months back, if that was any consolation.

I still shudder thinking about that. Or dry heave. Whatevs.

I got the Philly cheesesteak with tater tots.

Bar food done right

It was pretty good. The bun was grilled but still soft without being mushy, and the steak was well seasoned and very tasty. The tots were probably my least favorite part of the meal, and you know that means a lot coming from me.

Also, can we just talk for a moment about how that picture of my sub with Ted’s dinner in the background looks like we’re eating at two different places while at the same table? Thanks, Ted. Even his plate is fancier.

Hey, remember the table tent that tried to sell us an imaginary food? The server must’ve felt bad for that incident, because he brought over another table tent as we were finishing up our meal – this time advertising a Black Raspberry Ombre Cake that he assured us actually was available to order.

For once something actually looks like the advertisement photo

I mean, how can you look at this and NOT order it? It’s almost too pretty to even believe it’s real.

Oh, but it is.

GIVE ME ALL THE SUGAR. NOM NOM NOM

We ended up with two orders of that – one for me and Shane, and one for Cassi and Jason. Not one to be deterred by pretty colorful photos, Ted chose the Chocolate Banana Cake from the picture-less traditional menu that the server read off to us. Clearly he’s the one out of the group who doesn’t need the instruction manuals with photo assistance.

No pretty colors here.

The pretty purple cake was good … and while I hate to point out anything wrong with it because it was just so pretty … we all agreed that we felt it could’ve been a little more moist. And no, I’m not just saying that as an excuse to use a word that about 96.7% of the population (myself included) absolutely hates. I mean, the only thing good to come from that word is the HIMYM episode where they all have to go watch Barney’s crappy play about robots.

Also – I mean, as long as we’re going to go ahead and point out things that we didn’t like about the insanely beautiful piece of basked goodness – the icing was pretty much pure sugar. Which, I mean, seems a strange thing to complain about, so I guess I’m not exactly complaining about it … other than to say it was kind of a lot. Maybe the little sugar balls on the frosting that dissolved in your mouth when you bit into them could’ve gone away. Maybe. If I had to choose something.

Although, all complaining aside here, let’s be sure to point our that of course we all still finished it. We’re not amateurs. Please.

Although it’s probably safe to say we didn’t like ours as much as Ted liked his … given that I looked over after like two bites of ours – that two of us were sharing, mind you – and his was nearly gone.

We all agreed that this was the best service we’ve had for a while now. Like we couldn’t remember the last time we had service even remotely close to as good as this. Let’s see … the time we waited past finishing our appetizers to even order our dinners? Nope. Or maybe the time we got newbie server on literally her first day who had never tried anything on the menu? Points for honesty, but no thanks. Or, oh, maybe the time the server seemed to get kidnapped for the majority of our visit? Fun, but not effective. You get the idea. Our server at Little City was very attentive, especially taking into account that he was also working behind the bar as well as handling the tables. Maybe we’ve broken the curse?

Picked by: Jason

Jason, apparently seated in the Halloween section

Steph

Cassi

Shane

Ted

Little City Grill 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 3/28/18: Paramount Pub, Akron

Standard

At least we think that’s the name of this place. See if you can follow along in this fantastic lesson in what-not-to-do-in-marketing … the website says the name is The Paramount, but the directions led us to a place with a sign out front that reads The Hyde Out. OK. But the location is actually the old Grille on Waterloo that we went to about four years ago. Also if you look closely at the web page address for The Paramount, thegrilleonwaterloo.com is still the domain.

Confused yet? We sure are.

… at the place where nobody knows your name … or really even what the name of the place is …

Which is why, from here on out, I’m going to give this place a new name: The Identity Crisis Café. As you read on I’m fairly confident that name will be one of the few things that makes a clear amount of practical sense with regards to this place.

Let’s start with the menu – which I should point out says Hyde Out on the front cover, so I’m starting to catch on to the name they seem to think they want to use here. Too bad they’re going to have to change it after this review. Anyway, it starts out with a few pages of sports bar-esque American food (burgers, wings, salads, sandwiches, fried apps) followed by several pages of Asian dishes (sushi, hibachi, bento boxes, fried rice).

Um, what now?

Because those are two types of food I would probably never think to prominently feature together. I have to believe they’ve cornered the market on this specialty.

Cassi: I don’t know what to do – I mean, there are pickle chips and Crab Rangoon offered in the same place? Where are we? Why can I order both?

Also – why is every instance of the word “crab” spelled with a K in this menu?

Spelling 101

So. Many. Questions. And we haven’t even ordered yet.

As we were perusing the menu we started to tune into the background music of the place – which really should just be referred to as “music” because we were practically shouting at one another over it. It was like being in the back of a club during a concert … except there’s no band I can think of that plays a primary music catalog containing lots of 70s rock songs that go on for like 10 minutes of heavy guitar solos, then busts out an occasional Sublime hit from the 90s, followed by “Hey Jude” by the Beatles or John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

It’s like what if my dad, my grandma and 1990s college-aged, flannel-wearing me all took a road trip together and fought over the radio stations. Good times.

Hey, remember Cassi’s comment about the apps? Yeah, so, turns out we didn’t have to decide between pickle chips and crab (sorry, Krab) rangoon, because that’s exactly what we ended up with. Shane opted for bar food, while Cassi ventured into the Asian appetizer menu.

The pickle chips were OK. I mean, let’s face it, we’re ruined now after 3 Brothers. I don’t know why we even order them other places anymore since we already know it won’t live up to that standard.

Sorry, we’ve already judged you

Cassi wasn’t really a fan of the C(K)rab Rangoon, saying that she thought it was too sweet. Shane and I each tried one and thought they were OK  And then relived Shane’s last experience with something he tasted that he thought was going to be sweet.

Ah, Gus’ Chalet, you live on in infamy.

They look pretty

Most of us went with the Asian menu for our dinners – I think just because we were tired of bar food and enjoyed the change-up this week. It certainly wasn’t because we particularly trusted the freshness of any of the ingredients at this place. No raw fish for anyone at this table, thanks. We enjoy keeping our food inside our bodies as it digests. Crazy, I know.

As evidenced when Cassi ordered the Angel Hair Roll, and the server tried to talk her into the Angry Birds Roll instead because he thought it was better. One look at the ingredients – which included something raw, of course – and she was like no way, I’m sticking to my original order.

Plus who orders something named after an iPhone fad game from like six years ago? That just sounds sketch.

That’s some mad skills on the dragon, though

Shane got the General Tsos Chicken Bento Box and a side order of one Philadelphia Roll. Once again proving that even though it’s a different nationality of food, you still need more than one main dish on the table.

Shane’s first round of food

That plate is meant for those of us who don’t like their food to touch

Shane said his drawing made him think of Taco Bell. Because that’s what you want at a sushi bar.

And large dishes at that, as Shane was quite uncomfortable trying to find a place to rest his arm once all of his plates arrived on the table.

He looks so … natural

Because we all like to dangle our fork from windowsills during meals, no?

I really shouldn’t be throwing stones, though, since I ordered an Alaska Roll, a Spicy Tuna Roll and a small house salad. But while that sounds like a lot of food, at least two of those things arrived on the same plate. And I have to think that this actually may be the healthiest WTGW ever in my book. I mean, vegetables that aren’t fried? WTF. Another week like this and I might get kicked out of the group.

I think there’s a salad under all that cheese

That tree would be prettier without the iPhone shadow across it

Not one to play favorites, Ted got a Crazy Roll … and an American hamburger, no cheese. You know, because he could. He said he felt the need to make sure both menus were represented equally.

One of these things is not like the other

I think the whole “identity crisis” theme must’ve rubbed off on Shane a little bit, as evidenced by the fact that he actually … wait for it … willingly offered some of his food to me.

*gasp*

Right?!?

Now granted it was so I could taste his spring roll (that he didn’t realize came with his meal – along with that round one soup and salad) so I could make sure it didn’t have shrimp in it that might kill him, thanks to his allergy. (spoiler alert, it didn’t) But still. I think we’re all still picking ourselves up off the floor a bit from that shocker.

Speaking of shockers, Shane reported that his General Tso’s chicken – that he specifically asked the server if they could make “extra spicy” – was … drumroll, please … really spicy. Like he was struggling really spicy.

Be careful what you wish for at The Identity Crisis Cafe, folks.

Meanwhile, on the American menu side of the table, Ted had a struggle of his own going on, which involved ways to choke down an extremely dry burger. Like dip it in your water to make the patty edible kind of dry burger. Which let me be clear he didn’t actually do, but in hindsight it may have helped things a bit. When we suggested that that’s what the cheese is usually for on burgers, he said that he might be willing to try that if he thought it would help things at all, but he was pretty sure there was no saving this one.

It’s worth mentioning that it’s a bit odd that the burger was so overcooked and not moist, when it was one of the first meals to arrive at our table. Rather than bringing things out all at once, this place seems to subscribe to the Table 6 philosophy of just bringing plates out as they’re ready … except they’re like that friend everyone has who is like four subjects behind in a group conversation and never seems to know how to keep up so they just jump in whenever they think of something. The food was dropped off at odd intervals, with the burger arriving as one of the first actual meals, and the sushi as last. Which seems strange considering that’s supposed to be the most fresh, not cooked portion of our orders, but whatever.

We all pretty much thought the sushi was just OK. I mean, it was edible, but nothing you can’t find anywhere else. Ted liked his a little more than any of us … but, I mean, when you consider the other part of his meal was a sawdust patty on bread, you kind of figure that’s a no brainer.

We also had an enlightening discussion about the orange crunchy topping on some of the sushi, which involved more than one of us checking Google for an answer, and Shane declaring that he always figured it was crushed up Doritos.

Me: Because nothing says Asian food like crushed up Doritos

But with this place, who knows.

Orange toppings make Shane think of snack foods

Another fun discussion involved trying to size up the crowd, and how or why each of them found their way to this bar on a random Wednesday night. A couple wandered in at one point that seemed like they might have been on a date … except she was wearing lounge pants and actual slippers. Because nothing screams “I really just wanted to order in and I’m not happy about this whole going out in public thing” like wearing your pajamas to a restaurant. And then over closer to the bar there was a group of obvious bros all crowded around a table taking shots and watching basketball. Which begs the question … is there no BW3 within a 20 mile radius of this place? Do they all live upstairs and just migrate down for the alcohol? I mean, granted, nothing says let’s go get lit and watch some Final Four action like heading to the sushi bar in a somewhat sketch neighborhood … no?

At least no one could see us watching them, as we picked an unfortunate table next to the windows that seemed OK when we first arrived, but then was cloaked in darkness after the sun slipped behind the horizon. Which, because it’s still winter here in Ohio, happens at like 3PM these days. See also: the color difference in the pictures of our appetizers versus the color of our meals. Sorry, kids. It should also be pointed out that there were canister lights above our heads … that were missing the bulbs. Guess we know now what had to get cut from the budget in order to add that whole Asian side to the menu.

 

Picked by: Ted

Steph

Shane

Dual menu, dual rating. Thumbs up for sushi, thumbs not-so-up for the burger

Cassi

 

WTGW 1/24/18: REVISIT – Sammie’s, Tallmadge

Standard

Ever invited your new neighbors over for dinner as a friendly gesture … and then five minutes into the evening you realize you have zero in common with them, but no matter what you do or say they just won’t get the hint and leave?

That pretty much sums up this week’s revisit to Sammie’s. Hint: we’ll be playing the part of the new neighbors.

Sounds fun, right?

We were a party of three tonight, as Ted was on a work trip in Vegas … that he didn’t remember was actually this week until we were discussing it last week. Oops. Who forgets about a trip to Vegas, of all places, even if it is a work thing? Perhaps we need to get him a better calendar.

So since we were man down this week we decided to make this a revisit week. And gave Cassi a WTGW initiation with the responsibility to choose a place from all of the places we’ve been. Oh, the pressure.

Now, if you read our original post on Sammie’s from 2014, you’ll see why she thought this would be a good pick for the evening. Great service. Wednesday burger specials. And, most of all, $1.00 bottled beers. Seriously, how could you go wrong? I’m surprised we ever went anywhere else after we discovered this find back then.

Except that it seems all of those things have disappeared since that first visit. Or at least no one is talking about them anyway. There was no $1 beer special. And no mention of a burger special. And definitely no great service.

Bummer.

To be honest, we’ve been to Sammie’s on a few other non-Wednesday occasions since our original visit of almost four years ago, and every time I think we leave pretty much scratching our heads at how we liked it so much the first time we visited. It was like we hit some sort of oasis of WTGW amazingness that first time.

This week we were seated at a high top in the bar area, which is usually our perfect spot. In fact, when the hostess asked us if that table would work for us, all three of us answered “yes” in unison. However, if we’d known that we would soon be playing a game of Jenga with our dinner dishes we probably would’ve rethought our eagerness to accept that seating. More on that later.

Also, the decor in the bar could use some updating. To quote Cassi, “Are there always Christmas ornaments hanging from the ceiling, or are we just still celebrating the holidays here?”

Good question.

For drinks, Shane ordered a rum and diet while I got a tequila and soda. Or at least that’s what we thought we ordered. Apparently what the server heard was “just bring over half a bottle of rum and half a bottle of tequila in small rocks glasses with a tiny splash of mixer for coloring.” Awesome. Either that, or the bartender from Windsor Pub has a new job over here at Sammie’s these days.

Needless to say, we couldn’t flag down the server fast enough to order a few waters along with our appetizers, primarily so that we could dilute our 15 shots of alcohol in one glass. Mmmmm.

Shane was super hungry when we arrived, which translated to him wanting to order ALL THE APPS as soon as he opened the menu. We eventually agreed that just the mozzarella triangles would be sufficient. Cassi got the fried zucchini.

Little pillows of cheese heaven

Fried vegetables are still healthy, right?

It didn’t take long for our apps to come out, which is always a plus, especially when one member of your party keeps drooling over food that keeps getting delivered to neighboring tables. But we soon learned that having Speedy Gonzales as master chef back there isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

So being that bringing the apps over was the first time we had seen our server since she took that order, naturally we figured putting in our meal orders at that time was advised. And thus begins an interesting study in time management versus square footage of a table. Because it was only a few minutes later that the side salads we ordered arrived … while the apps were still on the table. OK, a touch cramped, but we got this.

Ok, I guess this might be healthier

But then literally five minutes after that, our meals showed up. Um, yeah, a little help here please? For real.

Also, for the record, the “help” I’m referring to isn’t a to-go box. Which is what the server showed up with when I was LITERALLY three bites into my dinner. Remember what I said earlier about feeling like someone no longer enjoyed your company? Like seriously, I get that maybe your shift ends in five minutes and you want to get the hell out the door (it didn’t, just FYI, because she was still waiting on just-seated tables as we were leaving a bit later), but maybe rushing us into taking our meals to-go isn’t the best way to increase your tipping percentage, or encourage patrons to revisit. Just saying.

Also, I realize I’m quite liberally using the word “literally” in this post – but trust me, it’s justified.

Anyway, let’s discuss this copious amount of food we had in front of us.

Shane was having a hard time deciding between ordering the spaghetti and meatballs, or the cod dinner. Which are, like, the two things on the menu that if you’d asked me I never in a million years would think he would even be considering, much less caught in a hot debate over. Who is this person?

He eventually ended up with the cod. I would pretend to be surprised, but, well, whatever at this point.

There’s fish under there somewhere

He said it was OK. He particularly liked the tarter sauce, which seemed to be homemade and was very tasty.

I ordered the meatball sub.

The anti-Ted meal. Also, note the leftover app chilling out on the edge of my plate.

I thought it was really good. Some people might disagree with me on this, since the sandwich was really just three large meatballs, giant sheets of cheese, and about a tablespoon of sauce on a roll. But for me, that was perfect. I will gladly choose cheese over sauce any day, especially since soggy bread pretty much skeeves me out.

Yeah, I know, it’s weird. Get over it.

Cassi got the portabella wrap. She really liked it, said it was very flavorful.

Points for presentation

So yeah, the food definitely wasn’t the issue here. If you’re looking for a decent meal, Sammie’s is still a solid choice. And if you’re the type who likes to feel like you’re being rushed through your meal, likes to see if you can finish an appetizer in two minutes flat, or likes to drink your weight in alcohol in just one drink, then I guess this is the place for you, too. But us, not so much. Sorry Sammie’s – let us know when the $1 beer specials return and our particular server isn’t racing through her shift, and maybe we’ll see each other again then. Until then, there are probably better places to spend our Wednesday evenings.

Shane

Steph

Cassi