WTGW 5/2/18: REVISIT – The Twisted Olive, Green

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When Northeast Ohio graces you with a summerlike evening in early May – bonus points for it being on a Wednesday – you go in search of the best patio you can think of first and ask questions later.

Well, I mean, OK, yes – we did ask one question, which was, of course, “which one should we go to.” As cool as it would be, we all didn’t just look at each other and telepathically infer one particular patio we should visit. Although I think that approach might’ve been easier than us attempting to remember the best area patios in the ten minutes before we walked out the door. Crazy how we can visit so many restaurants, but ask us for a recommendation for a specific type of place – because, I mean, you would think a group of people who go out every week to different places would be good folks to know these types of things – but instead suddenly our memories empty and we become deer in headlights.

Try it the next time you see us.

In any case, Ted finally stepped up to the plate and decided on a revisit to The Twisted Olive – which we all agree does have one of the best patios in the area, albeit a little fancier fare than our usual WTGW options. And it’s been a hot minute – or I guess really about two years worth of hot minutes – since our last visit so it was definitely worth another try.

We requested patio seating when we arrived (duh), and ended up on the downstairs patio this time round, as the hostesses mentioned that the upstairs one “wasn’t full,” but that the server was “a bit overwhelmed.” Um, OK. I’m not sure what that means exactly, but if it means we’ll get better service on a different patio then I’m all for it.

By the end of the night I think we all agreed that hadn’t exactly been the case, but I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Also, side note – does a place really need three hostesses for a Wednesday night? I mean, I get a weekend. And sure, it was probably a bit busier than usual with the summery weather. But three? Seems maybe the extra person might’ve been better served assisting the overwhelmed server on the upstairs patio, but what do we know.

Anyway.

Turns out that the downstairs patio doesn’t have quite the view of its upstairs sibling. I mean, for one, it’s not elevated at all – so instead of being able to overlook the water and nature area that are behind the restaurant, you kind of just get a lateral view of it. And, spoiler alert, it’s not all that enticing. It’s kind of like having dinner at that friend’s house who has a really nice backyard.

And then also because, well, its literally beneath the upper patio. So instead of truly dining outside, it was more like we just kind of ended up hanging out in an Italian garage. Awesome.

Although mental note to keep this option in mind for those evenings when the temperature is decent and you’d really love to sit outside, but are deterred thanks to the threat of a random passing rain shower.

So there’s that.

We remembered The Twisted Olive being on the fancier end of things from the last time we visited – which we all know equates to lesser amounts of food arriving on your plate in a fancifully arranged way. So as we were looking over the menu I pulled up the post from our 2016 visit to take a look at what we’d ordered last time around.

Shane, moments before I read to him what he ordered at that visit: Oh, scallops, those look delicious.
Me, reading from the 2016 post: “… and then was instantly disappointed as soon as his plate was set in front of him. His comment after the server left was that he was waiting for someone else to walk up and bring him his main course instead of the appetizer portion.”
Shane: So maybe pizza then.

This blog clearly exists if for nothing else than to remind us of our previous dining mistakes.

While we waited on the jury to reconvene in the matter of our main meals, we of course opted for appetizers. Because, well, us. I mean, really. Like any explanation is needed.

Ted got the hummus. He said it was just OK. Probably because it came with salsa mixed in – which some might consider a bonus, but Ted clearly did not. I didn’t try it, but I agreed that it did seem to be a strange pairing. Also, a little warning next time maybe? But the veggies and chips were tasty.

Why is the hummus hiding behind salsa?

Cassi went with the calamari, which Shane had of course ordered on our last visit (surprise!) and seemed to be OK with. However, after careful consideration this time around we all agreed that the dish now seemed to have a special ingredient not mentioned on the menu … pine needles. Sounds weird, I know, but go ahead and order it, take one bite, and tell us we’re wrong about this. I dare you.

Maybe someone just rubbed an air freshener over it

Maybe we shouldn’t have said last time that it “there was really nothing special or different about the dish to distinguish it from any other place we’ve had it before.” I feel like the chef took that as a personal challenge to come up with something we definitely would remember. Too far, chef guy. Too far.

Shane and I won the app lottery with the loaded chips, though. No hidden pine needles or salsa in this dish. Just the right amount of delicious toppings.

There are chips under there, we swear

We also remembered from our last visit that the basket of complimentary rolls set on the table with the appetizers were one of our favorite things about The Twisted Olive. Too bad this time they rolled them in chicken wing grease and coasted them in finely diced onions before serving them.

I kid. They were exactly the same as the last visit. Thank god they didn’t go the “calamari challenge” route on those, or else I think Ted, Shane and I would’ve legit cried when we tried them. I think we all had like four each.

We may or may not have had two more baskets of these. Don’t judge.

For his meal, Ted got the Apple and Fig side salad to go with his crab cake sliders. He had the salad come out ahead of the sandwich. Or at least we think that’s what happened. We saw the server set it down, but then before I could pick up my camera to get a photo of it, it seemed to mysteriously disappear.

Perhaps they should’ve called it the “so good you’ll devour it in two minutes flat” salad

Clearly he hated it.

About two seconds after this photo he also used a piece of bread to clean all of the dressing remnants off the plate, which left it looking like it went through the dishwasher. I think the server was slightly surprised when he came around to collect plates and found a shiny clean one sitting in front of Ted.

Ted commented that he could order the full sized salad and have it be a filling meal. He also said he wasn’t exactly sure what all was in the dish, but it was good. So good, in fact, that he didn’t even take a sip of beer until the salad was gone. Which we all know is not how things operate in our group.

Shane: Something wrong with your beer there, buddy?

And then by the time his crab cake sliders arrived – which Ted had passed up on our last visit because they sounded like they would be too small and not filling enough – he said he was almost too full from his hummus salsa and salad to eat them. Seriously, what is happening here? What parallel universe are we living in where Ted leaves most of the fries on his plate and barely manages to eat two mini-sandwiches?

That wouldn’t be enough food without the other two courses already consumed

It’s like we hardly know this new person.

Cassi meanwhile also got the crab cake sliders, but because her app tasted like a Christmas tree and she skipped the invisible salad course, she was able to enjoy her entire meal. She got the mac and cheese as a side, and declared it delicious after just one bite. That’s high praise.

Shane said the sliders looked like baby sandwiches. I think that’s the idea, but good call.

Over on mine and Shane’s side of the table we had a little pizza party going, as we both went with that for our meals. Truth be told the two of us most definitely could’ve just shared one pie, but we all know by now how Shane feels about the notion of sharing food, so I didn’t even broach that topic.

Instead we each got one of the two pizzas on the menu with the word “Spicy!” next to them: the Twisted for me (pepperoni and banana peppers), and the Sicilian for Shane (sausage).

And when they arrived I suddenly had flashbacks of the great sheet pizza debacle of Belleria a few years back.

It actually looks bigger in person

They picked those banana peppers off the spicy tree for sure

Needless to say we each ended up taking several slices home. Well, I took several home. Shane took a few.

Something else Shane would’ve taken a few of were beverages, while we were still sitting at the table eating of course. But our server – you know, the one who was NOT supposed to be “a bit overwhelmed” – kind of seemed to forget about the world underneath the main patio, and was pretty much non-existent outside of dropping off plates at our table. Or miraculously whenever Ted’s drink was empty – which, as we’ve already established after the salad incident, wasn’t all that often.

I will say, though, that we were highly entertained by one of the other two tables seated in the underworld with us … three teacher-slash-moms who openly discussed their dating lives at a volume that might have been less obtrusive had there not been more than a few empty cocktail glasses on their table. The 35+ minute conversation about the merit of baths and showers was especially stimulating. We were all a bit sad to see them leave, although giggling quietly to ourselves was becoming increasingly difficult.

Cassi

Steph

Shane, whose rating is indicative of his lack of beer throughout the evening

Ted, who probably should’ve given a higher rating since his beer was full more often than anyone’s

 

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WTGW 12/27/17: Dewey’s Pizza, Fairlawn

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‘Twas the week between Christmas and New Years, and once again it’s Ted’s pick. And once again he takes us to a busy place near the mall in Fairlawn. Anyone remember last year when we tried visiting two different new places, only to find them both full of holiday celebrations .. and finally ending up at the all-you-can-eat sushi buffet down the road?

Yeah, you may not, because I didn’t write a post for that evening. Mainly because I couldn’t keep up with the guys filling their plates in their seemingly never-ending quest to be full of sushi.

So instead this year we get to witness their never-ending quest to be full of pizza. The only thing Shane may like more than sushi in this entire huge world of food.

Spoiler alert: at one point in our evening at Dewey’s our group of five adults had four pizzas and a calzone on the table in front of us. No, we don’t overindulge when we eat. No way.

And before anyone points it out, yes, we get the irony of Ted being the one to pick a place that specializes in things covered in or filled with cheese. He did this to us last year with Melt, too. I think it’s his way of keeping us on our toes. Or maybe we really are running out of places to pick after 3+ years of doing this.

Anyway.

The wait at Dewey’s actually wasn’t too long when we arrived, and I think the fact that we had to wait at all had more to do with us being a large group of five in a place that’s pretty small for a local chain restaurant. It’s set up pretty similar to the ones in the Cleveland area, but this one is kind of like dollhouse sized compared to their regular adult sizes.

I’m not sure why they have a bar at the back of this one, either. Seems like wasted space where they could’ve – I don’t know – put more tables. Or something. Just a thought. I mean, you only serve like six craft beers and some select wines, do you really need a horseshoe of barstools around the cooler? Are people seriously just saying “Hey, let’s pop into Dewey’s and get one of these six beers that I’ve really been craving today?” Or are there people out there who can’t enjoy alcohol and food unless they actually sit at a bar to partake in it?

So. Many. Questions.

On the topic of poor design … so originally our group ended up being crammed into a booth, I believe maybe just for the sake of seating us and getting our orders in since pizza can take a hot minute to prepare. Or maybe we looked like the type that would cause trouble in the waiting area if left alone for too long. Who knows. But I think as soon as the server heard our order of enough food to feed an entire youth football team, she knew this seating arrangement wasn’t going to be a good fit. Or rather a fit at all. Simple math tells you that four pizzas that are each 11 inches or larger do not fit on a booth table. Hell, we barely even fit in the booth ourselves – as it was Ted was moored to the end of the table by a single chair. We joked that he might have to set up his dinner on the stack of high chairs off to his right. Because that seems appealing.

It was also about a billion degrees in that corner. Or maybe it was just the body heat of all of us crammed in there. I mean, I appreciate a tropical island temperature as much as the next person, but not when I’m dressed for the -10 wind chill that is NE Ohio in late December.

In any case, we enjoyed our first round of beers on this, our own little tropical oasis, as well as mine and Cassi’s peppercorn ranch side salads that we ordered as appetizers. Or, rather, one large salad that we ended up splitting after the server suggested it would be cheaper for us to just to that than get our own individuals. Good call. I appreciate frugality. Especially when we’re on this tropical vacation and all.

I promise this is the last photo of anything healthy you’ll see on this post

Hey, a bigger table opened up! So what if maybe the server had to obviously stare down another large group, or inconspicuously whisper to them that they would offer up a handful of gift certificates to make them leave and make room or us, since the laws of physics weren’t going to allow us to eat in our current situation without one of us placing their meal on the floor. I can only say that I’m somewhat surprised we didn’t topple our current table as we all jumped to our feet at once as soon as another server arrived at our table and announced that we could move if we wished.

Let’s just say that was a true blessing, because this new, larger table still came close to almost causing one of us to eat out of our laps. I mean, we could probably create one of those math word problems just to figure out the exact size of our table (“If five people order four pizzas and they cover the entire width of the table, how large must the table and the pizzas be if the sizes can only be 11, 13 and 17 inches?”) But I don’t like math, so we won’t go there.

A nice feature of Dewey’s is that they have an entire menu of specialty pizzas, and you can split any pizza in half, no matter the size, so that you can try a few different specialty pizzas at once. Or plausabily split one pizza with a larger group who may disagree on what they want to order. But we wouldn’t know anything about that theory. Obviously.

So with all those options, it makes total sense that Ted got a full Don Corleone pizza. Just one kind for all 13 inches. No splitsville for him. At least he’s definitive.

Ted and his meat pie. Wait, that sounds bad

Jason got the half southwest BBQ and half Bronx Bomber. His was a 13 inch as well.

I guess I lied before. Here’s a few more vegetables.

Not wanting to play favorites on who would be his “food soul mate” for this trip, Shane chose half of his as the Don Corleone, and half Bronx Bomber. So if you’re following along, that’s half of half of Jason’s and half of Ted’s.

Wait, I think we’ve seen these already

Remember that whole thing I mentioned about being able to split pizzas when people at the same table want the same order?

This also explains why all of our pizzas look somewhat similar. Trust me, I’m trying to keep up, too.

Well, OK, so you can tell which one is Shane’s pizza because someone (read: me) convinced him to get the 17 inch. You know, the largest one. For himself.

This is what good wives do, people. Take notes.

Cassi got the 11 inch half porky fig and half caprice. Hers is the baby pizza on the table.

Look at all that cheese. It’s probably good this was on the complete opposite side of the table from Ted.

Meanwhile I got a calzone with pepperoni, mushrooms and banana peppers. Partially because even though – as I’ve already stated – I don’t do math, my numbers-hating brain could deduce that another pizza was not fitting on this table.

Still dough and cheese – just in a more compact form

We all agreed everything was good. Perhaps the best praise of the night was when Ted said it was “one of the better pizzas he’s ever had.” And that’s even with cheese, people. *gasp* Of course he had to refute the cheese comment by saying that there was so much meat on the pie and it pretty much overpowered anything else … so there’s that. Loopholes.

Although he later changed his story, and claimed this was actually “in his Top 5 pizzas.” Not that he really knows what other ones would be on that list, though, since we all know this isn’t exactly his favorite meal. Maybe he just felt like Shane shouldn’t be the only one holding court in the list market.

You can also judge our fondness for a place by how much we leave on our plates at the end of the night. In this case, all but one of us were all winners of clean plate awards for the evening. Jason was the first to finish his whole pizza. Cassi was going to save one slice of hers, but once Jason finished his off and there wasn’t going to be a take home box she just decieded to eat her last one and save the need. Ted also accepted the challenge and ate his whole pizza. But the last two slices were tough, and probably should’ve gone home with him.

Shane was the odd man out, taking four pieces of his pizza home for later. That couldn’t at all be because someone convinced him to get the larger size or anything. Nope.

It was about the time that they were clearing away our plates that I looked over and noticed another group of five at a table not far from us being delivered one 17 inch pizza for them all to share. Um, really? ONE pizza? They’re clearly amateurs.

I think the place has potential – but unlike the other Dewey’s up in Cleveland, this one seems pared down a little and definitely caters to the “we’re shopping at the mall and want pizza but not from the food court because I want to have a beer with it” crowd. The ambiance isn’t so great, either. Our tropical corner booth aside, it just seems a bit sterile and uninviting. There’s no memorable background music or sporting events on large TVs – and with a large open space that kind of makes it seem cavernous when it’s just snippets of conversations rising up to fill the air. It definitely has an air of “eat and get out,” not “hang out and have another beer” to it – which, again, is why the bar is a bit baffling. But the pizzas are good, and I would definitely think of them as an option for take out after a shopping trip or on the way home from work. Just don’t make me do the math to figure out how many will fit into my car comfortably.

Picked by: Ted

Ted

Jason

Cassi

Shane

Steph

 

 

WTGW 8/30/17: Dante’s County Line Saloon, Brecksville

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I remember seeing this place years ago when Shane and I stopped in at the country western shop across the street (which, can we just talk for a moment about the randomness of a country western shop – we’re talking cowboy hats, boots, horse riding gear, all the bells and whistles – being across the street from a place with “saloon” in the title? In the middle of northeastern Ohio? It’s like this intersection stepped into 1950s Texas) Anyway, we weren’t sure back then if this place was actually open – and even after looking at reviews prior to tonight’s visit I have to admit I still wasn’t 100% sure. Because that speaks well for business, no?

Also, a sidenote on said reviews …. if you happen to look up Dante’s it seems that either they are talking about two very different places on the same review site, or this Dante’s has been redecorated fairly recently. And neither of those ideas really seem plausible, since the “new” decor doesn’t really look like a recent renovation (unless there’s a new decorating trend to make things look worse than before?) … and also the chances of two places being a name that uses the word “saloon” in the title are less than likely. But OK.

Shane was mad I picked this place, because as soon as we pulled up he knew it had “him” written all over it. I mean, “saloon.” Of course.

There were plenty of cars parked outside – leading us to  assume correctly that it actually was open – but then we walked inside and there’s this teeny tiny interior. Like so small we wondered where all the people driving those cars were hiding. Did we miss a secret entrance to a side room somewhere? Is everyone in the kitchen with the cook? Do half those cars not even run and are just parked there to help people like us believe it’s a real place? Interesting marketing strategy, if that’s the case.

In addition to the small bar and dining room area, there was a giant covered patio out back (which looked more like a park pavilion than a patio) but it also wasn’t too full there. Hmmm.

But back to the inside … there are 12 tables. I counted. And it’s definitely a regulars kind of place. The guys sitting at the table nearest the door weren’t officially bouncers, but they may as well been given the looks they shot us newcomers as we walked in.

There are no draft beers at Dantes, only bottles. That was a touch surprising. Add it to the list, I guess.

I had read that the burgers were good, so I went with the mushroom swiss. I found it odd that the menu gave a description of that particular burger, when it seems pretty obvious by the title. I mean, the saloon burger? Sure, that needs an explanation. The fiesta burger? Again, could use some help here. But the mushroom swiss burger? I think I got this one, thanks.

Ready for your close up there mushrooms?

Anyway, it comes with a side, so I got fries, and then also ordered a small side salad. Balance.

Don’t be fooled, this healthiness will change soon

Shane got the same burger, only he mistakenly got the fritters as a side because he thought the burger automatically came with fries and he was adding on the fritters.

OK, so maybe those explanations are helpful after all.

He also got a pound of the garlic parm wings. Because clearly our table was going to be bare.

When you can see the garlic that’s usually not a good sign for anyone else at the table

Ted got a pound of the Jamaican jerk wings, and also the “Maui steak.” Which spurred a debate later, as I thought that was under the salad portion of the menu, but ted thought it was just a steak prepared “Maui style.” Which he had never had before (quick poll: has anyone ever even heard of that as a way to prepare steak? No? Weird), but was excited to try.

Yeah, I was right, it was a salad. But the presentation was lovey, and he did say later that it was fine, because it turned out to be delicious. It actually earned the distinction as like one of three places he would admit to being happy about ordering a salad from, since it was that good. It should be noted that the other salads that he listed in his top favorites were horribly unhealthy and included toppings like fries and fatty dressings. So score for this place that a real, bona fide, healthy salad made the list.

This is not usually what we see in front of Ted

But going back to our usual array of unhealthy entrees … the wings were huge. And apparently baked on the surface of the sun, as Ted discovered the hard way. Both Ted and Shane agreed that the wings were too salty. The Jamaican jerk was OK as a seasoning, Ted said he wasn’t used to that being a dry rub but it was alright. Shane said his wings were definitely garlicky and he’d not be able to get that taste out of his mouth for some time.

My those at large wings you have there

As far as the burgers, Shane said his didn’t have much flavor and that it wasn’t as big as he was expecting it to be. But I thought it was OK. It was done as ordered, but it wasn’t overly flavorful. Maybe they should put that in the description? I mean, that seems to be the less obvious point about that particular burger anyway.

We did observe that, for tiny, hole-in-the-wall place, though, it looked like there was a real chef in the little kitchen in the back. Like the kind that wears the fancy jacket and all. And he seemed to take real pride in his work. There was no “I went to culinary school and now all I get to cook are obviously described burgers at a saloon” attitude about him. He actually came out once as he was leaving and asked a table how things were, and genuinely cared about the answer.

Dante’s is definitely a place of regulars, but not completely unwelcome. Well, once you get past that initial bouncer table anyway. Although we did notice a difference in the level of service for us versus the regulars. Like, for instance, the server  wouldn’t bring me a second drink until I finished my first. It was  like she didn’t trust me with the glassware. I mean, OK, if you open up our cupboard of glasses at home you would probably notice a few with special bar emblems or sports team schedules printed on them – so, yes, we’ve been known to sneak out a glass from time to time. But these were nothing special. So basically don’t flatter yourselves, Dantes. Please.

Overall I’d say I’m not sure it’s worth the trip back. I mean, if we were in the area and wanted to try out the pavilion area in the back, or if Ted’s in the mood for some healthy greens, then sure. But beyond that, let’s just say it seems we’re better off riding into the sunset toward greener pastures there partners. Yee haw.

Steph … and creepy Shane

Shane

Ted