WTGW 11/13/19: Two Bucks Food & Spirits, Parma

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This week’s pick brought to you by a distant relative of the genius behind the naming of retail chains like Five Below and Dollar General.

Well not really. But I think you see where I’m going here.

So Two Bucks takes it’s name, presumably, because several of the items on the menu are only $2. Like sliders, fries, domestic beers and more shots than you would think it’s advisable to offer for only a few dollars each. On top of that, several liquors, like Tito’s, are only $3, including mixers.

Alternate name: Let’s Get Sloppy Drunk for $20. But I suppose that doesn’t fit well on a storefront sign.

But speaking of signage, the interior of the place is decorated with posters advertising all kinds of specialty drinks and liquors, the most intriguing of which was probably a peanut butter whisky called Screwball. Jason was so curious that he got a shot of it (hey, it was only $4!), which we all ended up sampling after it was proclaimed to be surprisingly delicious.

They also feature a large specialty cocktail list. Because nothing goes better with alcohol than lots and lots of written words.

So, all that being said, it would make total sense that the specialty food for Two Bucks is … Mac and cheese?

Wait, what?

Yeah, not exactly what you’d expect in a place adorned in alcohol advertisements and table tents touting under $5 drink specials. But according to the menus and website, it’s been cited a “Cleveland Best” in that category.

Mac and cheese, that is. Not bad decor or drink pricing. In case that wasn’t obvious. But I’m sure we could offer some suggestions for either category, no?

Anyway.

WHAT WE ORDERED

It’s probably not surprising, then, that when we asked the server what she recommended on the menu, the top item was the Mac and Cheese. I mean, it has won major awards and all.

But that menu item was closely followed in the server’s book by … well … pretty much almost everything else on the menu. So that’s helpful.

Cassi and Jason decided to start with pretzels and beer cheese.

Ted got the cauliflower wings with the teriyaki sauce. Thus proving there always have to be wings in some form or another on our table.

Shane and I got the “two buck” fries, and – even though it was clearly stated that the pickles were served in the form of spears and not chips – the fried pickles.

We take our chances in this group. Nothing like living on the edge.

Shane also initially wanted to order the fries along with the onion tanglers, I think because they were the only two apps on the menu under the “two buck” category. OK, like I totally get the desire to be economical, but – as Cassi said – there’s a million other good sounding things on the menu and that’s what you go for?

Exactly.

Moving on to meals, Cassi got the Chicken Philly with a side of the Mac and Cheese.

Jason got the Bucket Burger – the distinctive factor of which is that it has a fried egg on it – as well as onion straws and cheese.

Ted got the same thing. Minus the cheese. Of course.

I got the Steak Philly, and also chose the Mac and Cheese as a side.

But then because I wanted a side salad also, I asked if I could just get a small salad to go along with the meal … which then turned into a whole discussion about how the Mac and Cheese only comes in one size, so really getting it as an add-on side wasn’t any different than getting the side salad as an add-on side.

So wait, what now? The side and the meal are the same size? This seems odd, no?

There was already a lot of confusion at the table after that discussion, so we decided to just trust that the server knew what she was talking about and I wouldn’t end up paying $15 for a side salad.

Apparently not sensing the confusion already at the table, Shane gets the complicated order award with his choice of the “meal” of Mac and Cheese – not the plain kind that Cassi and I would be getting as the “side” order, but the special Three Way style (which, yes, we all giggled at when he ordered, because we’re 12) – along with two of the smoked kielbasa sliders and one BBQ bacon slider.

Yes, we were all pleasantly surprised when everything arrived at our table as ordered. Because we all know that could be its own separate award category.

THE VERDICT

After all the talk about the Mac and Cheese, you’ll be happy to know that it was good. I mean, I’m not sure we agree with all of the awards – Cassi stated that it certainly wasn’t her favorite ever – but it was definitely tasty.  I thought even the “plain” version had really good flavor. And in retrospect I really could’ve just ordered that and a salad and avoided the steak philly altogether, since the sandwiches were the least favorite part of both mine and Cassi’s meals. Cassi said her chicken was super dry. And while my steak was OK, it was nothing I ever need to eat again.

I ended up taking half of my sandwich and half of the mac and cheese home. And already I think we all know that only one of those halves will actually get eaten.

Cassi liked the pretzels, but said that they could’ve used salt. Color us all as shocked about that as we are when Ted orders something without cheese.

But speaking of cheese, make sure you don’t pull a Ted and skip the cheese with the pretzels. It was delicious.

Ted said the cauliflower was good, but that it really wasn’t spicy at all. Cassi tried one and said that’s what she should’ve ordered as her meal, so presumably she enjoyed that one piece more than Ted did the entire order.

Shane actually liked the fried pickles in the spear form (can we all just agree that it’s normal to start singing a Brittany Spears song everytime that word is read or typed?). But then said he added that he was really hungry, so that could’ve affected his decision. So that’s helpful.

I thought they didn’t have much flavor. The breading wasn’t overwhelming – which was a plus – but overall they could’ve used some seasoning. On a scale of Three Brothers to Dilly D’s, it was somewhere in the middle.

Apparently another specialty of the place is a new kind of French Fry that should probably be called “scraps” or “bottom of the barrell,” as they seemed to be fashioned after the tiny bits of potato chips you find at the very bottom of the chip bag. We thought when our app came out with those little pieces that maybe we were just unlucky enough to get the end of the bag of frozen bits dumped into the fryer … but then the fries that came with Jason’s and Ted’s burgers arrived looking exactly the same, so I guess that’s just how they make them? Either that or someone in the kitchen got mad at the frozen potatoes and ran them all over with their truck out back before bringing them into the kitchen? I mean, I’d take option one out of those two, but who knows at this point. Especially with all of these $2 drink specials.

Our bill was really good considering all the food we ordered. Both apps together came to just $5.50, which is less than we pay for one at most places. And my mixed drinks off of the specialty drink menu were only $4 each, which seemed super cheap. The actual meals were the most expensive things – which may be the most logical sentence I’ve typed in this entire review. Oh, wait, Ted’s beers actually beat the cost of most of our individual meals, as it was a full third of his final bill.

Even as we left, we were all still scratching our heads at the whole vibe of this place. Like the name and the drink specials pretty blatantly scream dive bar. But the touting of the award winning, “gourmet” Mac and Cheese along with the atmosphere in the place definitely screams a need to want to be more upscale than that. It’s like the bar version of the movie Pretty Woman.

The playlist also fluctuated somewhere between 70’s rock and tech dance club, which is a grey area I’m sure no one has thought necessary to give a genre name to yet, but I have to imagine this is what would happen if Bad Company and David Guetta suddenly decided to tour together. So there’s that.

We all agreed that while Two Bucks didn’t serve up the best food we‘ve ever had – Ted summed it up perfectly when he said that everything tasted good, but nothing had a ton of flavor to it – it was still tasty and we would eat here again.

And also, cheap drinks. I’ll take Things We Will Never Complain About for $1000 please, Alex. Because we never said we couldn’t be bought.

Picked by: Shane
Next pick: Cassi

WTGW 2/19/14: Delanie’s Grille, Tallmadge

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Move over Musketeers, I think we have a new top spot on the list.

Located in the Tallmadge area (which BTW is apparently Ted’s own personal Bermuda Triangle of undiscovered dining establishments, so chances are you’ll see us back in that area in the near future), Delanie’s Grille is definitely a hidden gem. It’s a true neighborhood bar, one of those places where you half expect the place to erupt in a chorus of “Norm!” whenever one of the regulars walks in … but yet they don’t all stare you down from over the tops of their beer mugs and let the jukebox screech to a halt as soon as someone new walks in.

Our waitress was actually the owner’s wife – a fact she didn’t tell us, but we deduced from her name and several mentions within the menu, because, well, we’re pretty smart like that – and mentioned after she overheard us say we were newbies that she thought we “didn’t look familiar.” For someone who took our whole not-exactly-easy order without writing anything down and didn’t mess anything up, I don’t doubt she really does remember faces and names of frequent flyers to the establishment.

So, Wednesday nights are half off “grogs” – which, when we asked what those were, all we heard was basically “contains so many liquors that we can only serve you two of them max.” So of course we all had to try them. Especially for $4.00 each. I’m still not sure exactly what was in them, but it was a large mug of very sweet deliciousness that didn’t taste like alcohol at all, so really I don’t see how that can be bad, ever. Shane was the only one of the group to hit the two drink limit – which, you know, is good since he was our driver. But honestly I don’t think any of us felt the effects any more than we would after a few regular mixed drinks. I’m not really sure what that says about our tolerance levels.

A round of grogs. That's just fun to say.

A round of grogs. That’s just fun to say.

And truthfully I might’ve ordered another smaller drink, or a beer or something like that, but if I have one complaint about Delanie’s it’s the lack of any sort of a drink menu to choose something like that from. I mean, while our sever did a wonderful job of explaining to us what a grog was, when we asked about what beers were available the best she could do was point us in the direction of the bar and let us know that the 100+ varieties of bottles were in the cooler behind the bar if we wanted to look. Which Ted did … and we lost him for about 20 minutes as he got sucked into a conversation at the bar with two of the regulars. I guess he was fresh meat.

Speaking of meat, our table was full of it when our dinners arrived. I ordered the cheeseburger wrap – something I’m fond of in pretty much any restaurant, but once I saw the “National Hamburger Festival Award Winning” distinction next to it then I knew I had to try it. I was not disappointed. Although the rest of the table might have been upset that I stole all the napkins, since my dish definitely required a few in order to keep me from wearing any of it home.

Amanda had the steak sandwich, and was impressed to find that it was made of chunks of actual steak, not shaved slices or imitation Steak’ums like what you’ d find at some places. It was so filling that she ended up taking half of it home. Shane had the Delanie burger and of course a 6-er of wings, because, well, why wouldn’t he.

Ted is apparently on some sort of strike from bar food, and had the orange roughy. I’m noticing a pattern over these past few weeks. Either a fryer has wronged him in some way recently or he’s just trying to make a name for himself as the one person in the group who orders off the “entree” side of the menu. Whatever the reason, at least he was happy with his decision.

Another thing that really impressed me about Delanie’s is that everything came out to the table steaming hot. From appetizers to entrees – everything was at the “so warm you need to wait a minute before eating it” level. And as someone who puts soup in the microwave until it’s practically a boiling volcano, I appreciate that. I’d rather things be too hot and I have to decide between practically drooling as I stare at it waiting to eat or risk losing a layer of skin on the roof of my mouth by jumping the gun.

I chose the latter option with the homemade chips and dip that we ordered as an appetizer, and even though my mouth is a bit unforgiving of that at the moment, I can’t say I regret it. I had never had a hot potato chip before, and it was amazing. I would go back to Delanie’s for the chips alone. Seriously. Although we all agreed that we would’ve preferred some sort of french onion dip to go with the chips, instead of the two options of ranch and, well, something- that-wasn’t-ranch-or-french-onion-but-was-still-tasty-even-though-we-weren’t-really-sure-what-it-was that came with the order. I just ate them plain, but I’m kind of weird like that.

So, yes, all in all, this place is definitely at the top of our favorites list. From the atmosphere, to the food, to the prices – everything was amazing, and we’re already talking about how soon would be too soon for us to plan a return visit. And don’t think we didn’t take notice of the what-looks-to-be-amazing-when-not-covered-in-snow-and-its-20-degrees-out patio outside the bar area. I’m already predicting we’ll spend many an evening there once the weather changes and we can actually be outside without the air hurting our skin. Thumbs up.

OMG are his eyes actually open? Must've been the two grog limit.

OMG are his eyes actually open? Must’ve been the two grog limit.

Who is Shane laughing at?

Who is Shane laughing at?

(ps – we would’ve taken more pictures, but it was really, really dark in there. Like hold the menu to your face to read it dark. Which is fine overall, but not when you’re trying to be awesome reviewers. Ha. And it also probably doesn’t help that the phone on my camera kind of sucks. But whateves.)

CAPSULE

Picked by: Steph
Drinks: While a menu or actual printed list of some kind would’ve been helpful, at least the staff doesn’t get put out at having to rattle names or descriptions off at you. And you can meet friendly people at the bar when going to look at the beer cooler.
Food:
Delicious. Great selection of bar food, specialty dishes, apps and salads. Get the chips. For real.
Service: Fabulous. And I’m not sure saying that because we had the privilege of being waited on by one of the owners.
Overall: I think our previous top placeholder has been dethroned. Especially once patio season hits.

Next Pick: Amanda

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