WTGW 8/17/16: Cruiser’s, Boston Heights

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So, if you’ve wondered where we’ve been he last two weeks, let me give you the Cliff’s Notes version:

Week One:

img_0166

Week Two:

OK, so maybe we weren't exactly doing this, but it looks fun, right?

OK, so maybe we weren’t doing exactly this, but it looks fun, right?

So, yeah, two weeks ago was Ted’s birthday – which we celebrated at, guess where … our old favorite, Kepner’s. As you can see from the photo, a good time was had by all, and clearly we weren’t taking notes of any kind to report about later. Because, well, alcohol.

And then last week we had a freak hour-long torrential downpour/monsoon/attempt-to-turn-the-yard-into-a-pool event that caused our basement to begin to grow water through the floor cracks like a garden, so we decided to stay in and deal with that. Because the alternative of coming home at 11PM and dealing with it after a few drinks was definitely not appealing.

Anyway.

So that brings us to this week. And Shane’s pick of Cruiser’s, which is located inside the Clarion Hotel in Boston Heights. If you’ve ever driven on Rt. 8 south of 271, or gotten off the Turnpike at Rt 8, you’ve seen the Clarion Hotel. And probably wondered just how in the bloody hell you even get to it, as the only exit from the highway that seems to exist there is the one that takes you on and off of the Turnpike.

Well, we found it.

Although, honestly, I think the larger challenge became locating the actual restaurant inside of the hotel once we arrived. Little tip, don’t come in via the entrance that faces the road. Because that would be too easy, right? Instead you should drive all the way around the place until you get to the entrance that faces the highway you can’t exit to get to the hotel … and that’s where you’ll find the front entrance of the hotel, as well as the entrance to the restaurant.

Confused yet?

Wait, it gets better.

I will say that Ted, Shane and I got a lovely tour of the first floor of the Clarion Hotel in our attempt to locate the restaurant. I can now show you to the fitness center, pool or courtyard.

After dinner swim anyone?

After dinner swim anyone?

We also witnessed a group of construction workers grilling out and perhaps hosting a tailgate party for some phantom sporting event out in the roadside parking lot. So we joked that at least if the restaurant sucked we had another nearby option.

I digress.

When we finally found the restaurant we were a little confused as to if it was even open, as I think there were only about two other people inside. The bartender/server told us to pick a table … so we picked one, then moved, then almost moved again … we like musical chairs. But hey, it’s not as if we were disturbing anyone. We were just doing our research.

After she brough us the menus, we realized that the name on them wasn’t Cruisers. Huh?

Wait, where are we again?

Wait, where are we again?

Oh well, they still had Summer Shandy on draft, so we were happy. Or at least Shane and I were happy. Shandy-hater Ted got the Great Lakes Commodore Perry.

Our special guests Jerrid and Amanda showed up one-by-one a bit later – and likely after next week will be back to full time with us, yay! – and got a Yuengling and Summer Shandy.

Wednesdays happen to be 50 cent wing nights at whatever-the-name-of-this-place-is, so score for us. And chesse sticks for $5. So another score. Well, not for Ted – but the rest of us were happy about it. I think Shane and I polished those off in like five minutes flat.

There were a few more in that basket, but hungry hands are grabby hands

There were a few more in that basket, but hungry hands are grabby hands

And then the rest of the night was pretty much just a giant wing fest at our table. Here’s a close up.

Oh hey, look - wings. That's something new for us.

Oh hey, look – wings. That’s something new for us.

But this might put it in better perspective.

Because we're much better to look at than just pictures of wings that all look the same

Because we’re much better to look at than just pictures of wings that all look the same

And that photo was taken before Amanda showed up. So, yeah, all this for four people. It’s like The Big Dog all over again.

To make matters even better – for us anyway – you can change sauces with every five wings. So you know we couldn’t all just stick to simple orders, and had to try at least a few different ones. I’ll do my best to remember most of the sauces, but I can’t promise to know who ordered what beyond my own order.

Hey, it’s a lot of wings. You try being the secretary for this group.

I was intrigued by the Six Pepper Dry Rub that was on the new “specials” menu, and I thought those were actually the best ones. To be fair, I only tried my other flavor – the Sweet & Spicy Dry Rub (which we all got at least one batch of) – but definitely liked the pepper ones better. It was hotter, but not enough to be overwhelming. Very good flavor on both kinds.

Shane had the Garlic Parm (surprise) as did Amanda when she arrived a bit later. As usual, it was good. Ted got the Spicy Garlic and was thrilled with them. The boys each also got another flavor as well, but I can’t for the life of me remember what they were. I know, I suck. Blame the beer.

For the record – and because we asked – the Scooter sauce on the menu is actually the same as the Sweet & Spicy but as a sauce and not a dry rub. The server also told us it was more sweet than it was spicy. Jerrid took a stab at that one.

Jerrid also actually ordered a BBQ, but when everything came out it ended up that instead he got a Sweet & Spicy Dry Rub like the rest of us. He just ran with it – because, well, at that point why argue? Plus then he got to sample firsthand the difference between the two, which seemed to be pretty accurate.

They also had baskets of fries for $2 each. So, you know, of course we got like three of those for the table. Because we needed more food. And to once again cheat our heart attack potential. I might need to change the name of this blog to “What Hasn’t Killed Us Yet Wednesday.”

Overall Cruisers/Valley Junction/Pick-A-Name-For-This-Place-Yourself is a fun little neighborhood bar, with cheap food and drinks and a very laid back atmosphere. It’s definitely nothing fancy – although they do have more than wings on the menu (sandwiches, dinners, salads, etc). I had read some reviews that mentioned service wasn’t exactly the big reason for returning – but we had an OK time of it, and I think that was more just the server’s brisk, not exactly warm & fuzzy personality than an attempt to be rude. Hey, we’re used to that at this point. And she did joke with us at times – like when Jerrid was slowly sipping his drinks and didn’t order another round with the table, her parting words were “Catch up, mustard.” Nice.

And when we’re still calling Jerrid “Musty” weeks from now, I’m sure we’ll think of her fondly.

The cook also made a few appearances to our table – first to deliver our food, at which time he told us more about the different sauces and dry rubs, how he created some of them himself, etc. You can tell he takes pride in that. And then later he came by to ask how everything was, which was nice. I mean, in all reality he was probably just bored – since I think only two other tables came into the place in the time we were there – and glad to escape the kitchen and talk to people … but whatevs. We’ll take it.

 

So, yeah, while we didn’t try anything else on the menu except things that can be put in a fryer, we would definitely give a thumbs up what we did try. And I could definitely see us coming back again on a Wednesday to try more sauces. Maybe I’ll actually remember them all that time. No promises, though.

Plus, I mean, where else can you have this much fun taking pictures on your way back to the car?

We forgot to do our usual thumbs up/down pictures inside the restaurant. So Ted got comfortable.

We forgot to do our usual thumbs up/down pictures inside the restaurant. So Ted got comfortable.

Why pose at a table when you can have this picturesque scene?

Why pose at a table when you can have this picturesque scene?

Goofball, take 1

And then … Shane. Goofball, take 1

Goofball, take 2

Goofball, take 2

I don't even know what's going on here anymore

I don’t even know what’s going on here anymore

It's like some deranged workout video

It’s like some deranged workout video

This is why we can't go anywhere nice

This is why we can’t go anywhere nice

Enough said

Enough said

Time to go home, kids. Goodnight.

Time to go home, kids. Goodnight.

Picked by: Shane
Next pick: Steph

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WTGW 6/29/16: Revisit – The Big Dog, Ravenna

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Once upon a time, we went to a place in Ravenna with an amazing patio and insanely cheap wings on Wednesday nights. And ever since that time we’ve been saying we need to go back to this establishment at some point to see if it’s really still that good, or if maybe the stars just aligned and we happened to visit on a good night, or if maybe we all just drank way too many beers that particular night and beer-googled ourselves a fantastic evening.

You laugh, but I think that happens far more than we realize at the time.

Fast forward to a few months ago, in the midst of our professional-and-medically-induced hiatus, when we received a comment on the blog from Greg, a gentleman who is affiliated with The Big Dog in Ravenna. He read our review from a few years back, and invited us to return to see some of the changes they’ve made (namely a brighter, less scary interior and a more open bar area on the patio – which was already pretty great to begin with). And hence the idea came that we should dedicate at least a few WTGW trips to revisiting those that we once put at the top of the favorites list, to see if they’re still deserving of the placement.

And so, on a gorgeous summer Wednesday evening, we figured why not return to what we’ve always considered to be one of the best patio picks of all WTGW time?

Exactly.

Plus Greg was kind enough to confirm for us that they do indeed still have the 10 cent wings on Wednesdays, so as you can imagine it didn’t take much arm twisting to get us back on the road to Ravenna.

Once we arrived, we found the parking lot still as busy as it had been that day we first visited – and although we still didn’t have trouble finding an open spot, we were still slightly nervous to walk onto the patio in search of a table, as we figured it would be packed.  But luck was on our side, and we easily spotted a table for three off in the corner.

Side note: oddly enough, all of our food runners throughout the night would have a more difficult time located said table than we did finding it in the first place. But whatevs.

So Greg wasn’t lying – the outdoor bar is definitely larger and more open. It’s less like you’re walking up to the side of a shed to order your food and drinks, and more like a real bar. With TVs and everything. *gasp* Although we noticed later – like as the sun started to set later – that they still haven’t installed any more lighting on the patio. So lucky for us it doesn’t get dark in this part of the world until like 10PM at this time of year … but not sure how we feel about returning toward the end of the summer when that time frame starts to move forward considerably.

But back to the plus side – bigger bar means better beer selection, so Ted didn’t have to suffer through another Miller Lite with his wings this time around. Horray! They still have the rule of needing to purchase one beer for every 10 wings ordered in order to get the 10 cent price on Wednesdays … which, again, twist our arms. Hell, we’ll even buy beers when we aren’t ordering more wings!

Just call us rebels.

So this time around Ted opted for Loginitos IPA on draft. And Shane and I got tall cans of Summer Shandy.

The Big Dog REVISIT, 6/29/16

Ted not drinking Miller Lite

The Big Dog REVISIT, 6/29/16

Summer at its best

Speaking of rules. So we noticed that they have them printed on a card on the table – primarily that none of the daily food specials are available to-go. And by to-go, they mean no food leaves the premises. Period. So no doggie bags. In fact, they even claim that taking home leftover wings on Wednesdays will get you banned for life. Wait, what? That’s kind of harsh.

The Big Dog REVISIT, 6/29/16

The fine print. Literally.

But regardless, we weren’t in the mood to test it – because, well, if we haven’t mentioned before, we actually like this place.

OK, so this post could also be titled “the time three people went out to dinner and ended up with 70 wings at their table.” Stop laughing. I mean, have you not learned that we like food yet? Especially when Hungry Shane is out with us, and there’s a hella long wait for food. Now granted we were prepared for the wait – both in the comments from Greg on this blog, and also in the signage on the table (the same place that warned us of banishment if we took said wings home). So Shane’s first wings hadn’t even arrived yet, and he already decided we (ahem, HE) should order 20 more.

Keep in mind he had ordered 20 the first time. And I got 10. And Ted got 20. So, yeah, it’s logical that we needed 20 more. Right.

Oh yeah, and a basket of fries and an order of pepper jack bites. Because, more food. Jesus. I think I gained 10 pounds just typing all that out again. We seriously are tempting the fates of the cholesterol gods every single time we go out on a Wednesday night.

The Big Dog REVISIT, 6/29/16

Fried food. Because the wings weren’t enough.

So here’s what we got: Shane’s original wing order was 10 salt & vinegar, and 10 dry rub ranch; my 10 were the chipotle chili pepper; and Ted’s were 10 mango habenero and 10 spicy garlic. And then the additional 20 were 10 Jamaican Jerk and 10 sweet red chili.

Got all that?

At least the two apps – fries and cheese bites – came out way before any of the wings. Which pacified Hungry Shane for a bit. But, I mean, not enough that he didn’t still go order the extra 20 wings after that food was gone and he continued to wait for his original order.

At least he tried to rationalize it with “what’s the worst that happens? We only eat 4 wings out of the 20? And we’re out what, $1.60?”

Well, when you put it that way … I mean, we’ll just try not to think of the starving children in Africa as we toss baskets of perfectly good wings into the trash and all. No biggie.

As far as the apps go, the cheese bites were good, but I thought the fries could’ve used some salt. And before anyone gets lippy on me – yes, I looked on the table. And no there was none available.

The Big Dog REVISIT, 6/29/16

Also known as: the only thing that kept Shane from starving to death

Now if I’d have held out – or, rather, wrestled some of the fries away from Hungry Shane’s grip and saved them for about another hour – I could’ve found some salt when Shane’s wings finally arrived at the table. We were all slightly surprised to discover that the salt & vinegar wings were apparently “some assembly requried” – as they arrived with about 30 packets of salt, and a little plastic cup of vinegar. Which is odd enough in itself, but even more so when we re-consulted the menu and found those wing were supposed to be a dry rub. Hmm.

The Big Dog REVISIT, 6/29/16

Salt & Vinegar wings

The Big Dog REVISIT, 6/29/16

Wing chef Shane in action

Ironically, though, those wings turned out to be one of the best we ordered, at least from the first batch of 50 that hit our table. The other winners were Ted’s mango habenero, which turned out to me more sweet than hot. If you order that same flavor in other places like BW3 or Quaker Steak, you can’t feel your mouth after a few. At least that’s what I’ve been told – because I’ve never had one at one of those joints. Call me crazy, but I don’t care for the feeling of sweating just from ingesting seasoning. But I tried a few of Ted’s, and could eat them easily – so you know there wasn’t much heat to them at all. Not that that’s a bad thing – just different from other places, and something to keep in mind when ordering.

That being said, my original 10 wings (chipotle) were probably the spiciest of the bunch, but the odd thing was that you didn’t necessarily taste the heat as you were eating them. They kind of tasted burnt. But then afterwards your mouth kinda warmed up. It’s like starting out with a little campfire, which you can manage, and then suddenly some a-hole walks past and pours a gallon of gasoline over top of it. And then, poof, it’s a forest fire.

As far as the other flavors, Ted said the spicy garlic weren’t really spicy, just garlicky. But he still liked them. And Shane’s dry rub ranch was not a big hit.

The Big Dog REVISIT, 6/29/16

Wonder what kind those are?

The Big Dog REVISIT, 6/29/16

Dry ranch wings. Or just dry wings. Whatevs

Ironically the last two batches we ordered were perhaps the biggest winners of the night, at least to Ted and I. They had just the right amount of heat, and great flavor. Ted ranked all the wings he tried as Jamaican jerk first, then garlic, then mango and then the sweet chili. I liked the sweet hot chili best, then the mango and then the jerk.

Shane still claimed that he liked the salt & vinegar best … but who knows if he’ll put them together the same way next time? It will be a gamble.

We all agreed that while some of the flavors were good, none of them really had any heat. Ted said the next time he would just ask for the spiciest ones on the menu and then tell them to make them twice as hot.

As far as the award for “majority of wings that could’ve been sent to African children but instead ended up in the trash” – well, that went to the chipotle. I stopped eating them when I realized we had 20 more wings coming, and since I wasn’t really crazy about these ones then I might as well save my appetite for ones that I might like better. Sometimes I’m a smart cookie like that.

The Big Dog REVISIT, 6/29/16

Sorry chipotle wings – you were not our winner tonight

But even so, we were too full to finish them all. Shane commented that Wednesdays are the time to come try all the different flavors – because, really, for 10 cents each it does offer a good chance to experiment, if you can stand the wait. Although then he said that once he found the ones he really liked his plan would be to just order “like, a million of those” – and hence really make the special go further. He’s economical like that, that one.

Which is what makes The Big Dog still one of our favorite WTGW picks. Aside from the gorgeous, spacious patio area – you never leave this place hungry. In fact, I think Shane was about to explode by the time the final 20 wings arrived, and then even more so after he attempted to eat a few of each of them. And the bills were insanely cheap. Ted paid $12 for 20 wings and two draft IPAs. Shane and I had 50 wings, six tall cans of Summer Shandy, and two apps – and our bill was $36.

$36.

For real? I mean, that’s like the cost of one entree and a drink at our last week’s pick.

And that’s why we definitely still wish we lived closer (or they would open another location closer to us, hint hint) so we could come more often. I mean, although this blog may just end up being called “What Wings Did We Order Wednesdays” because I have a feeling we would give up on other places and just end up visiting here about every Wednesday. But we definitely would like to try visiting on another evening, too, since we noticed they have great specials on about every night of the week – $3 half pound burgers on Fridays, $2.50 for three sliders on Tuesdays, $4 Philly cheesesteaks on Saturdays, etc. How can you go wrong? Well, I mean, other than maybe gaining about 50 pounds and perhaps clogging a few arteries … but when has that ever stopped us before. Technicalities.

Are we glad we revisited? Of course (although Shane’s stomach may have not shared that opinion with us the next morning – but that’s his fault, not the establishment’s. Ha)

And will we return again? A resounding yes.

Original visit: 9/3/14

Big Dog Saloon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

WTGW 1/20/16: Hodge’s Cafe, Barberton

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Ah Barberton. It’s been a while. We’ve missed you.

And by that I mean we’ve missed traveling through neighborhoods on the way to our destination that make us question our decisions on life insurance policies. Case in point, about halfway to Hodge’s we passed a totally questionable looking establishment on a street corner that was really nothing more than a small building with no name and no windows … oh wait, I take that back, there was one window, but it was taken up completely with a giant neon red OPEN sign and hours too small to be read from the street. What they were OPEN for, however, was completely up for grabs.

Shane (whose goal in life is the find the scariest place imaginable for us to visit) of course exclaims, “OH, we HAVE to go THERE.”
Me: Absolutely not.

We really need to start utilizing an “avoid ghettos” feature on Google Maps.

Anyway.

So we get to Hodge’s, and park in a somewhat less questionable parking lot, only to walk inside the place and be greeted by lighting that somewhat resembles the surface of the sun. Not quite what I was expecting from a little neighborhood dive establishment, but I guess you’ll have that. I also didn’t expect to see a Tony Stewart NASCAR themed crock pot staring at me from across the way on top of the popcorn machine, but I guess you’ll have that as well.

Anytime you can find $2 bottles of Summer Shandy in January … well, honestly it probably means that the bar just found a few cases in the back room and dusted them off mere seconds before their expiration date so they could clear the space. But if you’re me or Amanda you just chalk it up to a win and move on. We aren’t going to ask questions on this one, except for the obvious “how many do you have left in there?” Because we all know how this group has been burned on our favorite beer finds in the past.

Anytime you can find this in January life is good

Anytime you can find this in January life is good

Although in this case we didn’t have to worry, because we didn’t run out the stash. And they also had grapefruit shandy available on the specials board, too, so at least we had a backup.

Shane, meanwhile, went the tall Captain and diet route. Which he observed them pouring and commented that it contained at least four shots. And which we learned later at the end of the night was only $1.75 more each than my outdated Summer Shandy.  Oh, hello Windsor Pub redeux. Nice to meet you.

For apps we got fried pickles and clam strips. Because, dive bar and fried stuff. And us. The clam strips were more like batter strips that kind of maybe tasted a little bit like clams. Maybe they just deep fried some batter in clam juice? Who knows. The bigger pieces were OK, but a lot of the dish was just pieces parts of, well, fried batter. Yummy. And the pickles were spears instead of chips, which was not at all what any of us were expecting. Of course I had to comment that “that’s a lot of pickle at once.”

That’s what she said.

Pickles on steroids

Pickles on steroids

Despite what it says in the background, this is not meatloaf

Despite what it says in the background, this is not meatloaf

Hodge’s is known for its burgers, so naturally that’s what we all got. Plus there’s not much else of note on the menu to choose from, so that made the decision easier, too. I mean, we didn’t come all the way to Barberton for hot dogs and grilled cheese, right? Although they do also feature the random AYCE spaghetti special or veal parmesan. Those must be reserved for those “fancy” dinners like first dates and birthday celebrations.

And I’m still confused what the Tony Stewart crock pot is used for exactly.

Ted got the Italian burger with fries. Jerrid went with the Big Hodge burger with onion rings, Amanda got the mushroom and swiss burger with fries, and Shane got the black & blue burger with fries. Our server asked Shane if he wanted a small or large order of fries, to which Shane looks at me and asks “are you eating any?” I said that, well, honestly I really shouldn’t, what with trying to be a bit healthier and all – and that’s why I got a side salad with my BBQ burger.

Shane: Large then.

Thanks, honey.

Speaking of that salad …

So. Many. Comments.

So. Many. Comments.

So, yeah, be warned that Hodge’s version of a salad is really nothing more than a heap of cheese over some lettuce. So, OK. So much for the whole “healthier” thing. If I were Ted and said I didn’t want any cheese on my salad, would they have just brought me out a head of iceberg and a fork? But the best part is that wasn’t even the weirdest thing about the salad. If you look at that photo again, you’ll notice something to the side …

So. Many. Comments.

So. Many. Comments.

Yes, that’s an actual bottle of salad dressing. When I said I wanted the dressing on the side, I kind of just meant a little cup … not the entire bottle on the side of my salad. It’s almost like the cook was like, “well, hell, I don’t know how much to pour in a cup – I usually just put it on the salad directly. I can’t measure any other way. Just give her the whole bottle and let her do it herself.” Hmm. Are these people related to the folks over at the Lockview in Akron, who just gave us the plastic Helluva Good container from the corner store as part of our “house made chips and dip” order??

They also brought us an extra basket of fries after our food came out. Because they didn’t hear Shane order the “large” just for himself, I guess? Or maybe they really did think I was going to eat all of his after all. Or maybe the cook just really isn’t good on measuring fries as well as salad dressing. Who knows. But regardless, I have to admit it was a nice gesture.

Oh good, more fried stuff

Oh good, more fried stuff

I think they missed the cheese on half that burger?

I think they missed the cheese on half that burger?

I think they missed the cheese on half that burger?

I think they missed the cheese on half that burger?

Why is the pickle on the top? I'm confused.

Why is the pickle on the top? I’m confused.

Or it would’ve been, if they’d actually given us time to eat said fries – as well as actually refilling our beverages – in the meantime. Pretty much after the food came we didn’t see the server/bartender again. It was like they vanished into thin air after our meals hit the table. They never came to check on us, ask if we needed anything else, ask if we wanted more drinks … but when it was obvious we were finished eating suddenly they reappeared and delivered the checks to the table. It was almost like they’d been huddled around a security camera in the back room, waiting for that last morsel to leave our plates or for us to utter the words “that’s it, I’m full” so they could swoop in and clear the plates and drop the check. Again, they didn’t ask if we wanted the checks – just like they didn’t ask if we wanted anything else, or needed refills on our drinks – they just brought the checks.

Notice the empty glass. Because the server sure didn't.

Notice the empty glass. Because the server sure didn’t.

Because nothing says thanks-for-coming-but-don’t-let-the-door-hit-you-on-the-way-out like that particular action.

By the way, lest you think we were overstaying our welcome, getting all rowdy and holding the place past closing … it was all of 8:30 PM at this time. 8:30. And what time do they close, you might ask? 9:30. A full hour later. And also not even that late, considering most places like this stay open at least until 11, if not 2AM.

At Hodge’s, clearly they’re used to locking up and heading home by 9. Because at 8:30 on a Wednesday, we were the last table left in the place. The few other tables who had been sharing the place with us earlier in the evening left about a half hour prior to our checks arriving at our table. Either there’s a curfew in effect in Barberton that we’re not aware of, or everyone locks themselves in their houses before 9:00 so they can enjoy a date with DVR’d episodes of Dr. Phil and Wheel of Fortune.

Or maybe they all hit up the OPEN place. Who knows.

In any case, that non-welcoming sense of “get the hell out now” is probably a big part of why we won’t be running to return to Hodge’s. I mean, the food was just OK. My burger seemed a bit overdone (they don’t ask how you want them, must just cook them all “medium” – because we all know how well that usually works out). And I didn’t hear anyone in our group particularly raving about theirs either. I certainly didn’t hear anyone mention their “Top 5” lists … so I can only imagine this burger wasn’t going on any of them.

Now, as far as salads with your own personal bottle of pre-opened and partially used dressing, however, this is up there …

I can't stop looking at the pile of cheese in the background

I can’t stop looking at the pile of cheese in the background

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

Jerrid

Jerrid

Amanda

Amanda

Steph

Steph

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Ted

Drinks:  Of course I give props to any place I can find a Summer Shandy in January. But apparently finding one after 8:30 PM is a whole other story.
Food:
Eh. Nothing out of the ordinary from what we’ve had at other burger joints. Except of course for the salad dressing straight from the bottle.
Service: Clearly ends an hour or so before the actual closing time.
Overall: I guess if you’re a local, this would be a nice little neighborhood bar. But we aren’t, and we can get better service for the same caliper food closer to home.

Next Pick: Jerrid
Hodge's Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 8/5/15: TD’s Tailgate Grille, North Canton

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When I announced TD’s Tailgate Grille as my pick, everyone on the crew audibly groaned … not because they had heard it was awful, but conversely because it was on their list of possible picks, too. Ha ha, beat ya to it.

(I guess after two years of doing this, we’re all starting to get the eye for potential good picks. We’ve learned from you, dear old Gus’s Chalet.)

Anyway, I chose the North Canton location for this week – which I guess then technically leaves the actual Canton restaurant for another pick down the road. I’m looking at you, Ted. I’m sure you’ll claim it eventually. (*ahem* Ray’s Place *ahem* Bricco)

The place itself is rather unassuming as you walk up, tucked into a small strip plaza next to some juice bar. The website had boasted about their patio, which we were all looking forward to checking out.

Shane: is this the “great patio” you’re referring to? (as we approach the front of the restaurant and there’s like three small wrought iron tables and chairs positioned more as decoration than actual seating options).

Smart ass.

Turns out the real patio, located at the back of the restaurant, actually is pretty darn nice. So naturally that meant all of the tables were full – shocker, being that it was a gorgeous evening out. Thank you for playing nice, Mother Nature. We should do this more often. Really.

We opted for some open seats at the outdoor bar on the edge of the patio facing into the restaurant – and that ended up being perfect. Well … except for the bartender, who clearly missed the day in bartending school where they teach customer interaction. I bet he skated into this job thinking it would be all just preparing drinks for the servers, and they would do all the talking to the actual customers. Whoops. Sorry, buddy. Shane joked that up until a few days ago this guy had probably been like a banker or night shift worker in a back warehouse somewhere – anything that he could do solitarily and without talking. Or using a cash register, apparently, as he seemed a little lost on that end as well.

It would’ve been comical, if we weren’t often irritated by empty glasses.

Anyway, when we actually did have drinks, it was Summer Shandy for us girls (we’re drinking outside near a patio, after all). Shane was thrilled to find the Shock Top summer beer on draft, and Ted went for the Founders.

Because we were sitting at the bar, of course Ted made friends right away. Because that’s apparently how this group rolls. We’re like new people magnets when we sit in a row at a bar. I guess there could be worse things, right?

This time our new friend was some guy who is a regular at TD’s and also works next door – so that actually proved to be helpful as we were trying to decide what to order. Shane kept attempting to inconspicuously whisper to Ted (who was sitting all the way at the other end of the row of us) to ask his new friend about items on the menu. Eventually the guy was like, “you know I can hear you, right?” Yes, but he prefers to use Ted as his translator, thanks.

Ted ordered the zucchini planks for an app, which he said was good. The dipping sauce was particularly good, although we couldn’t agree on what exactly it was made of. That’s always a good sign, no? Ted likened it to the sauce you get with a bloomin’ onion at Outback. Shane thought it was more like tarter sauce. Which of course brought up Gus’s for the 1,846, 904th time of our WTGW existence, as we throught wistfully of the tarter sauce appetizer we were unknowingly served there.

Ted: if only this sauce was on bread and toasted, then we’d know for sure is it’s tarter or not.

Ah, memories.

Wait, there's cheese on those - is that allowed?

Wait, there’s cheese on those – is that allowed?

Meanwhile, Shane and I continued our quest for the perfect homemade French onion chip dip by splitting the chips and dip app. It was good, but not really a large portion and definitely not intended to be shareable if you’re as hungry as we were. Shane also commented that the dip was a lot like the kind he concocts at home when we’re out of the “real” stuff. But at least it was better than the time we ordered it at The Lockview in Akron and were given an actual plastic container of Lawson’s chip dip. Like from the store. Like they didn’t even scoop it into a serving bowl and pretend they made it themselves. For real.

I’m still tempted to go back to The Lockview sometime and order it again, just to see if that’s truly how they serve it or if they just ran out of it that night and were sending servers down the street to buy small containers on the fly. The curiousity is killing me.

This seems so fancy

This seems so fancy

For meals, I got the mushrooms Swiss burger with fries. It was good, very moist and prepared correctly – although they were a little skimpy with the mushrooms. When it’s in the name of the burger, you might want to include more than two. Just sayin. Also, the French fries were hand dipped in batter and then fried – which, I’m not sure who started this little trend but I have to say I’m not a fan. Or at least wish they would indicate it on the menu somehow before you choose it.  I mean, not that it’s not good … but sometimes I like to find ways to shave off a few hundred calories from an already unhealthy dish, thanks.

A nutritionist's nightmare

A nutritionist’s nightmare

Shane got one pound of the mango habenero wings – which, FYI (or if you’re just curious), one pound works out to about 6-8 wings. Our extremely unpersonable bartender/server was not at all thrilled to have to answer when we asked about this, so I share this here so that it might save you from actually having to ask him and force him to communicate with you. You’re welcome.

Bucket o'chicken

Bucket o’chicken

My lovely husband also ordered the Philly mac & cheese – because, well, if case you haven’t noticed, boys eat two meals in this group. They have several flavors of mac & cheese at TD’s – all of which looked really delicious. He picked the Philly over the Reuben after Ted’s new friend heard his loud whispers about “ask him which is better” and recommended that one. And he was happy with the choice. Although – and I agree with him just from seeing the dish – the portions seemed really small, especially for that being one of their specialties there.

Cheese

Cheese

Ted also took the word of the new guy and chose another specialty of the place, the fish tacos. This is, I guess, what TD’s is “famous” for … which seems an odd thing for a sports bar, but whatevs. He also joined the wing parade and went with a pound of hot wings. He was happy with his meals. He said the tacos were good – “but not as good as Hooter’s.”

There’s a joke in there somewhere.

Fish & chicken

Fish & chicken

Amanda opted for her usual staple, the Cuban sandwich. Which required some confusing assembly when it first arrived, but once that was over she said it was delicious and actually up there at the top of her list. It was served on garlic toast, which was a nice change. It was also very moist, unlike the last Cuban she had.

Again, there’s another joke in there somewhere. I’ll let you all work these out for yourselves.

Pre-assembled

Pre-assembled

Unfortunately, even with apps and double meals, the guys were still hungry at the end of the night. Us girls, not so much. I’m not sure what that says about this group or our ordering capabilities.

In light of that, and the fact that Ted had just celebrated a birthday, we made it a WTGW first by adding a dessert course to our meal this evening. Well, OK, technically you could count the funnel cake fries we’ve ordered a few times now as desserts – but I don’t, and it’s my blog, so there you go. Ted requested the bread pudding as his birthday dessert of choice, although he immediately realized his mistake when we shared with him the order of fried cookie dough bites that we picked.

Let me say that again, slowly, in case you missed it.

Fried. Cookie. Dough. Bites.

Fried balls of deliciousness

Fried balls of deliciousness

It was better before he tried the fried cookie dough

It was better before he tried the fried cookie dough

That alone was the staple of the evening. I mean, everything else was great, too (well, except for Grumpy Gus the Bartender) – but that dish alone is enough to make me want to make the drive back to North Canton again, like, tomorrow. And the next day. And the one after that. Do you think we can get them to start a delivery service?

Ted:  I could come back here and just get like five orders of that as my dinner.

Yes.

Steph

Steph

Shane

Shane

Amanda

Amanda

Fuzzy Ted

Fuzzy Ted

Sleepy Ted

Sleepy Ted

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Steph

Drinks:  Quite a bit on draft, especially seasonals. They had a few mixed drinks on the menu that sounded good as well.  
Food:
Good, although portion sizes seemed a bit small. But then again tha means you can save room for dessert – which, trust us, you’ll want to do. Just don’t be Ted and pick something that isn’t fried cookie dough bites.
Service: I’m not sure our bartender got the memo that you actually do need to talk to people in this career path. Ignored our empty glasses for a bit, and wasn’t at all personable. It was like the bouncer was filling in for the bartending staff for the night.
Overall: Great patio, good drinks and food – we’ll definitely be back. Can you open a Cuyahoga Falls location that looks exactly like this one?

Next Pick:  Amanda

 
TD's Tailgate Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 7/15/15: Eldorado’s Pizza Pub, Kent

Standard

So, we’re back in Kent, and it’s a place Ted hasn’t been to or picked yet. What’s this all about?

Honestly, Eldorado’s has been on both Amanda and Shane’s radar for a bit now – but neither of them wanted to pick it because they weren’t sure exactly where it was located. Until last week, as we were driving to Mike’s and Shane spotted it on a side street, tucked behind a gas station. Because that shouts slightly shady, but OK.

Let me clarify, Eldorado actually not shady at all – but at first glance, I can see how one would get that impression.

Anyway.

This time of year there’s a lot of places running these “Christmas in July” specials, and Eldorado’s is no exception. Which means that of course Ted went with the Christmas Ale on special. Just as predictably, Amanda and I ordered Summer Shandy. And Shane was elated to find a bar serving the Shock Top Summer Shandy, which he swears is better than the Leinenkugel that us girls enjoy so much.

And that, my friends, is what you call a group of happy alcoholics.

Eldorado’s is known for their stromboli, which definitely sounded delicious, so that’s the direction Amanda and I went with our orders. I got the meatball (Italian meatballs and provolone cheese), and Amanda ordered the All-American (pepperoni and sausage with shredded cheese). I’m not really sure how the cheese thing was different, except that mine seemed to have sauce on the inside of it, too. Which they didn’t mention on the menu. And was slightly weird – not to mention unfortunate for me since I don’t really care for sauce as much. Amanda’s on the other hand had more cheese and no sauce inside. So basically we should’ve swapped.

And not that we couldn’t have done so. Because – and here’s our PSA on this place … portions are HUGE, particularly for the stromboli. When you look at the menu, the size options are small, large, and extra large. Seems normal, no?

For the love of all things holy, only order the extra large if you intend to feed half the population of a small country. Or you want to be the poster child for the word “gluttonous.” Because Amanda and I each ordered a large size – one size smaller than the extra large – and I think just one of our meals would’ve been enough to feed the entire table. Well, if the entire table was just four people like me and Amanda anyway. Or maybe one Ted, or one Shane. You get the idea. Freaking huge.

It doesn't look so big until you realize that plate underneath is like 2ft across

It doesn’t look so big until you realize that plate underneath is like 2ft across

I mean, it’s embarrassing when for once the guys had less food on their side of the table. Yeah. For real.

Also embarrassing: seeing the two ladies at the table next to us sharing one small pizza, and then leaving with leftovers. Thanks for that.

Ted got the Wednesday special of a $5.00 small one item pizza. He chose pepperoni for his one item. And then he ordered a meatball sub – you know, on the side. Right. Because that’s what people order as a “side,” Ted. At least he passed on the fries.

That's a whole lot of cheese there, Ted

That’s a whole lot of cheese there, Ted

Reminder: he still had less food in front of him than either Amanda or me.

Shane ordered a NY style pizza with pepperoni, sausage and hot peppers. He was hoping to get a 16 inch, but was told that the NY style only comes in 12 inch. You could see obvious disappointment when the server informed him of this.

The entire table: Oh, that won’t be nearly enough food for you.

Needless to say, we kept a menu in case he needed to supplement his order later.

Meanwhile, on Shane's plate ...

Meanwhile, on Shane’s plate …

Our server – who was also the bartender – was seemingly shocked by the shear amount of food that would be arriving at our table shortly: “Boy, you’re all hungry, aren’t you?”

Now, in all fairness, she could’ve warned me and Amanda about the size of the stromboli. But I’m sure it was more fun for her to laugh at us from behind the bar. So, once again, thanks for that.

Luckily Shane never had to order more food, as I had enough stromboli to feed, well, everyone in the bar. I think Amanda and I made it through about a quarter of each of our meals before throwing in the towel. Which, honestly, was probably still a lesser portion than what the small size of that particular food works out to be, but whatever. It was really tasty, but just a lot of food. Even with Shane’s help, I think I’ll still be eating leftovers until next WTGW.

Hopefully Ted doesn’t pick Italian next week.

Seriously. How many cows were involved in the making of the cheese that went on this?

Seriously. How many cows were involved in the making of the cheese that went on this?

Amanda joked that she was so hungry she was going to eat all of it … ala the Merchant challenge from a while back – but backed down once money was put on the table. Smart woman. We also of course had to bring up the Belleria trip and how the boys ordered entire sheet pizzas each, and our friend and guest diner for the evening, Jenny, was utterly embarrassed to be seen with us.

Good times.

Shane thought the pizza was excellent. The sauce was sweet, which is right up his alley. He joked that since Ted works in Kent a lot he’ll need to start a delivery service just from this place to our house after work.

Ted, meanwhile, was busy for a bit picking off all of the cheese he forgot to request not be put onto his meatball sub. I think he’s been ordering the meatball splash sub at the aforementioned Belleria for so long now that he’s clearly forgotten that he actually has to specify. Once that task was finished, he got to work double-fisting the meatball sub and slices of pizza. Because why finish one first when you can mix flavors like that?

But he said they were both delicious, so the strategy must’ve worked.

All in all, the atmosphere was good at Eldorado’s, and other than the slight judgement we might’ve gotten for our food gluttony, we never felt like outsiders or newbies in a “regulars-only” kind of place. Our server was very nice, and very much on top of service – especially considering it was only her behind the bar to deal with bar patrons, table and patio … and people like us who clearly misunderstand portion sizes and make her carry party-sized platters out of the kitchen to our tables.

The music selection was somewhat of an enigma to us, though … it started with country (OK), then eventually we heard 80’s rock (still up our alley), then Lionel Ritchie (wait, what?), then something resembling show tunes (um, you’re losing us), then back to country. If one person was controlling those selections I think they might want to seek help for multiple personality disorder.

Amanda

Amanda

Ted

Ted

Steph

Steph

Um, Shane?  I don't know what symbol that is.

Um, Shane? I don’t know what symbol that is.

Take two. Your guess is as good as mine.

Take two. Your guess is as good as mine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Amanda

Drinks:  Decent draft selection, especially for a smaller bar. 
Food:
 It’s all Italian fare, so if you’re not in the mood for sauce and cheese it’s probably best to move on. And if I haven’t mentioned it enough already, the portions are huge. So come hungry. Or bring 20 of your closest friends. Whatever.
Service:  Very good. We appreciated her not openly mocking us for the amount of food that ended up on our table, and for keeping the beer coming to help us wash it down.
Overall: We’ll definitely be back, or at the very least requesting Ted pick up carry out orders before he returns home from the jobsite.

Next Pick:  Ted

 

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WTGW 7/1/15: Sassy’s Bar & Grille, Twinsburg

Standard

I dare you to think of a place with the name “Sassy’s” and not immediately have your mind conjure up some insanely neon 80’s themed Miami Vice decor. I mean, really, who uses the word sassy anymore? Well, other than us, as we’re teasing Shane about his “feeling all sassy” when he made this pick.

Because we’re 12. I know.

In all honesty, there is a bit of neon inside Sassy’s. Just visiting the website gives you a little taste of that. But it’s not as bad as the Crocker & Tubbs -esque hangout I was sarcastically envisioning. They actually have these cool lights on the floor near the bar that change florescent colors – which, as you can probably already guess, entertained us for far longer than I’m willing to admit here. But the topper on the neon-themed tree was a literal tree outside on the patio, which we noticed as we left was lit with purple Christmas lights.

(Side note: I was about to ask where you would even find those, but then I remembered we have this amazing thing called the internet. Thank you, Google and eBay, for bringing miraculous things such as this right to our fingertips.)

So there’s that.

Amanda and I continued our quest to make sure Summer Shandy is available at every bar in the greater Cleveland/Akron area. Meanwhile Shane returned to his rum and diets, and Ted – after discovering they didn’t have one of the dark beers on tap that he likes – ordered something called a Sierra Nooner. He actually tried a sample, deemed it OK and ordered a tall … then instantly regretted it since it was not really as drinkable as he thought it would be. Interesting.

We ordered the loaded tater tots as an appetizer. And made Ted try them, despite the fact that there’s melted nacho cheese on them. Because we’re the kind of awesome friends you want in your life for sure. He actually dipped his finger in the cheese and declared it “not horrible” – but he also wasn’t tempted to really indulge in the appetizer either, so I guess “not horrible” doesn’t exactly translate to “yes, I’ll have some.” The tots were crispy – probably deep fried, because, you know, that’s how all good bar food is created –  but the toppings were kind of lacking. Other than the sour cream, which they gave us enough of to feed everyone in the bar. Awesome.

Once again we eat before we photograph. Dammit.

Once again we eat before we photograph. Dammit.

Our waitress recommended the wings or the burgers. Because if you know us, you know that definitely helped narrow our choices from “things we’re thinking about getting” to “things we’re STILL thinking about getting.” Thanks for that.

Actually, as we perused the menu, we all took notice that they had funnel cake fries at Sassy’s, and vowed to save room for those. Then Shane orders a the Biker Burger and 10 garlic parm wings, so clearly he’s heeding the whole “save room” thing. Right.

I tried a few of his wings and we both agreed they had little to no flavor. It was almost like they forgot to put the sauce on them. His burger, ordered medium rare as he always does, came out pretty much the exact opposite. Because that’s awesome. But even so, he said it was still in his top five burgers, and that if it had been done correctly it would have been perfect.

Does this look like Top Five material?

Does this look like Top Five material?

(Keep in mind that Shane’s “Top Five” list changes with pretty much every new place we go to, so I’m not sure I’d take that as a glowing recommendation. Just saying.)

Wings, minus the flavor

Wings, minus the flavor

Amanda, meanwhile, ordered the same burger done medium – and it was pinker than Shane’s. I’d give them the benefit of the doubt that they just gave her the wrong burger, except that she ordered different fries and that maybe should’ve tipped them off. Just a thought. She ordered the side of garlic parm waffle fries – which I ordered, too – and at first glance/taste were delicious. In fact, Shane was immediately disappointed he didn’t order those instead of “boring fries.” But then about three fries in, you start to realize that pretty much all you can taste is butter. Like they took a page right out of the Paula Dean cookbook. I had visions of them just soaking whole potatoes in a bathtub of melted butter somewhere in the back room.

Shane: you do realize each of those is like 1,500 calories, right?

So naturally both Amanda and I gave our leftover fries to him. I think we were expecting more like a dry butter rub on them with parm flakes (what other place did we have those at? Hooley House maybe??) – but these were just drenched, like the top pieces of shriveled popcorn when they pump the butter sauce on the tub at the movie theater. Maybe the sauce they put on our fries was really supposed to go on Shane’s wings? Just a thought.

Fries shouldn't glisten like that. Just saying.

Fries shouldn’t glisten like that. Just saying.

I got the caprese burger. It was also overdone for medium, so much so that the edges tasted burnt and I pretty much just picked my way around to eat the middle portion. It was on a ciabatta bun, which we all know is my favorite carb of all time and so of course was delicious. Shane and Amanda also liked the buns their burgers were on, even though they weren’t ciabatta.

I'll take the 5,000 calorie fries please

I’ll take the 5,000 calorie fries please

So, to recap: buns, good … fries, not to much. Moving on.

And then there’s Ted, who ordered a hangover burger and 10 spicy garlic wings. And had to watch as our food comes out, and his doesn’t. I guess the kitchen got backed up, and his order got set behind. Which seems weird, since we’re all at the same table – but I guess that whole separate check thing threw them maybe? Or maybe they ran out of butter after they made our fries and got busy melting 15 more sticks so they forgot about poor Ted?

It’s a mystery to this day.

So then his food finally comes … and lo and behold, there’s cheese on the burger. Which he obviously would’ve asked to have taken off. So, just to sum up Ted’s day: he was late waking up this morning, encountered/mediated arguments all day at work, ended up with a beer he thought he would like but didn’t, wasn’t able to eat the appetizer we ordered because it was coated in cheese, had to wait extra long for his meal while staring at ours, and then had to work to remove parts of it just to make it edible.

**sigh** Clearly the universe was out to get him today.

But he did say that the wings were the only good thing about his entire day. So you can file that recommendation right next to Shane’s “Top Five” pick, I guess.

Before he dissected it

Before he dissected it

Wings, with flavor

Wings, with flavor

After letting our meals settle through another round of drinks and conversation, we did in fact order the funnel cake fries before we left. And they were very good- I mean, really, if you screw those up there’s pretty  much no hope for you – although they did lack any sort of dip, so The Basement still holds the title for best funnel cake fries within the WTGW crowd. I’m still dreaming of that caramel sauce. But at least they didn’t offer us buttery anything with the funnel cake fries, so I consider that a small victory.

Whoever invented these is a genius.

Whoever invented these is a genius.

Shane

Shane

Steph

Steph

Amanda

Amanda

Ted

Ted

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Shane

Drinks:   A lot of domestics and things like PBR and Miller on draft. Although when Ted asked about dark beer in bottles the waitress almost seemed offended that he implied they didn’t have anything. 
Food:
 It all sounded good on paper … then came out all wrong or not like we thought it would. So there’s that.
Service:  Good. The waitress was also the bartender, and we all know how that can turn quickly – but this time we rarely had to wait on drinks or flag her down to get her attention. Now if only she’d gotten the order right …
Overall: It was like a roller coaster of emotions – nervous about the place before we got there, relief once we got inside and started looking at the menu, disappointment when nothing we ordered was as we imagined. I think overall we’d give it another shot, but we weren’t initially over impressed.

Next Pick:  Steph

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