WTGW 5/30/18: REVISIT – Caston & Main, Portage Lakes

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Thank you to whichever one of us decided we could exercise our option on revisits during our week to pick, as I didn’t have time to research a new place this week. In my defense, we’re coming off of a holiday weekend which included a Jimmy Buffett concert, and I tacked on an additional vacation day after that … so when your week starts on a Wednesday that feels like a Monday then you kind of forget what day of the week it really is. Oops.

You’ve all been there at some point, so let’s stop the judgement.

My laziness was apparently forgiven, as we ended up heading back to a place that we haven’t been in nearly two years, Caston & Main down in Portage Lakes. The two things we remembered most from that previous visit were the incredibly delicious raspberry mules that Shane ordered and that Ted and I eventually gave in and switched to after sampling Shane’s … and the “entertainment” we endured from a guy with a guitar and a sound system with levels meant to drown out anything from dinner conversations to televisions to the possibility of a helicopter landing in the middle of the dining room.

Imagine our surprise to learn that neither of those things exist any longer at Caston & Main. I’ll let you use your imagination to discern our feelings on this discovery.

It actually seems they’ve made several changes in our two year absence. Not really to the place itself – although we speculated that they were putting in a patio (and as of this posting that has been confirmed, so yay us for our intuition) – but inside it’s still the same set up of bar-to-the-left-of-you, dining-room-to-the-right-of-you as you walk in the door, and large tables perfect for groups like us that enjoy ordering an entire menu of food.

Our first discovery as we sat down was the realization that we could actually hear ourselves think, so apparently Wednesdays are no longer entertainment nights. God bless them for that decision. I have to believe we weren’t the only ones to file some sort of opinion on our attempts to hold a conversation amidst the decibel levels of a monster truck night rally.

Coming in a close second on the discovery list was when we found the novel-sized drink menu had been parred down to a more manageable short-story-ish selection. Which usually we wouldn’t applaud, but when taking the time to peruse it impedes on our ability to get alcohol served in a timely manner we tend to get a little bit bitter.

Maybe not as bitter as when we realized the beloved and much applauded raspberry mule didn’t make the cut, but whatever. They seem to now focus on more local craft beers, and just a few specialty cocktails. Cassi and I decided to try out the margarita mule that was on special, which ended up just being OK. By the end of the evening we both switched to a bottled pear cider that was far more delicious, not to mention less expensive.

Speaking of, Shane learned the hard way the age old lesson of “if there are no prices listed, it’s probably because you don’t want to know,” as the bill at the end of the evening revealed that the craft beers he had been enjoying turned out to be $9 each. That’s an unpleasant surprise. Especially when both of our meals were less than his $27 worth of cocktails.

Ouch.

While the drink menu has gotten smaller, the food menu seems to have expanded since our last visit. This made us happy, because, well, we like food – and more of it is never a bad thing with this group. In fact, we actually tried to convince our server that she should work on commission when it comes to serving our group, since we’re not only going to already order a stupid amount of food but we’re also pretty easy to sell when it comes to adding on more.

On thing that hasn’t changed in our absence is that Wednesdays are still 3 for $6 slider nights. Ted and Shane had tried them on our last visit and found them tasty, so they decided on getting them again this time around.

Shane also got the steak tacos, which inspired this exchange:

Shane: How many tacos come in the order?
Server: Three
Shane: Ok, good. I’ll take that. Three.
Me: Um, do you want one order of three, or three full orders?

I think the server thought I was crazy for clarifying this, but as anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, that one really could’ve gone either way.

Thankfully, it was only the one order of three tacos. And one order of the slider special.

The use of multiplication tables was involved in this order

Tiny sandwiches

I got the roast beef philly, with the chips and French onion dip as a side.

Points for presentation

And we got nachos for an app.

There seems to be way more nachos than toppings here, no?

So that covers one side of the table. I think by this point the server might’ve realized we were on to something with that whole commission thing.

Ted waited for me to tell him which sliders he had ordered last time, then went with the chicken salad, Rueben and BLT sliders. Times two, because you know one meal isn’t enough in this group. He also got chips and dip for an app.

You’re not seeing double

Anyone else think that’s a lot of dip for that amount of chips?

Cassi and Jason got pretzel bites as app.

Carb overload

After getting the server’s opinion on which was better, the crab BLT or the chorizo tacos, Cassi took her suggestion and ordered the crab BLT.

Hopefully its a good idea to trust the server

Jason ordered the invisible patty melt. Well, OK, that’s not really what it’s called, but that’s the name we gave to it when all of our food orders came out of the kitchen and his never appeared.

At least the server came over and admitted it was her fault, she “never does this” but somehow she had forgotten to put it in as part of the order, but that she let the kitchen know what had happened and it would only take a minute to come out.

Jason thought it was karma for making fun of the pimento cheese app as we were first reading the menu … and then ordering a burger featuring the same cheese on it. Touche. Meanwhile we all proceeded to make yummy noises while he was forced to just sit and watch us eat. Because we’re twelve.

Shane’s steak tacos were admittedly the best looking item on the table. I had been eyeing them up on the menu and almost ordered them, but made a last minute switch to the roast beef. I definitely was #foodjealous. Not to say that I didn’t like my sandwich –  it actually was really good, the peppers and cheese were a nice addition – but I wish it had been a tad hotter by the time it arrived at the table. Although considering Jason’s situation I guess I should just be glad it arrived at all. So there’s that.

Speaking of, it seems the long awaited patty melt didn’t turn out to particularly worth the extra anticipation, but Jason ate it anyway. I mean, by that point he was just extra hungry and probably would’ve eaten a grilled shoe if it was set in front of him.

We waited all that time for this?

He did end up getting a discount on the meal because of its tardiness to the table – not a full “I’m sorry this was my fault so it’s on the house” discount, but at least it was something.

I think Shane was hoping for a “we never printed the prices and therefore there was no way to tell that each of your drinks would be the same cost as a full meal” discount on our bill, but that never materialized either.

Overall, outside of sandwiches that don’t arrive on time and therefore might have been assembled with a little less love, the food is decent. Ted still gave a thumbs up to the sliders (rating them in order: BLT, chicken salad and Reuben), Cassi and I enjoyed our sandwiches, and Shane’s steak tacos were worthy of every bit of the food envy we all had. The apps were good – although they seemed to have a Goldilocks and the Three Bears thing going on with the accompanying dips (the pretzels had too many bites and not enough dip, the chips had too few chips and an overload of dip, the nachos had an abundance of tortilla chips with too few toppings). Our server was on our good side until she forgot about Jason. I mean, points for owning up to the mistake, albeit begrudgingly (does “I’m not sure how this happened, but I guess it was my fault” really count as an apology?) – but after that point she also seemed to avoid our table a bit more, as if the very sight of us brought up memories of a failed relationship. If only she’d avoided us long enough for Shane to save another $9 on that last drink …

Picked by: Steph
Originally picked by: Ted

Steph

Cassi

Jason

Ted, who could care less what anyone else thought of the place, he liked it

Shane, before the bill arrived

Shane, after seeing that empty glass cost him $9

 

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WTGW 2/7/13: Table 6, North Canton

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So it turns out that tonight’s pick, Table 6, is a sister restaurant to 3 Brothers. As in the same 3 Brothers that we contemplated returning to as a revisit one week after we first visited, since the fried pickles and desserts were things of our dreams. When Ted mentioned in a group text that he was considering Table 6 as his pick for tonight, both Cassi and I immediately went to their website to check out the menu … and as soon as the words “Brothers fried pickles” floated past my eyes on the appetizer menu I fired back a text warning everyone to eat a light lunch.

Meanwhile Cassi – who officially joined our weekly group the week after said visit – exclaimed that it made her week to finally get to try something we’re all been talking about forever. Group goals.

So then imagine our disappointment when we get to the restaurant and find out that they aren’t the same dish.

OK, I’m kidding, that didn’t happen. But imagine how awful that would’ve been.

Spoiler alert – we got three orders of said pickles. For four people.

But we’ll get to that in a minute.

Table 6 is very nice on the inside. It’s like the sophisticated older sister to 3 Brothers’ Sporty Spice tomboy. There’s a giant bar in the center of the building, with seating and tables all around. We chose a 4-top near what I believe were the patio doors – which obviously stayed closed on this February evening.

Our server was great. As soon as he heard it was our first time here he went through pretty much the whole menu with us. Literally. The. Entire. Menu. He was so thorough that even Shane couldn’t come up with any questions. And we all know that like never happens.

He also explained that the concept of the place is more small plates that are meant to be split amongst the table than giant entrees for one. So of course it makes sense that we then started off by ordering six appetizers … including three of the same thing.

We apparently missed the lesson on sharing in kindergarten.

As mentioned, we each got an order of the pickles. Well, Cassi and Ted each got their own, while I made Shane share with me. Much to his disappointment. Because we all know Shane hates sharing food.

You definitely don’t get the generous portion of pickles here that you get at 3 Brothers. Which seems somewhat contrary to the whole “sharing plates” thing, no? OK. But they’re still the same thin cut, lightly breaded and very tasty treats we remembered from our other visit.

We’ve been dreaming about you, pickles

Ted also got an app of the buffalo cauliflower bites, pretty much out of sheer curiousity. His first few bites definitely didn’t win him over, but he kept going back for more, and later said that the more he ate them the better the seasoning was.

When healthy meets sports bar

Cassi got the pretzels. I bet you’re shocked to hear that. But it was a good decision, as they were very good. Crispy on the outside, but extremely doughy on the inside.

Conveniently cut for sharing

Shane and I also added on a late order of fried cheese curds, I think after the pickles came out and Shane realized he was going to have to share a miserably small amount of food with me. Shane had never had fried cheese curds before – which seems odd given his love of both cheese and all things fried – but then again now that I think about it the only time I’ve ever had them was on a work trip to Minnesota, where they seem to be bountiful.

I want to kiss whoever invented these

And now we may have to move there … because Shane’s words after trying them were something to the effect that “these are effing delicious.” I can’t disagree.

Although I will disagree on his love of the sauce that came with them. He thought it was just as delicious as the fried cheese, while Cassi and I said it deterred from the taste of cheese.

Ted didn’t have an opinion. Shocker.

We were warned that our meals may not come out at the same time, since they don’t have heat lamps in the kitchen and they just bring each of the dishes out as they’re finished. Fair enough. I mean, why make us all starve and then eat things that taste like heated rubber just because someone ordered a complicated dish like fried chicken that takes extra time to prepare?

Ted got the pastrami sandwich. A sound choice that I think all of us mulled over after reading the description on the menu.

Now that’s a sandwich

And we about had to roll him out of the restaurant at the end of the night. I mean, that’s a lot of meat.

Meat-wich

That’s what she said.

Cassi got the shrimp and grits, which was one of the specials on the menu during our visit. She got a “good choice” from the server when she ordered it … but unfortunately she didn’t share his sentiment after trying it. She said it was ok, but the sauce on the shrimp was overpowering ad made it so you really couldn’t taste anything else but that. So it was kind of just like a bowl of sauce with some lumps in it. Sounds scrumptious.

A bowl of bad flavoring

I ordered the fish and chips. They were good, but just like Ted’s sandwich, it was a pretty large order. I, however, wasn’t up for a trip on the “fill your stomach to the point of explosion” train, and ended up leaving most of the fries behind after I devoured the fish and cole slaw. Cassi also thought I was leaving the fish breading behind, as when I first cut into a piece it all flaked apart.

Cassi: I know you sometimes eat the insides out of a sandwich when you start getting full, but eating the fish out of the breading seems like a new low.

I’ll take everything you can put in a deep fryer please

Also, they aren’t kidding about that whole “we don’t use heat lamps” thing, since my fish was basically a little volcano of steam when I first cut into it. Noted under: things that should make me wait a moment before I start eating them. But as we’ve seen many times prior, I’m clearly not that smart. *sigh*

Shane had debated over ordering the pastrami, the street tacos and the sliders. After a lengthy chat with the server, he ended up with the short rib sliders and the lobster tacos. And was slightly food jealous when Ted’s pastrami sandwich arrived, as that was the one thing he declined.

These look too healthy to be in front of Shane

Head shadow

But he definitely wasn’t disappointed in the two meals he did choose. He said the sliders could’ve used a little bit of BBQ sauce, but they were still good. He was also definitely glad he ordered both meals, as one alone wouldn’t have been enough for his bottomless hunger.

So this was like the fancy version of ordering a burger AND wings.

Remember how I’ve mentioned numerous times now that we were all, like, super full as we finished eating? Makes perfect sense then that we all nodded when the server asked if we might like to consider dessert, no?

Let’s just say that if we ha never been to 3 Brothers, we most certainly would’ve passed on dessert. But thanks to our visit there and our near-miss at passing on what turned out to be the Best. Dessert. Ever. we’ve learned our lesson. I mean, Cassi wasn’t even on that WTGW trip and she knew better than to walk away dessert-less here.

Although Shane, in his quest to be “healthy,” declined and said he was going to get on the treadmill when we got home. Um, OK. Maybe next time just don’t order two meals and all the fried apps, but whatever. He definitely missed out.

Ted Cassi and I ended up with mini dessert jars. And I think the “pumpkin love” from 3 Brothers should be nervous about competition in the dessert category, because wow.

I got chocolate chip cookie. Cassi got the same minus the ice cream. Ted got the mocha mudslide and the warm molten brownie.

Cookie dough with ice cream

And without

I don’t know which of Ted’s is which but who cares, it was all amazing

Um, yeah. Cassi said it might be the best dessert she’s every had. Those little jars were the perfect amount of heaven. I mean, if I hadn’t just eaten a huge dinner and appetizers I might be able to eat more than one. Oh, who am I kidding, if this place weren’t a half hour away I would probably stop on my way home from work every night just to get like 8 of these to go.

For once maybe I’m glad a good pick is a little further away. My closet thanks you.

But we will definitely be back. I mean, it’s worth it even if just for the pickles and dessert.

Hey wait, I think I’ve said this before.

Picked by: Ted

If there’s bad lighting in a place, I’ll find it

Ted

Bromance

Cassi


Table Six Kitchen + Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 10/18/17: Jilly’s Music Room, Akron

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We really should’ve had an inkling about what this night would hold when we had to get around two road closures and a near miss accident just to arrive at Jilly’s Music Room. Because all great nights start with cheating death, no?

So once we finally got there imagine our disappointment to find that the place was packed and we weren’t able to even get in the door.

Just kidding. We were actually the only ones there. At 7PM on a Wednesday. We had to ask as we walked in if, in fact, they were actually open, because we were a bit surprised to find not a single soul sitting at the bar or at any of the many tables. I mean, I get that the place is a “music room,” so they host bands, open mic nights, special events, etc – and I get that those things start later in the evening. But they also serve food, so we thought it odd that at dinner time they were completely vacant.

Spoiler alert: there’s a very good reason for that. But we’ll get to that soon enough.

So we were told to sit anywhere. Uh, thanks for that. We’ll do our best not to take all of the choice locations, what with the line following behind us and all.

All this being said, imagine our surprise when it took a hot minute for someone to come around with menus. Let’s see, we’re the only patrons here, you talked to us as we came in, you watched us sit down, you know there are no menus of any kind on the table … but yeah, sure, take your time coming around with menus at a place we’ve clearly never visited. Good plan.

Drinks were rather expensive. At least the specialty mixed drinks were anyway. But then again that turned out to be the theme of the evening. Foreshadowing, I guess.

Ted went with an IPA, Cassi got a tequila and soda, Shane went with a Jameson and ginger, and I chose a cider.

Oh, wait, scratch that, they “forgot to order more,” so no cider for me. Guess that curse falls back in my lap.

So the server brings back the drink menu along with everyone’s round of drinks so that I can pick something else … and then pretty much everyone was ready for round two by the time she came back to check if I’d picked anything else out. I must not look thirsty.

After these past few weeks, I have to believe we’ve been cursed by the spirit of awful servers.

So Jilly’s, I believe, falls under the “fancy” category of our WTGW choices. Not only is it a music place, it also features “all gluten free fare.” That’s a far cry from our usual greasy burgers, cheesy pizzas and deep fried wings. Leave it up to Ted to discover this strange world. How did they allow us inside this place anyway?

Shane and I got the potato chips and breaded mushrooms (yes, gluten free breading) as apps.

Gluten free breading does not photograph well

We almost didn’t get the mushrooms, as it seemed a bit much to order two appetizers – even for us. But let me just tell you how glad we were that we did. Because heed this little tip, even though the server will tell you that the potato chips are enough to serve two … well, she’s lying. Or she means two people who only eat one potato chip a piece. I guess people who eat gluten free also eat smaller portions?

Fancy chips not made for two

Cassi got the fried pickles (which, like last week, still aren’t magically free) and a caprese salad. Both were embarrassingly small. Five seconds after those items arrived at the table she was already planning to order more food.

At least they give you both chips AND spears.

The smallest salad in the universe. For $7.00

The curse of “not having things you want to order” quickly passes on from me to Shane, as he chose the kielbasa for his dinner – but then had to re-pick after the server reappeared and said that unfortunately they couldn’t serve that tonight because “it was still too frozen to cook.” Um, what now? Is this the first night this place is open? Were they not expecting people to eat and drink tonight?

They offered him the steak skewers instead. Which sounds OK, but turned out to be the size of a small appetizer.

Far from Ted’s meat on a stick

He also got the signature wings. And while you know how I like to pick on the boys for always ordering enough food for a small army, this time it was well warranted – and still not enough food to even begin to constitute a real dinner.

I mean, look at these wings.

Dainty little wings

Did these come off of specially bred miniature chickens? Were they meant for a children’s menu? I’m so confused.

Ted got the buffalo chicken slider and the steak slider. OK, so you know how sliders are like cute, mini-burgers? Well, these were like mini-sliders. I swear they were each one bite. Because that’s a meal.

That little thing that looks like a charcoal briquette is actually a slider. Yes, seriously.

It’s also worth mentioning that that plate pictured above is $12. For two (mini) sliders. Anyone going to get a meal at Jilly;s should keep that photo above at the front of their brain. Also, I feel the need to relive the $7 steak special story right here for some reason.

Ted also got the red chili wings. You already know where this is going. He said were good, but he needed like seven orders of them to constitute a meal.

Put some meat on those bones, chickens

I got the street tacos. Which when they arrived looked to be the most food out of anyone at the table – including Cassi, who later ordered a brie flatbread just to actually not starve her way through the evening.

Third order is the charm for Cassi, I guess

But they just weren’t that good. Gluten free tacos should not be a thing, I’ll just say that right now. They tasted burnt. The salsa was tasty, but that’s about the only good thing I can say about the meal.

There are tacos under all that greenery, I swear

So let’s recap: anything decent tasting arrived in a portion size fit for an anorexic model, and the one item that looked to be enough food to be considered a dinner portion was awful. We’re totally winning at this week’s pick, no?

Back to my mixed drink that I was finally able to order … it ended up being way too sweet. It sounded really good on the menu (black cherry juice, sage syrup, vodka), but it was like drinking a glass of straight fruit laden with sugar. I guess maybe it’s a blessing in disguise that by the time it arrived there at the table there was really only time for one round on my end?

Cassi and Shane did say that their mixed drinks were well made. That was pretty much the only good thing we could say for the evening. Well, and that we stopped at Dante’s Game Day Grille on the way home to get real beer (for under $5 a glass) and some French fries (a giant basket for just $4! We felt like we’d just hit the lottery) just to redeem the evening.

Overall the presentation at Jilly’s is really good – the food looked gorgeous when it arrived at the table, but the taste and the portion size just don’t even come close to matching the price. It’s definitely far overpriced for what you get – I mean, come on, $7 for a bite sized slider? – and unfortunately the “atmosphere” isn’t enough to redeem that.

Sorry, Jilly’s – you definitely aren’t music to this group’s ears.

Picked by: Ted

Shane

Steph

Cassi

Ted

Jilly's Music Room Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 6/14/17: Crave Cantina, Cuyahoga Falls

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Wait, what, there’s a new taco joint in our backyard? Please, twist our arms to try this one.

Crave Cantina opened just a few weeks ago, a spinoff from the same owners of the Akron-based restaurant of close-to-the-same-name, Crave. We see what you did there, owners. The new Cantina is located in the old Firehouse restaurant on Front Street in downtown Cuyahoga Falls, which looks like a war zone now (note to ladies, heels may not be the best choice for navigating the walkway from any parking area to the front door, trust me on this one) but once the street renovation project is completed should be fabulous.

Speaking of parking, it took us a hot minute to find a lot and a spot – which of course caused us all to think there would be a wait for a table once we finally got into the restaurant. And the hostess didn’t help things much, as we’ve learned the hard way that being greeted with the question “do you have a reservation?” typically leads into the “well, unfortunately we currently have a wait until about 2025 if you don’t have a reservation” let down. Especially when a place is less than a month old.

But luck was on our side this evening, as our “no” to the reservation interrogation was followed with “OK, well follow me this way.” Yes, please. Gladly.

Also, it should be noted that we don’t do reservations for WTGW. Well, except if you’re Ted and you want to check out Gus’s Chalet. Just saying.

Our first observation after we were seated was that they definitely put some energy into changing the place up from its last incarnation as Firehouse. Let’s just say that our few experiences at that particular establishment were not good ones, so noticing that it was freshened up – and cleaned up – was a good sign. Although we did notice that the wall on the one side of the back area where we sat – which you’ll see in the pic of Ted later – looked a little like the street outside (maybe they’re waiting to match it to said street?), but other than that the place looks great.

Crave is also part of this new trend of “fancy” Mexican places, where instead of the generic menu-that-could-be-placed-at-any-Mexican-place-in-the-city-involving-dishes-made-from-a-combination-of-rice-and-beans-and-some-sort-of-corn-or-flour-shell-filled-item, everything is pretty much a la carte. Tacos with interesting fillings are individually purchased at $3 or $4 each, and then you can add sides if you like. There are a few entrees, and some intriguing appetizers, but the focus is more on creating combinations of your own than a standard menu.

Which also means … no free chips and salsa as soon as you sit down. This is one part of “fancy Mexican” I certainly can’t get behind.

Because of this, and the fact that (as usual) we were “hungry enough to eat the entire menu” as soon as we got there, Shane and I ordered the chips and quacamole as an app. We did the trio of three different guacs: traditional, mango, and charred corn.

Mix and match

Unfortunately it seems that we probably could’ve stuck with just one guac option, as they all tasted the same to us. And trust me, we tried really hard to make comparisons. But we honestly felt they were all extremely similar. Three bowls of green dip, with nothing much to distinguish one from the other. Well, OK, one had some chunks of mango on top. But if you closed your eyes and just did a taste test, it was very difficult to tell one from another. Also, chunks of corn are surprisingly similar to chunks of mango when placed in a green substance. Just an observation.

At least they brought us extra chips to help finish off the guac

Meanwhile, on the fancypants side of the table, Ted went with the Yellowtail Cerviche as an app. And yes, I had to consult the menu online before I typed that.

It apparently tastes better than it looks

He was far more pleased with his app than we were with ours. He gave it a thumbs up, saying that the sweet potatoes on top were tasty, and the nuts (at least that’s what he thought they were?) were a good contrast. And the dish as a whole was sweet.

You know, unlike other dishes we’ve had in the past.

Yes, I just made another Gus’s Chalet reference. It was that kind of night.

We also, of course, got margaritas. Or, at least Shane and I did – Ted made up for his highbrow appetizer by ordering a boring old beer. Boo. We shared a pitcher of passion fruit margaritas … which, strike two for us, I guess, as we weren’t thrilled with the flavor. The taste – what there was of it – was a bit tart. I probably wouldn’t go that route again.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, we still finished it. Please. But for next time we made a mental note that we should probably try something else from the drink menu. Maybe Ted was smart after all.

We also got this lovely bottle of water for the table.

Fancy water to go with the fancy food

This is awfully classy for a Wednesday night out, people. I mean, it has a cork in it. And it’s water.

Although Shane pointed out that if the bottle were plastic and not glass he would probably have thought they just recycled one of those old cheap vodka bottles with the built in handles on the sides. Point, Shane.

For meals, Ted again got something I can’t pronounce or spell, so let me consult the online menu … Pollo la Braza. Which I think must translate into “entire chicken on a bed of fried plantains.” And also without flavor, according to Ted. He said he expected it to be spicier, but if was almost like just a rotisserie chicken with rosemary flavor. And the fried plantains (wait, that’s what we were calling them all night … but it turns out after I look at the online menu those were actually yucca fries. Are they the same thing? I took German in high school, folks. Spanish is lost on me) Anyway, those were good as long as you used the sauce on the plate to dip them in. He definitely preferred his appetizer over the main dish.

Here’s your half a chicken, sir

Shane and I went the taco route. I got three total – although in retrospect I should’ve only gotten two. When we asked how big the tacos were – because at these places they can be anything from two bites to the size of a frisbee – the server told us they were about as big in diameter as one of the small plates on the table.

So either she was off on her comparison, or – more likely – I was using hangry eyes when I ordered, because the tacos we got seemed far bigger than the size of those dishes. Bigger is better? No?

In any case, I chose the chicken, the chorizo and the ground beef.

I was too hungry to note which was which. Sorry.

Shane was in the same bottomless pit of hunger boat as me, and got five total – two brisket, one chorizo, one buttermilk fried chicken and one flank steak.

Come hungry, leave happy. Wait, wrong restaurant.

I also got a completely unnecessary side of rice. Because, again, eyes bigger than stomach. I should also point out that this side was the one and only thing that I could probably walk into any Mexican place and obtain. So I wasn’t really missing out on much by not finishing that.

Extra food. Because we never have that at our table.

I liked all of my tacos. The chicken one had good flavor all around, but the other two got most of their flavor from the sauces and not the meat. That being said, I would still order them all again, but I would also really like to try some others on the menu.

Shane adamantly disagreed with me about the chorizo. He thought it was lacking in flavor overall. He thought the buttermilk fried chicken and the flank steak were the best of his – he said would’ve been happy with just those two and maybe one more as far as being full, but definitely those two in terms of flavor. The others were a disappointment in comparison.

Thus followed a conversation about the merits of eating the best food first versus last – as Shane had eaten his two best tacos first, since those were the ones he was the least sure about and thought he would like least, and then was stuck with the actual least liked ones to finish things out. See also: why I’m prone to taking a bite of each and then deciding what order to eat them in. Don’t judge.

Overall Crave Cantina is a decent place. The service was good, although we think our server may have been new to the business since she was a bit timid (I mean, come on, even though we were hungry we’re not that intimidating … usually …) but she was still OK. And while we were a bit hit and miss on our meals and drinks … the concept and the space (and the fact that they’re kind of still getting their feet wet at this location) are enough to make us want to come back and try out some different things on the menu that we passed up this time around. It reminded us of places like Bomba in Fairlawn or Barrio in downtown Cleveland, where the tacos are all interesting and different and you want to try them all since they’re all only a few dollars each. Frugal + options = a thumbs up in our group.

Shane

Steph

Ted. And I wonder if they’re taking suggestions on what to do with that wall?

Picked by: Ted
Next pick: Shane

Crave Cantina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

WTGW 4/5/17: Arnie’s Public House, Akron

Standard

Today’s lesson is in marketing. Specifically, what to name your restaruant that makes it sound inviting and like a place you might want to spend an evening with friends.

Arnie’s Standing Room Only: sounds like a place where we’d be lucky to get in the door, and then stand around awkwardly looking at each other and trying not to spill our beers.

Arnie’s Public House: less like a place you’re going to get jostled around in, but all I can think of is a “bath house” at the lake … and that’s not a very pretty picture either.

OK, so maybe it still falls a bit short of the mark, but progress.

We’ve never been inside this place when it was Arnie’s SRO – although Ted swears to the darkest side of the sun that we at least talked about going here more than once. Hmm. Personally I know I had to look it up in Google maps just to make sure it was where I was thinking it was, so I’m guessing those must be his other friends he’s referring to.

Dammit Ted, we don’t talk about other friends on WTGW. This is our night.

So I read some reviews and everyone agreed that Arnie’s PH was a much improved version of SRO. From what I can gather, they added a new menu/chef, as well as tables and booths for (gasp) seating options. Again, progress.

The place is still small, wedged into the side of a strip plaza. It probably only fits 50-75 people if I had to guess. This proved beneficial when we walked all the way through from what we thought was the front entrance on the patio to the actual front entrance at the back of the place (see also: irony) – only to find a “please seat yourself” sign. Well at least we had already walked past the available tables, and since the place was small we didn’t go too far out of our way.

The bartender helped us to a booth anyway, and explained that there were two bartenders, as well as one server – and she was new, but doing OK, so just give her a chance.

Because that sounds like a setup for eventual disappointment, no? Like “hey, here’s a great car … it looks nice, but it has 400,000 miles, no brakes and is missing a tire, so if you just park it in your driveway and look at it from the side with both tires, it’s really awesome.”

Also, since the bar is considerably smaller – and pouring drinks seems like sometimes it can be less work than waiting tables – it appeared the scales may have been tipped a little bit out of the new girl’s favor there, but whatever.

The beer list seemed decent, although Ted went to order one of his dark beers on tap only to be told it had been replaced with Summer Shandy. I’m liking that the “we’re out of the beer you like” curse has been moved out of my corner for a bit.

In any case, he went with a Thirsty Dog Twisted Kilt, I decided on Angry Orchard, and Shane – in a twist to shock us all – grabbed the Summer Shandy over his usual Bud Light. Color us surprised.

The menu is a mix of things that sound fancy (siracha brussel sprouts, Hungarian stuffed peppers, chicken and waffles) and things that you’d think a bar would have (burgers, chips and dip, sliders, pretzel sticks).

We’ve been on a pretzel stick kick the last few weeks, so we switched it up and went with the hush puppies this time around. Although a bit later – before our hush puppy app arrived – the server approached our table mistakenly with a plate of – what else? – pretzel sticks.

It’s like they knew we’d broken up with them and they were stalking us out to see our new love.

And I guess maybe in some ways they were warning us we were going to be sorry, because the hush puppies ended up not being the best choice. For something that has jalepeno in them – and you could see the actual jalepeno bits – there was zero flavor. Shane commented that normal, non-jalepeno hush puppies have more flavor than these did. This was just like eating a huge ball of cornmeal mush with some green flecks in it – something we all find incredibly delectable, I know.

“Those are some balls” – Shane, as they arrived on the table. Keeping it classy, folks.

The sauce was the only thing that made them even edible, but even that wasn’t anything impressive – I think it just seemed so amazing because it kept the hush puppies from turning your mouth into the Sahara desert and gave the dry bread crumb consistency at least a little bit of flavor. You can tell we didn’t care for them so much when we left one hush puppy on the plate – and even after we were done with our meals still no one touched it. That never happens.

Sorry, pretzels. We never should have doubted you. Please don’t hold it against us.

Shane got the Red Eye burger for his meal, along with a side of the housemade chips and dill dip for his side.

Mmmm … meat

He liked the burger, but because he got it his usual medium rare (and they actually cooked it that way) it was very difficult to eat. It fell apart as soon as he bit into it, so he pretty much had to go the knife and fork route at that point.

Good thing we weren’t still “standing room only” or that could’ve gotten messy.

I got the chicken tacos for my meal, only replaced the tortillas with a lettuce wrap. I guess I’ll be playing the part of “healthy Shane” this evening. Although I did get the homemade chips and dill dip as my side, too, so there’s that.

It looks pretty until you attempt to eat it

The chicken was really good, it was broken up into small pieces and very well seasoned with a little spicy kick. Lettuce wraps are a bit tricky to navigate, so I eventually resorted to fork bites also – which meant I kind of just ate the lettuce separately and could’ve just asked them to heap the chicken, cheese and filling from the tacos right onto my plate – but whatever, it was still good.

I will say both of us were disappointed in the chips, though. They were flimsy, and tasted more like the oil they were cooked in than the actual potato. Maybe slice them a bit thicker in the future. I mean, some of us actually like the taste of potato and not just air and oil, thanks.  And the dip was just OK. We’re more French Onion people than dill folks, I guess.

Ted got the special for the evening, which was a pasta dish with shrimp and sausage. He said he was about halfway down the menu and had a few items in mind that he was considering when the server came over to tell us about the specials, and once he heard that one he decided it cancelled all the other options out.

Because “pasta special” sounds less goofy than “goulash”

He really liked the pasta dish, even though he said that it was essentially goulash. He commented that he hadn’t realized the place had a bit of a Hungarian theme going on, but once he ate that and remembered things like the stuffed peppers on theh menu, it made sense. But overall he was happy, his meal was very good.

I guess all in all, Arnie’s isn’t a bad place … it just wasnt the best, either. It seems like even though the transition to this new restaurant with more seating isn’t a brand new thing, they’re still working out some of the kinks. And I know our server was new, but she was still exceptionally slow. I mean, there were three, maybe four tables total that she was handling – but it just seemed like she wasn’t getting the hang of timing for everyone.

Case in point:  when she came around asking if we wanted a third round of drinks, and we said no … she scampered away before we could ask for the checks, and then took forever to reappear to finally ask if we did, in fact, want them. No, we’d just like to sit here and stare at one another over empty glasses, please. I mean, usually being done with your meal and refusing another round of drinks is a universal sign for “we’re pretty much ready to head out, thanks.” But it was like she read some manual for how to be a server, and had time slots she had to fill for each of those questions. “OK they said no to more drinks, now avoid them and wait the appropriate 10 minutes before returning to ask if they want the check so they don’t feel rushed out.”

And the bartenders who warned us about her newness also weren’t going out of their way to help her, either. We know she put in our order for our second round of drinks, and we watched the one bartender pour said drinks … but rather than walk them over to our table (as we already mentioned, the place is pretty small so I’m fairly sure those 20 steps wouldn’t cause him to break a sweat, plus I know he saw our empty glasses lined up on the edge of our table) – he waited for her to come pick them up. All the while bartender #2 was too busy doing shots with someone who appeared to be either the owner or manager and his little group of friends at the bar to even notice us at all. Nice.

As Shane would say “John Taffer would be disappointed.”

Picked by: Steph
Next pick: Ted

Ted

Shane – trying to hide so no one saw his grade

Steph

Arnie's Standing Room Only Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 8/31/16: Bomba Rum & Tacos, Fairlawn

Standard

OK, let’s be honest, do I even need to write a review here? I mean, this place has the words “tacos” (delicious) and “rum” (even more delicious) right in the title. Could anything be more up our alley? It’s like someone fashioned a WTGW oasis just to lure our group into its clutches. The only thing more appealing to us might be if someone opened a place just called “Cheap Wings and Beer.” I mean, really.

So it’s probably no surprise that both Shane and I had been eyeing this place up since it opened a few months back. On many occasions we’ve been in the area and almost just broke down and stopped in for dinner, but were trying to hold out to use it as a pick.

Must. Not. Break. Down.

The struggle is real, kids.Bomba Tacos and Rum, Fairlawn

Bomba is located in the old Hudson’s Restaurant space in the Montrose Center in Fairlawn. Having been to Hudson’s a few times, I can say Bomba definitely gutted the place when they moved in, as it’s barely recognizable now that it’s been redone. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I mean, Hudson’s was OK – but I always thought parts of it needed more lighting. Like they were going for that romantic date spot, but when a few of the tables around us had like four kids with them then the darkness just kinda came off as a bit creepy. No wonder the kids are crying, they can’t see what you’re feeding them.

Anyway.

In contrast, Bomba has a great atmosphere, very open and much brighter. There was also patio seating, although we didn’t opt for that since it looked like the skies might open at any moment. And you know our luck there.

So when you’re in a place that has the word “rum” in the title, it makes perfect sense that Ted gets a beer. Because, well, Ted.

Well at least "Lagunitas" sounds Mexican, no?

Well at least “Lagunitas” sounds Mexican, no?

I mean, he did redeem himself later by switching to a mojito, but sheesh. Damage done.

I got the Tropical Mango White Sangria, which sounded delicious on the menu but ended up tasting a little less so when I actually tried it. Kinda like those deceptive beer descriptions I always want to volunteer to compose.

I should know by now not to trust descriptions

I should know by now not to trust descriptions

Jerrid got the Brazilian Red Sangria – which also sounded delicious – and he was far happier with that one than I was with mine.

Check out the size of that berry!

Check out the size of that berry!

But it was Shane who once again won the drink lottery with the Blackberry Ginger Mojito. One sip and I knew that’s what I would be switching to next. It was similar to the mules we had at Caston & Main a few weeks back. He’s on fire with his choices lately.

Winner winner chicken dinner

Winner winner chicken dinner

And for Amanda … water. Boo.

No rum for you!

No rum for you!

For appetizers, Shane and I picked the bacon wrapped jalepenos – which Shane liked but I wasn’t crazy about. I didn’t think they had much flavor. So either I got the lame pepper with no taste, or my taste buds are permanently scarred from weeks of hot wings.

That's not a hot dog. Really.

That’s not a hot dog. Really.

Jerrid and Amanda got the beef empanadas. Which, aside from just being fun to say, were tasty.

Fun to say, good to eat

Fun to say, good to eat

We also got an order of the fire-roasted salsa for the table (this is one of those “fancy” Mexican places where you have to order the chips & salsa/guac, they don’t just bring it to the table automatically) as well as the house made guac. Because it’s made fresh when you order it, they have stuff you can add in to make it your own custom mix. Our server was kind enough to suggest a few things that he usually adds to his … but we just went with plain for our first try. Because, honestly, some of the add-ins seem a bit strange. Candied pumpkin seeds? Chipotle honey? Goat cheese? We’re simple folks. Just bring us the green stuff to dip our chips in. For reals.

We like our guac non-fancy, just tasty

We like our guac non-fancy, just tasty

Speaking of chips, this might be a good time to mention that they’re also on the fancy side. The chip baskets include four different kinds of chips – yucca, plantain, malanga (five dollars to the first person who can tell me what that actually is – without googling it), and regular corn – so of course the new table game became “guess what strange toasted substance you’re using as a vehicle to get the salsa/guac into your mouth.”

Good times.

At least I’m happy to say that we chose wisely, and the plain guac was really very good. As was the salsa. And most of the chips. Although I honestly can’t tell you which ones we liked least, because, as I mentioned, I still don’t think we really knew what we were eating.

Toast and salsa?

Toast and salsa?

Moving on.

To tacos. So, remember what our table looked like last week at Cruiser’s with our little wing fest? Well, just picture that same thing for this week, but with tacos.

So the gist of this place is that basically they have a bunch of different kinds of tacos, and they’re all a la carte, so you can mix & match. They’re all like $3 or $4 each, and they recommend 2-3 per person.

And now comes the part of the review where I test my own memory and ability to take notes, since, well, let’s face it, pretty much all tacos look the same in pictures.

I got the potato chorizo, braised beef and spicy shrimp, along with a side of mango cilantro rice. The spicy shrimp was definitely my favorite, it was for reals spicy – but in a you’re-killing-your-taste-buds-for-good-reason kind of way. I thought I would like the beef the best but when it turned out that it was primarily jalepenos, I decided that wasn’t so much a winner. The rice was delicious.

That rice was a meal in itself

That rice was a meal in itself

Amanda had the blackened fish, potato chorizo and chipotle ground beef. She liked the chorizo the best. She and Jerrid also got a side of the adobo fries, which she hardly touched because the three tacos were enough to make her quite full.

Same shells, different filling

Same shells, different filling

Ted went with the blackened fish (the server highly recommended this one and said that was his favorite … can you tell?), crispy fish, smoked brisket and slow braised duck. He said the dusk was his favorite. He thought the blackened fish didn’t have much flavor (in your face, server). The other two were OK but the definite winner for him was the duck.

Ted's side dish was apparently an extra taco

Ted’s side dish was apparently an extra taco

Jerrid had blackened fish (seriously, I’m getting tired of typing that), bbq pork and smoked brisket. Agreed that the fish wasn’t the best. He liked the pork and brisket though.

They're all starting to look the same

They’re all starting to look the same

And then there’s Shane … who went the “Ted’s getting a beer” route for his meal, ordering the Smoked Brisket Torta (that’s a fancy way of saying sandwich – I only know that from reading it on the menu) with adobo fries. Or adobE fries, as he called them. Like the photoshop software. Because who doesn’t like a little lesson in filters and levels while they eat french fries. Whatevs. He said the brisket was a little dry, and he compared the bread to an English muffin. Hmm, that’s not so tasty.

That doesn't look like tacos. Where are we Shane?

That doesn’t look like tacos. Where are we Shane?

He did mention that he thought it would’ve been better with some guac on it. Because woudn’t everything really?

Overall Bomba is a fun place with great options if you’re in the mood for tacos and don’t want the cookie-cutter options at the local Mexican joint. It’s a little pricy, but the a la carte is nice so you can try different things – or get a whole bunch of the one thing you try and decide you like. They had rice bowls that looked intriguing also, I would be willing to return to try one of those at some point. The chips and salsa/guac were good – although I’m still not sold on the list of additional add-ins, but that’s just me and my somewhat uncultured taste buds, perhaps. And I’m not a fan of straight-up rum without some type of mixer, but if you’re into that kind of thing they also have a ton of flights and sampling options for you to find the one that suits you best. I could see this being a good spot for a late night snack and drinks, or maybe a midday late lunch with day drinking. Because who doesn’t love cocktails at like 2PM? I mean, other than your boss when you’re supposed to be at work … but that’s a whole other blog there I suppose …

Ted

Ted

Shane

Shane

Jerrid

Jerrid

Amanda

Amanda

Steph

Steph

Picked by: Steph
Next pick: Amanda asked for a week off, since she just started this new job that puts her on a regular schedule and back to being with us on Wednesdays. So Ted’s up next week.

Bomba Tacos & Rum Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato