WTGW 4/25/18: Niko’s, North Royalton

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Alternate title: that time we took a 45 minute road trip to basically sit in a place the size of my living room with wall decor reminiscent of an Applebee’s on steroids, where we waited another 45 minutes before consuming gyros the size of our heads.

So for those of you too busy to read the rest of this post, you pretty much get the gist of what happened this week. You’re welcome. Carry on.

North Royalton is a new branch on our city tree, although its really no further away than some places we’ve visited in the past. So of course Shane immediately declared everything in the immediate vicinity “his” for picking.

(Hint: it wasn’t much. Unless we want to go tanning or order some take out Chinese food, neither of which fit the WTGW protocol)

Shane was reluctant to give any of us the name of the place in advance, lest we tease him about going all ethnic like we did with Ted a few weeks ago.

Me, after finally learning the name and looking it up online: so a few weeks ago we gave Ted crap for picking “sushi and bar,’ but this week we’re supposed to be OK with “Greek and bar”?

Sounds reasonable.

Niko’s would be a great place to hang out if it was like four times the size with about half the regulars taking up all of the tables. Granted there was a Cavs game on tonight, so that meant people hung around drinking a little longer than they (maybe?) usually would … and the large patio (from which you could see the TV screens) was underused thanks to the 50-ish degree air temp outside … but still. Even our vulcan stare-down moves on those with to-go boxes sitting in front of them weren’t causing people to budge from their seats. Tough crowd.

But the host told us when we put our party of five on the wait list that it “shouldn’t be long.” Uh, in dog years, maybe. Five minutes turned into 10 … we ordered drinks from the bar to pacify ourselves … 10 minutes turned to 20 … Shane took to loudly claiming he was about to eat his arm off while staring creepily at those who were finished with their meals … 20 minutes turned to 30 … I resorted to Google Maps to research any place at all that might serve something that resembled food within a five-mile radius …

Well at least they made it easy to spot while we waited

And they had this

It was during this waiting period that I realized we could probably implement some sort of a friendly challenge between this place and Gasoline Alley just to see which one is a) overall smaller, b) has more random crap per square inch of wall space, and c) has the least available and most awkward waiting area for those unlucky enough to have a table.

Anyone?

At about 40 minutes we resigned ourselves to leaving and heading to the nearby Brew Garden just to salvage some portion of the evening before we passed out from low blood sugar. But just as we were assembling ourselves to head out, we were called to sit.

Hallalujah!

And from there the evening got a lot better. Let’s just say that if future me could go back and give a bit of advice to impatiently waiting me, it would be that it was totally worth it and you would’ve been sorry that you left.

Also, how do I get a future me? Because having that kind of angel on my shoulder sounds a tad awesome.

Anyway.

This place definitely deserved to be Shane’s pick once we heard from the server that the portions were huge. FYI, that tip came after Shane unabashedly asked her what he should order to get the most bang for his buck when he’s super hungry and wants a lot of food.

We ask the tough questions here at WTGW. Again, you’re welcome.

The server also greeted our admission of being newbies to Niko’s with “Oooh! New People!” Which had us slightly nervous about what kind of initiation process we might be facing as the evening wore on.

She did, however, tell the guys about the pineapple IPAs that were on special for $3.00 that evening – a little secret the bartender apparently didn’t share when the guys went to the bar during our waiting period and ordered drinks. Cassi and I stuck with our ciders.

For apps both Jason and Cassi and Shane and I got the fried cheese. Which is basically like saying a giant “screw you, get your own appetizer” to Ted. Oops.

But he had his sights set on the Thai chili wings as his app, so I don’t think he was super disappointed. His excitement only grew when, after they arrived, he discovered that they were served with carrots … but not like carrot sticks – like giant silver dollars.

The carrots are nearly as big as the wings

Go carrot fork yourself? That doesn’t make sense

This is something new. And apparently exciting, as you can tell from his face in that photo.

The fried cheese arrived looking somewhat like a slice of pizza. Which we were warned was about as hot as the surface of the sun on the inside, so leave it the hell alone for a few minutes before trying to dig in. Well, OK, so maybe those exact words weren’t used, but we inferred based on past experience with really warm edible things.

Cheese and bread. See also: the only food groups necessary for survival.

And the wait was worth it. It was delicious. Not to mention the extra fun of causing Ted personal trauma as he had to watch us pull the melted cheese through the air to break it.

What are friends for, right?

We also learned that there’s a thin line between waiting for the cheese to cool and letting it sit long enough that it resembles a pale yellow brick on the plate in front of you.

Shane, in reference to the cheese sitting for too long: It’s starting to get hard.
Me: Then eat it.

So many comments followed that little interlude that I don’t feel are appropriate for printing. Use your imagination, kids.

Anyway.

Perhaps in fear of our initiation process that may or may not have been on tap with the server, we gave her a little one of our own in the period between when we ordered and when the food arrived. Thanks to a strange arrangement that left the couples sitting diagonal to one another (don’t ask, it was like a game of duck, duck, goose when we finally made it to at the table and we all rushed for seats – I blame the hunger), once the appetizers arrived we thought it might be a little strange for us to have to reach over one another to share fried cheese, so Jason and Shane switched places to be sitting across from Cassi and me, respectively. Our server did a quick double take, then adjusted the orders accordingly so they still ended up in front of the appropriate person.

She passed. Not that I know what would’ve happened if she hadn’t, but let’s just be thankful we didn’t have to resort to that.

Of course we all ordered gyros, because, well, let’s be honest, the large table of obviously Greek men who regularly frequent Niko’s seated next to us were slightly intimidating and we didn’t want to insult them … and also, the variety on the menu was intriguing. But maybe slightly more the first reason. At least in my case.

Ted got the salmon gyro, which he said was good. And after eating all of that plus the nine wings that came in his appetizer, he admitted he was “kind of full.” So there’s that.

It’s like a fish taco, but better. And Greeker.

Cassi and Jason each got the chicken club gyro. They both agreed that it could’ve used more chicken and less of the other filler toppings, but overall still pretty good. They would probably try something else if we were to return, though.

Chicken bacon, minus too much chicken

Times two

I got the stuffed cheeseburger gyro. Stuffed is a good word to use, not only because the filling was an entire burger patty with cheese stuffed inside of it, but also because that’s definitely how I felt after eating it. Seriously, so much food.

Oh look, more cheese

Undeterred by all the fancy options, Shane got the traditional gyro. It kind of fell apart on him as he was eating it, so it became just another in a long list of foods he has been known to eat with a knife and fork. He commented that there were way too many onions on the sandwich, and that he probably won’t be able to stop tasting them for days.

I’m a lucky girl, ladies and gentlemen. Thanks, Niko’s.

You can’t see the onions, but trust us, we all know they’re there

Remember earlier how I compared this place to Gasoline Alley? I give you the following conversation as more proof:

Jason: Where are the restrooms?
Ted (who had already scoped this situation out during our wait time): In the kitchen.

Sadly, he wasn’t joking. You have to go through a portion of the kitchen to access the men’s restroom. Always appetizing, no? And it’s just a one stall room, so that makes waiting a tad awkward. Like, hey, you need some help assembling those sandwiches while I stand here looking creepily over your shoulder? No? Weird. The women’s restrooms are at least on the other side of the room, but still across from the sand alone freezer. Here, let me toss you some frozen fries while I bide my time waiting. Just trying to be helpful.

Aside from that strangeness, Niko’s is a decent place. We never endured an initiation (that we know of … if something was slipped into that fried cheese before it arrived at our table I’m at least still alive to speak about it), but our server was always good at checking on us, and we never went long with empty glasses. Well, until Jason ordered a water, anyway, but I guess that was a bit out of character for our table by that point. Once we decided it was time to cash out and give up our table the server seemed to turn invisible (seriously, do they teach that in server training or something?) but aside from that I give any server willing to put up with us with a good sense of humor a bit of extra credit. 

The crowd is an interesting mix of older regulars – like the table of men next to us, who clearly frequent the place – and younger couples/groups – like the table on the other side of us, who I think were taking up space just to drink a beer and visit with one of their friends who was working as a server. See also: people we stared at prior to being seated, and who endured similar stares from the undying crowd in the waiting area still waiting for tables well past 9PM. I would definitely recommend arriving before you’re actually hungry, since waiting seems to be a regular occurrence.

Picked by: Shane

Shane

Steph

Cassi

Jason

Ted

Niko's Bar & Gyros Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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WTGW 3/21/18: South End Tavern, Northfield

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Remember that time we passed by a super sketch place called Johnny T’s and I vowed never to let Shane pick it for Fun Wednesday?

Well Shane certainly does.

That same place is now called South End Tavern, and I’m guessing have new owners? Or maybe they just thought a name change was in order? They certainly didn’t think cleaning up the junkyard of old cars out in back of the place was a task worth undertaking. The same old ghetto limo was still parked under a pile of snow at the far back of the parking lot, and they still have the same strange fenced in area in the middle of the lot that we think might be a sand volleyball court? Or just a really high caged in patio – which seems odd, but whatever.

We have nothing to compare the inside to, since – as Shane reminded us on the way in – I’d vowed we would never set foot in the place. But if they did get new owners, I can’t imagine they opened their pocketbooks to do much to the inside. Or I was justified in never wanting to walk into the place if how it is now could be considered “spruced up.”

Anyway.

Wednesdays are apparently trivia nights – we speculated that this may be a newfound marketing scheme along with the name change to bring in more of a crowd. And it worked, because the place was busy … until about 8:30pm. Which, considering the crowd, could potentially be when some of them went to bed. Or maybe the place started to clear out because the first round of trivia took upwards of 90 minutes. Granted we don’t usually partake in trivia, so we don’t know what normal time usually is, but that seemed excessively long, no? We joked that we had no idea how many rounds there were, but there was a good possibility we could pull an all-nighter staying for all of them.

Sidenote: we also overheard someone announce “there’s our competition” when our group walked in clearly looking like we’d never seen the inside of the place before and scouting out a table. Being that we had no clue at that point that it was trivia night, that was definitely taken out of context.

But then Cassi read the words “Trivia Night” on the super fancy mirror of specials along the back wall, and we were set straight. I feel sorry for whoever they borrowed lipstick from to write all of that. Also, 1984 called and would like it’s communication devices back.

We ended up sitting at the bar – because even though the place is fairly spacious inside it only has like three actual tables. Because that’s helpful. I think we all came up with some interior design rendition in our heads that could’ve both eleviated that problem and helped with business, but what do we know.

It’s also worth noting that sitting at the bar – in close proximity to the one bartender who is responsible for the entire place – doesn’t necessarily ensure faster service. So there’s that.

Beers for the guys (they actually have a decent draft list, lots of local crafts) and tequila and soda for me and Cassi. And when I say that, I mean that I think Cassi and I shared an entire bottle of well tequila between our two short glasses. A whole forest of lime trees couldn’t save that disaster.

So needless to say we only had one round of those, and switched to beer.

Obviously we had to get in the jokes about how – given the size and look of the place – we were a bit apprehensive about the menu options. Shane actually hoped they would only be serving wings and burgers, since he’s still trying to redeem himself from that place in Ellet. Cassi admitted she was crossing her fingers that we didn’t manage to sink below that pick to a place that only serves bar snacks and jerky sticks.

But then the bartender hands us these:

Wait, where are we?

I mean, come on

Two sided! Look at all the options!

We also took those pictures of the menus because you’ll be hard pressed to find any mention of the menu online anywhere. So, you’re welcome.

Cassi and Jason got loaded tots for an app, while Shane and I got loaded nachos. For once no one lost in this app war. Cassi really liked the loaded tots – exclaiming after one bite that they were very good. She called them “crispy and delicious.”

How can you go wrong with tiny fried potatoes and cheese?

So no soggy bottoms tonight. Check.

The nachos may not have gotten that rave of a review, but they were still good. The salsa had good flavor, and the toppings were abundant – although I’ll admit it didn’t really look like it when we first got the dish, but then once we dug in it seemed to be bottomless.

Sour cream, anyone?

Ted ordered his usual two whole meals, so who really needs apps? I’ll give the bartender credit, though, as she tried to make sure Ted’s wings came out with our apps, so that we all had food in front of us at the same time. The only problem is that she got Ted’s and Shane’s wing flavors mixed up, so when the Smokehouse wings showed up and Shane claimed those, it meant that Shane had an app and his entire meal, while Ted still had nothing.

Of course we were all more concerned about the fact that Shane ONLY ordered wings – no burger, so pizza, nothing else. What’s wrong with him? Is he trying to starve himself?

He said the wings were just OK. We all commented that they looked like tiny pieces of fried chicken. Which seems like it would be good – but Shane said that they didn’t have much flavor.

It’s like KFC Jr.

Ted got the Carribean jerk wings – which, after the bartender realized her mistake, she worked really hard to get out quickly. Kudos for that. Ted also agreed that the flavor was lacking a bit.

Times two

He also got the BBQ bacon burger. As did Jason. Hmmm, maybe Shane has some competition in the bromance department?

Ted thought the sauce on the burger was sweet – like unexpectedly sweet – and that the bacon was very tough. I mean, not wings from a pizza pub tough, but still. Meanwhile Jason thought the sweet sauce was exactly what made the burger good.

So maybe they’re not food soulmates after all. We tried to make them fight it out but they didn’t go for that idea.

The burger that breaks up friendships

I got the southwest burger with tots. Cassi was right – the tots were delicious. And the burger was very good. Good flavor, toppings not overwhelming but enough to give it something more than just the taste of meat and bread.

Crispy tots for the win

Cassi got the steak philly with sweet ptato fries. She said it was excellent. She would come back just to get that sandwich again, it was that good.

I’ll take things we didn’t expect to come out of the kitchen here for $1,000 please

Overall the crowd was odd, the mixed drinks weren’t good, and the bartender was nice but more than a little flaky … but the food was surprisingly very good and they had a decent draft list so I guess if that’s what you’re in the mood for, you’re golden. They also have a large projection TV facing into the odd little room across from the bar so at least while sitting where we were at the bar we were entertained – but note that two of the space’s three existing tables are also right there in the path of the projection (and they’re high tops to boot), so if you decide to sit there you may end up either being part of the show or wondering why everyone keeps staring at you as you try to eat your sandwich. And there may be a patio out back – I mean, aside from the large high-fenced in area – so we might have to return when Mother Nature finally decides to grace spring upon northeast Ohio and check that out.

We forgot to take our photos before we left, so you’ll have to survive without seeing our smiling faces this week. Instead I’ll just leave this here, and you can use your imagination.Picked by: Cassi

 

WTGW 3/14/18: Stowaway Pub, Stow

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There’s just something about that bar/restaurant wedged into a strip plaza between a flower shop and a “checks cashed here” storefront, tucked back from the main road behind a couple of chain fast food joints, that screams “welcome on in, random stranger, I’m sure you’re going to love it here.”

No? Really? Oh, well … OK then. Carry on.

As Shane announced the name of this week’s destination, Ted and I both nodded our heads, since I think this has been on everyone’s list of “maybe” places since about the beginning of Fun Wednesdays. We’ve driven past it approximately 1,000 times, and I think we’ve all uttered the sentence “well I was going to pick the Stowaway Pub, but then I saw this place instead …” at some point in time or another. And somehow we just never made it inside.

Well now is finally your time, Stowaway Pub.

The first thing we noticed on entry was that the place is super small on the inside. Which, I mean, it’s in a strip plaza so it’s not like we expected the place to open into a room the size of a Costco or anything, but still. There were a few high tops near the door, and about 4-5 booths along the wall, and then seats at the bar.

So, good thing we aren’t claustrophobic.

We at first veered toward a high top at the front of the bar, but then collectively realized that it probably wouldn’t hold all of our food. Because, well, us. I mean, come on. At least we heed our lessons and learn from them.

Another lesson we’ve learned … it makes total sense to order ALL. THE. APPS. as soon as we sit down, and before ordering a full meal.

I know, we just ooze brilliance in this group.

Shane had heard/read somewhere that the onion rings were the bomb, so he definitely wanted those. Cassi followed suit and also got an order for herself. And then add to that an order of J-Bombs (which is really just a fancy way to say “jalepeno popper,” it seems) for me and Shane. Who needs healthy cholesterol levels and good, strong arteries?

The onion rings were definitely a good choice. They were lightly breaded, which I believe is onion ring code for not retaining pockets of grease and cake-like pieces of batter as onion rings can often be known to do. Our biggest gripe seemed to be that they only give you like 5-6 rings in the basket. For like $5. Um. OK. I mean, I realize I’m no math wizard or anything, but when you’re looking at about $1 an onion ring I kind of start to scrutinize a tad more.

Too bad these don’t spontaneously multiply on their own

Cassi – well, I finished my first basket, now what am i going to do?

Sadly the J-Bombs were a dull consolation prize. But we did offer.

It looks like the one on the bottom is trying to hatch

Ted ordered calamari – because after Shane’s perpetual year of research in how different places prepare the dish (and by that I really mean ordering it everywhere just because it was on the menu), Ted pointed out that we actually haven’t had it for a while.

And guess what? We’ll have to wait a little longer, because the server returned to the table a few minutes after we put in the order to let us know that they were all out. Bummer.

Ted was so upset that he ended up passing on the appetizer course of the evening altogether. Well, and also because he already decided that he was getting an order of wings with his meal.

If you’ve read this blog before, you’ll recognize this move as what we’d like to call moderation.

The economical nonsense of the onion rings carried over into our burger selection, as Cassi speculated aloud whether to get the 1/4 lb burger or the 1/2 lb. I reasoned that for $1.50 more you’re better to off to just get the larger one. I mean, really. Double the size for $1.50 more? That seems to be a no-brainer.

Ted: Impressive sales pitch.

I mean, I am in marketing after all.

But it worked, as I got the half pound mushroom Swiss burger, while Cassi got the half pound Stowaway burger.

There’s a burger under there somewhere. Honest.

It looks like it’s wearing a hat

They aren’t playing around

The burgers ended up being really good. They use fresh, large patties, that seemed to be well seasoned and not over-loaded on toppings. Well, unless you consider grease a topping, in which case they kind of out did themselves on that front. We’re not talking Shane’s wings creating an oil slick on the table kind of greasy, but let’s just say it was enough that Cassi had the unfortunate luck of another week dealing with a mushy bottom.

We really should trademark these things.

While us girls were over here enjoying our giant burgers, the guys decided to get all dainty on us and order mini-burgers. Or, as places now like to call them, sliders. Which I’ve always thought just makes them sound somewhat gross, but whatever, clearly it’s only me that feels this way because it now seems to be industry standard to speak about a meal as if it’s taking a joyride right down your throat.

See? You’re thinking about it now, and I’m not all that crazy.

Anyway, sliders are on special at Stowaway Pub on Wednesday nights, $1.00 each with seemingly no limit. Of course Shane interrogated the server with his usual 20 questions about the size and shape and texture and color and toppings and how many should he order … because, well, Shane. He was pretty well decided on ordering five, until the server (a small blonde girl) claimed she could eat that many, so Shane upped it to 7. And then proceeded to pick about 17 different cheeses for them.

It’s like a small army of hamburgers

Ted also got four of the sliders, and made up for Shane’s complicated cheese order by ordering his with no cheese at all.

Sparing so expense on the condiments obviously

The sliders turned out to be pretty good. I mean, you don’t expect much for $1.00, but compared to the burgers that Cassi and I had ordered, these were pretty much kind of like cute little replicas. They were made fresh just like the larger burgers, and cooked just right. Shane’s one complaint was that he said there seemed to be too much bread, given the smaller patties. But I guess if you really care that much you could just take all the patties off of the bread, mush them together into one big burger and eat them that way. It wouldn’t be pretty – and in Shane’s case you’d be mixing cheese like a boss – but it solves that whole bread conundrum.

Ted also got the Spicy Garlic Cajun wings – which inspired a convo about that combination and whether it’s the perfect combination of seasonings, or really just too much going on in one wing order.

Please, share your thoughts with us.

I’ll start …  according to Ted, it may have been the perfect combination, if only they had actually used all three parts of it. Needless to say, he was somewhat disappointed. The wings were big, but they had no spice to them. (that’s what she said … I know, these things just write themselves sometimes, don’t they?) The Garlic and Cajun flavors were there, but the “spicy” part of the combination seemed to somehow skip town before the plate hit the table. He thought it would’ve been better if they would’ve added hot sauce or something at the end to make them spicier. Or maybe just take that part out of the title and call them Garlic Cajun wings. Whatevs.

I’ll take the personality crisis wings, please

When we finished the onion rings earlier, Shane had claimed we should’ve gotten another basket, since they were so good. As much as I balked about the $1/ring scam they were running, my response was that really we could get another basket, since he only ordered sliders and that meant that his meal was only a grand total of $7.00.

Shane – anyone remember my last great meal for $7?

Hint – it’s the infamous steak dinner at The Dougout. How could you possibly forget? He only brings it up every time someone talks about a bargain meal.

And in return, the rest of the group takes any opportunity possible to bring up Shane’s pick where the menu consisted of two simple items: wings and burgers. I think we’re on about a two-month streak now of mentioning that every time we all get together. That quite possibly beats the old Gus’s Chalet beating we gave Ted for many consecutive months.

Although this time I had to laugh, as I looked around our table, and realized that, given an entire menu of options, what did we gravitate to? Burgers and wings. Huh.

Keeping on the economical theme of the evening, Shane switched from his first round of Jameson and ginger ale to the Long Islands that were on special on Wednesdays for $3.50. Which was a bad move. They turned out to definitely only be worth $3.50, and Shane definitely only had one of them.

You win some, you lose some, I guess.

We noticed at some point in the evening that the high top tables we had almost seated ourselves at earlier in the night had been taken over by people playing in a dart league. Which spurred a conversation about our affinity for finding places where dart leagues meet on Wednesday evenings, and how we may or may not eventually get hit by a sharp object as we attempt to walk in the door. Who’s up for a revisit to Franks Place?

Picked by: Shane

Ted

Cassi

Steph

Pirate Shane

Happy Shane

Stop Taking Pictures of Me Shane

Stowaway Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

WTGW 2/28/18: River City Grille, Cuyahoga Falls – REVISIT

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With Cassi in Texas for a conference this week we decided it was a good time for a revisit to someplace we haven’t been for some time. Which is how we ended up back at River City Grille. I honestly think this place was one of Ted’s first official WTGW outings with us. So that had to of been at least, like, 4 years ago now? Maybe longer?

Well, because that was pre-blog, there’s no real way to fact-check, so you’re just going to have to take my word for it.

Let’s just say that it’s been long enough that we completely forgot how small the menu is. I mean, it’s your typical small bar food menu – burgers, wings, a few sandwich/wrap options, random fried apps … but that’s it. Not a lot of creativity or things that don’t involve cooking via a fryer or grill top. Which as you all know doesn’t really bother us – except that in this case we seemed to remember the menu being a bit more extensive at one time. Shane seemed to remember getting ribs, and that maybe Ted had a pork chop? But maybe it was just a random weekly special. Or we could totally be thinking of someplace else – because, you know, it’s not like we see the insides of a lot of places that seem eerily similar in a lot of ways or anything

Or, you know, maybe after four years things change. I guess that’s allowed.

Also, Ted and I were quick to point out that at least the menu wasn’t “we only serve two things here so I hope you like one of them” small. Because not many places can have that honorable distinction. Thankfully.

Anyway.

Because we gravitate to all things fried, even if they are vegetables, Shane and I ordered the fried veggie sampler as an app. He tried to say that was my idea, but I also know he’s the one who makes a beeline for that particular food stand at any county fair or festival that we go to.

Always eat your vegetables. Especially if they’re fried.

Of course they arrive at our table straight from the furnace of hell … and of course we still reached into the basket two seconds later and tried to eat them straight away. Remember the old thing about making kids learn about the stove being hot by letting them go ahead and touch it, because “they’ll only do THAT once”? Yeah, clearly we skipped that day of life lesson training.

Ted just laughed at us. Some days I think he’s the brains of this operation.

I thought they were pretty good – even going so far as to state that they were county fair quality. Shane quickly disagreed. Because obviously he’s the expert there.

Wednesdays are 50 cent wing nights, so of course Ted and Shane both jumped on that special. Because who are they to let a good wing night pass them by, especially when who knows how long it will be before we see another one?

A quick search of “wings” under the “stuff we’ve tried” tab on this blog will probably totally bring out the sarcasm in that last sentence quicker than any further explaining I might be able to type here. Just FYI.

Anyway, Ted ended up with 12 of the hot garlic wings, while Shane ordered 12 of the Cajun.

Vampires beware

The wings were big, especially for being on special. Bonus that they were also tasty. Because that’s helpful. And don’t forget being edible – because, after last week and Ted’s epic four hour chewing exercise, that’s apparently a new category by which we need to be giving judgement.

Edible wings

The guys also got burgers. Because, well, them. Come on, don’t act surprised.

Ted asked what the “Fuzzbuster” burger was. At least I think that’s the name of it. I should really start paying better attention. Anyway … whatever the name was, the server said it’s basically their version of the Big Mac. OK. So that means it’s a burger, with special sauce and an extra piece of a bun in the middle? Sure.

Low and behold, it arrives and we’ll all be damned if it doesn’t look just like a Big Mac. Only like the promotional pictures of a Big Mac and not what you actually get when you order one. Or at least one without any cheese on it. So there’s that.

Look at how the burger just slides off the bun without any cheese

Ted said basically if you don’t like pickles you shouldn’t get this burger. Or grease. Because that’s about all it consists of. I mean, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. Unless you don’t like those flavors.

I feel like this is a circular conversation.

Shane got the River City burger. Which I think is their fancy way of saying “here’s a cheeseburger with some pickles on it.” Or, here’s the fancy burger Ted ordered but without the extra piece of bread in the middle. But whatever, to each his own I guess.

Dripping with melted cheese

I got the mushroom Swiss burger, and a side of waffle fries with cheese sauce. It’s like the most unhealthy things on the menu just jump in front of me.

Bun close up

We all liked the burgers. They were definitely fresh made, big for the price ($6-$7 a burger) and had good flavor for them. The waffle fries were enough to share with the whole table, and maybe the table next to us. Clearly I couldn’t eat all of those myself. But they were good, so I gave it a valiant effort.

More fried vegetables. And cheese. Really the only food groups one needs, am I right?

All in all River City isn’t a bad place. My indifference in the vote was with the small menu – but now that I remember the burgers are super good I’ll at least know to stick to that option when ordering and not flip the menu back to front 8 billion times in the universal sign of “I can’t figure out what I want even though there are only like 10 things to choose from” like we all did tonight. Ted liked the wings and also was also surprisingly happy with the dark beer selection, which he thought had grown since the last time we’d been there. The place was fairly busy for a Wednesday night, with a lot of the clientele seemingly regulars. I’m not sure that we’ll ever achieve that status there – I mean, I guess we’d have to come back more than once every four years, right? – but I could see us coming back when we’re in a pinch for a relatively close place to get a good burger.

Ted

Shane

Steph

 
River City Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 2/14/18: Eldorado’s Pizza Pub, Ellet

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Welcome to an exciting Valentine’s Day edition of WTGW.

Given the date, I figured I’d better pick a place that wouldn’t be full of date night couples for Valentine’s Day. So naturally a divey pizza pub seemed like a good choice, no?

Plus I wanted to reunite Ted with his forever love, cheese. Because that’s what friends do.

This is also kind of a revisit for Shane, Ted and me, since we’ve been to the Eldorados in Kent. Or, rather, the place forever known as the home of the gigantic Stromboli and the Judgey McJudgerson waitress that asked Amanda and me if we were “sure” we wanted to each order a large stromboli, but didn’t give us any indication that once they arrived we could pretty much split them with an entire small European country.

Not that I’m holding a grudge or anything.

I don’t think any of us realized until recently that there was another Eldorado’s location in Ellet. And apparently GoogleMaps doesn’t, either, since the address I put into the app didn’t match up to where we actually ended up. If we followed the directions we would’ve kept going on down the street … but the sign in front of the building tipped us off that maybe we should stop there. Nice marketing, sign guys.

Speaking of the building – it’s clear that this was once a Lawson’s convenience store. Because it’s always fun to eat dinner where the chip aisle used to be, right? Too bad they don’t serve Lawson’s chip dip at Eldorado’s, it could’ve all come full circle.

Anyway.

We sat down and were brought menus … and Shane gets the menu without the pizza page. That’s pretty much the very definition of irony.

The Wednesday special at Eldorado’s is a 10 inch pizza with one topping for $5. Not bad. Honestly, it’s been a bit since we visited the one in Kent, but the menu at this location seems bigger than the menu at that location. Because aside from pizza, stromboli, meatball subs and other Italian fare, they also serve up burgers, sandwiches and wings … all of which I don’t remember being available at the other location. Because it seems like part of the reason we haven’t been back in a few years is out of respect for Ted and his inability to order anything there without having to discard half of the meal that’s been tainted by cheese.

Needless to say Ted was ecstatic about this new development. And immediately offered up a trade for Shane’s pizza-less menu. Because if you’re ever asked the question “who goes into a pizza place and orders a burger and wings?” … well, the answer is Ted. Just FYI.

He got the Blazin burger – or, well, that was his name for it, the real title is Nuclear burger. Which is why the server was slightly flustered when trying to take his order. Food synonyms are confusing.

This is what a cheese-less pizza looks like in Ted’s world

He also got 12 of the Louisiana hot wings.

Pizza for the lactose intolerant?

I got the small Spicy Piggy Stromboli. Which is slightly embarrassing to say but sounds delicious when you read the description in the menu. I also heeded the lessons learned at the Kent location and only ordered the small. Sometimes we do pay attention, even when alcohol is involved.

Whoever came up with the sizing here still needs a lesson in portion control

Cassi got the Wednesday $5 pizza special with pepperoni and mushrooms.

Not so special Wednesday special

Shane got the meat sweats pizza. Or meat lovers. Whatevs. The server asked if he wanted the $5 special instead, but he was under too much pressure flipping through the menu to decide on toppings that he just stayed with his original. Plus he would’ve had to figure out an order of wings, too, because we all know a 10 inch pizza wouldn’t be enough for him. So he stuck with his original order. #firstworldproblems

That pepperoni is very symmetrical

Shane and I also ordered the sausage jalepeno bites as an app, while Cassi got the smothered tots.

I’ll be the first to admit that the sausage bites looked thoroughly disgusting when they arrived at our table. I think our initial reaction was like, oh, cool, someone cut up a hot dog and deep fried it. Scrumptious. But if you can get past the look of it, it actually tastes really good. It has the kind of spicy bite that sneaks up on you after you’re done chewing it. But in a good way. Trust me.

Winner of the “Don’t Judge a Book By It’s Cover” category

Cassi’s appetizer tots arrived with the rest of the meals. Because I guess if you want something to come out as an appetizer here you have to particularly specify that. I had said it when we ordered the sausage bites, more out of habit than anything else, but I guess the server didn’t take the hint on Cassi’s order. OK. To make matters worse, the tots were soggy and not good. Like I get that they’re smothered in a sauce, and the laws of physics state that crispiness will usually falter in that state. But maybe if they hadn’t spent some time hanging out under a heat lamp while the rest of the meals were cooking they might’ve arrived more resembling tots with sauce than just a pile of mush. As appetizing as that sounds.

These do taste as bad as they look

Maybe Table 6 visited this place before they started their “no heat lamps” policy. Or maybe that’s why they were supposed to be an appetizer. Tough call.

It’s also worth noting that we had like three different servers in the first 20 minutes of our visit. Like are they all just stopping by to gawk at the non-regulars, and then draw straws in the back to see who actually gets to wait on us? My favorite was the one who came over to specifically ask Cassi and me if we needed more drinks, since ours were about a quarter of the way to being empty … meanwhile after she walks away Shane holds up his completely empty glass that she totally overlooked. Whoops.

Ted said that sauce on his wings was good, but the actual wings were not, and may in fact be made from a rubber chicken instead of a real one. To clarify: we all witnessed a sort of reenactment of the dinner scene in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation while watching Ted try to chew his way through them. He calculated that it was approximately five minutes of chewing per wing. Which if he were to eat all 12, that would equal out to about an hour’s worth of mouth exercises just to complete his meal. So it was no surprise that he left most of them on the table.

Chalk up one point in the argument against ordering something non-pizza at a pizza place. Noted.

Although Ted did say that his burger was good. Shane also commented that it had his version of a perfectly toasted bun, which means that it was completely soaked in butter. So much so that you could see a visible line on the side of the bun. Mmmm, heart disease.

Shane might’ve had food jealousy at that point, if not for the fact that he was completely in love with his pizza. Like disgustingly in love. Fitting for Valentine’s Day, I guess. I’m glad as his wife I could introduce him to this new true love. To quote Shane: “it almost gives me a boner just looking at it.” Beause we all needed to know that, Shane. Sharing is caring, I guess. He then went on to say that the cheese alone almost pushed him over the edge. I feel like we all know a little too much about him now.

Meanwhile, since we’re sharing, Cassi said that her bottom was mushy. So there’s that.

My Stromboli was good … kind of. The dough was good, and it was brushed with a garlic butter that gave it a lot of flavor. But there wasn’t enough cheese – like Ted could’ve lived with this one, there was so little cheese – and the sausage was the exact same as what was in our app, so I was kind of over it by that point. I ended up picking a lot of it out just because I didn’t want any more.

Yes, I was full of sausage. Bring on all the jokes.

Meawhile Shane was still on the other side of the table raving loudly about his pizza. We felt like we should’ve given them some time alone.

I think it was in searching for an escape route from Shane and his new date that we discovered this apparently adults-only patio nearby:

So. Many. Questions.

Seems maybe someone has cracked the “hey, under-agers, just wait out on the patio and I’ll attempt to inconspicuously buy four rounds of drinks within five minutes and come out to deliver them to you. be cool” code?

We continued the dessert kick again this week, with an order of cinnamon bread. Which also suffers from the “tastes better than it looks” issue. I guess at least they’re consistent? In any case, it was just OK. Personally I thought it tasted more “burnt” than “cinnamon.” Picked the wrong crayon to color that one there, chef, but thanks for trying. But you definitely get a generous portion, although the less-than-stellar presentation could use some work.

Here’s your sheet pan of dessert bread. Enjoy.

And at least this server clarified Ted’s order with “you’re only getting one, right? Because it will be more than enough for the four of you.” Maybe she needs to go give lessons to the staff down in Kent.

Overall this Eldroado’s is a decent place. The people watching was great, especially on this particular holiday. Plus we got to watch something on TV that can only be described as “House Hunters for Camping.” Seriously. I have no idea what the real name of show is, I think that description gives you enough to go on. I guess that’s a new marker as to “you know you’re in a dive bar when …”

Picked by: Steph

Steph

Cassi

Bromance. At least he stepped away from the pizza long enough to take this photo

Ted

Eldorado's Pizza & Sports Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

 

WTGW 1/31/18: Menches Brothers, Green

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When I first heard about Menches Brothers and their claim of being the ones to have invented the hamburger, I was like

I mean, OK, suuuurrrre you did. If that’s the case then I’m going to start calling my witty remarks the first insurgence of sarcasm.

But then I googled “who invented the hamburger” … and sure enough, there are their names. Color me surprised. Well, I mean, it’s not cut and dried, there’s some dispute … but at least their story is listed. And we all know that if something is on the internet it must be true, right?

As if all this fame business wasn’t enough to make us curious about the place, let’s add another marketing ploy to the list: Wednesday is burger day, which means $3 off all burgers. Perfection. Also $4 Long Islands. Which normally Shane would be all over, but he’s being all healthy these days and five different alcohols in one glass just screams calories.

I know, I’m not sure how to take that either.

Anyway,

So back to the burgers. They have 50 different kinds on their menu. Fifty. Who knew there were so many possibilities for two pieces of bread and some grilled meat? But I guess when you invent the dish, you can also take some liberties at the creativity.

Shane: I wonder how the pizza is here?

I have to be honest, though, fifty burgers with descriptions makes the menu a tad overwhelming. Not Cheesecake Factory short novel overwhelming … more like “I’ve been asked to read through my 10-year-old niece’s book report on a book I don’t know or care a thing about” kind of overwhelming. Exactly. It was enough that I was so engrossed with the burger descriptions that I completely forgot to look at the drink menu and draft beer list before the first time the server came over to take our drink orders. Fail.

Healthy Shane passed on the Long Island special, and instead ordered a tequila and soda. This is new.

He then proceeded to order breaded mushrooms as an app. Seriously, who is this guy?

Meanwhile, Cassi got pretzels. In the rock/paper/scissors game of app choices, she’s the perpetual winner of our group, as this is what appeared in front of us:

Appetizer win

And failure

Once again we chose poorly. Our mushrooms – normally little bombs of oil that take off the roof of your mouth with the first bite – were lukewarm with very little flavor. They also came out with cocktail sauce, leading the server to believe that maybe the cook got confused and thought they were actually sourkraut balls. Because that’s a logical mistake.

Meanwhile the pretzels were cooked perfectly with a slightly spicy cheese sauce for dipping.

I give up.

Ted ordered six Cajun hot wings, and told the server that he didn’t care if they came out with his meal or with the other apps. She brought them halfway in between. That works.

Wings: the perfect in-between meal

After actually asking about the pizza and getting a nonchalant response from the server, Shane opted for the Babbalouie burger. It was the biggest one on the menu, with double patties, bacon, two kinds of cheese, onions and mushrooms.

There’s a lot going on there

Good thing he’s drinking that low cal mixed drink.

He thought it was good. And as it should be – they tout it as the winner of awards at the National Hamburger Festival. The only fault he could really find was that it could’ve used more of the signature Menches sauce on it.

Ted, who at one point stated that it seemed like perhaps getting two burgers with wings might be too much, opted for the Pepper Spice burger.

Things just look lonelier without cheese

He said it was very spicy. Like he knew the name implied that and all, but so often that doesn’t really account for much so he was pretty shocked that it was actually true. Plus Ted’s taste buds are somewhat more inclined to taste fires than normal people’s, so when Ted says things are “very spicy” the rest of us might want to read that as “order only if you want to have an inferno in your mouth for about the next three days.”

Although that doesn’t really explain why he seemed to need a nipple on his beer. Props to our server for stopping over repeatedly to harass him about that after Shane made a comment when Ted passed on the second round. We always enjoy a server who doesn’t mind jumping onto our sarcasm bandwagons.

Speaking of the server, I deferred to her opinion for my meal, as I was torn between the Bacon Mushroom burger, the Chili Cheese burger and the Chipotle Ranch burger. I suck at decision making, I know. But our server offered no hesitation before choosing the Chipotle Ranch. Perfect. Sounds trustworthy.

Chip seasoning for the win

I’m happy to report that she wasn’t wrong. The chipotle ranch sauce was tasty and the toppings weren’t overpowering. Also I was glad I went with the chips as a side, because the seasoning on them – a sort of mix between a bbq and Lowry’s seasoned salt – was delicious.

Cassi also asked for the server’s option, between the Bacon Egg and Cheese burger and the Pizza burger. That one stumped the server, though, so Cassi was somewhat on her own there. She must’ve used up all of her decision-making skills with mine and Shane’s indecisiveness. Sorry about that one. In any case, Cassi went with the Bacon Egg and Cheese.

The bun with the olive looks like a little hat

And she wasn’t disappointed. She said that even though it was more well done than what she usually prefers for a burger, it wasn’t dry. And the toppings, again, were just enough to add to the burger without taking over.

Menches definitely earned thumbs up all around from us. While it’s a little bit bright inside – it definitely can’t be mistaken for a dive bar with drinking regulars who hate the light of day – the drinks were well made, the food was very tasty, and the service was top notch. I feel like it’s the type of place you could go back to several times just to try different burgers – I mean, there are 50 total, even with four of us at least 12 visits just to try all of the different options on the menu (hey, I can do math). Not to mention they also have other items, as well as specials on other nights of the week – $3 off pizzas on Tuesdays, and an Italian night on Saturdays with a choice of pasta entrees for $9.99, and 50 cent wing night on Thursdays … which is also the same night as the “kids eat for $1” special, which seems like it could make for quite the adverse crowd. I think we’ll skip that one, thanks. We knew we picked Wednesdays for a reason.

Picked by: Cassi

Cassi

Ted

Shane

Steph

 
Menches Brothers Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WTGW 1/17/18: Mantua Corners Bar & Grille

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Alternate title: that time Shane dragged us out to a could-be house in the middle of nowhere and then tried to show off his carpentry skills.

Or: that time we couldn’t find the door to the place and had to semi-stalk a couple of potential regulars who pulled into the parking lot after us on the off chance that they might know how to get in.

Both sound like a super fun night, right? Let’s dig in.

BTW, the door is actually very well lit, and marked with this sign:

Thank you, incredibly obvious sign, for your help this evening

You can see how we were confused.

The place is seat yourself, which seems fairly obvious for some odd reason even though there’s no sign or anything saying as much. Although it should be mentioned that seating ourselves would be easier to do if any of the tables were actually clean, but whatever. Particularly those further away from the entrance door when it’s 10 degrees outside and that air tends to follow people inside every. single. time. the door opens. But, again, whatever.

We asked the server if there was a draft list (beer, that is, not a count on the number of times we might feel a draft from the open door – although that could’ve been useful, too), and she pointed out that it’s written on a giant chalkboard over by the far wall. OK. Ted immediately bolts over to check it out, and was so engrossed in it that he had no idea I was standing right next to him until he turned to walk back. I’m stealthy like that.

We both settled on a salted caramel ale – which for once actually tasted like the name implies. Trust me, I was shocked, too. I’m typically prepared for craft beers with names or descriptions like that to actually end up tasting like battery acid. Mmmm.

Citing his new “healthy” game plan, Shane went with a rum and diet. When you see what he ordered for dinner later you’ll better understand why I imply sarcasm at the use of healthy as an adjective. Cassi, also on a healthy diet plan, ordered an iced tea. As in, non-alcoholic. As in, I think we may have to remind her of the unspoken oath you take when you officially become part of the WTGW crew: your liver suffers for the good of the group. I mean, really.

While we were all deciding on our dinners, Shane decided to take it upon himself to try to fix the incredibly annoyingly wobbly table we were seated at. With coins. Handy guy, that one. Except that it didn’t work, and really just succeeded in making us talk about the obscene things it looked like he was doing under the table.

Thankfully he eventually gave up and went back to studying the menu. But every time one of us moved and the table jerked back in the opposite direction I have to believe it took every ounce of concentration in his brain not to try again.

By now I think you have a good feeling of the ambiance of the place, so let’s move on to food, shall we?

Shane of course gave the server the third degree about what was good on the menu, and the first words out of her mouth were Reuben rolls. Guess what we ordered?

Just give me seven plates of these, please

Fortunately we weren’t disappointed. Just as the server implied, they were were excellent. They were crispy on the outside, and I still have all of the skin on the roof of my mouth after biting into one for the first time, so score.

Everyone else might’ve tried them, too, had Shane not announced with his first bite that he would be double dipping in the sauce. Courteous, I guess? I mean, at least he gave fair warning. Now, that didn’t scare me off from eating them … but then again I am married to the guy, I think that might be part of our vows by this point.

Ted ordered fried pickles, which he was a fan of. We all tried them (no double dipping on that side of the table) and agreed they were very good. I mean, they weren’t 3 Brothers Tavern quality, but then again I don’t think we’ll replicate that anywhere else. Ever. Is it too soon for a revisit just for appetizers there?

We’re ruined on these forever.

Cassi got the veggie quesadilla, which she didn’t say much about, but it looked good from where I was sitting.

If it has vegetables in it, it’s healthy, right?

After a somewhat lengthy internal debate between a burger, the fish dinner and the Italian sub – #thestruggleisreal – I landed on the Upper Deck burger for my meal. It’s a half pound burger smothered in onions, mushrooms and cheese – also known as my burger of choice. It was just OK. As usual I ended up surrendering the bun so I could focus on the meat and toppings … but even then it wasn’t overly impressive. It definitely screamed of frozen patty and not fresh. Booo.

I also opted for the tater tots, which were also just OK. Bummer.

Can I just smother every meal in cheese, please?

Shane got the Corner burger. When he ordered it the server issued the warning that “it’s huge.” Which is like music to Shane’s ears when it comes to food portions.

And this is what arrived:

I’m not sure how that knife is even helpful here

Remember that “healthy” thing? Right.

That sandwich is two half pound patties triple-deckered between three slices of Texas toast. That meal is as much the equivalent of healthy as using a lit tanning bed to get your 8-hours of beauty sleep.

I should also mention that when his food was delivered the girl who set this monstrosity in front of Shane casually mentioned to him something called the Grilled Cheese burger – which she said was literally two grilled cheese sandwiches used as buns for a burger. Oh good Lord. Something more unhealthy than what he had sitting in front of him.

Needless to say he was slightly disappointed he hadn’t been told of that one to begin with.

Although we may be safe on Shane picking this as a revisit just to try that other burger, since he said there wasn’t much flavor to the one he had. He was particularly disappointed in the Texas toast – which I should mention was one of the main deciding factors in ordering that specific sandwich (well, other than the obvious fact that it seemed like the most food on the menu) – as it wasn’t buttered. Come again? How do you not butter Texas toast? I mean, can you even really call it Texas toast without an obscene amount of butter? Otherwise its really just thick bread. And that’s no fun to eat, especially in triplicate.

Meanwhile on the actual healthy side of the table, Cassi went with a Garden salad and six boneless wings.

What the eff is this?

Shane was seriously about to revoke her WTGW card when she ordered the salad … but said that the wings saved her. Barely.

She was happy with the salad. I mean, as happy as you can be with a plate of vegetables while everyone around you consumes something that touched a deep fryer – but whatevs.

In the time-honored battle between steak and AYCE fish (which they apparently offer as a menu item every day here?) Ted decided on steak. Specifically the steak special, which is a 6 oz steak plus choice of potato and a salad for $6. And of course a side of six wings, because, well, there wasn’t enough food at our table already.

It was well worth the $6 just to see Ted painstakingly picking the thinly shredded cheese off his side salad piece by piece.

It looks so dainty

And Shane picking it up after him to eat it.

Beware of the cheese stealer

There is definitely not a picture of Shane under the word “discrete” in the dictionary

The steak, however, was definitely not enough to share.

Is it wrong when the mashed potatoes are bigger than the meat?

Shane: that looks like a maxi pad.
Ted: there’s our quote of the evening.

Now Ted did say the steak was pretty good, despite the thinness. And, I mean, what do you really want for $6 anyway?

He wasn’t as much of a fan of the wings, though, saying they tasted overdone. Cassi agreed. She took most of those home. Sorry, Jason.

Those wings may also be bigger than that steak.

Overall the place isn’t awful, but maybe not at the top of the revisit list. It’s strangely laid out – the room we ate in was this big open room with little house-sized light/fan combos as the only lighting … helpful … then there was a bar past that … and maybe another room? – but none of us ventured that far. In discussion about what the building might’ve been before it became a dining establishment, it seemed it could possibly have been a house? Which wouldn’t be surprising, considering Shane’s track record. And which also of course brought up a recap of other “houses” we’ve eaten in, most of which leaned toward the sketch side. Maybe we need a sketch house tour? We could probably sell tickets to that event.

Also, we nearly forgot to do our photos before we left, so we improvised and did them in the vestibule, much to the entertainment of the folks seated just inside the window. You’re welcome.

Picked by: Shane

Ted

Cassi

Steph

Shane