WTGW 10/29/14: Frank’s Place, Akron

So, I think Shane is trying to take the lead on discovering the most “hole in the wall hidden gems” out of our WTGW list. Or “places that look scary on the outside but surprise you once you’re inside.” Whatever you want to call it.

(I guess after a year+ of doing this, we’re slowly finding our niches. For example:  Ted has, well, all of Kent. And Shane has … places next to a scary motel, in areas of town we normally don’t travel, and that we’re dangerously close to drawing straws on who gets to open the front door first. To each his own.)

Frank’s Place definitely falls into Shane’s territory. Located on the corner of W. Market St and Merriman, across from a cemetery, we drove by once before realizing we passed the place, and then nearly again when we thought that “couldn’t possibly be it.”

Just in case we forgot where we were ...

Just in case we forgot where we were …

Our second thought after we made it into the parking lot was that we hoped half the vehicles in the lot were somehow abandoned there, because we weren’t sure how all the people they belonged to could possibly fit into that tiny building.

Tiny maybe isn’t even the correct word to describe this place. I think I’ve had living rooms bigger than this place, and I certainly haven’t resided in mansions. If most restaurants are Lincoln Navigators, Frank’s would be a Fiat. Or a Smart Car. Or maybe a Scooter.

To make it worse, we unknowingly arrived on dart night, which we discovered takes over half of the ridiculously small number of tables on the floor out of commission.

(Side note, beware of entering through the front/only door on dart night, as it’s situated smack between the two dartboards. It’s a little intimidating to open the door and find someone seemingly aiming a dart at your head.)

But before we could get discouraged, our server approached us, quickly realized we were new to the place (that lost look on all of our faces – and the fact that we tried to sit at one of the dart tables – must’ve given that away) and that we had come on a night with a reduced amount of seating. She pointed to the one table large enough to accommodate our group of five, which was at the moment taken up by a group of older folks, and kindly told us they would be leaving soon if we wanted to just get some drinks and wait it out to order food.

Deal.

And sure enough, we had barely gotten our first round of drinks before that group was gathering their things and heading out. Actually, watching our server talk to the group as they left, it was clear she’d been taking care of them there at Frank’s Place regularly for many years. We asked and she said they come a few times a month, and had been for years. Gotta love that. Especially since that will probably be our little group one day. Ha.

Frank’s has a pretty impressive list of craft beers, which was a little unexpected for a place that had the look and feel of a dive bar. We all went Miller Lite … except, of course, for Ted, because, well, Ted. I’m not sure exactly what his first pick was (probably something I couldn’t pronounce or spell anyway), but then afterward I know he went with the Smutty Pumpkin (which may or may not have been a “guilt move” after the server put some on ice for us “just in case” we’d want to try it later) and then a Vanilla Porter.

As is becoming common practice for us, we asked the server (I’m beginning to realize I really should’ve gotten her name if I’m going to be mentioning her this much) what her favorites were on the menu. And she was great – she went through and picked out an item in each section of the menu, since she “wasn’t really sure what we were all in the mood for and didn’t want to leave anything out.” Nailed it.

One of the things she raved about the most was the spicy stuffed pepper balls on the appetizer menu. As you can probably guess, that took very little twisting of our arms to order. And wow. Take everything you love about a spicy stuffed pepper, roll it into a ball, and deep fry it. I’m really not sure how exactly you can go wrong there.

You can deep fry anything and we'll eat it. For reals.

You can deep fry anything and we’ll eat it. For reals.

For dinner, Shane, Amanda and I all had burgers. I had the BBQ Bacon, Shane had the Black & Bleu, Amanda had the Bourbon. Shane and I both thought they were delicious, while Amanda said the bourbon sauce didn’t have much flavor.

Crinkle cut fries = awesome

You don’t see crinkle cut fries nearly enough anymore.

I opted for the sweet potato fries instead of the regular fries, and definitely wasn’t disappointed. Unlike the ones I had at The Game a few weeks back, these ones were truly sweet, with a cinnamon twist to them. You know, how they’re supposed to taste. Delicious.

Sweet potato fries count as a vegetable, right?

Sweet potato fries count as a vegetable, right?

On the chicken side of the table, Ted got the Cajun Chicken entree, which he really liked. He said it had the perfect blend of seasoning on it. He used the sauteed spinach as more of a condiment than a side dish, though. Jenny had the Chicken spinach wrap, which she also liked. They both said the chicken itself was really good.

The other "non-burger" plate

The other “non-burger” plate

One of these meals is healthier than the other

One of these meals is healthier than the other

Ted apparently brought his Genie lamp to dinner with us, because after we ate the conversation somehow turned to our infamous trip to the frozen yogurt bar a few weeks back, and Ted mentioned that he could actually go for something sweet or dessert-like after his meal this time around, too. We joked about not really thinking Frank’s was the type of place to have a dessert menu – unless it was of the alcohol variety.

No joke, ten minutes later our waitress shows up out of the blue with a plate of five mini apple muffins. Just drops them off at our table and walks away, no explanation. Interesting. And delicious. But interesting nonetheless.

Magic muffins

Magic muffins

The muffins get the Turtle Stamp Of Approval

The muffins get the Turtle Stamp Of Approval

Then about ten minutes after that she reappears with five pumpkin pie shots, and sets those in front of us as well. What what?

We really should start wishing for alcohol more often

We really should start wishing for alcohol more often

Our lesson here is that clearly Ted should learn to use his cosmic wishing powers on things like cars, fancy vacations and stacks of cash. But we’ll reap the benefits this time around, no worries. Thanks buddy.

But I do admit, that was such a nice gesture by our server. She was honestly one of the best parts about our visit to Frank’s Place. She clearly knew from the start that we were “virgins” to the place, and it was nice of her to make us feel so welcome the whole time. She had a great personality, and you could tell she just 100% loves the place and the people there. Whether it was the table of regulars whose kids and grandkids she probably knows all about the lives of – or the five of us who stumbled in for the first time ever – she treated everyone as if they were lifelong friends and guests in her own home. These things make a difference.

Overall Frank’s is a wonderful little (and I do emphasize little) hidden gem. Our one and only complaint about the place really is the size, but even that didn’t seem to matter once we got settled in. I would recommend trying to go on a night that they don’t have something else going on, although that seems a hearty task based on the posters on the walls advertising upcoming events. We do know that dart night is Wednesday. And apparently they do kareoke on Sundays, although we couldn’t for the life of us figure out physically where in the hell they would set that up. But I’m sure it would be entertaining.

No, we aren't members of the Dart League.

No, we aren’t members of the Dart League.

I apparently didn't get the "grey" memo

I apparently didn’t get the “grey” memo

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Shane
Drinks: The usual suspects, plus a pretty impressive list of craft beers for such a small place. And did I mention the pumpkin shots? 
Food:
 Good. Everything was obviously made fresh. And get the stuffed pepper balls. Trust us.
Service: Outstanding. Instead of looking at us like outsiders, we were given star treatment. From making sure we had a big enough table to making honest recommendations on menu items, to the free dessert and shots – we were all rather impressed.
Overall: This place is truly a hidden gem. Aside from being super tiny, I’m not sure we really had any complaints about the place. I could definitely see us making a return appearance … or joining the dart team, whatevs.

Next Pick: Steph

Frank's Place on Market on Urbanspoon

WTGW 10/22/14: Belleria, Kent

Well hello there Kent, long time no see …

I have to admit, it felt a bit like like de ja vu for this week’s WTGW, between the drive into town and parking in the same garage as we did last week. With Ted spending some time working in the area right now, he’s apparently discovered a plethora of restaurants we haven’t visited yet. And because he can’t go to them for lunch until we’ve visited them as a group (at least if he still wants to keep it as a pick), I think it’s safe to say Ted has the Kent market covered for a little while.

Belleria is a bit hard to find – it’s tucked away on the upper level of buildings, with the entrance facing a fire escape type stairway and a teeny tiny parking lot. So I guess it’s a good thing Ted scoped it out ahead of time and could lead us right to the front door.

The restaurant is very bright on the inside, and the atmosphere is more of a family place than a college town pizza shop. In fact, I was kind of surprised they even serve alcohol.Although they don’t serve much of it – only a few on draft (Bud Lite, Yuengling, and a couple of Great Lakes specialites), domestics in bottles, and some wines.

We all went for the Miller Lite bottles – except, of course, for original Ted, who went with the Great Lakes Nosfuratu. Which is something none of us can even pronounce, much less drink. And to which we all joked “What did you order Ted? … Nostradamous? … God Bless You? … No Soup For You?” Because we’re 12.

Belleria bills itself as an Italian eatery, which it most definitely is. But they also have a very extensive menu, with everything from pizza to sandwiches to salads to pastas – so don’t rule the place out even if you aren’t actually in the mood for Italian food.

Case in point, the appetizer menu has selections seemingly from the county fair circuit. Ted got the fried zucchini sticks. Because, “that’s a vegetable, right?” Um, sure. Meanwhile, Shane ordered the fried veggie basket. We’ll get to why he regretted that later in a minute.

It's still a vegetable even if it's deep fried, right?

It’s still a vegetable even if it’s deep fried, right?

Food we clearly didn't need to order.

Food we clearly didn’t need to order.

For entrees, I went with the baked rigatoni with sausage. It was basically a bowl of rigatoni, with spicy hot sausage, covered with melted mozzerella cheese. Being that I’m not cheese-hater Ted, there really is nothing bad I can say about that. I only ate about half of it – because, well, pasta is filling – but I will admit I’m already dreaming about the leftovers for lunch or dinner.

There's pasta under there somewhere

There’s pasta under there somewhere

Amanda had the meatball sub. Which she was disappointed didn’t come with melted cheese on it, even though the waitress told her it did. Because, really, shouldn’t pretty much everything in an Italian place just be assumed to be covered in melted cheese? She also took half home.

I should've donated some cheese to Amanda's sandwich

I should’ve donated some cheese to Amanda’s sandwich

Jenny had the pulled pork sandwich. To which Shane exclaimed “who orders pulled pork at an Italian place” when she ordered it … but then was a tad bit jealous once it arrived. She said it was delicious.

Jenny takes the "original" prize for ordering off the non-Italian menu

Jenny takes the “original” prize for ordering off the non-Italian menu

The boys both got pizza. And here’s where we see why Shane really didn’t need that appetizer. Let’s just say that “healthy, moderately fun Shane” has clearly left the building. Most likely still reeling over his jealously from Ted’s double stack burger at The Game a few weeks ago, Shane wasn’t taking any chances this time around. He ordered a half sheet of the Sausage Diablo pizza – despite Ted’s “Um, do you really think that’s a good idea?” protest. And I think Ted just voiced what we all were thinking. I mean, a half sheet of pizza? For himself. For real?

But if Shane was confident, then Ted wasn’t one to be upstaged - so he also ordered a half sheet, but of the Meat Lovers. Well played.

Although Ted did once again voice his concern when they placed their orders and the waitress told them that a half sheet really was, actually, a full sheet. As in twelve square pieces. As in more than enough for two people, let alone one. As in, are you sure you don’t want to just share one?

Nonsense.

So, yeah, each pizza came served on an actual cafeteria tray, and covered the whole thing. I think all five of us could’ve shared those two pizzas and still gone home with leftovers. (Side note, Jenny was thoroughly embarrassed. To which we replied, consider this initiation. And you ain’t seen nothing yet.)

Oh look, a whole pizza just for me

Oh look, a whole pizza just for me

Seriously

Seriously

In any case, they both liked the pizza. And of course they swapped a few pieces of each, because, well, that’s what they do. They’re such a cute couple. I think they both liked the kind they ordered for themselves best though. Shane said the meat lovers had almost too much meat (insert “that’s what she said” joke here), and that the spicy sausage was, in fact, spicy – but still good (insert yet another “that’s what she said” joke here). Ted was a little too busy making yummy food noises to be reached for comment (insert another … oh, never mind).

Overall Belleria is a good place if you want a wide variety of menu selections, or are really in the mood for Italian food. Much like JoJo’s in Medina, if we lived closer I could see this being a staple for take out or a place to go on those nights when no one can agree on one specific type of food that they want to eat, since they have a little of everything on the menu. But honestly there was nothing overly special about the place that makes it worth the drive from our area. Being that Ted is working in close proximity, though, no doubt he’ll be back on his lunch in the near future. Maybe he should’ve just asked to leave his leftover pizza in the back for him to claim on his next visit?

I'm sorry, where are we again?

I’m sorry, where are we again?

Ted, honey, squirrels don't like that.

Ted, honey, squirrels don’t like that.

I'm not sure I want to ask what was really in that pizza

I’m not sure I want to ask what was really in that pizza

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Ted
Drinks: Eh. Three or four beers on draft, regular domestics in bottles. And wine, which we didn’t try, but I guess you have to have if you’re an Italian place. 
Food:
 Impressive array on the menu, from pizza to pasta to sandwiches. If you can’t find something that at least sounds good enough to order there may be something wrong with you.
Service: Good. It wasn’t busy, so we did get plenty of attention. And in contrast to other times when we’ve had to ask repeatedly for glasses of water, this time we were given a full pitcher without even asking. Karma.
Overall: While it was good – and Ted will likely be a frequent visitor of this place for lunch while he’s working in the neighborhood – I’m not sure that it’s special enough for us to make the trip back to Kent on a regular basis.

Next Pick: Shane

WTGW 10/8/14: Newdle Bar, Kent

Ah, Kent. Thank you for reminding me that my college days, way back in the 90′s, were so much different from what the kids are enjoying these days. A sushi place close to campus? Please. In my day the closest thing we got to “ethnic” was Taco Bell on the way home from the bar. Run for the border, yo.

But yet we continue to venture out here, because it’s a close enough drive and, well, they keep opening new restaurants so really we’d be doing a disservice if we didn’t check them out. You’re welcome, world.

We thought Newdle Bar was a fairly new place, since none of us had – in all our recent travels to Kent – ever realized it existed. And, as I just mentioned, we are clearly very much on the cutting edge of dining in our area . Plus, you know, since Shane “discovered” sushi a few months ago, we’ve always kind of got one eye and ear open for new places to try.

But then I saw a flyer on the back of the restroom door advertising “New July hours!” … and right then I realized that a) they’re clearly not that new, and b) they’re clearly not all that concerned about updated marketing. Oh well.

The restaurant isn’t a huge place, but the layout is very open with a few different seating styles, so it felt bigger than what it really was. Although when we walked in and asked for a “party of 5″ the host kind of just looked at us funny and then disappeared for a minute, like he had to ask for help with seating a table that large. Clearly we stumped him.

For a place called Newdle Bar, I was surprised to find there wasn’t a huge noodle selection on the menu. Seems odd, no? Maybe I’ve been spoiled by places like Noodlecat in downtown Cleveland – which has a clever play on the title, as well as a fairly large and interesting assortment of ramens, sobas and other noodle-based dishes on the menu. The majority of Newdle Bar’s menu is actually sushi, with just a small selection of Japanese noodles or rice bowls available. Because I guess there’s no clever way to spin “sushi” into a restaurant name.

But no matter, because sushi was really what we were there for anyway. Well, most of us anyway. This week’s WTGW featured a special guest – our friend Jenny, who just moved back with her family to the area after two years in North Carolina. And while I forgot to get an introductory picture of her to share with all of you, remember her name, as she may be appearing for future WTGW adventures. In any case, Jenny, like me a few months back, had tried sushi in the past and had a bad experience. And had written it off as yucky, not to be ordered again. She was the only one of us not to actually order sushi as their meal … although Amanda did convince Jenny to try some of hers. And she didn’t spit it out, even considering it was heavily flavored with wasabi. Sushi – 1, Dietary Aversions – 0. Score.

I barely remember a time I didn't like these

I barely remember a time I didn’t like these

Another score – our server told us that Wednesday’s are $5 martini night. Although he also shared with us a story about how all of the martinis actually used to be just $5, but the price changed “because probably they really weren’t making any money on them and so they raised the prices and just made Wednesdays the special $5 night.” Um, OK. Pretty sure you weren’t supposed to be sharing that info, but thank you for that delightful little insight into your manager’s crafty business skills. And we’ll just call you TMI from now on.

So being that they were clearly a bargain – well, and that we love martinis – us girls dove right into that list. Amanda and I started with the Marilyn Monroe, which was a delicious blend of strawberry vodka, cream and chocolate sauce … and pretty much tasted just like Strawberry Nestle’s Quik. Jenny had the Tsunami, which was Bailey’s, brandy, cream and caramel. And equally as delicious. For our second round later we switched it up, with Amanda ordering the Tsunami and Jenny ordering the Marilyn. I went kamakazi and got the Key Lime Pie, which was a bit too limey for my tastes but otherwise OK.

That's $15 well spent

That’s $15 well spent

Ted had a Dogfish Head beer on tap, and Shane continued his quest to make sure that all ethnic restaurants are properly chilling their bottles of Miller Lite.

Ted ordered endame as appetizer, which be pretty much kept to himself since none of us really wanted to touch it. Amanda and I tried it and weren’t impressed. Honestly I found it confusing. I mean, do you eat the outside, or no? All the seasoning seemed to be there, but when I tried it that way it had the consistency of leather. Not a fan.

As the only one to stray from the sushi menu, Jenny ordered the rice bowl. Which ironically came out quicker than any of our fresh made sushi. Hmmm. Even TMI was slightly thrown off by that. In any case, it didn’t look to be overly seasoned and was pretty much just chicken and veggies over rice. A lot of rice. It was quite a bit of food, and Jenny ended up taking half of it home.

Jenny fills in as the "one of these things is not like the other" order

Jenny fills in as the “one of these things is not like the other” order

Shane, Amanda and I all had various selections from the 6-roll menu. Mostly Philadelphia, Alaskan and one with shrimp and avocado. They were all very good; however, as with most sushi, it just never seems to be filling enough. Seriously, can we fix that somehow? More rice, larger pieces? I mean, Amanda and I each had two orders and Shane had three – but I think we still might have come to blows over Jenny’s extra food if we hadn’t discovered a frozen yogurt place next door after our meal.

Looks like a lot but just isn't filling

Looks like a lot but just isn’t filling

To that end, Ted was maybe the smartest of the sushi eaters, ordering two of the extra large double rolls (which come in 8′s). He had the Dragon and the Black Widow, both of which he enjoyed – and politely offered to the rest of us in an attempt to keep the peace as he was still eating and we were hungrily staring down his non-empty plate. Amanda did try one and agreed that it was just as good as what we had already devoured.

Such presentation

Such presentation

Overall Newdle Bar is a good place. It definitely caters to the college crowd as far as atmosphere and kind of bare-bones decor, but the food was good and reasonably priced for a sit-down place. The wait staff is pretty much all college students, but other than the bit of oversharing that earned him his nickname at the beginning of the visit, TMI was efficient and pleasant and got everything correct. He noticed when drinks needed refilled and was quick to ask if plates could be moved out of the way.

Did I mention we were still hungry after we left? Thankfully there was a self-serve frozen yogurt place right next door, so we headed in for some dessert. The flavors were to die for – including pumpkin pie and graham cracker swirl, strawberries and cream, cake batter, waffles and about 15 others I’m blanking on right now. And the topping bar was just as long as the flavor area, with everything from healthy fruits to gummy bears to candy pieces and actual pumpkin roll. Naturally we all totally bypassed the healthy section, and went straight to the bad stuff. Because, well, we could. I mean, come on. Who puts strawberries on a sundae when you can have Reece’s Pieces and Kit Kats? For real.

None of the toppings matched the yogurt flavors, but whatevs.

None of the toppings matched the yogurt flavors, but whatevs.

Which could explain how Shane and Ted each ended up making themselves 1.5 pound sundaes. I’m not even exaggerating. 1.5 pounds. Each.

That's nearly 3 pounds of sundae between them.

That’s nearly 3 pounds of sundae between them.

Ted literally licked his bowl clean, but Shane started to deteriorate with probably about a quarter pound of yogurt left in his dish. Eyes, meet stomach. Guess who’s bigger?

He's not looking happy

He’s not looking happy

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Amanda
Drinks: Decent alcohol list for a Japanese place – although being in a college town I would guess that’s a must. And you always win points with us for $5 margaritas. Just sayin’.
Food:
 Not a huge selection if you’re not a fan of sushi. Honestly, for a place with a play on the word “noodle” in the title, I would’ve expected that to take up the majority of the menu, but whateves.
Service: Good.  We didn’t see our waiter a ton, but with the open setup of the place I’m assuming it’s because he could see us and assumed we didn’t need anything from him. Drinks were refilled when needed and checks brought promptly, so thumbs up.
Overall: There are less expensive sushi places closer to us, but for a fun night out this place was definitely a good pick.

Next Pick: Ted

 

Newdle Bar on Urbanspoon

WTGW 10/1/14: The Game Bar & Grille, Akron

So, full disclosure here, we’re been trying to get to The Game all summer long. You know, just like we intended to get back to a minor league Aeros … sorry, Rubber Ducks … game all summer and celebrate the place where WTGW was born a year ago. But sadly, that never happened. Well, I use the word sadly really just to reference one of those two situations. A few more paragraphs into this post and you’ll probably have a good idea which one that is.

Where it all started. This place always holds a little piece of our WTGW hearts.

Where it all started. This place always holds a little piece of our WTGW hearts.

Part of the reason we put off going to The Game all summer was that we specifically didn’t want to go on a night when there was a … well, game … because, being connected to the stadium and all, we figured the place would be insanely crowded. Which may or may not be true. Because on this visit, a month after the end of the minor league baseball season, there seemed to be more crickets heard inside the establishment than what you’d hear outside on a summer night.

At least we won't forget where we are

At least we won’t forget where we are

Seriously, I think there were more workers than actual patrons in the place. Someone was cleaning the underside of chairs. While I can totally respect restaurant cleanliness, I think that’s about the bottom of the barrel in terms of finding jobs for people who have nothing to do.

Which is why we kind of set our own bar for the type of service we expected to receive there. But sadly, it was never met. (there’s that word again – are you figuring out which was this is going yet?)

And look, I’m all for training a new person during the slow nights. I get it. Not that our waitress told us she was new, but that was kind of our inference when not only did she forget Shane’s water that he asked for … twice … but she also only asked one of the three of us who ordered burgers how we wanted them cooked, put extra cheese on Ted’s burger instead of removing it (and if you’ve ever read this blog in the past you know just how much he enjoyed that), was slow to check back in on us … you get the idea. She also had zero clue if the bar stocked Miller Lite in bottles. Miller Lite. For real? She looked like a deer in headlights at just the mention of the brand. Hmmm.

Anyway.

The menu isn’t that big. You’d think for a sport oriented place that’s located at an actual ball park there would be a bit more to choose from, but it’s a lot fancier-sounding than you’d expect.  Who wouldn’t want to celebrate that last homer with a wrap made of chicken, kale, avocado, sprouts and carrots? Or how about a burger with crispy confit duck, red onion marmalade, brie cheese and arugala?

And I’m not even sure I want to know what a “veggie muffalletta” is. It sounds dirty.

But OK, so it’s not our style, I get it. But the smaller menu kind of gives the impression that maybe this means they’ve had opportunity to perfect the items they have. But honestly the food wasn’t all that good either. Or maybe it’s just not described correctly. Case in point, we ordered “house made chips with beer queso dip” as appetizer. We were expecting potato chips …  but they were tortilla chips. Now maybe we glossed over that in the description – but still, anytime I see “house made” I guess I just automatically go to potato. Because really, who makes their own tortilla chips? And if you’re going to do that, shouldn’t there be something a bit special about them – like a seasoning, or a particular taste? Yeah, not here. May as well just save yourselves the time and open a bag instead.

The newly christened “healthy, moderately fun Shane” (as I’ve taken to calling him lately, since he’s on a big workout and healthier food kick) ordered chicken nachos. Which were essentially the chips we just had as a app, only with the cheese sauce on top instead on on the side, and some chicken, lettuce and peppers piled on top of that. As you can imagine, Shane was not thrilled. Evidence: this is only the second time in WTGW history that Shane left a considerable amount of food on his plate at the end of the meal … and the only time he didn’t take a box for what was left. Ouch. Even for “healthy, moderately fun Shane” that’s a real stretch.

This is what Shane considers "healthy"

This is what Shane considers “healthy”

Amanda and I each got burgers. She’s been tempted to order any version of a burger with an egg on it at several burger places we’ve gone to, so she took the plunge this time around. But maybe this wasn’t the best place to actually go through with that. She ended up offering half of it to Shane, who turned it down. I’m not sure which part of that sentence is more surprising.

Which is bigger, the egg or the waffle fry?

Which is bigger, the egg or the waffle fry?

I had the burger with bacon, bleu cheese and buffalo sauce – which might’ve been OK if not for the sauce, which was too sweet to be hot and just not good on a burger. I also subbed in the sweet potato fries for $1 more and immediately wished I’d gone with my first gut instinct to just get a side salad. The fries were too crispy and not enough sweetness. You know, being sweet potatoes and all, one might expect that from them, but whateves. And I’m still not sure what the dipping sauce was that came with them, but let’s just say it definitely didn’t add anything to the flavor.

I think the only one who might’ve been happy with his meal was Ted, who went off the “extreme menu” and got the biggest burger I’ve ever seen in my life. Maybe part of the reason healthy Shane didn’t like his meal was because he was sitting opposite very much non-healthy Ted, thus staring down the river of grease dripping from Ted’s fingers as he plowed his way through this burger. Holy crap.

It's like a normal burger on steroids

It’s like a normal burger on steroids

Although I guess in comparison to this, nachos are basically a salad

Although I guess in comparison to this, nachos are basically a salad

(PS, other items on the extreme menu include a hot dog encased in a bratwurst encased in a kielbasa – which must be some strange ballpark rendition of the Turducken. And a 2.5 pound ice cream sundae, which Ted admitted almost sounds good … until you’ve watched a pack of small children attempt to drag their spoons through it and share it. Ick.)

Extreme Menu. Alternate title: Cheating Death With Every Bite.

Extreme Menu. Alternate title: Cheating Death With Every Bite.

All in all this just wasn’t the best experience. Maybe we caught them on an off night, but honestly I’m not sure I would sacrifice another evening to try again and see if that’s the case. Especially when the food just wasn’t the greatest, and it wasn’t like I had a list of items I’d be dying to come back for. Now maybe I could be enticed to come back and sit outside at the nearby Tiki Bar off the patio and just have drinks during a game … but that’s about as close as I think I want to get. Good concept, but just kind of seemed to have missed the mark.

Oh Tiki Bar, I don't even really know you but I miss you already

Oh Tiki Bar, I don’t even really know you but I miss you already

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Steph
Drinks: Not a very impressive draft list, and they may or may not have Miller Lite in bottles.  So, you know, there’s that.
Food:
 Not your typical bar & grille menu, which I think may be a deterrent. The “extreme menu” is a fun add-on, though.
Service: Well, I mean, there were like two other tables in the whole place, so I can understand why she was flustered? No. And what is it with servers not wanting Shane to have a glass of water lately? Hydrate, people. Hydrate.
Overall: I think I’d rather pay top dollar for a seat in the stadium during a game than come here to eat again. It has potential … but it’s just not there.

Next Pick: Amanda

The Game Grill + Bar on Urbanspoon

WTGW 9/24/14: Papa Don’s Pub, Akron

I have to admit, we were all a little bit nervous to visit this week’s pick. Well, except, of course, the one who made the pick (Shane). And we’re not sure how exactly he discovered this place – but let’s just say that it’s definitely not in the most desirable of neighborhoods. Maybe that should tell us all a bit about how he spends his spare time? Hmmm.

Actually, Amanda admitted that she has driven through this area on her way to work, and when Shane gave her the name of the place she was thinking it was actually the building next door. Which, we realized as we drove up, is rather frightening. It turns out that Papa Don’s is only slightly less intimidating looking from the outside, but score for us that at least Shane didn’t pick that other place.

However, it’s worth mentioning that as we walked in there were two matching convertible Mercedes parked near the door, so that helped shudder our nerves a little.

Inside the bar is a whole different world, though. It’s not the most glamorous of places – just one big room filled with tables/booths and a large bar at the back, and then an enclosed patio off to the right side. The boys voted for the patio, but Amanda and I decided it was a bit chilly to go that route. Yes, we’re girls. And it is fall, after all. 60 degrees is not warm this time of year.

Wednesday nights at Papa Don’s are .50 cent wing and $1 Bud Light drafts. OK, suddenly we’ve forgotten what the exterior of the place looked like or the dark, slightly shady neighborhood it’s located in – because specials like that are hard to come by. Naturally we went with the $1 beer specials … except Ted, who likes to be different and is apparently made of money, who opted for a Great Lakes bottle.

$1.00 Bud Lights. And whatever else that sign says. Glorious.

$1.00 Bud Lights. And whatever else that sign says. Glorious.

We opted for the appetizer platter – which, for $14, includes half orders of your choice of four different appetizers. This is right up our alley, since that way instead of having to agree on something to share, we could all pretty much just pick what we liked. Nice. Our choices were mac ‘n’cheese bites (a regular staple for us), breaded mushrooms (our closest attempt at being healthy for the night), queso bites (who wouldn’t love deep fried hot cheese? Oh, right, Ted), and pizza rolls (because everyone loved Totino’s back in the day … and this is pretty much exactly what these were). Everything was good, and came out piping hot. I mean, I think Ted lost a layer of skin on the roof of his mouth from his first interaction with a pizza roll. That should teach him to be over-eager.

A tray of fried goodness

A tray of fried goodness

For our meals, Shane and I both went with wings. I had the hot garlic parm, and Shane got six each of the honey mustard, 6 pepper and regular garlic parm. Mine were good, just not as spicy as I thought they would be, especially considering they have a hot and a regular version on the menu. I guess I should’ve really stolen one of Shane’s regular ones to try them, since he voted them as #1 out of the three kinds he ordered. Although that being the case, you know he was also coveting them and not sharing. Oh well.

Leave it up to Shane to have the most food on the table.

Leave it up to Shane to have the most food on the table.

Amanda went with her tried and true order – a steak wrap with fries. She said it was good, just not the best thing she’s ever had.

Steak + cheese + wrap = good

Steak + cheese + wrap = good

On a complete curve ball, Ted ordered an actual dinner – the prime rib. He said it didn’t have much flavor. Although I’m not really sure what he expected from a neighborhood bar with wing and Bud Light specials? He also said he was glad he finished off the meal with one of Shane’s 6 pepper wings, which apparently had enough flavor to totally redeem the whole trip for him.

Ted shows off his meat ... without spilling his beans. Impressive.

Ted shows off his meat … without spilling his beans. Impressive.

Don't laugh or you'll lose it!

Don’t laugh or you’ll lose it!

Hey, wait … should I be offended that Shane shared wings with Ted and not his own wife? Hmmm.

Speaking of wings, I noticed one of the flavors on the menu was “BBQ potato chip.” I was intrigued … but then Amanda reminded me of the Taco flavored wings I had back at Ripper’s Rock House that were also “intriguing,” but not actually good. Point taken.

The service at Papa Don’s was good. The bartender was also our waiter, although throughout the night a few other bartenders must’ve come on shift because from time to time a random would also stop over to fill our drinks or see if we needed anything. Or maybe they didn’t work there but were just really concerned patrons. This place definitely had that Cheers sort of feel to it where the person behind the bar may not necessarily need to be an employee.

Side note – some of the reviews we’d read before coming in made mention of how bright the place was on the inside – you know, for a bar. And I have to admit that they weren’t lying. I mean, it wasn’t surface of the sun bright or anything, but if you’re looking for ambiance … well, let’s just say first of all that maybe you need to look up the meaning of the word before you think of this place , but there definitely aren’t any dark corners to hide in (so to speak) here either.

All in all a good visit. It didn’t skyrocket to the top 5 on our list, but they do have good specials ($1 Bud Light drafts on Wednesdays and during Browns games, $2 Blue Moon on Thursdays, etc) and the food, while not over-the-moon fabulous, was decent. And because of the insanely cheap specials, it meant that our bill rivaled that of The Big Dog a few weeks prior – so you know that made us happy. I could see us coming back to take in a game or just grab some wings and check out the crowd on another night.

$5.00 for all this.  Awesome.

$5.00 for all this. Awesome.

We so should've made him wear a hat like Don's in order to be in this picture.

We so should’ve made him wear a hat like Don’s in order to be in this picture.

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Shane
Drinks: Thank you, $1.00 Bud Light drafts, for the second under $30 bill we’ve had in the past month. Enough said. 
Food:
 Typical bar food, and Wednesdays are 50 cent wing nights. There were specials for every day on the menu, but that was the only one we actually paid attention to.
Service: Good. Despite the place having that neighborhood “Cheers” kind of feel, no records came to a screeching halt when we walked in and we weren’t ignored in favor of the regulars.
Overall: Nice little neighborhood bar in a bit of a scary neighborhood. If you can get past the exterior and the area it’s worth a chance.

Next Pick: Steph

WTGW 9/17/14: Nuevo Acapulco, Tallmadge

No, your calendars aren’t fooling you – we did skip a week of WTGW. With Ted out of town for work the week of his pick and a crazy tornado outbreak in our area, we decided it might be best to hunker down at home instead of venturing out. Call us rational, I guess.

(PS – for the record, tornadoes are pretty much the exact opposite of patio weather, Mother Nature. Stop effing with us on Wednesdays. Seriously.)

So, fast forward to this week, when I get a text from Ted debating between two destinations for this week’s pick. When I clicked on the link he sent me for Nuevo Acapulco via my phone, it took me to a landing page touting that “the tower of beer or margaritas is back!” I immediately told him that’s not a nice thing to send to someone at 5:30 pm on a Tuesday. And that I didn’t care what the other option was because this place wins, hands down.

So here we are.

Only it turns out he didn’t send me a link to the right website. The waiter’s blank stare when we asked about it gave that away pretty quickly. And honestly, I’d like to link to the page here … but we still aren’t really sure what the correct website is for this location. Google it, you’ll see what I mean.

On another note, Amanda also thought from the name of the place that we were going to some new Mexican restaurant downtown with a rooftop patio. So clearly we were all confused.

In any case, this place is just off the circle in Tallmadge, in the former Erie Station Grille - and still has the old sign on the side of the building and the train cars on the former tracks outside. Because nothing says “Mexican restaurant” like a portion of a railroad train positioned just off the patio.

Hey, if it's already on the property, why move it right?

Hey, if it’s already on the property, why move it right?

Oddest Mexican restaurant patio ever.

Oddest Mexican restaurant patio ever.

The place is pretty large inside, and it wasn’t by any means full or overly busy. But we still had to wait a hot minute for a table to be bused for us. Hmm. We’ll call that strike #1.

Our waiter was clearly new. Shane thought he recognized him from another Mexican place in town – which if that was the case then we’ll probably be seeing him at another one in the near future because based on our experience I’m not guessing he left the last place by choice. Because we’ll call him strikes #2 – approximately 57. And really our biggest complaint about the place.

Let’s start with drinks. We all ordered margaritas – well, except Shane, who was trying to be “healthier” and went with a Miller Lite. For real? I mean, who a) does that at a Mexican place, and b) really touts Miller Lite for exceptional health benefits? Seriously. At least margaritas are fruit flavored. Anyway, our lovely waiter didn’t ask us what size margaritas we wanted, so we ended up with what I think must’ve been the largest ones on the menu. I mean, I know we asked about the Tower of Margaritas and all, but just because you didn’t have it didn’t mean we all wanted our own individual one.

Peach and mango flavored margaritas

Peach and mango flavored margaritas … well kind of anyway

Tequila flavored margarita

Tequila flavored margarita

One of these things is not like the other. And for once Ted isn't the one holding it.

One of these things is not like the other. And for once Ted isn’t the one holding it.

And another fun trick: when we got the bill at the end of the night, the price for said huge drinks didn’t match anything on the menu. Huh? We finally kind of put the pieces together and deduced that  the Tower of Margaritas conversation had kind of led to talk about the different kinds of margaritas they DO offer, then Ted had asked the server about top shelf tequila in drinks … then the server just pretty much assumed top shelf was the kind we wanted. Um, no. First of all, we shouldn’t have to be CSI detectives to figure out our bills. And second of all, the joke was kind of on him, since the margaritas were so strong that we only ended up ordering one each. And barely finishing them. I had mango (which probably would’ve been good if made with less tequile), Amanda had peach (which she said just tasted like tequila) and Ted had original (which I guess is supposed to taste like tequila, so score for him?).

But don't pay attention to the prices, because they won't match anything you see on your final bill.

But don’t pay attention to the prices, because they won’t match anything you see on your final bill.

So there’s that. Let’s move on to appetizers.

We asked for the tableside-prepared guac as our appetizer, since we had seen others rave about it on reviews for the place. And then we never got it. And never even saw our server to ask about it. It wasn’t until we were getting our meals that we finally were able to remind him about the guac – which clearly he just forgot about – and to which he replied “Well, do you still want it?” Um. no, I thought I’d ask about it just for fun. Actually, it’s a little game we play where we order an appetizer and then take bets about whether or not we think it will really get delivered to us, or if we’ll starve waiting for it! Super fun, right? Tell your friends!

Ugh.

Sidenote – the guac actually is really good. Although we all agreed we were glad it was mixed tableside, because if he had to make it fresh in the backroom I’m sure we all would’ve probably been a little nervous about what extra “flavor” he might’ve added to it in the process.

I know, it looks disgusting. But it tastes delicious, trust us.

I know, it looks disgusting. But it tastes delicious, trust us.

Ted and his new friend

Ted and his new friend

At least the bowl was entertainment for us. It was like our new pet.

I think what it kind of boiled down to was that we clearly weren’t as interesting as the table of two single ladies near us, who our server kept stopping to chat with. And then had the staff come sing happy birthday to – after we overheard the conversation where one of them admitted to an upcoming birthday, and he asked “Well don’t you want today to be your birthday, since you’re here?”

(Just for the record, when you’re in a Mexican restaurant, the answer to that question is always NO. Always.)

Just after this he also told the couple at the table behind us that he “wasn’t that busy tonight, was kind of bored” – but throughout the evening he barely stopped to check on us, forgot our guac, forgot the water Shane asked for at the beginning of the meal (and when he finally was reminded and brought it later, he brought two glasses and tried to give it to another table).

And so it goes …

Other than the service things were good. We all got some sort of burrito – I had chicken chipotle (spicier than I thought it would be but still very good), Amanda and Shane both had the steak burrito, and Ted had the macha burrito. Everything was delicious, and of course we ate way more than we should’ve. Chips and salsa were replenished several times (not by our waiter, of course, but another server - thankfully, or else we’d probably still be scraping up crumbs to fight over while waiting on a second basket) and were very good.

Spicy burrito and not so spicy burrito

Spicy burrito and not so spicy burrito

And of course, there’s this:

Creepy shadowy engineer Ted

Creepy shadowy engineer Ted

I may have nightmares about this photo

I may have nightmares about this photo

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Ted
Drinks: They lose a few points for reeling us in with the Tower of Margaritas, then not actually having it. But they clearly have tequila – or at least they did, before they made our drinks. I think most of what they had ended up in there. 
Food:
 Typical Mexican, and as usual good portions for a good price.
Service: Hopefully the guy we had will be on to the next local Mexican place by the time you visit, because he was the big thumbs down of the evening.
Overall: Good food, not good service.

Next Pick: Shane

WTGW 9/3/14: The Big Dog, Ravenna

Alternate title: The time we went out for WTGW and the bill for two people was less than $30. And that includes alcohol. And tip. Say what?!?

I have to admit, we’ve been waiting all summer for the perfect WTGW to get to The Big Dog. Two reasons: Wednesdays are 10 cent wing nights. Yes you read that correctly. And rumor was they had an amazing re-landscaped patio.

I’m happy to report those statements were 100% accurate.

Although, OK, I’ll admit it, we were a little scared driving up to the place – it’s kind of off the beaten path, and the buildings appear to be an old feed mill or collection of some sort of buildings re-purposed into the bar/restaurant. We parked across the street, by the scary-looking condemned conveyor … because, you know, why point out that there’s actually a closer (and less creepy) parking option behind the bar? But then again, had we parked there we would’ve missed the ambiance of the signs advertising Truck Night (complete with prizes for best chrome and highest lift!) as well as a nearby dumpster overflowing with used mattresses.

I think it was at about this point in the evening that Amanda and I wagered a guess that we would be the only girls in the place wearing heels.

So we walk in … and the inside of the bar kind of looked how we expected it to, given what we’d already seen. Kind of dark, large pool table in the middle of the room, stage off to one side. You know, typical biker/college/small town townie bar.

And then we walked out the door to the patio, and were greeted with this:

 

Seriously, where are we?

Seriously, where are we?

Again, say what?!?

It was like we entered some sort of drinker’s oasis or parallel universe. Huge brick patio, complete with landscaping, waterfalls, corn hole boards, a stage for a band, and an outdoor building re-purposed into a bar. Welcome to Ravenna’s version of East Eden, my friends.

Trying to discreetly photograph the other side of the patio

Trying to discreetly photograph the other side of the patio

I’m sure we stood out a bit as we entered this magical portal to drinker’s paradise, since we weren’t real sure on the protocol as far as seating and ordering. We kind of lingered next to the outdoor bar, and finally the bartender took pity on us and let us know we could seat ourselves and just come back up to order there.  We ordered the first round of drinks (bottled Miller Lites) and she gave us a menu – which, I later realized is also conveniently printed on the side of the building. Guess that’s the “large print version.”

Now, I could be mistaken, but it seems like really all they serve is wings and assorted fried foods. I’ve never seen the word fried so many times on one menu.

This place clearly has your health as a #1 priority.

This place clearly has your health as a #1 priority.

We weren’t really sure what to expect with 10 cent wings - but I’m pleased to report we were pleasantly surprised. The wings are actually good sized, and the list of sauces was somewhat impressive given the price. Little tip: you have to order the wings in increments of 10, and for every 10 wings you also have to order one beer. Um, yeah, OK, twist our arms. That’s the kind of math I actually like.

 

Ted chugs a Miller Lite. And his face pretty much sums up how he feels about it.

Ted chugs a Miller Lite. And his face pretty much sums up how he feels about it.

For the wing flavors, Amanda had 10 of the spicy ranch, as did Shane. Shane also had 10 of the regular ranch – but the spicy ranch were the clear winners there.  I’m honestly not sure why he even got the plain ranch – since he’s always all “I’ll-get-ranch-but-only-if-its-not-the-actual-ranch-dressing-and-more-like-the-packet-of-seasoning-because-I-like-that-better” picky about his flavors. I mean, don’t get me wrong, he still ate all 20. Because we don’t send wings to starving children in Africa.

 

Tale of two ranches

Tale of two ranches

Ted tried the garlic and the extra hot – because apparently he likes to visit both ends of the spectrum. The extra hot indeed lived up to their name and were just that … and not just in contrast to the blandness of the plain garlic. One for one, I guess. Although Ted disappointed us by not finishing all 20 of his wings. Blame it on the Miller Lite.

I ordered spicy garlic parmesan. But I have to believe the bartender stopped listening before I was done with my order, because I swear the wings I got were just spicy garlic, no parmesan. Not only did I not actually see the parmesan on the wings, but they didn’t have a lot of flavor. Maybe my taste buds are just overconditioned from the past year of bar food and wings, but even the “spicy” wasn’t all that spicy. They just didn’t seem to have a lot of flavor, especially after I traded with Shane to try the spicy ranch. And as much as I tried to trade his basket for mine, he wasn’t having it. He’s a lot smarter than he looks sometimes.

 

Spicy garlic parmesean, minus the parmesean

Spicy garlic parmesan, minus the parmesan

Rounding out the cholesterol fest at our table, we also ordered the fried cauliflower and a basket of fair fries. Because who needs clear arteries, right? Amanda actually tried to order the fried macaroni bites and were told they don’t make them anymore. Same with the loaded baked potato bites. Because printing and laminating new one page menus is clearly too expensive. I mean, have you seen the new patio?

Fried cauliflower still counts as a vegetable, right?

Fried cauliflower still counts as a vegetable, right?

I like that they were courteous enough to include a plastic fork with the fries

I like that they were courteous enough to include a plastic fork with the fries

Overall The Big Dog is a good pick, and I could see us going back. It would be fun to see a band there … but only if they’re outside on the patio, since honestly the inside of the place kind of scared all of us. The only downfall was that there are no lights on the patio, so once it got dark they closed the outside bar – meaning you’d have to go inside to get a drink. See my previous statement to know how we felt about that.

This was really the only light on the patio after the sun went down.

This was really the only light on the patio after the sun went down.

Actually, if it wasn’t about a 35 minute drive away I could pretty definitely see us becoming regulars for the 10 cent wing nights. Although I guess that would mean we’d have to stop finding new places to go on Wednesdays, and then in effect change this entire blog  … so I guess the universe is doing us a favor by keeping things the way they are. Thanks?

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Amanda
Drinks: Basic dive bar fare – bottled domestics and Bud Light on draft. Our resident “up for trying anything” craft beer guy (Ted) had to settle for Guiness in a can, if that tells you anything.
Food:
I seriously don’t know if they serve any other food than wings and assorted fried stuff. Regardless, this is a bar food type of place, so if you want a salad you’re definitely out of luck.
Service: The place is pretty much get-it-yourself as far as drinks go, but the bartender was pleasant and helpful without making us feel stupid for being virgins to the place.
Overall: 10 cent wings on Wednesdays and a great patio. That’s really all you need to know.

Next Pick: Ted

Big Dog Saloon on Urbanspoon