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

WTGW 8/20/14: Blue Willow Lounge, Macedonia

OK, so I know it looks like we were slackers and took a couple of weeks off. But really we did go out the last two Wednesdays, I just spared you the reviews since technically both places – Bricco in Kent and Sarah’s Vineyard in Cuyahoga Falls – were places we’ve visited previously. Granted, the Bricco location we went to was in downtown Akron, and now that I look back I realize that our Sarah’s visit was before we started the blog … so, OK, I guess I really should’ve done reviews for both places. Oops. I guess I’m the slacker then. Just me. Oh well.

Anyway, as I try to redeem myself here, let’s just move on to this week’s adventure.

It was Shane’s pick this week, and he chose the Blue Willow Lounge in Macedonia. Which he informed us on the drive there was “supposedly the oldest bar in Macedonia.” Now, I’m not exactly sure where he got this information – but let’s just say that based on that little tidbit alone I had a slightly different picture of the place painted in my mind. You know, one of those bars in a building that kind of looks like it could be someone’s house, with the same 5 cars always parked out front, and the walls faintly yellowed with the memories of pre-smoking ban years gone by.

Yeah, no, that’s not what this is. And unless they didn’t allow bars in Macedonia prior to the big strip mall building spree of the 90’s, I really have to say I kinda doubt his source on this one.

But whatever.

The inside of the Blue Willow Lounge is similar to any strip plaza bar/restaurant – large bar at the back of the room, open area with tables that can be moved out of the way to create a dance floor, TVs on the walls, and no windows other than the large ones in front. The bar area was somewhat crowded when we arrived, so we chose to sit at one of the tables – and for the rest of the evening we were pretty much the only ones NOT seated at the bar. Because we like to make it obvious we’re new to the place.

And this is definitely a “regulars” kind of place – from the bikers to the guy in a dress shirt and tie, you can tell they all frequent the place often. But that being said, we never felt unwelcome, or like that classic movie scene where the music screeches to a halt when the obvious out-of-place people enter the room.

The service was excellent, especially considering that the bartender was also the only waitress, and that meant that she had to keep leaving the bar in order to check on our lone table out on the floor. She was very personable, gave good recommendations when we said we’d never been there before and asked what was good on the menu, and even called Ted a pussy when he opted for the short beer instead of the tall in the second round. I like her spirit.

Ted learns a valuable lesson about downsizing

Ted learns a valuable lesson about downsizing

Summer Shandy was still on tap, so you know what Amanda and I ordered. Shane went with the Miller Lite, and Ted chose Christmas Ale. Which you would think might have given him a pass on that whole second round short thing, but no dice. Like I said, I like her spirit.

Wednesdays are “build a burger” nights, which basically means you can put any toppings you want on a burger for $5.95. We all elected to do this, with various toppings that I can’t keep track of now. Let’s just say that all of our burgers were delicious. These were definitely not freezer-to-grill patties – they’re made fresh with each order, and you can tell. Lots of flavor, and they definitely didn’t skimp on the toppings. All burgers come with fries, or you can get chips or waffle fries for $1.00 more. I elected for the waffle fries, because, well, why not.

Bar food at its best

Bar food at its best

Shane promptly scooped up Ted's discarded cheese. We're all friends like that.

Shane promptly scooped up Ted’s discarded cheese. We’re all friends like that.

Shane's burger, pre-extra cheese donation

Shane’s burger, pre-extra cheese donation

Waffle fries with cheese. Takes me back to college.

Waffle fries with cheese. Takes me back to college.

Our waitress had recommended the burgers (with good reason) and also mentioned everyone raves about the wings … so of course after they finished their burgers the boys ordered 12 wings to split, too. Oh yeah and we had calamari for an appetizer. Again, how we all don’t weigh 400 lbs is beyond my own personal comprehension. Thank you good metabolism.

Nothing like a little post-meal appetizer to keep the metabolism running

Nothing like a little post-meal appetizer to keep the metabolism running

She also recommended the Philly steak sandwich, but we didn’t order that. Surprisngly. And while we didn’t partake in any of the bucket/beer specials, there were about 87 different signs on the wall touting various ones, so I guess it was nice to know the option existed.

Boatloads of bucket specials. And still empty wall space for more.

Boatloads of bucket specials. And still empty wall space for more.

Overall, the Blue Willow is a great little hidden gem of a place. They played good music on the jukebox … although the randomness caught us off guard a few times (otherwise known as “how to go from Kenny Chesney to Candlebox in 2.3 seconds”). And while we didn’t go make friends at the bar, no one treated us like new people who were to be avoided. We also noticed the bar bowling machine in the corner –  one of the few left around anymore, I think, and about the only thing I noticed in the place that might’ve helped support Shane’s “oldest bar” claim. We didn’t play it, but by the time we left I think we had convinced ourselves that we should TOTALLY form a team and start a league there if they didn’t have one already. Because, you know, we always come up with our best ideas on Wednesdays after a few beers. Ha.

Our fictitious bar bowling team totally rocks!

Our fictitious bar bowling team totally rocks!

 

CAPSULE

Picked by:  Shane
Drinks: Once again, I stopped listening at Summer Shandy. But the draft list wasn’t very extensive (5-6 beers I think), and we never made it to the bottle list. There were several posters on the walls advertising bucket specials on domestics though.
Food:
Burgers = awesome. Enough said.
Service: Excellent. And bonus points for calling Ted out when he ordered a short beer in the second round.
Overall: I venture to say we might be back to this one again. While it’s a bit out of our immediate area, the food and service were good enough that I could see us heading back. As long as Ted remembers his drinking shoes anyway.

Next Pick: Steph

Happy Anniversary to Us!

One year ago this week we began this little adventure we like to call Where To Go Wednesdays.

The night it all started - $1.00 beer night at a AAA baseball stadium, July 2013

July 2013. We definitely look like we’re on the cusp of a big idea, don’t we?

What started out with back-to-back evenings at the local county fair and a $1.00 beer night at the local AAA baseball field spawned the inevitable “hey, we should do fun things like this every week, why the hell aren’t we?” question … and here we are a year later, still challenging ourselves to find new and exciting places to go and things to do on a weekly basis.

(If you want the full story on who we are and how all this came to be, check out my first post.)

In honor of this anniversary, here’s a quick recap of all the places we’ve been over the past year. Many of these were pre-blog, so they unfortunately don’t have reviews … but trust me we can definitely remember something about each of them if you ask us.

In chronological order:

7/24/13: Summit County Fair / Akron Aeros baseball game
7/31/13: Sarah’s Vineyard, Cuyahoga Falls
8/7/13: Domenic’s / On The Rocks, Cuyahoga Falls
8/14/13: Hoppin Frog Brewery, Akron
8/21/13: IDO Lounge, Akron
8/28/13: River City Bar & Grille / Bailey Rd Tavern, Cuyahoga Falls
9/4/13: Whitey’s, Richfield
9/11/13: Lockview / Barley House / 69 Taps, Akron
9/18/13: El Campesino, Stow
9/25/13: Burntwood Tavern, Cuyahoga Falls
10/2/13: Cashmere Cricket, Cuyahoga Falls
10/9/13: Fisher’s Pub, Penninsula
10/16/13: Gasoline Alley, Bath
10/23/13: Baxter’s Pub, Akron
10/30/13: Muskateer’s Pub, Richfield
11/6/13: Grille on Waterloo, Akron
11/13/13: Ripper’s Rock House, Akron
11/27/13: The Boulevard / The Red Fox / Jimmy Bigg’s / Domenic’s
12/4/13: Tavern of Stow, Stow
12/11/13: David B’s Grille, Fairlawn
12/18/13: Angie’s Italian Restaurant, Barberton
1/8/14: Wasabi House, Fairlawn
1/15/14: El Ranchero Mexican Restaurant, Cuyahoga Falls
1/22/14: Bar 145, Kent
1/29/14: The Merchant Tavern, Merriman Valley
2/5/14: The Office Bistro, Cuyahoga Falls
2/12/14: Bricco, Akron
2/19/14: Delanie’s Tavern, Tallmadge
2/26/14: Johnny Malloy’s, Akron
3/6/14: 3 Palms Pizzeria / Kepner’s Tavern, Hudson
3/13/14: Max McQ’s, Merriman Valley
3/19/14: Louie’s Bar, Akron
3/26/14: Ray’s Place, Kent
4/2/14: Gus’ Chalet, Akron
4/9/14: Sammie’s Bar & Grille, Tallmadge
4/16/14: Brewster’s, Twinsburg
4/23/14: Cilantro Thai and Sushi, Akron
4/30/14: Beef O’Brady’s, Stow
5/21/14: Treichel’s Grille, Cuyahoga Falls
5/28/14: Pancho & Lefty’s, Stow
6/4/14: Legend’s Sports Bar, Green
7/9/14: One Red Door / Kepner’s Tavern, Hudson
7/16/14: Red Stone, Akron (review coming soon)
7/23/14: JoJos Sports Bar & Grille, Medina

Well that was a nice little walk down memory lane.

Got a place you think we should visit that we haven’t hit yet? Let us know!

WTGW 3/26/14: Ray’s Place, Kent

This week’s pick is one of those places I’ve always heard the name of – primarily from Kent State alumni or those who frequented the campus – but I really had no idea where it was or anything about it. Truth be told, I think I was expecting Ray’s Place to be more bar and less restaurant – but then again many of the people I’ve had mention the place also graduated some time ago, so maybe over the years it’s changed.

Regardless, Ray’s does have that kind of small town / college bar charm – it’s a bit cramped on the inside, with lots of tables in an area that probably shouldn’t have quite as many, if you know what I mean. But, hey, apparently that means business is booming so good for them.

We did, thank you very much.

We did, thank you very much.

Of course we migrated to a table in the back that was big enough for the four of us plus about four of our friends. But then again we also order a crapload of food for just four people, so it probably pretty much looked like a group of eight was sitting there by the time we got our meals. My bad.

Wednesdays feature Miller Lites on special for $2.75, so of course you know what three of us at the table were drinking. As usual, Ted ordered something different, which I didn’t catch the name of. But it’s good to be back to our “three sames and one of these things is not like the other” ordering pattern.

The other special on Wednesdays is wings, which again just seems like someone made the weekly specials specifically with Shane in mind. He ordered the wings with the “pig rub,” – which sounds disgusting, so he asked about in advance and was told was “sweet and salty.” One wing in, and he was proclaiming them to be in his Top 5, thus dethroning the “amazing” breaded wings from Louie’s last week. He claims he finally sees the error of his ways and really was just craving fried chicken last week, which was why those wings seemed so spectacular. Take that as you will.

A lot of chickens are now wingless because of us.

A lot of chickens are now wingless because of us.

Ted, on the other hand, tried two flavors of wings – the Wasabi and the Caribbean Jerk – and said he honestly wasn’t that impressed with either one. He even left about half a basket or so on the table when we left the place, if that tells you anything (the horror!).

I had the Garlic finger wrap, which is way more awkward to say than anything else. It’s chicken fingers in garlic wing sauce in a garlic wrap with veggies and cheese.  That’s a lot of garlic, folks. It was tasty, but I’m sure I’m gonna regret eating the other half for lunch at the office in a few days and then having to talk to people afterwards. I also had a side order of fries, which were excellent.

No, that's not a burrito.

No, that’s not a burrito.

Amanda had the cuban, which is served on a flatbread and looks oddly like a quesadilla. She said it was delicious. And filling, as she also only ate half of her sandwich. She got the onion rings, too – a small order, which when they arrived looked more like enough to feed the whole table, so we were a little scared what the large order must look like.

And that's not a quesadilla. How do the pictures make it looks like our side of the table went to a Mexican restaurant?

And that’s not a quesadilla. How do the pictures make it looks like our side of the table went to a Mexican restaurant?

On an educational note, we did learn something on this WTGW, after a nice debate over whether or not the Caribbean Jerk wing spice includes ginger. Since Shane apparently is a ginger connoiseur after all the sushi we’ve been enjoying since our trip to Wasabi House many months ago. We even asked one of the guys working, who was nice enough to check in the back to try and settle our bet. The first response from the kitchen was that the seasoning wasn’t labeled, so the results were inconclusive. However, because I guess he must not be able to just let things lie, the guy later came back to say that one of the other cooks looked it up online and ginger *could* be included. He obviously doesn’t know Shane and how much he will continue to gloat about his super skills tastebuds now. Thanks a lot for that one, overachiever.

That may be why we didn’t feel funny going back to the same guy a bit later to ask about the drinks that the guys at the table next to us were drinking – a light beer that foamed up in the glass similar to the way a draft Guinness does. We grabbed Shane’s new spicemaster friend and inquired what they were drinking, and he knew right off the top of his head that it was Boddingtons – and without skipping a beat a passing waitress chimed in “the cream soda of beers.” Impressive teamwork. And we definitely have to remember that one to try down the line somewhere. We tried daring Shane to walk over to the strangers and ask if he could try a sip of theirs … but he claimed he wasn’t drunk enough yet. If not for his 4AM wake up call the next morning, we might’ve just stayed until that milestone was achieved. Maybe.

The boys in a heated discussion about Dexter. Because that's good dinner conversation.

The boys in a heated discussion about Dexter. Because that’s good dinner conversation.

CAPSULE

Picked by: Amanda
Drinks: Seriously impressive beer cooler, similar to the one at Baxter’s in downtown Akron. When I was in college all we knew how to order was Bud Lite vs. Miller Lite, so obviously things have changed.
Food: 
Good, although once again we ate way too much.
Service: Our server wasn’t extremely personable, but the other guy (who was likely an owner or manager) gets points for putting up with all of our questions. Although he lost points for returning to make Shane right about the whole ginger thing. Seriously, do you have any idea how long we’ll have to hear about that now?
Overall: Definitely worth a return visit. Maybe on a Friday or Saturday night when we want to relive our youth and do the college bar crawl afterwards.

Next Pick: Ted

Ray's Place on Urbanspoon

 

WTGW 3/19/14: Louie’s Bar, Akron

It feels good to be back to our regular Wednesdays. Yay!

Here’s pretty much how all of our thoughts about Louie’s Bar have gone in the past:  drive past, mention we should go there sometime but argue that it looks kind of shady from the outside, look it up online and discover they don’t have a website (seriously?) but find instead four million amazingly awesome reviews (well that means something, right?), let that sway you and vow to actually go sometime … and repeat the cycle.

I know, we always seem to be drawn to these types of places, right? I’m not sure what that says about us.

In any case, thankfully we have Where To Go Wednesdays to force us right through the front door of those places we would be too chicken to walk into unless it was our week to pick and we hadn’t had time to really think about what options were out there.

Ha.

Seriously, though, I’m really glad we made it to Louie’s, because it’s another of those hidden gems we’ve overturned on this adventure. It’s a great neighborhood bar – super tiny on the inside, and all of the reviews warned that getting a table can be difficult, but luckily it wasn’t too busy the night we tried it out. We showed up about 7 and snagged the last table (side note, the “Please wait to be seated” sign actually means “Please wait for the waitress to yell over that you can sit at that empty table” – so be prepared when that happens) – but we must have hit the end of the dinner rush, because the place only got emptier as the night went on.

Louie’s specializes in burgers, which somehow Ted missed the memo on before we arrived, and upon hearing that made him switch his original order of the Walleye Sandwich. Smart man.

We all got burgers except Shane, who was playing the role of “the one who orders something different” this time. He got wings, and was almost really, really disappointed when he saw all of our food come out. I thought he might cry. No, not really. Well, maybe.

But then he tried his wings – and if he was crying, suddenly it was tears of joy, because he was so in love with them.  He had six each of the Honey BBQ, Garlic Parm, and Spicy BBQ (p.s. – watch out for that one on the menu, as the spacing looks like you can just order the flavor “spicy” … which Shane tried to do, and the waitress had to ask “spicy what?” Learn from our laughable mistakes.)

Anyway, the wings have some sort of breading on them, which I likened to boneless wings but Amanda said tasted just like the fried chicken from Gioninos that Shane loves so much. This may explain why he proclaimed them the Best Wings He’s Ever Had In His Life. And I’m not exaggerating. He really said that. I mean, we aren’t even talking #1 in a Top 5 list – these went straight to the all time hall of fame. Impressive.

The new love of Shane's life. I've been replaced.

The new love of Shane’s life. I’ve been replaced.

Meanwhile, while the rest of us may not have been elevating our burgers on that kind of a pedestal, we did agree that they were pretty tasty. Amanda had the mushroom burger on a pretzel bun (which is pretty self-explanatory), I had the Mile High (which is basically a mushroom burger with bacon), and Ted had the modified Texas Red (which is a burger smothered in chili – of course he ordered it without cheese and onions – because, well, he’s Ted – but he also added jalepenos). Let’s just say that Ted needed a knife and fork to eat his. I gave up on the bun after a while – not because it wasn’t good, but mainly because I was getting full and wanted to concentrate on the goodness that was burger and bacon. Amanda was so full after half her burger that she traded Shane the other half for three wings, which I think we’re all kind of surprised he gave up, but honestly I think it’s just because he was trying to figure out what the breading was made of. Plus did I mention he got half a burger in return? I seriously don’t know how that man doesn’t weigh 400 lbs.

How exactly do you bite into that?

How exactly do you bite into that?

Pretzel buns make everything better. That just sounds dirty.

Pretzel buns make everything better. That just sounds dirty.

There's a burger under there somewhere. I think.

There’s a burger under there somewhere. I think.

In any case, it was all delicious. And filling. I’m not sure how we didn’t have to be rolled out of the place, and we even stayed for another beer just to let things settle.

Speaking of beer, this is one of those places that sticks to the basics. The fanciest thing on the draft list was Guinness. So of course Ted had that, and we all had Miller Lite.

Service was good. Our waitress was friendly, and quick to refill drinks and take orders. Although there are only like ten tables in the place, and two waitresses were working plus a bartender – so the ratio was kind of in our favor that we would be taken care of. Or maybe just after our last few experiences with slow service I may be a bit easily swayed.

Louie’s definitely just has that cool neighborhood bar feel that you don’t find in chains or a lot of the bigger places. Right down to the old, non-working, non-flat screen (yes, kids, there was a time when those screens were encased in a big box!)  black and white TV in the corner, and all the mirrors one the one wall (which prompted Shane, upon walking in, to ask the group – “Hey, this place isn’t so small. Can we sit over there? Oh, wait …”).

It would only be more impressive if it actually worked.

It would only be more impressive if it actually worked.

We definitely will go back … just maybe we won’t eat for two days beforehand.

Shane trying to impersonate the infamous "turtle" picture from our very first WTGW.

Shane trying to impersonate the infamous “turtle” picture from our very first WTGW.

Still not quite it. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Still not quite it. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

CAPSULE

Picked by: Steph
Drinks: Typical small bar list – 4 or 5 drafts, small domestic bottle selection. 
Food:
Seriously, we may not eat again until next Wednesday. Large portions, delicious … what more can you ask for, really?
Service: Good. Despite the “neighborhood bar” atmosphere, we didn’t feel like we were ignored because we we’re regulars.
Overall: While it’s a little too far out of our neighborhood for us to become regulars, and they don’t have a patio so I’m not sure it will be on our summer hot list – but we will definitely be back.

Next Pick: Amanda

Louie's Bar & Grille on Urbanspoon

WTGT 3/13/14: Max McQ’s, Akron

In yet another “this is why WTGW was created” pick, this week’s spot is another of those that we’ve driven by 1,500 times, usually on our way to another restaurant/bar that we’ve gone to way more than once, and someone would throw out the “hey, we should go there sometime” line. And then we kept driving.

But not this week.

I’ll be honest that I was more than a little bit suspicious about this place, just given its location in a tucked-away little strip plaza and the somewhat shady looking large sign out front touting specials like $5 pizzas and $3.99 hamburgers. And karaoke. Hmm.

Honestly, Max McQ’s is way bigger on the inside than I expected it to be. It’s a little choppy in it’s layout, but there’s definitely space to move around. While it’s not really billed as a sports bar, there were more than enough TVs in the place for all the different college basketball games that were going on that evening. Side note on that, props to the random guy who later wandered over to us with a remote in his hand and actually asked us before changing the channel on the giant TV above our table. He seemed friendly, but maybe that’s just because we let him turn on whatever game he wanted. But at least he asked nicely first.

Speaking of seeming friendly, I can say the same about our waitress, once we actually saw her long enough to get to know her a little bit. Quite honestly, we almost walked out of Max McQ’s before we even had a chance to try anything on the menu, since it took well over 20 minutes just to get our drinks. And I’m not exaggerating. We started timing her. We also made many jokes about them having Ted’s Guinness special ordered from across the pond and making the vodka for our martinis from scratch in the back room, but that’s neither here nor there at this point in time. Let’s just say that we were quickly losing patience, especially since Amanda and I were trying to get in as many martinis as possible during the 5-8PM happy hour special. Priorities, folks.

Cheap martinis are my favorite kind

Cheap martinis are my favorite kind

But lo and behold, she did finally return, apologizing and explaining to us that apparently not only did no one realize there was a huge Akron/Ohio U basketball game on that night that people might want to watch (hello, how did I – the one who doesn’t even like basketball – know that?), but also a huge 20-person party in the back room. And only two people – her and the bartender – working the floor. Ouch.

So, knowing this, we tried to keep an open mind for the rest of the visit. And by that I mean we basically just grabbed the waitress every time she was in our near vicinity and ordered something, anything, even if we weren’t quite ready for a refill. I will give huge props to the waitress, who rolled with the punches the best she could and kept a sense of humor while running her butt off for the evening – even though I’m sure she probably went in the back room every 15 minutes and punched a wall or downed a beer or did whatever she had to in order to keep her sanity.

Anyway, so as I mentioned we kept ordering things just to stay on the radar, which means I think we basically tried almost all of the martinis on the $5 Thursday special happy hour list. We also kept drinking them long after the 8PM cutoff time for the $5 special price, since we found out that they were normally only $6.50. Or $5.75 if you’re Ted. The winners were the Chocolate and the Dirty Girl Scout (which Ted may or may not have followed up his initial Guinness with, I can’t say for sure). Shane went with mixed drinks, and discovered that they certainly don’t skimp on the alcohol. Although, word to the wise, stay away from the “cheap” rum. Just trust us. 

You're not fooling anyone, Ted

You’re not fooling anyone, Ted

According to Ted, that's the way a real man holds a martini.

According to Ted, that’s the way a real man holds a martini.

Due to the circumstances, we kind of knew we wouldn’t see our dinners for a while – although I will say that our appetizer (nachos) arrived quicker than expected. Maybe they saw the amount of alcohol we were consuming and decided we needed something to tide us over so we weren’t sleeping on the table by the time our real food arrived? Smart people.

They know how to keep us happy

They know how to keep us happy

The food was decent. At first glance the portions didn’t look very big on the plate, but that must’ve just been presentation, because we all were very full by the time we left. Shane and Ted went with burgers. Ted had The Afterburner, which on the menu includes the statement (HOT!!!) after the title – that’s three exclamation points, so you know they mean business. It boasts cajun, extreme buffalo sauce, jalepenos, and – for people other than non-cheese-eating-Ted – pepper jack cheese. He said it was definitely spicy, so I guess it was made properly. Shane had the Goodfella, which means that for the second week in a row he had something with spicy salami on it. There’s still a joke in there somewhere.

It really did come with more than two onion rings. Gotta learn to be quicker with Shane's plate.

It really did come with more than two onion rings. Gotta learn to be quicker with Shane’s plate.

I had the cheese steak, which I was happy with. Just like the one Amanda had at Delanies  few weeks ago, it was made with real steak, not steak-ums or some sort of steak product. Amanda had a sub sandwich, which she kept saying really shouldn’t have taken that long to make – but I’m guessing she was brought down by all of us and our grilled meat. Sorry. 

I like how the martini totally classes this picture up

I like how the martini totally classes this picture up

All in all it was a fun night. The place definitely has a good atmosphere with friendly people, and I’ll admit that even though you can tell it has that “neighborhood-bar-with-locals” feel to it, it was nice to not get stared at like we had the plague as soon as we walked in the front door. I’m glad we got past our initial annoyance with the service enough to at least find out the reason behind the slow orders – because I think we would probably go here again, if nothing else just to give it a fair second chance.

A little something to look forward to from the WTGW group … during our Max McQ’s visit we started working on something we like to call the “Summer Bucket List” – so basically just fun stuff we want to make sure we do in those precious three months or so that we don’t call ourselves complete idiots for choosing to reside in the state of Ohio. Add to that the fact that we’ll be hitting the one year anniversary of WTGW in July – I know, right?!? – and it’s sure to be a fun summer on the horizon. Now if Mother Nature would only stop being a whore and let it finally get here …

The beginning of the Summer Bucket List. To Be Continued ...

The beginning of the Summer Bucket List. To Be Continued …

CAPSULE

Picked by: Shane
Drinks: Good selection of bar drinks and beer. Not the best martinis we’ve ever had, but for $5 you can’t really complain. Although they really need to rethink some of the names. Just sayin. 
Food:
Typical bar fare. Portions don’t look like a lot on the plate, but we all commented that we were full when we left.
Service: We were there on a night when they were definitely understaffed, so we can’t hold that against them. At least the waitress had a sense of humor – and I think if she hadn’t been responsible for a huge party and, well, the rest of the bar area then she actually would’ve been really fun.
Overall: Not bad. The service at first really turned us off, so we may have to try it again just to give it a fair chance without all the other factors.

Next Pick: Steph

MaxMcQ's Sports Bar & Grille on Urbanspoon

Flashback Friday 12/27/13: Muskateer’s

That’s right, it’s time for a re-review of the hands down best find we’ve come across in all our WTGW adventures.

So I have to admit I was a tiny bit disappointed that we arrived after dark this time and therefore didn’t get a chance to sample some of the stellar entertainment that we witnessed last time at the motel next door. There weren’t even many cars in the motel parking lot this time around. The holidays must be their off season.

Muskateer’s, on the other hand, was hopping. The parking lot was full, and when we walked in we quickly realized 7:00 was apparently well past the prime time to get a seat in the bar area, because the place was packed. There were still tables in the dining area, though, so we were seated there. Full disclosure: despite the fact that really all that separates the dining area and the bar is some air and a bend in the wall, it makes a huge difference. I think all of us realized that the moment we were seated. It just didn’t have the same “fun” feeling in that area. And it’s not like it’s a whole different world – there are still a million TVs with sports on to watch, the walls are just as jam packed with sports and area memorabilia (again with the Applebee’s School of Interior Restaurant Design), the lighting is just as dim … but the atmosphere is just, well, different.

For one thing, the wait staff for the dining room can’t compare to the bartender we had the last time we were there. Hands down, that guy was just “on” – from knowing the extensive draft list from memory to getting our somewhat convaluded orders straight without writing them down to checking in on us at the right times while still managing the patrons at the bar – he was just all over a great server. With a great attitude. And maybe it’s an unfair comparison, and we’re giving this girl we had on Friday too tall of an order to fill, but she just wasn’t what we were expecting. We knew this from the very beginning, when Ted inquired about the draft list, and she looked puzzled before rattling off about half the number of taps we remember them having the last time we were there. Yikes.

That being said, our return trip to Muskateers did provide one thing for which we may forever be grateful: it introduced us to McKenzie’s Hard Cider. And oh my word, we may never be the same again. Amanda, Shane and I ordered it on a whim – after hearing the words “hard cider” in a sea of “seasonal Christmas Ales” during the list of taps our waitress provided. It turns out that this particular one was their Seasonal Reserve, which is like hard cider with a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg. Or in other words, apple pie in a glass. Or in other words, delicious.

Thank you Muskateer’s.

The rest of the meal was relatively uneventful. Since we were having the same drink, Amanda, Shane and I decided to keep the theme and all ordered the garlic parm wings – which were still as filling and delicious as the last time we were there. Shane also ordered a burger – because of course he did – which was very appropriately named the “Hellofvamess.” And that it was, with pretty much everything they cold find in the kitchen included on it (cheese, two or three varieties – check, bacon – check, cole salw – check, mayo and other condiments – check, sunny side up egg – check). I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone cut a burger into eighths and eat it with a fork, but that’s what my lovely husband did this evening. He’s dainty like that. Ted ordered a burger, which was one of two that had jalepenos and may or may not have been the same one he ordered the last time , but who can tell when you ask them to leave off the cheese? Ha.

All in all, even though this visit wasn’t exactly the glowing “ahh-haa” moment of our first time at Muskateer’s – it didn’t completely revolt us for future visits either. We’ll be back, for sure. I think this may become one of those “staples” where we’ll end up on a random night if we can’t think of anywhere else we want to head out to. Maybe we’ll even become regulars. But I still refuse to go to an after party at the scary motel. No sir.