Monday, July 30, 2012

Week 4: The Mid Town Booths Tavern

Have you ever thought to yourself: “Do you know what would make Christmas better? Getting rid of all that snow, family and shopping.” If you're from the southern hemisphere you'll probably take snow off that list. Here in Cleveland, the biggest draw is the return of Great Lakes Christmas Ale. This week I had to follow the crowd and find myself some of Cleveland's most famous beer. We went to the Mid Town Booths Tavern. It had the ale and was within walking distance of my house.

When I entered I was quickly struck by the two bold colors dominating orange and yellow. The bar was full of two soft ball teams helping to give us a full house for my first time in there. Beyond the teams was a bar with a fun atmosphere. The walls are red and covered in vintage fun including jerseys, Darth Vader and even Castle Grayskull protecting from above. The bars name was illuminated through Light-Brites in the front.  Even the music was dominated by alternative rock from the 90s. We sat beneath a barrage of band posters in the back of the bar talking about music and Excite Bike.

I had a Christmas Ale which was happily full of alcohol and spices. I'm glad to say that it had not gone stale during its long wait for the summer festivities. They had a good selection of beers on tap to make everyone happy.  They range from quality IPAs to Coors Light and a hard cider that's good for those who want get drunk off apple juice. I ordered the fried jalapenos and the macaroni and cheese. The jalapenos, sliced into little rings, were great. The penne pasta mac and cheese was also good. I had no problems with the service. It was good with little wait even though they were very busy.

John and Katie officially on their way to go to Every Bar in Lakewood!
There was one more notable to the Mid Town Booths Tavern, the men's bathroom seems to have been a dungeon in the past. The walls were of an ancient block. One of the urinals was closed off via duct tape. However the most ominous sign that this was not your average bathroom was the feeling that someone may be watching you while you're using the toilet(see photo->).  But it was fairly clean.

Overall, this is a bar I'll be returning to. The Mid Town Booths Tavern is what I would be looking for in a bar even if this one didn't exist. It has interesting, good food and beer. The music and atmosphere makes me happily nostalgic, giving me things to talk about during lulls in conversation. If you want to go to a new bar that you know you'll like, try The Mid Town Booths Tavern.

Awesome: Customer Service, atmosphere, food (I have a weak spot for fried jalepenos)

  Mid Town Booths Tavern
16934 Detroit Ave

Monday, July 23, 2012

Week 3: Mars Bar

There are two stories starting with a bat this week. One of these is the potentially awesome movie Dark Night Rising and the devastation of the attack of the theater in Colorado. I am deeply sorry for those who were killed and injured in the shooting. I send my best wishes to their loved ones.

The second bat begins this story a couple months ago. I had just woken up, was groggily getting ready in the bathroom when I hear a scratching noise coming from the drop ceiling above me. I figured it was a chipmunk or mouse that had found its way into the house. Suddenly I saw a black fluttering shape scurrying across the light panel.

I ended up doing the logical, terrifying action of sticking my head in the ceiling of trying to coax the bat out of the ceiling into a positioned pillow case. After a couple almost catches and me jumping out of the ceiling once screaming like a girl, the bat escaped into the attic. I did find something else in its place. There was a postcard with a half naked woman on it. Was this the boob fairy leaving me a present? Under closer inspection it turns out this was an old postcard sent to the Mars Bar. Apparently it was stolen, then hidden in the ceiling by the previous occupants of my house. The post card made its way to my refrigerator (I don't have friends with kids over often) until last weekend when my friend's Ramona and Aidan were over. When Aidan saw it, he of course brought it up and we related the story. The end result was I needed to go to the Mars Bar this week.

I haven't been to the Mars Bar in a while. My first thought when I got there was: wow, they've made a lot more room. Mars Bar now has a nice covered patio in the back and a second patio area in the front. Inside, is colorful without being obnoxious, with quality wood stool seating. The Mars Bar is surprisingly roomy for the space it has to work with. The music which ranged from metal to classic rock filled the empty space providing a nice change from the pop hits that permeate many other bars. Their digital jukebox can play anything else you can imagine.

The Mars Bar had a nice selection of beer for everyone, the quality drinkers , the quantity drinks, and even for the fruit tasting beer drinkers. I had Boulder Beer Company's Mojo IPA. It was a surprisingly smooth, both in taste and texture, Indian pale ale. If you've never had a pale ale, this is good place to start. If you already like them, you'll appreciate Mojo works more for quality and detail, then overwhelming taste.

I'm sure they have other good things to eat at the Mars Bar but you don't have choice of your first meal. When you walk in you see it sitting across the bar glowing at you, slowly spinning. A cone of pig, calling out to be turned into a more appetizing form. Their pork gyros were very good, neither skimping on portion or flavor. The addition of mustard and yogurt makes the flavor a bit more unique in town that serves many gyros.

Many of my friends came out last night to support me with this new endeavor. We hung out on one of the few comfortable nights we've had on the back patio. We all had a good time and only had good service from the bartenders.

The talk eventually moved as it tends to, to the Browns. Two of my friends recently moved from Cincinnati and Chicago, respectively. They come from cities with teams who've had their good and bad years, overall are teams that have a decent chance at winning seasons. They are excited about becoming Browns fans. They found our secret to following a team which hasn't lived up to expectations, one that we may not realize. In short, we don't live in Cleveland, Cleveland lives in us. The people of Lakewood, Cleveland in general, are Browns fans because the Browns and our cities are an extension of us. We are a people that have seen things at their worst but through a mixture of stubbornness and hope are willing to chip at the bad, while waiting till we make it right. This Clevelandness has kept Lakewood a great place to live, has allowed Cleveland to be a better city with each year, has seen the Indians and the Cavaliers rise to greatness over the last 2 decades. We aren't Browns fans, we are fans of ourselves and we'll bring the Browns along for the ride.

The Mars Bar is the epitome of our area. It's smaller than its competitors. It doesn't offer anything you can't get somewhere else. The Mars Bar didn't want to be just a little dive bar, they've made a small trendy bar, comfortable for anyone to come to. They didn't want to be just a small, red, distant tavern, now they're bigger and one of us. Mars Bar made a good gyro that isn't the same as the other dozen and it's great. Come to the Mars Bar, it's like us, always getting better with a splash of mustard.

Awesome: Customer Service, Community, a Great Gyro

15314 Madison Ave

*Picures with no people are from

Monday, July 16, 2012

Week 2: Bobby O's

I entered Bobby O's 10 minutes late to meet my friends J__ and his wife K__ at 7.  They had picked a table next to the digital jukebox, whose volume was at ear bleeding level.   The song of choice was 'Who Let the Dog's Out,' funny because I run a dog daycare.  This would have been fine if not for the very drunk couple (one of which would be passed out on the bar 20 minutes later) dancing mere inches away from K_ whose eyes were angry twitching dinner plates.  Before we moved, I had a nice chat with a proclaimed alcoholic who looked like he had all the bars of Lakewood in his pores. He started talking to us because he found he had been to all the bars on my shirt, including some under their previous owners.  He was currently working a convenient painting job for a bar in Avon.

We decided a seat at the bar was the way to go.  The taps had your basic domestics and Guinness.  I went with a Bud and a cheese burger because it was half a pound, 1/2 priced burger Wednesday.  They had an interesting mix of beers and whatnot in their cooler.  Options ranged from Yingling's Black and Tan, new to Ohio this year, to Ice House, this beer pumps in 4% alcohol in exchange for taste.  If you don't want alcohol you can have a Fresca as well!

The burger and fries were better than expected. By request, they even came with a cup of their wing sauce.  Judging from their sauce the wings aren't bad either.  Their service was quite good. I was even asked how my food was twice.  I was also, impressed by the $2.50 price tag on my 1/2 burger, fries and beer combo.

I'll admit, this is my second trip to Bobby O's.  The first time I visitted, the first song on the jukebox was Gilligan's Island spurring half the bar to a sing along.  I had their hot dog which was ok. I was told by an old guy sitting next to us who was also eating a dog, that they have a great meat loaf (their Sunday special).  While talking to some long time patrons, I learned the bar has changed a little in the last couple years.  The place is cleaner, the tvs are flatter, and there's less fighting than there used to be.

Bobby O's is your quintessential townie bar.  It has a mixture of young local folk along with those who've been coming for years.  The staff treats everyone well, from the local blogger to the guy that passed out on their bar.  Depending on the night it could be laid back or blaring with rowdiness.  The flat screen tvs were playing sports and Discovery Channel.  The atmosphere is a mixture of old (restored tin ceilings), new (tv and sound systems) and making due (random kitchen refrigerator at the back of the bar).  Above the bar, there are a line of flags covering most of the military branches and Molson Candian.  If you smoke, you can't do it inside but they do have the rare cigarette machine.

They have a bunch of older dart boards and you don't have to bring your own darts.  J__ and I had a massively mediocre game. I lost by a bulls-eye.  I've found darts looses something once the risk of being hit by one of your own darts is gone.  Luckily, I had quick feet this game.

I left Bobby O's both times without being stabbed in one of its now less frequent fights or by my own hand at darts and a smile on my face.  I've had a good time, food, service and conversation during both visits.  Bobby O's isn't for everyone but if you want a bar where anyone can fit in and you'll have a story and some of your cash to take home after. Then this bar's for you.

Awesome: Darts, Customer Service, Good Cheap Food

16013 Detroit Ave. Lakewood, OH 44107


*Pictures are courtesy of

Monday, July 9, 2012

I Like Beer

I like beer. A key component of any good bar is beer. We toast, relax, socialize and even create life with the help beer, even if not purposely. Beer has even helped with some of the great milestones of humanity. I didn't get to a new bar last week because of the holiday. This week I'm writing about something that this blog couldn't exist without, beer.

Beer is a genius combination of unlikely ingredients. First off, you have barely a grain you wouldn't think to make bread out of but it's the key ingredient to fueling our beer. It's brought to germination/sprouting roots and then roasted to create the food for our second and even stranger ingredient. A fungus by the name of yeast eats the sugars/sweetness out of the barley and gives us beer in exchange.

Yeast produces many beer ingredients through it's ingestion of sugar known as fermentation. Alcohol is one of the possible bi-products of yeast. The yeast can also produce different tastes like clove, woody, or fruity. However, the yeast can't eat all sugars which can lead to some beers still having a sweetness to them. The final addition the yeast add to the mix is the fizz. In the big beer brands, the yeast is killed and the beer is carbonated. Live beers last for years and don't become skunky. Figuring out that you could germinate barley, boil it and feed it to fungus wasn't enough for early brew masters, it was missing something. It was missing flowers, hops to be exact, that when boiled with the barley could be used to add new bitter tastes and smells to the beer.

These ingredients allow us to make a number of different types of beer. Ale can be made quicker than lager only needing a week of fermentation. Ale can also come with a number of fruity/flowery tastes and aromas through the yeast's byproduct of esters. Lager requires a lower temperature and a slower fermentation lasting over a month. This long fermentation eats away at the esters leaving the hops to rule taste and scent of the beer. Other beers are just forms of these styles of beer. A pilsner is just a malty light lager. In contrast a stout is just a black and roasty ale. Many of the corporate American beers and asian beer's taste are cleaned by making the beer with rice or corn.

These components along with being able to add almost anything you can imagine to its creation gives us the option of drinking any kind of beer we can imagine. I will try a different beer as I try a different bar each week and I'll let you know how it is. Don't worry, these articles will be less dry in the future.

Normally, I probably won't be letting you know which bar I'm going to next to keep things more real and keep a mob of my adoring fans from filling up the bar. I think 27 people can count as a mob. My next stop for bar #2 is Bobby O's on Wednesday at 7pm Come visit if you have the time. And pick-up a shirt off the site, so you can start checking off your own list of Every Bar in Lakewood.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Week 1: Mahall's 20 Lanes


We begin with my wife's first surprise birthday party. After a couple weeks of preparation, including having 2 of my friends invite Kelly out bowling for her birthday, it was time for the big surprise. Our venue and first bar of this blog was Mahall's 20 Lanes. As we got out of the car Kelly says, “Is that S_'s car?...Are my friends here?” She slowly turned and started naming off a the owners of all the cars across the street. I denied it all, of course, as I watched weeks of prep go down the drain.

We went in to meet our friends St_ and B_ and Kelly carefully looked around trying to spy the party early. I lead the way down the stairs past our friends waiting to yell the destined surprise. Seconds later Kelly was in front them and it happened! They snuck off and hid. Minutes went by as our friends were now confused and stuck in in a room that Kelly had no reason to be in. A text later and some random distracting allowed for some very hesitant, then excited surprising.

Everyone working at Mahall's was very helpful, they gave us all the dishes and utensils for the pizza we ordered from Angelo's (kitchen is closed on Sunday evenings it seems) and Kelly's cake. We had control over the music from the speakers in the basement and got to wish Kelly a happy birthday through them as well. Last time I was here, this lead to a dj playing an entire Donna Summer's album An album that included Disney classics from Beauty and the Beast and the Lion King. Those were the high points, she also sung a remake of the worst song ever sung, Dumbledore's McArthur's Park (over 5 minutes of a cake being left out in the rain being compared to a breakup).
The beer selection is diverse with higher quality beers, including Sixpoint on tap, which was my favorite. But there weren't any of the regular corporate beers on tap.

The food (eaten the first time I visited the new Mahall's) is an amazing upgrade on normal bar snacks. In an area with easily a half dozen good Mexican restaurants I can honestly say that Mahall's spicy brisket taco, with it's pickled onions and jalapenos, is one of the best I've ever had. If you prefer something that hasn't walked around in the past but is still the best you've ever had, go with the elote (Mexican corn on the cob).

How has Mahall's upgraded under it's new ownership? Instead of new technology they went with what made the bowling alley great and how it could have been and is now, better. The alley's are 2 floors of restored wood in great shape. The walls are bare brick minus the mocking tv screens of your average bowling alley. Yes, this does mean that you have to be able to do the math yourself on the paper score sheets provided. The bar area is roomy with a tall ceiling aiming more at comfort than packing the room with chairs. This leaves a large pool room with bar and stage for weekend bands and a game room where you can pick up a vintage board game if you want to roll something square.
I would call this a hipster bar, except that it's neither snobby nor ironic. You can tell that the owners love this bar and everything about it. You can also tell that it's contagious. I've had a great time both times I've been here. The more primitive, hands-on features make it a more personal experience. A warning to hipsters, I know you like your layers and winter caps, but there's no air conditioning that I've felt. Dress for summer. That being said, I had a good enough time that it was never overshadowed by the lack of artificial cold.

Lastly, the pickled foods were found only in the tacos but there were no weird food jars. My search continues. 

I definitely, recommend Mahall's 20 Lanes as a destination of bowling, music, food and beer for those that love them or would like to.

Since this was written Mahall's now has air conditioning!

Unique: Vintage Bolwing, A good unique take on common foods, Live Music, Board Games, the Staff

13200 Madison Avenue, Lakewood, Ohio 44107
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