Thursday, January 30, 2014

Bar #53 The Avenue Tap House

I've been to more bars in Lakewood than there are weeks in the year. The majority have been good for one reason or another. This blog isn't about that. We now begin the bars that I chose not to go to 52 times. Each one for a reason. This week, I go to a bar who's known for cheap booze, cheap women, and the worst wings I've ever had. Every bar deserves a chance to prove itself and tonight was bar #53, The Avenue Tap House's chance to show that I've waited too long.
This Tuesday evening I showed up to a mostly empty Avenue. The bar was half full; the large room behind it was empty. I was meeting my friend Jon tonight. Disappointment came quickly. First Jon wasn't there, then I was told they don't have food till 9 (it was 7). So, I ordered a beer (½ off) and waited. My disappointments took a turn for the better a half hour later, when both Jon and the cook showed up.
The Avenue Tap House has a bar on their left and right side sandwiching tables and stools in between. There's a raised seating area on the far left side with VIP style seating. A DJ station is set up above the primary bar on the left side. The back wall is basically just a wall with a big curtain over the entrance to where the bowling alley used to be. The bowling alley materials were sold to Mahall's a year or two ago.
My beer of the night was New Castle. It tastes like beer. That's basically it with this one. They eliminated the cheap qualities that plague beers like PBR and Budweiser and then stopped. Their beer options included a couple local craft beers, but mainly consisted of the normal domestics.
If you are coming to the Avenue for food check the schedule first. The cook comes in late for karaoke on Tuesdays and may not even be there on other days. If their kitchen isn't open, then you can order food to be brought over from The Kenilworth Tavern next door. We were able to get our food by 8. We went with the Taco Tuesday option but it lacked a vegetarian choice. The kitchen made this an option for Jonn anyway. The tacos were surprisingly good. Jon ranked them in his top three favorites in the greater Cleveland area. They are definitely worth checking out, the chicken more so than the beef. Avenue Tap House has jalapenos poppers (cheese version.) They taste like everyone's.

The story I was able to get on the two previous food providers to the Avenue is that both businesses didn't have enough variety to be successful in a bar that serves some food, as opposed to a restaurant with a bar. Basically, you need a variety of different (bar) foods to get people to impulse buy. The Avenue isn't a location to come for a specific food, except on Tuesdays. Beyond that, the wings I got from Guys Pizza at the wing crawl two years ago were so bad, we couldn't tell if they were undercooked or horribly frost burnt. I had liked their pizza. So, I don't miss them. I was also told by people that the following business, The Red Rooster, whose chicken I used to buy back when they were located by my dog daycare, was too expensive. I thought the chicken was good previous to moving to the Avenue. It looks like the newest option is the best one.

The music of the night was famous rock songs of the 70s and 80s. I assume this was to get everyone ready for karaoke. This brought up the conversation of, are these songs actually good, or are they only good because of the memories attached to them. Do I like Hotel California, which some people may argue is dreadful, because it's great or because my parents thought it was great and it was ingrained into me? Is The Eye of the Tiger amazing or does it feel that way in my head because I ran listening to it in cross country in high school and saw a montage in a movie containing it? The song, I'll Be Watching You, sticks out in many people's heads as a love ballad, especially after hearing it at so many weddings to the setting of people in new love. Is a song about Sting going mildly insane and stalking his Ex-wife a love song because our experiences dictate it? This effect of the events of our lives defining our perceived quality of music becomes apparent when we think to our favorite type of music and the bands that really stick out. Theses tend to be the music from our teenage years, which is always better than the music of today. The alternative rock of the 90s sticks out to me but perhaps it's only because that's what I left my childhood listening to. Our teenage genre of music becomes ingrained in our foundations of who we are as a person. Wonderwall probably does suck but it carries a lot of good memories with it, so it's good to me. Luckily, during karaoke, you can fake the effect of the songs sounding good with proper amounts of alcohol.
The service was good from both my bartenders Nicky and Mark.. They were friendly and put in the extra work to make sure that we were happy. Nicky tried to get us to stay for karaoke but wouldn't stay herself. She only sings if she's if she's drunk or if it's early and just her friends are around and she's singing Rainbow Connection. They were both open to chatting with us and not being just glorified drink pourers.
The Avenue Tap House's primary goal is to get people drinking. They offer good service at great prices. There are different activities and deals going on throughout the week. I have talked to people that leave the bar they are eating at to go drink for a bit at the Avenue to save money. Food is not their priority and isn't available as often one might like. However, if it is available, then I suggest you give it a try. Since. this is their third food provider, I'm glad I left it till Bar #53 skipping the first two. The Avenue Tap House was worth the wait.

18206 Detroit Ave.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Bar #52 Pug Mahones (Deceased)

Taken by Pug Mahones

There are many important parts to creating a successful bar. Selection, value, food, entertainment, and atmosphere are some obvious pieces to the puzzle of building a bar that will survive. This week's bar did well in many respects but excelled in one in particular, service. Bar #52, is Pug Mahones, home to one of our newest favorite bartenders.

This week's Every Bar in Lakewood's trip came on the heels of the Winter Vortex. A two day siege of wind chills reaching -40 degrees, bypassing the frigid temperatures of the North Pole. As the temperatures raised back up to a balmy fucky cold again, cabin fever screamed out that I needed to see people, and numb the memories of the being numb, via beer. So, we set off into the new, pretty, and less painful snowfall. The snow did prevent me from getting a picture of the front sign.

Upon entering the bar, 10 minutes late, to a mildly busy Pug Mahones I had to preform the always awkward, walking around the bar looking for friends that haven't arrived. It is a mixture of your eyes darting around wildly and walking slowly in random directions like a ghost from Pacman. It turned out I was there first. I immediately sent out the customary text messages to everyone else making them feel bad for showing up late. At least until they realized they arrived only a couple minutes after I did. This included Jon who was almost standing behind me as I hit send.

Pug Mahones looks like your standard bar (wood booths, big TVs, an assortment of beer items on the walls) but with a lot of extras. The booths all come equipped with their own small flat screen TVs. There are a couple video games including a Pacman machine with a bunch of Atari games included. You've also got foosball, skee ball, and a punching bag machine.

Pug Mahones has a level assortment of beer options with as many domestic favorites as interesting craft beers that you may not have tried before. I went with, what may be the only pumpkin beer still on tap in Lakewood, Crooked River's Eerie Nights Pumpkin Ale. It was a good beer that embraced its pumpkin side without hiding it with too many spices. Eerie Nights was little on head but big on aroma. Looking online for this brewery you would think they were out of business. Make sure you try their beers while you can. They may not be long for this world, but if the rest of their beers are this good I hope they stick around.

We were greeted by Chrissy the bartender, once we had come to terms with both being late but almost the exact same amount of late. She was both friendly and engaging, the type of bartender that feels like your friend by the time your first beer is paid for. She was enthusiastic and knowledgeable about craft beer and the bar she worked in. Also, even though she was working a full bar plus our table, she never left us waiting. This is one of the major ingredients that allows bars to be successful.

Having a bartender that one's customers will want to keep visiting means repeat customers and creates a bar that survives for the long haul. When it comes down to it, a bar's personnel is the real difference between different bars. There are always multiple bars with the combination of good food, types of beers, prices, entertainment and so forth that you're looking for, but having a staff you get along with and does their job well is always the game changer.

Pug Mahones is currently having menu issues. They didn't have enough for the 6 of us; they only had two to spare. There were also misprints throughout it. If you are bored you can play find the baccon! This is probably due to it being designed for free. As a person that's done a lot over the years for nonprofits it always annoys me when volunteers slack off because they aren't actually getting paid. If you want to do something, do it right because, it's still a reflection on you. I'll assume I've been holding up with this ideal on the blog because the internet is rarely kind to any kind of weakness or failure. On a positive note, the menu did have lots of options and a new menu should be coming out soon.

I was told by a random patron that the burgers, which were also on special, were good. I got the bacon cheddar burger with homemade fries. It was better than average. Everyone was happy with their food with one exception. The cook forgot our pregnant friend's BLT. Perhaps, he is a thrill seeker that enjoys tempting painful death. We gave it more time than we should have since all of her ingredients were included on my burger that I received 15 minutes previous. I told Chrissy and she practically ran into the back and made sure that it was done at the maximum speed possible.

We made sure that we cashed out when the shift change was happening; so that we could tip Chrissy for her service. Remember, if your bartender/waitress takes care of you then you need to take care of her or him.
The patrons of Pug Mahones all seemed fairly random, not falling into any type or age bracket. They were neither angry nor rowdy. They were just people content to concentrate on their drinking and talking to their immediate neighbors. Classic rock was played all night on the juke box by a single person and his wife...or daughter, we weren't able to figure that one out...People watching is fun!

Pug Mahones is a pretty cool bar. It's a good place to watch the game. I love having the option of the little personal TVs in case you just wanted to watch curling this winter. They have a lot of games you can play. I was happy enough with the food and beer options, as most people will be. On occasions, in the past, I've had to say that I don't know if the service is always bad or if this was just a bad night. This time I have the opposite to say, I had great service but can't guarantee that it's always in the running for best service in town. Especially, when one considers their menu situation. Bar #52 has a lot to offer and great service offering it. It's time you accept their offer.

17625 Detroit Rd