Thursday, February 26, 2015

Who Has the Best Wings in Omaha -- KING OF THE WING

The question WAS pretty simple a few years ago...who has the best Buffalo wings in Omaha?  As it turns out, my premise was somewhat flawed from the beginning.

You see, authentic Buffalo wings, and the wings more popular here in Omaha, vary somewhat. What's the biggest difference? The phenomenon we now know as "Char Buffed" wings.

First...let's have Omaha's Buffalo wing expert, and good friend, Ray Bullock of Ray's Original Buffalo Wings tell you what is technically a "Buffalo"wing.



The real difference is that technically Omaha wings do have sauce on them, but when they're char buffed, the sauce is is grilled into the wing to create the "char".

See, at Ray's you'll never get a char buffed wing, but at places where you can order an "Omaha wing" they also will "double dip" them back into sauce to give it a more traditional Buffalo feel. Confused? I think I am a little. But stick with me.

From here on out, HitThatDive will rate three types of wings...Buffalo-style as described by Ray. Omaha-style which originated, and are done to perfection daily at Addy's. And "Other" for when I run across wings like I had at Cruisers that were fantastic, but don't fit into either category.

What's missing from this list?  Let me know. But, as it stands for now...here is the most comprehensive list of wing reviews in Omaha!

Pheasant Tavern
13909 S St 
Omaha, NE 68137
(402) 859-3311


48 out of 50 points
Choo Choo's Bar  and Grill 
14240 U Street  
Omaha, NE 68137
(402) 895-6617

This place is under new ownership and word on the street that the wing quality has slipped dramatically since this review. But at one point they were damn good Buffalo wings. Who wants to do a updated review of this one for me?
48 out of 50 points
Addy's Sports Bar and Grill
14110 S Street
Omaha NE 68137
(402) 991-2663

Now we're talking!  Not sure I have enough flowery language in my limited vocabulary to describe just how perfectly Addy's wings are cooked.  They are super crispy on the outside, hot and juicy on the inside, they are easy to pull from the bone...you get it.

47 out of 50 points

Oscars's Pizza And Sports Grille
17330 Lakeside Hills Plaza
Omaha, NE 68130
(402) 758-1910

The first thing I noticed, because usually I’m here with a buzz and not really taking notes on about my food, are that these wings smell JUST like the wings we would make at tailgate parties in Pittsburgh.

47 out of 50 points
8100 Cass Street
Omaha, NE
402-390-9495

This was a perfect score. These were wings the size I remember growing up...the size where you can plow through 10 of them...and still complain about being hungry.  But, you fell like you go your money's worth too.

45 out of 50 points

The Good Life Sports Bar and Grill
1203 South 180th Street
Omaha NE 68130
(402) 933-2947

Another strong point of the wings here is that they're usually uniform in size (on the smaller side which is good) and I have yet to encounter any of the over-sized mutant buzzard wings that can NEVER be cooked properly with smaller pieces mixed into the fryer with them.
43 out of 50 points

Buffalo Company
4725 South 96th Street
Omaha NE 68127
(402) 592-9999

Some of the best sauce in town. All 10 wings were coated pretty uniformly but there may have been just a bit too much sauce for the ones on the bottom.  Not like they were totally drowning or anything, but, you run the risk if your wings aren't always crispy enough that this could potentially make the ones on the bottom a bit soggy.

40 out of 50 points

Oscar's ROUND TWO
17330 Lakeside Hills Plaza
Omaha, NE 68130
(402) 758-1910

I get out my stopwatch and hit "Go" just after the server enters my order. Seven minutes, 16 seconds and .4 hundredths of a second...my wings arrive.  HOLY DOG SHIT...that's fast by fast food standards!

38 out of 50 points

Cruisers
8634 F Street
Omaha NE 68127
402- 614-7445

* Keep in mind that Cruisers didn't even get points in the sauce category, and even with that hindrance, they scored better than a lot of wing places in the area who are far more well-known.  For the record, the sauce easily was an "8" which would have made these clock in at an impressive showing of 44 points. 

36* out of 50 points


Two Fine Irishmen
18101 R Plz  
Omaha, NE 68135
(402) 933-3990

Out of 13 wings, I would say just about half of them were the right size with a few mutant super-sized gristly bad boys thrown in the mix as well.
35 out of 50 points


Tanner's 
15505 Ruggles St # 106
Omaha, NE

(402) 884-5100

No celery…are you shitting me??  Look if I order spaghetti and meatballs, I already assume that you’re going to give me sauce with my order.  Celery and wings is like peanut butter and jelly for crying outloud!  No celery with wings is inexcusable!

34 out of 50 points

13806 P Street
Omaha NE 68137
(402) 933-6612

Sauce: In a word..pepper.  Actually, pepper bordering on being Mace.  The sauce contained enough pepper to make any montreal steak in town feel completely inadequate.   When I equate "Hot" with wings I think in terms of Scoville Units not anti-riot pepper spray. 

31 out of 50 points

Brick Street Tavern
4936 South 135th Street
Omaha NE 68137
(402) 359-1604

Some were pretty crispy, some of them weren't. Kind of a mixed bag on this one. But it seemed that as I worked my way from the smaller ones to the larger ones...they were decidedly less crispy. And then...IT HAPPENED!

27 out of 50 points

7101 South 84th Street
LaVista, Nebraska 
(402) 339-1606

Quite frankly, you'd have to intentionally try to make something this bad. Worse yet, it took them nearly 20 minutes to get them to me after I ordered.  I assume 18 of those minutes were fishing around the dumpster out back to find ones left over from the night before.

2 out of 50 points

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Omaha Wing Challenge -- Big Red Restaurant and Sports Bar

Big Red Restaurant and Sports Bar
8100 Cass Street
Omaha, NE
402-390-9495

As if I didn't learn my lesson from the last time I ordered wings at a keno joint, I decided to meet up with part-time HitThatDive wing reviewer Speck at Big Red Restaurant and Sports Bar because word has it, unlike the vomitous wings at LaVista Keno...these are actually really good. Settle down everyone...I'll be the judge of that!

Show of hands...who's seen the movie Ratatouille?  It seems like more and more that I start to feel like the food critic Anton Ego whose reviews of restaurants can "make or break" a place.  OK...well THAT part isn't true, but it's getting to be where I sit there and feel like I look a lot like this as I take notes about the food I'm eating...

Not really me.
And as always...I throw in a totally unrelated element as my way to foreshadow something that happens later in the "review".  So keep reading. 

Some of you know how this works, for those that don't here's how it goes...wings are rated in 5 categories for a total potential perfect score of 50. The current reigning champion (by virtue of a committee vote) is The Pheasant with a total score of 48.  And, for shits and giggles (mostly to get the shits) the worst score has been the severed toe wings at LaVista Keno which flatlined at a 2. TWO? For reals!

Odd pricing
First Impressions: Speck was running behind, so as I sat at the bar for I while, I could smell wings that someone else ordered...and they smelled good! But at that point of the afternoon, I would have said the wings at LaVista Keno didn't smell too bad either because I was HUNGRY.

After waiting about 20 minutes after we ordered (which is the right amount of time to make a batch of wings the right way) these babies looked just the wings I ate growing up in Pittsburgh. Score! They weren't necessarily steaming hot, which Speck and I both noted, but who cares...let's eat!

Side Note: They price their wings pretty oddly here...$10.59 for 12 OR $13.99 for 18. Do yourself the favor and just get the 18...it's a way better deal for some strange reason.

SCORE: 9

Good stuff!

Sauce: Really the only "weakness" to the this order of wings was the sauce...and don't get me wrong...it was actually very good. But, for what was called "Hot" sauce on the menu, this stuff really didn't have any real bite to it at all.  But it was good and tasty, like in really good, just not outstanding.

However, because the sauce wasn't SO overpowering, Speck and I were able to plow through all 18 wings in no time flat.  And also a big thumbs up for wings that are well-coated but not too messy to eat and aren't swimming in the stuff by the time you get to the bottom of a big order.

SCORE: 8

Perfect
Crispy: Oh, so close on this one. They could have had just a touch more crunch to them...but man it was ever so close. Expertly fried to near perfection, none close to being too cool on the inside, yet not one overcooked chewy piece out of all 18. Well done!

It was a bit cold in the building today, and since these didn't come out smoking hot, they cooled quite quickly (even though Speck and I were throwing them down like Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble) which made the last few even a bit less crispy than the first few...but still very good.

Hard to take away points because of today's arctic-like temperatures, but a big thumbs up for almost a perfect 10 on this one.

SCORE: 9

Perfect again

Size: This was a perfect score. These were wings the size I remember growing up...the size where you can plow through 10 of them...and still complain about being hungry.  But, you fell like you go your money's worth too.

If all restaurants served wings that were this uniform in size, there would be a lot less undercooked, or jerky-like wings in the world. Not sure it even makes sense to belabor this point.

SCORE: 10 

Not bad
Extras: Both the Blue Cheese and Ranch had a good homemade taste to them. After fishing around for a bit, I even found I nice big chuck of blue cheese at the bottom of mine. Celery is by "request" and they came served in big salad bowls like you would find at P.F. Chang's...which I thought was slightly odd.

Even though these weren't messy in the least, it would have been nice to have just a few more napkins handy...but really not much of an issue for me or Speck.

Final Score: 9

Total Score: 45 out of 50

I was amazed (Still not really me) 

Just like the food critic at the end of Ratatouille...these wings reminded me over and over again of the ones I would get from little Mom and Pop places back in Pennsylvania when I was growing up. Sometimes there's a real benefit in not over-thinking things and just keeping it simple.  Which is why, I guess, I was so amazed at the quality of the food here in a corporate Keno joint.

I suppose that's my way of saying that maybe my opinions were a bit jaded because every bite reminded me of sitting around my dorm room in Latrobe, PA eating wings, drinking beer and not having a care in the world. I still do two of those things, but man, that last one gets harder to do the older you get...but I digress...

Add to the fact that I would not hesitate to bring kids here, unlike a few bars with wings, and this entire (unplanned) trip turned out to be one of the most unexpected surprises in a while.

In no way did I expect a trip down memory lane, while eating wings in a Keno bar in Nebraska and making odd Pixar movie references...and yet...that's exactly what happened.  In any case...try these wings...trust me!


Thursday, February 12, 2015

50 Shades of Grey -- Hit That Movie!

I know, this is a little off topic for HTD...but ever wondered what would happen when you take a few dive bar regulars out of their element and attempt to sprinkle a little culture into their normal routines?   Me either.

BUT...that didn't stop me from rounding up a few HitThatDivers for a first-ever live movie review and of course I picked 50 Shades of Grey as the first (and potentially) last movie we ever attempt to "review".

Join us tonight!

First let me introduce you to our cast of characters for tonight's cinematic viewing extravaganza. This was going to be an "all dude" event, but we had one brave woman volunteer for this hazardous duty too. And, quite frankly, we'll look far less creepy with with "Whiskey Holly" as part of our regular group of knuckleheads.

**SPECIAL CONTEST**

Listen to the Pat and JT Morning Show tomorrow (February 13th) at 9:30...they can be heard on Omaha's Q98.5. Be listening tomorrow for the name of the first person that giggles out loud at tonight's movie viewing. If you're the first person to correctly name the guilty party and... post it on the HitThatDive Facebook page...you win a $25 gift card to The Good Life Sports Bar and Grill.

Our "Reviewers":


Frenchy
Dan The Man

Hefe

Kickin'  Kevin

DLH


MT
Whiskey Holly

Scuba Steve
So here's how it's going to work. We're meeting up tonight at The Good Life in West Omaha...feel free to join in...the more the merrier.  After a few 32 ounce $5 beers...we're off to Village Pointe for the 9:00 p.m. showing of 50 Shades of Grey. (Tickets Still Available by clicking here).

Each reviewer goes into the movie with 100 HitThatDive Points. From there, you can only lose points for things like giggling (minus 2 points), both hands not visible at the same time (minus 5 points), excessive squirming in your chair (minus 10 points), lose a point per second for every second of a bathroom break that lasts more than two minutes.  Don't take a bathroom break? 15 bonus points!

We'll finalize all the ways to lose and earn bonus points tonight before the movie, and everyone's final score will be posted along with our review, pictures and video tomorrow right here on HitThatDive.com.

Of note...If a person hits zero points, or pulls a Pee Wee Herman, they're immediately disqualified and will be made to feel shame.

Join us tonight or wait until tomorrow and read about what happens when HitThatDive invades West Omaha surrounded by a bunch of sexed-up suburban Moms as we review a mainstream bondage movie!

On Twitter? Get the play-by-play action of everything that transpires tonight by following me at @HitThatDive1.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Brick Street Tavern -- OMAHA WING CHALLENGE

4936 South 135th Street
Omaha NE 68137
402-359-1604

Oh boy. This one gets a bit interesting about half way through so hang in there.  First off, let me preface everything that transpired with an interesting statistic from the National Chicken Council. During Super Bowl Sunday, Americans consumed more than 1.25 BILLION chicken wings. That's a lot of damn chickens!

So, that also means that the quality of wings on the market (to meet that insane amount) can potentially suffer quite a bit to meet such incredible demands. Remember that statistic, it plays into this review a little later on...I think.

Not a bad start
So here we go...I was asked a question on Twitter about a place to check out for wings out west. Since it was a Tuesday, for whatever reason, the Brick Street Tavern popped into my head because I know that's when they do their .55 cent wing special.

I've only had wings there once before back in July, and from what I remembered, they were pretty good for the price. Then I figured, what the hell, why don't I head out there too. Made plans to meet up with "Hit That Diver" Asian Joe...and off to Millard it was.

For those wondering how this works, wings are rated in 5 categories for a total potential perfect score of 50. The current reigning champion (by virtue of a committee vote) is The Pheasant with a total score of 48.  And, for shits and giggles (mostly to get the shits) the worst score has been the gag-worthy wings at LaVista Keno which flatlined at a 2. TWO? Yeah...they were that bad.

Meaty
First Impressions: An order of 10 wings came right from the kitchen and they were steaming hot. But, WOW, these things are all huge...like in an over-sized novelty way. As Asian Joe pointed out, they looked like chicken legs for the most part and not wings. I've eaten countless thousands of wings and something looked just slightly off to me.

But can't argue that they are big and meaty, and even had some char marks on them. These aren't quite as I remembered them from my last stop here...but so far so good.

Score: 8


Not too messy
Sauce: I do remember from the last time that the hot Buffalo sauce was HOT. So I just went with regular Buffalo sauce, well, because that's just what I usually do. Not very authentic as far as real Buffalo wing sauce goes, but nothing all that offensive either. Definitely a lot more "zing" than just a regular sauce, as the sweat from Joe's forehead would indicate.

In fact, the word that I wrote down about the sauce was "aggressive". Again, it looked like they had been charred on a grill just a bit, so the sauce was a somewhat baked in...but still a little messy on my fingers. I don't know, not the worst...not the best and a little bit better than average.

Score: 6


Looks weird
Crispy: Some were pretty crispy, some of them weren't. Kind of a mixed bag on this one. But it seemed that as I worked my way from the smaller ones to the larger ones...they were decidedly less crispy. And then...IT HAPPENED!

Joe takes a bite into a wing the size of a turkey leg and OH MY GOD...it's raw on the inside. Which, I guess, frozen things are crispy in their own way. But we're taking poultry here and not freeze pops.

OH MY GOD!
To get clarification on how something like this comes out of a kitchen, I asked Chef John Horvatinovich of Salt 88 what he thought was going on.

Look, shit happens. The dude working in the kitchen looked to be a hard-working guy that I'm sure doesn't want to have raw wings coming out to customers. Was the whole batch like that? No.  Do I think the owners of Brick Street want to poison customers? Of course not. But man, that was pretty nasty thing to encounter. I stopped eating at that point.

Score: 4


Flipping me off?
Size: Let's get to the root of the problem here, shall we? These bastards were HUGE, but not all of them were gigantic. And, that will always be an issue when wings are all fried at the same time...you run the risk of the GIANT ones being undercooked...in this case by a wide margin.

Like I said at the beginning, good quality wings are much harder to find this time of year due to everyone pigging out during the Super Bowl.  And, it may just be a case of Brick Street having to deal with what they're supplier had on hand. But, man, if you see you're serving wings of mammoth proportions (including one giving me the finger) you just have to adjust your cooking methods to compensate for longer cooking times.

Of note: These were some of the funkiest shaped wings I've seen in a while.  For those people that like gigantic wings...these are all you. But man, I just think life is easier with wings that are a bit smaller and more easily prepared. But, as they say...to each his own.

Score: 5


What IS that thing?
Extras: Oh, you know, I don't want to get too nitpicky on this one. The blue cheese was fine enough, no celery, no extra plate, no napkins at first.  Wait...I guess I am being a bit nitpicky. Look, for $5.50 for an order of 10 wings...I really can't complain on this one. I guess what this section really indicates is attention to detail.

And maybe attention to detail is really the biggest issue. Add to that the Brick Street Tavern didn't fair all that well in a recent Restaurant Report Card from WOWT...and maybe just an ounce more on the overall details of the food coming out of the kitchen would go a LONG way...because this is actually a great little bar with a ton of blue-collar regulars.

Score: 4

Final Score: 27 out of 50

Let's be clear, these review are simply my experience...almost like an unpaid secret shopper. Never do I leave my house thinking "Man, let's find something really awful about the place and only write about that!" Bar Rescue already does that for me.

The Brick Street Tavern is the kind of place I like to go to, and root for to succeed. But I've also built a reputation (for what it's worth) of being, if nothing else, honest with what I see. And what I saw yesterday was not an issue with one person...just a bit of lack of attention to detail top to bottom. This could, and should, have been a much better experience. And who knows...maybe next time it will be. The devil, my friends, is always in the details.

**EDITOR'S NOTE** Just received this message from the Brick Street Tavern. Very cool response...as I figured...this was basically an issue of getting wiped out of supply during the Super bowl.

"How's it going? I'm the kitchen manager up at brick street tavern. First off, I just really want to apologize to you for the undercooked wing. That should not have happened. I wasn't there last night, but I saw your photo. Second, I want to thank you for the honest and fair review. 

You were pretty much correct in your assumptions. Our normal wing stock got cleared out this weekend during the Super Bowl, so we had to go to Sam's to grab some more to hold us over until our food truck made its delivery. These wings are oddly shaped (like you said) and were flash frozen. 

Our normal wings are kept fresh and not frozen. Most likely the wing wasn't fully thawed in the middle before it was fried. It's no excuse, I just wanted to explain what happened and offer my sincere apologies. Next time you stop out here, your meal is on me. Thanks again, stay warm!"

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cruisers -- Omaha Wing Challenge

8634 F Street
Omaha NE 68127
402- 614-7445

This one will be a bit different from other HitThatDive wing reviews.  Why's that you ask...that's simple. My wing order (as most people can tell you) never changes.  It's always wings with Buffalo sauce, and if I have my choice between mild, medium or hot...I always go with medium.  I am the ultimate creature of habit.

 And as for reviewing wings, I think it's important to keep things as consistent as possible to accurately "judge" one wing place against another.  Plus, last month I was part of the Omaha World-Herald's "Food Prowl" team trying to find Omaha's best barbecue (good luck with that!) and I learned a few more pointers on how to approach reviewing food...from people who actually know that they're doing!
Time to try something a little different
Don't worry, I haven't gone all food snob or anything, I just learned a few tips on how professional "honest-to-goodness" food critics and chefs go about their business determining what makes one place better than another.  So thanks again Sarah Baker Hansen...that was a fun exercise in eating some pretty bad Omaha barbecue.

For those wondering how this works, wings are rated in 5 categories for a total potential perfect score of 50.  The current reigning champion (by virtue of a committee vote) is The Pheasant with a total score of 48.  And, for shits and giggles (mostly to get the shits) the worst score has been the gag-worthy wings at LaVista Keno which flatlined at a 2. TWO? Yeah...they were that bad.

For the sake of this review, Cruisers Bar and Grill can only be judged in four categories because this is the first time ever I'm writing about non-Buffalo wings. And honestly, that won't hurt them too much, because from previous trips there...Buffalo sauce is not their strong suit.

So, with the longest wing review intro in the history of HitThatDive...I give you...Cruisers Garlic Parmesan wings.

That's actually cheese
First Impressions: They actually look, and smell, pretty good...but the white specks of stuff look ever-so lice-like. Relax, this is called "first impressions" for a reason. It gets way better from here...trust me.

These babies came out smoking hot in about 20 minutes, which is A-OK with me...I ordered them extra crispy just to be safe. They don't really smell all that garlicky...but after realizing that the white specks were in fact parmesan cheese...I was ready to go.

Score: 8


Perfect size
Sauce:  Since this isn't Buffalo sauce, I can't really give it a score to compare to others. At first bite I didn't taste garlic at all, in fact, to me it was more of a Thai peanut sauce....didn't see that one coming. But guess what...it was surprisingly great. Slightly sweet, but with a "I could eat about 100 of these" flavor to them, I was shocked just how good they were.

For what Cruisers lacks in a great Buffalo sauce, they sure make up for it with whatever this stuff might be. Keep in mind, this sauce isn't even on the menu, so make sure to ask for it when you're here.

Score: N/A (But I'm telling you, this was a great sauce)

I should have asked for a plate
Crispy: These bad boys were cooked nearly to perfection. One or two were just a tab bit chewy...but for the most part...they were nice and crispy on the outside and piping hot on the inside. And unlike some wing places where the poor wings that draw "the short straw" and are doomed to end up soggy on the bottom of a basket, the crispiness of the wings here held up for the entire order of 12.  Good stuff!

Score: 9

Size: Uniform size in wings ensures that they're all cooked properly.  If you throw in some giant pieces, along with a few runts, one of two things will happen. A: The giant pieces will be undercooked (See LaVista Keno about that) or B: The runts will be turned into chewy chicken jerky. Neither of which makes for good wings.

Cruisers serves up some pretty meaty-sized wings. But they are all generally the same size which allows the "skateboards" and the "runners" to come out evenly.

Side Note: Can we all agree on what the two sections of the wing are called? Apparently even people in Buffalo, New York can't agree on this topic. This article made for an interesting read and probably confused the situation even more in my mind.

Score: 10 
Great stuff!
Extras: Wasn't sure if these would go with the blue cheese they brought out, but oddly, they did...and the blue cheese was excellent. A few big and fresh celery sticks were along for the ride too, even if these weren't traditional Buffalo wings.  A few more napkins within arm's reach would have been nice...but certainly not much of a deal breaker.

Score: 9

Final Score: 36* out of 50

* Keep in mind that Cruisers didn't even get points in the sauce category, and even with that hindrance, they scored better than a lot of wing places in the area who are far more well-known.  For the record, the sauce easily was an "8" which would have made these clock in at an impressive showing of 44 points. 

The garlic parmesan wings took me by surprise, in a good way, mostly because I  only eat one flavor of wing sauce (note to self...do I need to expand my bar and grill culinary horizons?) and yet I thoroughly enjoyed these. If you're looking for a change of pace from traditional Buffalo wings, you definitely need to give these a shot. Perhaps you'll be just a pleasantly surprised as I was. Who knew?

Now, back to my regular beat...which Buffalo wings should be next on the list to review...let me know!

Scuba Steve





Friday, January 23, 2015

Cruisers Bar and Grill, Omaha -- REVIEW

8634 F Street
Omaha NE 68127
402-614-7445


Let's Cruise
It's actually harder to write about a bar that I've been to a few times than it is to just walk in for the first time and start writing down my immediate knee-jerk reactions.

But, two weeks ago on Facebook, I asked people to nominate (and vote for) their favorite bar for HTD to review next. In that voting, Crossbones Bar was the clear winner, but I'll be damned if the regulars at Cruisers didn't put up one hell of a fight too.

So, two reviews from one vote it is...of course...I came down with some ebola-like flu and didn't get around to writing this one in a timely manner, until today. Well, that and I wasn't really sure what to say about Cruisers because I've never really walked out with much of an impression one way or the other, and then sitting at their bar the other day it hit me...which is now why you need to keep reading.

A trip down Route 66
PROS: Clean. Affordable drinks and food. Great place to sit and hang out. Unremarkable.

CONS: Hard to find at first. Could not grab a seat at the bar on a Friday night. 

First Impressions: Did you check the "Pros" of the bar? How in the world can using the word "unremarkable" to describe a bar be a good thing? I mean, come on, the definition of the word according to Collins Dictionary is "not worthy of note or attention."

Like I said, I've been here a few times before so I know basically what to expect. But if you're heading here for your first time, you'll immediately notice that this bar is a bit tucked away off of 84th Street in an unremarkable strip mall.

Not impossible to find at all, but not the kind of place you just stumble into if you're not looking for it.  I first learned about Cruisers more than a year ago from Brock at The Village Bar who said this was the place he would "escape" to when he wanted to get away from his bar and just hang out.

The only other thing I really knew about this place was from a picture sent to HTD from a bunch of IBEW Local 22 members that hang out here. And I figure, if a bunch of union guys make this their place to throw back a few beers, that's usually a good sign too.

Clean clean clean 
The Bar: Living up to its name, the first thing you'll notice when you grab a seat at the bar, or one of the many tables and booths in the room, are the car murals on almost every wall.  Show up after dark, and they light those babies up with old school black lights...like being in Spenser Gifts in the mall when I was a kid.

Five beers on tap including Stella Artois, and a decent collection of bottled beer that will keep most of the beer snobs somewhat happy. Is it the most extensive collection of beer in town? Not even close, but a few different IPA's, Bass and even New Castle Brown Ale should be good enough to keep most people that frequent a "bar and grill" pleasantly buzzed.

Cleaning stuff
The Crowd: Sitting there on a Friday night there were a pretty wide array of people from union guys to business people.  There didn't really seem to be a specific age to the crowd either...it ranged from couples in their early 20's to empty nesters in their 60's (pounding drinks like they were in their 20's) but all-in-all a pretty laid back, unremarkable, crowd.

I couldn't score a seat at the bar, but in the hour I was there, the only thing occupying the bar stools were the drinks of the people outside grabbing a smoke. And, from the length of time they were away from the bar...they must smoke 'em about 10 at a time in this place!

Service: Sat at a table on a Friday night, and at the bar on a Thursday afternoon, and had great service in both spots.  Much like the bar itself, everything in Cruisers (including the service) always seems to be clean, efficient and unremarkable...and I still don't mean that in a negative way.  More on that in a bit.

Water?
Prices: They have daily drink special that include (depending on the day) $7 domestic pitchers, $1.75 Busch Light, PBR or Hamm's cans and $4.00 Captain Morgan drinks all day on Saturday and Sunday.  Make it a point to check their daily food and drink specials right here before you go, they really do have something going on every day of the week.

Food:  This is a bar and GRILL and Cruisers has just about all the bar food you can imaging including nachos, burgers, salads, a bunch of things that they fry...and wings.  How are the wings you ask? Well, once that is written later today, the review of their garlic-parmesan will go here when its finished later today. Were they too "unremarkable"? We will see...

Good wings!
Entertainment: Your usual collection of stuff like darts, Keno, and a few TVs (One of which always seems to be on a car-themed channel). Other things of note include a gumball machine by the front door and a good old Ms. PacMan table top game.

From what I can tell, the real entertainment here is in the parking lot out front once the weather gets nice enough for their weekly car show on Saturdays from 12:00-6:00pm...and comes complete with an outdoor beergarden.  I've never been here for one of those...but will be stopping by for sure once we get rid of winter.

Bartender Chat: Oh, you know, not a whole lot other than just your basic stuff. But, the last two times here I've had the chance to talk to the bar's owner "Homer" who seems to be a genuinely nice dude who is proud of the bar he's created.  From what I can tell, Homer is the kind of guy that likes to hang out at a bar, have a few drinks and talk to friends...nothing more...nothing less. And guess what? That's exactly the kind of bar this is.  What a coincidence.

Even smells good
Restrooms:  Much like the rest of the bar, the men's room was pretty much spotless.  The only real thing to note was the intense fresh smell of the air freshener hanging on the back wall from my friends at AmeriPride. It's so effective in fact, you can smell it will before you even get to the restroom area. Powerful stuff!

How Far Did My $20 Go?: Actually, it wasn't my money on Thursday afternoon, it was Brock's from The Village Bar as he joined me for lunch.  So, just how far did $18.63 go?  Two tacos, 12 wings, and three beers...that's a pretty good deal...with change leftover.

Final Thoughts: Not everything you encounter should be IN YOUR FACE or larger than life. In fact, a lot of people want quite the opposite when they spend some time in a bar. They want a place to hideaway and just hangout. A place where they can be guaranteed not to encounter the regular bullshit of a five (or six) day work week.  A place where you can still get good food and a few beers at a price that won't break the bank.  Ultimately, the regulars here want to spend some time in a spot that does everything well, but aspires to do it unremarkably for their benefit.

If a bar that aspires to be the equivalent of a Las Vegas sideshow is what you're looking for, don't look here. If you're part of the Ritalin generation, this isn't going to stimulate you nearly enough either.  Like I said at the beginning, I had always walked out of Cruisers with no real impression of the bar one way or the other...but never with a bad impression.

It wasn't until last week that I began to see the simplistic appeal of this place, and why there were so many devoted regulars who voted repeatedly to get HTD in here to write about it. Cruisers is remarkably, unremarkable...and in this instance...it makes for an enjoyable experience. HIT THIS DIVE!
Homer!

DIVE-O-METER
7.5