One of the many benefits that writing on a food blog is that I not only get to try a lot of different restaurants, but also that every now and again, I come across a diamond in the rough. When fellow food blogger Kathy and her husband joined up with me to attend the 2009 National Hamburger Festival back in July, we quickly discovered that there were only two vendors who had horrendously long lines. The first was Crave. The lengthy line was understandable as Crave had won several festival awards this year. The second was the Windsor Pub. Unlike Crave, the Windsor Pub had won no awards. Only wanting to stand in one of those two lines, we chose Crave. However, we all agreed that at some point in the future, we would descend upon the Windsor Pub in order to figure out just what the heck was going on.
When I mentioned to my local Akron friends that I would be trying out the burger at the Windsor, most of them reacted with almost abject horror. No one knew if the reputation still held true, but apparently the Windsor was much more known for their late night singles crowd than for their burgers. I indicated that while it may still be true, since the three of us would be checking it out around 5:30 PM, I seriously doubted it would be that bad. Apparently, I was right.
The Windsor Pub is located on the southwest corner at the intersection of East Tallmadge Avenue and Brittain Road. More specifically, they are at 1322 East Tallmadge Avenue, Akron, OH 44310 and can be reached at 330-633-5211. I searched on the Internet for a website, but was unable to locate one. From East Tallmadge Avenue, it was pretty easy to spot where the pub was located. Here was the sign out front:
Hmmm, "Best Burgers on this EARTH." We'll see about that. After pulling in and meeting up with Kathy and her husband, we started walked toward the front door:
The bar is actually fairly large, with a room off to the right containing additional tables and the bar area with a number of booths and tables. I would have to imagine that if it were filled to capacity, you could fit several hundred people. However, at 5:30 in the evening, there were just the locals, maybe twenty-five or so. We found the best lit table we could and sat down to start examining the menu. I will warn you, gentle reader, that the florescent lighting in the Windsor was pretty bad, so every photo I took had an unhealthy amount of yellowish tint to it. I've done my best to clean it up, but in the process, it washed out some of the other colors, too.
Here are a couple of shots of the menu:
The menu was a lot larger than I had first anticipated. Even though I knew I was there for the burger, there was plenty on the menu that would draw me back if I decided to return for another meal. The burgers come in two sizes, 12 ounce and 5 ounce. Each burger also comes with fresh cut fries or for an additional $1.90, you can get your pick of onion rings, Windsor chips, curly fries, chili cheese fries, or spicy potato wedges. Knowing how bad my luck with "fresh cut fries" has been in the past, I knew that I would be opting to upgrade to one of the premium choices.
Before ordering our dinner, we decided to start everything out with a drink. I asked for what was on tap and our server ran through about six or seven choices, most of which had the word "lite" attached to it. Not wanting to concede defeat, I asked if they Guinness in the bottle. Sadly, the closest thing to a dark beer they had was Heineken Dark. It wasn't my favorite, but I decided to roll with the punches:
As you can see from the menu shots above, you can get one of the pre-configured burgers or just build your own. Kathy and her husband decided to order the Windsor burger and the Big Mama burger. I decided to go with something dirt simple and ordered the Plain Truth, a burger with cheese, lettuce and tomato. Kathy went with the 1/3 pound burger and her husband and I decided to go for broke and get the 3/4 pound burger. I also ordered the onion rings instead of the fresh cut fries.
One thing you should know about the Windsor's burgers is that you cannot specify what temperature to which you want them cooked. When I asked for my burger medium, the server kind of gave me that, "Ummm ...". She indicated that all of the burgers are cooked between medium well and well done. Fearing that I would receive a 3/4 pound hunk of carbon, I asked if mine could be closer to medium well than well done. I wasn't entirely confident she cared enough to pass the message along to the cook.
After placing our order, we settled in to enjoy the conversation and our beverages. Amazingly, within five minutes of placing our orders, the server arrived back at our table with the food. Cooking a 1/3 pound burger to medium well is conceivable to me in five minutes, but a 3/4 pound burger? I guess I'd find out soon enough whether I'd be sending it back to the kitchen or not.
Here is a shot of my burger and onion rings:
There was a very good reason for the steak knife plunged into the center of my burger. You definitely need to cut this very large burger in half in order to eat it. Here is a side shot of the burger:
As I said before, the burger was enormous. However, the burger was also delicious. Any qualms about beef jerky were quickly dismissed as I noticed that the interior of the burger was actually cooked just slightly under medium well. This meant the burger was also pretty juicy, too. Both Kathy and her husband also liked their burgers as well. The Big Mama burger comes with BBQ sauce as a topping and I got to sample a bit of the sauce on a curly fry. I actually liked the sauce; it was a nice balance between sweet, sour, and smoke. While I didn't try a full bite of the Big Mama, the BBQ sauce has inspired me to put that on the list of things to try the next time I come back.
The onion rings were clearly homemade and had been batter-dipped before being fried. The onion inside the ring was nice and meaty, although I think it could've been fried just a little bit longer as they had just a bit too much crispness to them. The exterior batter was only slightly greasy, and while tasty, was just a bit too thick for my taste. The best onion rings I've ever had were when the onions had an almost tempura-like coating on them. Don't get me wrong, I would definitely take the Windsor Pub's version of onion rings over almost anything from the back of a Sysco food truck.
In a nice turn of events, Kathy ordered the fresh cut fries and let me try one. While they were definitely the size of most fresh cut fries, they weren't at all limp or greasy. In fact, they were quite good. So good, in fact, that the next time I go for a burger, I might just decide to skip the $1.90 upgrade and go with the fries that come with the burger.
While I don't know how "family friendly" the Windsor Pub was, there really were a ton of choices to pick from on the menu, so there should be something for everyone. The establishment does have more of a "Bar and Grill" feeling to it rather than a "Grill and Bar." However, the food we were served really did live up to the long line we encountered over a month ago when we attended the Hamburger Festival. The food was tasty and very reasonably priced. While I think that Louie's does do a marginally better hamburger, the fresh cut fries at the Windsor Pub definitely blows Louie's right out of the water. I recommend that you check them out when you have a chance.
[Ed. Note: Kathy's blog entry about the Windsor Pub appears here.]