First Dates, Roberto Perez and Yard House in Crocker Park
Yard House | Crocker Park, 160 Union St | Westlake, OH
I know some people knock places like Crocker Park, Legacy Village and Polaris, calling them manufactured suburban lifestyle centers full of chain restaurants and big-box stores. I’ve even heard detractors say that they are … gasp … devoid of character! I, for one, respectfully disagree.
Listen, I’ll always support independent dining and local retail. Still, sometimes it’s nice to visit places like Crocker Park. Shopping, food and entertainment in an upscale(ish), attractive atmosphere. What’s not to like about that?
With that said, Tiffany, her brother John and I visited Westlake last Saturday night for dinner at Yard House, a sports-bar chain featuring an extensive selection of American food and beer. Knowing the place would be packed, I joined the wait list ahead of time through the restaurant’s website. The quoted online wait time was 16 – 25 minutes.
We arrived 20 minutes later and saw a line nearly out the door. Tiffany and John expressed some trepidation. Never fear, I told them—we were covered! I had the wherewithal to place our names on the online list. I confidently strutted to the hostess stand, ready for our group to be seated.
Not so fast. Yard House’s hostess told me that the wait time had changed from the time I signed up online. The new wait time was 40 minutes. I asked her how the system worked and what the point of joining ahead of time was if the numbers could just arbitrarily change. To her credit, she explained it to me. Since I don’t possess a degree in advanced physics—on top of not wanting to look confused—I nodded aimlessly and pretended to understand her explanation.
Regardless, I somehow received a text five minutes later that indicated our table was ready. No 40-minute wait. The system worked … I think. Side note: I wish I had our hostess’s name. She dealt with long lines of impatient people in a professional manner and took the time to address my questions. If anyone from Yard House is reading this, give her a raise!
Our server for the evening was Jason, a gentle giant who could have broken me in half had he so chosen. He was knowledgeable and courteous, frequently checking in on the table to see how we were, ask about refills and provide status updates on our orders.
About the food … since Yard House was at capacity, it took about 35 minutes for us to receive our meals. During that time, Tiffany, John and I engaged in deep conversation about geopolitical tensions in Eastern Europe, international economic policies and the meaning of life. Not buying that? Okay, okay. In actuality, we spied on a couple’s first date at a nearby table.
We knew it was a first date since the pair said “nice to meet you” to each other. The date was off to a good start, because both parties had looks of relief on their faces. I suspect it’s because they actually resembled their online dating profile pictures. As anyone who has done online dating can attest, this is a 50-50 proposition at best. The conversation continued to flow, with each person smiling and employing positive body language. Keep up the good work, young man.
Back to our food. It arrived. Well, to be more accurate, Tiffany’s and John’s arrived. Mine came a few minutes later. Overall, the meals were solid, if unspectacular. Tiffany’s filet and white cheddar melt sandwich was tasty—fresh bread, tender steak and complementary toppings; unfortunately, it was also lukewarm. John had a similar occurrence. While his black truffle cheeseburger was flavorful, the accompanying sweet potato fries tasted as if they’d been baked under a heat lamp. My dish—a sesame chicken bowl with brown rice—was sizable and savory … no issues with temperature either.
Upon finishing the meals, it was back to our stakeout. Uh oh, something changed. The girl didn’t look as happy. Did she hear something she didn’t like? The pair still hadn’t ordered anything. Why not? Food and/or drink are great ways to combat awkward silences. Anytime the conversation hits a lull, you can regroup by taking a sip or a bite. I learned this through plenty of Bumble dates in my single days. Rookie mistake, I suppose.
As for us, it was time to head out. Lo and behold, seated two tables away was Indians’ catcher Roberto Perez, his significant other and their new baby. I approached the All-Star and we discussed all things Tribe—Francisco Lindor’s impending free agency, Terry Francona’s use of the bunt and the team payroll. Not buying that either? Okay, okay. In reality, I gave him a slight head nod, stared at the ground and walked away.
I’d be remiss without mentioning that Yard House—on paper—looks like a great spot for happy hour. They offer significant discounts on appetizers, pizzas, beer, wine and cocktails.
Before leaving for good, I shot one more glance at the couple on their first date. Wouldn’t you know it, I think they got back on track! The girl had a genuine smile on her face and both parties were seated upright, with their upper bodies extended over the table. There’s hope after all. Cheers to that!
Coming Tuesday: Road trip! We’re going to the Fannie May & Harry London Chocolate Factory in North Canton.