Sunday, 23 December 2018

Lager Heads BBQ Smokehouse - USA August 2018

One of the most common recurring nightmares in the minds of travellers, even seasoned ones, is that of  arriving at the airport too late to catch your flight. With most airlines recommending two hours for short haul and three for longer flights, many people could be forgiven for not wanting to spend too long just hanging around at the airport. However, with increased security checks, combined with greater numbers of people flying, it really does pay to get to the airport sooner rather than later.

Several years ago, on a flight back to Japan, I threatened to leave my business colleague browsing the airport shops, They had called our flight and were asking all passengers to make their way to the gate, but my co-worker was insistent on having one final look for some presents for her children.

Once she realised I wasn’t joking, she abandoned her last minute shopping and accompanied me to the gate. Like many international airports, Kansai sprawls over a large area, and it was quite a trek to where our aircraft was due to depart.

I have heard similar  tales from friends and co-workers of only just making a flight, due to delays in getting to the airport, (stuck in traffic, train cancellation, accidents etc), so it is a golden rule of mine to always allow plenty of time before a flight.

The first leg of my homeward journey from the United States last August, is a case in point of how not to arrive happy and relaxed at the airport. If you’ve been following my travels, you would be aware that I spent six days staying with my sister and her husband, at their home in a small town, about 50 minutes’ drive from Cleveland, Ohio.

Cleveland airport is slightly nearer, and on the last day of my stay, my brother-in-law arranged to drop me off there, for my flight home. It was a Monday, and although he’d taken the previous week off, to keep me entertained, he had to go into work that morning.

His absence gave my sister and I the perfect excuse to nip out for a McDonald’s breakfast. Her husband isn’t a massive fan of “junk food”, having seen its effects on far too many of his over-sized fellow countrymen, but my sister and I fancied something a little decadent, and something my brother-in-law would not have approved of.

We did the whole American thing, picking up our breakfast from the local drive-thru’ McDonald’s, before heading down to the lakeshore to fill our faces. The shore in question is that of Lake Erie, and a short distance away from my sister’s place, there’s a nice public area where you can park up, get out and stretch your legs whilst enjoying the view of the lake. It was a sunny August day, and the lakeside setting was just right for our slightly decadent, fast-food breakfast.

Afterwards, we drove over to the nearby town of Oberlin, to allow me to get some last minute shopping. Back at the house, we waited for my brother-in-law to arrive home, whilst I completed my packing. We would then be heading off to the airport, stopping for lunch on the way.

My flight wasn’t until 7pm, so a 5pm drop-off would be fine, but it wasn’t until we were in the car and my brother-in-law suggested a brewery and tap-house, called “Loggerheads” as an ideal lunch stop that my alarm bells started ringing – just ever so slightly. He hadn’t been there before, but claimed he knew where the place was, so with my luggage safely stowed in the back of the car, off we went.

We headed due east, towards the airport, before leaving the freeway and heading in a southerly direction. I was enjoying my ride through the Ohio countryside, but as we continued further south, I started to get just a little anxious. This was silly  really, as we still had plenty of time, but when my sister started disagreeing with her husband, in the way that many couples do as to which route we should be taking, I became slightly more alarmed.

She was insisting he used the Google Maps setting on his phone to find the way; he, like most of us males, was adamant he knew where he was going and didn’t need help from his phone, or any outside assistance. I realised that, like the pattern adopted in towns and cities, many rural roads in America follow a similar grid design, so it was pretty easy to ascertain the direction of travel, but when we eventually started heading east again, we ran into a series of road closures and then actual road works.

This was where my sister put her foot down, and resorted to Google. In the meantime, the countryside had changed from mainly flat and open pasture, to a much more hilly and wooded landscape. The well-maintained homestead, with their neatly manicured lawns, had also changed to something much more rough and ready. I jokingly suggested that my hosts were planning to abandon me in the heart of “Hick-country”, and I would never be seen again!

We eventually reached the location my brother-in-law was looking for, but there was no sign of  Loggerheads Brewery. The Google Assistant  did inform us though that there an establishment, just up the road, called “Lager Heads BBQ Smokehouse”. That was when the penny dropped and we realised my brother-in-law had got the name wrong! Not to be outdone we headed off in the recommended direction, and sure enough, found the place at a location called Abbeyville, to the north-west of the township of Medina. We parked up, and went inside.

Lager Heads BBQ Smokehouse, was established in 2004 by two brothers, and concentrated initially on the brothers’ own recipe BBQ sauce and hickory smoked meats; all processed in-house in a building which dates from the late 1800’s. Following the success of the restaurant, the brewery was established in 2010, and five years later the production capability was doubled. At the same time, a sampling room was opened, and this was where we found ourselves, after our scenic tour of rural Ohio.

There was a long bar at the front of the building, with the usual handful of people sitting at stools. After being greeted and asked if we were eating, we were shown to a seating area towards the rear, and found ourselves perched at one of the ubiquitous high tables.

Although I was moderately hungry, with a six hour flight ahead of me, I didn’t want anything too large. Equally I didn’t want anything too strong to drink either, so those 7% plus "hop-bomb" IPA’s were definitely out of the question. Fortunately there was a 4.1% Pilsner, called “Tackle Box”, on tap, and also a session IPA. Both were tasty, refreshing and fitted the bill.

As for the food, I opted for deep-fired, breaded cod, in a bun; what the Americans call a “sandwich”. I skipped on the fries, but did tuck into the bowl  the almost obligatory side offering of “slaw”. Despite its isolated location, Lager Heads was a pleasant enough place which seemed to have plenty going for it, and was a good place for me to end my North American visit. Our server was friendly and helpful, even though I managed to confuse her with my UK Visa card, when it came to paying the bill. After several attempts she did managed to get the payment to go through by tapping in the “long number “ manually.

One final point, which I know will be of interest to other readers. Hanging on the wall of the corridor leading to the toilets (bathrooms?), was a Bass mirror. It was very obviously repro, as you will see from the photo, but with its contemporary styling, makes no pretensions of antiquity.

The journey to the airport passed without incident or anxiety, as it turned out that we weren’t that far from Hopkins Field – Cleveland’s International Airport. My brother-in-law had maintained this all along, but despite knowing his mischievous sense of humour, my sister and I hadn’t believed him.

Needless to say, I arrived with plenty of time to catch my flight, and after passing through security and passport control, was left clicking my heels. But you knew that was going to happen, didn’t you?


retiredmartin said...

Great Bass mirror !

Loved the details, right down to the Maccie ds.

I can tell you a story about nearly missing a flight (Auckland, 1996) but best if Mrs RM does that justice !

Paul Bailey said...

The Bass mirror certainly had a very modern twist Martin, and one that was eminently suitable for a modern American bar.

With regard to the flight you nearly missed in Auckland, might it have been the result of one final "tick" on the way to the airport, perchance?

The occasional Maccie D doesn't do any harm, and I'm sure my brother-in-law isn't as puritanical as my sister makes out. Mind you we are talking about the girl who persuaded my parents to take her out for a KFC* on her 18th birthday, rather than the meal in a decent restaurant, that they had in mind!

*KFC, or Kentucky Fried Chicken, as it was then known, was relatively new to England back in the mid 1970's.

Etu said...

A very happy Christmas to you and your family Paul.

I'm looking forward to many more of your blogs in 2019.

Best wishes,


Russtovich said...

Great write-up Paul. And I'm with you about getting to the airport with plenty of time to spare! Mind you, you're lucky at getting there on time, even if you were nearby. I have found the traffic in the US to be just bloody awful no matter where you are.

Oh and, for me at least, most of the airports I go to these days at least have some decent beer on the other side of security. That certainly helps with getting there early. :)