In a career -- and Munch uses the term loosely -- spent reviewing the victuals at local establishments, Munch can't recall ever dining while jostling elbows with patrons slamming Patron shots.
Nor has Munch ever gourmandized grub while being implored to strip by global warming prophet Nelly ("It's gittin' hot in herre!") or serenaded by the egalitarian musings of noted socialist Fergie ("If you ain't got no money take yo broke a-- home!").
That is, until a recent visit to the South Side's newest cavern of chic, The S Bar.
Sleek and sexy -- like the staff working there -- the S Bar interior is warm deep red, its front windows glow bright in alternating colors, and the clientele is well-dressed and good-looking. At any minute you'd expect Turtle, Drama and the rest of Vinnie Chase's Entourage to step through the door with an armful of babes. Hip-hop thumps and the narrow dimensions of the establishment force mingling between the sexes. The S Bar is an excellent addition to the carousing corridor of Carson Street.
Unfortunately, this is also the exact thing that makes it about the last place you'd want to have dinner. At least after about 9 p.m. And that's a bit of a shame because the food is surprisingly very good.
Munch and Blond Ambition Friend of Munch (BAFOM) made the mistake of grabbing a late bite there on a Saturday night, just as the Jagerbombers filed in to wage jihad on their own livers.
If S Bar had, you know, tables, this wouldn't be a problem. But the confined narrow space (it used to be a second room to the adjacent Tom's Diner) allows for only the long bar as the sole place to sit and eat, so we were forced to enjoy our meal in the immediate and overflowing company of beautiful people getting their drink on.
The menu is simple: gourmet sandwiches, salads and appetizers. Munch and BAFOM devoured an order of Red Pepper Hummus ($5.99) with baguettes. Our sandwiches were big, well-made and tasty. Munch had the "Pepper Man" -- peppered turkey, roasted red peppers, pepper jack cheese, romaine lettuce and spicy mustard ($8.99). BAFOM sought guidance from the "Three Wisemen" -- a gourmet cheese sandwich made of Buffalo Mozzarella, Smoked Gouda and Peccarino Romano on a ciabatta roll ($8.99).
Again, the food was well above average, but we felt compelled to inhale it because of the crowds literally reaching over us to get drinks.
On a subsequent Saturday visit -- a little earlier this time (7 p.m.) -- Munch found the food to be just as good, and the atmosphere much more palatable for a meal.
Munch enjoyed the redundantly titled S Bar Food Salad (isn't all salad food?), a huge bowl of mixed greens, diced red and green peppers, corn and black beans and a peppery cheese ($7.99). Delicious, and this gargantuan salad could've been dinner by itself, had Munch not also ordered the excellent South Side Man Made Beast (The Meast?) -- a half pound of extra lean Boar's Head roast beef, roasted red peppers, green peppers, red onion and spicy mustard on rye bread ($9.99).
Service was excellent on both visits, and Munch has to give bonus points for the beer selection. Places like this usually have a half dozen lousy macrobrews and maybe Guinness or Sam Adams on draft. Though Munch stuck to iced tea, the bagged one was pleased to see close to three dozen draft selections ranging from Belgian imports to local craft brews like East End Big Hop and dozens more bottles.
If S Bar had more space, they could probably expand their menu to include tapas like nearby Ibiza and Dish. All told, S Bar is perhaps a surprising venue for such good fare. If you want to enjoy it though, go early. Like before the sun sets.
S Bar is at 1713 E. Carson St., South Side Flats. Call 412-481-7227.