Munch goes to Payne Hill Grille

Munch has a history of overindulging on St. Patrick’s Day, and we’re not just talking Irish car bombs. Corned beef, cabbage, colcannon, soda bread, lamb stew and, yeah, obviously, Shamrock Shakes. Gluttonous? Perhaps. It has been said that the Irish are an unrestrained, unhygienic, ungrateful, ill-tempered, morally inverted people “of exceptionally bad habits,” but by gum, they are my morally inverted people, and I’ll be darned if I’m going to suffer these slings. Not on an empty stomach, anyway.

It was in such a spirit — unrestrained, unhygienic and gluttonous — that I arrived at the newly minted Payne Hill Grille, formerly Morgan’s, before that Barella’s Lounge, a Jefferson dining and daytime loafing spot. New ownership, new coat of paint, new menu, new TVs, new website — and the same old customers. A place like this doesn’t so much cultivate a new following as it does inherit the previous one. Even the current bartender came with the place. As PG alum Dennis Roddy once said, in explaining the providence behind his move from The Press to the Post-Gazette, the trick is to sit perfectly still and let them decorate around you.

Here, they didn’t so much decorate as they did hang a bunch of old high school sports photos on the walls, but on the sliding scale of neighborhood bar decor, it’s a fairly inoffensive approach. Besides, the sandwiches are the main thing.

Munch asked for the holiday special, corned beef sliders, and imagine my surprise when the alleged sliders that emerged from the kitchen were just two full-sized sandwiches.

“These are sliders?” I asked of the bartender. “Then why are they the size of frisbees?”

Language is subjective, I guess. She smiled sweetly and shrugged in a manner suggesting that, if I didn’t like large portions, I was probably in the wrong place. I should note, of course, that it was a nice sandwich, covering all the Irish bases — corned beef, cabbage, potato slices and cheese — and that one “slider” was plenty.

And did I mention the silky fried zucchini “ribbons” that were actually the length and width of a man’s necktie? Again, a failure of translation, but then again, it’s hard to be indignant when your sweatshirt is covered in marinara. Dear One of Munch was pleased with the turkey bacon club that comes served on a pretzel bun. Like the sliders, the club came with a side of house-made potato chips.

The menu suggests that Payne Hill hopes to offer something beyond that which might be expected of such a bar, in such a location. Alcoholic milkshakes are popular at upscale burger joints — you’ll find six of them on the menu here, as well as a “build-a-burger” option, plus a half-dozen each of flatbread, entree salad and pasta offerings.

Will the inherited regulars like it? I suspect so. On St. Patrick’s Day, around 2, the horseshoe bar was filling up and the adjacent lunch room was seating customers, too. Everyone, save Munch, seemed to know someone else in the place, and not a one of them, save Munch, seemed to be morally inverted, which is not something you can often say about the type of folks who frequent a bar at 2 in the afternoon.

Payne Hill Grille, 1101 State Route 885, Jefferson Hills, 15025; 412-405-8561 and Open Monday to Saturday.

Bill Toland: or 412-263-2625; Twitter: @btoland_pg.


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