Munch goes to Kaleidoscope Cafe

Skinny Dad of Munch loves to eat, which is good for Munch, because he makes for a reliable dining companion.

When SDOM visits Munch, he likes to go to "joints" -- loosely defined as "privately owned non-chain neighborhood restaurants at pretty much any price point."

Munch has taken him to Munch's go-to spots throughout the city, and he is always up for trying new things.

So when Munch started feeling bad about the fact that Munch had never been to Kaleidoscope Cafe, a "joint" in Lawrenceville, Munch invited SDOM and Step-Mom of Munch to join Munch and Dear One of Munch for dinner.

As SDOM gets older, he's getting more adventurous. He used to drink exclusively bottled Budweiser when he went out, but now he's up for anything; he proudly called Munch and said that he'd tried Bud Light Lime.

Munch sighed and tasked DOOM with finding a more, let's say, interesting brew to take to the BYOB Kaleidoscope Cafe.

Munch and DOOM walked up to the brightly painted building on 43rd Street off Butler with a bottle of sauvignon blanc and a six-pack of beer -- two Stella Artois and four bottles of Red Seal ale. SDOM and SMOM were already seated at a table in the small dining room. There were bright triangles affixed to the walls in, yes, kaleidoscopic patterns, and a kaleidoscope sat in the middle of each table.

SDOM approved of the Red Seal, and the waiter returned with the sauvignon blanc in a bucket of ice for Munch and SMOM.

He informed us that if we ordered two entrees and two "small plates," we'd qualify for a free bottle of wine. Munch and SMOM, pleased with the offer, exchanged a knowing glance that acknowledged our bottle of sauvignon blanc might not be quite enough for a lengthy dinner.

The waiter brought a basket of warm flatbread-y pita and spiced fig butter spread that tasted like Christmas, while not being too heavy for summer.

The menu has everything from simple salads and burgers to entrees of Cornish hen and filet mignon -- a broad range of items ensuring that even the most diverse group of eaters can find something appealing.

SMOM opted for the Farmhouse Salad with chicken -- mixed greens, honey roasted beets, pears, toasted walnuts and gorgonzola ($12). SDOM ordered the Pan-Seared Basa, a white fish served with a lobster white bean puree and sauteed greens with bacon ($23).

Munch decided this dish sounded like a perfect pairing with sauvignon blanc and ordered it as well. DOOM ordered the Scallops Beurre Noisette -- scallops with toasted walnuts and tomatoes in a brown butter sauce over farfalle ($18).

Munch also ordered the "small plates" of deep fried gnocchi ($7) and a crab dip for the table, just in case SMOM and Munch decided we needed the free bottle of wine. The waiter said they were out of the crab dip, though, so we settled for just the gnocchi.

Everyone at the table agreed that it wasn't really settling. The gnocchi were the perfect appetizer. Plainly homemade, they weren't too heavy and just lightly fried and served with fresh marinara. We easily could have polished off two orders of those.

The entrees were equally well received. SMOM passed a beet over to Munch, Munch offered bites of lobster white bean puree and fish to DOOM, DOOM passed a bite of scallops and pasta back to Munch. DOOM said the scallops were perfectly cooked, and Munch, never one to decline an invitation to someone else's plate, concurred.

SDOM happily accepted a Stella Artois from DOOM, and Munch and SMOM realized we'd kicked our wine. Munch asked the waiter if we could have the free bottle of wine even though we'd only gotten one small plate. The waiter barely hesitated before asking us which of four varieties we'd like. We decided to switch to pinot grigio.

Plates cleaned and booze flowing, the owner and chef of Kaleidoscope, Dan Robinson, boyish but clearly talented beyond his years, came into the dining room to ask our group and six other nearby diners how the food was. Everyone in the room was enthusiastic about the food and warm, casual atmosphere.

Before we knew it, Mr. Robinson, SDOM and SMOM were engaged in a conversation about who knew whom one table over. There might be six degrees of separation among most people, but in Pittsburgh it's more like one, maybe 1.5. After discovering that they had many high school classmates in common, SDOM and DOOM stepped outside for a cigarette.

While they were out, Munch and SMOM made executive decisions for dessert -- SDOM and SMOM split a poached pear with mascarpone and Munch and DOOM shared a cannoli.

Munch and DOOM agreed that the lemon-flecked filling surrounded by a crispy shell made for the perfect cannoli. SDOM and SMOM polished off the pear, with eager assistance from Munch and DOOM.

The bill came to $112, not unreasonable for four people, especially with a free bottle of wine, which rescued Munch and SMOM from imminent winelessness and unfortunate sobriety. Editor of Munch might not be thrilled with the tab, but Munch was glad to find another "joint" off Butler, and won't mind spending $100 of Munch's own money there in the future -- but next time Munch will bring two bottles of wine, just in case.


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