Munch goes to Someone Else's Bar

It's no secret that the life's dream of your favorite brown-bagged buffoon is to open an establishment of Munch's own.

Not that Munch is interested in actually busting hump seven days a week to run the place. That's entirely too much work.

Rather, Munch wants to be the Pittsburgh answer to the entire "Cheers" or "Always Sunny" gang -- drinking beer, jaggin' rahnd, little-known facts, kitten mittens -- the whole schmear. And, to see the name Munch somehow in the bright lights.

So if you have a few hundred thousand extra shekels lying around, let Munch pitch some concepts ...

Baron Munchausen's Bier Hall: German theme, destined for bankruptcy when Munch eats all the brats, drinks all the beer and starts looking like Fat Elvis.

Munchies: Dude ... go-to spot for junk food after a Phish show. Or watching "The Big Lebowski." Or at 4:20. Or ... dude.

John Munch's Tavern: Named for the detective on "Homicide," a Baltimore crime bar might go over ironically near Heinz Field.

Edvard Munch's: Dark artwork, skinny jeans, vodka, cigarettes and mopey demeanor required. The place is a scream.

Maybe Munch doesn't have such a catchy name. Not like Someone Else's Bar in Castle Shannon. That's Someone el-SEH's Bar, as in Else, the German name of the proprietor, Else Franzmann.

The handsome 100-plus-year-old building on Willow Avenue had literally been home to someone else's bar -- several, in fact -- over the past 60 years. But since late 2009 it's been Else's, who took stewardship of the short-lived Mark's Willow Inn, where she once worked.

As a neighborhood pub in the truest sense of the word, folks gathered around the U-shaped bar seemed like regulars, and if not they quickly are adopted in as Else and staff make a point to commit names and faces to memory.

The place has a warm, cozy atmosphere and a bunch of fun flourishes: mason jars of Twizzlers and M&M's on the tables, a shelf of vintage metal lunch boxes, and other knickknacks. It is that rarest of pubs that is genuinely family friendly.

The menu is well-prepared bar fare -- made-to-order burgers, sandwiches and salads -- with a few particularly nice touches.

Homemade soup is made daily from scratch; on our visit, Munch and Dad of Munch (DOM) inhaled cups of the Spicy Chowder ($3.50). Made with generous amounts of clams and shrimp in a tasty chowder, it went great with a pint of Smithwick's ($4).

DOM downed the mushroom Swiss burger ($9), which in his middle-aged dad way he endorsed as "a real hefty American burger, not one of these travesties sold by the chains."

Munch found the Flying Deutschman burger ($9), topped with sauerkraut, a potato pancake and Swiss to be quite clever, and tasty. All burgers are served with housemade chips, which were excellent.

Mother of Munch (MOM), who has probably had a Vegetable Quesadilla ($6) in every single restaurant between Youngstown and State College, calls this one her absolute favorite.

Hyperbole on her part? Maybe. But places that go out of their way to make you feel welcome tend to have that effect.

Especially when they belong to Someone Else.


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